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INVENTORY OF THE GALERIE SCHMELA RECORDS, 1923-2006, bulk 1957-1992
2007.M.17  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Other Finding Aids note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Galerie Schmela records
    Date (inclusive): 1923-2006, bulk 1957-1992
    Number: 2007.M.17
    Creator/Collector: Alfred Schmela Galerie
    Physical Description: 102.63 linear feet (175 boxes, 26 flatfile folders)
    Repository:
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Galerie Schmela was one of the most important art galleries in Germany in the postwar period. Through a prescient program of exhibitions, founder Alfred Schmela introduced and promoted innovative European and American artists, such as Joseph Beuys, Arman, Gerhard Richter, the group ZERO (Otto Piene, Günther Uecker, Heinz Mack), Hans Haacke, Christo, Lucio Fontana, Robert Indiana, Yves Klein, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jean Tinguely, Richard Tuttle, and numerous others. Mainly concentrated on the 1950s through the 1970s, the Galerie Schmela records include: correspondence with artists and clients; gallery financial records; vintage photographic documentation of installations, gallery openings, and artworks; and extensive files of printed ephemera, posters, and press clippings.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is predominantly in German, with some material in English or French

    Biographical / Historical Note

    When German art dealer Alfred Schmela opened a gallery devoted to contemporary art in Düsseldorf in 1957, the moment was propitious. The industrial Ruhr area in which the gallery was located had especially benefited from the prosperity of the postwar "Economic Miracle" coming out of the policies of the Adenauer government and the American Marshall Plan. The new climate of wealth encouraged art collecting. With Germany divided and decentralized after the war, Düsseldorf and Cologne were becoming significant and influential art centers. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and municipal exhibition venues, Kunsthalle and Kunstverein in both cities, opened their doors to contemporary art. At the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Joseph Beuys attracted and influenced students and independent artists from the time of his appointment as professor of sculpture in 1961 until well into the 1970s.
    Schmela's first gallery was in a small shop in the Hunsrückenstrasse 16-18, which opened with an inaugural exhibition of Yves Klein on May 31, 1957. The gallery operated at this location until December 1966, and in January 1967 moved temporarily to the Schmela family's apartment. Also in 1967, Schmela, together with Hein Stünke, Rudolf Zwirner, and several other local art dealers, co-founded the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler (Association of Progressive German Art Dealers), which took part in its first annual art fair, the Kölner Kunstmarkt. Schmela resigned from the association in 1968 to focus on promoting emerging artists and his gallery.
    Schmela's new gallery building, designed by the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck, opened in September 1971. The distinguished new space, located near the Kunsthalle, opened with the Beuys show Barraque d'Ull Odde 1961-1967, and became one of the first galleries in Germany to exhibit the "new" Americans Gordon Matta-Clark in 1977 and Bruce Nauman in 1979. In the mid-1970s, Schmela began showing large sculpture and multimedia installations by artists such as Bernhard Luginbuehl, Richard Serra, and Claes Oldenburg at the Lantz'sche Villa and Park, the Schmela family's new residence in Düsseldorf-Lohhausen. This project was not fully realized due to Schmela's death in 1980.
    The artists exhibited at Galerie Schmela searched for a new kind of art after the war and often worked in reaction to Art Informel. Schmela played a pivotal role in the development of ZERO, a collaborative movement founded by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack in Düsseldorf in the mid-1950s in opposition to Art Informel. In 1961 Günther Uecker joined the group, which eventually incorporated the work of Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Daniel Spoerri, and Jean Tinguely, among others. Schmela's artists represented various, often overlapping tendencies such as kinetic art, performance, Happenings, Nouveau Réalisme, the European form of Pop, and auto-destructive art, as well as having a general fascination with perception and technology. Schmela was a personal friend of Joseph Beuys and a committed advocate of his art. Galerie Schmela was the site of Beuys's now famous action, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, on 26 November 1965. Also in 1965, Beuys participated in another important exhibition at Galerie Schmela, Weiss-Weiss.
    Schmela maintained a heavy exhibition schedule and was committed to placing his artists in museums. Among numerous exhibitions that contributed to his gallery's reputation are Klein's Yves propositions monochromes, in 1957; Tinguely's Konzert für 7 Bilder und andere Skulpturen (Concert for seven paintings and other sculptures), in 1959; Arnulf Rainer's Übermalungen (Overpaintings), in 1962; two Beuys shows in 1965; Robert Morris's 1964 exhibition and performance with Yvonne Rainer; and other shows in the 1960s, including Christo's packages and storefronts, Robert Indiana's number Paintings, Arakawa's diagrams, George Segal's plaster sculptures, and Günther Uecker's first solo show of nail pictures in 1961. From 1957 to 1980, the following artists had their first solo or group exhibition in Germany at Galerie Schmela: Yves Klein (1957), Antoni Tàpies (1957), Georges Mathieu (1957), Sam Francis (1958), Jean Tinguely (1959), Konrad Klapheck (1959), Lucio Fontana (1960), Arman (1960), Martial Raysse (1961), Günther Uecker (1961), Morris Louis (1961), Kenneth Noland (1962), George Segal (1963), Robert Morris (1964), Jörg Immendorff (1965), Joseph Beuys (1965), Gordon Matta-Clark (1977), and many others.

    Other Finding Aids note

    The gallery's annotated copy of the auction catalog Schmela Auktion 1, a portfolio of prints issued on the occasion of the 1967 Kunstmarkt in Cologne, a sound recording of a discussion which took place at the opening of Galerie Schmela's inaugural 1957 exhibition of Yves Klein's Yves Propositions monochromes, and approximately 50 monographs and periodical issues, including several artists' books, are cataloged separately but form part of the archive. Their individual records can be searched under the Accession no. 2007.M.17.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers, except unreformatted audiovisual materials.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Galerie Schmela records, 1923-2006, bulk 1957-1992. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2007.M.17

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2007.

    Processing History

    The archive was initially processed by Laura Schroffel, who also created a preliminary finding aid. Isabella Zuralski further processed the archive, created the final series arrangement, and completed writing the finding aid in June 2011. The biographical/historical note was adapted from text by JoAnne Paradise.

    Separated Materials

    Several periodical issues and monographs, including two rare publications on Joseph Beuys, were transferred to the Getty Research Library for individual cataloging and can be found by searching the library catalog for Galerie Schmela Collection.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Galerie Schmela records reveal the work of a passionate art dealer focused on seeking out and promoting new and innovative artists emerging in the changing social, political, and cultural landscapes in postwar Europe and the United States. The archive documents the gallery's business under Alfred Schmela's direction from the inaugural show in 1957 until his death in 1980, as well as the continuation of the gallery by Schmela's widow and daughter during the 1990s, with a few items dated to 2006.
    The most substantial series comprises correspondence with artists, collectors, art dealers, museums and museum curators, and art critics, revealing Schmela's instrumental role in shaping the art market by introducing innovative and challenging contemporary art to private collectors and museums. Extensively represented is correspondence with Shusaku Arakawa, Joseph Beuys, Christo, Lucio Fontana, Michael Gitlin, Robert Indiana, Christian Löwenstein, Georges Mathieu, Robert Morris, Walter Pichler, Otto Piene, Raphael Jesús Soto, and Richard Tuttle.
    In Series II are the particularly extensive files Schmela developed on some of the artists with whom he worked. The Joseph Beuys files contain ephemera, press clippings, typescripts, printed matter by various authors and institutions concerning his artistic practice, teaching, and political activism, and correspondence including the gallery's exchanges with Beuys's estate and family, and with clients. The files on Yves Klein and ZERO include correspondence, ephemera, typescripts, extensive press coverage. The Klein file also contains a recording of the opening of his first solo show at Galerie Schmela in 1957, labeled "Diskussion anlässlich der Ausstellungseröffnung Yves propositions monochromes."
    Series III contains several hundred vintage photographs of openings, performances, artists installing their shows, visitors, collectors, installations, individual artwork, and Alfred Schmela himself and his family.
    A small series of materials concerns Alfred Schmela's first auction, held on the premises of Künstlerverein Malkasten in Düsseldorf on 15 June 1963, and another small series contains business records and ledgers.
    A sizable collection of ephemera in Series VI consists of small catalogs, invitations, a few artists' books, and numerous posters documenting exhibitions of a vast number of artists, mostly contemporary, from Europe and North America.
    In Series VII press clippings from the mid-1950s to late-1990s, primarily from local daily newspapers, include reviews of exhibitions held at Galerie Schmela and elsewhere in Germany and abroad, articles about current trends in contemporary art, art criticism, the politics of art, Alfred Schmela, individual artists, collectors, museum curators, art dealers, various art institutions, and the Kölner Kunstmarkt.

    Arrangement

    Organized in seven series: Series I. Correspondence, 1957-2002, undated; Series II. Selected artists files, circa 1957-2006, undated; Series III. Photographs, circa 1957-1992, undated; Series IV. 1963 Galerie Schmela auction, 1962-1969, undated; Series V. Financial records, 1965-1978, undated; Series VI. Ephemera, circa 1957-1992; Series VII. Press clippings and publications, 1953-1992, undated.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Arakawa, Shūsaku, 1936-2010
    Arman, 1928-2005
    Beuys, Joseph
    Christo, 1935-
    Fontana, Lucio, 1899-1968
    Gitlin, Michael, 1943-
    Haacke, Hans, 1936-
    Indiana, Robert , 1928-
    Klein, Yves, 1928-1962
    Löwenstein, Christian, 1943-
    Mack, Heinz, 1931-
    Mathieu, Georges, 1921-
    Matta-Clark , Gordon , 1943-1978
    Morris, Robert, 1931-
    Pichler, Walter, 1936-
    Piene, Otto, 1928-
    Rainer, Yvonne, 1934-
    Richter, Gerhard, 1932-
    Schmela, Alfred, 1918-1980
    Soto, Jesús Rafael, 1923-2005
    Tinguely, Jean, 1925-1991
    Tuttle, Richard, 1941-
    Uecker, Günther, 1930-

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Kölner Kunstmarkt
    Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler

    Subjects - Topics

    Art dealers--Germany--Correspondence
    Art, Modern--20th century
    Art--Collectors and collecting--Germany--History--20th century
    Artists--Correspondence
    Museum curators--Correspondence

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Artists' books
    Black-and-white negatives
    Black-and-white prints (photographs)
    Clippings (information artifacts)
    Color photographs
    Color slides
    Color transparencies
    Etchings--Germany--20th century
    Gelatin silver prints--Germany--20th century
    Mail art--20th century
    Posters--Germany--20th century
    Printed ephemera
    Prints--Germany--20th century
    Screen prints--Germany--20th century
    Sound recordings--Germany--20th century

    Contributors

    Arakawa, Shūsaku, 1936-2010
    Arman, 1928-2005
    Becher, Bernd, 1931-2007
    Beuys, Joseph
    Brandenburg, Paul
    Christo, 1935-
    Fontana, Lucio, 1899-1968
    Gitlin, Michael, 1943-
    Haacke, Hans, 1936-
    Indiana, Robert , 1928-
    Jansen, Bernd, 1945-
    Klein, Yves, 1928-1962
    Klophaus, Ute
    Löwenstein, Christian, 1943-
    Mack, Heinz, 1931-
    Mathieu, Georges, 1921-
    Matta-Clark , Gordon , 1943-1978
    Morris, Robert, 1931-
    Naar, Jon
    Pichler, Walter, 1936-
    Piene, Otto, 1928-
    Richter, Gerhard, 1932-
    Ruthenbeck, Reiner, 1937-
    Schmela, Alfred, 1918-1980
    Soto, Jesús Rafael, 1923-2005
    Strelow, Liselotte, 1908-1981
    Tinguely, Jean, 1925-1991
    Tischer, Manfred, 1925-
    Tuttle, Richard, 1941-
    Uecker, Günther, 1930-
    Vogel, Walter, 1932-
    Wilp, Charles