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.

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin