Curator’s Eye: Your oceanic feeling by Olafur Eliasson

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COMPOSED OF HAND-BLOWN GLASS, polished metal tubes, and a light source, Olafur Eliasson’s Your oceanic feeling is at once a functional pendant and a sculpture that casts light through triangles of colored glass. As viewers move around the piece, the colors and shapes of the sphere appear to change constantly, simulating the feeling of being inside a kaleidoscope, and inviting audiences to become more aware of their own perceptions and movements through space. Eliasson’s artwork is an integral component of Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s recent redesign of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden lobby, a re-envisioning of the space that drew inspiration from the building’s iconic circular shape. The new design highlights the unique architecture while creating an environment that functions simultaneously as sculpture, furniture, and conceptual art.

Olafur Eliasson (1967–) YOUR OCEANIC FEELING Stainless steel, colored glass, paint, and light bulb 2015. Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Approved acquisition, with funds provided in part by Mitch and Joleen Jults. Cathy Carver Photo

Your oceanic feeling builds on a variety of approaches to exploring light that are represented in the Hirshhorn’s world-class collection of more than twelve thousand works—from kinetic art and sculpture to experimental film and immersive environments. Hanging directly inside the Hirshhorn’s main entrance, it is one of the first pieces that visitors encounter, setting the tone for the way that art is experienced throughout the museum. Eliasson is known for using light, color, and movement to create works that artificially evoke natural atmospheric conditions. Described by Eliasson as “devices for the experience of reality,” his artworks initiate an encounter with the viewer that ultimately heightens awareness of how we understand and interact with the world around us.

Betsy Johnson
Assistant Curator
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Washington, DC