While I was in Montréal this summer for the International Jazz Festival (the world's largest festival dedicated to this music genre, featuring around 3000 artists and welcoming over 2 million visitors every year), I came across a solo show by Olafur Eliasson at the contemporary art museum, which is located on the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles.
There's a lot to be said about the Danish-Icelandic artist’s complex personality; he displays diverse interests ranging from design and technology to painting and teaching. As artist, he is perhaps best known for his numerous works which appear to be made by a modern-day illusionist, as well as for his monumental installations he created for the 50th Venice Biennale, Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, or the palace and gardens of Versailles. He has exhibited around the world, had many retrospectives, and has been granted numerous important awards. A fascinating show by Eliasson that I remember was taking place in Vienna was titled ‘Olafur Eliasson: Baroque Baroque’: it was hosted between November 21, 2015 and March 06, 2016 at the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene and can succinctly be described as an impressive cooperation between Belvedere, Vienna, The Juan & Patricia Vergez Collection, Buenos Aires and Thyssen-Bornemsiza Art Contemporary Collection, Vienna (whose founder is the art collector Francesca von Habsburg).
Olafur Eliasson, Multiple shadow house (2010) Photo Credit © Ana-Daniela Sultana
Back to Olafur Eliasson’s museum solo in Montréal: between June 21 and October 9, 2017 the rather small MACM (Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal) put on view ‘Maison des ombres multiples’ (Multiple shadow house) curated by Mark Lanctôt. A concise but representative selection of works by Eliasson, combining characteristic elements of his practice such as mirrors, water and light – in an attempt to explore the manipulation of perception – the solo showcased eight of the artist’s installations: Polychromatic attention, Big Bang Fountain, Multiple shadow house, Mirror door (spectator), Mirror door (user), and Mirror door (visitor), Your space embracer, and Beauty.
In terms of an underlying narrative, the exhibition began with ‘Big Bang Fountain’ (2014), which consists of a momentary water sculpture, and ended with ‘Beauty’ (1993), which is composed of a watery curtain shaded by light in the colors of the rainbow. While the two were engaging the viewer’s attention with water and light, the central work of the show ‘Multiple shadow house’ (2010) and ‘Your space embracer’ (2004) – the only piece included in the MACM collection – used light and its projection as a key factor.
Olafur Eliasson, Beauty (1993) Photo Credit © Ana-Daniela Sultana
Olafur Eliasson, Polychromatic attention (2015) Photo Credit © Ana-Daniela Sultana
As for the spatial distribution, ‘Polychromatic attention’ (2015) and the ‘Mirror door’ series (2008) were grouped together in a hall, whereas the other works had each one a room of their own. Although neither piece was commissioned for the show (half of them being around a decade old), it all worked well together, as it would have in any other white cube in the world. What I mean is that it wasn’t as spectacular as the exhibition at the Winter Palace, for example, where the Baroque architecture played an essential role in enhancing the viewer’s experience.
Olafur Eliasson, Mirror door (2008) Photo Credit © Ana-Daniela Sultana
Text and photos by Ana-Daniela Sultana
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
185 Saint-Catherine St W, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Ana-Daniela Sultana is a freelance curator born in Bucharest in the last decade of Communism, currently living and working in Bucharest and Vienna. She holds a MA in ecm - educating/curating/managing from the University of Applied Arts Vienna and is the co-founder of the MODELiER venue in Bucharest and the [ˈfæbrɪk] transdisciplinary organization in Vienna. She is collaborating with creative communities and cultural institutions; her aim is to promote new or lesser known artists and their endeavors.