Header image: Michael Zink in front of a painting by Yoshitomo Nara at the artist’s first solo exhibition in 1997
This week marks the 27th anniversary since Galerie Zink was established. The gallery has been through a lot of changes over the years, and it’s taken quite a journey to arrive at their current place in Waldkirchen. So I sat down with Michael, founder of the gallery, to take a look back at the gallery’s history.
MZ: I started the gallery in January 1994 in Regensburg. It was kind of by accident as I studied Biology and Chemistry before. Since I didn’t have any experience in the art world, I had a quite steep learning curve. The first two years I still did some funny side jobs to survive, but I was lucky. I met some great artists and also some great supporters early on.
For the first few years, it was good to be a bit off the grid. But soon we realized that we have to move to a bigger city for the artists, so that we have a chance to get recognized by a wider audience. So we first moved to Munich, and soon after we started a branch in Berlin Kreuzberg.
Then in 2010/11 we had the chance to build a new gallery space in Berlin Mitte, which was also great. In Berlin I had a great team and it was very intense there, but personally I never really „arrived“ in Berlin. It is not my city. At one point I moved back to live in the South, first Munich and later to to the countryside.
It was never the plan to move the gallery to a village of 27 residents in the middle of nowhere, but I have been living here for a few years. And when Florian Kromus, my gallery partner in Berlin, decided to move for private reasons to Paris, I had to decide [for the future of the gallery]. Will I move will back to Berlin, or will the gallery move to Waldkirchen? The rest is history. Now, I do what I want to do at the place I want to be! Pure luxury!
MZ: When I started I had a LCII by Macintosh and a fax machine. I couldn’t afford to do more than 1 or 2 diapositive reproductions of the artworks. So for me at the time, the art world was regional, maybe national. It all changed with our first international art fair participation, but it really changed when communication became digital. Today Hong Kong is as far away as Munich is for us!
Along with the world getting smaller by technology, another important shift started. Art became a lifestyle! The starting point for that may have been the global expansion of Art Basel. When they started Art Basel Miami, with the sunshine, drinks, and parties. Art fairs became a society event, and art works became glamorous accessories. I don’t want to complain, it is absolutely ok like it is. There are more collectors and more money for art than ever, and more artists can make a living from what they do than ever before. But of course this also has an impact on the evolution in art.
Maybe the third thing that I would mention is the fact that art sometimes has become more like consumer goods, than an attitude. That means that works with clear and easy branding, that are recognizable and easy to access get a lot more attention than art representing an idea, an attitude, or a statement out of real conviction. Some artists have become more product designers than believers in what they do. This is also not a real problem, but worth looking at twice.
MZ: To be honest, looking back, the biggest challenge was when the gallery did really well. We made a lot of money, but we also spent a lot of money. It was great for the ego and very intriguing, but it also meant a lot of pressure. I was working too much, traveling too much! I think at that time I lost myself a bit in the tinsel of the art world. And I also kind of lost the real connection with the art and the artists.
At one point it all became too much. I realized that that kind of work and life was not healthy, and not sustainable at all. I know that I had to change something, but didn’t know what!
Maybe the financial crisis in 2008/09 was the moment when reality hit. We had to scale down, refocus and try to survive. In that time I kind of settled again. I cared more about friends, social life, relations. Probably the best decision of that time was that I decided to get a dog! Charlie! A bulldog brings you back to nature, to a daily routine, to a normal life, to real life ;-)!
MZ: At the beginning I didn’t really have a vision, I just was curious and I was like a sponge learning so much! Art was an experience for me! And maybe today I am closer again to that than ever before. Art is an experience and it is great to share that experience with others.
MZ: A quote to sum it up „Appreciate what you have, it is more than it looks!“
and my favorite quote from Ad Reinhardt: „Art is too serious to be taken seriously“
Anniversaries often come and go but as the last year was such a challenge for many, we felt it was good to look at the history of the gallery. Through all the changes in world geo-politics, economic crises, digitalisation, Galerie Zink has really weathered many storms. As we all grapple with the seismic shift in every aspect of our lives since 2020, the gallery continues to evolve and adapt. That being said, Michael manages to keep a clear idea of his vision for the gallery going forward.
We would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to our clients, artists, friends, for the support over the years. We love what we do, and it is such a pleasure and honour to keep delivering what we believe in to you.
For our latest exhibitions, check our digital viewing room for Paul Kooiker here, and Rudolf Bott here