Cologne 07.–10.11.2024 #artcologne2024

EN Icon Pfeil Icon Pfeil
EN Element 13300 Element 12300 DE

Round Anniversaries - 1

At this year's ART COLOGNE there are some anniversaries to celebrate, for example 40 years of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and 50 years of Galerie Baronian.

Thaddaeus Ropac in front of the painting „View out of the window“ by Georg Baselitz

Thaddaeus Ropac in front of the painting „View out of the window“ by Georg Baselitz, 1982 © Barbara Gindl/ Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

The early 1980s marked a resurgence of art from German-speaking regions.

Artists like Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, and Sigmar Polke were gaining increasing international recognition. Their works were featured in major museum exhibitions in New York and London, and at the Venice Biennale.

It was during this era that 23-year-old Thaddaeus Ropac, a native of Klagenfurt, Austria, decided to establish a gallery in Salzburg that would mirror these artistic developments. Ropac had initially aspired to become an artist himself but realized, after a brief stint assisting Joseph Beuys, that it wasn't his true calling. In 1983, he founded Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. It has since grown into one of the world's foremost galleries for contemporary art, with branches in London, Paris, Salzburg, and Seoul.

The artwork „Embrace III“ by James Rosenquist

From the anniversary exhibition 40 years of Ropac: James Rosenquist, „Embrace III“, 1983 © Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

My first gallery was really provincial

The beginnings were humble, as Thaddaeus Ropac recounted on a previous anniversary of his gallery: “When Andy Warhol visited my small gallery in Salzburg in 1984, he was taken aback. My first gallery on Kaigasse 40 was really provincial, and I couldn't even afford proper frames. Even Joseph Beuys, who had a profound influence on my life, wasn't impressed. I was part of the artistic underground. I hardly sold anything at the time, but influential figures were present.”

However, thanks to these valuable artist connections and a keen sense of emerging trends, the gallery expanded rapidly. American artists who were relatively unknown in Austria at the time, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, and Keith Haring, were among the first to have solo exhibitions at the new gallery. Similarly, the young gallery owner succeeded in integrating essential German and Austrian artists such as Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, VALIE EXPORT, and Maria Lassnig into his program.

The gallery's portfolio has become progressively diverse

In 1990, Ropac expanded by opening a branch in Paris, underlining its claim to play a significant role in the increasingly global art market. Today, Paris is the gallery's most important location. In addition to the primary gallery in Marais, it occupies expansive 4,700-square-meter spaces in the suburb of Pantin, which were inaugurated in 2012 with a spectacular Anselm Kiefer exhibition.

Ropac Gallery, boasting a workforce of over 100 individuals and maintaining offices in Hong Kong and New York, presently represents some of the world's most sought-after artists, including luminaries such as Antony Gormley, Georg Baselitz, and Roberto Longo. The gallery has continued to evolve, attracting younger talents like Daniel Richter and Adrian Ghenie.

Over the years, the gallery's portfolio has become progressively diverse and international, now encompassing artists from regions as far-flung as Kashmir, Pakistan, and South Korea. On the occasion of the gallery's anniversary in Salzburg in August, Thaddaeus Ropac made a surprising revelation to Handelsblatt newspaper. He said that he finds running a gallery today easier than it was forty years ago. He remarked, “Art used to be confined to the ivory tower, characterized by a certain exclusivity. Today, it's more accessible, and there's a great sense of curiosity. We now enjoy a level of diversity and openness that didn't exist in the 1980s.”

„Ancient Copses“ by Dean Monogenis

At ART COLOGNE, Baronian Gallery is showing "Ancient Copses" by Dean Monogenis, 2022 © Courtesy Galerie Baronian

Albert Baronian also celebrates an impressive 50-year milestone in the world of art galleries. The 77-year-old Belgian established his gallery in 1973, initially operating out of his private apartment in Brussels. Right from the start, the gallery focused on avant-garde positions: "What motivated me was the fact that I found myself in front of a body of work that asked me questions that I could not immediately grasp or understand,” he remarked in an interview with the online magazine Widewalls this summer.

Notably, Baronian introduced Arte Povera artists such as Alighiero e Boetti, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, and Gilberto Zorio to both local and international audiences, a practice typical of Belgium‘s vibrant art scene. Looking back, he attributes the most significant driving force behind his gallery to the encounters and conversations with the artists themselves, saying, “I never really had a strategy; in fact, I hate that word.”

Installation view of the anniversary show "Quinquagesimum"

Installation view of the anniversary show "Quinquagesimum" curated by Albert Baronian at the Fondation CAB. © Fondation CAB

Within a few years, the Albert Baronian Gallery, originally named Delta, rose to prominence as one of Europe's foremost destinations for contemporary art. Simultaneously, the gallerist played an active role in Brussels as an art advocate, serving as the president of the gallery association and co-initiator of Art Brussels.

In a grand anniversary exhibition at the Fondation CAB, Baronian currently presents 33 significant artistic positions under the title “Quinquagesimum,” marking a special moment in his career as a gallery owner. The exhibition features works by Lynda Benglis, Daniel Dezeuze, Gilbert & George, Bernd Lohaus, and Olivier Mosset, among others. The exhibition showcases artists he discovered in their early phases, who later moved on to larger galleries, as well as artists his gallery still represents. A striking aspect of the show is the virtual absence of figurative art.

While Albert Baronian is now thinking about calling it quits and visiting studios less frequently than in the past, there are still emerging artists who evoke a sense of wonder in him. Concurrent with the anniversary exhibition, Baronian Gallery presented its first solo show featuring the young Belgian painter Yann Bronder. Letting go, it seems, is not so easy.