2021: Elmgreen & Dragset
The Scandinavian artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, who are based in Berlin, met in Copenhagen in the ‘90s and have worked together since 1995. Throughout their renowned career, they have worked with sculpture, performance, art installations and public works. They continuously address important issues regarding human relations and often challenge the art world with inquiring criticality, acuity and absurd humour in their work.
Significant in Elmgreen & Dragset’s art is the use of everyday objects in a surprising way. When taken out of their usual context and positioned in an unexpected place, the objects are reconfigured. By presenting the recognizable in an unexpected way, a new meaning is given and our traditional interpretation is altered.
In their sculpture Life Rings, the artists have utilized an object that we recognize, the lifebuoy, a rescue tool that symbolizes security in crisis situations. Generally we see it as a solitary object, but in Elmgreen & Dragset’s sculpture we experience a cluster of lifebuoys, interconnected in a circuit that extends upwards into the air. The life rings are no longer usable – they become a symbol for something bigger.
Embedded in the work is the idea that we are all dependent on one another and must care for each other. There is an underlying concern for a declining community in a world that over-emphasizes the individual. Incorporated in the sculpture Life Rings is an aspiration for wide-reaching cooperation and solidarity. Elmgreen & Dragset’s work calls for reflection and invites us to contemplate humanity and the fragility of life.
In several of the artists’ sculptures, as well as here at Royal Djurgården, water or the proximity to water become integral to the meaning of the work. By exploring a place or its surroundings as a theme, they open up new ways of looking at art and in parallel raise questions about private versus public spaces.
Life Rings, an acquisition made possible thanks to private donations to Princess Estelle Cultural Foundation, is Elmgreen & Dragset’s first public sculpture in Sweden and the second permanent work in the sculpture park at Royal Djurgården.
Elmgreen & Dragset – SHORT BIOGRAPHY
Michael Elmgreen (born 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (born 1969 in Trondheim, Norway) are based in Berlin and have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They have held numerous solo exhibitions at art institutions worldwide, including EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art; The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; The Whitechapel Gallery, London; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; UCCA, Beijing; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Kunsthalle Zürich and Tate Modern, London.
Among the artists’ several public sculptures the most widely known work is Prada Marfa (2005) in Texas. Other works include Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime (2008) in Tiergarten, Berlin; Van Gogh’s Ear (2016), now installed at K11 Musea in Hong Kong; and Statue of Liberty (2018) at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin. In January 2021, the permanent site-specific work The Hive was inaugurated at Moynihan Train Hall, Penn Station, New York.
Elmgreen & Dragset have participated in four triennales and 22 biennales in nine different global cities. In 2009 they curated both the Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the Venice Biennale, and in 2017 the 15th Istanbul Biennial. In all, through the years, the artist duo have participated in close to 300 exhibitions.
In 2015 Elmgreen & Dragset were appointed Honorary Doctors at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and in 2020, they received the B.Z. Kulturpreis in Berlin.