Danish artists Superflex next for Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Art world waits to see how collective known for highly political work will fill huge exhibition space in London

A Danish art collective whose work has included creating a huge multicultural park in Copenhagen and flooding a replica McDonald’s to explore climate change and capitalism is to be the next commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

The Hyundai commission, formerly the Unilever commission, is one of the most prestigious in contemporary art.

Previous recipients include Olafur Eliasson, who in 2003 installed his Weather Project, which had visitors lying on their backs basking in a scented mist and the rays of an artificial sun. Others were Carsten Höller, who installed hair-raising metal slides, and Ai Weiwei who filled the space with ceramic sunflower seeds.

On Thursday, Tate announced that a collective called Superflex, founded in 1993 by artists Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger and Rasmus Nielsen, would undertake the next commission, due to open in October. What they will do in the vast space remains to be seen, but there may be clues in their previous, highly political, work.

A Tate employee with part of Philippe Parreno’s ‘Anywhen’ installation.
A Tate employee with part of Philippe Parreno’s ‘Anywhen’ installation. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

In 2011, they employed a strategy that they called “extreme participation” for a project called Superkilen which involved creating a new park in one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighbourhoods.

The idea was to represent all the nationalities, so there are, for example, picnic benches from Armenia, a Thai boxing ring, litter bins from the UK and a set of swings from Iraq.

The group repeatedly engages with current social, political and cultural issues. In 2014, for example, it explored our voyeuristic relationship to conflict by installing an operating theatre in a gallery in the Swiss mountain municipality of S-chanf. The surgical tools, operating table and lamp were later sent to provide medical relief in Syria.

For a show at the South London Gallery in 2009, Superflex showed a film of a replica McDonald’s burger bar being slowly flooded, as in a disaster movie. Critics took it as a comment on the meltdown of global capitalism and the west’s failure to cope with the threat of climate change.

A current example of Superflex’s work can be seen on the side of the Hayward Gallery in London: a billboard of a euro coin with its value missing.

Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, said she was delighted to announce Superflex as the 2017 commission artists. “Their work raises timely questions about the role of the artist in contemporary society, exploring how we interpret and engage with the increasingly complex world around us. I can’t wait to see how they tackle these themes within the unique scale and public context of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.”

Curators for the installation will be from Tate Modern’s regeneration and community partnerships team – providing a clue to what type if work it might be.

Superflex will be the third Hyundai commission after Abraham Cruzvillegas, who installed 240 wooden planters filled with 23 tonnes of soil from parks and gardens across London; and the current, ever changing, immersive Philippe Parreno installation, which might involve throwing an inflatable fish or sitting down and listening to rain.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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