5 years of avant garde: Helmut Rywelski's art intermedia, Cologne 1967-1972
An exhibition about the Cologne gallery owner Helmut Rywelski
The Zentralarchiv für deutsche und internationale Kunstmarktforschung [Central Archive for German and International Art Market Studies] ZADIK, is showing an exhibition about the Cologne gallery owner Helmut Rywelski, who caused a furore between 1967 and 1972 with his art intermedia gallery and his critique of the commercial art business, at ART COLOGNE 2021.
The journalist Helmut Rywelski only operated his art intermedia gallery in Cologne for a brief five years, but these five years were decisive. He represented art "in and between all media" during a time of the dynamic medialisation of public life. Especially socially engaged, critical and political art was his theme, and as long as he himself was part of the new art market, he at the same time combated it, until, after a period of five years, he acknowledged the inexorable economisation of the art business, "this conversion of art into money [...], so that one is far more occupied with the capitalisation of art than with the promotion of art, with the stimulation of art", and capitulated.
Helmut Rywelski in the exhibition KONKRETE KRITIK with prints from the portfolio "Die verbesserte Olympia-Edition", Galerie art intermedia, Cologne, Dec. 3, 1971, photo: Anita Kloten, ZADIK Bestand A103
Cologne's most famous Rywelski vestige
Of the many exhibitions, editions and actions, several examples are especially noteworthy. Thus, Cologne's most famous Rywelski vestige, which wrote history: Wolf Vostellcreated the Ruhender Verkehr [Stationary traffic] action sculpture, in which his six-year-old Opel Kapitän was embedded in concrete at the edge of the road in front of the gallery building at Domstraße 81.
The sculptor Ansgar Nierhoff was Rywelski's own 'discovery' – and contact was established through Nierhoff with his teacher Joseph Beuys, who was at that time still in the process of establishing his artistic identity. Beuys made a considerable contribution to the avant garde status of the gallery with several contributions, such as Vacuum ↔ Mass. After Beuys, H. P. Alvermann was the artist most favoured by Rywelski.
Hans-Peter Alvermann in his studio with the multiple "Notstandsschwein", photo: Wolf P. Prange, ZADIK Bestand H6
German Emergency Pigs
Rywelski had originally hoped to open the gallery with him, if Alvermann's "Nazi pigs" had not come up. These plastic piggy banks, conceived of and sold together with Wolfgang Feelisch as multiples, which Alvermann had painted over in black, red and gold with a swastika over the slit as a critical reference to the "Emergency Laws" decreed on 30 May 1968 by the Bundestag, were actually called German Emergency Pigs.
However, painting with legally prohibited National Socialist symbols allowed the artist, although a registered member of the German Communist Party, to appear suspicious. The legal dispute of many years arising from this is very well documented in the archive of the gallery and can be read about in ZADIK. The decompositions of the "mould and decay art" of Di[e]ter Rot[h], with which the artist and gallery owner caused a furore, also continued to reveal their impact long after the closure of the gallery as a component of the art collection of Rywelski and could only be stopped by decisive disinfestation measures when they were found in Rywelski's apartment and basement following his death in 1998.
Also there in the basement was the archive, from the valuable stores of which the coming exhibition and the, at more than three-hundred pages, most extensive edition of the ZADIK sediment series could be created, with which the ZADIK sets a highlight, in the face of its transfer to the University of Cologne and the succession of the Directorate from Günter Herzog to Nadine Oberste-Hetbleck.
Helmut Rywelski in his booth at the "International Art and Information Fair", Düsseldorf, 1972, photo: Anita Kloten
The exhibition and the publication 5 Jahre Avantgarde: Helmut Rywelskis art intermedia, Köln 1967-1972 [5 years of avant garde: Helmut Rywelski's art intermedia, Cologne 1967-1972] are based on the stocks of the archive of Helmut Rywelski, which has been located since 2017 in ZADIK.
The Zentralarchiv für deutsche und internationale Kunstmarktforschung ZADIK is a scientific institute of the University of Cologne and concentrates on the archiving, critical and reflective research and mediation of the history, structures and developments of international art systems. Its stocks now encompass more than 170 archives of gallery owners, art dealers, art critics, curators, specialist photographers and other actors of the art market.
ZADIK was founded in 1992 by the Bundesverband deutscher Galerien (BVDG) [German association of German galleries] as the world's first special archive for the history of the art trade and was transferred to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Cologne in 2020.