Olafur Eliasson Just Flooded Switzerland’s Fanciest Museum With Pond Water and Invited Wildlife Inside—See Images Here

A breeze now blows through the museum, which is—literally—wide open.

Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Mark Niedermann.
Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

Museums are generally secure spaces, hermetically sealed off from the outside world and its fluctuating temperature, humidity, and light—not to mention its winds, rains, and wandering birds.

But the Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has removed those barriers in an ambitious new project at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

For the project, titled Life, Eliasson has flooded the museum’s outdoor pond, letting it flow inside by having the institution’s exterior glass facade removed.

The museum, now only a shell, is left open to the elements—and it is also open to visitors around the clock, day and night, until July.

The artwork “is never the same and it will continue to transform throughout the duration of the exhibition,” Sam Keller, the director of the Fondation Beyeler, told Artnet News.

“What is surprising is the great variations of emotions, reflections, and interactions of visitors… The [health] crisis has revealed new layers of meaning and has made obvious how strongly our lives are entangled with other humans and non-humans alike.”

The show (which features uranine, a non-toxic dye and compound the artist first used in 1998, when he poured it into various rivers) looks a bit like a wet reinterpretation of the artist’s acclaimed exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in 2014, where he redrew the museum by installing a stoney riverbed inside.

In Basel, a breeze blows through Renzo Piano’s building from the museum’s gardens, as dwarf water lilies, shellflowers, and water ferns float in bright green water throughout the space.

After a year in which much of the Western art world spent its time living behind screens, the shows offers a visceral experience to those who can attend.

But it also gives those still mostly engaging with art online—such as this writer—a chance to see the show by way of five live-streams.

By blending the boundaries between the virtual and the actual, Eliasson said the exhibition becomes more visibly entangled with the world: “This entanglement is our way of being.”

See more images of the show below.

Olafur Eliasson <i>Life</i> (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson <i>Life</i> (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

Olafur Eliasson Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson <i>Life</i> (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Pati Grabowicz

Olafur Eliasson Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

Olafur Eliasson, Life (2021). Installation view: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, (2021). Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 2021 Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Mark Niedermann.


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