Water Carrier Finally Comes Home to Central Reykjavík Skip to content

Water Carrier Finally Comes Home to Central Reykjavík

By Iceland Review

The statue “Vatnsberinn” (“The Water Carrier”) by renowned Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982) finally arrived to the location originally reserved for it, on the corner of Bankastraeti and Laekjargata in central Reykjavík, yesterday after more than 60 years of exile.


“The Water Carrier”. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Earlier this summer, Reykjavík City Council accepted Reykjavík Art Museum’s proposal that “The Water Carrier” be moved to the city center, Morgunbladid reports.

“The Water Carrier” (1936-37) sparked heated debates at the time; it was not considered beautiful enough to be placed in the heart of the capital, a distortion of a human being.

“People called it ugly and weird, said it had sagging shoulders, short legs and did not look like a proper person,” said Hafthór Yngvason, director of Reykavík Art Museum. “It was also a political issue […] about who should be remembered and how.”

Inspired by the people seen carrying water through the city center at the turn of the century, the statue was meant to interpret the hardships of the public.

Instead of the city center, “The Water Carrier” was placed in the sculptor’s garden on Sigtún, where there is now a museum dedicated to his art, but later moved to the hill where the Icelandic Meteorological Office is based in Öskjuhlíd in 1967 where it stood until now.

On Reykjavík’s 225th anniversary, August 18, the statue will be inaugurated in a special ceremony on the corner of Bankastraeti and Laekjargata at 8 pm.

Einar Örn Benediktsson, chairman of Reykjavík City’s culture and tourism council, will say a few words and then Yngvason will discuss the history of the “The Water Carrier” and its connection with the modern cityscape and other outdoor art in the vicinity.

Sveinsson was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture and although his work wasn’t always well received to begin with, it is now appreciated as one of the manifestations of the Icelandic storytelling tradition, society and nature in the 20th century.

Click here to read more about Sveinsson and his art.


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