Home Menu ↓

Köln Tag: Ubier Monument and MAKK

Every first Thursday of the month is KölnTag (Cologne Day): All the municipal museums are free for Cologne residents, open until 10 pm, and offering a number of guided tours, workshops, and more. I enjoy using those days to get out of the house and experience all the art and beauty Cologne has to offer. (And that is often hidden behind questionable architecture and downright ugliness.) Rob Weychert would call this a field day; I call it an inspirational field trip.

The Ubier Monument

Hidden between normal residential houses, you will find the entrance to the Ubier monument, a stone construction that is more than 2000 years old and was part of a Germanic settlement before Cologne became a Roman colony. I do not want to recite what our knowledgable (and dry-humored) guide told us about the lively history of this archeological find from 1965. I rather want to use this space to remind me and others that Cologne—while considered ugly by many—is a lady with layers who is willing to let the attentive observer sneak a peek at her wealth of history, art, and hidden treasures.

Think about that the next time you pass by one of her many eyesores.

MAKK – Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

My highlight of the day: the exhibition of photographer Horst H. Baumann at the MAKK (Museum of Applied Arts Cologne). My visit included a one-hour guided tour.

Baumann (1934–2019) was born and died in poverty. Inbetween he established a modern take on photography that is not exclusive to journalists or trained photographers, but open to each and everyone. He called himself a street photographer and considered his job to be part of the moment he captured.

You’re right in the thick of it. And as someone with a 35 mm camera and a lens with a short focal length, you don’t stand out. You are there as a contemporary. And you are therefore all the more credible.
—Horst H. Baumann

At the same time, it was the reduced, the graphical, the almost geometric that he seeked in his photos. A lot of what I heard and read about Baumann struck a chord with me and I tried to take a photo of the exhibition that he would have liked.

The cast shadow of another visitor is looking at a grid of four photos by Baumann. There is also a reflection of the same visitor in one of the photos.

It surprised me that I was able to pinpoint why I like his photos and that the reasons were quite… simple: golden ratio, playful use of soft focus, high contrast, complementary colors, interesting perspective. It feels empowering to me that Baumann uses a lot of the best practices that one would also learn in a graphic design course. Because it means that everyone—even me—can get a long way with the basics. Style, the inexplicable sense for space and subject, the skill to capture an atmosphere and make photos look alive… well, that’s a different story.

And the stuff I go to museums for.