Tate Modern and Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson have been criticized for an installation being wheelchair inaccessible in his current retrospective at the museum. The visitor and wheelchair user Ciara O’Connor wrote on Twitter on Friday about her frustration at not being able to access Your Spiral View (2002), a kaleidoscopic mirror tunnel with a raised walkway passing through it, during a visit to the museum.
In a thread on Twitter, O’Connor wrote:
I’ve just come out of The Tate Modern, to see Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition, “In Real Life.” It’s a series of mostly interactive installations that play with light, mirrors, mist, fire, water. A couple of pieces were too high for me to play with, but whatever—that’s unavoidable. [. . .] At the end, there's a whole room dedicated to a mirrored tunnel: you’re meant to walk through it. It had two steps up to it.
According to O’Connor’s tweets, a friend of hers asked an attendant if a ramp was available, but the attendant became “immediately cross and weirdly defensive,” eventually telling her the lack of a ramp was “the curator’s choice” and to “go around the side.”
Eliasson’s replied to O’Connor’s tweets on Sunday, explaining that the installation is “old,” adding: “To acknowledge its original shape while offering full access, I am exploring solutions with Tate.” On Monday, Tate issued a statement quoted by Hyperallergic and The Art Newspaper, explaining that after conducting “a full assessment,” the museum and the artist determined that Your Spiral View “cannot be made safely accessible for wheelchair users.”
We decided to include Your Spiral View in the exhibition as it is the only sculpture of its type in Olafur Eliasson’s body of work which can be loaned for exhibitions, and a more accessible alternative does not exist. We recognise that this has caused an access issue for wheelchair users for which we are sorry and the comments we have received will be taken on board in future decision-making.
Earlier this year, dozens of art galleries in New York City were sued for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuits accused the galleries of violating the ADA because their websites are not accessible to blind and visually impaired people.