Interesting art can be found even outside of the museums in NRW: large-scale works and small eye-catchers are scattered outside in the streets of large metropolises and smaller towns alike. Many different artists, art forms, and design techniques turn public space into an open-air gallery. Guided street-art tours not only warrant discovery of ever-new pieces of art that often present societally relevant subjects, but also introduce some of the lesser known corners of Düsseldorf, Cologne, Paderborn, and Dortmund.
Visiting the state capital, you will find art everywhere, be it on foot, by bicycle, or in the underground network. The artistically designed stations of the Wehrhahn line or the large “Hornet” mural at the Museum K20 are only two pieces proving that art has become part of public life in Düsseldorf. The most recent example is the “Pretty Wall Bilk” project that turned an underpass into a public art gallery with the help of some international artists. The biennial “40° Urban Art” festival is also adding new works to bridge or building façades every time, as it will do once again in its next edition in 2023.
A current overview of Düsseldorf’s street art is provided by regular Urban Art Walks through the inner city. They include some background information on the creation of the works, the artists, and some brief insights into Düsseldorf’s city history. If you want to see the murals in the outer quarters as well, the guided Urban Art Rides by bicycle may be the thing for you.
Cologne has some creative street art to offer at every corner, as made certain not least by the biennial CityLeaks Urban Art Festival. The most renowned festival of its kind in NRW, it brings about new works every time. Some of them have long become photogenic landmarks in their own rights. Some quarters have developed into veritable street-art hot spots. One example is Ehrenfeld, which sports the greatest density of large murals in Cologne. Nippes is a particular treat for fans of graffiti, while Mülheim on the right side of the river Rhine has been compared to a famous scene quarter in Berlin before: “Tomorrow’s Mülheim is like yesterday’s Prenzlauer Berg,” Cologne street artist Tim Ossege, aka seiLeise, who grew up in Mülheim, has said.
Regular street art tours lead past the cathedral city’s particularly creatively designed quarters, offering a more detailed introduction of both the artists and their works. Anyone looking to set out on a larger tour on their own can take their bicycle and do the roughly 20-kilometre-long Street & Urban Art Tour.
Street art and the catholic church are very close to each other in Paderborn: Following an initiative of the General Superior of the Vincentine Sisters in Paderborn, graffiti artists have designed one of the monastery’s walls, applying more than 100 metres of graffiti art to turn the wall, called the “Busdorfgalerie”, into one of the city’s photogenic sights. The Secret City Festival, with national and international sprayers meeting up to redesign façades within the city every summer, has ensured the annual addition of further works since 2021. Even science is covering graffiti in Paderborn: The “Informationssystem Graffiti in Deutschland” (INGRID), located at the university, is tackling systematic exploration of graffiti inventories in the Federal Republic. Anyone interested can get a current overview of street art in Paderborn on two different round tours in which a scene expert guides participants through different quarters.
Brightly coloured city jungles may be thriving in many places in the Ruhr area, but street art is particularly colourful in Dortmund, where the Unionviertel quarter constitutes a vibrant hot spot with its many large murals. The 44309 Street Art Gallery is part of it, not only offering urban art for the living room at home, but also inviting graffiti artists from around the world now and then to design façades in the city. Another site here is the Dortmunder U, a cultural centre, observation tower, and city landmark that serves at the starting and end point of guided street art tours and contains the Unionviertel quarter’s namesake: The building used to house the fermenting and storage cellars of the Union Brauerei brewery until the 1990s.