Artists at the Netherlands Pavilion|

Berndnaut Smilde

Berndnaut Smilde


“I see clouds as temporary sculptures made out of almost nothing.”

About the artist

Berndnaut Smilde has mastered the art of cloud making – indoor cloud making. His meteorological manipulations force us to take a better look at the environment and consider what’s real.

His clouds were one of Time magazine’s 10 Best Inventions of 2012, super collector Charles Saatchi immediately bought one photo for his private museum, and once it was posted online, the footage went viral in no time. Nimbus II’s appeal is immediate yet illusive, making it an instant success. Berndnaut Smilde’s artwork is recognisable as a cloud, yet it is somehow floating indoors – obviously not its usual habitat. It’s a natural phenomenon, but man-made. The image infuses something as mundane as the promise of rain with poetic surrealism.

It took Smilde years to perfect his cloud-making technique. It still requires elaborate preparations and exactly the right conditions for his magic to work. A combination of a fog machine, high humidity, a low temperature and the right lighting causes moisture droplets to cling to smoke and form a cloud. Smilde has since created nimbuses around the globe. He even whipped one up in the bone-dry Pilbara region of Western Australia, which looked just as out of place as the one in a 16th-century chapel.

After coalescing, Smilde’s clouds last just a few moments. They live on in the pictures he takes of them, which are, in his opinion, the real artworks. This adds to the mystery of this domesticated meteorology. It makes you wonder whether the cloud was ever really there or whether it was a product of our need for miracles.

Smilde’s art-historical references include 17th-century landscape painting, but also hint at symbols of fertility and the imminence of nature. The locations in which the artist situates the clouds play an important role in their interpretation. In a church they look celestial; against the backdrop of a psychiatric hospital they take on a cinematic quality; and floating down a museum hallway they become both artefacts and proof of man’s imagination and resourcefulness.

Photo credits: Berdnaut Smilde

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