Westphalia goldmine

I’ve just returned from a trip to Cologne and the surrounding area. What a rich mine for modern and contemporary art. Over the next few posts I’ll discuss what I saw in more detail. Below is a list of where we went – before I forget!


  • Ludwig Museum – 20th Century and contemporary art. There was a special exhibition of work by Jochen Lempert which was impressive. He’s a photographer working with “the expertise of a trained biologist, the eye of a photographer, and the methods of a scientist.” His prints were black and white, unframed, on heavy, but matt paper. They were of animals and natural phenomena displayed systematically like a biological study. Images of smoke rising from Stromboli could almost have been charcoal drawings. From the monumental to the minute – photograms of insects and skyscapes revealing birds flying in a distant formation again recalled drawing. The smaller rooms used table top vitrines to display the photos. I was really interested in how the images stood in for objects in this mechanism – something I am keen to try myself. Recommended. Other highlights include a row of Alexander Rodchenko collages, and the German expressionist work – Marc, Macke, Kirchner. I really surprised myself. I was really into the Fauves and Der Blaue Reiter at 6th form (I even did some bad copies for a restaurant in the early nineties that must have put the diners off their dinner) . I didn’t realise that Ii had internalised these paintings for so long – it was amazing to see them in the flesh rather than in reproduction. This is something that continues to occur throughout the trip – there’s simply so much great stuff in this part of German

This was a study trip – we’ve been looking at Minimalism, conceptual art and German Capitalist Realism – Richter, Polke and Palermo. Maybe it’s complacency but these works did not shine for me here. I would like to live in the same city as this museum and spend some time with the works.

I think I’m a modernist!


Private Galleries:

  • Daniel Bucholz – saw Katharina Wulff  “Allo, allo mein Hitlir, nou na3se?” Semi-naive crude paintings of landscapes, figures and dogs. Slightly romanticised and nostalgic. Looks like a lot of the “younger” London galleries are flogging. Nice space – nice people. Missed Jack Smith which in hindsight was probably a mistake for me.


  • Galerie Stefan Ropke – showing Max Neumann – evocative, figurative paintings. Nicely melancholic and modest too. Something I’m beginning to want in the art I see. All this big shouty stuff everywhere makes me hate the contemporary art world sometimes.


  • Galerie Christian Nagel – showing Michale Beutler


  • Galerie Gisela Capitain – showing Elfie Semotan. I thought this was the poorest show we saw in Cologne. Photographs of artists in their studios. Celebrity shots, except I didn’t actually know who they all were. Really not doing anything at all with photography, the space or the subject matter. Plus the woman was SNOTTY!



Went to two museums on “Museum Mile” that is after having a train “accident” (in Germany yes, it can happen)

  • Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn) – here we saw a retrospective of Liam Gillick. Can’t translate from the German title of the show and lost my notebook (disaster). Anyway I found the show particularly sinister. The overall effect was having been to an IKEA management meeting and not being able to remember anything that was said. I used to work in a corporate video production company – his sculptures felt a bit like a staff-facing AGM video. He’s not making a critique, he just seems to go along with it, reflect it, describe it (not sure what the “it” is). He hasn’t dealt with gallery space. We know how to behave in a gallery, in fact we want to behave that way, hushed and slow, contemplating. What’s with all the cushions? Does he really expect us to engage differently? He needs to tackle the whole language/politics of the gallery if so. I’m not sure he’s interested in doing this. Hmm, not recommended.

Second show in here was art from the past ten years from private collections. Wow – there was loads to get round. So frustrated I’ve lost my notebook as I can’t remember the names of all the artists I wanted to look at again. My highlight was a series of collages made from a newspaper. Each individual word, number and symbol was cut out and then re-ordered in picture with titles such as “four-letter words” or “words longer the 6 letters.” The collages were beautiful, bemusing objects in themselves but were more amazing once I saw all that was left of the paper after this slicing. What remained was a series of images and holes that were inexplicably lovely, wrenched completely away from their original use. How refreshing. Saw lots of Carol Bove who I have been interested in but found her work really difficult to read or enjoy in the context of this large group show. Would love to see a solo show sometime. Really impressive was the Fischli and Weiss piece. A huge room full of table top vitrines containing full-page ads from glossy magazines. The full effect of this was probably even more seductive than the ads themselves. Arranged into colour/product order viewing this work was a numbing dream-like experience.


  • Kunstmuseum – lovely museum with some Beuys, fabulous expressionist collection, A fun Erwin Wurm exhibit on the top floor – 1 minute sculpture photos were the best in here.



  • Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen – started downstairs, a very dry and somewhat earnest exhibition by Ana Torfs. Wanted to get round the collection so didn’t spend as long as this show required. Because of another local museum being closed lots of contemporary work was shown within this modern collection. The curation was inspired and the collections fantastic. Highlight was Robert Gober room three sculptures but shared with a Duchamp painting – I think a Chocolate Grinder. Lovely. Schwitters with Rauschenberg, The Bechers, Serra, Brrodthaers dept of eagles.


  • Kai 10 Raum Fur Kunst – a small private space with a show of contemporary art dealing with irony. Not sure how it was ironic, there were a couple of interesting pieces in there and some pot plants – perhaps there lay the irony.


  • Kunst im Tunnel – a great concrete bunker space. Group show called Wrong – some really nice pieces.


  • Kunstverein – two shows in here. One by Matts Liederstam who projected paintings and images of paintings onto different surfaces and used viewing devices, i.e. telescopes and magnifying glasses to direct the viewer to specific areas. I was frustrated at his monumental use of these viewing devices as I have been using this in my own work albeit in a modest way. I really liked the work but it took itself very seriously. Clearly a lot of money spent on making it too, quite oblique for reading. Next show was by Florian Pumhösl a room of black paintings with arrangements of broken glass. Pretty but flimsy.



  • Abteiberg Museum – great collection interspersed with show of Robert Morris. Loved how the works appear throughout the collection rather than in a separate homogeneous show. Very different when I am most used to Tate Gallery curation.


About sophiebbarr

I am an artist and a teacher in higher education. For me art is a re-organisation of stuff that's already in the world.
This entry was posted in Exhibitions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Westphalia goldmine

  1. Lisa Muten says:

    Sophie – this is a great summary of the Cologne trip and an inspiring blog – I may get into gear and do one too as I have too much paper! I had noted the artist in Bonn that did the large collage with newspaper as Vibeke Tandberg, but having just googled her I am not so sure. Yes Max Neumann was a hit for me as also Dieter Krieg in the ‘Wrong’ show in the Bunker and of course Erwin Wurm (Werwin) for the pure joyfulness of it. I know you missed Alexandra Bircken at the Kunstervein Koln, but images of her work are googleable, for me it was a pleasure to finish with a contemporary female artist having seen also those epic ‘masters’.

  2. Pingback: Koln, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Monchengladbach & Essen | Lisa Muten's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s