This interview was originally published in ART PAPERS March/April 1990, Vol. 14, issue 2.

Helmut Middendorf was interviewed at the Goethe-Institut in Atlanta on January 15, 1990, after his participation in the closing forum at the High Museum of Art for the “Salute to Berlin” series.

Thompson: But very few people realize that. And I have seen so many people washed out by success. We’re prepared to fail, but nobody prepares us for being suddenly famous.

Middendorf: But it was also such an extreme pleasure to have this success, and to have these possibilities. We worked like hell. Our problem was much more in that thousands of people want a painting. We didn’t refuse too many of these offers. It isn’t good to have this many shows in the beginning. We were really under stress. But I think that the Italians, and Schnabel and Salle, all these people who were involved in the beginning reached the same conclusion. There was such an explosion of interest in painting. That was a much bigger problem. How many paintings can I really do, and what is serious, what is unserious? The more important thing was to see how the art market worked, and to ask, really, what is my role in the whole thing? Am I a pawn in the game or what?

Thompson: Do you feel that perhaps you were a pawn?

Middendorf: Not a pawn, but surely if I reflect, then I should have refused two or three shows. On the one hand, you can’t handle the whole international thing, you don’t have the experience. On the other hand, it was good that we had our own gallery before [the Galerie am Moritzplatz in Berlin], because we knew how it worked, what a gallery is, what can a gallery do for you. And we had a lot of work in the beginning that was really important. We had hundreds of paintings.

Thompson: There have been so many people who have been absolutely ruined by the market. It doesn’t give you a chance to develop.

Middendorf: But we had the time. We were a little bit prepared. It went very fast, but we had worked so long without success before. When we had our own gallery, we didn’t sell anything for three years. That wasn’t important, because we believed in it. But today if you find an artist who has three good paintings, they make a show. Today the artists want to become famous before they paint. It’s because of the big success of these young painters. We have a gallery in Athens; in the last months we have visited lots of young Greek painters, and they all show you some work and say, OK, is it possible to make a big show out of this? But they have just one or two works that really have something of themselves.