Inspiration blog
Playing with water: 12 artists show us how!


With a project in scorching hot Dubai ahead of us and the hilarious Dutch documentary ’11 Friese Fonteinen’ (Eleven Frisian Fountains) fresh in our minds, we were inspired to find artworks that incorporate water.

Water is the source of life and its dynamics have been a longtime inspiration for art. Our own Evita Verbrugge selected 12 inspiring and large-scale artworks that transcend their surroundings.

Vito Acconci | Island in the Mur

Photo credit: ART&IDEA

A multifunctional artwork can really put a city on the map and art is an excellent tool for city branding. So, for the celebration of Graz as European Capital of Culture in 2003, Acconci Studio and Robert Punkenhofer from Art&Idea created an Island of Water. It serves as an interactive, multifunctional piazza on the river Mur in the historic city centre of Graz. This artificial island includes a floating theatre, a playground and a café and bar. There are two access ramps that connect the island with the riverbanks. After the Cultural Capital year the artwork would have been sold to another city, but locals have fallen in love with their island. Therefore, it stays anchored in place, probably for the next 50 years.

Dash 7 Design | Waterfall Swing

For this installation, Dash 7 Design experiments with the basic fear of getting wet and the thrill of swinging through water without control. Waterfall Swing produces a pane of water that narrowly misses the swinger – it is a transforming experience! The swing was created for the 2011 World Maker Faire, where the intersection of art, technology, design and craft is encouraged because they may enhance each other.

Anish Kapoor | Descension

Photo credit: James Ewing

Photo credit: James Ewing

Renowned artist Anish Kapoor installed this artwork in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It marked the official launch of New Yorks’ annual NYCxDesign festival in 2017. Large-scale temporary installations like these for art festivals are often the reason why tourists choose to pay a city a visit. The artwork, eight meters in diameter, looks like a bottomless whirlpool. Kapoor stated that Decension has an obvious association with American politics. The artwork is surrounded by a railing, allowing visitors to peer down into the ominous whirlpool.

Nicky Assman | Solace

Photo credit: Macular

Solace [2011-2013] [installation] from Nicky Assmann on Vimeo.

Solace is a cinematic installation that explores the mental process and physical activity of seeing. At regular intervals a handcrafted apparatus creates a monumental soap film as a so-called spatial intervention. Through precise lighting the inner movement of the soap film is revealed, showing a turbulent choreography of rainbow colors and fluid motion. As gravity slowly gets a hold of the membrane the viewer can be fascinated with the phenomenon, until inevitably the fragile film bursts. Nicky Assman’s work is set against the backdrop of our visual culture, where the perception of reality increasingly occurs in the virtual domain. A nice counterpart in times where our perception of reality often relies on what we see in the media.

The New York Waterfalls | Olafur Eliasson

Photo credit: Michael Sorgatz

Photo credit: Julienne Schaer

The New York Waterfalls consisted of four temporary installations running from July to October 2008. New York City Waterfalls were presented by Public Art Fund, in collaboration with the City of New York. The waterfall pictures above was the one on the Brooklyn anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge. Eliasson managed to integrate the beauty of nature into the New York urban landscape. Large-scale public art like this is why New York City is one of the greatest cultural centers of the world. Olafur Eliasson contributed to the city’s cultural legacy with these site-specific moving water installations.

TeamLab | Transcending Boundaries

Photo credit: Pace Gallery

Transcending Boundaries was an innovative exhibition held in the contemporary art gallery Pace in London. The exhibition was an immersive experience where the role of space, art and digital technology intersected. This interesting intersection challenges galleries and museums to reconsider the traditional set up of their exhibitions. Digital technology allows art to break free from its frame and go beyond the boundaries that separate one work from another. Elements from one work can fluidly interact with and influence elements of the other works exhibited in the same space. In this way, the boundaries between art pieces dissolve.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude | The Floating Piers

Photo credit: Wolfgang Volz

Photo credit: Wolfgang Volz

For sixteen days in 2016 Italy’s Lake Iseo was reimagined.The piers consisted of 100,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. This site-specific artwork was incredibly successful. Over a million visitors walked on water thanks to these floating pontoons. The temporary installation created a boom in tourism in the small town of Sulzano over 15 days. The light and water transformed the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold. Like most of Christo’s work, The Floating Piers were free of admission. Christo usually aims for art that is accessible to everyone.

Koei Industry | Osaka Station Fountain

Photo credit: enpundit

This water fountain clock is located in the South Gate Building of the new Osaka Station City Complex in Japan. The large rectangular water display is created by local firm Koei Industry. The computer-controlled printer fountain shows a digital-style time readout, spitting out numbers as well as scrolling patterns and texts. The mesmerizing display consists of collapsing water which forms a fluid digital clock every minute. Between each minute, the water forms into moving floral motives and falling shapes. This installation shows how art can be functional and add something special to a specific location at the same time.

Florentijn Hofman | Rubber Duck

Photo credit: Studio Florentijn Hofman

Photo credit: Studio Florentijn Hofman

Rubber Duck refers to a series of giant floating sculptures designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. Rubber ducks have appeared in cities around the world including Hong Kong, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Baku and Sydney. The message behind the work is that we should be conscious of one another and the environment, because the world is our global bathtub. We are one big family and we are responsible for the world. It is beautiful to see how a serious and universally understood message can be spread in a playful way through art.

Tanapol Kaewpring | Fire in a Box

Photo credit: Totem Collective

Thai photographer Tanapol Kaewpring has a fine-art approach. In his renowned Box Project, he combines different elements in the glass cube, such as fire, smoke, light and water. The boxes are placed in nature with the often contrasting artificial and natural substances in action. This ensures a theatrical effect that agonizes whatever feeling the viewer has at that moment. Kaewpring himself explains that these forces of nature have the capacity for great change, even if they have their limits. These elements combined with their settings represent aspects of psychological freedom. If we are able to think outside the box, to break the glass that surrounds us, perhaps we could achieve true liberation and happiness, explains Kaewpring.

Martin Leveque | Sanctuaire

Photo credit: n/a

Sanctuaire, Salon ACME 2018 from Martin on Vimeo.

Sanctuaire at Salon ACME in Mexico is a floating water installation by Martin Leveque that plays with the viewer’s perspective. Leveque works with light, water and mirror reflections to create a paradoxical experience that alters the reality of the spectator. The analog installation comprises a 45-degree mirror that appears as a perfect circle of floating water from the viewer’s perspective. It reflects Leveque’s relationship with Mexico City, a place of chaotic and powerful energy that acts as a never-ending source of inspiration for the artist. International festivals, like the MUTEK MX Festival for digital creativity where this artwork was first presented, can give a boost to cities that are trying to develop a more positive image.

DGT architects | Light In Water

Photo credit: Takuji Shimmura

Photo credit: Takuji Shimmura

The installation Light in Water by DGT architects was initially presented at Milan Design Week 2011. The site-specific exhibit provides an immersive experience via a cascading water fall and light show. Traveling installations like this gain popularity and publicity related to events where they appear, like Milan Design Week, which is beneficial for all parties involved. The work is presented in the oldest concrete dome in Paris, where sixteen rings of tubes run along the ceiling, filled with holes that individually leak 60 drops of water per second for a total of three tons of water that continually recirculates. DGT developed a LED ‘lighting-time control’ programme to reach the shortest interval possible, equal to the time it takes a water droplet to fall. The installation is a commentary on the essence of life, and the crucial role that light and water play in our existence.