Founded in 1996 by the art historian Joerk Rothamel, the gallery runs spaces in Erfurt and since 2005 in Frankfurt am Main. It represents established positions as well as aspiring artists. The gallery published numerous catalogs, works regularly with museums and exhibits at various art fairs.
That’s where it all began: The building of the former printery "Fortschritt" in the street Kleine Arche 1 in Erfurt.
After just three weeks of preparation the gallery moved into the premises in the 1st floor and opened the first exhibition on november 21th in 1996. The response to it was amazing – 500 people came and danced until the early hours. A private gallery for contemporary art was a novelty in Thuringia. Our mission is to support artists, to push them, to publish them, bring them into museums and important privat collections and also to show them on major art fairs.
Galerie Rothamel, Erfurt, Kleine Arche 1a, 2016
As an art historian Rothamel had come into contact with the art market several times. His most spectacular experience was a auction of contemporary art in Russia in 1994. The „German Academic Exchange Service“ had entrusted him with a study of the opaque local art market. Rothamel ventured an experiment. Without further ado he invited the important contemporary artists of Saint Petersburg, published a catalog and had the exhibited works auctioned off. The echo was impressive, the city had not experienced auctions of contemporary art since 1917. The auction provided a lot of insights for the research project. But the most important insight was that practice is much more exciting than theory.
Rothamel found suitable rooms in a former printery in the town centre of Erfurt. High ceilings, large windows to the northeast, industrial parquet and glass masterpieces from the twenties. If you wanted to get in, you had to climb up a dark staircase and ring a massive steel door. For weeks relatives and friends helped to polish, paint and assembel. Invitation cards were sent out - and it started. In 1997 not less than 12 exhibitions took place. At the beginning the focus of the gallery work was on art from Thuringia. Harald Reiner Gratz, Gerd Mackensen, Katrin Heesch and Katrin Gassmann as well as Carsten Weitzmann, Uta Hünniger and Matthias Geitel exhibited. Some of them stayed in the following years, others retired. Contrary to the trend of the nineties, it was possible to establish a thriving scene for contemporary art in Erfurt.
In 1997 Rothamel got to know the artist Moritz Götze from Halle. A friendship developed between the artist and the gallery owner, beyond the business.
First exhibition in Erfurt with Moritz Götze, April 1997
Another cooperation started in 1997. On the mediation of Carsten Weitzmann, Rothamel got to know the Erfurt based photographer Hans-Christian Schink. Schink studied at the Academy of Visual Arts (Graphic and book art) in Leipzig and developed, based on the Düsseldorf School, a succinct own imagery. His photograph puts reunion of the seperated parts of Germany in a very own light. Very strong, frontal and only in cloudy weather he photographed terraced houses, the new traffic routes and highways, factories and warehouses. Schink made high demands on himself and his coperation partners and and kept the gallery culture on the go. Hans-Christian Schink is one of the best living Thuringian artists. His works play an independent role in international contemporary photography and Schink works are found in important art collections worldwide.
The first branch office of temporary art gallery in the „Red Tower“ in Jena
Four years later, the first branch office of temporary art gallery originated in the newly built „Red Tower“ in Jena. The former fortified tower was used as a residential building in the 19th century and should be used as a restaurant after a renovation. A bad accident during the renovation moves the investor to change the usage plan: For one and a half year the tower offered us a great opportunity for a splending presentation of our gallery. The early months would be terrific, then the crash of the new market was the end of the Jena high-tech stocks. The local collectors stayed away. We moved out. Nevertheless, the tower was still used as a exhibition place by the "Jenaer Kunstverein" (Art society of Jena).
In June 2002 the gallery moved on a house further, „Kleine Arche“ 1 A. The new rooms were (and are) fantastic and subsequently provided with a skylight.
Artwork by Nguyen Xuan Huy in the Gallery in Erfurt
In 2005 we set up a office branch in Frankfurt am Main. The space in the Fahrgasse Frankfurt are located in a building of the early time of economic miracle, built in the late forties - with the appropriate charm: windows in brass frame and a Bakelit door handle. An antique dealer had painted over the beautiful skylights, lowed the high ceiling and laid carpets everywhere. Our refurbishment gave the store its historic appearance. When we moved in in 2005, there was just one other gallery in the street. In the meantime the Fahrgasse has established itself as Frankfurt's center for contemporary art market - about a dozen galleries are now located here.
Branch office in Frankfurt
In the course of the gallery's history, we participated at 42 art fairs - in Basel, Berlin, Bologna, Brussels, Dresden, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Cologne, London, Lyon, Vilnius, Vienna and Zurich. Some art fairs were very successful, others were recorded as veritable failures under the chapter "educational experience". They all had the invigorating stress factor and many interesting encounters with collectors, artists, museum people, art transporters and fair makers in common.