Harald Naegeli in Cologne – Sprayer and Draughtsman

9 March – 12 June 2022

Harald Naegeli (*1939), known as the “Sprayer of Zurich”, came to Cologne in late 1979.
At the time, he was being prosecuted in Switzerland for illegally spraying graffiti. The artist escaped to Cologne, finding refuge at the home of WDR reporter Marianne Lienau, who had done a story on Naegeli together with her colleague Hubert Maessen. Lienau’s flat was located in the Agnesviertel district of the city. The artist, 40 years old at the time, used it as the base for his nightly wanderings through the city. At first, he continued with the activities he had begun in Zurich, spray-painting imaginative figures both on sites of beauty as well as eyesores of his choosing. He soon developed a new artistic theme in Cologne, which he explored in the period from late 1979 to 1981 by spray-painting countless skeletons and skulls on legs, the majority of which had been destroyed by 1982. Today, most of the documentary evidence of his work exists only in the form of historic photographs. A graffiti exhibition held by the art museum Kölnischer Kunstverein in 1982 under the direction of Wulf Herzogenrath, “Eine andere Malerei” (“A different kind of painting”), included documentary photographs of the skeletons produced by the “Sprayer of Zurich”. This exhibition brought the skeletons legendary fame as a complete art series entitled Kölner Totentanz (The danse macabre of Cologne). Most of these figures no longer exist today, but a number of them were documented as part of the exhibition.
Naegeli is known as one of Europe’s first graffiti artists. Less well known are his drawings on paper. In 2018, he gifted Museum Schnütgen with 102 drawings and a portfolio of etchings. The exhibition presents a selection of these works, which range from small-scale representational pieces to the large-scale, mystical ink drawings of the Urwolke (Nebula) that are composed of countless delicate strokes and stipples applied by pen.

The exhibition thus allows Naegeli’s works to enter into a dialogue with the medieval objects of the museum.

A catalogue for the exhibition has been published by the Verlag der Buchhandlung Franz und Walther König. It is available for 18€ in the museum shop.


Adult ticket (incl. permanent collection): 6 €, concession: 3.50 €
Combo ticket Museum Schnütgen and Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum: 10 €, concession: 7 €
Group rate permanent collection (from 10 persons): 3.50 € per person

Concession tickets: for students 

Free admission: for children under 6 years of age when accompanied by an adult, school students, apprentices, Cologne residents under 18 years of age, holders of the Köln-Pass and for Friends of the Museum.