No Problem: Cologne / New York 1984-1989
Bob Nickas and Diedrich Diederichsen
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 Sprüth 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.
Born in Hamburg in 1957, Diedrich Diederichsen has worked since 2006 as a Professor of Contemporary Art Theory at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a music editor for the German magazine Spex, and he has written art criticism and essays in renowned art magazines from Artforum to Texte zur Kunst, as well as numerous books including On (Surplus) Value in Art (2008) and, most recently, Über Pop-Musik (On Pop Music) (2014).
A writer and curator based in New York, Bob Nickas has organized more than eighty exhibitions since 1984. He was Curatorial Advisor at PS1 Contemporary Art Center from 2004 to 2007, where his exhibitions included Lee Lozano: Drawn from Life; William Gedney — Christopher Wool: Into the Night; Stephen Shore: American Surfaces; and Wolfgang Tillmans: Freedom from the Known. He collaborated with Cady Noland on her installation for Documenta in 1992; contributed a section to Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale; and served on the curatorial teams that organized the 2003 Biennale de Lyon, and Greater New York 2005 at PS1 Contemporary Art Center. His books include Live Free or Die: Collected Writings 1985–1999 (2000), Theft Is Vision (2008), Painting Abstraction (2009), and Catalog of the Exhibition (2011). He is one of the authors of Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks (2011). A new collection of his writing, Komp-Laint Dept., is forthcoming in the fall of 2015.