Leading German gallery Sprüth Magers started in Cologne, where Monika Sprüth (in 1983) and Philomene Magers (in 1991) opened separately, merging in 1998. They now represent 70 artists and estates from spaces in Berlin, Los Angeles and London. The programme tends to be serious and conceptual. Rosemarie Trockel, Hanne Darboven and Fischli & Weiss (and now Peter Weiss solo) have long been central. There’s a comparatively low proportion of painters, but photography is a particular strength, both German (Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Demand, Thomas Ruff) and American (Stephen Shore, Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Philip-Lorca diCorcia). I’d also highlight some particular favourites of mine (Analia Saban, Kaari Upson, Marcel van Eeden) and some on-trend more recent signings (Cao Fei, Pamela Rosecranz, Anne Imhof). The London presence started collaboratively (with Simon Lee in 2003) before the gallery moved to its current Mayfair location in 2007, featuring carved wooden staircases across four multi-room floors. It’s only since the pandemic, though, that the departure of another tenant has allowed Sprüth Magers to use it all, and the current solo show by the exceptionally in-demand Imhof is the first to spread across the whole building. She’s made the most of it: the spectacular installation incorporates new films of her partner-collaborator Eliza Douglas, large oil paintings pretending to need 3D glasses, ‘scratch paintings’ gouged into aluminium, any number of grey gym lockers, and a whole floor of charcoal drawings of androgynous figures which might be preparation for one of the performance events for which Imhof is most famed. Atmosphere trumps direct meaning, but the whole suggests an end of times enacted in a fragmented world.
London’s gallery scene is varied, from small artist-run spaces to major institutions and everything in between. Each week, art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent gives a personal view of a space worth visiting.