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Galerie Paul Maenz Köln records, 1956-1991 (bulk 1970-1990)

Finding aid for the Galerie Paul Maenz Köln records, 1956-1991 (bulk 1970-1990)

Biographical /Historical Note

Galerie Paul Maenz Köln was instrumental in introducing avant-garde art of the 1970s and 1980s to what was initially a German audience, but would later move beyond to the rest of Europe and North America. The gallery functioned as a facilitator for artists to realize their work in a new context. This was particularly important in the early years of the gallery, which focused on the difficult-to-exhibit Conceptual Art. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the gallery embraced the new painting of the young Italian Trans-avantgardists and the German Neo-Expressionists. With the help of Maenz's representation, the German artists in particular had a profound impact on Cologne's importance as a cultural and artistic center.

Paul Maenz was born December 7th, 1939 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. After he finished school he apprenticed at a department store, then worked at a printing company. Maenz found this period to be "more or less excruciating." In 1958 Maenz enrolled in Folkwangschule für Gestaltung, Essen, and studied under Max Burchartz. Maenz stated that, "the concept of this school, developed along Bauhaus lines, was to give individual talents room to develop --to encourage rather than direct them toward a specific goal."

In the mid 1960s Maenz worked as an assistant art director for Young & Rubicam, an American advertising agency, in Frankfurt. There he met Peter Roehr, who, through his work, had a profound impact on how Maenz thought about art. They remained friends until Roehr's untimely death in 1968 at the age of 24. Maenz represented the Roehr estate and frequently exhibited his works at the gallery.

Maenz lived in New York City from 1965-67, while still working as an art director for Young & Rubicam. He also founded "Kineticism Press" with Willoughby Sharp, which was "dedicated to the total distribution of artistic information in all media." It was during this period that Maenz bought his first art work from Sol LeWitt's studio. This was "Structure," LeWitt's first modular construction.

In 1967 Maenz moved back to Germany. He organized the influential exhibition "Serielle formationen" with Peter Roehr for the University of Frankfurt. Many of the artists, such as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Jan Dibbets and Agnes Martin, were seen here in Germany for the first time. Maenz also organized "19:45-21:55," a multimedia event lasting about 2 hours, in which he invited artists to create ephemeral situations. Konrad Lueg (aka Konrad Fischer) was one of the participants. Lueg opened a gallery shortly thereafter in Düsseldorf and exhibited the artists whom he had met in Frankfurt. "It is Fischer's achievement to have developed along with his artists a totally new individual type of gallery, which was taken as a model for other avant-garde galleries, here and abroad; I should think my own gallery has profited from it when it was formed later in 1970/71."

Maenz gave up advertising in 1968. He opened a head shop called "Pudding Explosion" with Roehr in the Frankfurt Holzgraben. "After two intense years during which this shop also became commercially profitable, it cancelled itself out as 'alternative to the status quo,' and so I closed it."

In 1970 with the encouragement of his friend Gerd de Vries, Maenz opened a gallery for contemporary art in Cologne. He contacted many Minimal and Conceptual artists for their ideas and suggestions of other artists to exhibit. Most of these artists, including Joseph Kosuth, Robert Barry, Art & Language artists, David Askevold, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin and Hans Haacke, a German expatriate living in New York, were well-known in their own countries, but had shown very little in Germany. Fischer was the only gallerist at the time in Germany showing the same kind of work.

The gallery officially opened on January 16th, 1971, with a Hans Haacke exhibition. Two years later a second gallery in Brussels was opened, with less success. Situated at Belgium 195, Avenue Louise, it closed the following year. The main gallery in Cologne moved three times: once in 1976 from Lindenstraße 32 to Lindenstraße 23, again in 1978 to Schaafenstraße 25 and lastly in 1983 to Bismarckstraße 50, which was an old factory with an interior space designed and built by Thiess Marwede.

The early exhibitions of the gallery primarily featured the Conceptual artists mentioned above. By the mid 70s, Maenz was slowly moving away from Conceptualism. He began to show the work of the Italian artists Salvo and Giulio Paolini. His interest in the Trans-avantgarde culminated in 1978 when the gallery had what Maenz called the "Italian Year." The gallery only exhibited works by young Italian artists such as Giuseppe Penone, Francesco Clemente, Luciano Fabro, Mimmo Paladino, Salvo, Sandro Chia and Paolini. Maenz followed up with the "Arte Cifra" show in 1979.

The end of 1980 was a turning point for the gallery and for German art in general. Maenz organized the landmark exhibition "Mülheimer Freiheit & Interessante Bilder aus Deutschland," which introduced younger German artists working in Neo-Expressionism. The exhibition showed that the generation of artists after Beuys, who were, like Kiefer, interested in painting and rediscovering German tendencies prior to World War I. For the next four years these artists, which included Martin Disler, Walter Dahn, Jiri-Georg Dokoupil, Hans-Peter Adamski and Peter Bömmels, exhibited throughout Germany and the rest of Europe in major museums and galleries.

Maenz's client list reads like a who's who of German contemporary art collectors. Friedrich Rentschler, Gerhard Sohst, Helmut Anton Krätz, Hans-Joachim Etzold and Peter Ludwig were among the many who looked to Maenz for information and advice. He was in frequent contact with museum directors and curators, such as Jean-Christophe Ammann, Dieter Koepplin, Zdenek Felix, Kasper König and Grazia Nunn, about acquisitions and exhibitions.

Furthermore, Maenz cooperated extensively with other galleries. In addition to borrowing works from Gian Enzo Sperone and Studio Marconi for his Italian program, when the Mülheimer Freiheit group became successful Maenz loaned works to Ileana Sonnabend, Leo Castelli, Mary Boone, Marian Goodman, Asher/Fauer, Ascan Crone, Reinhard Onnasch, Six Friedrich and many other galleries throughout North America and Europe. Maenz also exhibited his artists annually at the Basel art fair and Köln Kunstmarkt, and at various Documenta and Prospekt exhibitions.

In 1975, de Vries became an editor at DuMont Buchverlag, which published many of Maenz's books. De Vries' involvement with the publishing world might explain the gallery's prolific publishing activities. Some sort of catalog, large or ephemeral, was produced for almost every exhibition. Additionally, Maenz was friendly with the critics Germano Celant and Wolfgang Max Faust, both of whom wrote texts for the gallery's yearbooks.

As the Neo-Expressionist artists became successful and began to leave the gallery, Maenz was unable to find others to replace them. The increasingly commercial aspect of the art world was not interesting to Maenz, who decided to close the gallery in 1990 after the Kiefer exhibition. He felt the times had changed too much. Maenz stated, "I liked the idea that my own gallery should close while still in conditions that corresponded to the idealism with which it opened."

Maenz moved to Berlin in 1993. He believed there were more opportunities in East Germany for "someone who wanted to start all over again." He donated his private collection of 150 paintings, sculptures and projects, and 170 drawings to the Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar in 1994 for its opening in 1998.




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