Hamburg Ice Exhibition

What is the Hamburg Ice Magic Exhibition?

The first Hamburg Ice Magic Exhibition opens its doors on 26 November 2011 on the forecourt of the Deichtorhallen. Numerous ice sculptures can be admired over an area of around one thousand square metres at a controlled temperature of -7°C. This is the temperature at which these monumental ice sculptures feel most “comfortable”. “Classic” ice sculptures may be seen alongside modern ice installations by the Berlin artist Christian Funk, an ice carver internationally acclaimed for the sophisticated techniques that allow him to freeze plants, motorbikes and many other objects in blocks of ice weighing a ton or more. All of them are ingeniously lit.

As their name implies, ice sculptures are sculptures made exclusively of ice. It is not just a question of pouring water into a mould and then freezing it. Instead, special tools – often made by the artists themselves – are used to carve these sculptures from blocks of ice that are specially prepared for the purpose. Making these blocks is a complex process. The water that is used must be absolutely free from suspended matter and gases and must be frozen under very specific conditions so that the resultant blocks are crystal-clear. A single block of ice may weigh up to one and a half metric tons and can be moved only with heavy lifting equipment such as a fork-lift truck. As soon as the block is finished, it has to be maintained at a constant temperature of -7°C – any higher and the ice would begin to dry out and start to crack, making it unusable. Refrigerated lorries are used to transport the blocks in order to ensure that they arrive undamaged at the exhibition venue. On their arrival they are immediately placed in the exhibition hall, with its thermostatically controlled environment. The inside temperature is regulated by a computer-controlled refrigeration plant that includes air locks and insulating walls. In this way the temperature can remain constant even while the exhibition is in progress and there is a permanent stream of visitors.

The ice sculptors then begin their work in the cold storage hall and carve their sculptures out of the individual blocks, taking their cue from full-scale models that they themselves have prepared. Several blocks can be frozen together in such a way that makes it seem as if they are welded together, allowing very large figures to be made from a number of smaller blocks of varying sizes. While they are being worked and also during the actual exhibition, the blocks rest on plinths capable of supporting pieces weighing a ton or more and also concealing a secret, for they contain the lighting equipment that lights the finished artworks, making them appear lit from inside. The spotlights that are used can emit very little heat and have to be cooled with a ventilator to prevent the sculptures from melting prematurely.

In order to ensure that the Hamburg Ice Magic Exhibition is as perfect as possible, the various teams of international artists require a good four weeks to prepare their exhibits. This time is spent creatively preparing the ice sculptures and installations.