Magic Made of
Light and Mirrors
Olafur Eliasson’s “Map for Unthought Thoughts” (2014), Photo: Iwan Baan
The artist Olafur Eliasson is something of a genius at creating spectacular effects and fabulous illusions using the simplest of means, a talent that is amply demonstrated in his current exhibition, “Olafur Eliasson: Contact,” at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Eliasson’s best-known work was probably the fake sun he created for the installation “The Weather Project” in the cavernous hall of the Tate Modern in London in 2003. Visitors had the strange sensation of basking under a bright sun that offered no warmth.
This show creates similarly disorienting illusions with subtler effects. After being invited to caress a real meteorite to introduce them to the “cosmos” they are about to enter and gazing into a crystal ball that offers views of other parts of the building, including Eliasson’s own permanent installation “Inside the Horizon,” visitors enter what seems to be a very large space, but they shouldn’t believe their eyes.
I won’t spoil the effects, which are meant to create the feeling of being in outer space, by describing all of them, but if you want to experience them full force, I advise you to spend plenty of time with each installation looking and walking around to see it from as many different angles as possible.
In the room with the lattice structure pictured above, notice the eclipse occurring on the ceiling, the illusory slope of the ceiling and floor, the unusual sharpness of the shadows, and the way the round entrance and exit seem to be growing and shrinking. And don’t be frightened if you find yourself walking into yourself; it’s only your reflection, in mirrors so perfect that they are pretty much invisible.
The crystal balls recur in between the larger
“Double Infinity” (2014). Photo: Iwan Baan
rooms. After you leave the exhibition, you may become part of it yourself as others observe you through the crystal balls.
The other large room is ringed with a nearly perfect circle of yellow neon. Once again, you may become disoriented as your brain realizes that reality isn’t connecting with what it thinks it sees.
in the last room of the show, plunged into total
“Big Bang Fountain” (2014). Photo: Iwan Baan
darkness, a plashing fountain is intermittently lit by flashes of brilliant light.
The exit from the ground floor part of the exhibition takes visitors outside to experience Eliasson’s fantastic permanent installation involving yellow panels, mirrors and marvelous light effects.
The show continues on the upper terrace of the building, where mirrors have been placed to create mesmerizing effects in a suspended multifaceted sculpture.
The exhibition is on for only a few more weeks (through February 13), so do make an effort to get out to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, especially if you haven’t yet seen Frank Gehry’s spectacular new building for the Fondation Louis Vuitton, so spacious that even on busy days you will never feel pressured by crowds of people.
Fondation Louis Vuitton: 8, avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris. Métro: Les Sablons. Tel.: 01 40 69 96 00. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon-7pm; Friday, noon-11pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-8pm. Closed Tuesday. Admission: €14. www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr
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