Continuing the Palace of Versailles’ eight-year tradition of hosting an internally acclaimed artist to curate a series of works responding to the landmark’s architecture and landscape, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has designed a towering waterfall, along with installations that play on fog, mirrors, and light. The works will be on display through Oct. 30, 2016.
Several installations will illuminate the royal French château, known for its expansive Hall of Mirrors. Each employs mirrors of varying sizes to amplify the effect of integral light sources, and, ultimately, the surrounding interior space. The first, “Your Sense of Unity,” is erected within a doorway and, at first glance appears as a ring of luminous circles. This optical illusion is created through the intersection of two large mirrors at a diagonal, while the circles come from the repeated reflection of a single, suspended ring.
The second installation is a two-part project with inter-playing components. In part one, “Deep Mirror (Yellow),” a hole has been cut in the surface of one of the palace’s mirrors and a crescent-shaped yellow light radiates from within. The result allows the viewer to see a smaller-scale version of herself and her surroundings in the mirror. Facing it is part two, “Deep Mirror (Black),” which works with the former to create an infinite regress of yellow and black sickles.
Another piece, “The Curious Museum,” features a mirror set within the building's scaffolding and is placed before the gallery windows, allowing passers by to see themselves framed within the space.
Floating in the middle of a room is “Solar Compression,” a hanging circular mirror with a sliver of yellow light emanating from along its edge. The piece uses a “monofrequency lamp” placed between “two round, slightly convex mirrors,” according to the artist’s website.
The smallest, and arguably most experimental, is "The Gaze of Versailles," consisting of two small orbs affixed to a window overlooking the gardens. Visitors can peer into the tiny orbs, which are fitted with reflective mirrors that distort the surrounding environment.
Outside, in the gardens, three massive installations explore various states of water. The artist chose a fluid stream, an omnipresent cloud of fog, and a political statement of water's absence.
As a continuation of his earlier work under New York's Brooklyn Bridge, Eliasson placed a waterfall in the Grand Canal of Versailles’ gardens. From the observer’s point of view at the garden's central axis, the water feature appears to be in freefall; step off-center and one can see a towering crane dispensing the flowing water. The aptly named "Waterfall" installation is meant to be a contemporary interpretation of the original vision of André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect commissioned by Louis XIV, to have a waterfall on the palace's grounds.
Joining the waterfall is “Fog Assembly,” a cloud of mist emitted from a large ring set within the lawn of the Bosquet de l’Etoile, one of 15 groves in the massive gardens.
The final outdoor installation inhabits the Bosquet de la Colonnade and features a cracked layer of moraine. Using a substance meant for revitalizing soil in a tropical climate, the “Glacial Rock Flour Garden” continues the dialogue on climate change that is evident in Eliasson's past works, such as his glacier series "Ice Watch Paris," which took place during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015.