Ice Watch

Olafur Eliasson, in collaboration with geologist Minik Rosing, presented Ice Watch, a major public artwork in Paris during the COP21 Climate Talks in December 2015.


In partnership with Julie's Bicycle, and with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, glacier ice installation Ice Watch aimed to encourage public action against climate change. 80 tonnes of ice from a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland was transported to Paris for a unique climate change art initiative. Harvested from free-floating blocks of ice, the work was arranged in a clock formation on the Place du Panthéon. In the days following, the ice was allowed to melt in the square, offering the general public a glimpse at climate change on our planet. Ice Watch was part of ArtCOP21 and Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015 programmes.

Eliasson frequently alters the public’s perception of the environment through his art projects, addressing some of the world’s problems and proposing practical solutions. In 2012, together with solar engineer Frederik Ottesen, he designed and launched Little Sun, a social enterprise that produces and distributes solar-powered LED lights. The lanterns are designed to provide a safe, healthy solution for the nearly one quarter of the world’s population that do not have access to electricity. 

In January 2016 Eliasson won one of the renown Crystal Awards alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Yao Chen and Awardees are selected by the World Arts Forum to celebrate the achievements of leading artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world.

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, Place du Panthéon, Paris, 2015 Photo: Martin Argyroglo © 2015 Olafur Eliasson


“We’re really pleased to be involved with this project. Art has a crucial place in communicating climate change and Ice Watch is a powerful reminder of the reality of climate change. Our focus is on the formation of sustainable culture by helping creative communities to think, act and create in ways that protect the planet. At the core of this lies a belief in the transformative power of the creative industries.” - Alison Tickell, Founder and CEO Julie's Bicycle

“From my visit to the Arctic last year, I have a very lively memory of the horrifying noise and sight of huge ice blocks cracking and breaking away from the pack. The Arctic is indeed the gatekeeper of climate disorder: for years, this region has been sending us signals that we cannot neglect anymore. The international community must hear them and turn them into acts.” - Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and President of COP21.

“Let’s appreciate this unique opportunity - we, the world, can and must act now. Let’s transform climate knowledge into climate action.” - Olafur Eliasson

“Ice Watch is a great example of how public art can draw attention to big challenges and spur people to action.” - Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three-term Mayor of New York City. Michael Bloomberg also serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and co-hosted the Climate Summit for Local Leaders with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Photo courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

Carbon Footprint Prepared by Julie’s Bicycle

The carbon footprint resulting from the exhibition of Ice Watch during the UN Climate Change Summit (COP21) in Paris is 30 tonnes CO2e. The transportation of the 12 blocks of ice, weighing 80 tonnes, from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord outside Nuuk in Greenland to Paris accounts for the majority of the emissions – 28.03 tonnes CO2e (93%). The exhibition of Ice Watch at the Place du Panthéon resulted in 0.45 tonnes CO2e (2%). The remaining 1.53 tonnes CO2e (5%) are from the travel undertaken by the team from Olafur Eliasson Studios and Julie’s Bicycle travelling to Paris for the exhibit. The carbon footprint of Ice Watch would be equivalent to 30 people flying return from Paris, France to Nuuk, Greenland. Ice Watch is made up of blocks of ice ‘harvested’ from the sea and already ‘lost’ from the Greenland ice sheet, which is losing the equivalent of 1,000 such blocks of ice per second throughout the year.

Sustaining Creativity