Olafur Eliasson, the Danish-Icelandic inventor and engineer of minimalist spectacle, is so much better than anyone else in today’s ranks of crowd-pleasing installational artists that there should be a nice, clean, special word other than “art” for what he does, to set him apart. There won’t be. “Art” has become the promiscuous catchall for anything artificial that meets no practical need but which we like, or are presumed or supposed to like. Still, play with the thought at “Take Your Time,” the Eliasson retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and at MOMA’s affiliate, P.S. 1. By the way, please make the P.S. 1 trek—three stops on the No. 7 train from Grand Central. That part of the show details and deepens a sense of Eliasson’s creative integrity, which may remain slightly in question amid his stunts on West Fifty-third Street: an electric fan swaying on a cord from the ceiling of the atrium, rooms awash in different kinds of peculiarly colored light, a wall of exotic (and odorous) moss, a curtain of falling water optically immobilized by stroboscopic flashes. I had a little epiphany in Queens while looking at Eliasson’s contemplative suites of photographs of Icelandic landscapes, seascapes, glaciers, icebergs, and caves: here’s someone for whom beauty is normal. His character suggests both the mental discipline of a scientist and the emotional responsibility of a poet. If leadership in public-spirited art extravaganzas were a political office—and it sometimes feels as if it were—he’d have my vote.

Peter Schjeldahl
New Yorker

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