18.–22.11.2020 #artcologne2020

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ZADIK special exhibition Hall 11.1, C 29

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 research] 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 2020.

The journalist Helmut Rywelski only operated his art intermedia gallery in Cologne for a brief five years, but these five years were decisive. The professional knowledge and mastery of public communication with which Rywelski had earned his money as a journalist since the beginning of the 1950s characterised both his gallery programme and his intensive media education of the art 'in and between all medias' he represented at a time of the dynamic medialisation of public life.

Helmut Rywelsk in the exhibition Konkrete-Kritik

Helmut Rywelsk in the exhibition Konkrete-Kritik

Of the numerous exhibitions, editions and actions, some examples remain particularly memorable. The same is true of the story of Cologne's most famous Rywelski vestige: Vostell and Rywelski wrote art history with the Ruhender Verkehr [Stationary traffic] action sculpture created by Wolf Vostell in October 1969, involving the embedding in concrete of his six-year-old Opel Kapitän 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 exhibitions, editions and actions, such as Vacuum ↔ Mass. After Beuys, H. P. Alvermann was the artist most favoured by Rywelski.

H.P. Alvermann in his studio in Düsseldorf with Nazi piggy bank

H.P. Alvermann in his studio in Düsseldorf with Nazi piggy bank

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, 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, and with which the Director of ZADIK of many years, Günter Herzog, takes his leave and hands over responsibility to Nadine Oberste-Hetbleck.

Dieter Roth Decomposition, Photo Kloten

Dieter Roth Decomposition, Photo 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.

About 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.