Artist and Akademie X contributor Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson wins MIT Award

The Danish-Icelandic artist will receive the $100,000 Eugene McDermott Award

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is better known for its Nobel Prize laureates than for its artistic flare. Still, MIT's annual Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, named after the geophysicist and co-founder of Texas Instruments, is one of the bigger prizes in the arts calendar.

The award, which consists of $100,000 in prize money and a brief residency at this world-class university just north of Boston, is given to “individuals whose artistic trajectory and body of work indicate that they will achieve the highest distinction and become leaders in their fields.”


The Weather Project (2003) by Olafur Eliasson
The Weather Project (2003) by Olafur Eliasson

The emphasis on the winner's potential, rather than proven achievements, is slightly at odds with 2014's recipient. Olafur Eliasson was named as next year's winner a few days ago, yet this Berlin-based, Danish-Icelandic artist is already a leader in his field. From his 2003 Tate Turbine Hall installation, the Weather Project, through to his 2008 public artworks, New York City Waterfalls, to his ongoing solar-powered torch venture, Little Sun, the 46 year old has established himself as an internationally recognised artist.

However, Eliasson's peculiarly technical and collaborative sympathies makes him a good fit for the Eugene McDermott, not least because during his MIT residency Eliasson will be expected to “connect with departments, laboratories and research centres throughout the Institute in ways that will be mutually enlightening.”

“Eliasson's collaborative approach to artistic creation will resonate in MIT’s culture,” said MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury, “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.”


Olafur MIT

This sentiment was echoed by Eliasson, who said “it is a great honour for me to receive the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, an institution with a long tradition of turning thinking into doing.”

We certainly hope the pairing of Eliasson's gimlet vision with MIT's peerless scientific abilities leads to something truly exciting. Find out more about the prize here, and, for greater insight into this artist's life and work, please consider our study of the artist. Buy the book from the people who made it, here.