PUBLIC STATEMENT BY ARTCO GALLERY
ON THE EFFECTS OF THE RECENT FLOOD DISASTER IN GERMANY ON our WAREHOUSE IN STOLBERg
In the first weeks of July the west of Germany experienced a period of extreme rainfall. On Wednesday 14th July we got informed, that the level of the small river „Vicht“ near our art storage warehouse in Stolberg was rising rapidly. When we arrived there, we saw water already in the street some metres away. We tried to find sandbags to protect the property but none were available.
Around 6pm that evening water began to flow into the space very quickly. With two helpers we tried to move as many artworks as possible to higher levels, but as the water rose to the level of our waists, we were overwhelmed and it soon became too dangerous to continue. We learned from the fire fighters that by 2am the water level inside our main art storage area had reached 2.5 metres.
When we returned the morning on the 15th we found a scene of unspeakable chaos. The power of the water was so strong, that even our steel shelves, which might have kept some of the works above the floodwater level, had collapsed. We know that hundreds of works from the thirty artists that we work with were underwater for some time. Along with this, the humidity in the atmosphere did also impact the stored art works.
As we are dealing with this personal and business calamity, we are of course thankful that no lives were lost in our local community. In some regions nearby many people perished, and the death toll is astonishing for us in Germany. However, we have had amazing support, and last weekend a team of twenty volunteers helped us clean up the space.
While in the process of assessing the damage done to our artworks, we have been struck by the irony of seeing Gideon Mendel’s photographs of climate change and flooding being themselves inundated by floodwaters.
Gideon in fact travelled to Germany to document the aftermath of this flooding for Die Zeit newspaper and after he had completed this assignment, he came to help us. He has chosen a number of his flood-affected prints where he feels the effects of the waters have added new layers of meaning to the work.
Works from other artist like watercolours by Bruces Clarke, collages by Saidou Dicko or drawings by Ransome Stanley have been affected in the same way.
This flooding is a personal, economic and cultural disaster for ARTCO and the artists.
We have been already hugely challenged by the pandemic. Our storage housed more than thousand works belonging to ARTCO and the many artists the galleries representing which we had hoped to sell on their behalf. So, this is also a huge blow to the artists whose works have been severely damaged. However, Gideon Mendel finds himself in the rather unnerving position where his work has, arguably, been deepened by what has happened to it, in ways that underscore the reasons for its making. Gideon hopes that with these new layers of inscribed meaning these images can speak more urgently about the escalating threats that we all face.
ARTCO Gallery plans to display an exhibition and auction with a selection of the damaged art work in order to minimize losses to the artists and the gallery. Gideon Mendel will create a special installation of his new “flood-damaged” work for this show.
This selection of works which have been affected in ways that we consider as quite interesting. After we have experienced within the last two weeks we believe that there is a huge need to bring this work - and what it depicts about the global climate emergency - to public attention.
In addition to the many volunteers who actively supported us during the clean-up, we would like to thank the following companies for their great help:
Prisma Color, Aachen
Zahnarztpraxis Dr. Fröschen, Stolberg & Aachen