A new gallery initiative, Okey Dokey, will take place in Düsseldorf and Cologne from 9–30 September, launching alongside the ninth edition of DC Open (8–10 September). The project has been organised by three young galleries, Ginerva Gambino, Jan Kaps and Max Mayer, which have invited nine emerging spaces in Cologne and Düsseldorf to host exhibitions by international galleries: the result is nine curated group shows in nine spaces. Okey Dokey – named after Konrad Fischer’s favourite catch-phrase – looks back to the efforts of Dusseldorf gallerist Fischer who was instrumental in bringing international artists to the Rhineland. The organisers also cite The Köln Show, staged in 1990, which saw nine galleries present work by new artists without institutional help.
This collaborative exhibition model offers an alternative to the art fair, particularly for less established galleries. Co-organiser of Okey Dokey, Laura Henseler (from Ginerva Gambino), tells me about the importance of ‘going back into the [exhibition] space’; the initiative aims to show how gallery exhibitions can bring people and artworks together in unexpected ways.
Developed in early 2017, Okey Dokey stands as an interesting counterpoint to Art Berlin, a new fair running from 14–17 September (replacing abc berlin), which operates this year on an invitational gallery selection process. The organisers of Okey Dokey instead emphasise collaborative working practices and the notion of the gallery as a key exhibition space for a period of time that extends beyond the brief art fair circus. Invited exhibitor Susanne Zander praises the ‘openness and seriousness’ of the young organisers. She has invited established Galerie 1900–2000 from Paris, together with Frankfurt-based Neue Alte Brücke to stage an exhibition titled ‘Mystification of the Everyday’, which looks at the transformation of familiar objects. And as Rozsa Farkas from London’s Arcadia Missa tells me: ‘It’s nice to be hosted rather than be the host. I’m excited to see Phoebe Collings-James’ work in a different space and new city’.
Gallery swaps are not a new concept. Prominent among them is the collaborative exhibition Condo which opened in London in 2016 and in New York this year – plans have recently been announced to bring the initiative to Mexico and Shanghai. Okey Dokey doesn’t want to re-invent the gallery model or work against other initiatives, particularly those happening within the region – such as DC Open, for example. As Henseler tells me, they ‘aim to make the existing bonds between local and international galleries visible’ and to ‘support lasting relationships’. This also means that personal links between galleries are valued; importantly, they also want ‘to have fun’, says Jan Kaps. The hosted galleries don’t pay rent, nor do they have to share any income generated through sales. All nine hosts propose a budget for marketing and administration costs but the rest is left to the discretion of the individual galleries. ‘What is truly amazing is everyone’s enthusiasm and generosity,’ Henseler tells me.
It is refreshing to see an initiative that focuses on this German region – and in contrast to what might be happening in Berlin. The Rhineland has shown international art in innovative ways since the 1960s and created meaningful exchanges between artists, galleries and collectors. Perhaps what is required is a new group of galleries in Cologne and Düsseldorf to remind us of the importance of this once booming art region. Crucially, Okey Dokey is experimenting with new ways of working together, bringing international colleagues and artists to the organisers’ home region outside the art fair context. Let’s hope it works and that it is the beginning of more to come.
Okey Dokey’s confirmed gallery participants:
Delmes & Zander (Cologne) hosts Neue Alte Brücke (Frankfurt) and Galerie 1900–2000 (Paris)
Lucas Hirsch (Dusseldorf) hosts Stereo (Warsaw) and Lomex (New York)
Max Mayer (Dusseldorf) hosts Arcadia Missa (London), Miguel Abreu Gallery (New York), and Misako & Rosen (Tokyo)
Drei (Cologne) hosts Kirchgasse (Steckborn, Switzerland) and Lulu (Mexico City)
Jan Kaps (Cologne) hosts Weiss Falk (Basel), Edouard Montassut (Paris), and Sax Publishers (Vienna)
Studio for Propositional Cinema (Dusseldorf) hosts Barbara Rüdiger with Anna Sophie-Berger
Ginerva Gambino (Cologne) hosts Ermes Ermes (Vienna and Rome), Sandy Brown (Berlin), and Truth and Consequences (Geneva)
Linden (Dusseldorf) hosts tbc
Rob Tufnell (Cologne) hosts Tanya Leighton (Berlin)
Okey Dokey runs in various venues in Cologne and Dusseldorf from 9–30 September.