Danish-Icelandic Artist's New Exhibit In Berlin: Watch Where You Step



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Olafur Eliasson's art studio in Berlin. (for NPR)
Olafur Eliasson's art studio in Berlin. (for NPR)

In the next couple of months you might stumble over some drift wood in the middle of Berlin. Drift wood that was scattered by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. It's part of his first solo-show in Berlin.

"Innen Stadt Außen," or Inner City Out, connects the museum, the Martin Gropius Bau, with various places within the city. It's an exhibition that's quite different from Eliasson's monumental projects like the New York City Waterfalls.

The 43 year-old artist questions himself and wonders how he could change his approach from past shows in the US or Asia. Because of his intimate relationship with Berlin, he has been living and working here since the mid 1990s, he was able to develop a different process for his show.

The internationally acclaimed artist has already placed objects and installations around Berlin before the official opening of his exhibition. A bicycle with circular mirrors in place of wheels leans against a random building. A chalk line drawn through an abandoned park near Friedrichstrasse suggests a new layout for the space.

Eliasson finds it interesting that people see these things and wonder if this is part of his exhibition or not. It's intriguing to him that some people might be sensitized and put into a "search mode" through the city asking themselves, "Maybe that's art," and this idea that it's "maybe art" let's them think differently about the space.

The Danish-Icelandic artist often explores the relationship between space, body and time. For "Inner City Out," he collaborated with curator Daniel Birnbaum, the director of the last Venice Biennale and the Dean of the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main.

"He has, I would say, an unusually ambitious studio with lots of people working for him,” Birnbaum says. “A little bit like an architecture studio. So, he has architects and scientists helping him with his projects and that's what he is known for, this interdisciplinary approach. So, we thought it's more interesting to show the way he works. It's more process related and more laboratory style. It's almost as if we would make his way of work and his studio public."

For one of Eliasson's most prominent works of art, Daniel Birnbaum has chosen the Pfaueninsel, or Peacock Island, in south-western Berlin situated in the river Havel. Birnbaum says he chose the location for it’s rich history.

"There are many beautiful parks in Berlin, but the Pfaueninsel is a uniquely dense site, ideologically, philosophically. Every German King wanted to realize his version of the world there."

Olafur Eliasson decided to reconstruct his "blind pavilion" on the island. Originally made for the 50th Venice Biennale, it's a construction made of steel and transparent black glass segments which reflect and distort the visitor’s surroundings. From the center of the pavilion the view becomes completely black.

"Inner City Out" at the Martin Gropius Bau opens on April 28th and runs until the 9th of August. The blind pavilion will be on the Pfaueninsel until the 31st of October.

Various other outdoor projects by Eliasson are scattered throughout Berlin to be discovered.

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