Each spring for the past eight years, the Château de Versailles has exhibited works of a selected artist throughout its garden and within its opulent Baroque rooms. In springs past, Joana Vasconcelos, Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, and, last year, Anish Kapoor (one of the more controversial and most-criticized exhibitors) have shown their work. This year, it is Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson who will take over Versailles.
Three works are displayed within the garden, with the most noteworthy being Waterfall. Although Eliasson won’t reveal how tall the waterfall is precisely (admitting only that its height is, simply, “perfect”), it appears almost omnipotent: a powerful torrent cascades into Versailles’s Grand Canal, seeming to begin out of mid-air. Fog assembly, an outline of a large metal circle suspended by steel posts, emits heavy fog, and attendees are invited to explore its misty enclave. In the centre of the Bosquet de la Colonnade resides Glacial rock flour garden, a cracked, flat surface of fine rock particles. Using water as its central theme, the three exterior works invite a discussion of transformation and impermanence. Being located on the grounds of Versailles, one of the best-known castles in the world and designed, among other reasons, to ensure Louis XIV remained in the minds of the French for decades to come, the artworks’ dialogue on impermanence—while asking us to consider our own—is poignant.
Indoors, Eliasson utilizes light and mirrors in six different works in a process that he calls “spatial intervention”. Those who walk through the château will discover mirrors that playfully duplicate the lavish Baroque decor behind one’s own reflection, commenting on the palace’s role historically as being a place of strict observation. “Diffraction of light, confusion of mirrors, intensified emotions, moving shadows: Olafur Eliasson wants the visitor to take possession of Versailles alongside him,” says Versailles president Catherine Pégard. “It is an augmented reality that imposes itself, an engine room of the imagination, and one not so fundamentally far away from that which captured the hearts of the 18th century.” Eliasson’s work allows one to explore how the public interacts with historic, previously private sites, while congruously experiencing tangible transformation.
Olafur Eliasson’s work will be on display until October 30, 2016, at the Château de Versailles, Place d’Armes, Versailles, France 78000, +33 1 30 83 78 00.
All images ©Olafur Eliasson. All Rights Reserved. Photography by Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.