Speaking: Hans Biezen
In an early stage, visual artist Hans Biezen came into contact with visual artists who used photography as a medium. He met them in photo gallery Wilde in Cologne, founded in 1972 by collectors Jürgen and Ann Wilde. It was the first gallery specialized in photography in Europe. He also met artists in the Van Abbemuseum where he worked from 1976 to 1986. In 2014, Hans Biezen wrote the text below.
“In 1973 I already had contact with Harry about photography. I had an idea for very large photos. I thought Harry's furniture store was a good place to show them. I knew Harry was very interested in photography back then. It was a long and fascinating conversation. But it didn't happen then for various reasons."
“A few years later Harry suddenly called me with his idea to start a photo gallery. We started with a whole series of conversations about how to start and where and of course with whom!! So it was not surprising that the first exhibition was one with Ralph Gibson, whom I had just met, and my diary photos."
“The opening (on April 26, 1979) was performed by the very late Rudi Fuchs, who had almost forgotten the appointment with Harry, but perhaps because of that gave a very lively, inspiring opening speech, which made us forget the difference between photography and visual art."
“Anyway, the conversations with Harry were mainly about the fact that we both felt that it should not only be exhibitions with pure photography, but especially with artists who worked with photography, so using the medium of photography as an expression. Something that was on the rise in the 1970s."
“I had to convince Harry every now and then that the new developments in photography mainly took place in the visual arts. Just look at what Christian Boltanski, Annette Messager, Jean le Gac, or Jochen Gerz were doing. Myself too, by the way. All visual artists who used the medium of photography. Boltanski with his reconstructed family photos and childhood experiences, Gerz who made photo documents about his own work with substantive confrontations, or my own work. Real or fictitious diaries, where it was about exposing the so-called photographic truth.” (Due to the contacts that Hans Biezen had with the photographers mentioned above, Christian Boltanski, Annette Messager and Jochen Gerz exhibited in 1981 at Galerie Pennings. IvB)
“And so there were many more photographers and / or artists who always questioned themselves such as John Baldessari, Urs Lüthi, Ben Vautier, Douglas Huebler, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand and certainly also Gilbert & George, etc. etc. What all these artists have in common, above all, is crossing the border of private areas. With all these artists, and with many more of course, the medium is unimportant. So the photo is secondary to the content. I believe there is an essential difference between the classical photographers and the visual artists.”
"You could actually say that these are all early ‘twitterers and facebookers’. What is private? That became a question. Maybe not so surprising. The riots of 1968 in Paris, Amsterdam and Bonn, among other things, made the government frightened of this revolutionary, anarchist attitude and immediately started spying on and mapping these rioters."
“We can now gradually determine that once back in the present, everyone is busy with photos, with selfies, with diaries. Now a process is underway in which art threatens to disappear completely in the big picture. Even the smartphone has become its own category. We can wait for the smartphone Galerie.” (It has arrived! The Apple Champs Elysees in Paris opened its doors in November 2018.)
“Yet I think that this is not the right way. I always thought, or actually knew that visual art, photography or whatever it might be called, is about content. It cannot and must not be the case that the end result has the volatility of the new media. The why question must be asked again. Why has this particular image been realized? Who created this image? When was this image realized? Honor who deserves honor.”