Galerie Thomas At 50 Years: An Interview with Founder Raimund Thomas

This month, Galerie Thomas celebrates its 50th anniversary with an exhibition reuniting the most exceptional works to have passed through its doors. Founded by Raimund Thomas in 1964, the Munich gallery first made its name specializing in Expressionism and classical Modernism, then later as an early proponent of American Pop Art and Graffiti Art. Today, Thomas runs the gallery with his daughter Silke Thomas, and in 2009 the two added a second space, Galerie Thomas Modern, focused exclusively on post-war and contemporary art. After 50 years, they are only just getting started, and on the occasion, we caught up with Thomas in Munich.

Artsy: The history of Galerie Thomas is punctuated with many remarkable feats: the exhibition of 100 never-before-seen works by Alexej von Jawlensky, to name just one. What is your most memorable moment from these last 50 years?

Raimund Thomas: The biggest breakthrough was acquiring the whole Rheingarten collection. There were about 20 artworks of very high quality Expressionist paintings by all the biggest names: Kandinsky, a beautiful portrait by Beckmann of his wife Quappi, Kirchner, Heckel... This was really something outstanding.

Artsy: The commercial art landscape has changed radically in the last five decades with the advent of large, international art fairs and new technologies. How has Galerie Thomas adapted and how do you see the future of the two galleries?

RT: There have been a lot of changes these last years. [It is] so easy to get information today and people are unstable [in so far as] they no longer stick to just one gallery or one art dealer. Our aim is to have close contact with collectors, and people who are interested in art even if they are not collectors, and to do it on a personal level.

Artsy: You were one of the founding exhibitors at the first commercial art fair that took place in Cologne in 1967. What is one of your favorite art fair anecdotes?

RT: That is very easy! The funniest was the first one, because we had never experienced anything like this before. It was tiny. Eighteen galleries met in a concert hall in Cologne and we didn’t even have real walls. We had cloths hanging next to each other. Like shower curtains, more or less! Some did not agree at all with what we were doing. They thought we were pulling art down into the street, into the marketplace, so to speak. This idea was very exciting at the time. Of course we became used to it, the public became used to it, and out of this first go in ’67 grew the 200 and something art fairs all over the world today. I was one of the beginners. 

Artsy:  What’s in store now for Galerie Thomas and Galerie Thomas Modern?

RT: The next exhibition at Galerie Thomas will be about Paul Klee and music, and the next exhibition at Galerie Thomas Modern will be Rebecca Horn. She is very well known but doesn’t have a large public yet. It is really great to be able to work with her.

—Amanda Sarroff

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