In the late 1960s, the Rhineland developed into a world-class art centre, with a high density of galleries. In 1968, Günther Engels thus titled a report in the daily newspaper Kölnische Rundschau ‘Köln, heimliche Hauptstadt des Kunsthandels’ (Cologne, the Secret Capital of the Art Trade). One important location factor in this process was the Kunstmarkt Köln (Cologne Art Market), founded in 1967 and known since 1984 as the Art Cologne. It was the world’s first art fair worldwide to specialise in modern and contemporary art. Initially, the primary objectives of this temporary exhibition and trade platform were to further the art trade in Germany, promote German artists, and establish a new centre for the art trade in post-war Germany. As the fair was originally only open to members of the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler (Association of Progressive German Art Dealers), it was soon confronted with the competition of different initiatives in the Rhineland, as well as internationally with rival events of different formats (e.g. Art Basel in 1970). The goal of ART | GALLERY GIS | COLOGNE is to shed light on the history of the Kunstmarkt Köln→Art Cologne during its first thirty years, with a focus on the gallery owners as one main group of protagonists of the art fair. The key questions are:
• How has the composition of the participating galleries changed over the course of time?
• When and in which ‘surges’ did foreign galleries gain access to the fair?
• From which countries did they come?
• And: To what extent was the national and local art trade present at the fair?
The concept behind the Kunstmarkt Köln→Art Cologne was developed by the Cologne-based gallery owners Hein Stünke and Rudolf Zwirner. In 1966, together with sixteen other German gallery owners, they founded the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler, the sole task of which was to organise this art fair. In 1973, the association was re-established as the European Art Dealers Association and, in 1974, was superseded as organiser of the fair by the Federal Association of German Galleries (known under its German acronym BVDG). In addition to the practical organisation of the art fair, the professional activities of these associations were developed consistently further. In 1997, the Art Cologne was then taken over by Koelnmesse. The BVDG became, and remains to this day, the so-called ‘ideal partner’ of the Art Cologne. This caesura also marks the preliminary end of the investigation period of the ART | GALLERY GIS | COLOGNE.
ART | GALLERY GIS | COLOGNE
An open-access digital art market history project by the Optional Core Module Art Market Studies, Department of Art History, University of Cologne.