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10 Seminal Installations

10 Seminal Installations

From digital works and video to immersive experiences and large-scale sculptures, these installations have changed the landscape of the art world.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Rooms

Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms are kaleidoscopic environments that offer an illusion of infinite space. The renowned Japanese artist translates the repetition of her paintings into spatial experiences, immersing the viewer in galaxy-like environments that seem to extend ceaselessly into the void. Located around the world, they have become social media hotspots.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds

Millions of individually handcrafted porcelain seeds were poured into Tate’s industrial Turbine Hall in 2010, forming an expansive landscape. With each individual component produced by specialists in small-scale workshops in China, the work offered a powerful commentary on mass production and the geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83. Photo: Wolfgang Volz. © 1983 Christo

Christo and Jeanne Claude, Surrounded Islands

In May 1983, the artist duo enclosed 11 manmade uninhabited islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with 6.5 million square feet of pink fabric. It created a vivid composition in blue, green, magenta and turquoise, harmonising with the tropical vegetation, sky and waters. The piece made a lasting impact on the city’s cultural history, which is now an artistic hub.

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party

An icon of 1970s feminist art, The Dinner Party takes shape as a large-scale ceremonial banquet with 39 place settings – each paying tribute to a ground-breaking female figure from history. The work highlights the richness of women’s heritage across the globe and has been exhibited in six countries to an audience of over one million people.

Kara Walker, A Subtlety

Kara Walker’s first public artwork took the shape of a large-scale, sugar-coated sphinx entitled A Subtley, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby. Installed in the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, it focused on the of the sugar industry and slave trade – drawing attention to issues of injustice and exploitation and responding to the building’s history.

Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern.

Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project

Olafur Eliasson’s vast representations of the sun and sky transformed Tate into an arena for contemplation in 2003. The yellow and orange arena was permeated by a fine mist, bringing fleeting aspects of the natural world into the gallery space. A pertinent work in an era of climate crisis, The Weather Project draws viewers’ attention to the elements.  

Christian Marclay, The Clock

This 24-hour long montage pulls together thousands of film and television clips of clocks – pasted together in real time. Moving through cinematic history, it is a mesmerising experience that has captivated viewers across the globe – transporting audiences to a wide variety of locations and presenting a shifting sense of mood.

Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth

“The history of racism runs parallel to the history of modernity and is its untold dark side.” Salcedo notes. In Shibboleth, a giant crack stretched the length of the Tate’s Turbine Hall, subverting perceptions of modern architecture and its values. The piece addressed a long legacy of racism and colonialism, exposing a fracture in our foundations – encouraging viewers to confront uncomfortable histories.

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995.

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway

Nam June Paik was a pioneer of video art, integrating film and TV into artworks that recognised the transformative potential of new media. Electronic Superhighway comprises 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicoloured neon tubing, creating an overwhelming sensory impact whilst looking to the future of the US.

Carsten Höller, Test Site

Visitor interaction was at the heart of Test Site, which comprised five functional, winding slides. The monumental silver installations explored how the act of sliding can transform daily experiences, presenting individuals with a nostalgic activity reminiscent of childhood. The piece expanded the boundaries of the museum space, questioning perceptions of what an artwork can do.  

Lead image: Yayoi Kusama, “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity,” 2009. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama