Olafur Eliasson was named a UN Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for climate action.

Christy Kuesel
Sep 23, 2019 4:21PM, via United Nations Development Program

Olafur Eliasson. Photo by Runa Maya Mørk Huber / Studio Olafur Eliasson. © 2017 Olafur Eliasson.

Right on the heels of the historic global climate strike on Friday, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has been appointed as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for its Development Program. Eliasson, who is well known for his works centered on the environment, will serve in a newly created position as an advocate for urgent climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals, a series of 17 objectives for ending poverty, protecting the planet, and improving quality of life by 2030.

Eliasson has already created artworks addressing the climate crisis, including Ice Watch (2014), which took large melting blocks of ice from near Greenland and placed them in several cities, including Paris during the UN Climate Summit. Other projects relate to the environment more broadly, like The New York City Waterfalls (2008), which placed four temporary waterfalls around the city, and The weather project (2003), which placed an indoor sun surrounded by mist at the Tate Modern.

In 2012, Eliasson founded Little Sun with engineer Frederik Ottesen. The initiative aims to bring solar energy to communities living without electricity by selling solar-powered products, and providing them to people living off-the-grid at a lower price. According to its website, the business has distributed over 800,000 lamps worldwide and saved almost $50 million in energy expenses.

During his appointment ceremony on Saturday, Eliasson said:

Life on Earth is about coexistence—among people, non-human animals, ecosystems, and the environment. [...] The fact is, we’re in it together. That’s why we all have to take the climate emergency seriously. To respond adequately to the crisis, we—individuals, institutions, businesses, and governments—must trust the science and bring together our knowledge, creativity, and energy.

Further Reading: Olafur Eliasson on How Cooking Fuels His Art Practice

Further Reading: Olafur Eliasson on Why the Art Market Is Counterproductive to Creativity

Christy Kuesel