Hamburger Kunsthalle


[Translate to English:] David Zink Yi, Filmstill aus: Pneuma, 2011, courtesy the artist und Hauser & Wirth, © David Zink Yi [Translate to English:] Thomson & Craighead, Several Interruptions (Film-Still), 2009, Courtesy Thomas & Craighead [Translate to English:] Markus Schinwald, Phoebe, 2017, courtesy Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



The world’s first large-scale exhibition on the theme of BREATHING in the art of the Old Masters and the present day looks at the many different facets of the act of breathing and its representation. More than 100 works engage in exciting dialogues, in some cases across the epochs. The result is an unconventional exploration of an existential theme that at first glance seems to be merely an unconscious, biological process but which in fact unfolds myriad social and political dimensions: from breath as a central biblical metaphor and an expression of our relationship to the world, onward to air pollution and respiratory illnesses, all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement (»I can’t breathe«).

Organised into different chapters, works by some 45 artists from 18 countries grapple with the topic of breathing in all its many facets, illustrating its socio-political and global relevance as well as its current explosive potential.

The interdisciplinary artistic media on view cover a broad range – from painting, sculpture and installation, to photography and drawing, to performance, video, film and sound pieces. 

The show features outstanding loans from public and private collections such as the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, as well as the Leiden Collection in New York. Among them are major works by the Old Masters Hendrick ter Brugghen and David Teniers the Younger as well as by international contemporary artists including Oscar Muñoz from Colombia and the Indian artist Vibha Galhotra – current fellow of the Philipp Otto Runge Foundation. In addition, artists have been invited to create new works especially for the exhibition (Helen Cammock, Alice Channer, Joachim Koester, Sebastian Stumpf, and others) or to modify existing works (Forensic Architecture, Kasia Fudakowski, Teresa Margolles, Markus Schinwald and Nina Canell). Augmented by works from the collection, BREATHING takes up an unusually large amount of space, extending across several areas of the Hamburger Kunsthalle building and all the way outside with a one-time monumental light projection (IN MEMORIAM by Jenny Holzer) on 19 November 2022.

Even in ancient times, breathing was recognised as more than just air flowing in and out of the body. It is the vehicle of life, of thought, of inspiration, and in many world cultures, of the soul. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, breathing is considered a central moment of the divine act of creation. We often take breathing for granted in our everyday lives, only paying attention when it becomes difficult as a result of disease, climate change, pandemics or physical violence. The last words spoken by George Floyd in 2020, »I can’t breathe«, have become virtually synonymous with racist and institutional violence. Far from being a neutral physiological process, breathing always has socio-political overtones, because having air to breathe exposes mechanisms of social and political inclusion or exclusion on varied levels, radically calling into question how we relate to the world and to each other. This is especially true in the days of a global pandemic, when access to oxygen has become vital and one’s own breath and that of others has come to represent a source of contagion and a potentially lethal threat.

Featured artists:

Marina Abramović & Ulay, Hendrik Andriessen, Thomas Baldischwyler, Hen­drick ter Brugghen, Helen Cammock, Nina Canell, Alice Channer, David Claerbout, Natalie Czech, Johan Christian Dahl, Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, Lucinda Devlin, Johann Georg von Dillis, Allaert van Everdingen, Valie Export, Forensic Architecture, Hamburg Master (aka Master Francke), Caspar David Friedrich, Kasia Fudakowski, Bernardino Fungai, Vibha Galhotra, Jacob Gensler, Francisco de Goya, Andreas Greiner, Jeppe Hein, Dutch Masters (18th century), Jenny Holzer, Joachim Koester, Teresa Margolles, Jan von Mieris, Willem van Mieris, Bertram von Minden, Oscar Muñoz, Cornelia Parker, Giuseppe Penone, Dirk Reinartz, Anri Sala, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Godfried Schalcken, Markus Schinwald, Hendrick van Someren, Sebastian Stumpf, David Teniers the Younger, Thomson & Craighead, Lee Ufan, Claude-Joseph Vernet and David Zink Yi.

Picture 1) David Zink Yi, Filmstill aus: Pneuma, 2011, courtesy David Zink Yi and Hauser & Wirth, © David Zink Yi

Picture 2) Thomson & Craighead, Several Interruptions (Film-Still), 2009, courtesy Thomas & Craighead

Picture 3) Markus Schinwald, Phoebe, 2017, courtesy Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Other Exhibitions

Hamburger Kunsthalle

Hamburger Kunsthalle


Tuesday to Sunday – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 
before holidays – 10 a.m. to 18 p.m.
Monday – closed

Special opening hours*
*Galerie der Gegenwart and MAX BECKMANN exhibition
additionally until 24 January 2021
Friday - Saturday 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.


Glockengießerwall 5,
20095 Hamburg
+49 40 428 13 12 00


Tuesday – 11 a.m.
Wednesday – 12 a.m.
Thursday – 6 p.m.
Sunday – 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. 
Sunday – 12 a.m. or 3 p.m.
Further Information

Getting there:

U/S Hauptbahnhof
Bus 112 Kunsthalle

Use the journey planner of the Hamburg Transport Association, if you would like to use means of public transportation.


Many hire stations for city bikes on the Kunstmeile offer facilities round the clock for hiring and returning a StadtRAD.