August 19, 2015
Galerie Peter Herrmann

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Galerie Peter Hermann has been online for twenty years now. What better occasion to look back and remember where it all began

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Based in Stuttgart - Bad Cannstatt at the time, Galerie Peter Herrmann was the first gallery in Germany to go online – and with the first documented exhibition, 1995’s Around and Around, probably the first anywhere. Several superlatives followed, and at times, site traffic climbed to a record 55,000 visitors per month >. Peter Herrmann taught at computer schools, was interviewed by the press and sounded out by colleagues. Nowhere, as a result, were there more galleries with a web presence in 1999 than in Stuttgart. Though they may not know it, many artists from Africa owe their international recognition to the fact that for years, theirs were the only names that popped up in search engine results using dozens of keywords in several languages – “art from Africa,” for example, and “African artists,” “l’art africain,” “artists from Africa and diaspora,” “African art” and “contemporary art from Africa,” to name a few >.

The same holds for classical art from Africa. Peter Herrmann deviated from the usual presentation of African works in art books, freed them from traditional terminologies, rejected dramatic lighting in photos and published images online as exhibition documentations. Photos of works he exhibited can now be found worldwide in online forums and blogs; passages from his articles can be read on popular and scholarly sites; and many texts that would otherwise have been published only in ethnological journals for a specialist audience have found a broader, art historically orientated readership. All over the world, links point the way to the gallery’s webpages, while countless requests come in from print catalogs for high-resolution images of works.

In 1999-2000, the domain’s operating value was estimated by IT specialists at 400,000 Deutsche Mark. The gains in reputation yielded by these web-related activities cannot be measured in monetary terms, but they were enormous. Today, both have declined as programming has become easier and web designers more affordable; these days, every little company has a web presence, and search terms are no longer exclusive.

In Stuttgart, Galerie Peter Herrmann was the first to transition completely to email and, upon its arrival in Berlin, the first to send out an html newsletter. Today, as the most comprehensively presented gallery online, its edge lies in the amount of information it offers. Many visitors report getting downright lost on the pages. At a quantity comparable to fifty catalogs, no wonder…

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What didn’t get lost were the suggestions to optimize the structure.

And so a newly designed homepage went live a few days ago – a positive development, particularly since the old one could barely be read on tablets and smartphones. The simple design places functionality in the foreground. It’s a bit technically tricky, after all, to work out of Togo. Sometimes the connection is gone, sometimes the power, sometimes the computer.

The layout of the by now almost 5,000 pages remains visually almost unchanged. A menu bar – renewed page by page for close to a year now – can still be found at the top and bottom of every page in the same size and color. The names of the main pages were partially changed and elaborated with descriptions. The French version will be expanded in the future. It’s a great deal of work to manually change the CSS stylesheets on all pages. Most pages remain in traditional DIN A-4 width so they can be comfortably and readably printed. The gallery continues to eschew Facebook and Twitter since it serves a predominantly intellectual and discerning audience uninterested in fidgeting, pop-ups, likes or too many “friends.” Overall, the domain provides solid information and modest advertising, only on its own behalf..

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Given the wealth of material, it’s not easy to differentiate between offering and archive.

On the most visited pages, for example, you’ll see ancient bronzes that have been exhibited since 1989. It’s difficult to tell which of them are still available and which have already been sold. The same holds for the artist pages, which contain much archival material.

To find out what’s still available for purchase, just ask! Consulting is part of a gallery’s work, and we’re glad to answer any questions you may have. For the most part, though, most pages should be considered part of our offering. So please rediscover our extensive site. Start with the current offer, with the first page from 1995 or with a 2001 column on six years of online practice.

Peter Herrmann, from Lomé, Togo

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