July 10, 2023

50 years Galerie Smend

Opening speech by Rudolf  at the 50 year celebration of Galerie Smend

20 June 2023 we celebrated 50 years of Galerie Smend in Köln (Cologne) in Germany. I was so happy I was invited to both the pre-party on the evening before and for the big celebration on 20 June. The first time I went to the gallery there was an exhibition that went with the publication of the book 'Batik, Traditional Textiles of Indonesia from the Rudolf Smend & Donald Harper Collections' in 2016. The second time was shortly after in 2017 for the launch of Maria Wronska-Friend's book 'Javanese Batik to the world' which was celebrated with a little symposium. In between my last visit and this one, me and Rudolf Smend stayed in touch through email and letter. Rudolf sends me published articles and publications, and I do so in return. It is always lovely to get Batik post from him. In this post more on the celebration at Galerie Smend!

Galerie Smend with tree decorated with batik on 19 June 2023

In a few hours by train I arrived in Köln on 19 June. I first had a lunch date with researcher and fellow Batik fan Rika Tsukano who joined the event all the way from Japan. We met briefly in 2019, but had now more time to chat and share Batik stories. In the afternoon we headed to the gallery.
Galerie Smend and the small Batik Museum are in the same street, Mainzer Straße, a street with old high buildings and a lane with trees in the middle. All the trees in front of the gallery had a batik wrapped around them.
For the 50 year celebrations an exhibition was made with many of the Batik artists that had at one point of time showed their work there. The works of Art were accompanied by framed invites, flyers, posters and letters of when their work was shown at Galerie Smend. A very nice time capsule and what an accomplishment!

Galerie Smend was founded in 1973. After Rudolf Smend around travelled in Asia and fell in love with Batik in Indonesia, he returned to Germany with the idea of selling batik. At that time there wasn't a gallery in Europe specialised in selling batik, new and old. Rudolfs wife, Karin, came with the idea to include selling all materials needed to make batiks like cantings and dyes. Soon the gallery started selling vintage, antique batiks and made exhibitions with modern batik artists from all over the world. 
A great handbook 'Batik Handbuch' published by Galerie Smend in 1980 showcases 136 artists that work with batik, next to many batik tips and tricks.

Page from the Batik Handbuch from 1980

During the pre-opening celebration, Rudolf made a speech in which he showed part of the publications Galerie Smend contributed to. Publications accompanying exhibitions held at their own space, but also many publications they contributed to either by loans from their collection or sharing knowledge. It was so wonderful to gather with all these people who are connected to Galerie Smend somehow; artists, researchers, many collectors, sellers, family and friends. I felt lucky to be there. 

Rudolf Smend showing publications made over the years by Galerie Smend

There are many lovely publications made by Galerie Smend. Here the ones I have at home, shown on top on the batik gift from the 50 year celebration.

From top to bottom; Publication 'Pattern nor painting' by Ada van Hoorebeke (2021), book 'Batik, Traditional Textiles of Indonesia from the Rudolf Smend & Donald Harper Collections' (2016),  'Javanese Batik to the world' by Maria Wronska-Friend open on page with Rudolf Smend (2017), three books by Peter Wenger with 'Indigo' together with Tomoko Kitaoko, the Batik Handbuch (1980) and 'Introduction to Indonesian Batik' by Annegret Haake (2012)

Artists Peter Wenger and Tomoko Kitaoka come to the celebration of course and included their work to the exhibition. I have two lovely publications of Peter, 'Batik Retrospektive' (2006) & 'Out of Ireland (2007)and one of them together, 'Indigo' (2013). Peters work is simple, but full of strength, poetry & humor. I had a wonderful conversation with him in 2017 and he gave me one of the booklet I didn't had yet. It was great to see him and his work again.

Ada Van Hoorebeke checking out Tomoko Kitaoka work with Peter Wenger sitting in the front

Overview of Tomoko Kitaoka work at Galerie Smend

Detail of Peter Wengers work

In 2016 & 2017 I was already impressed by Rudolf Smends old batik collection and he has made some great books showcasing them. In the basement of the gallery yet again were some beauties on display. Three signed by 'L.Metz', a Snow white, a Cinderella and one with herons, one by J.Jans in blue and white, a pastel coloured Eliza van Zuylen and an unsigned batik perang Lombok. What a treat!
The two fairytale batiks are in very bad shape and have been restored creatively. The one with Cinderalla is stitched through out the design following the pattern of the isen-isen and flowers along the edges. In the past this would have been thrown away because it was unsellable, Rudolf said to me, but now people are happy it has been saved. Totally, I am one of them!

Batik Tulis signed by 'L.Metz'
Collection Rudolf Smend

Unsigned batik perang Lombok
Batik Tulis signed by 'L.Metz'
Collection Rudolf Smend

Batik Tulis signed by 'L.Metz' with the fairy tale Snow white
Batik Tulis signed by 'L.Metz'
Collection Rudolf Smend

Small reproduction of batik perang Lombok

Rudolf announced there was a gift for everyone in the gallery space, were I saw in 2017 the work by Catalina Espina. Everyone could pick a batik artwork for a small donation for two charities. There were so many great artworks, many dated 1970's, in bright colours and with bold figures. I took a lot of photos while finding it hard to choose. In the end I went with a small repro of batik perang Lombok the next day. I thought it was so interesting to reproduce it, and because there was such a nice example shown in the basement, I took it as a sign. Still need to explore this batik design further and try to date its origin correctly.

20 June was the official 50 year celebration. Before the celebration started I went into the Batik Museum, I think the only one we have in Europe. It is so cool this exists and nice to explore by myself. Highlight again the black and white photo of Rudolf at Taman Sari following a batik workshop by Pak Hajid. The same place I followed a batik course in 2009. What a small world after all! And of course the showcase with cantings, marvellous! So many different kinds and what rich history!

Few of one of the rooms of the Batik Museum

Black and white photo of Rudolf Smend following the batik course by Pak Hajid

Detail of display of cantings

In between the trees surrounded by batiks on the trees and in peoples clothing, we celebrated with traditional dance from Bali and Betawi (Jakarta), speeches and a rice tabel (rijsttafel). I though this was something you can only still get in the Netherlands, but apparently it is served in Germany too. It was very hot, but with the great food and great company the celebration flew by. It was such a joy to gather and meet so many people, people I know from their books, work or collections. 
Thank you Rudolf and Karin, family and friends, for hosting this wonderful celebration! And congratulations on this meilenstein!

Rika, Ada Van Hoorebeke and me

Me posing with Katharina, long time employee of Galerie Smend, and Rudolfs nephew

Go visit Galerie Smend in Köln if you can, and make sure to visit the Batik Museum too,
 for more info go to www.smend.de

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