Big brother is having a drink with you
von Daniel von Bernstorff | Nov 20, 2008

What a place! With the Domplatte and one of the biggest places of worship in the world for a ceiling, behind the wall of a road tunnel and opposite the Alter Wartesaal, the restaurant frequented by Cologne's in-crowd, and the Hauptbahnhof. In a historically charged location, with traffic shooting in all directions, Cologne now has a new design and art attraction, which is also a magnet for cocktail lovers, in the heart of the cathedral city. The area occupied by the Kunstbar wasn't planned but was, in fact, a left over from the remodelling of the Domplatte. The Kunstbar, now on show to the public, is forty metres long, two to six metres wide, with a banana-form footprint and a new glass façade.

The site was discovered and is now run by Paolo Campi and Andreas Lichter, the go-getting partnership behind the Alter Wartesaal restaurant. It didn't take long for them to come up with the idea of realising an unconventional concept in this unusual location. Once a year, an artist is commissioned to completely remodel the bar. The pair identified a competent partner to help them with their choice of artist in the Kölnische Kunstverein [Cologne Art Society].

The first artist chosen, Arne Quinze, may come as a surprise but he was asked three years ago, when he was still a rising star in the design firmament. The Belgian, whose sculptures and installations are in demand worldwide, who started out as a graffiti artist, before turning his attention to furniture design, is nothing short of a star. Until recently, his fame was mainly confined to specialist design circles but these days Quinze is known to the readers of Gala and Bunte, too, through his liaison with Barbara Becker. This was illustrated by his appearance at the opening of the Cologne bar when he drove up in a white Audi R8 with Barbara Becker in the passenger seat. The photographers jumped on the pair in a scene worthy of Hollywood, almost eclipsing Quinze's installation.

The installation, however, is a total success. The centrepiece is a gigantic piece of black wall art made of monitors, featuring eyes from a variety of perspectives. The eyes belong, of course, to Barbara Becker. A piece of work in which art, commerce and design explosively combine, presenting a perfect example of the cosmos of Arne Quinze. The words "Big brother is pulling rabbits out of his hat" in neon writing stands above the artwork in reference to the famous quote from Orwell. Who is actually watching who here? Primarily us, when we look at artist Arne Quinze. The cult of the artist has now come to Cologne.

The bar and tables are made from wooden crates, which are normally used for transporting art, the chairs are from Belgian design manufacturer Quinze & Milan's Room 26 collection. Arne Quinze is still the company's Art Director.

Oh and by the way, Quinze himself has climbed back into his Audi and roared off to bigger and better things. The word is that he is planning to remodel an entire city centre. For him, Cologne was just a stop-off point but thankfully we still have Barbara's eyes.

Die Kunstbar
Chargesheimer Platz 1 / Cologne
Open daily from 6.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m.

Arne Quinze
All photos: © Dave Bruel