New Tate Turbine Hall artist announced

French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster to fill Tate Modern's famous hall
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The Independent Culture

With some 19 million people having visited Tate Modern's Turbine Hall since it opened eight years ago and its uncanny ability to command the world media's attention, few spaces can create popular sensations of the artists that exhibit in them in quite the same way as the former power station.

The announcement yesterday that Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster will become the ninth person to receive the prestigious Unilever Series commission promises to bring the attention of a British and international audience to an artist who has already enjoyed two decades of fame in her native France, as well as a growing popularity in her adopted part-time home of Brazil.

Ms Gonzalez-Foerster, 44, is best known for using light and sound to create interactive environments – typified in her critically acclaimed Séance de Shadows, which stole the show at The World as a Stage exhibition at Tate Modern last year.

Although she has several months to work on her exhibit – installation is not expected to start until September – she is expected to deploy similar techniques to those seen in previous works such as Promenade (2007), which simulated the sound of a tropical rainstorm, and Cosmodrome (2001). Both pieces formed part of a major survey of her work in Paris last year.

Previous artists commissioned to work in the Turbine Hall have included Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread, as well as Olafur Eliasson, whose hugely popular The Weather Project attracted crowds eager to lay back and stare into the ethereal glow emanating from the artist's recreated sunrise.

Other works have included Carsten Holler's helter-skelters and Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth, a 167-metre crack in the hall's floor through which she sought to explore modern segregation between rich and poor.

Tate Modern's curator of contemporary art, Jessica Morgan, admits that artists are often unprepared for the sheer level of exposure that showcasing their work there can bring. "Even though many of these artists have done a lot of work before, after being here, they are often identified with that one piece. It can be hard."

The commission affords artists a free hand to interpret the space however they see fit. Yet while some jump at the chance to work on such a grand scale, others are daunted by it, not that the curators are willing to reveal who has declined to show there. However, all eight previous pieces have commanded deep public support.

"Most people who are involved in the art world can recount all the projects that have been commissioned, which is pretty unusual for any space," Ms Morgan added. "They immediately became ingrained in the public consciousness."

Unilever, which has sponsored the Turbine Hall space since the museum opened in 2000, recently pledged a further £2.1m to continue funding the project for a further five years.

Much of Ms Gonzalez-Foerster's early work was influenced by her upbringing in Strasbourg, France, but more recently she has moved away from the autobiographical to specialise in the creation of "environments" that are often highly cinematic in style.

Vicente Todoli, the director of Tate Modern, paid tribute to the artist. "The Unilever Series is one of the most anticipated art commissions of the year. Chosen for her remarkable ability to create unique and immersive environments, we look forward to seeing how Ms Gonzalez-Foerster's commission will transform our experience of the Turbine Hall."

A portrait of the artist

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster emerged as a major artist in France in the mid-1990s as part of a group that included Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno. Contemporaries of the Young British Artists who were making headlines of their own across the Channel at that time, the French group pursued less material forms than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, specialising in film and highly conceptual installation pieces.

Gonzalez-Foerster was born in Strasbourg in 1965, where she developed an interest in modernist architecture that was to transfer to her passion for the new cities of Brazil. She studied in Paris and Grenoble before achieving her breakthrough with a three-handed show, ARC, at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the late 1990s and another called Traffic in Bordeaux, along with 20 other artists.

During the 1990s she travelled extensively, visiting Asia and Latin America. By the turn of the Millennium she was a regular visitor to Brazil and now divides her time between Paris and her home in Sao Paulo. The artist is married to the choreographer Jerome Bel, whose work was featured as a retrospective at Sadler's Wells recently. The couple have one daughter.

Click here for pictures of past turbine hall installations