Alfred Schmela Galerie

Variant names

Hide Profile

Founded in Düsseldorf in 1957 by Alfred Schmela (1918-1980), Galerie Schmela became one of the most important art galleries in Germany in the postwar period. Through a prescient exhibition program, Schmela introduced and promoted emerging and innovative European and American artists, including Joseph Beuys, Arman, Gerhard Richter, the Zero Group (Otto Piene, Günther Uecker, Heinz Mack), Hans Haacke, Christo, Lucio Fontana, Robert Indiana, Yves Klein, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jean Tinguely, Richard Tuttle, and numerous others.

From the description of Galerie Schmela records, 1923-2006 (bulk 1957-1992). (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 189870628

Biographical / Historical Note

When German art dealer Alfred Schmela opened a gallery devoted to contemporary art in Düsseldorf in 1957, the moment was propitious. The industrial Ruhr area in which the gallery was located had especially benefited from the prosperity of the postwar "Economic Miracle" coming out of the policies of the Adenauer government and the American Marshall Plan. The new climate of wealth encouraged art collecting. With Germany divided and decentralized after the war, Düsseldorf and Cologne were becoming significant and influential art centers. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and municipal exhibition venues, Kunsthalle and Kunstverein in both cities, opened their doors to contemporary art. At the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Joseph Beuys attracted and influenced students and independent artists from the time of his appointment as professor of sculpture in 1961 until well into the 1970s.

Schmela's first gallery was in a small shop in the Hunsrückenstrasse 16-18, which opened with an inaugural exhibition of Yves Klein on May 31, 1957. The gallery operated at this location until December 1966, and in January 1967 moved temporarily to the Schmela family's apartment. Also in 1967, Schmela, together with Hein Stünke, Rudolf Zwirner, and several other local art dealers, co-founded the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler (Association of Progressive German Art Dealers), which took part in its first annual art fair, the Kölner Kunstmarkt. Schmela resigned from the association in 1968 to focus on promoting emerging artists and his gallery.

Schmela's new gallery building, designed by the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck, opened in September 1971. The distinguished new space, located near the Kunsthalle, opened with the Beuys show Barraque d'Ull Odde 1961-1967, and became one of the first galleries in Germany to exhibit the "new" Americans Gordon Matta-Clark in 1977 and Bruce Nauman in 1979. In the mid-1970s, Schmela began showing large sculpture and multimedia installations by artists such as Bernhard Luginbuehl, Richard Serra, and Claes Oldenburg at the Lantz'sche Villa and Park, the Schmela family's new residence in Düsseldorf-Lohhausen. This project was not fully realized due to Schmela's death in 1980.

The artists exhibited at Galerie Schmela searched for a new kind of art after the war and often worked in reaction to Art Informel. Schmela played a pivotal role in the development of ZERO, a collaborative movement founded by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack in Düsseldorf in the mid-1950s in opposition to Art Informel. In 1961 Günther Uecker joined the group, which eventually incorporated the work of Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Daniel Spoerri, and Jean Tinguely, among others. Schmela's artists represented various, often overlapping tendencies such as kinetic art, performance, Happenings, Nouveau Réalisme, the European form of Pop, and auto-destructive art, as well as having a general fascination with perception and technology. Schmela was a personal friend of Joseph Beuys and a committed advocate of his art. Galerie Schmela was the site of Beuys's now famous action, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, on 26 November 1965. Also in 1965, Beuys participated in another important exhibition at Galerie Schmela, Weiss-Weiss.

Schmela maintained a heavy exhibition schedule and was committed to placing his artists in museums. Among numerous exhibitions that contributed to his gallery's reputation are Klein's Yves propositions monochromes, in 1957; Tinguely's Konzert für 7 Bilder und andere Skulpturen (Concert for seven paintings and other sculptures), in 1959; Arnulf Rainer's Übermalungen (Overpaintings), in 1962; two Beuys shows in 1965; Robert Morris's 1964 exhibition and performance with Yvonne Rainer; and other shows in the 1960s, including Christo's packages and storefronts, Robert Indiana's number Paintings, Arakawa's diagrams, George Segal's plaster sculptures, and Günther Uecker's first solo show of nail pictures in 1961. From 1957 to 1980, the following artists had their first solo or group exhibition in Germany at Galerie Schmela: Yves Klein (1957), Antoni Tàpies (1957), Georges Mathieu (1957), Sam Francis (1958), Jean Tinguely (1959), Konrad Klapheck (1959), Lucio Fontana (1960), Arman (1960), Martial Raysse (1961), Günther Uecker (1961), Morris Louis (1961), Kenneth Noland (1962), George Segal (1963), Robert Morris (1964), Jörg Immendorff (1965), Joseph Beuys (1965), Gordon Matta-Clark (1977), and many others.

From the guide to the Galerie Schmela records, 1923-2006 (bulk 1957-1992), (The Getty Research Institute Special Collections 1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100 Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688 (310) 440-7390)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Galerie Schmela records, 1923-2006 (bulk 1957-1992) Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Galerie Schmela records, 1923-2006 (bulk 1957-1992) Getty Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arakawa, Shūsaku, 1936-2010. person
associatedWith Arman, 1928-2005. person
associatedWith Becher, Bernd, 1931-2007. person
associatedWith Beuys, Joseph person
associatedWith Beuys, Joseph. person
associatedWith Brandenburg, Paul person
associatedWith Brandenburg, Paul. person
associatedWith Christo, 1935- person
associatedWith Fontana, Lucio, 1899-1968. person
associatedWith Gitlin, Michael, 1943- person
associatedWith Haacke, Hans, 1936- person
associatedWith Indiana, Robert, 1928- person
associatedWith Jansen, Bernd, 1945- person
associatedWith Klein, Yves, 1928-1962. person
associatedWith Klophaus, Ute person
associatedWith Klophaus, Ute. person
associatedWith Kölner Kunstmarkt. corporateBody
associatedWith Kölner Kunstmarkt corporateBody
associatedWith Löwenstein, Christian, 1943- person
associatedWith Mack, Heinz, 1931- person
associatedWith Mathieu, Georges, 1921- person
associatedWith Matta-Clark, Gordon, 1943-1978. person
associatedWith Morris, Robert, 1931- person
associatedWith Pichler, Walter, 1936- person
associatedWith Piene, Otto, 1928- person
associatedWith Rainer, Yvonne, 1934- person
associatedWith Richter, Gerhard, 1932- person
associatedWith Ruthenbeck, Reiner, 1937- person
correspondedWith Schmela, Alfred, 1918-1980 person
associatedWith Soto, Jesús Rafael, 1923-2005. person
associatedWith Strelow, Liselotte, 1908-1981. person
associatedWith Tinguely, Jean, 1925-1991. person
associatedWith Tischer, Manfred, 1925- person
associatedWith Tuttle, Richard, 1941- person
associatedWith Uecker, Günther, 1930- person
associatedWith Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler. corporateBody
associatedWith Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler Köln. corporateBody
associatedWith Vogel, Walter, 1932- person
associatedWith Wilp, Charles person
associatedWith Wilp, Charles. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Art, Modern
Art dealers
Art dealers
Museum curators

Corporate Body

Active 1923

Active 2006




Ark ID: w6q295h7

SNAC ID: 12022083