This summer, Cologne-based ammann//gallery—known for its unique and multi-disciplinary stable of artists whose outputs fuse art, architecture and design—stages a group show that brings together works by Alessandro Mendini, Hélène Binet, Studio Nucleo, Satyendra Pakhalé, Wang Jin and Abel Zavala. Taking as a starting point the tremendous fascination and intrigue that has long surrounded color theory—not only within the relatively brief lifespan of modern art, but throughout human history—each of the artists in the show approaches the subject with a perspective completely their own. While minimal porcelain works by Mexican sculptor Abel Zavala harness the naturally-occurring color of the materials, Indian designer Satyendra Pahkalé’s ceramic chair references the lush ceremonial flowers and vibrant aesthetic traditions of his homeland. The idea for the show itself was born of the musings of photographer Hélène Binet, whose series of images of the world-famous Suzhou Gardens is her first exploration of color photography. ammann//gallery’s multi-pronged involvement in the worlds of fine art and design produce important occasions for discourse; “Colours” offers but one example of a concept that sheds light on various, overlapping histories and meanings. Here, founder and curator Gabrielle Ammann answers of few of our questions.
You’ve been involved in the field of design since the 1980s. What inspired you to create a permanent platform for artists and designers to showcase their work? In the late ’80s and ’90s, I met and collaborated with avant-garde collective Studio Alchimia in Milan—the epicenter of international design. At the same time, I was introduced to Ron Arad, Ingo Maurer, Marc Newson and Rolf Sachs, which pushed me to create an agency that could provide a platform for avant-garde designers who I consider to be artists, due to the nature of their ideas and sculptural approach.
When I moved to Cologne in 2006, I arrived in a city full of passion and excitement surrounding art and design, and with an extensive base of collectors. I was lucky enough to find a great space, a former printing house, that inspired me to visualize my goal and open ammann//gallery. One of my very early visitors to the gallery was Ambra Medda, who invited me to participate in the Design Miami Fairs, which started my international journey.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current exhibition, “Colours,” and some of your most memorable exhibitions from the past?
Our current group show, “Colours,” contains a selection of pieces that transcend time and geographies; these historical and contemporary works focus on the personal perception and individual use of colour by each of the artists. Running through August 7th, the show includes works by Hélène Binet, Alessandro Mendini, Wang Jin, Studio Nucleo, Satyendra Pakhalé, Alessandro Guerriero and Abel Zavala. Hélène Binet says about colour, “Light cannot be grasped without a physical body. And colour is born out of a dance between light and body.” This quote helped to inspire the poetic mood of the exhibition. We wanted to surprise the visitors with a range of historical works, as well as give them some positive and colourful vibes during these challenging times. The exhibition can be visited daily by appointment.
Over the years, I have curated many exhibitions, so it’s hard to choose. But, for sure, one of the most memorable is the late Dame Zaha Hadid’s solo show “Selected Works” from 2007. It was a great pleasure to work with her team to create this exciting design exhibition, which included original models and an outdoor installation displaying her architectural projects. Another one of my favourite shows is “Between All Chairs” from 2016. Highlights included Rolf Sachs’s Dirty Thoughts, Studio Nucleo’s Souvenir of the Last Century Thonet Chair and Florian Borkenhagen’s Weltenbrüterstuhl.
Each of your exhibitions fuses art, architecture and design—can you tell us about the creative process through which you achieve this?
I have an academic background in art history and interior architecture, so it is in my nature to create scenarios where art and design interact in a dialogue between the disciplines and the space we put them in. I like to create narratives, connections between fields and frameworks that contextualize each piece within its historical and aesthetic importance.
Not only does the gallery partner with top designers and architects, but you also seek young creatives to add to your programming. Why do you think this is important? It is essential to keep an eye on the younger generations, to learn about their visions and ideas and understand the different approaches they may have, compared to the protagonists of the ’80s and ’90s. Look, for example, at Mexican artists AD HOC and their fabulous ROOTS collection, as well as ceramist Abel Zavala; both are inspired by ancient techniques combined with contemporary designs and new details that add a unique aspect to the traditional culture.
I think we can learn from each other’s diversity and creativity in all senses of life. The important thing is to keep an open mind and heart.