More information in German
© Astrid Piethan
"Open Air Museum" on the street

After a three-and-a-half-year successful trial period in cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts (KHM) and the Mediahaus Ströer as well as successful contractual negotiations with the municipal utilities and the Ströer company, we are now set to continue the "Art on Cologne Advertising Columns" action in late March 2019.

Various players, municipal departments committees and not least the free art scene and local residents had voiced their support for the continuation of the art in public spaces initiative by signing a petition. Of the 200 advertising pillars that were destined to be removed, 25 have remained as "Art columns of the City of Cologne". This number enables us to guarantee a long-term usage with funding that covers the cost of printing and plastering of posters together with a fee to each artist.  

This makes us the first city to use the old advertising pillars as art columns and gives us an unexpected leading role in this area.

"Art on former Cologne Advertising Columns" offers the most direct way for Cologne citizens to participate in culture, by having works of art spread over the whole city area and visible to people passing by every day. This leads to unexpected encounters with art. Hopefully this will result in lots of discussions as to what art is and what public space means to the local residents. The art pillar action can be regarded as precursor of the City of Cologne’s cultural development planning, as this will put a greater emphasis on art and culture in public spaces.

The jury for the motifs on the art pillars

The selection of motifs for the art columns will be in the hands of a jury which comprises above all persons who have already gained experience with the project between 2015 and 2018. In 2019 the following persons make up the jury’s panel of experts:    

  • Heike Ander, art historian, KHM
  • Rozbeh Asmani, artist
  • Arno Hambloch, Ströer company
  • N.N., City of Cologne’s Art Advisory Board
  • Nadine Müseler, City of Cologne’s Office of Cultural Affairs
  • Johanna Reich, artist
  • Christian Sievers, artist
  • Damian Zimmermann, art critic, Internationale Photoszene Köln 

The jury’s verdict is non-contestable and any recourse to courts of law is excluded.  

Art in Public Spaces Tender

To give to 25 former advertising columns a new use between August 2020 and July 2021, the City of Cologne's Office of Cultural Affairs is currently organizing an artistic competition exclusively addressing the visual arts and photography.

We are seeking artistic designs for posters featuring a wraparound layout that will cover the surface of the 25 Cologne art columns, each with an individual motif for a duration between two and three months per artist. The art columns, which are currently plastered with a motif by Cologne artist Philipp Hamann are located in various districts of Cologne in clearly visible and well-frequented locations.

Artists are called upon to submit applications that feature concrete motifs for the art columns. Moreover, curators or free art spaces and initiatives as well as the City of Cologne’s museums and art institutions are invited to suggest artists. In these cases, a concrete artistic design concept as well as its visualization is required too.

Deadline for entries is 14 May 2020.

The City of Cologne’s Office of Cultural Affairs will cover the costs of printing the posters, plastering, and maintenance of 3,500 euros each, as well as a remuneration of 500 euros for each of the selected four to six artists.
In the future, tenders will be issued and a jury will convene on an annual basis.

Background and reason for the tender
Following three and a half years of successful project duration in cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts and the Mediahaus Ströer, Cologne has managed to establish contractual parameters that will enable the action Art on Cologne Advertising Columns to continue until 2029. A total of 25 advertising columns will be turned into “Art Columns of the City of Cologne” – an open air museum and an unexpected pioneering role for Cologne.  

“The art column project arguably offers the most direct form of cultural participation for the city by enabling us to distribute works of art throughout the whole city and making them visible to everyone every day”, stressed Susanne Laugwitz-Aulbach on occasion of the press conference on 26 March 2019. She went on by expressing the hope that “there will be unexpected encounters with art and thus hopefully many conversations about what art is and what public space means to the citizens”.  

The art column action can also be understood as a harbinger of Cologne’s cultural development planning because it will attach a greater relevance to art and culture in public spaces.  

History of the advertising column aka Litfaßsäule  
Advertising columns or Litfaßsäulen go back to the inventor, printer and publisher Ernst Lifaß (1816-1874), who first developed the idea of a freestanding pillar in public places. They served as notice boards for announcements and posters but were also conceived to counteract the random pasting of posters all over the Berlin. In 1855 the first 100 columns were set up in Berlin and named after their inventor. As a medium for urban mass culture – above all in European metropolises – the advertising columns were the most important innovation in the field of outdoor advertising. They promoted the expansion of consumer goods marketing and the dissemination of both poster culture and aesthetics, thereby shaping the image of the anonymous metropolis at the beginning of the 20th century. Within the context of media and cultural history, they are closely related to the parallel commencement of organisational and administrational developments (that means in the field of transport, technology, medicine, infrastructure) in modern metropolises that were part of the enormous modernisation boost that set in at the end of the 19th century.  

Who can apply?
Professional artists from Cologne, Germany and abroad  

  • Who is also eligible to suggest artists with concrete motif drafts?  
    Cologne-based curators
    Free art rooms and art initiatives as well as art festivals from Cologne
    The City of Cologne’s museums and art institutions  
  • What needs to be taken into consideration with the designs?
    Focus is on the development of artistic motifs that are suited to be plastered around a complete column, specifically providing a wraparound layout for the 360 degree viewing of the pillar. Moreover, the same concept needs to be realised on columns with varying circumferences or thickness. Therefore, the application must clearly illustrate as to how the constantly differing column circumferences will be dealt with.
    The submitted motif designs should take into account both the view from far away and at close range in conceptualisation and layout.
    A short and easy to understand text (maximum three lines) that is integrated into the motif and located at each column’s base is to communicate the concept to passers-by in German and English.
    According to the terms and conditions of the City of Cologne signed by the Ströer firm, who operates the columns, motifs or partial motifs of the design will be rejected, if “the contents are unconscionable (that means motifs with extreme political, ideological, religious or xenophobic content or offending good taste or generally accepted public morals), or are in violation of federal German laws or bylaws of local administrations or are in contravention to the interests of persons or companies who own the property on which the advertising column is located”.
    The submitted drafts may make use of graphic, pictorial or photographic motifs and design methods but must be realisable as digital print in 4/0 C euroscale format on 115g/m2 blueback paper (commonly used for posters). The designable area has a size of 4.76m by 3.36m, whereby the minimally varying thickness of the columns will be compensated with lining paper. As an alternative, it will also be possible to create three posters in an 8/1 format (measuring 119cm by 336cm, with spaces between them also filled with lining paper).
    The specific topics that the design can relate to are manifold and expressly not predetermined. It is, however, encouraged to look into the history of the advertising column as a medium and the past motifs from the period between 2015 and 2020 (see below: looking back on the Cologne art pillars between 2015 and 2020) as well as the urban relevance and locations of the columns over a range of diverse residential districts.
    Each artist or initiative may submit a maximum of two drafts.    

Documents that need to be submitted

  1. The fully completed application form. Per submitted motif one application form must be filled in, a maximum of two application forms are allowed.
  2. Further explanatory textual and visual descriptions of the artistic design. The text is limited to a maximum of two A4 pages.
  3. Explanatory text for passers-by with a short description of maximum three lines (in English and German) that is supposed to be printed at the base of the art columns.
  4. Artist’s vita with details on education, latest exhibitions or projects, awards, scholarships etc. (maximum one A4 page) and hardcopy printouts of reference projects with a focus on art and installations in public spaces as well as further catalogues and/or brochures.

The complete set of application documents should be submitted together in a maximum A4-size map.

  • Please note:
    If the occupancy plan allows for it, applicants who are not Cologne residents are eligible to stay in the guest studios at the Neue Kunstforum on the Alteburger Wall 1. Rates are 10 euros per day plus a one-off 50 euro cleaning fee. Travel expenses are not refunded.
    The contract for the realisation of the project will be concluded directly between the City of Cologne’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the respective artist, even if the draft was submitted by a curator, a free initiative, a municipal museum or art institution.
    With their application, artists commit themselves to provide the relevant print ready files as well as further material or information that might be required at the predetermined dates should their project be accepted. This involves the finalisation of the printing file, the provision of an explanatory text for the press release as well as the photographic documentation of the plastered motifs with a minimum of three professional photos.
    The artists’ copyright does not entitle them to a claim the preservation of their plastered artwork on the columns. With the application they give their consent that following a period of two to three months their motif on the 25 Cologne art columns may be covered by a new layer of posters.

Deadline for the submission of applications is 14 May 2020

It is expressly requested that the project application is submitted in printed form. However, please make sure to send the application including the illustrations of the submitted motif separately via email to the Office of Cultural Affairs. When naming the files, please adhere to the numbering mentioned above and the maximum total size of all files of 10 MB.

Application documents will only be returned to the sender if received with an adequately stamped and sized self-addressed envelope. It is also possible to collect the documents in the Office of Cultural Affairs by prior appointment. Documents that have not been collected will only be kept until August, 17th at the Office of Cultural Affairs. The submitted applications cannot be stored beyond this period.

The application and supplementary material such as catalogues and/or brochures should be sent via surface mail to the following address:

Kulturamt c/o Beate Riebesam
(Appication Art on Cologne Advertising Columns)
Richartzstraße 2-4
50667 Köln

The relevant email address is: 
Subject: Appication Art on Cologne Advertising Columns

Beate Riebesam
Tender Application Form for Art in Public Space


Selection procedure  

The Office for Cultural Affairs has summoned a jury, whose meeting will take place in the second half of June.  

It is for the jury of experts to decide, if four, five or six drafts are selected. Relevant criteria comprise the quality of presentations and the consistency with the annual programme. Two-thirds of the drafts should be from Cologne artists, one-third from domestic and international artists. The overall impact of the project plays a major role for the City of Cologne and the Fine Arts Advisory Board of the Office for Cultural Affairs as well as for the jury. This is the reason why Cologne museums were also given the opportunity of suggesting an artist with a specific motif for a poster that refers to the current exhibition programme.  



Contact for topical queries:

Referat für Bildende Kunst, Künstlerische Fotografie, Medienkunst, Neue Medien und Literatur, Förderung von Atelierräumen

Contact for queries on application documents and jury session: 

Beate Riebesam
Call: 0221 / 221 – 23843    (Hours: Moday, Tuesday, Friday)

Beate Riebesam

Locations of Cologne art column

The pillars are in various quarters of Cologne on easy to spot locations.
These are for example:
  • Chorweiler
  • Holweide
  • Humboldt-Gremberg
  • Kalk
  • Longerich
  • Neu-Brück
  • Raderberg
  • Rodenkirchen
  • Seeberg
  • Südstadt
Locations of Cologne art column 2019
PDF, 114 kb

Looking back on the Cologne art pillars between 2015 and 2020

Further information
Kunst an Kölner Litfaßsäulen in deutscher Sprache