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Between Space and Time: The Art of Olafur Eliasson at Strozzi Palace

Between Space and Time: The Art of Olafur Eliasson at Strozzi Palace

Florence – Olafur Eliasson, a Danish artist of Icelandic descent, is “in his time” and this is confirmed by the title of the exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, which we will be able to see until January 22, 2023.

The exhibition was moderated by Arturo Galancino, General Director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation, the largest exhibition ever to be held in Italy by Eliasson who also conceived and directed the intricate work in and on the spaces of the important Florentine palace.

With fleeting lights and shadows, with intense reflections and colours, Olafur Eliasson manages, through both historical and new works, to engage the architecture of Palazzo Strozzi, so that those shadows in turn make us “immerse”, enveloping us in this path, decidedly unconventional in the panorama of contemporary creativity, Thus, the question of the distinction between reality, perception and representation.

Good entrance “ticket”!

Thus the lines of the courtyard, like those in the palace rooms, become a point of reference, a meeting point between architecture and its history, between works and between us visitors… So we can say: between space and time.

Indeed, artist Olafur Eliasson identifies: “In his time it was a meeting between artworks, visitors and Strozzi Palace. This extraordinary Renaissance building has traveled through the centuries to welcome us, here and now, into the 21st century, not as a simple container but as a co-producer of the exhibition.

Palazzo Strozzi wasn’t the only one to travel through time. As a visitor, each of us has lived, in a relationship between body and mind that is always different in an individual way. Everyone with their own experiences and stories meet here and now from this exhibition.”

In 2015 – recalls Arturo Galancino – Olafur visited the spaces of the Strozzi Palace for the first time and was stunned by the architecture of the Renaissance, and thus began a long conversation between him and the 15th-century palace, a complex and meaningful dialogue summed up in today’s gallery.”

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How can we not believe it!

In the courtyard there is a large oval structure of 11 meters: under the weather (2022), suspended 8 meters above the ground, which attracts our attention, making us move with an interesting effect as we move while continuing to watch the work transform itself thanks to “visual interventions” , which specifically aims to “disturb” the solid orthogonal structure of the building, thus questioning the perception of a stable and stable historical architecture. We are in tune with the artist: “in his time and ours.”

“Under the Weather” in the inner courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi (Photo by Andrea Dami)

Going up to the main floor we find ourselves between presence and absence, between reality and representation, a game dear to the artist Olafur Eliasson, in the alternation of lights, colors and shadows.

It is a new way of perceiving architecture, destabilizing its traditional and unifying understanding, thus creating an inviting atmosphere with these “new” windows overlooking the courtyard and street. Here is the relationship between inner and outer space. Hence the irregularities of the glass, bubbles, scratches, and dust that accentuate its material, but at the same time, these immaterial glass surfaces become the “membrane” that separates the inside from the outside.

“before now”

But Olafur Eliasson with Action: How We Live Together (2019) combines real space with unreal space. With the black metal arch, it invades, diagonally, the space of a room whose ceiling, covered with a reflective surface, doubles as a circle creating the illusion of confusion: we see ourselves upside down and hanging …

This space created by the episode becomes a bridge between these two worlds!

Let’s stay on topic, thanks to the slow motion of the Solar Compression Installation (2016), whose suspended disk on both sides is reflected by a yellow light from the inside that “smears” the entire environment and also us, who can “see” colored and distorted!

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Yellow always “immerses” the large, completely empty working room: A Room of One Color (1997) which invites us to “immerse ourselves” in this light produced by single-frequency lamps that convert all colors to shades from gray to black, accepting our perception of details. If we get used to yellow light, at the exit, for a moment, we will perceive the afterimage as bluish: it is only its complementary color.

Alternatively, when we enter the space created by the work: Triple Window (1999), we find ourselves witnessing straight and intersecting motifs that recreate the effect of light streaming through the window at night, also creating the illusion of a depth of perspective on the flat surface of the wall.

In the space of the great room, rays of colored light are refracted and reflected in small water droplets, causing them to sparkle in a curtain of mist: this is a beautiful installation (1993).


This rainbow changes according to our position and a visitor near me now will not see what I see,” it’s about swinging back and forth between two positions – says artist Olafur Eliasson – seeing a rainbow, not seeing a rainbow. Unique, we give bodily to the basic idea of ​​Eliasson’s research: every spectator is always also a co-producer of the artwork.

Firefly’s Double Polyhedral Ball Experiment (2020) is a large filter glass polyhedral experiment with an iridescent colored effect, from green to orange, yellow to cyan and pink, and its geometric structure: two complex polyhedra fused together, It is the result of decades of research by Olafur Eliasson. The inner figure, rotating slowly, causes the shadows to change constantly in the superimposed panels, while the lights within them sparkle, as if they were fireflies…

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“Double Firefly Polyhedron Experiment”

After “traveling” in “our time” and participating in the many works on display, it is advisable to go to Strozzina to immerse yourself in virtual reality by entering one of the many workstations in the installation: your view is important ( 2022 ) to the “spaces” that have the form of solids Platonic…to experience this encounter between our physical bodies and digital space.

Then we pass the seven panels of a plan of the city (2018) and two dichroic glass disks from Eye see you (2006) that change color according to our position and movement, to stop before the work: the pentagonal dihedral lamp (2006) which is based on the shape of the twelve faces and starts from An ongoing study on the use of polygonal symmetry.

The game of reflections and shadows continues, inside and out, while the same idea is projected onto the walls of the surrounding space…another experience not to be missed!

The exhibition In Your Time is promoted and organized by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and Olafur Eliasson Studio.

Main Supporter: CR Firenze Foundation. Supporters: Municipality of Florence, Tuscany District, Florence Chamber of Commerce, Palazzo Strozzi Partner Committee, Intesa Sanpaolo. Supported by the Hillary Mercos Recordati Foundation, Maria Manetti Shrem, Greater Florence.

It takes place in Your Time in conjunction with the presentation of a new site-specific installation by the artist for the Museo Castello di Rivoli of Contemporary Art that will be open to the public from November 3, 2022.