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Art Cologne - Interview with Gérard A. Goodrow

This is an interview of Artfacts.Net and Vernissage TV with Mr Goodrow, director of Art Cologne.

AfN: How did you come to the art world?

G. Goodrow: It's a strange story. I actually studied cultural anthropology specialising in shamanism. I had a great professor who said to me: if you are really interested in this topic, there is this german artist, Joseph Beuys, and people say he has something to do with shamanism. So I went to the university library and took out the catalogue of the Guggenheim exhibition and the next day I changed my opinion - there I realized that art history can be like that. Since then I've been an art freak.

AfN: Art Cologne, the longest established fair for modern and contemporary art had lost its position as leading art fair worldwide.
What were your main challenges as you began to run the fair? What has been your policy in these three years?

G. Goodrow: I think the biggest problem when I came about 3 years ago, was that the Art Cologne had a bad image. I think it is a great fair, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the job. But it has this image that it is too conservative, too stiff, that you can't sell art here well. The big challenge was to make people realize that being the oldest fair is quite good. Means we have all the experience, means that we are more secure. You don't always have to be cool. It is ok to grow old in a worthy way, and I think that is what we are getting across more and more. We want to make people clear that we are not about hype, we are more about slow art, and that is a good thing, because we want to be around the next four years. You need some seriousness. The art world is in fact based on trust, I don't know if I trust all the hype, so maybe we are a bit slower, but we are a bit more serious, and I think we will be around in the next decades and will all the other fairs popping up-will they be around?

AfN: Two big decisions have been taken: the reduction from 250 to 180 galleries, and the fair will be held in spring from 2007.
What do you expect with these changes? How was the reception in the art community, especially in Cologne?

G. Goodrow: The reception was actually quite good because the ideas came from the art community. We have been thinking about it for a long time, making the fair smaller, changing the dates, but in a concrete way it all started last December, after the last Art Cologne, where several Cologne galleries started a kind of campaign within the local press saying 'wouldn't it be good to reduce the size, wouldn't it be good changing the date?' and we were kind of forced to react. It actually helped that they were protesting this way. We have seen that it is the right decision, because making the fair smaller means it is more doable. It was getting out of hand, it was just too big, people were getting tired and that is not good for the sales. And moving the date - because there is so much going on in fall between September and December, it is like every week something is going on in the international art market. There is no time to breath, not only for us but for the collectors, for the galleries, for the press, for the museum people.. We discovered through this whole discussion, through that changes that the people really do like us. The image transferred is working. They like us but they are tired in the fall, you cannot do everything, you cannot be somewhere else every week. So the reception was really good. I am sure it is going to have an effect on the fair next year, even more than this year, because with the reduction of size and the new date in April I am sure we are going to have more and better visitors, even better galleries, because now we have excellent galleries participating, but even better, more galleries from foreign countries, right now we have about 50% foreign galleries, but we would like to have more foreign galleries, and that will be easier in the spring.

AfN: Nowadays there is a huge and growing number of fairs worldwide. What makes Art Cologne different?

G. Goodrow: I think the special on the Art Cologne it is that we have a long tradition - we are not worried about growing old. What makes us special is that for the Art Cologne art is a center of attention in the art market. It is a trick I learned while I was working at Christie's: if you show the public that you share their passion about the art, they are going to be more enthusiastic themselves, they are going to be more loyal public. Most galleries don't earn that much money, galleries could do something else, what is about money. Most collectors do something else than collecting, collecting is their hobby, it is not their main thing, and they are spending a lot of money because they are passioned about it. It is the same thing with the art press. We all know that art journalists don't get paid that well, so why do they do it? Because they are passioned about it. We want to show that we share, so we are putting art in the center of the attention, like here in the open space. It is about the art, and not about money behind the art.

AfN: The co-event art.fair is growing and next year will take place for the first time dc düsseldorf contemporary. Do you see them as competitors or complementary?

G. Goodrow: I think the art.fair and next year dc, I see them as something complementary. We had at the Art Cologne a whole century plus in art, from the German Expressionism up to youngest trends. The art.fair is a fair for affordable art, dc is planning to be a fair for hot young contemporary art. Let's see what happens in April, because it isn't existing yet. But I see it as complementary. It can't be competition because we are forty years old and we do have the whole century. Maybe they can put some fire under us, but they are not going to harm us. I think if dc is as good as they say it is going to be, it is great for the whole Rheinland, then it means it's another highlight within the Rheinland.

AfN: Will you work together with the city of Cologne to strengthen a concept of art city as it was described by Anneke Oele for Art Amsterdam and Jennifer Flay for the fiac?

G. Goodrow: The great thing about the Art Cologne is that it's always worked together closely with the city of Cologne. I have seen in other cities as in Paris or Amsterdam this attempt. I was at the fiac last week. Paris is always an art city - did the fiac really contribute to that? - and Amsterdam as well. We are working here this year already very closely with the city. We have the "Lange Nacht der Museen", which takes place during the art fair, various exhibitions in the museums, in Kunstvereinen or in galleries, that are focused around the Art Cologne. We are going to strengthen that even more. But in the end and I've had this discussion many times whithin the city of Cologne, with the galleries in Cologne, that is not really our job, our job is to create a great fair. It should be the city's job and the galleries' job to do their part to make sure that Cologne is attractive. There is so much we can do as a fair and I would like to put as much attention as I can to the fair itself, I owe that to my clients which are the galleries here at the fair.

AfN: Some gallery owners say that there is too much attention on classical modernism and the fair is not focusing enough on young galleries and new artists. What is your point of view? Is that going to lead to the fact that all fairs are focused on emerging art?

G. Goodrow: It's a great say that 'all art was contemporary'. You need the context of the classical modern and post-war art to understand and have a context for the young art. I don't think we have too much focus on classical modern. We have about 20 % classical modern, maybe 25% post-war art, and then the rest is contemporary. We have the oldest and I think one of the best programmes for young talents 'the new talents' programme, we have the oldest and one of the best programmes for young galleries 'the new contemporaries', we have 'open space' with a great focus on contemporary art. But we need the balance. For me a great example to understand someone like Neo Rauch isn't it helpful to have within the same hall or nearby works by Kippenberger, works by Picabia, going back to the first half of the century. Then you've got a context of where the current art is coming from, especially with the youngest artists, you need the context even more. That is one of the things that makes the Art Cologne special. There are very few fairs nowadays where you have the whole century plus. You have it in Basel, to a certain extent in Paris, and to a certain extent in Madrid. But otherwise you have almost only contemporary. To me it gets kind of boring when all the fairs look the same. I don't want to be just like Basel, don't want to be just like Miami. I think it is great that the Art Cologne has its own profile. And that profile is being serious about art, and if you are serious about art, Picasso belongs to it as well.

AfN: What means for you quality in art?

G. Goodrow: Qualitity in art, I think that even though contemporary art looks like it is breaking away from all the rules of the classical tradition, you can still use the same criteria. It is still important that a composition is right, it is still important that an artist knows how to work with the medium he or she is working with. If you are a painter you should know the rules of painting, because before you can break rules, you have to know what the rules are. So I think that criteria for qualitity are the same, and they have always been there. What comes as an extra thing today is that the works have to be more globaly understood, because now a work of art through the internet or through high speed travel can be seen in various contexts at the same time. And you have to live up to that. Something interesting you see is that art is more understandable on a global level, that is a good criteria for quality.

AfN: Do you have a motto?

G. Goodrow: Yes, and I think it works well with this fair and with life in general, and it is a quote from my dad, which is: " It's hard to soar with the eagles when you're stuck down here with the turkeys".

Interview: Patricia Blasco

Watch this interview as an video on Vernissage TV: Part 1 and Part 2

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