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Blocks of Arctic ice are melting in the heart of London

As the world discusses climate action at COP24, artist Olafur Eliasson’s Ice Watch installation shows us what’s happening in the Arctic. The ice blocks are on exhibit in front of London’s Tate. Until they’ll melt.

What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. This is the reason why 30 blocks of ice lost from the Greenland ice sheet are on display in the heart of London, in front of the Tate Modern Museum and the Bloomberg Philanthropies European headquarters. They’re relentlessly melting, right under everyone’s eyes. And that’s precisely what it is happening, right now, in the Arctic and all over the world due to global warming.

To make us see what seems far away. This is the aim of Ice Watch London, the installation of artist Olafur Eliasson launched while the world was gathering to discuss climate action in Katowice, Poland, at COP24, a crucial moment to determine what kind of impact we will have on the Planet over the next few years.

“Feelings of distance and disconnect hold us back, make us grow numb and passive. I hope that Ice Watch arouses feelings of proximity, presence, and relevance, of narratives that you can identify with and that make us all engage.Olafur Eliasson

The Ice Watch installation

The Greenland ice sheet loses 10,000 blocks of ice per second every year, and that’s where the ones exhibited in London come from – the Nuup Kangerlua fjord. Being fished out after they had fallen from the ice sheet and already started melting in the ocean, the artist claims the installation hasn’t affected the quantity of ice of Greenland.

L'installazione Ice Watch London dell'artista Olafur Eliasson: pezzi di ghiaccio artico che si sciolgono nel cuore di Londra, mentre alla Cop 24 si parla di clima © Studio Olafur Eliasson
As the world discusses climate action at COP24, artist Olafur Eliasson’s installation Ice Watch shows us what’s happening in the Arctic. The ice blocks are on exhibit in front of London’s Tate. Until they’ll melt © Studio Olafur Eliasson

Moreover, the studio collaborates with an environmental charity in the art field, Julie’s Bicycle, to calculate the installation’s carbon footprint. Despite the results will be shown once the installation is over, the association estimates that Ice Watch will consume 35 tonnes of CO2. “That’s a lot,” Eliasson commented. “But to put it into perspective, it is the equivalent of flying 33 people roundtrip from London to Nuuk to visit the melting Greenland ice sheet for themselves”.

This sculpture will capture the imagination and help Londoners of all ages to understand first-hand the environmental challenges we all face.Olafur Eliasson

This is what has driven the artist – renowned for his 2003 installation of a sun inside the Tate to show the social effects of a changing climate – to bring ice blocks from Greenland to England. Engage and involve people to make us understand what’s happening and make us realise the importance of talking about the elephant in the room: the effects of climate change. An elephant that is growing bigger, and heavier, that we can’t afford to ignore anymore.

The blocks of glacial ice await your arrival. Put your hand on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.Olafur Eliasson
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