49 year old artist Olafur Eliasson is the 10th contemporary artist since 2008 to be invited to the Château de Versailles to create a site specific exhibit. Opening today, June 7th, and running through November 2016, nine works of the artists have been installed at the Palace and here’s a good look at every one of them.
Olafur Eliasson at Versailles
While I can’t whisk you off to Paris, here’s the next best thing.
Turning both the majestic gardens and the interior of the 17th century palace into a canvas for his creations, the Denmark born artist is showing 3 large scale water-related installations in the gardens and 6 inside the palace that play with spatial relationships.
Thanks to the artist’s website and instagram account, I can share with you beautiful photos of the exhibit taken by Anders Sune Berg and some insights provided by the artist.
“Historically, the royal court at Versailles was a place of constant observation – of oneself and of others; the strict social norms of the time were enforced through a web of gazes. The Baroque architecture of the palace served to heighten visibility, becoming a stunning instrument of power held exclusively by the king. Today, however, we look at Versailles differently, and when I visit the site, I ask myself: how do you, the visitor, view this iconic site? What does it do to you? Have we all become king? The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone. 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. For my exhibition this summer, I am doing a series of subtle spatial interventions inside the palace deploying mirrors and light, and in the gardens, I use fog and water to amplify the feelings of impermanence and transformation. The artworks liquefy the formal design of the gardens while reviving one of landscape architect André Le Nôtre’s original, unrealised visions: the placement of a waterfall along the axis of 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.” – Olafur Eliasson
Louis XIV had very specific ideas of how visitors should experience the garden and Eliasson made a series of drawings in response:
The Garden Installations
Waterfall, 2016 Grand Canal
Crane, water, stainless steel, pump system, hose, ballast
Louis XIV’s garden architect Andre Le Notre had planned a grand waterfall for Versailles, which was never realized, so Olafur and his team took up the challenge.
Now a towering waterfall in the central Great Canal pours from a construction crane.
Fog assembly, 2016 Bosquet de l’Étoile
Steel, water, nozzles, pump system
Presenting water as a gas and a solid, l’Étoile, a ring of nozzles 16 feet high produces a halo of mist that responds to the weather, refracting the sun on bright days and disappearing with the wind.
Glacial rock flour garden, 2016 Bosquet de la Colonnade
Glacial rock flour
Olafur filled the fountain in La Colonnade with a fine silt of glacial rock. Also an effective fertilizer, Mr. Eliasson explains that it offers an abstract commentary on “the gardens’ role as a symbol of the king’s fertility, the idea of fertility at the expense of our society.”
The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone. 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. – Olafur Eliasson
Inside the Palace
Inside the Chateau, the following six works are integrated into the architecture in subtle ways, producing disorienting reflections of space using mirrors.
The curious museum, 2010 Salon d’Hercule
Mirror, scaffolding, steel, aluminium
Deep mirror (yellow), 2016 Salon de l’Oeil de Boeuf
Mirror, monofrequency light, aluminium, steel, wood, paint (black, white), control unit
Deep mirror (black), 2016 Salon de l’Oeil de Boeuf
Mirror, aluminium, steel, wood, paint (black)
Your sense of unity, 2016 Galerie des Glaces
Mirror foil, brass, LED lights, wood, paint (black), steel, plastic, control unit
Solar compression, 2016 Salles des Gardes du Roi
Convex mirrors, monofrequency light, stainless steel, paint (white), motor, control unit
The gaze of Versailles, 2016 Galerie Basse
Glass sphere, gold, brass, in two parts
“The royal court at Versailles was a place of constant observation – of oneself and others; the strict social norms of the time were enforced through a web of gazes” says Eliasson.
•Seeing the artworks
Entrance to the exhibition in the Palace and gardens via the Court Royale of the Palace of Versailles.
•In the Palace
Everyday, except Mondays, 9am to 6.30pm.
Normal visiting conditions, no additional charge to the Palace ticket for the exhibition.
•In the gardens
Everyday from 8am to 8.30pm.
Except for days of the Musical Fountain Shows and Musical Gardens (from 9am to 6.30pm): Saturdays and Sundays 30th October 2016, Tuesdays from 7th to 28th June and 5th July to 25th October, Fridays from 1st July to 30th September and Thursday 14th July. (Please note: early closing of the gardens at 5.30pm on Saturdays from 18th June to 17th September, Thursday 14th July and Sunday 30th October 2016.) The artworks in the gardens will be visible to visitors in the evening during the Fountains Night Shows, on Saturdays from 18th June to 17th September, from 8.30pm to 11pm.
Thank you to Olafur Eliasson for all the wonderful images and information.