A History of the First Modern Art Fair by Günter Herzog

1967-1969: 'Kunstmarkt Köln'

In order to obtain municipal funding for the launch of Kunstmarkt Köln it was necessary to set up an organization. To do this, Stünke, Zwirner and sixteen other dealers founded the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler [association of progressive German art dealers].
A deal was struck with the municipal arts Dezernent Kurt Hackenberg to allow the association to use the Gürzenich as the venue for its event. All entrance takings were to go to the city treasury. And so the first Kunstmarkt Köln was staged in the entrance area and banqueting hall of the Gürzenich in the five days between 13 and 17 September 1967. The galleries exhibiting were: Aenne Abels, Cologne; Appel & Fertsch, Frankfurt; Block, Berlin; Brusberg, Hanover; Gunar, Düsseldorf; Müller, Stuttgart; Neuendorf, Hamburg; Niepel, Düsseldorf; op-art Galerie Mayer, Esslingen; Ricke, Kassel; Schmela, Düsseldorf; Springer, Berlin; Stangl, Munich; Thomas, Munich; Tobies & Silex, Cologne; and van de Loo, Munich.

Prices ranged between DM 20 – for works on paper – and DM 60,000 for top-of-the-range objects. In its five-day run, the Fair booked astonishing turnover figures of one million D-marks. To put the turnover figure in context: at the time, a brand-new VW beetle cost DM 5,150 – about three times as much as a good-sized Gerhard Richter oil. A West German dealer and a West German artist set new records at the 1969 edition of Kunstmarkt Köln: René Block sold a work by Joseph Beuys – known later as Das Rudel – at DM 110,000, making Beuys the first West German artist to beat the one-hundred-thousand mark.

1970-1973: 'Kölner Kunstmarkt'