An Evening with Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson by Madeleine Grynsztejn                                 Phaidon Press (2002) Paperback

I am not familiar with the this artist but the structural cover, with its swirl of iron beams, draws me in. Eliasson is a contemporary artist, which makes me brace myself for a trip down the rabbit hole. I associate contemporary art with crazy installations and hard to follow avant-garde ideas that don’t seem fully developed, as I always have trouble appreciating those installations, like Feldmann’s $100,000 room at the Guggenheim (If I had $100,000 I think I could make a statement about money much more creatively than just hanging it up everywhere). This book is great for people not too familiar with contemporary art though, it is set up a bit differently than most books about an artist. Eliasson starts with an interview with the artist himself, followed by a survey of his works by a curator, then an essay about one of his major works (actually a series of photographs), next the ‘artist’s choice’ (an essay about art in general by Henri Bergson entitled ‘Creative Evolution’, and last the artist’s own explanation of his art. This book is part of a series on contemporary artists and offers multiple perspectives on Eliasson and art. The different sections help to form a discussion and full-circle view of the artist and his ideas. It takes a while to digest it all but it’s the closest I’ve come to wrapping my head around a contemporary artist. I believe it is one of the best ways to begin to understand contemporary art as a whole. You have to look at it as more than just a single piece of art but as a a whole sort of philosophy, and all that is compiled stylishly in this book. It is a comprehensive, eye-opening read.

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