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“Olafur Eliasson : Sometimes the river is the bridge” in Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

We used to think that global environmental crisis such as extreme weather and climate change were far away from us. Yet, we are now in a new phase to seriously think of sustainability of our society. Olafur Eliasson’s first solo exhibition in Japan in 10 years, “Olafur Eliasson : Sometimes the river is the bridge”, provide us with various insights about how we should confront our global environment today.

Quiet “questions” – Two large-scale art installations

“Olafur Eliasson : Sometimes the river is the bridge”, the exhibition title, is his core message indeed- a fundamental shift in perspective that allows us to see the unseen and the invisibles. In other words, we arouse the thought- “Up until now, we have organized our present based on the past; we now need to shape our present according to what we want from the future.”

For this exhibition, he created a new large-scale installation artwork in the open foyer in the basement second floor. This work has the same title as the exhibition- “Sometimes the river is the bridge“; the surface of a large petri dish filled with water is illuminated by 12 spotlights. Watching the movement of the small, rippling surface of the water reflected in the ceiling, audience may see something have never been seen. Audience can also enjoy “Beauty” (1993), another early masterpieces of his, with a rainbow appearing in darkness.

Art created by a team with over 100 members and trials toward sustainability

Aside from the appreciation viewpoint of contemporary art, you might also want to know the efforts in his sustainable approaches to explore society from a variety of disciplines, including science, which is the source of the core thinking behind his works. Founded by Olafur Eliasson himself, the studio is home to more than 100 experts, including artisans, architects, researchers, chefs, and programmers; as members to support his creative activities.

In the “Sustainability research lab“, you can see the accumulative results of daily practice, such as water colors painted with recycled agricultural waste and environmental-friendly materials. The Little Sun, which glows with stored solar energy, was also created in conjunction with these experts. “Sunlight graffiti” (2012), drawn with The Little Sun, is similar to many other creations of his in this exhibition. It is a work to be completed by the visitor’s participation.

The glacier melt series 1999/2019“- presenting indisputable facts to the visitor.

Not all his works are beautiful and fancy. “The glacier melt series 1999/2019” (2019) features 30 pairs of photographs of glaciers taken at the same position and angle from an aircraft, side by side, from 1999 and 2019. It shows the reality (fact) that glaciers existed without fail 20 years ago have already disappeared due to the global climate change. What do you feel as you stand in front of this work?

In the exhibition hall, there is an “exhibition map” that simply explains the creation intention of the creation of all works, which is rather unique in contemporary art exhibitions. Do you prefer reading the map first or appreciate the artworks first? Either way, you are going to have a sensory experience that you can’t acquire merely from science.


Olafur Eliasson : Sometimes the river is the bridge


Sat. 9 June– Sun. 27 September, 2020


Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
Exhibition Gallery B2F


4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0022 Japan

Official Website


Opening Hours

10:00-18:00 (Entry to the exhibit ends at 17:30)


Mondays (except 10 August, 21 September), 11 August, 23 September


Adults - 1,400yen
University & College Students, Over 65 - 1,000yen
High School & Junior High School Students - 500yen
Elementary School Students & Younger - Free
* Children younger than elementary school age need to be accompanied by a guardian.
* Persons with a Physical Disability Certificate, Intellectual Disability Certificate, Intellectual Disability Welfare Certificate, or Atomic Bomb Survivor Welfare Certificate as well as up to two attendants are admitted free of charge.

How to participate in Sunlight graffiti

A reservation ticket is required to participate in Sunlight graffiti at “Olafur Eliasson: Sometimes the river is the bridge”. The tickets are distributed in the exhibition space of Sunlight graffiti at B2F gallery from 10:00am every day.(except closed days)
* The ticket is valid for one person only, for the day of issue only.
* We stop distributing the tickets as soon as the number of participants reaches the limit.
* Those who don’t have a reservation ticket are able to see how other visitors experience the exhibition.