An Enterprising Cohort of Young International Galleries Is Teaming Up to Open a Shared Exhibition Space in Collector-Rich Cologne


Proving that necessity is, as ever, the mother of invention, a group of young galleries from North America and Europe have responded to pandemic uncertainty by launching a co-exhibiting gallery space in Cologne. Called Echo, the space will open on January 21, and will be time-shared by five dealers: Wschód and Stereo from Warsaw, Hot Wheels from Athens, New York’s Bureau, and LC Queisser from Tbilisi.

The enterprise sprouted following various experiments with gallery sharing; most of those involved in the new space were early participants in iterations of Condo and its Polish offshoot, Friend of Friend, which took place in Berlin and Warsaw. They are taking over a well-known space in the gallery-rich district around the inner city, the former location of Cologne dealer Jan Kaps, who is expanding into a bigger venue a few blocks away.

“Warsaw is not enough,” Piotr Drewko, owner of Wschód, said speaking over the phone from the Polish capital. “The Rhineland [the region in and around Cologne] is filled with collectors, institutions, and great artists and galleries.” He added that the unique postwar architecture of the city, which was razed by bombs during World War II with a similar intensity to Warsaw, was a draw.

Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili<i>Quarantine Flowers</i>, (2020). Courtesy of the artist and LC Queisser, Tbilisi

Ketuta Alexi-MeskhishviliQuarantine Flowers, (2020). Courtesy of the artist and LC Queisser, Tbilisi

Each of the dealers is eager to gain a regular presence in central Europe, a similar motivation for the Brussels-based shared gallery space La Maison de Rendez-Vous, which opened in 2018 and is also time-shared between Prishtina gallery LambdaLambdaLambda, Misako & Rosen from Tokyo, and Los Angeles’s Park View/Paul Soto.

Echo plans to show three group shows a year that includes one artist from each of the galleries, especially during the peak times for traffic in the region, after Art Basel in June and during the annual Art Cologne fair, which is in November (Echo is considering doing the fair as a single entity).

Its first exhibition, called “New Memories,” will include artists Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Christopher Culver, Harry Gould Harvey IV, Gizela Mickiewicz, and Marina Xenofontos. The galleries will also rotate solo shows, beginning with Stereo in March, which will present new works by the Polish artist Piotr Łakomy.

Collaboration is a common way of working for this post-Lehman generation of art galleries, which have been forging their programs amid a time of skyrocketing art prices and consolidation at the top end of the market—the same phenomenon that spawned the gallery-share models of the late 2010s. The strategy has become particularly important during the pandemic, in what has been a time of great uncertainty for his generation of dealers, Drewko said, though it has left them eager to experiment.

“The first moments of the pandemic were scary as we had no idea how the market would be restructured,” he said, though he added that Polish collectors were amazing supporters of the local scene in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Through stable times and strange times, linking arms and cooperating on ideas is now a tried and tested salve. “Sharing, staying close, and making the art market friendly together is our motivation,” said Drewko. “Together we can create solutions.”

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