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
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.