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Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona Pays Tribute to Gallery Owner Konrad Fischer
A view of the exhibition 'En casa de Konrad Fischer' (In Konrad Fischer's House) at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA), Spain, 13 May 2010. The exhibition running until 12 October, presents some 300 artworks by about 40 artists from the collection of German gallery owner Konrad Fischer (19391996). In the 1960s, Fischer opened a 30-square-meter gallery in Duesseldorf, Germany which developed into a laboratory of artistic ideas that spread across Europe and to the United States. EPA/MARTA PEREZ.
BARCELONA.- A single exhibition was enough to give him worldwide fame. The venue? A corridor, ten metres long and three wide in a city that was little more than a backwater in contemporary art: Düsseldorf. It all started with Carl Andre, but was followed by a long list of great artists who turned that 30-square-metre space into a challenge and a springboard. Konrad Fischer opened his tiny gallery in the heart of Düsseldorf in 1967, quickly turning it into a laboratory for brilliant ideas that expanded throughout Europe and into the United States. Fischer was also an enormous influence on a generation of artists who led one of the last avant-garde movements in western art in the second half of the 20th century. The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), firstly, and the Museum Kurhaus Kleve, later, invite spectators to come “Bei Konrad Fischer”, to Konrad Fischer’s “home”, as his gallery was known. There we can discover some 300 works by 40 artists, a treasure-trove assembled by Dorothee and Konrad Fischer over nearly half a century. Some have never before been seen, others rarely, and many are dedicated to members of the Fischer family, illustrating the close relationship that they developed with artists. With this exhibition, MACBA once more takes up its series devoted to European collections. Having presented the Onnasch Collection in 2001 and the Herbert Collection in 2006, it is now the turn of Dorothee and Konrad Fischer. The show is accompanied by a catalogue, published jointly by MACBA, the Museum Kurhaus Kleve and Richter Verlag, designed by Walter Nikkels, with texts by Thomas Kellein, Roland Mönig, Guido de Werd and Friedrich Meschede. Moreover, a parallel lecture season will enable audiences to learn more about Konrad Fischer’s life and work as an artist, exhibition curator and promoter of a network of international relations.

The artists featured in this exhibition, entitled “With a Probability of Being Seen. Dorothee and Konrad Fischer. Archives of an Attitude”, are Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, Stanley Brouwn, Daniel Buren, André Cadere, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Dan Flavin, Gilbert & George, Eva Hesse, Douglas Huebler, Donald Judd, Harald Klingelhöller, On Kawara, Jannis Kounellis, Wolfgang Laib, Jim Lambie, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Konrad Lueg, Robert Mangold, Piero Manzoni, Walter Marchetti, John McCracken, Mario Merz, Juan Muñoz, Eadweard Muybridge, Bruce Nauman, Giuseppe Penone, Manfred Pernice, Angelika Platen, Robert Ryman, Gregor Schneider, Thomas Schütte and Lawrence Weiner.

The show is divided into three sections, devoted respectively to Konrad Fischer’s activities as artist, exhibition curator and gallery owner. The first part of the title refers to a work by Lawrence Weiner, HAVING BEEN MARKED WITH (i.e. decorated) HAVING BEEN DECORATED WITH (i.e. marked) WITH A PROBABILITY OF BEING SEEN, which was shown at Konrad Fischer’s gallery in 1977. The second part, “Archives of an Attitude”, alludes to Harald Szeemann’s 1969 show “Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form”, at the Kunsthalle in Bern. It also serves to underline a characteristic that distinguished this gallery from all others: Konrad Fischer cultivated a peculiar attitude towards the people he knew. Hardly speaking, he transmitted a special notion of art. He took particular pleasure in the personal stances that artists took, what Szeemann translates directly as “attitudes”. In 1972, Szeemann invited Fischer to direct, in cooperation with Klaus Honnef, an essential section at Documenta 5 in Kassel, entitled “Idee + Idee/Licht” (Idea + Idea/Light).

Konrad Lueg – Artist
Konrad Fischer (Düsseldorf 1939–1996) influenced the art of the 1960s and seventies in many ways. In the beginning of the sixties, Fischer studied painting with Bruno Goller and Karl Otto Götz at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, where he became friends with other artists such as Manfred Kuttner, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. It was together with Richter that Fischer, in October 1963, organised an event entitled Living with Pop – A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism in a furniture store in Düsseldorf. This first public appearance of the two artists was a performance, a happening, an alternative exhibition outside the conventional white cube of the art gallery and a protest rolled into one.

Konrad Fischer, who during those early years painted under the name of Konrad Lueg, his mother’s maiden name, soon counted among the young avant-garde artists in West Germany. The first chapter of this exhibition is dedicated to Konrad Lueg, with a selection of works made between 1964 and 1969. The first motifs come from the world of sport – football players and boxers – and are then followed, from 1965 onwards, by a preoccupation with the phenomenon of serial motifs and patterns, for which he uses industrially produced textiles and plastic films that are either painted, feature simple shapes or are combined to form multi-piece wall installations. Lastly, in Paris (1968) and Munich (1969), Konrad Lueg exhibited canvases painted in phosphorescent colours that momentarily capture the shadows of passing viewers cast by photographic flashlights.

Dorothee and Konrad Fischer – Gallery and Archive
On 29 October 1967, Konrad Fischer opened an exhibition space for contemporary art at 12 Neubrückstrasse, Düsseldorf, with the floor sculpture Altstadt Rectangle by the American sculptor Carl Andre. What used to be a gated passageway now served as a gallery, although Fischer deliberately avoided the term ‘gallery’ and simply called his exhibitions ‘At Konrad Fischer’s’. In his new capacity as a promoter and curator, Fischer invited the international avant-garde of his generation to Düsseldorf, mainly with the idea of realising site-specific projects for this unusual, singular space. The chronology of the exhibitions that took place during the first few years reads like an encyclopaedia of the Minimal and Conceptual art of those years. Many young artists, both from Germany and abroad, had their first solo shows at Konrad Fischer’s, from where their works later found their way into significant private and public European collections.

Presented in this exhibition is a selection of works from the archive – an accumulation of many years of collaboration with artists – which marked the lives of Dorothee and Konrad Fischer, not least because the couple lived in their very midst. Viewed in hindsight, the key works of art of the time in sculpture were those of Bruce Nauman, Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin. In Conceptual art it was Sol LeWitt, Hanne Darboven and Richard Long, in painting Robert Ryman and Robert Mangold, and in the field of Conceptual photography Bernd and Hilla Becher and Jan Dibbets. The entire early works of Gilbert & George can be seen, as well as a wonderful piece by Eva Hesse, who regrettably died much too early for any lasting collaboration. Works by On Kawara, Piero Manzoni, Joseph Beuys and Giuseppe Penone, together with an impressive group of works by Mario Merz, complete the picture of the markedly European development of Conceptual art of those years.

In the early 1980s Konrad Fischer sought to make a new beginning with artists of a younger generation, as documented by works by Thomas Schütte, Wolfgang Laib and Harald Klingelhöller, and Juan Muñoz, all of whom benefited from the international network that Fischer had established. The exhibition ends with one of the most recent works from the archive, Room for a Day by Gregor Schneider. Konrad Fischer was convinced that there were always good artists, whatever the period.

Some of the works in this exhibition are subtitled with dedications – ‘For Konrad’, ‘For Dorothee’, ‘For Berta’, ‘For Kasper’ – and thus testify to the intimate relationship that existed with those artists who were at home ‘at Konrad Fischer’s’. Konrad Fischer’s extensive promoting and curatorial activities make one thing clear above all else, namely a specific attitude towards art, an attitude that enabled Fischer to develop – both for himself and for all who entered into this dialogue – a different life philosophy and to live by it.

Konrad Fischer – Curator
In addition to the multitude of projects that Konrad Fischer realised in the gallery, he also exercised his curatorial ambitions beyond the walls of 12 Neubrückstrasse. When Cologne’s first Art Market, initiated by the Association of Progressive German Art Dealers, took place in the summer of 1968, Konrad Fischer criticised it because only German art dealers were invited to take part. Together with Hans Strelow, Fischer organised, in the shortest conceivable time, the counter-exhibition Prospect 1968 at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf and invited – as though obeying the dictates of a manifesto – only international galleries and their artists. The next edition of Prospect took place in 1969, continuing the trend of bringing the international avant-garde to Düsseldorf for a week. The internationalising and awakening processes of the art world in Europe during those years were clearly ascribable not least to Fischer’s initiative of curating exhibitions in public institutions, but also to his committed programme of exhibitions at his own gallery. In 1969 Fischer also curated the now legendary exhibition Konzeption/Conception. Documentation of Today’s Art Tendencies at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen. Prospect 71. Projection exclusively addressed contemporary photography and film/video and was the very first European art exhibition to be devoted to video and film.

Fischer’s involvement, moreover, went in both directions, for he also brought the young European avant-garde to New York in the exhibition de Europa at the John Weber Gallery in 1972. In the same year, marking the zenith of Konrad Fischer’s curatorial activities, he curated, together with Klaus Honnef, an important section of Documenta 5 entitled Idea +Idea/Light. The exhibition Prospect 73. Malers/Painters/Peintres, which took place in 1973, was devoted to contemporary trends in painting. 1976 saw the development of a new type of exhibition for the final edition – ProspectRetrospect. Europa 1946–1976 – of this series. Finally, in 1979, Konrad Fischer organised an exhibition in Zürich entitled With a Certain Smile.

Together with documentation from the Konrad Fischer Gallery, the material of his other curatorial activities is presented at the MACBA Study Center for the very first time and completes the picture of Konrad Fischer’s complex personality; an influential figure who undeniably played a significant role in the development of Conceptual art during those early years.

Museum of Contemporary Art | Barcelona | Konrad Fischer |


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