Press Release

Olafur Eliasson and Nick Mauss selected to create two New Percent-for-Art projects for MIT’s campus

Boston, MA

New commissions follow double in funding for the Institute’s Percent-for-Art Program to $500,000 

The MIT List Visual Arts Center announces that Olafur Eliasson and Nick Mauss have been commissioned under its Percent-for-Art Program to create two new public art works for MIT that will be completed and unveiled in fall 2018. Created in 1968, the Percent-for-Art Program allots a percentage of funds to commission or purchase art for each new major renovation or building development initiative.The cap on a project, which recently doubled, allows for an allocation of up to $500,000 per project. Over the last fifty years the Institute’s Percent-for-Art Program has driven the growth and expansion of MIT’s campus public art collection, resulting in over 60 artworks, by artists including Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Matthew Ritchie, and Sarah Sze for  MIT’s 23,000 member community and 150,700 annual campus visitors to enjoy. MIT’s public art is even more accessible for visitors through the launch of a GPS-enabled app featuring self-guided tour routes supplemented by interviews with selected artists and architects. 

“As MIT’s public art collection continues to expand throughout our buildings and public spaces on campus, we are excited to commission these new site specific works by Eliasson and Mauss which will create more opportunities for our students, faculty, and visitors to engage with art in new ways, outside of traditional museum or gallery settings,” said the List Center’s director Paul Ha. “The Percent-for-Art Program, which was launched almost 50 years ago, was conceived to reflect the Institute’s vision for how art, science, and technology can intersect to inspire experimentation and discovery. This year, with the double in funding of up to $500,000 for each commission, we are empowered to continue growing the greatest public art collection in the country and encouraging creativity to permeate our everyday lives.”  

Olafur Eliasson

MIT.nano (Building 12)

Northwest Passage, Olafur Eliasson’s commissioned work will be situated at the entrance and breezeway of MIT’s new sprawling 200,000 square foot nano building, (Building 12), a state of the art production and research complex devoted to nanoscience and nanotechnology which is slated for completion in 2018. The facility will support the activities of 2,000 MIT researchers by modernizing MIT’s research capacity to deepen the collaboration between all departments building on recent advances and innovations in science and technology driven by nano-scale experimentation. 

Northwest Passage, spanning 123 feet, and comprised of 20 polished stainless-steel panels, each of a different size and abstract shape, will be installed on the ceiling of the space floating above visitors. These mirrored forms base their silhouette and configuration on the pattern of free-floating ice, the product of thinning ice coverage, found in the Northwest Passage between North America and the Arctic Circle. Semicircular steel bands, embedded with LED lights, loop below the mirrored planes intersecting sections of the artwork. The mirrors will cast impressions below to building visitors and those passing by, while engaging with the glass walls that mark the edge of the corridor. 

This project draws inspiration from the dramatic thinning of the ice coverage in the Parry Channel of the Northwest Passage–a historically impassable frozen route through the Arctic Ocean linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. As of the summer of 2007, the effects of climate change has allowed vessels to sail the passage without requiring an icebreaker, an event that scientists predict will become more and more common with the continued effects of global warming. 

Nick Mauss

The Ralph Landau Chemical Building (Bldg. 66)

Nick Mauss was selected to create a site-specific installation for I.M. Pei’s Landau building in conjunction with a recently completed interior renovation project. The Ralph Landau Chemical Building (Bldg. 66,1976) home to MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, is one of several buildings designed by Pei for the southeast corner of the central campus of MIT.

Following a study of Pei’s architectural design, and the materials and color scheme for the building, Mauss proposed to install a series of large-scale majolica murals throughout the 5 floors of the building, recalling the use of ceramic murals in 20th century brutalist architecture, from Le Corbusier to Oscar Niemeyer. Exploiting and exaggerating the unpredictability of the ceramic painting process, Mauss draws out surprising chemical reactions and color effects through the firing process and manipulates the material to create passages akin to watercolor and ink-painting.  Mauss’ murals are large compositions of floating and disjoined figuration seemingly submerged in color and pattern, and will be offset by the building’s expanses of pressed-concrete walls. The works of varying scale will be installed throughout the central stairwells, as well as on the landings of each of the five floors of the newly renovated building.  Mauss has also rehabilitated Pei’s original built-in concrete planters, installing Pothos to cascade down over the balconies and visually connect the air-space of the two atria in Building 66. 

In describing the project Mauss states, "By installing  a cycle of ceramic murals like a series of echoes throughout the concrete atria, on all five floors, I hope to animate the viewers' encounters with the vigorous architecture of Building 66—its sense of visual ricochet—and to suggest a heightened sense of attention to the experience of moving through, and pausing in, this complex building."  The ceramics will be produced at Bottega Gatti in Faenza, an historical Majolica atelier founded in 1928, renowned for its collaborations with visual artists since the Italian Futurists.



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Olafur Eliasson, Northwest Passage, 2018 (expected completion) MIT.nano, Building 12 Visualization: Studio Olafur Eliasson © 2017 Olafur Eliasson

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