In the words of Peter Schjeldahl, writing in The New Yorker about the exhibition No Problem: Cologne/New York 1984–1989 at David Zwirner in New York, “the show’s cast of artists amounts to a retrospective shopping list of what would matter and endure in art of the era.” With an eye to canonizing that moment, this seminal publication examines the latter half of the 1980s through the lens of international art scenes that were based in Cologne—arguably the European center of the contemporary art world at that time—and New York.
While a number of established Cologne-based gallerists, including Karsten Greve, Paul Maenz, Rolf Ricke, Michael Werner, and Rudolf Zwirner, had already begun shaping the European reception of American art in the previous decade, the 1980s marked a period during which art being produced in and around Cologne gained international attention. A burgeoning gallery scene supported the emerging work of artists based in the region, with gallerists such as Gisela Capitain, Rafael Jablonka, Max Hetzler, and Monika Spru¨th showing artists such as Walter Dahn, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Rosemarie Trockel, and others. The works of these German artists were exhibited along with the latest contemporary art from the US by artists like Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Christopher Wool. Conversely, the works of German artists were presented in New York, with breakout exhibitions at galleries such as Barbara Gladstone, Metro Pictures, Luhring, Augustine & Hodes, and other significant venues. Important museum exhibitions that explored work being produced and exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic also set the tone for this ongoing dialogue, among them Europa / Amerika (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 1986) and A Distanced View: One Aspect of Recent Art from Belgium, France, Germany, and Holland (New Museum, New York, 1986).
Big, bold, and vibrant, this Pentagram-designed publication revives the conversation, reproducing in full color over one hundred immensely varied artworks by the twenty-two international artists included in this massive exhibition—one of the largest in David Zwirner’s history. Beyond its stunning visual components, the book features crucial new scholarship by Diedrich Diederichsen and Bob Nickas, and an illustrated chronology of the decade by Kara Carmack. The book also includes an arsenal of compelling archival material, from documentary photographs from the period to reproductions of Cologne’s culture magazine Spex. Taken as a whole, this ambitious exhibition catalogue encapsulates the energy, heart, and “dissonance of styles”—in the words of Schjeldahl—embodied by this fascinating and fecund moment in global art history.
Artists featured in the book include Werner Büttner, George Condo, Walter Dahn, Jiri Georg Dokoupil, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Günther Förg, Robert Gober, Georg Herold, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Albert Oehlen, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel, Franz West, and Christopher Wool.