Juan María Aburto, Mayor of Bilbao, artist Olafur Eliasson, and Juan Ignacio Vidarte, Director General of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, presented today a new art installation, which will be permanently installed on Iparragirre Street in Bilbao. Consisting of seven rhomboidal steel and glass elements installed directly under the pavement between Plaza San José and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the artwork will surprise passersby with an evocative glimpse of the unknown world beneath their feet.
Known to the Bilbao public for his successful retrospective exhibition held at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao three years ago, with this site-specific work entitled Beneath Bilbao, the curious planet, Eliasson puts the experience of viewers at the center of his art while encouraging them to reflect upon their understanding of the world around them.
When they look down at each opening in the ground, passersby will see an intriguing shape, both geometric and organic, with a mineral texture and the clear, sharp edges of a polyhedron. These shapes are actually illusions generated by kaleidoscopes, made up of trapezoidal mirrors that meet at one point. At the heart of each kaleidoscope is a different type of mineral or rock mined in Biscay, which is reflected in the mirrored walls, creating geometric shapes with textures and colors that differ at each location.
Central to this work of art are seven minerals and rocks from Biscay that were selected for their great mining, industrial, and historical importance, specifically calcite, limonite, goethite, siderite, basalt, sandstone, and limestone.
Dazzling at Night
While the installation will attract attention from passersby during the day, it will be especially dazzling at night, when the internal lighting of the kaleidoscopes will be more noticeable while giving the street a unique, dreamlike atmosphere.
According to Olafur Eliasson, “this work invites us to stop and see things from a new perspective. The kaleidoscopes embedded in the pavement are like gems for pedestrians to discover as they weave their way from one place to another. They invite us to reflect for a moment, enjoying an evocative glimpse of something that usually goes unnoticed, such as the fundamental elements of the city, while becoming more aware of our presence on Earth, here and now.”
Collaboration between the City and the Museum
In August 2020, the Bilbao City Council and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao signed a collaboration agreement in which both entities pledged to continue strengthening their partnership to develop and improve the city, focusing especially on the presence and visibility of art in its public spaces.
In this regard, the City Council and the Museum expressed their commitment to work together to integrate an illuminated art intervention into Iparraguirre Street’s urban design, taking advantage of the expansion of the pedestrian area, to enhance the public space and serve as a unifying thread between the Museum and the city.
The two entities also agreed that Olafur Eliasson—who was displaying his work at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at the time, in the exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In real life—was the perfect candidate to create the installation.
About Olafur Eliasson
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) puts the experience of viewers at the center of his art, bringing attention to some of today’s most urgent issues through sculptures, photographs, paintings, and installations that play with reflections and colors, challenging the way we navigate and perceive our environment.
Interested in perception, movement, the physical experience, and sensations, Eliasson encourages us through his art to reflect upon our understanding and perception of our physical surroundings. Central to his artistic practice are his concern with nature, his research into geometry, and his ongoing investigations into how we perceive, feel about, and shape the world around us.
Recently, on September 13, Olafur Eliasson was recognized with the Praemium Imperiale international art award in sculpture, a prize granted by the imperial family of Japan on behalf of the Japan Art Association.