On October 25 2022, the Art Prize of the City of Munich was awarded to Cosy Pièro for her life achievement as an artist. The laudation was held by our member Philipp Gufler, which you can find here. Congratulations to Cosy Pièro!
Dear guests of the celebration party,
Dear Cosy Pièro,
Today I am especially pleased as an artist to hold the laudation for the Art Award of the City of Munich for the life’s work of Cosy Pièro.
I first heard of Cosy through my artistic research at the self-organized Forum Queeres Archiv München, where I have been researching queer history since 2013. I was immediately fascinated by her work and heard about her impressive life story through conversations with contemporary witnesses at the Forum: Cosy was born in Cologne in 1937. Her great-great-great-grandfather was the Flemish freedom poet Hendrik Conscience, her father, who died in 1941, worked as an actor and cabaret artist, her mother as a model and dancer. After various stays with her parents in Prague and Austria, Cosy attended elementary school in Cologne. Already at the age of 14, she left home and decided to study art: An uncommon decision for a young woman in the 1950s, which already shows her extraordinary independence, her desire for freedom and her self-reliance. She was successful and studied painting and ceramics from 1952 to 1957 at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Cologne, at the Royal Belgian Academy in Brussels and at the Picasso Workshop in Vallauris in the south of France.
In the south of France, Cosy lived with Formula 1 racing driver Jean Pitont. During the relationship with Pitont, who was a very tolerant partner, she started having relationships with women again. When she was expecting her third child, Pitont had a fatal accident on the race track in Cannes. She then moved back to Germany and from then on lived in Munich as a single mother with her son Jean-Pierre. To make a living, Cosy founded the legendary artists’ bar Bei Cosy in 1962. She never wanted to open a lesbian bar, but a place “where all existences mixed, felt comfortable with each other, got to know each other and tolerated each other. That was something new to begin with.”1 Every two months she organized a big party where everyone would dressed up to a specific theme. She also invited drag queens and drag kings to perform. To ensure that on Sunday evenings the bar would also be crowded, Cosy composed the chanson songs Babettchen, Haben Sie das auch?, Raunz nicht, Warum soll eine Frau kein Verhältnis haben? and Wen hast du Lieb, which she performed together with Meike Illig on piano.
Bars that are run and designed by artists and function as social meeting places are not uncommon in the history of art. Cosy also worked as an artist during her bar career: “I was a bar owner and an artist at the same time. For me, it always belonged together.”2 At Bei Cosy and other queer bars, she showed her infamous series of drawings that were confiscated and most likely destroyed in 1963 due to the Bavarian Schmutz und Schundgesetz. The drawings showed, for example, cats with women’s heads and huge breasts performing various acts with each other. After various searches in police archives in Munich I could not locate the drawings. Unfortunately we were denied access to many files due to a mold infestation. Together with the artist Richard John Jones I decided to reopen the Bei Cosy in 2015 at the art space Lothringer13_Florida in Munich and in 2017 at Rongwrong in Amsterdam as a temporary queer bar. The invited artists were asked to respond to the lost works of Cosy as a gesture of solidarity, while reinventing and reinterpreting these works from their own perspective. We also showed Cosy’s work Vielleicht Haben Wir Solch Grosse Sehnsucht Ja Verdient ?!- (engl.: Maybe We Have Deserved Such Great Longing ?!-) from 2007, a handwritten inscription in white chalk on a trapezoidal school slate.
Since our collaboration for the temporary Bei Cosy bars in Munich and Amsterdam, I have become friends with Cosy and her wife Anne Osmers regardless of our age difference. I am happy that this has also allowed me to get to know her artistic work better and better, and I have visited her at her former studio in Dachauerstraße. When I moved to Munich to study at the Academy of Fine Arts a few years ealier, I was disappointed how heteronormative and sexist many of the students and the almost exclusively male professors were. The friendship with Cosy and Anne as well as other people I have met at the Forum Queeres Archiv München mean so much to me, as they have become something like a queer art family for me.
I have been able to learn so much from Cosy and her work over the last few years. Even though she has continued to evolve as an artist over the past nearly seven decades, her artistic signature remains clear throughout. Cosy’s work spans various forms of expression including painting, performance and action art, artists’ books, poetry, sculpture, installation, and video art. Her favorite medium, however, has always remained her work on paper. In the erotic drawings already described and other works from the 1960s and 1970s, one sees even stronger Surrealist influences than in her later work. Especially the sensual, often homoerotic depictions of women in this phase, freed from sexual constraints, seem surprising at a time when the new feminist movements of the 1970s portrayed female sexuality in a less open or mostly lackluster way.
At the beginning of the 1980s, after twenty years, she handed over Bei Cosy to her then partner and again concentrated exclusively on her art. Her work from this period makes it palpable that she had a lot of catching up to do as an artist. In the 1980s, she created large-scale paintings, larger-than-life sculptures, and room-filling installations. On the poster for her 1985 solo exhibition at Dany Keller Gallery, we see Cosy in white overalls and white sneakers sitting in front of four 2.40 meter tall figures. The figures are cut out of black-painted wooden panels, and each figure has a real, folded magazine or newspaper stuck in a slot in its head. Cosmogram, a 5.60 by 1.60 meter painting on wood, features yellow silhouettes painted with sweeping brushstrokes. Another sensual-figurative painting from 1984 is the work Auch Erdbeeren zünden (engl.: Strawberries also ignite), which shows a strawberry with a burning fuse in the genital area. Cosy has also published her own poems in the accompanying exhibition catalogue at the Dany Keller Gallery.
In 1985 she receives the Förderpreis of the city of Munich and in the same year a documentary by Gabriele von Arnim about Cosy was broadcast by ZDF as part of their Frauengeschichten-series. Over the next few years, many more solo exhibitions followed, including at Galerie Rosenberg in Zurich, Galerie Jan van Tuyek in Ghent in Belgium, as well as participations in art fairs such as Art Cologne, Art Basel and Art International Zurich, and numerous group exhibitions in Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy and Belgium. Works by Cosy are in the collection of the Schweisfurth Foundation, the Bavarian State Painting Collection, the German Leather Museum in Offenbach and the Beck Forum in Munich, among others. At the Brudermühlstraße subway station in Munich, two of her works were installed in 1988 and can still be seen today. Hanging on the wall above the tracks are two figures made of sheet metal – one in gold, one in silver, facing each other. Another Kunst am Bau-project was created in 1985 at Munich Riem Airport with the design of the advertising spaces at pier B15 on the theme of “Human+Computer”. Even after she gave up Bei Cosy she continued to maintain contact with the queer and feminist scene in Munich and designed the poster for the lesbian-gay cultural week “München leuchtet VioRosA” (engl. Munich shines VioRosA), which took place in 1985 in the Munich City Museum, the Lenbachhaus and the Vollmar House and was organized by former city councilor Gerd Wolter.
Since the 1990s, in addition to more abstract works on paper and canvas, she has also created other pieces with text on leather, fabric or other objects, in which she deals with language with great sensitivity and humor, but also shares her own doubts. On an artwork based on a flyswatter made of wood and rubber she has handwritten the sentence: Der liebe Gott hat mit nix was zu tun (engl.: The dear God has nothing to do with anything). On a work of art made from a pillow she printed the handwritten words “Beruhig dich,” (engl.: calm down) and on a pair of leather shoes she wrote in adhesive lettering “Gehen Lassen” (engl.: let go). In 2004 Cosy released the CD Ein Tröpfchen Liebe noch …? (engl. One drop of love still…?) with poetic texts and aphorisms that she recorded herself. Most recently, in her new project Entwurf für eine neue Sprache (engl. Draft for a New Language), she has dealt with linguistic research and formulates a utopian form of communication before humans were ‘conditioned’. This new language does not include negatively connoted terms such as words of violence, hate, scolding or even commands.
Besides her own artistic activity, Cosy has always supported and promoted other artists and collectives. Already in 1969 she opened the short-lived Galerie Cosy in the Cittá 2000 and showcased drawings of other artists. From 1982 to 1985 she founded the Werksatt Brücke 7, which hosted exhibitions and provided studios for seven artists such as Rabe perplexum and the performance collective minimal club. Cosy curated Rabe perplexum’s posthumous retrospective at the Rathausgalerie in Munich in 1998. The two were close friends, and when Rabe perplexum’s apartment was about to be dissolved after her untimely death at the age of 39 Cosy, along with Elfe Brandenburger and Carmen Marchwinski, took care of Rabe’s estate, which initially had to be temporarily stored in Cosy’s studio. To honor her commitment to Rabe’s work, we have included Cosy’s drawing Künstleridioten (engl.: Artist Idiots) from the late 1980s in the exhibition Eccentric 80s. Tabea Blumenschein, Hilka Nordhausen, Rabe perplexum and Contemporary Accomplices at Lothringer 13 in Munich. Cosy also taught other artists at the Workshop for Art and Culture in Fratte Rosa in Italy and at various locations in Munich. Most recently, Cosy has been involved in the Städtisches Atelierhaus Dachauerstraße Munich and has tirelessly told young people about her life as an artist in various contemporary witness talks in queer-feminist contexts. Especially a young and queer generation of artists can identify with her independent work, her courage, her sensitivity and her maxim:
Make it public, the more public the better.
I can fully agree with the last sentence of the jury’s statement for this art award of the City of Munich for Cosy Pièro’s life’s work: “The city’s art award honors the achievements of an influential artist and person who has never received the institutional attention she deserves.” Now that the jury included not only politicians but also directors and curators from the Museum Brandhorst, Museum Villa Stuck, Kunstverein München, Haus der Kunst, Lenbachhaus, and the Goetz Collection, I hope that nothing will stand in the way of finally honoring Cosy’s work on an institutional level. For too long, queer and female artists have been underrepresented or completely overlooked by state and city organizations. It took the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich until 1995 to appoint a female artist as a professor. There is still so much to do and catch up with! There are so many more works by Cosy to rediscover that I could not mention in this laudation due to time constraints!
Dear Cosy, I am especially happy that we have been able to work together again for half a year. Together with the artists Jan Erbelding, Leo Heinik and Maria VMier we are working on a new issue of the Ruine Magazine, which will be published soon and will show historical photos from the influential Bei Cosy bar as well as artworks of you, which were created during and after your bar activities. You are a great role model for me as a younger artist. I am grateful for your support, the many encounters as friends and art colleagues, and the shared experiences over the past eight years. I admire you for your extraordinary courage, your openness, your humor, your joy of life and your perseverance. I am delighted to be able to celebrate with you this great tribute to your work this evening, which has been a long time coming.
Dear Cosy, thank you for your art!
1 Bei Cosy, by Cosy Pièro, announcement text of the temporary bar at Rongwrong in Amsterdam, 2017.
2 Cosy Pièro erhält den Kunstpreis der Stadt für ihr Engagement ‒ So prägte sie München in den 60ern und 70ern, by Daniela Borsutzky, Hallo München, Sept. 21, 2022.
by Philipp Gufler