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Olafur Eliasson 2014 recipient of Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
Little Sun installation at MIT Museum. Photo: Barry Hetherington.


CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that Olafur Eliasson is the recipient of the 2014, 40th anniversary Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, presented by the Council for the Arts at MIT. Renowned for the multi-faceted practice of his studio in Berlin, Eliasson creates ambitious public art projects, large-scale installations, architectural pavilions, major art exhibitions, spatial experiments, sensory experiences and a distinctive art and social business enterprise -- Little Sun, a solar powered lamp that is “a work of art that works in life.” Eliasson’s creative practice above all reveals that art shapes life in a way that transforms reality.

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals whose artistic trajectory reveals that they will achieve the highest distinction in their fields and continue to produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. The official announcement is made at the Council’s 41st annual meeting at MIT on October 24, 2013, and Eliasson will be presented with the award at a gala in his honor on March 13, 2014.

Olafur Eliasson’s remarks upon receiving the award: “Through abstraction, we shape the world. Through art, we translate thoughts, intuitions, feelings and intentions into actions that transform reality. It is a great honor for me to receive the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, an institution with a long tradition of turning thinking into doing.”

From MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury: “MIT recognizes the broad reach of Olafur Eliasson’s art practice, which extends the boundaries of our sensory perception and awareness about what art can do in the world. His art is at once intellectually rigorous and socially aware. Eliasson's collaborative approach to artistic creation will resonate in MIT’s culture, and we look forward to mutually productive interactions with faculty, students and researchers in the arts, science and technology during his visit to MIT in March 2014.”

Eliasson’s extraordinary work encompasses a broad range of creative practices spanning art, science and psychology, supported by a prodigious studio. He has made strikingly original contributions to public art, architecture, and recently, social entrepreneurship. Eliasson’s enormously popular installation The weather project, an immense artificial sun, produced a sui generis immersive environment, transforming the cavernous turbine hall 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. Most recently, Eliasson collaborated with engineer Frederik Ottesen to develop Little Sun: a portable solar-powered LED lamp for the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to electricity. “A work of art that works in life,” Little Sun is providing a safe and affordable alternative to toxic and expensive fuel-based lighting like kerosene lanterns. Little Sun was launched at London’s Tate Modern in 2012 and has since produced 165,000 solar lamps, with distribution in seven African countries, the EU, Japan, Australia and the USA. Little Sun is a social business that addresses the need for light in a sustainable way that benefits off-grid communities, with a focus on creating local jobs and generating local profits.





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Olafur Eliasson 2014 recipient of Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

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