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How the Guggenheim Installed James Turrell’s Aten Reign

At this time last year, the Guggenheim’s rotunda housed a phenomenal installation: Aten Reign, by the artist James Turrell, filled the space with ascending bands of subtly changing colored light, creating an experience that drew record numbers of visitors to the museum.

Among the installation’s most remarkable—yet perhaps least-noted—aspects was its impression of weightlessness: visitors who gazed up at the glowing colors were probably unaware of the work’s massive underlying structure. As Christopher George, the Guggenheim’s Chief Fabricator, explains in this video, he and his team constructed a complex, multi-tiered metal and wood framework that was suspended from the rotunda’s apex. Horizontal and vertical scrims were attached inside this structure, creating the environment through shone which hundreds of LED lights. Says George of installing the scrims, “That was kind of exciting because it’s the one time that we were able to really get a sense of what all the pieces were going to look like.”

The team lifted the first section of the framework off the ground and attached the remaining sections below it. As George notes, it was a challenge to assemble these sections “given the enormous scale of the piece”; the fact that they had a limited amount of time to assemble it in the museum presented a further complication. In the end, ironically, their great success was in creating a space that showed no trace of their impressive effort.

  • John Egan

    wow, i had no idea how much structural design was required. i’d like to know how the lighting design was guided by the artist. led lights have “infinite” color ranges, so how did he select the ones we saw (it was random?)

  • John Egan

    thx again caitlin! kudos to all involved. it is truly awesome!

  • Anno Zijlstra

    awesome, well done job !