Reacting to the rapid and vast expansion of Street and Urban art in the past decades, KÖLNER LISTE introduced its Urban Art Section, a place where collectors can come into closer contact with this movement and its styles. Thinking forward and taking in art that is often considered insurgent distinguished our art fair as the place for the avant-garde art lover. Still, the Urban Art Section is not where the support to the new contemporary movement ended. Moreover, the KÖLNER LISTE endeavors to bring the art fair vision of Urban Art back to the street, through a unique public art project realized in collaboration with French artist OX.
In partnership with the Ströer Media Company, this public art project commissioned OX to create, or rather take over, ten billboards around the city of Cologne. These ephemeral works of art are meant to serve as a visual bridge between the conventional art fair exhibition halls and the informal, but traditional space in which urban artists operate. Thus, the idea of the art fair open to everyone will come nearer to public art supporters, proving that there is little difference between being an active supporter or a collector. Endowed with clear visuals and a good dose of humor, The OX billboards are an ideal medium to both engage the audience in the contemplation of art and to inspire further thinking about the visual pollution. Sharing the idea that are should be open to all, KÖLNER LISTE enters the role of a patron, endorsing artistic action on a whole new level.
OX – The Billboard Hijacker
For those who follow the Urban Art scene and are familiar with Culture Jamming history, the name of OX is more than familiar. This French artist is today considered one of the pioneers of this subversive movement in Paris, while his geometric, colorful paste-ups appeared in cities across the Old Continent. With simple graphic shapes, bright colors and bold contrasts, the art of OX is characterized with a unique visual language, through which the artist delivers a clear, unblemished message. Provoking the thought about the visual pollution, different effects of advertising and the presence of pictures in the public plane, the artist engages the viewer by the means of strong contrast. His billboards are not to be ignored, clad in bright and fluorescent colors, they clash with the ordinary urban landscape and call to attention. Mostly hijacked, the billboards OX produces are what we can call illicit, a fact that only supports their progressive and democratic nature.
The ten billboards OX prepared for this project largely follow his general body of work. Following the logic of his work, some of the pieces visually interact with the environment, where the artist found the architectural logic to intervene in such a way. They add to the existing column rows, light up a bus stall or just converse with the surroundings through their choice of color. The locations in which OX created these works were predetermined by the project partners, but the artist was far from discouraged with this fact. Instead, he found a new challenge in presenting his vision to the public in places he might not have chosen himself. The visual tension created between the paste-up and its environment does not differ from the usual OX’s takeovers proving that the social, artistic and provocative impact is not diminished. Quite the contrary – the awareness this public art project raises surpasses the significance of a single piece of street art.
OX Billboards Make A Visual Call to Action
Observing the billboards created by OX for this occasion, we can say that the artist infused these seemingly simple visuals with layers of meaning, commenting on the environment overly dressed in concrete, lighting up a depressing corner, or offering a symbolic escape to the heavens. His interpretation of the Magritte’s none-pipe gains a completely different meaning in this instance, because the factory chimney is in fact a source of another type of problematics. Graphically charming, OX’s billboards grab the observer and don’t let go, opening many of the city-related topics. “My main goal is to create a moment of discontinuity with the common surroundings” OX said about his idea behind this billboard series and it is evident that he succeeded. This discontinuity is far from an obstacle, though, and it cannot be considered a disruption in harmony. They are, in fact, a very welcome visual break from the usual, a spark of brilliance in what is normally the grey, boring surroundings.
All of the billboards have been installed between April 10-12, 2017 and will stay up as long as the circumstances allow. It could be that an advertiser or somebody from the community decides that any of the pieces needs an alteration, so nobody can predict the exact duration of these artworks. Thus, their ephemeral nature is not only preserved, but emphasized, bringing up questions regarding the nature of street and urban art, as well as the impact and longevity of other works of public art around the city.
Regardless of their expiration date, OX’s posters are here to bring the attention of the public to the burning issues related to the visual [and not only!] environment. They make a special commentary to the city of Cologne, localized, but universal, inviting the people to react and perhaps even – make their own interpretation.
Building Bridges Between the Art Fair and the Public Art Realm
The role of KÖLNER LISTE in this art project is best described in the words of Jörgen Golz, the art fair director. “We want to draw attention to art through art”, he said and added that OX’s reflects the urban environment “in a very intelligent and humorous way.” By initiating and supporting this public art project, the art fair aims to inspire new rules in looking at art. Art is not only a commodity on a market, nor is it solely a collectable suited for somebody’s collection – it is far more valuable than that. Its significance expands far beyond walls, into the outdoor environment and even further, while it carries inspirational imagery and metaphors characteristic of the time we live in. Art is no longer a matter of the visual, it is a social phenomenon, a method of communication and mobilization of a new generation of thinkers.
So, all of you the dwellers of Cologne, visitors of the KÖLNER LISTE and innocent bystanders, keep your eyes peeled for the new colorful billboards OX planted around the city. If a chance does not take you to them, you can plan a self-guided Urban Art tour by marking these locations on your map:
· Alpener Str./Venloer Str. quer 50825 Köln Ehrenfeld
· Sechzigstraße, Nähe Liebigstraße 50733 Köln Nippes
· Hans-Schulten-Str./Olpener Str. 51109 Köln Brück
· Höninger Weg/Eifelwall 50969 Köln Innenstadt
· Hahnenstr./Rondorfer Hauptstr. 9 50997 Köln Rondorf
· Schanzenstr./Carlswerkstr. 51063 Köln Mülheim
· Siegburger Str. geg. 195 50679 Köln Deutz
· Geestemünder Str. 46 re. 50735 Köln Niehl
· Niehler Kirchweg 62 50733 Köln Nippes
· Liverpooler Platz/City-Center/1.Sto. 50765 Köln Chorweiler
KÖLNER LISTE art fair for contemporary art will open on April 28 and run through April 30, 2017. More art created by OX will be on display within the Urban Art Section of the fair, represented by the OPEN WALLS GALLERY.
OX's Billboards Project in Cologne from OPEN WALLS Gallery on Vimeo.
For those who might have missed the chance to see these works in place, we bring the images of OX in action and shots of his final series.