Tomás Saraceno

Crux Australis 68.00, 2023
Powder-coated stainless steel, polyester rope, monofilament, metal wire, mirror panels

Ralph S. O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science
Made possible by Rice University’s percent-for-art program 

Tomás Saraceno’s research-based practice is informed by art, architecture, natural science, and engineering, but his multivalent projects defy categorization into a single field. Drawing on cellular structures, biospheres, stellar configurations, and social interactions observed in the natural world, Saraceno’s work considers more expansive notions of inhabiting the Earth and imagines more sustainable and just socio-ecological futures.

Crux Australis 68.00 is a site-specific commission comprised of ten modules arranged in three clusters, suspended across two floors of the Ralph S. O’Connor School of Engineering and Science. Just as natural cycles of evaporation and condensation create ever-changing atmospheric conditions, the sculpture’s forms speak to the flow of ideas among and between students, faculty, and architectural spaces, embodying networked modes of research at Rice University. Mirrored surfaces reflect scholars in study and thought, while clear glass panels highlight the natural and artificial light animating the space. The resulting cloudscape of interwoven, threadlike forms and fibers invites viewers to contemplate geodesic, weblike worlds, both real and imagined, as they walk under and around the suspended, multifaceted work. 

The sculpture’s title Crux Australis 68.00 refers to the constellation with the highest concentration of bright stars. The geometry of the interconnected shapes is based on the Weaire-Phelan structure, evoking aggregating foam or the molecular composition of soap bubbles. Like droplets of rain condensing along strands of a spider web or the geometric shapes that comprise a bee’s honeycomb, the installation invites travel across the tangible and the imaginary, encouraging consideration of both the microscopic and the cosmic. Emblematic of Rice’s cross-departmental, collaborative approach to teaching, learning, and innovation, Crux Australis 68.00 signifies the web of life and the social and intellectual interconnectedness central to Rice University’s pedagogy.


About the Artist

Tomás Saraceno (b. 1973, San Miguel de Tucmán, Argentina) studied architecture at Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires in Argentina (1992-99) and received postgraduate degrees from Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de la Nación Ernesto de la Carcova, Buenos Aires (2000) and Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2003). In 2009, he attended the International Space Studies Program at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, and was awarded the prestigious Calder Prize. 

Saraceno has held numerous residencies, including at MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology (2012–) and Atelier Calder (2010). He has published articles in Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS) and has staged artistic interventions at three convenings of the United Nations Climate Change Conference: COP20 (2014, Lima, Peru), COP21 (2015, Paris, France), and COP26 (2021, Glasgow, Scotland).

The artist’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions and permanent installations at international museums and institutions, including The Shed, New York (2022); Cisternerne Copenhagen (2021-22); Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy (2020); Fosun Foundation Shanghai, China (2019); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2019); Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2017); K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Ständehaus, Düsseldorf (2013); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); and Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, Berlin (2011), among others. Saraceno has participated in numerous festivals and biennales, including the 17th Biennale Architettura, Venice (2020), and the 53rd and 58th Biennale di Venezia (2009, 2019). The artist currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.