Cologne Foundation Challenges Hauser & Wirth Over August Sander Estate

The question seems to be, what does 'estate' mean?

Gunther Sander August Sander in Kuchhausen 1956 / 1958 Gelatin silver print 16 x 22 cm © Galerie Julian Sander, Cologne

A foundation in Cologne has reacted with shock to the announcement by Hauser & Wirth gallery regarding the representation of the estate of August Sander. “The estate of August Sander is and has been in Cologne,” the foundation has asserted in a public statement.

On February 9, Hauser & Wirth sent out a press release announcing the worldwide representation of the estate of the pioneering German photographer. According to the gallery, the representation is done in collaboration with the artist’s great-grandson, Julian Sander, who runs the Galerie Julian Sander in Cologne.

But on February 14, the SK Stiftung Kultur (SK culture foundation) in Cologne replied with “incomprehension” to the gallery’s announcement, and laid out the dates and details of the founding, back in 1992, of the August Sander estate, which it manages:

In December 1992 the estate of August Sander was founded by the Cultural Foundation of the Stadtsparkasse Cologne, today SK Stiftung Kultur der Sparkasse Köln-Bonn. Seller of the estate was Gerd Sander, the grandson of the photographer and father of Julian Sander, who runs a gallery in Cologne.

The estate taken over in 1992 comprises 10,700 original negatives, some 3,500 vintage prints, original correspondence, Sander’s private library as well as furniture, and parts of his photographic equipment.


The foundation also acquired the rights of use to all of August Sander’s works that are included, in any form, in the Photographic Collection / SK Culture Foundation of Sparkasse Köln-Bonn.

The announcement concludes with the assertion that:

The SK Stiftung Kultur and its Photographische Sammlung is thus the only legitimate representative of the estate of August Sander.

The SK StiftungKultur der Sparkasse Köln-Bonn is devoted to the promotion of literacy and the distribution of media art, and also gives out the Cologne dance and theater awards. Apart from the photographic collection, the foundation also manages the German Dance Archive Cologne and the academy for the preservation of the Cologne dialect.

According to the German magazine Monopol, Julian Sander, the great-grandson, explained that the works included in the estate represented by Hauser & Wirth are photographic works that were still in the family’s possession. As a non-profit organisation, the SK Foundation is not responsible for the sale of works on the global art market.

Rather, as the foundation states, it is responsible for the academic research of Sander’s work, and ensuring its public accessibility and posterity by lending works to museums and managing reproduction rights in scientific publications.

The gallery Hauser & Wirth hadn’t replied to a request for comment from artnet News at the time of writing.

However, works from Sander’s portfolio “People Who Came to My Door” are currently available at Hauser & Wirth’s New York branch, as part of the group exhibition “Serialities,” on view from February 15 through April 8.

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