Modern Magic at Versailles by Olafar Elliasson


Whilst we are dreaming about 17th century Versailles – something entirely magical is happening in 21st century Versailles. Each year the Palace (of Versailles) holds an exhibition on its grounds by a major contemporary artist – this year Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson – best known for bringing a colossal sun into Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall for The Weather Project in 2003 – has been given the honour.

Known for his sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience Eliasson has created a series of fantastical installations throughout the interior of the palace and it’s grounds.

In my opinion the most impressive and breathtaking installation is a towering waterfall which appears to fall from midair into the Grand Canal. 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 realised. I cannot imagine how powerful it must feel to gaze upon that gushing man-made waterfall real life. Wow.

Olafar Elliasson

The ‘Fog Assembly’ on the palace ground envelopes audiences in mist.

Olafar Elliasson

The ‘Glacial Rock Flour Garden’ brings the residue of retracting glaciers to the grounds.

Olafar Elliasson

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.

Olafar Elliasson


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.

The Palace of Versailles
The exhibition runs from 7 June to 30 October 2016,

Author: Rohini Wahi

Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.

She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at

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