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Olafur Eliasson receives 2014 McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 |

It's a good week for Olafur Eliasson: earlier today, we reported that the Rolex Arts Initiative had selected the Berlin-based artist as its Visual Arts mentor for 2014-2015, and now we found out that MIT's Council for the Arts will present him with the 2014, 40th anniversary Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The award includes an artist residency, pop-up exhibitions, a public lecture, and a $100,000 cash prize. MIT students will also get to work on Eliasson’s Little Sun project.

The official award presentation will take place at a gala in his honor on March 13, 2014.

Olafur Eliasson, 2014 McDermott Award Recipient

Read on for more information we've received from MIT.

2014 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT: Olafur Eliasson. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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2014 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT: Olafur Eliasson. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"Renowned for the multi-faceted practice of his studio in Berlin, Eliasson creates ambitious public art projects, large-scale installations, architectural pavilions, major art exhibitions, spatial experiments, sensory experiences and a distinctive art and social business enterprise — Little Sun, a solar powered lamp that is “a work of art that works in life.”  Eliasson’s creative practice above all reveals that art shapes life in a way that transforms reality.

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals whose artistic trajectory reveals that they will achieve the highest distinction in their fields and continue to produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement."

Olafur Eliasson: Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011. ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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Olafur Eliasson: Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011. ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"Olafur Eliasson’s remarks upon receiving the award: “Through abstraction, we shape the world. Through art, we translate thoughts, intuitions, feelings and intentions into actions that transform reality. It is a great honor for me to receive the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, an institution with a long tradition of turning thinking into doing.”

From MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury: “MIT recognizes the broad reach of Olafur Eliasson’s art practice, which extends the boundaries of our sensory perception and awareness about what art can do in the world.  His art is at once intellectually rigorous and socially aware. Eliasson's collaborative approach to artistic creation will resonate in MIT’s culture, and we look forward to mutually productive interactions with faculty, students and researchers in the arts, science and technology during his visit to MIT in March 2014.”"

Olafur Eliasson: The New York City Waterfalls, 2008. Installation view at the Brooklyn Bridge, New York. Photo: Julienne Schaer © Olafur Eliasson. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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Olafur Eliasson: The New York City Waterfalls, 2008. Installation view at the Brooklyn Bridge, New York. Photo: Julienne Schaer © Olafur Eliasson. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"Eliasson’s extraordinary work encompasses a broad range of creative practices spanning art, science and psychology, supported by a prodigious studio. He has made strikingly original contributions to public art, architecture, and recently, social entrepreneurship. Eliasson’s enormously popular installation The weather project, an immense artificial sun, produced a sui generis immersive environment, transforming the cavernous turbine hall of London’s Tate Modern with ethereal light and fog. Through such philosophical investigations of light, color, atmosphere and water, Eliasson probes the nature of space and human perception."

Olafur Eliasson designed the facade for the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Center, 2011. Photo: Nic Lehoux. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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Olafur Eliasson designed the facade for the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Center, 2011. Photo: Nic Lehoux. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"Most recently, Eliasson collaborated with engineer Frederik Ottesen to develop Little Sun: a portable solar-powered LED lamp for the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to electricity. “A work of art that works in life,” Little Sun is providing a safe and affordable alternative to toxic and expensive fuel-based lighting like kerosene lanterns. Little Sun was launched at London’s Tate Modern in 2012 and has since produced 165,000 solar lamps, with distribution in seven African countries, the EU, Japan, Australia and the USA. Little Sun is a social business that addresses the need for light in a sustainable way that benefits off-grid communities, with a focus on creating local jobs and generating local profits."

Olafur Eliasson's Little Sun installation at MIT Museum. Photo: Barry Hetherington. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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Olafur Eliasson's Little Sun installation at MIT Museum. Photo: Barry Hetherington. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"A distinctive feature of the Award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships in the MIT community.

During his residency, Eliasson and his team will have the opportunity to connect with path-breaking advances in design, entrepreneurship and energy research at MIT. At Hacking Arts — MIT's first annual festival and hackathon to explore the intersection of arts, technology and entrepreneurship (September 28-29, 2013) — students from across the Boston region were challenged to improve Little Sun, exploring ways in which the lamp can be transformed into an even more sustainable, affordable and aesthetically pleasing source of energy for all.  Little Sun was showcased on October 18, 2013 at MIT Energy Night and in an installation at the MIT Museum through March, 2014."

Olafur Eliasson creating light graffiti. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

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Olafur Eliasson creating light graffiti. Image courtesy of MIT Council for the Arts.

"Olafur Eliasson represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The weather project at Tate Modern, London, which was seen by more than two million people. Take your time: Olafur Eliasson, a survey exhibition organized in 2007 by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), traveled until 2010, stopping in New York at MoMA and the Dallas Museum of Art. Seu corpo da obra (Your body of work), 2011, engaged with three institutions around São Paulo and featured ten site-specific installations. Projects in public space include The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund in 2008 with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Harpa, the Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, for which Eliasson created a crystalline façade, was inaugurated in August 2011 and received the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies Van Der Rohe Award in 2013. Little Sun, developed with engineer Frederik Ottesen, was shown at Tate Modern as part of the London 2012 Festival and at Common Ground, La Biennale di Venezia: 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. Eliasson is a professor at Berlin University of the Arts.

Established in 1995, his studio today numbers about seventy craftsmen, architects, geometers and art historians. In April 2009, as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, Olafur Eliasson founded the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments), a five-year experiment in arts education located in his studio in Berlin."



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