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Artistic competition for the Bismarck monument starts News

How could one deal artistically and critically with the colonial history of the city around the Bismarck monument in Hamburg? Artists from all over the world should ask themselves this question in the coming weeks. The artistic competition to deal with the Bismarck monument will begin in mid-January, as Hamburg’s Senator for Culture Carsten Brosda (SPD) told the German Press Agency.

“It’s about the question of which artistic intervention is made possible, that’s a different form of perception and also the refraction of perception.” This has to do with the fact that part of the story is also negotiated beyond the museum discourses. “This could be a very exciting project.”

The tender documents of the Hamburg Historical Museums Foundation are also written in English, French, Arabic and Spanish in order to be able to address international artists with the competition. The documents should be submitted by the end of February. A jury will decide on progress by the end of May. “The first results should be available in the summer,” said Brosda. The winning design receives prize money of 15,000 euros.

The 34 meter high building has been a listed building since 1960. According to the Hamburg-Mitte district office, it is currently being renovated. According to a spokeswoman, the work should last until around the second quarter of 2023.

According to Brosda, the competition for the Bismarck monument is currently the city’s most tangible process of dealing with the colonial legacy. By mid-December, the city of Nigeria had returned the first Benin bronzes, most of which were stolen by British soldiers from the former Kingdom of Benin in 1897 and later sold. Hamburg owns 179 of these bronzes, which now all belong back to Nigeria. Two thirds of them should also find their way back to Africa, the rest may remain on permanent loan in the Museum am Rothenbaum (MARKK).

The city will also continue to deal with the issue of colonialism, said Brosda. “There are many other points that have something to do with the question: ‘How do we deal with colonialism in terms of culture of remembrance? How do we react to this if, of course, we haven’t reacted at all for many decades? It does not work anymore. That is rightly claimed.”

This does not have to be laid as a foil over all relevant debates in the city. “But when it comes to colonial testimonies that have glorified colonialism so far, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves whether we really want to leave it as it is in our 21st-century public space.”

Announcement by the Hamburg Historical Museums Foundation Information on the “Decolonize Hamburg!”

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