for the last eight years, the palace of versailles has hosted a series of exhibitions that see internationally-acclaimed artists form a dialogue between their own work and the architecture of the french landmark. this summer, olafur eliasson brings a sequence of spatial interventions to versailles — with waterfalls, fog, mirrors, and light landscapes installed around the gardens and château interior. ‘the versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone,’ eliasson says. ‘it invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur. it asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement.’
view of ‘waterfall’ at the palace of versailles
all photos by anders sune berg
all images courtesy of the artist, neugerriemschneider, berlin; tanya bonakdar gallery, new york © olafur eliasson
the exhibition is organized in two parts: a series of outdoor works situated around the picturesque grounds, and pieces placed within the ornately-decorated palace. in the gardens, three monumental installations deal with various states of water — fluid, fog, and absence, as materialized by glacial rock flour. olafur eliasson continues one of the most significant projects of his oeuvre with a new ‘waterfall’ erected in the grand canal. positioned on the central axis of the garden, this latest iteration sees a surge of water rush down from a soaring crane above the landscape.
the installation subtly pays homage to louis XIV’s landscape architect andre le notre, and his unrealized vision of creating a waterfall in the palace’s gardens. expanding upon the theme of water, eliasson’s ‘fog assembly’ surrounds visitors in a hazy landscape, enveloping them within a circular veil of fine mist. at the colonnade, a carpet of glacial residue has been placed within a circular opening on the floor, surrounded by the site’s magnificent thirty-two arches with twenty-eight fountains.
fog assembly, 2016
steel, water, nozzles, pump system
‘I use fog and water to amplify the feelings of impermanence and transformation,’ eliasson says. ‘the artworks liquefy the formal design of the gardens while reviving one of landscape architect andré le notre’s original, unrealized visions: the placement of a waterfall in the grand canal. this waterfall reinvigorates the engineering ingenuity of the past. it is as constructed as the court was, and I’ve left the construction open for all to see – a seemingly foreign element that expands the scope of human imagination.’
installation view of ‘fog assembly’ at the palace of versailles
inside the château, eliasson has deployed a series of installations that use mirrors and light to active the space. while the furnishings of the rooms remain unchanged, the interiors are enhanced through a multiplication of perspectives created by a sequence of mirrors. visitors discover their own reflection in unexpected locations, modifying the perception of the rooms, and inviting them to become active participants in the reality that surrounds them.
‘fog assembly’ surrounds visitors in hazy landscape
the exhibition is accompanied by the book ‘olafur eliasson versailles‘, a feature which arose from a dialogue between eliasson and graphic designer irma boom. the edition is printed on three different kinds of paper with various colors for each type of paper: black, grey, and white. these color/paper combinations add visual uncertainties to the pages, making viewers take a closer look at the images on each spread. additionally, a special series of abstract drawings by eliasson reacts to instructions written by louis XIV for viewing the gardens of versailles.
fog and water amplifies the feeling of impermanence and transition
from within the palace, ‘waterfall’ can be viewed along the axis of the grand canal
your sense of unity, 2016
mirror foil, brass, LED lights, wood, paint (black), steel, plastic, control unit
the spatial interventions inside the palace are activated by mirrors and light
installation view of ‘your sense of unity’ at the palace of versailles
deep mirror (yellow) and deep mirror (black), 2016
mirrors, monofrequency light, aluminum, steel, wood, paint (black, white), control unit
deep mirror (yellow), 2016
installation view of ‘deep mirror (yellow)’ within the palace
the curious museum, 2010
mirror, scaffolding, steel, aluminum
‘the curious museum’ reflects the interior of the palace onto itself
glacial rock flour garden, 2016
the installation comprises fine-grained particles of rock