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Olafur Eliasson at MIT for 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Award includes artist residency, public events, $100,000 prize and gala
Olafur Eliasson, Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011. ARoS Arhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark.
Olafur Eliasson, Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011. ARoS Arhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark.
Image courtesy of the artist

The Council for the Arts at MIT is pleased to announce that Olafur Eliasson, recipient of the 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, will be at MIT March 12-14 to accept the prestigious honor. In addition to receiving the $100,000 prize and attending public programs and a gala, the artist will undertake a brief residency, interacting with MIT students, faculty, and staff in a range of academic disciplines on campus.

Renowned for large-scale public art projects and architectural works, Eliasson teamed with engineer Frederik Ottesen to create Little Sun, a portable solar-powered LED lamp designed to bring clean, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide who have no access to electricity. But Little Sun is more than just a lamp — it’s also a social business enterprise, a vast global network bringing together people, places, and resources toward the common goal of more equitably distributing the world’s power, both literally and figuratively.

The artist’s activities on campus will center on discussions of sustainable development, community engagement, design, product engineering, and social entrepreneurship in developing economies. He will engage with the MIT Energy Initiative (MITei), a multidisciplinary, Institute-wide research program working to find secure, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable energy sources; the MIT D-Lab (Development through Dialogue, Design and Dissemination); the Sloan School of Management; the MIT Center for Civic Media; and the MIT Museum, among others.

Uniting MIT’s pioneering research with Eliasson’s attention to the sensory and subjective, the residency reconceptualizes the field of sustainable development beyond the merely functional, asking: How can we create an affordable global energy system that factors in human emotion, creativity, and desire? Connecting an acclaimed artist such as Eliasson with MIT’s rich culture of innovation presents a profound opportunity to radically expand the discussion of sustainable energy and collectively imagine new and inventive solutions.

Campus residency events and programs:

Public Programs
Olafur Eliasson Artist Lecture
“Holding hands with the sun”
Thursday, March 13, 5:00 p.m.
MIT Lecture Hall 10-250 (MIT Building 10, 2nd floor)
77 Massachusetts Ave.
Free and open to the public but reservations strongly recommended:

Second Fridays at the MIT Museum
“The Art and Science of Solar Lights”
Olafur Eliasson with Harald Quintus-¬Bosz, Chief Technology Officer, Cooper Perkins
Friday, March 14, 6:00 p.m.
MIT Museum, Building N51
265 Massachusetts Ave.
Free with MIT Museum admission

Little Sun installations around campus
At the MIT Museum, the public and the MIT community can experience an installation of over 100 Little Suns. On display in the lobby of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Building E15, is a four¬-channel installation of videos about light, life, and Little Sun made by 18 filmmakers from all over the world in response to an invitation from Eliasson.

A private gala will be held on the MIT campus in which Eliasson will be presented the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The gala’s honorary hosts include diplomats from Denmark, Iceland, and Germany; Agnes Gund of MoMA PS1; and Anne Hawley, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Eliasson’s extraordinary work encompasses a broad range of creative practices spanning art, science, and psychology, supported by a prodigious studio. In Eliasson’s enormously popular installation “The weather project,” an immense artificial sun produced a sui generis immersive environment, transforming the cavernous halls of London’s Tate Modern with ethereal light and fog. Through such philosophical investigations of light, color, atmosphere, and water, Eliasson probes the nature of space and human perception.

His studio, established in 1995, today numbers about 70 craftsmen, architects, geometers, and art historians. In 2009, as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, Olafur Eliasson founded the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments), a five¬-year experiment in arts education located in his studio in Berlin.

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The award recognizes innovative talents in any arts discipline and offers its recipient a $100,000 cash prize and a campus residency. The selection process reflects MIT’s commitment to risk taking, problem solving, and connecting creative minds across disciplines. The award honors Eugene McDermott, co-founder of Texas Instruments and longtime friend and benefactor of MIT.

For more information on the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, please visit:

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