Olafur Eliasson’s Glacial Mud Art at Versailles

Olafur Eliasson. Glacial rock flour garden, 2016, glacial rock flour. Palace of Versailles, 2016.  Photo: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York  © Olafur Eliasson.

Remineralization and high art combine in a new major installation by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. His previous work has crossed paths with remineralization before. The prime example is his work “Ice Watch”: during the 2015 COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, he placed 12 car-sized chunks of Greenland glacier to melt at the Place du Pantheon.[1] “Ice Watch” was a collaboration between Eliasson and Professor Minik Rosing, whose work on remineralization was discussed in the article “Greenland’s Glaciers as Rock Dust Mills”. Now, Eliasson continues with the theme of confronting audiences with humanity’s role in destabilizing the environment.

His most recent work is the transformation of the grounds of the Château de Versailles, the legendary palace that stands as a monument to the decadence of King Louis XIV. Of particular interest to RTE is what he has created at the fountain in La Colonnade: He has replaced the garden there with a layer of glacial mud from Greenland. Eliasson said he considered the garden to be “a way for the king to exercise the illusion of power,” built in the belief “that he [Louis XIV] could make nature work according to his wishes.”[2] Replacing the garden with a bed of cracked mud is an interesting reminder that we do not have absolute control, and that life comes from the soil.

A closer view of Glacial rock flour garden, 2016, glacial rock flour. Foto: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy: © Olafur Eliasson.

A closer view of Glacial rock flour garden, 2016, glacial rock flour. Foto: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy: © Olafur Eliasson.

It is significant that he chose glacial mud in particular, given its high potential to help return control of forests and growth to nature by restoring the cycles that regulated the climate before human intervention. This work calls attention to the decadent use of resources, and how we need to cover our wasteful use of resources with something that remediates the problems we have caused. Art can present a message in a manner that provokes new ways of thinking, and can be an important method of spreading the word about climate problems and solutions.

Olafur Eliasson’s Versailles installation opened in June 2016 and will continue until November 2016. See his official website olafureliasson.net to learn more about this and other projects of his.


Benjamin T. Rancourt received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May 2016. His continuing philosophical research focuses on understanding, knowledge, and science, among other topics. This research ties into his wider goal of encouraging deeper understanding of ourselves, our strengths, and our limitations. He hopes that greater understanding will help us use the resources available to us to preserve what is good and address what is wrong. Walking is his primary mode of transportation. He appreciates the natural world. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Julia.



[1] http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-artist-who-is-bringing-icebergs-to-paris

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/arts/design/olafur-eliasson-versailles.html?_r=0


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