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Lot 5: 1m³ light, 1999

Contemporary Art Part I

by Phillips

November 12, 2009

New York, NY, USA

Olafur Elíasson (1967-) Please Register/Login to access your Invaluable Alerts

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Description: 1m³ light, 1999
Halogen lamps, steel stands and fog machine.  39 3/8 x 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (100 x 100 x 100 cm).    This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Notes: "What arise in Eliasson’s works are striking connections between visible phenomena and invisible laws governing the world of substances and materials. Objects and spaces appear all at once to be extremely tangible, available to the senses and most decidedly abstract, as if they were a result of human intellect’s autonomous equations. Plato’s distinction between the perfect world of Ideas and phenomena’s imperfect world of pale appearances—which is fundamental to philosophical idealism’s divide between idea and matter—is broken up here,"  (C. Thau, “The Structure from Within and from Without,” Olafur Eliasson: Minding the World, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 69).
 
In the present lot, phenomenal artist Olafur Eliasson takes the Modernist concept of the cube to an entirely new realm. Not only does he push the idea of artistic medium by utilizing technology, but with the intangible element of light creates the Platonic Ideal of a cube. His brave proposition requires that the viewer suspend their mundane way of seeing the world to engage with a form both present and fleeting. 
 
 
Comprised of twenty-four halogen lamps, steel stands and a fog machine, the present lot utilizes utilitarian materials to create the sublime glow of a cubed meter of light. “Eliasson is not at all gingerly about the use of his objects, but he takes care that they appear as utilitarian as possible. While well designed, these objects do not attract for their own sake, but for the contribution they make to the environment he has constructed,” (C. Diehl, “Northern Lights,” Art in America, New York, October 2004, p. 111).  Should the viewer want, they could examine the full mechanics behind the 1m3 light, as every bulb, wire, and clamp is there in full view. However, it is this purposeful transparency created by the artist that reinforces the integrity of the structure, so one is not distracted by the technical equipment involved, but takes it in as part of the passage into the experience of 1m3 light. The artist discusses this well conceived choice:
 
"If we should look at this as a kind of sequence, there is a certain narrative buildup in the sense that you are not simply confronted with phenomena such as light effects or light play. You pass by the lamps, and only then do you arrive at the phenomena. It’s as if I would ask a cinema audience to walk through the projection room before sitting down to see the film. And since the lamps I use are often placed on tripods or some kind of construction like that, they are generally quite utilitarian-looking. Still—and this is perhaps because their functionality is so stark and so extreme—people tend to ignore them and immediately focus on whatever it is that they project. However, I would all the same argue that if we imagine that the lamp had been placed behind a wall, and that there was a hole in the wall where the light would come through so that the projection would just be presented without the lamp being visibly present, there would be less time in the work, in the sense that we’ve just discussed. And you would have a situation where people would on the one hand experience the phenomena and on the other hand maybe wonder about how they were produced. This would, as I see it, take away the possibility to engage with the very construction of sense-perception (rather than with the technical magic behind projections)—the possibility to evaluate not just what we see but also how we see it. The great thing about lamps—as opposed to for instance film or video projections of the same type of phenomena—is that they facilitate this type of evaluation," (“A Conversation Between Ina Blom and Olafur Eliasson,” Olafur Eliasson: Your Engagement has Consequences; On the Relativity of Your Reality, Baden, 2006, p. 175).
 
 
The form created by these lamps in the fog filled room, a golden cube hovering above the ground, has a long standing important position in art history. Inextricably linked to artists who emerged in the 1960’s under the umbrella of Minimalism who sought to create primary structures of pure integral forms, the cube brings to mind Larry Bell, Sol LeWitt, Tony Smith, Robert Morris and Donald Judd. In the present lot, Eliasson is able to both give reverence to this lineage of artists as well as point out what they missed by changing the matter of evaluation from one of analyzing form to engaging in an experience. Though he utilizes the shape iconized by his forbearers, there is actually no cube there at all just a moment when light meets fog.
 
"Having been greatly influenced by the work of Robert Irwin, Eliasson considers his overriding concern to be an awareness of the act of perception (“seeing yourself seeing”). However, by introducing elements such as temperature and humidity, as well as a more overt disruption of physical orientation, he goes even further to show how not only the eye, but also the rest of the body, responds to various stimuli—in addition to the emotional and intellectual reactions one might have when anticipating, discovering and experiencing a new or altered situation. Eliasson’s work often involves an intervention which either takes its cue from its surroundings or imposes upon them constructions that affect them in some way," (Ibid, New York, 2004, p. 109).

Provenance:  neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Private collection, New York

Artist or Maker: OLAFUR ELIASSON

Exhibited:  Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Surroundings Surrounded, April 1 - May 21, 2000; Karlsruhe, ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Surroundings Surrounded, May 31 - August 26, 2001; New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time, April 20 - June 30, 2008  

Literature:  Weibel, ed., Olafur Eliasson: Surroundings Surrounded; Essays on Space and Science, Cambridge/London, 2001, p. 471 (illustrated); M. Grynstein, D. Birnbaum, and M. Sparks, Olafur Eliasson, London/New York, 2002, p. 40 (illustrated); H. Broeker, ed., Olafur Eliasson: Your Lighthouse; Works with Light 1991-2004, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 99, pl. 47 (illustrated); C. Diehl, “Northern Lights,” Art in America, New York, October 2004, p. 113 (illustrated); O. Eliasson & G. Orskou, ed., Olafur Eliasson: Minding the World, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 206 (illustrated); O. Eliasson, ed., Olafur Eliasson: Your Engagement has Consequences; On the Relativity of Your Reality, Baden, 2006, p. 178 (illustrated); V. Vienne, “Optical Magic,” Metropolis Magazine, New York, May 2006; M. Grynsztejn, ed., Take Your Time: Olufur Eliasson, London 2007, pl. 97 (illustrated); S. Psyllos, “Reviewed: Olafur Eliasson,” NY Arts, New York, 2008 Unclut ted: 1m3 light, 1999 3 0 (illustrated); P. Schjeldahl, “Uncluttered: An Olafur Eliasson Retrospective,” The New Yorker, April 28, 2008; Studio Olafur Eliasson, ed., Studio Olafur Eliasson: An Encyclopedia, Cologne, 2008, p. 290 (illustrated)

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