"Clouds are quite universal"-Smilde

Even when they are indoors?!
"Clouds are quite universal"-Smilde
Nimbus RWA, Berndnaut Smilde

The lifespan of a typical Berndnaut Smilde sculpture is 10 seconds—just long enough to be photographed. And his sculptures are as unusual as they are ethereal: Smilde makes perfect miniature clouds in a diverse array of indoor locations, from coal mines to cathedrals. (Wired)


His materials are little more than smoke and water vapor, and the results vary with the size and temperature of the location. The space must be cold and damp, with no air circulation. Smilde creates a wall of water vapor with the type of spritzer you might use on houseplants. A smoke machine then sends a puff of faux fog on a collision course. He likes to keep the clouds no bigger than six feet, so they don’t fall apart too quickly. "I really like my clouds concentrated, with a lot of texture," he says.

Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus de Toekomst 2
Nimbus de Toekomst 1, 2019
Nimbus Museum De Lakenhal
Nimbus Museum of Lakenhal 2022
Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Metaal Kathedraal, 2020 digital C-type print on aluminium, framed 125 x 173 cm 49 1/4 x 68 1/8 in Edition of 6 plus 2 artist’s proofs
Nimbus Metaal Kathedraal, 2020
Nimbus II, 2012


  • How does the architecture surrounding each Nimbus alter how the viewer perceives it?
  • How would it feel to come upon a cloud indoors?
  • Is the artwork the cloud or the photograph?


  • Make a cloud in a jar. Photograph it.
  • Use chalk to create a nimbus cloud on black paper.
  • Watch Berdnaut Smilde discuss his artform.


Berndnaut Smilde

Berndnaut Smilde's Ethereal Clouds to Take Over the Armory Show - Galerie

Born 1978, Groningen, The Netherlands, Smilde currently lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde is best known for creating clouds out of smoke and moisture in indoor spaces—from grand museum halls to emptied storage facilities—and then photographing their fleeting existences. His Nimbus series, recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the "Top Ten Inventions of 2012," exemplifies his broader interest in the liminal space between construction and deconstruction. “I’m really interested in work that exists in between reality and representation in a way that doesn’t really function in the end. So as for the clouds, they’re just there—they’re building up but at the same time they’re falling apart,” states the artist. Smilde is frequently drawn to architecture, often investigating its unique details to question inside and outside, temporality, size, and function of materials. He centers on its duality, as in Unflattened (2012), an upside down rainbow projected onto a photomural of an idealistic landscape and the room’s surrounding walls. Here the rainbow, often a sign of promise, can be read as apocalyptic. (Artspace)