Galerie Schmela was one of the most important art galleries in Germany in the postwar period. Through a prescient program
of exhibitions, founder Alfred Schmela introduced and promoted innovative European and American artists, such as Joseph Beuys,
Arman, Gerhard Richter, the group ZERO (Otto Piene, Günther Uecker, Heinz Mack), Hans Haacke, Christo, Lucio Fontana, Robert
Indiana, Yves Klein, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jean Tinguely, Richard Tuttle, and numerous others. Mainly concentrated on the 1950s
through the 1970s, the Galerie Schmela records include: correspondence with artists and clients; gallery financial records;
vintage photographic documentation of installations, gallery openings, and artworks; and extensive files of printed ephemera,
posters, and press clippings.
When German art dealer Alfred Schmela opened a gallery devoted to contemporary art in Düsseldorf in 1957, the moment was propitious.
The industrial Ruhr area in which the gallery was located had especially benefited from the prosperity of the postwar "Economic
Miracle" coming out of the policies of the Adenauer government and the American Marshall Plan. The new climate of wealth encouraged
art collecting. With Germany divided and decentralized after the war, Düsseldorf and Cologne were becoming significant and
influential art centers. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and municipal exhibition venues, Kunsthalle and Kunstverein
in both cities, opened their doors to contemporary art. At the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Joseph Beuys attracted and influenced
students and independent artists from the time of his appointment as professor of sculpture in 1961 until well into the 1970s.