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Olafur Eliasson — Solar Friend
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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: AR–only Exhibit Comes to Beijing

04.12.20
A couple of months ago, we wrote about KAWS and his partnership with augmented reality firm Acute Art, covering the series of massive COMPANION sculptures “installed” everywhere from Tokyo to Paris. Since then, both the artist and the company have expanded their efforts, culminating in a new exhibition at Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art – one of the leading institutions in greater China. “Mirage”, which opened just last week, includes additional pieces from Olafur Eliasson, Cao Fei, Nina Chanel Abney and Darren Bader, and extends outside the museum to a nearby hotel and apartment complex, all of which sit in close proximity to the capital’s infamous 798 Art District. For those that might not have the necessary operating systems, the UCCA will even be providing smartphones from the iPhone 12 product range for use in the museum.

The project boasts big ambitions, claiming itself to be a conceptual intervention, an important marker in institutionalising the technology – and some of the points are decent. The amount of money, time, and energy that goes into internationally shipping and installing works is immense, and as air traffic has waned and art fairs moved online, art organizations are thinking more seriously about their carbon footprints and the industry’s contribution to larger issues regarding climate change. But its claims for “democratisation of viewership” are somewhat laughable, considering the UCCA is doling out iPhone 12s for the experience – hardly the cheapest tech of our time (the iPhone X is where Acute Art draws the line). The themes and benefits put forward by both Acute Art and the UCCA are the same circulating in all artistic digital endeavors, lifted from internet mythology and technological “essences” that may or may not live up to their promises. Either way, for a major institution – let alone a museum – to welcome the medium into their space is no small matter. We suspect it’ll come with a lot of likes.