Your Rainbow Panorama
From the outside, Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson looks like something you might see at a fair or carnival. It is a large rainbow loop that has been sitting atop the cube-shaped building that is the ARoS art museum in Aarhus, Denmark since 2011. Bent colored glass encloses a circular walkway; each color of the rainbow fades into the next. From the inside, the city of Aarhus is color-coded: one section is now purple and another is turned orange. Surrounded by vibrant color, the circular walkway invites you to loop around and around.
During most months, Aarhus is cold, but inside Your Rainbow Panorama, the temperature is moderate, inviting one to enter year-round. As one approaches the museum, they have to look up into the sky to see the exciting and childlike structure. From afar, Your Rainbow Panorama is a beacon, something with which to orient yourself in the city. From the rooftop, the views are 360 degrees of unobstructed visibility.
Eliasson designed Your Rainbow Panorama as part of an architectural competition. The competition asked submissions to transform the rooftop of the art museum designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. Eliasson’s design won and is now an iconic feature of the Aarhus skyline. Your Rainbow Panorama is a success for many reasons. In addition to winning the architectural design competition and adding an exciting element to Aarhus cityscape, it is a gift to the citizens of Aarhus as expressed in the title of the piece, Your Rainbow Panorama with extra emphasis on ‘your’. Lastly, it is a defining work for Eliasson who has worked with these materials and concepts before but never on the grand scale of Your Rainbow Panorama.
Rainbow Bridge, also by Eliasson, plays with natural light as seen through glass, similar to Your Rainbow Panorama. Twelve glass orbs are presented at approximately eye-height. As the viewer walks by, the orbs come alive, as if by magic, with the color of the rainbow. The slightest variation in movement changes the colors. From most positions, the viewer can only see clear and black. The source of the color is not apparent, and so the occasional bright hue shining through the orbs as one walks by is mysterious and exciting.
Born in Iceland and now a resident of Aarhus, Eliasson’s interest in using natural lighting for his work takes on a special understanding. In these Scandinavian countries, the natural light of the sun has a distinct annual cycle, not a daily cycle like most of the world observes. There are weeks of darkness broken up by a subtle twilight in the winter and weeks of uninterrupted sunlight, as the sun circles in the sky like a halo. Against the dark night of the winter sky, rainbow-colored particles create psychedelic clouds overhead called the Northern Lights. It is no wonder why an artist from this part of the world would play with color and light in the way that Eliasson does. Your Rainbow Panorama reflects every cosmic change, sharing the annual cycle of light with the sky.
Houston artist, Dan Flavin, also uses light and color in his work. An installation at Richmond Hall in Houston in 1996 is not entirely dissimilar to Eliasson’s work. Flavin installed a succession of fluorescent lights rotating in color along a bare wall. The lights reflect against the shiny floor creating a watery effect. The installation is long, requiring visitors to walk along it so as to take it all in. In these ways, Flavin’s work is like Eliasson’s work, though Flavin uses artificial light. He reclaims fluorescent lights from office settings and alters them to become something beautiful. Like Eliasson, Flavin’s work invites the visitor to move to appreciate the full effect. Flavin’s installation brightens up a dull closed-in corridor, whereas Eliasson's Your Rainbow Panorama transforms natural light against the wide open sky.