James Turrell in Lech, 2014, Foto: Maria Muxel

James Turell

At dawn, the magical installation of the renowned light artist unfolds it full beauty.

James Turrell – the light artist

James Turrell is one of the most significant artists of the present. His atmospheric installations revolve around the sensual and spiritual perception of light. The artist’s light rooms are soft compositions that enable visual and emotional experiences for the visitors, and the Skyspace-Lech embodies this idea. The combination of building and landscape, culture and nature- the manmade and the natural- form the starting point for intensive personal experiences and observations.

  • James Turrell

    Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.

James Turrell, Lichtinstallation Kunsthaus Bregenz 1997 © Kunsthaus Bregenz Foto: Gerald Zugmann

Life & Work

James Turrell lives and works in Flagstaff (Arizona/ US).

James Turrell was born in 1943 in Los Angeles as the son of devout Quaker parents. By the age of 16, he had already acquired a pilot’s license and shown a deep curiosity for the sky. While having initially studied Psychology and Mathematics at Pomona College, he ultimately graduated from his studies in Art at the Claremont Graduate School in California in 1973. Since the 1960s, Turrell has been conceptualizing Lightrooms, predominately as big cubes with openings to the sky, often in buildings specifically constructed for the purpose. At the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano in the desert of Arizona, James Turrell initiated the biggest manmade piece of art in history. Taking into consideration astronomical calculations, he constructed a web of Skyspaces in the center of the crater, in which natural and artificial light unite to create a unique sensual experience. The Skyspace-Lech also follows this artistic conception.

In Vorarlberg, one of James Turrell’s spectacular light installations was already visible on the glass facade of the Kunsthaus Bregenz. More specifically, in 1997, he lit up the museum building designed by the renowned architect Peter Zumthor as a lighthouse of Art.

About 15 years later, in 2013, the artist transformed the Salamon R. Guggenheim museum in New York into an atmospheric light room with his artwork “Aten Reign”. Large scale retrospectives followed in the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) and the National Gallery of Australia (2014).

In 2018, a James Turrell exhibition is scheduled in the Frieder Burda museum in Baden-Baden, from the 9th of June until the 28th of October.

Skyspaces – lightrooms open to the sky

James Turrell’s works on the Skyspaces started in the 1970s. In these installations, natural and artificial light as well as color and space meet and open the spirit of contemplative observation. This series encompasses more than 75 publicly accessible sky observatories worldwide. Turrell developed the Skyspaces as autonomous structures, as well as within existing buildings. Through the specific cultural and spiritual context of the sky, the artist opens up a spiritual perspective.

Sky, light, space, and time melt into a physically sensual and mentally existential experience. In the time of fast and superficially consumed pictures, these variables lead viewers in to a meditative frame of mind as they immerse themselves in the experience.

Roden Crater – the sky above the dessert

Since the 1970s, the artist has worked on his life’s work, an extinguished crater in Arizona that is comprised of tunnels, underground spaces and so called “Skyspaces”, or roof-openings in the sky. The area around the “Roden Crater”, a landscape between the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, was found and purchased by the artist in 1974 after months of searching by plane. Since then, Turrell has been transforming the volcanic cone by leveling the crater edge, digging tunnels, and building platforms. Chambers, shafts, and openings point towards the sky, guiding the light. Turrell extensively refers to sites such as Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Egypt, or the Temples of Yucatan, highlighting especially the spiritual and emotional experiences that humans encounter at these sights.