A Success Story
The 50th Edition of ART COLOGNE

Founded in 1967, ART COLOGNE is taking place for the 50th time this year. Deutsche Bank is celebrating this anniversary with a special exhibition. At the fair, it is showing 50 artworks from its collection that were created in 1967. In addition, the bank is again sponsoring the „NEW CONTEMPORARIES“ sector. Achim Drucks reveals what else the jubilee edition of the fair has to offer.
It was a revolutionary step. In 1967, Cologne-based gallery owners founded the world’s first contemporary art fair. They wanted to establish a new art center, promote young German artists, kindle collectors’ enthusiasm for current positions and strenghten the German gallery  scene. The plan worked. What began as Kunstmarkt Köln '67 featuring 18 German galleries in the historic Gürzenich festival hall has this year attracted 219 participants from 25 countries to the spacious exhibitions halls in Köln-Deutz. And today the Rhineland still boasts one of the largest number of artists and collectors in Germany.

As a partner of ART COLOGNE, Deutsche Bank is of course on hand at the jubilee edition. The bank has mounted a special exhibition titled “1967 – A Year in 50 Artworks.” The selection of works from the corporate collection on exhibit illustrates the spirit of change that took hold of West German society at the time. Whether it is Georg Baselitz’ anti-heroic “Hundejunge,” Rupprecht Geiger’s shimmering color compositions, or Uwe Lausen’s reckoning with his parents’ generation – one always feels a mood of renewal in the exhibition. This atmosphere is reflected particularly by the works on display from the Graphics of Capitalist Realism portfolio published by René Block. One of Germany’s youngest gallery owners, Block was an important pioneer of progressive contemporary art at the time and took part in Kunstmarkt Köln. What all of the artists represented in his portfolio had in common was their critical commentary on the consumer society. Not without humor Karl Horst Hödicke’s Magic Window Cleaner II immerses the world in red, while KP Brehmer’s The Feeling Between the Fingertips reduces advertising messages to absurdity. Half a century later, Wolf Vostell’s Starfighter, Sigmar Polke’s Weekend House, and Konrad Lueg’s Babies still remain unsurpassed when it comes to coolness and irony. The fact that these artists, together with Block, published their works as silkscreen and offset prints was part of the idea. They consciously rewrote the rules of the art market by producing affordable avant-garde art for everyone without didactic finger-wagging. “Der Spiegel” entitled its report on the first edition of the fair “Pop mit Profit” (Pop with Profit), reflecting the public’s keen interest in contemporary art.

Today visitors encounter innovative positions above all in „NEW CONTEMPORARIES“. The Deutsche Bank-sponsored sector enables galleries that have been around for no more than ten years to participate in ART COLOGNE at preferential conditions. Among the galleries selected are Nanzuka (Tokyo), Hezi Cohen (Tel Aviv), and Kate Werble (New York). The Berlin art scene is especially well represented. Names like Aanant & Zoo, Chert, Duve, Exile, and Soy Capitán have strong programs and cleverly curated presentations. Soy Capitán banks on colorful paintings by Grace Weaver that revolve around themes such as love and adolescence. The New York artist’s pictures are like pop songs, blending influences from Warhol, Balthus, and Indian miniature painting. Those who find these works too playful might discover something they like at Aanant & Zoo, where Michael Müller’s conceptual drawings are on view.

The international heavyweights are accommodated in Contemporary Art, the fair’s largest section. Galleries such as Perrotin (Paris), Max Hetzler (Berlin/Paris), and Krinzinger (Vienna) are either present at the fair for the first time or have returned to Cologne after an absence. Among the long-standing exhibitors are names like Hauser & Wirth (Zurich, London, New York), Thaddaeus Ropac (Salzburg/Paris), Sprüth Magers (Berlin, London, Los Angeles), and David Zwirner (New York, London).

The Collaborations sector aims to promote cooperations between artists, but also between galleries. For example, Kalfayan (Athens/Thessaloniki) and mirko mayer/m-projects (Cologne) curated a group exhibition on migration, uprooting, and identity – themes that dominate current social debates in the light of the refugee crisis. Another highlight is the project launched by Guido W. Baudach (Berlin) and Delmes & Zander, (Cologne/Berlin). They are showing Thomas Zipp, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, in dialog with Adelhyd van Bender, an outsider who died in 2014. During his lifetime, Bender covered thousands of sheets of paper with geometric shapes and color fields. The two artists share an interest in mathematics and organization systems, as well as in spirituality and the unconscious. The joint presentation is like an absurd experimental arrangement that seeks to ban chaos in the world with the help of a scientific system.

Stuart Ringholt is the author of what may very well be the most sensational action at this year’s Art Cologne. The Australian artist has two projects at the fair. In front of the entrance hall, he placed five cars on whose license plates words such as “curator” and “art critic” can be read. While such personalized plates are normally reserved for luxury cars, here they adorn discarded small vehicles that stand like foreign elements in the parking lot. It is a sarcastic comment on status in the art scene. Ringholt’s private tours of the fair dispense with status symbols. You will not see the participants holding Prada handbags or wearing Margiela tops, because like the artist they are all naked. Ringholt, who was represented with performances and workshops at Biennale of Sydney and the documenta, already carried out this action at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and the National Gallery of Art in Canberra. His goal is to enable the audience to become part of an artwork due to a completely new reception experience. The guided tours take place outside of the fair’s opening hours and in camera. Perhaps not all of the participants will experience art in a new way. But they will all venture out of their comfort zone – and that is something art should try to provoke, at least once in a while.

4/14/2016 – 4/17/2016
Hall 11, Köln-Deutz Fairgrounds