Cologne's 10 Cutting-Edge Art Galleries & Museums

Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge | © Jiuguang Wang / Flickr
Ellie Dewdney

Cologne only may be Germany’s fourth largest city, but when it comes to artistic culture this city rivals the art capitals of the world. A haven for art connoisseurs, Cologne is littered with high quality galleries and museums, mixing classical and contemporary, with the world famous annual ART COLOGNE fair ensuring the city stays at the forefront of the international art scene. Here are ten of the best art galleries and museums in Cologne.

1. Galerie Artclub

Museum, Art Gallery

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Interior
Courtesy Käthe Kollwitz Museum
Housed in a renovated fire station, Galerie Artclub is more impressive than its unassuming name suggests. Members of the ‘club’ are invited to display their art in one of the five exhibition halls – either as part of a group exhibition or a solo feature. What’s appealing about the Artclub is its inherent flexibility. As artists are invited to exhibit based solely on the quality of their work, this gallery refuses to be labelled under a single artistic niche. The stylistic and thematic variety on show always allows for an interesting viewing experience. Moreover, as the Artclub primarily functions as a platform for lesser known artists, much of the art work here is more affordable than at high end Cologne galleries.

Käthe Kollwitz Museum

Though it’s located in the heart of the city, visitors to Cologne could easily be forgiven for missing the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, hidden as it is above a shopping gallery at Cologne’s Neumarkt. However, what the museum lacks in size and status it makes up for with its art. Käthe Kollwitz was a German artist active in the first half of the 20th century, whose subject matter invariably focused on the tragedy of human suffering. The 750 pieces housed in this museum (including her paintings, prints and sculptures) may not be particularly uplifting but demonstrate impeccable skill and an emotional pathos that will leave few indifferent. A trip to this museum is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on both the artistically and historically minded.
Kathe Kollwitz, Neumarkt 18-24, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2272899

2. Skulpturen Park

Museum, Park, Architectural Landmark

Installation at Kolumba
Photo: Lothar Scnhepf, Courtesy Kolumba
The Cologne Sculpture Park is a space that defies easy categorization. It is, arguably, neither a museum nor a gallery, but for any art lover it is not to be missed. Since 1997, the 25,000 square foot public park has proudly displayed a diverse collection of contemporary international sculpture – including some of the most respected names in the art world. Moreover, the exhibition is constantly evolving; every two years new sculptures are selected and put on display making this park an ideal candidate for repeat visits. The sculptures on display between 2011 and 2013 included works by Gunther Forg, Martin Boyce, Leiko Ikemura, Dirk Skreber and many other well-known artists. This park is the perfect destination for those looking for something other than the traditional museum experience and there is something rather liberating about viewing the pieces outside.

Kolumba

When visiting Cologne it is hard not to be aware of the city’s Catholic past, with the cathedral being its most famous feature. It is hardly surprising that the city plays host to numerous collections of religious artworks. Kolumba is a museum run by the Archdiocese of Cologne and comes highly recommended. The museum itself is worthy of artistic interest, combining remnants of the original St Columba church, a 1950s chapel and medieval ruins in a beautiful juxtaposition of old and new architecture. The art work dates from late antiquity to the present day and includes everything from 12th century paintings to modern video installations. As such Kolumba offers a refreshing variety of art that is often lacking in similar museums. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy thought-provoking artwork at their own pace. This is not a conventional museum and has the ability to win over those with a little or no interest in religious art.
Kolumba, Kolumbastraße 4, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 9331930

3. The Museum of East Asian Art

Building, Museum

The Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst or the Museum of East Asian Art is a well-known name amongst Cologne’s museums. However, it is far from the busiest tourist location and for those with a taste for the exotic it should definitely be on the itinerary. Before even crossing the threshold the exterior building and gardens invoke the Far East and the inside does not disappoint either. The heart of the collection was collected by museum founders, Adolf Fischer (1857-1914) and Frieda Bartdorff (1874-1945), and features everything from Buddhist sculpture to lacquer art. While of course wider questions remain to be answered about the rightful owners of non-Western ancient artifacts, this museum is doubtless fascinating and provides a unique perspective on East Asian culture in Cologne.

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