Art Cologne – a top event with extra edge
Where is the new Damien Hirst? And who’s got what it takes to be the next Jeff Koons? I can hardly wait to hear everyone talking about these sorts of questions again. And you can bet they will be when Art Cologne hits the Cologne-Deutz Exhibition Centre (Deutzer Messehallen) from 14 to 17 April. I look forward to capricious people from around the world, enhancing the cityscape for the week during which their customers fork out almost inconceivable sums for works ranging from classical modern to contemporary. I hope there’ll be works for me to marvel at, things that get me thinking or even just make me laugh. I particularly like to look at those works that seem so simple that they lead visitors to the inevitable, though hardly realistic, conclusion expressed in the words, “I could have done that.”
Art Cologne, 50. Internationaler Kunstmarkt
Koelnmesse, Messeplatz 1, Hall 11, 241 exhibitors
Vernissage: Wednesday, 13 April (4 to 8 p.m.)
Art Cologne: Thursday, 14 April to Sunday, 17 April (10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun to 6 p.m.)
Day ticket: 25 euros
But this year’s event is not just about works of art, markets and the artists tipped to be the next big thing. This year, the mother of all art fairs has a big birthday to celebrate – Art Cologne is turning 50! So excitement among gallerists and visitors is even higher than usual. It all started back in 1967 in Cologne’s Gürzenich event centre, when Art Cologne still went by the name of “Kölner Kunstmarkt”. The event soon moved to the Deutzer Rheinhallen exhibition ground and there seemed to be no stopping its success. But competitors arrived on the scene and by the noughties Art Basel and London’s Frieze Art Fair had become strong forces to contend with. Nonetheless, the fair managed to regain its strong position under director Daniel Hug after a schedule move from autumn to spring.
The success story that is Art Cologne can be seen throughout the city. That was always a fact when I was growing up in Cologne. If I wanted to be sure, I only had to take a glance inside those buildings whose facades had reliably been decorated with a banana. That was the symbol that Cologne-based artist Thomas Baumgärtel started using back in the 1980s to mark all of the galleries – and pay tribute to Andy Warhol at the same time. For a while, Berlin seemed to exert an alarming attractive force but now Cologne’s gallery landscape is flourishing again. So I’ll be paying particular attention to the stands of Boisserée (an institution with big-name artists on its books), Christian Lethert (new and upcoming artists) and Thomas Zander (high-quality photography).
On the fringes
As fond as I am of Art Cologne (and rightfully so), I don’t take its word for everything. So I’m also looking forward to two (much smaller) parallel events in Cologne’s coolest fringe locations. One is the first “Far Off” exhibition, on the site of the old Ehrenfeld Güterbahnhof station, where almost 20 galleries and art venues will be showcasing affordable avant-garde works. The other, following a similar concept, is “Kölner Liste”, which will be bringing together more than 70 exhibitors at the former Carlswerk plant in Cologne’s Mülheim district for the third time.
Güterbahnhof Ehrenfeld, Vogelsanger Straße 231
Thurs, 14 April to Sun, 17 April, Thurs 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., Fri, Sat 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission 5 to 10 euros
Carlswerk, Schanzenstr. 6–20
14 to 17 April, Thurs 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fri, Sat 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission 13 euros
If I’ve got any energy left…
A veritable Cologne institution, the Kölner Kunstverein can be relied on to cause a stir when Art Cologne comes around. And it looks like it’ll be doing that again – with the help of Abkhazian-born Andro Wekua, whose diverse oeuvre looks set to bring some exciting mood painting. The organisers of “Far Off” will be inviting visitors to enjoy some late-night dancing in the adjacent “Jack Who” basement club. Doors open at midnight on Friday and Saturday. After all the miles clocked up walking around the fair, you can be sure you’ll dance till you drop!