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James Turrell and Morten Schmidt

Project - ARos Aarhus Art Museum: ‘The Next Level’, Denmark


Spirituality, creativity and artistic freedom are driving a major collaboration between architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen and light artist James Turrell for the ARos Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark, the co-founder of the Danish practice has told CLAD.

Morten Schmidt said Turrell’s vast installation is being fitted as part of the museum’s ¤40m (US$42.4m, £34m) expansion. The work – called The Next Level – will allow visitors to “experience real colour and energy” as art and architecture merge to create a new type of civic experience.

The project will see the addition of a 1,200sq m (12,900sq ft) underground gallery and a gigantic semi-subterranean art installation called the Dome, described by the team as “one of the most spectacular spaces ever built into an art museum.”

“The scale of it is incredible,” said Schmidt. “The director of our museum, Erlend Høyersten, is a very forward-looking person. He thinks that it’s absolutely crucial for young people to be exposed heavily to art and to be engaged.

“Everything they see on TV is so pre-determined and without spontaneity that they’re not using the artistic part of their brain enough. So he really wants them to come in and experience something that's real and memorable.”

Visitors to the attraction will face an experience in colour and light as they travel through a string of galleries and exhibition spaces, stretching almost 120m (393.7ft) below the ground, until they reach the inside of the spectacular Dome, which is 40m (131.2ft) in diameter and rises to a height of 9m (29.5ft) above ground level.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen are the original designers of the building, which opened in 2004. The architects also collaborated with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson in 2011 to create Your Rainbow Panorama; a luminous circular artwork that hovers permanently on the roof of the ARos Aarhus Art Museum.

Schmidt claimed the new installation, which will open to the public in 2020, has been conceived to create a spiritual experience.

“James Turrell is a very spiritual person, he’s a Quaker, and he’s also in tune with concepts such as reincarnation and the spirit world," he said.

“The funny thing is that he’s very much into Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy [an esoteric spiritual movement that teaches that wellbeing and an understanding of the spiritual nature of humanity and the universe can be achieved through scientific study]. I went to a Rudolf Steiner school, Turrell did, and the director of the museum did as well. So in that way we are a trio, and that shared educational background has lined our thinking with this project.”

Turrell is one of the world’s leading artists working with light and colours, with permanent installations in over 26 countries. The Next Level is his biggest project within a museum context.

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