A cowboy's work is never done

A visit at Heliumcowboy Artspace

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Jörg Heikhaus is a maker and an urban art pioneer. The Cologne native exhibits international art in his gallery – and nails Instagram photos to the wall.

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Rudolf Klöckner

Rudolf David Klöckner is a curator, blogger and author from Hamburg.

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Photos: Roeler

The Heliumcowboy smells of wood and freshly ground coffee beans. Jörg Heikhaus opens the heavy metal door to his gallery rooms in the basement of an old brick building. His handshake betrays that the bearded gallery owner doesn't sit all day in front of the computer, but works hands-on himself.

Instagram photos made of wood hang on the wall – neatly lined up, like the Instagram feed on a smartphone. Picture for picture, little squares with “likes” and “comments” – except that they're real-world and carved in wood. In the next room, a black punch-bag hangs from the white ceiling.

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From river Rhine to river Elbe

The Elbe drew Jörg away from the Rhine around 20 years ago. Born in Cologne, he was one of the first gallery owners at that time to focus on urban art and create a permanent exhibition room for the relatively young art form. The gallery he would have liked to visit in Hamburg didn't exist. So he just created it himself.

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He opened „heliumcowboy artspace“ in St. Pauli in the early 2000s. He's been testing the boundaries of classic art presentation with his gallery and deliberately challenging the established norms of the white cube ever since. International artists and pioneers of urban art like Boris Hopek and Victor Castillo have shown their work here, as have the young, edgy artists David Shillinglaw and Julia Benz.

The pioneering Hamburg gallery moved from St. Pauli to Neustadt almost 10 years ago. Several young galleries have now grown up close by, guests can stroll from one interesting exhibition to the next in the neighbourhood. If you drop by the Heliumcowboy while you’re out, come with a bit of time to spare – not just to look at the art works, but also to chat about art and the world in general with the founder and owner over a cup of good coffee.