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RETHINKING BISMARCK 26 July to 14 August 2023

Decolonising Hamburg – Presentation of the submitted competition designs for the contextualisation of the Hamburg Bismarck Monument.


In August 2022, an open international competition of ideas for the contextualisation of the Bismarck Monument in the Alter Elbpark was launched in cooperation between the Hamburg Ministry of Culture and Media and the Hamburg Historical Museums Foundation (SHMH). People from the arts, architecture and civil society were called upon to develop approaches to thinking and designing how the monument’s complex references to colonialism, National Socialism, discrimination and issues of social justice can be made visible and encourage people to engage with the history of the monumental statue. The aim of the competition was to identify artistic ideas for a critical and contemporary engagement with the monument and to give space to perspectives on the historical statue that have received little attention to date.

Prior to this, the Department of Culture and Media had already organised several workshops in 2021 in which it invited experts from Germany and abroad to discuss the historical significance of Bismarck, in particular his role in German colonialism, and to discuss proposals for an appropriate treatment of the monument. A 13-member independent jury of experts from the fields of art, culture and science, including representatives of diasporic-migrant initiatives that have long been critically engaged with Hamburg’s colonial past, had dealt intensively with the submitted proposals in a two-stage competition process: In the first step, all interested parties could develop ideas and submit short concept sketches. From the 76 submitted designs, eight were selected by the independent jury and their authors were invited to submit a differentiated elaboration for a second round of the competition. At its meeting on 5 July 2023, the jury unanimously decided that a single artistic intervention did not fulfil the task in all its complexity and facets and recommended that the focus of the process be shifted more strongly to mediation and social discourse in the next step of the process.

From 26 July to 14 August 2023, all the designs submitted for the competition will now be made accessible to the public in analogue and digital form at the Museum of Hamburg History, in the direct vicinity of the Bismarck Monument. The presentation of the submissions can be visited during the museum’s opening hours.On all Thursday evenings, when the house is open until 9 p.m., the visit is possible from 5 p.m. with free admission.For complete transparency, 78 submissions will be shown as part of the presentation, including two entries that were not submitted on time and were sorted out by the jury in the first round of judging.The eight designs of the second competition phase will probably also be shown for a longer period beyond 14 August.