Little Sun, Tate Modern

(August 2012) London’s Tate Modern went dark last night on28 July for the first of Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun events, which invite visitors to explore the gallery after dark using solar-powered lamps.

Throughout August there will be regular Tate Blackouts on Saturday nights, when visitors can explore Tate Modern’s Surrealist galleries by lamp light.

The idea echoes the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition at the Galérie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where Man Ray supplied visitors with torches to explore the galleries.

Danish-Icelandic artist Eliasson is best-known for The Weather Project (2003) in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, which attracted more than 2 million visitors during its five-month run.

The Little Sun lamp was developed by Eliasson with engineer Frederik Ottesen to help improve the lives of the 1.6 billion people worldwide who have no access to mains electricity.

In areas where electricity is not available, the lamp can be used as a safe, low carbon means of creating light for working, studying and cooking. The scheme also facilitates the creation of small businesses to sell the lamp.

“Little Sun responds to the situation we face today, where natural resources no longer abound,” said Eliasson. “Energy shortage and unequal energy distribution make it necessary to reconsider how our life-sustaining systems function.

“By bringing Little Sun to Tate Modern and the London Olympics, I hope to realise an art project for those who typically have no access to global events of this scale,” he added.

At an exhibition on the third floor of Tate Modern, visitors can learn about solar power and the global energy challenge, have a go at light graffiti and buy a lamp or £16.50.

Little Sun is part of the London 2012 Festival, a programme of cultural events running alongside the London 2012 Games.

“I hope that some of our festival experience will live with you forever and I believe that Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun commission fits into that category,” said festival director Ruth Mackenzie.

“This is a wonderful example of how the Olympic spirit and Olympic values can inspire artists as well as athletes.”

Olafur Eliasson: Little Sun is at Tate Modern until 23 September 2012. Tate Blackouts will take place on 4, 11 and 18 August from 10pm until midnight.