When Water Matters
Painting and Photography from J.M.W. Turner to Olafur Eliasson
13.6. — 20.9.2015

Ausstellungsansicht: Über Wasser. Malerei und Photographie von William Turner bis Olafur Eliasson, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

When Water Matters
Painting and Photography from J.M.W. Turner to Olafur Eliasson

13.6. — 20.9.2015

Water is necessary to all forms of life on earth. Every culture has a wealth of myths and religious rites related to water. Water continues to be a relevant issue today due to the threat of water shortages, environmental pollution and climate change. The exhibition The Day Will Come When Water Matters brings together paintings and photographs from 1800 to today. It traces water’s power to inspire artists across a period of more than two centuries to the present day. In the nineteenth century, natural science demystified the natural world. J.M.W. Turner led modern artists who dedicated themselves to the aesthetics of water beyond its role in mythology by making water itself a motif. A short time later photography became a new medium that allowed innovative opportunities to capture an image of this constantly moving natural element. Painters and photographers freed the water from the constraints of landscape painting and focused on the various forms of its changing appearance – from water drops, snowflakes and sheets of ice, to falling, raging and flowing water, to the reflective and moving surfaces of water whose mightiest manifestation is found in surging waves. Water in its many different forms continues to inspire artists today. Its aesthetic allure and existential importance affects everyone. This exhibition demonstrates how artistic and social issues dealing with water have become increasingly volatile since 1800.

The exhibition is the Bucerius Kunst Forum’s contribution to the Triennal of Photography Hamburg in 2015.

Triennial of Photography Hamburg 

Since 1999, the international photofestival Triennial of Photography Hamburg dedicates itself to examining current themes within the professional discourse of photography. Through exhibitions, lectures, films, projections and meetings in a single, central location, the aim is to inspire a culturally aware audience for contemporary as well as historic photography. The Photo Festival results from an initiative spearheaded by photographer and photo collector FC Gundlach and will take place for the sixth time in June 2015.

The theme of this year's festival - THE DAY WILL COME - deals with the future of photography in both a technical and aesthetical sense, and will build a bridge to the future through interdisciplinary collaboration between curators, artists, sociologists and futurologists. Hamburg’s premier art institutions will interpret this futuristic theme through exhibitions by photo artists of international standing. In addition, special exhibitions and an extensive program of events will round out the festival.


daily 11:00 am — 7:00 pm
thursday 11:00 am — 9:00 pm

Ticket info 
Adults: 12 Euro
Reduced: 6 Euro
Tuesdays (except holidays): 6 Euro


More information

When Water Matters
Painting and Photography from J.M.W. Turner to Olafur Eliasson

Exhibition Catalog

Editors Ortrud Westheider
and Michael Philipp
Publishing House Hirmer Verlag,

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