From LEGO Cities to New York City Waterfalls

LegoLegoAs a self-described art geek, I’ve long pondered the relationship between those two quadrants of my life. Surely there is geek art that goes beyond airbrushed flying horses and Frank Frazetta novel covers and enters the realm of “serious” art.

So needless to say, when I heard of a well-known and respected artist who worked in LEGO, my ears perked up. Olafur Eliasson is described as a Danish-Icelandic artist living in Berlin. Known for site-specific, immersive works that put museum-goers into an environment of the artist’s devising, his work became well known throughout the world after a very successful exhibition, The Weather Project, at the Tate Modern in London. Earlier this year, he announced plans to create a series of illuminated waterfalls rising out of New York City’s East River. The 90- to 120-foot tall installations will be visible from multiple points in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Governors Island.

But the work that caught my eye was a 2005 project involving Eliasson bringing 3 tons of white LEGO bricks to Tirana, Albania. Setting up the bricks in the town square, he invited residents to construct their ideal city. Eliasson described the project this way:

“To me, the LEGO brick project is a ‘micro-model’ of the situation in which the people of Tirana must often find themselves today: Building a stable society is only possible with the involvement and cooperation of each individual. People of the city meet around the large LEGO landscape table: passers-by, adults, children, teenagers, parents with young children, taxi drivers, a relaxed policeman, a class of schoolchildren who saw it on TV, cigarette-selling street urchins and pensioners — who in the old communist days wandered across the same square — to build, create, push, move topple or tear down.”


GovernorsislandGovernorsislandMore recently, Eliasson set up shop in the Bay Area, crafting his first U.S. exhibition, called Take Your Time for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

If you’re interested in his art, but can’t make it to the museum, check out SFMOMA’s excellent catalogue, entitled Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson. This book delves into the inspirations and implications of the artist’s work, with photos of his various pieces and essays by noted art historians.

The exhibition’s SFMOMA run has its last day on February 24th, and will arrive at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on April 20th through June 30th, coinciding with The New York City Waterfalls project. The last leg of the exhibition is the Dallas Museum of Art from November 9th through March 15th, 2009.

LEGO image: (c) 2008 Olafur Eliasson
Waterfall image: (c) 2008 Olafur Eliasson, Courtesy Public Art Fund

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