5 Exhibitions to See During Art Cologne

To mark the opening of the 54th edition of the fair, we’ve put together a guide to the best shows in the Rheinland

BY ​​​​​​​Sofie Krogh Christensen in Critic's Guides , EU Reviews | 17 NOV 21

Marcel Odenbach

Museum Ludwig

17 November 2021 – 20 February 2022

Each year, Museum Ludwig awards the Wolfgang Hahn Prize to an exceptional contemporary artist, with past winners including Andrea Fraser, Kerry James Marshall and Haegue Yang. In 2021, this honour went to German video artist Marcel Odenbach, whose series ‘Schnittvorlagen’ (Cut Templates, 2001–ongoing) is currently on display at Museum Ludwig after being acquired by the institution within the framework of the award. Acting as an archive as well as source material for future work, these black and white A3 collages – shown here for the first time – combine photocopies of images, mostly of people, taken from newspapers, art history books, satirical zines and pornographic magazines, amongst others. These thematic compositions could not only be seen as a contemporary take on Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas (1927–29) but also point to the complex formation of cultural identity in the wake of colonialism, which has been a recurrent topic throughout the artist’s four-decade career.

Marcel Odenbach, Schnittvorlage, 2005, photocopies on paper, 30 × 42 cm. Courtesy: Marcel Odenbach and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021; photograph: Saša Fuis


Galerie Drei

17 November – 29 January 2022

The group exhibition ‘Presskopf’ at Galerie Drei, which takes its title from Argentinian painter Laura Langer’s eponymous series of canned pâté lids (2021), sets out to probe behavioural psychology’s study of the infinite cognitive processes of the human mind. Shown alongside Langer’s paintings is a selection of French artist Marie Angeletti’s black enamel on pleather works (R02, R05, R08 and R11, all 2020). Resembling enlarged, gloomy versions of the inkblots used in Rorschach psychological tests – which analyze subjects’ responses to shapes created by folding and unfolding ink-covered pages – the works encourage viewers to contemplate not only the artist’s mental state but their own. Moving further into the galleries – as if probing deeper into the mind – the multi-channel video work Incapaz (Incompetent) (2021) by São Paulo-based artist Dudu Quintanilha documents his 2016 anthropological and performative studies with patients of the Municipal Institute of Health Care Jurandyr Manfredini; a psychiatric hospital in Rio de Jainero. Also on display is an early work by Julia Scher, who similarly investigates the empowerment of subjects in the healthcare system by outlining a proposal for a surveillance station for children that would familiarize them with the technology used in medical observations (Untitled [Children’s Surveillance Room], 1992).

Laura Langer, Presskopf, 2021. Courtesy: the artist, Weiss Falk, Basel and DREI, Cologne

Nancy Lupo

Jan Kaps

3 September – 21 November 2021

Nancy Lupo’s solo exhibition at Jan Kaps, ‘Golden Shower’, opens with two lonesome bronze figures framed by a sky of flags in the titular hue. The black-bronze figure of The Architect (2021) attempts to dance, albeit restricted by its own base, while The Dummy (2021), an ambiguous golden-bronze form, is forcibly strapped to a column. The flags – all named after different capitals and made from fiberglass, wooden sticks and golden pigment – are aligned to depict a continuous procession, to which are attached wooden stick duplicates of Lupo’s ‘tellers’ series (2019–ongoing). Also on display here, the artist’s original bronze and aluminium ‘tellers’ – which take their name and form from a popular origami game – are in a state of constant evolution, with layers added or removed at each showing. In a neighbouring space can be found benches from the artist’s series ‘The Ambassadors’ (2020) accompanied by the projection Almost Not Breathing and cut-paper works Almost Suffocating (both 2021). While the connections between Lupo’s wide-ranging objects might not always be clear, as Benjamin Hirte observes in the exhibition literature: ‘Confusion adds to the pleasure.’

Nancy Lupo, 'Golden Shower', 2021, exhibition view, Jan Kaps, Cologne. Courtesy: the artist and Jan Kaps, Cologne; photograph: Nadine Preiss and Simone Vogel

Melike Kara

Kölnischer Kunstverein

13 November – 5 December 2021

‘May all of our stories / fit into one sentence / rolled up / packed together,’ muses Melike Kara in a poem accompanying her solo exhibition, ‘Nothing Is Yours, Everything Is You’, at Kölnischer Kunstverein. Moving through the upper-floor galleries, the institution’s postwar architecture is transformed by red- and blue-tinted paintings inspired by Kurdish tribal patterns, video projections, soundscapes of Kurdish folk songs and poetry, and wallpaper photo collages – using images culled from her personal archive – all of which come together to make the spaces vibrate with the voices and resistance of the Kurdish diaspora. In the top-floor ‘Studio’, the cushion stacks bridge ties and collective memories (both 2021) lean against bleached, blueish family photographs and refer to furnishings traditionally used for social gatherings and prayer. Utilizing the institution’s interior and exterior spaces, Kara weaves a narrative that captures a fading collective memory, tying a visual knot to the last sentences of the poem: ‘so / that not much is left / except / a free and unwritten soul / suspecting nothing / wanting nothing / floating in a light void.’

Melike Kara, 'Nothing Is Yours, Everything Is You’, 2021, installation view, Kölnischer Kunstverein. Courtesy: the artist and Kölnischer Kunstverein

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

16 October 2021 – 13 February 2022

‘Yiadom-Boakye leaves plenty of room for us to make our own presumptions about her characters […] but […] the true radical nature of the work lies in the figures’ quiet resistance to the audience’s gaze and expectations of Black subjects,’ wrote Aurella Yussuf in frieze on occasion of the artist’s mid-career retrospective at Tate Britain in 2020–21. Titled ‘Fly in League with the Night’, the exhibition travelled to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in July, before opening at K20 in Düsseldorf this October. The first comprehensive presentation of the British artist’s work in Germany, it collates approximately 70 fictional portraits in dark, muted shades that depict figures inspired by a variety of sources, including life drawings, found images and Yiadom-Boakye’s own imagination. As with earlier iterations of the exhibition, at K20 these works can be viewed while listening to a QR code-accessible jazz soundtrack compiled by the artist.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Condor and the Mole, 2011, oil on canvas, 2.3 × 2.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Arts Council Collection, London and Southbank Centre, London

Main image: Marcel Odenbach, Schnittvorlage, 2005, photocopies on paper, 30 × 42 cm. Courtesy: Marcel Odenbach and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021; photograph: Saša Fuis

Thumbnail: Nancy Lupo, 'Golden Shower', 2021, exhibition view, Jan Kaps, Cologne. Courtesy: the artist and Jan Kaps, Cologne; photograph: Nadine Preiss and Simone Vogel

Sofie Krogh Christensen is a writer and curator. She is based in Berlin, Germany.