Galleries of the Rhineland: 12 Must-See Shows at This Year’s DC Open

Before Basel and Berlin became recognized as dazzling centers for contemporary art, Düsseldorf and Cologne were hailed as havens for emerging European talent. While Düsseldorf is praised for its Kunstakademie, where a long succession of major artists have studied, including Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter, Cologne is also deeply rooted in artistic traditions—for example, this fall the storied Galerie Boisserée celebrates a 175-year run. In recent years, the dual cities have gone through something of a reawakening, and this September they open their gallery doors to showcase work by artists from across the globe. The DC Open, begun in 2009 to create a united gallery weekend for Düsseldorf and Cologne, invites more than 700 artists, gallerists, and collectors to celebrate the cultural exchange between the cities and their offerings in contemporary art for the weekend of September 5th–7th. Here, we’ve curated a preview of 12 participating galleries and the must-see shows they are hosting.

Cologne Galleries

Jan Pleitner: Painting is no business” at Natalia Hug

Natalia Hug first opened its doors in Vancouver, operating under the name “Blanket” until moving to Cologne in 2012. This is the first time the gallery is participating in the DC Open and the first time it will be exhibiting Düsseldorf-based German artist Jan Pleitner. In “Painting Is No Business,” Pleitner’s abstract paintings recontextualize the tradition of painting by using perspective, foreground and background, light and dark, and color as a symbolic motif.

Egan Frantz at Galerie Nagel Draxler

Begun in 1990, Galerie Nagel Draxler follows a tradition of showcasing up-and-coming artists. In the gallery’s project space, The Travel Agency, it features young artists at the beginning of their careers. This September, Galerie Nagel Draxler hosts New York artist Egan Frantz for the DC Open. Frantz creates sculptures and installations that examine the role of artists in a material world. His work is influenced by several philosophers, including Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger.  

Hanno Otten at Priska Pasquer

Concentrating on art created in times of change and turmoil, specifically during the 1920s, 1970s, and after 2000, Priska Pasquer showcases 20th-century and contemporary art in its Cologne-based gallery space. This DC Open, Priska Pasquer will be exhibiting the works of Hanno Otten, centering on his perceptions of color. His “Colorblocks” and “Lichtbilder” series are photograms created by exposing light-sensitive paper to light. Color has been an important theme for Otten since the 1990s and, in addition to his photograms, he creates sculptures and installations frequently named after color theory innovators such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

Robert Polidori: Exteriors and Interiors” at Galerie Karsten Greve

Galerie Karsten Greve in Cologne is exhibiting a solo exhibition of new photography by Robert Polidori for this year’s DC Open. “Exteriors and Interiors” will include photos from his series “Beyrouth” and “Dendritic Cities,” produced between 2008 and 2011. “Beyrouth,” a study of interior views of buildings that have been impacted by violence and decay, is juxtaposed with panoramic exterior shots in “Dendritic Cities.” He is particularly interested in the outward spread of major cities that follow no guidelines for urban planning and are a result of socio-economic divides.

Yelena Popova: In A World to Gain” at Figge von Rosen Galerie

Operating with locations in Cologne and Berlin, Figge von Rosen Galerie showcases international artists working in a range of media. Its programming is focused on works that depict political and sociological themes, along with artists who reflect on the conditions and definitions in their works and materials they use. At the DC Open, the gallery will be exhibiting paintings and videos by Yelena Popova in “In A World to Gain.” Popova creates colors using recipes from historic painting books, maintaining the rough texture of the canvas while creating organic forms reminiscent of 21st-century deconstructivist architecture. Her video, 5 Minutes Remaining, is about the relation of time, labor, and value in the lives of Chinese migrant workers.  

Bernhard Walter: Very Vary” at Clages 

Based in Cologne, Clages represents artists who focus on political, social, and conceptual themes in their work, often created with unconventional media. Bernhard Walter’s solo exhibition, “Very Vary,” includes an experimental assembly of sculptures created from glass panels, glass tubes, and monochrome paintings on convex and concave plates. Light also plays an important role in the exhibition, with specially designed light sources and modifications to the electric lighting in the gallery.

Ralph Fleck: Farbe” at Galerie Boisserée

Founded in Cologne in 1838, Galerie Boisserée celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. The gallery exhibits a collection of 20th- and 21st-century works, most notably graphic art and paintings after 1950, and contemporary art. German painter Ralph Fleck’s solo exhibition “Farbe” showcases his vivid studies of everyday objects, city streets, landscapes, and still lifes. With determined brushstrokes and bright colors, he depicts focused cityscapes, tightly framing windows, street corners, and intersections. 

Düsseldorf Galleries

C.O. Paeffgen at Galerie Hans Mayer

Galerie Hans Mayer specializes in modern and contemporary art, including works by Bill Beckley, Tony Oursler, and Ben Willikens, as well as large outdoor sculptures. For the DC Open, the gallery will be showcasing German artist C.O Paeffgen’s fruit and vegetable box series—a collection that has not been shown since the early 1990s. Paeffgen commonly uses ordinary objects in his work, and for his box series he combines the wooden boxes used for transporting produce to create varying compositions and colors.

Andreas Schmitten at Linn Lühn

In 2011, Linn Lühn moved from its original location in Cologne to a former bottle warehouse in Düsseldorf Flingern, where it now exhibits works by its intimate roster of nine artists. The gallery collaborates closely with the artists to produce exhibitions, publications, and artists books. At the DC Open, Linn Lühn presents a two-part work, Graf-Adolf-Straße, Düsseldorf, by artist Andreas Schmitten. Named after a key road in downtown Düsseldorf, the works address urban life and the movement patterns of pedestrians.

Matthias Bitzer: The Collapse of Features” at Kadel Willborn

Galerie Kadel Willborn showcases artists who focus on reframing societal tendencies, and will be featuring Danish artist Matthias Bitzer at the DC Open. “The Collapse of Features” is closely related to his tandem exhibition at K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, “Der Zerfall der Eigenschaften,” on view through June 2015. The two shows mirror one another in language and aesthetics, and are characteristic of Bitzer’s minimalist works, basing them off his interest in identity and reality.

Glen Rubsamen: Clear Channel” at COSAR HMT 

COSAR HMT focuses on showcasing young talents who have gone through the Düsseldorf Art Academy, as well as artists from the 1960s and ’70s. At this year’s DC Open, COSAR HMT is exhibiting “Clear Channel,” featuring the work of Los Angeles- and Düsseldorf-based artist Glen Rubsamen. His paintings depict the changing lights of day with silhouettes of palm trees, billboards, and streetlights, reflecting urban landscapes and the ongoing duel between manmade objects and nature.

Jonathan Meese: Countdown K.U.N.S.T (Die Geilstinvasion)” at Sies + Hoke

Sies + Hoke represents contemporary artists working in a range of media. At this year’s DC Open, the gallery will be exhibiting the works of Jonathan Meese in “Countdown K.U.N.S.T. (Die Geilstinvasion)”. Meese’s style is reminiscent of the Art Brut works of Jean-Michel Basquiat. His expressive paintings depict themes of revolution, ideological misgivings, and the power of art—and often include his own portrait.  

Newlin Tillotson

DC Open 2014, Sept. 5–7, www. dc-open.de

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