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Art Cologne: Interview with Gerard A. Goodrow

The Art Cologne was founded 1967 and is the oldest art fair in the world, which always took place in fall, this year it moved its date to spring. Artfacts.Net and talked to Gerard A. Goodrow, who is since 2003 the director of the Art Cologne.

AfN: Mr. Goodrow, how are your first impressions from the Art Cologne? There was a lot of discussion about changing the date. Now at the third day of the fair, what can you already say about it?

Goodrow: We have in our special section Open Space a kind of motto this year. It's called: "A Springtime Revolution". I had the feeling that it's for the whole fair, not just for Open Space because there's just a springtime feeling. Everyone is very positive. You can see it in the visitors, in the exhibitors, the museum people that are coming. The sales have reflected this. There have been fantastic sales already. There's just a good feeling in general.

AfN: Already at the last Art Cologne you choose to reduce the numbers of participating galleries and to change the look of the fair. How can you describe the process. Is it already finished or ist it more a slow development? For example there are now more exhibitors than last year.

Goodrow: In the past couple of years, we have made a lot of changes, not just an addition of Open Space, we've been reducing the fair, changing the date. There are slightly more exhibitors this time than last time, a little bit more. But in general, basically, after all these years of changes - also in terms of the turbulent market and all the changes that are taking place internationally, what we want to do now, is offer a little bit of stability. Most of the changes taking place, you'll see minor things being improved here, but basically right now, it's time to settle down and say: "We've come to where we want to be. Now it's just a matter of raising the quality."

AfN: Concurrently there are two samller art fairs in Cologne and the DC fair in Duesseldorf. The ones in Cologne can be described as satellite fairs. But the approach of the DC is to choose international operating galleries. From your point of view, can the DC be a danger for the Art Cologne or is this development a chance for the whole region and can the Art Cologne also benefit from this constellation?.

Goodrow: To be honest, I think that the three fairs are comparable in a certain sense. I think they are all satellites which I don't mean in any way negative, but none of these fairs would exist without the Art Cologne. DC has a marketing policy where they present themselves as being a major fair. "International" does not make you great - the quality of works makes you great. The fair opened yesterday, we'll see if it's a great fair or not. We have the saying in Cologne: you have to 'gönnen können' - you know, give them a chance! Let's see what happens.

Generally, I think, it is a sign of how good the Art Cologne has become because if we were not good, we would not have three satellites around us. And I think that the art market is strong enough in the region and in Germany in general to take care of all of this. There is enough buyers out there. If it will benefit from it? - Maybe, because it shows the strength of the region for the outside world, maybe it's another reason to come. But again, we'll see. We are in the middle of the Art Cologne, the beginning of Duesseldorf, Brussels is opening today, Frankfurt closed last week, and Vienna opens up next week... We'll see what happens.

AfN: The DC Duesseldorf gets a strong support from the city council. There were already complaints by gallerists about to less support from the city of Cologne. What can you say about that?

Goodrow: I find it interesting from the side of galleries that it's somehow expected that cities support them. I have never heard of - let's say - the fashion industry expecting the city to help shops or hairdressers expecting the city to help them.... Galleries are shops in the end like everyone else. Of course, it's a cultural benefit for a city but basically, it's not the city's responsibility. It's our responsibility as a fair company to take care of our clients, and we are happy when the museums participate but I'm talking about the museums, not the city. By the way, I know that the Duesseldorf fair has as much or as little support from the city government than we do. So it's not any more or less. This morning, the Art Cologne Prize was awarded to Erhard Klein, and the Oberbürgermeister, the Lord Mayor of Cologne, praised the Art Cologne and gave his support to the Art Cologne. I haven't heard this yet from the mayor of Duesseldorf, so I think there is too much talk about competition between Cologne and Duesseldorf, between the cities, and what the cities do or don't do. I don't care what the city does. I care about what we do, and if we are doing a good job or not.

AfN: Talking about tradition. The Art Cologne is the oldest art fairt in the world. The change of the date was also a decision, because other, younger art fairs took place at the same time. So I think while planning this fair you had to think in two directions. First to keep the tradition, and second to bring the fair in a new era. So how difficult was it to unite these two processes?

Goodrow: It's exactly what I have been doing from the start. I started here three and a half years ago, and from the very beginning, I said that the thing that's special about Art Cologne is that it has a tradition. It's an advantage to be so old. It can be a disadvantage if you let it be that. But it's been my saying, my motto from the start for the Art Cologne: "Tradition with a view towards the future". I think you can have both. And because we are a fair that has classical modern and contemporary art - you need to have both anyway - I think for example Open Space seems like a new thing but in a certain sense, maybe it grew out of the Köln Skulptur project that we did years ago, or maybe it grew out of the Un-Fair which was a kind of anti-fair against the Art Cologne years ago. It's a part of this whole tradition and at the same time something new. So even there, something that looks completely new is part of a tradition. The newer fairs, they need to build tradition. The idea of tradition might sound old-fashioned, but especially in today's market where there's so much talk about investment, and it goes so quickly, you know it's like the fashion industry, if there's one thing that we can offer with our tradition, it's stability and continuity and trust. And these are, on a market, great things.

AfN: For this year you anounced the Art Cologne Palma de Mallorca. What were the reasons for this decision and can you already say a few details about this fair?

Goodrow: The idea for the Art Cologne Palma de Mallorca arose because we thought: "Maybe we can export the idea of the Art Cologne and benefit here as well from it". We saw a great potential in the Spanish market, in the Mediterranean market, and wanted to show that Europe can be a great market place, that the German and Spanish markets are strong enough to take care of this. There'll be a relatively small fair, and it will take place within the airport of Palma de Mallorca for the first couple of years because they are building a new fair centre. It's Spain, it takes a bit longer than it would maybe here. We will have about 65 galleries. It will be like the Art Cologne in the sense that it will have the whole century represented: classical modern up to new contemporary. Hopefully - we're working on it - there will also be an outdoor sculpture project along with it. I think it will be exciting. It will be the sister of Art Cologne but different. If the Art Cologne is very down-to-earth - because that's the way Cologne is - I think the Art Cologne Palma de Mallorca will be little bit more glamorous because of the character of the city. Any fair has to be a part of the city it's in and reflect the city and its own character. So, a smaller sister but a powerful one.

AfN: How will you attract collectors to get to Mallorca?

Goodrow: We will of course have a support programme to attract collectors to come but the great thing about Mallorca is that they are already there! They are on holiday, they own houses or estates or apartments. There's the prejudice that Mallorca is maybe a German state because there are so many Germans there but it's also Scandinavian and British and American. It's quite cosmopolitan. We will do a lot to attract collectors but there's a lot that we can count on on-site.

AfN: Mr Goodrow, thank you very much for the interview.

This interview can also be viewed as a video on

Interview: Tobias Hilger

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