OBITUARY : Konrad Fischer

Konrad Fischer was one of the most innovative and influential art dealers of his generation.

Born in Dusseldorf in 1939, he attended the Dusseldorf Art Academy from 1958 to 1962. In 1963, exhibiting under his mother's maiden name of Lueg, he collaborated with his fellow students Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter to found a new movement, "Capitalist Realism", a European strain of Pop Art and an ironic reflection of the material world of the nascent German economic miracle.

Polke and Richter went on to develop international reputations as conceptual painters; Fischer, with his feeling for art and artists, became no less influential, but as an agent for artists. It was the legendary dealer and representative of Joseph Beuys, Alfred Schmela, who having shown Lueg's work in 1963 encouraged him to start a second gallery for young people.

This joint project did not work out, but in 1967 Fischer developed his own concept for a gallery. His idea was startling in its simplicity but established a completely new approach to exhibiting contemporary art, not only in other galleries, but also in exhibition halls and museums across Europe and eventually America.

Carl Andre, the first artist to show at Konrad Fischer's gallery, in October 1967, has written of the experience:

Konrad did not have enough money to pay for the shipping and insurance of any art work so he sent me the cheapest New York/Dusseldorf Lufthansa ticket. [He also] did not have enough money to rent a proper gallery space so he took a disused alley that ran like a tunnel through a tenement block in the Altstadt, blocked both ends with glass doors, and wired fluorescent lights from end to end overhead. When I arrived he handed me a brush and a can of paint and said "Carl, the sooner you paint the floor, the sooner you can install your work."

Andre tore up the plans that he had made in New York and proceeded to make a new work devised specially for the scale and configuration of Fischer's gallery. This principle of moving the artist, rather than the work of art, reflected a contemporary interest in concept as much as object and was soon widely adopted as a model, as was Fischer's custom of announcing his exhibitions by means of a simple postcard.

Fischer followed Andre's exhibition with the first European exhibitions for the Americans Richard Artschwager, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman and Robert Ryman, and the first one-person exhibitions anywhere for Hanne Darboven, On Kawara and the British artists Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Bruce McLean and Gilbert and George.

Within the space of two years Fischer's gallery became one of the two or three most important places to see new developments in contemporary art. It provided a forcing ground for the artists and the ideas that dominated the avant-garde agenda and the international exhibitions of the period, including "When Attitudes Become Form" in Bern in 1968, the annual s eries of "Prospect" exhibitions held in Dusseldorf from 1968 and culminating in Harald Szeeman's "Documenta 5" at Kassel in 1972.

In the 1970s Fischer became the most influential figure in a group of European galleries that included Wide White Space in Antwerp, Art and Project in Amsterdam, Heiner Friedrich in Munich and the Lisson Gallery in London, continuing to show minimal and conceptual art and the work of the Italian Arte Povera artists such as Mario Merz and Jannis Kounellis. But his influence grew from his close association with artists and the significance of the particular exhibitions that they made in his gallery rather than through his success as a merchant.

Fischer's primary goal was not to act as a salesman but, as he put it, "to keep the family informed". Andre's account discloses Fischer's instinctive sympathy for the mind and the strategy of the artist. This was repaid by the loyalty which artists displayed when they came under pressure to show in more successful commercial galleries in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

Time and again artists would reserve their best work or efforts for a show at Fischer's, from where the work would be bought by discerning collectors or other dealers who would subsequently present it in their own "general stores", as Fischer described those commercial galleries with no sense of dedication to a group or a generation. In the mid-Eighties Fischer renewed his commitment to the principle of working with emerging artists, embracing and promoting a younger generation of sculptors, including Schutte, Mucha, and Klingelholler from Dusseldorf, as well as Tony Cragg and Juan Munoz.

For 30 years Fischer was a presence at every important exhibition opening in the European art world. Understated and relaxed in contrast to his eager competitors, he could be seen in the bar in the company of artists or a small group of discriminating collectors from Belgium, Holland and the Rheinland rather than drinking champagne with the international collectors who emerged in the Eighties and Nineties.

Konrad Fischer was shrewd and self-deprecating with an ironic sense of humour. He had a special relationship with British art and regularly showed the work of Hamish Fulton and Alan Charlton as well as Richard Long, Gilbert and George and Tony Cragg. Dorothee, his wife and then his working partner for nearly 30 years, continues to run the gallery in Dusseldorf, a role which became even more significant as Fischer fought the cancer which brought his early death.

Nicholas Serota

If art dealers have always been fascinating, that delicious combination of large sums of money and larger cultural erudition, in the 20th century they are nigh totemic figures, writes Adrian Dannatt. The more hermetic or enigmatic art becomes the more crucial the gallerist.

Konrad Fischer was the ideal modern dealer, absolutely uncompromising in his tastes, completely committed to actual art rather than anecdotal pseudo-biography or associative glamour, and just as importantly, awfully good at selling. With his gallery in Dusseldorf for nearly 30 years, Fischer was amongst the handful of figures who made post-war Germany a universally envied haven for contemporary art, responsible for a generation of enlightened collectors, generous museums and local Kunsthalles.

Konrad Fischer made you feel you should stick to your guns and carry on with what you wanted to do: it wasn't about money, it was about art. Fischer was totally independent, totally about the art. He focused on the art and the artists and couldn't give a rat's ass about the public.

Konrad Fischer, artist and art dealer: born Dusseldorf 1939; married 1964 Dorothee Franke; died Dusseldorf 24 November 1996.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players