Artist Olafur Eliasson is set to launch his innovative Little Sun solar-powered lamps at the Tate Modern on July 28th, within a mutli-faceted interactive exhibit in which visitors can view work in the museum's surrealism galleries lit solely by the hand-held LED devices. Over the past two years Eliasson has been developing the lamps in collaboration with innovator Frederick Ottesen in the hopes of providing a safe, affordable, sustainable lamp for some of the 20% of the world's population who reportedly live without electricity.
While the Tate Modern may be a far cry from the Little Sun lamps eventual destination, it is in some respects a natural location for Olafur Eliasson to launch and promote the innovative endeavor. In 2003, Elliason’s installation ‘The Weather Project‘ took up residence in the museum’s grand Turbine Hall, and Tate Director Nicholas Serota sees the Little Sun Project as a natural extension of Eliasson’s work, stating “[he] is an artist whose work has always sought to bring new technologies to the service of art. In the Little Sun project, he has made a beautiful object with an immense social and economic values, which has the potential to change lives in off-grid areas of the world.”
The lights are intended to be a viable, safe light source in areas without power. Each 12cm diameter light includes a 6cmx6cm mono crystalline solar panel, which when exposed to sunlight for five hours will provide five continuous hours of artificial light. Equipped with an LED bulb and a single AAA battery, the Little Sun lamps can run continuously for three years before the battery needs to be replaced. Not only do they provide a safe, healthy alternative to the kerosene fuel, which is often used for off-grid lighting, but the Little Sun are actually 90% cheaper than the equivalent cost of running a kerosene lamp for three years.
While visitors to the Tate Modern will be able to gain a new perspective on the museum’s surrealist work—by viewing it only under Little Sun lighting—they will also be able to create “light graffiti” using the lamps, in a space where they can also learn about “solar power, the global energy challenge, light and its importance in and for life.” Visitors will be able to buy their own Little Sun lamps for £16.50 ($25), a price which will be halved in off-grid areas.
Eliasson hopes that by launching Little Sun at the high-profile venue, during the London Olympics, he will be able to “realise an art project for those who typically have no access to global events of this scale.”
The Olafur Eliasson: Little Sun exhibit will run from July 28 to September 23 at the Tate, and for those that can’t make it, the lamps can be purchased online by those in the US starting Friday July 27, on the Little Sun website.