Born in Denmark in 1967, Eliasson’s parents separated when he was four years old, and his father returned to Iceland where he became a landscape painter. In 1989, Eliasson attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and, a year after graduating, secured his first solo show.
In 1995, he founded the Studio Olafur Eliasson, an experimental laboratory in Berlin where a team of about 90 people from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from technicians to art historians, manufacture ideas rather than things.
Eliasson is an artist committed to pushing the boundaries of space using materials such as lights, mirrors and water. Viewers play a major part in his work. In 1998, he used uranin, a dye used to detect plumbing leaks, to colour a Berlin river fluorescent green. In 2008, he created four huge manmade waterfalls in New York harbour.
His best-known work is The Weather Project, commissioned for the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern in 2003. Using a semi-circle of hundreds of yellow lamps and enormous mirrors he created a dazzling sunset and a vast ceiling that reflected the audience and the surroundings. Designed to put visitors back in touch with the deep sense of awe ancestors must have felt as they watched the sun rise and set each day, it was described by the art critic Richard Dorment as having ‘a terrifying beauty’.
Eliasson is also known for his Ice Watch series (2014–18), which saw him transport monumental blocks of glacial ice to cities around the world to raise awareness for climate change.