press release

The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center present Take your time: Olafur Eliasson, the first comprehensive survey in the United States to explore the highly experimental work of Olafur Eliasson, whose large-scale immersive environments and installations elegantly recreate the extremes of landscape and atmosphere in his native Iceland. In his work, Eliasson recontextualizes elements such as light, water, ice, fog, stone, and moss to create unique situations that shift the viewer’s perception of place and self. By transforming the galleries into hybrid spaces of nature and culture, Eliasson prompts an intensive engagement with the world and offers a fresh consideration of everyday life.

The exhibition’s 38 works include 14 of those featured in the originating exhibition first presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as well as 24 additional works, six of which were uniquely designed for this exhibition. Drawing from public and private collections worldwide, the exhibition will be on view at MoMA and P.S.1. from April 20 through June 30, 2008.

The exhibition is organized by Madeleine Grynsztejn, former Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where the exhibition originated. In New York, it is coordinated and expanded by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography; and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art.

Probing the cognitive aspects of what it means to see, Eliasson creates complex optical phenomena using simple, makeshift technical devices: Colored bulbs bathe a room in yellow light, turning everything inside monochrome; strobes illuminate a thin curtain of falling water, causing the eye to “freeze” the droplets in midair; kaleidoscopes produce colorful prismatic effects; mirrors reflect spotlight beams, revealing an artificial dimension. By making visible the mechanics of his works and laying bare the artifice of the illusion, Eliasson points to the elliptical relationship between reality, perception, and representation.

Inspired by the meteorology and terrain of his native Scandinavia, Eliasson often recontextualizes natural phenomena, as exemplified by his wall of reindeer moss at MoMA and indoor rainbow and upward-flowing waterfall at P.S.1. In his works these sights appear natural, yet invariably they are artificially induced. Even as his work fosters wonder, it also emphasizes the ways in which cultural institutions mediate our perception of natural phenomena.

The monumental new installation Take your time (2008), one of the six new works Eliasson created for the New York presentation, takes its name from the exhibition's title. A circular mirror, 40 feet in diameter and weighing 600 pounds, is mounted to the ceiling of P.S.1’s largest gallery at an angle and rotates at one revolution per minute, destabilizing viewers’ perception of space as they pass underneath it.

Eliasson presents perception as it is lived in the world. Because people do not stand in front of his works as if before a picture, but rather inside them, actively engaged, his installations posit the very act of looking as a social experience. In MoMA’s Marron Atrium, for instance, an electric fan hangs from the ceiling to swing above the visitors below. The fan’s ever-changing, unpredictable arcs provide a striking metaphor for perception in motion. Eliasson engages in an ongoing exploration of subjectivity, reflection, and the fluid boundary between nature and culture, revealing the degree to which reality is constructed and helping us to reflect more critically on our experience of it.

Take your time: Olafur Eliasson was circulated by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and organized there by Madeleine Grynsztejn. At The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center the exhibition was expanded, and its organization and installation were overseen by Roxana Marcoci and Klaus Biesenbach.

Lead support was provided by Helen and Charles Schwab and the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund. Generous support was provided by the Bernard Osher Foundation, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and SFMOMA's Collectors Forum. Additional support was provided by Patricia and William Wilson III, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The New York showing is made possible by the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund. Additional funding is provided by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Danish Ministry of Culture, and Skagen Designs.

Olafur Eliasson
Take Your Time
MoMA & P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center
Kuratoren: Madeleine Grynsztejn, Klaus Biesenbach, Roxana Marcoci

08.09.07 - 03.02.08 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
20.04.08 - 30.06.08 Museum of Modern Art, New York
20.04.08 - 30.06.08 P.S.1 MoMA
09.11.08 - 15.03.09 Dallas Museum of Art
01.05.09 - 13.09.09 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
10.12.09 - 11.04.10 Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney