Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson, who previously created a blazing sun inside the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, is returning to the London gallery with a new project that will create temporary blackouts inside the contemporary art venue.
On Thursday, the artist unveiled his upcoming work Olafur Eliasson: Little Sun, which the Tate will feature as part of the Cultural Olympiad festival in London.
Every Saturday between July 28 to Sept. 23, the Tate will stage an after-hours blackout in its surrealist galleries.
Danish-Icelandic artist Eliasson has teamed up with engineer Frederik Ottesen to create powerful hand-held lights shaped like sunflowers and visitors will use these specially designed lights to view Tate artwork and to create "light graffiti."
According to Tate director Nicholas Serota, the installation echoes the 1938 International Surrealism Exhibition at the Galérie Beaux-Arts in Paris, where artist Man Ray distributed flashlights to visitors to view the dimly lit artworks.
Little Sun is "a work of art that works in life" and "a small work of art with a large reach," Eliasson said.
Visitors to Little Sun must purchase the plastic, solar-powered, flower-shaped lanterns (£16.50 or $26 Cdn each), which Eliasson and Ottensen designed as an initiative to deliver an ecological lighting alternative to kerosene lamps for people worldwide who lack access to electricity. Entry to the exhibit is free.
The money will fund the production of Little Sun lights for those in developing countries and, the artist hopes, entrepreneurs who sell the lamps.
The Tate "blackouts" will also include a seminar for participants, as well as the screening of more than a dozen short films by directors hailing from off-grid areas worldwide.
Responding to questions of whether the Tate project was indeed art — and why Eliasson didn't just "sell the lights at Ikea" — the artist noted that the Tate has been his "playground."
"This is where I come from and the language I speak," he said.
"Everyone wants a beautiful object. The fact that there is a business model here doesn't exclude it being art. In fact, the business model, the delivery and sense of community is also the artwork."
In 2003, Eliasson's The weather project created a fake sun inside the Tate's cavernous Turbine Hall using a combination of lamps, mirrors and humidifiers. On display for approximately six months, the popular installation attracted more than two million visitors, many of whom opted to stretch out on the floor to soak in the faux sun.