Olafur Eliasson is widely known for his environmentalist-minded work, which is currently being surveyed at Tate Modern in London. Now Eliasson is entering a new field: politics
On Sunday, the United Nations announced that the Danish-Icelandic artist has been named a Goodwill Ambassador of its Development Programme. In this role, Eliasson will be charged with advocating for urgent climate action by helping the UNDP to “raise awareness and mobilize support” through various projects. The position is a new one at the UN.
The environmentalist work Eliasson will be doing at the UN strikes at some of the themes he has worked with in his art for years. Prime examples of his work are on view at his Tate show, “In Real Life.” The installation Waterfall (1993) simulates weather patterns indoors, and his sculpture Moss Wall (1994) is a living breathing wall of Scandinavian “reindeer” moss. His most famous work is Your blind (2010), a hallway that obstructs vision through lighting techniques and a fog machine.
Aside from his artwork, Eliasson also founded Little Sun in 2012, working with engineer Frederik Otteson to create an initiative that replaces existing fossil fuel lighting with solar energy in communities without electricity.
In a statement sent to ARTnews ahead of his appointment on Sunday at the Social Good Summit in New York, Eliasson said, “Life on Earth is about co-existence—among people, non-human animals, ecosystems, and the environment. Co-existence is beautiful and generative, chaotic and challenging. The fact is, we’re in it together. That’s why we all have to take the climate emergency seriously.”
The news was announced just days after many members of the New York art community—and beyond—participated in a Climate Strike that attracted thousands in cities across the world. It is not the only major instance of the art world going green this year, however. Tate previously declared a “climate emergency” and vowed to reduce its carbon emissions, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles revealed plans to go 100 percent solar-powered.
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