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Olafur Eliasson installs giant waterfall at Palace of Versailles
Cascading from high above the surface of the pool, the Waterfall installation appears as a torrent of water of with no discernible source when viewed from the front steps of the palace.
It is one of many Eliasson works sprawled across the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in France, which annually hosts an exhibition by a major contemporary artist.
Running from 7 June to 30 October 2016, the exhibition features three outdoor works themed around water and several architectural interventions indoors.
As an artist, Eliasson is known for his large-scale installations that explore light, perception and environmental issues.
In the case of Waterfall, the gushing water conceals a latticed tower built from yellow steel girders, which become apparent to audiences as the view the installation from its sides. Water is pumped through a system of pipes to emerge from a platform at the top of the tower.
The installation is partly influenced by 15th-16th-century French monarch Louis XIV’s landscape architect André Le Notre, who had planned an ambitious water feature for the garden that was never realized.
“This waterfall reinvigorates the engineering ingenuity of the past,” said Eliasson. “It is as constructed as the court was, and I’ve left the construction open for all to see – a seemingly foreign element that expands the scope of human imagination.”
Eliasson’s other outdoor installations are Fog Assembly, which envelopes audiences in mist, and Glacial Rock Flour Garden, bringing the residue of retracting glaciers to the grounds.
Inside the palace, mirrors are used in works like Solar Compression, where a mirror glows with a thin rim of light, and The Curious Museum, which creates large-scale trompe l’oeil effects through reflections.
“The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone,” said Eliasson. “It invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur.”
“It asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement.”
Eliasson’s installations at Versailles recall the themes of his previous works, which include a piercing bright orange beam inside Paris’ Foundation Louis Vuitton and a Copenhagen bridge based on ship’s rigging.
He is probably best known for bringing a colossal sun into Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall for The Weather Project in 2003.
Located south-west of Paris, the Palace of Versailles was first built by Louis XIII in 1623 and enlarged into a royal château by Louis XIV from 1661. It is now a major tourist attraction.