The close proximity to fine arts in Düsseldorf nightlife can particularly be felt at the Grabbeplatz: the Salon des Amateurs club on the border of the old town continues the tradition of the artist local in an extraordinary way. The makers succeeded in not just creating a flourishing petri dish for the local music scene but also a commendation of electronic pop avant-garde music which sets standards worldwide.
In 2002, the art exhibition bright-green (hell-gruen) was installed in a public space in Düsseldorf. Alongside this, artist Aron Mehzion, a graduate of the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, opened the Baron in the Baroque palace of the Ehrenhof. The bar was intended as an artist's habitat and became the meeting point for music and art fans with ambitious events and concerts.
On the site of the former cantine of the Dusseldorf Art Association at the Grabbeplatz, Aron Mehzion could continue his work in the scene in 2004: he founded the Salon des Amateurs here together with fellow artists.
Salon des Amateurs, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf by Thomas StelzmannVisit Düsseldorf
The bar originally had a carpet in a chessboard design throughout. Renowned Düsseldorf photographer Andreas Gursky donated black leather furniture. One of the most photographed items in the city is illuminated behind the bar: the grill wall, made of Anröchter natural stone. It's a reference to the Cabinet of Abstract Items (Kabinett der Abstrakten) by constructivist Eliezer "El" Lissitzky, whose work inspired the artwork for Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine.
The space and the ambitious program of the Salon des Amateurs were incorporated into the scene. After being open just a few weeks, its floors now show remnants of nights of partying. In October 2010, magazine DE:BUG made the Salon des Amateurs and the local music scene their central topic under the title "The Düsseldorfs". It has huge appeal: a famous online travel portal listed the Salon des Amateurs as one of the top 20 nightclubs in the world in 2017.
Stefan Schneider, a regular guest at the Salon des Amateurs, studied at the Academy of Arts from 1988 onwards. A master student of the photographic artist Bernd Becher, he was the co-founder of the band Kreidler. He worked with pioneers of experimental music like Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, Klaus Dinger, and Hans- Joachim Irmler. In 2016, he founded the TAL label and later collaborated with world-famous artists like Katharina Grosse, the Swedish singer Sofia Jernberg, and Koshiro Hino from Japan. His music never looks backwards but is always rooted in the here and now.
Stefan Schwander plays with sounds and lived out his love of electronic music with minimal instruments under different pseudonyms such as Antonelli Electr. and Harmonious Thelonious. At the Salon des Amateurs he met Marc Matter and Florian Meyer from the media art group Institute for Fine Motor Skills (Institut für Feinmotorik). As The Durian Brothers, the trio has since produced club music on their own label Diskant.
Salon CEO Detlef Weinrich is a founding member of the band Kreidler and stands behind the turntables in the Salon des Amateurs as resident DJ Tolouse Low Trax. Thanks to the Salon des Amateurs, internationally active sound artists have been able to create a place modeled on the Ratinger Hof which produces musicians who are important to the city and the international music scene.
Belgrade native Vladimir Ivkovic has been a resident DJ in the Salon des Amateurs for many years. Snapshots of his current mood tie into his unusual but always danceable DJ sets. He has managed his own record label Offen Music since 2015.
Lena Willikens studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art and developed her inimitable style as a resident DJ at the Salon des Amateurs. Always searching for offbeat music, she is an international provider of sounds and entertainment at the Salon des Amateurs.
Members of the band Stabil Elite are part of the generation who got together over music at the Salon des Amateurs. For German music magazine Musikexpress, the timeless Düsseldorf soundsphere created with analog instruments and synthesizers was worthy of a cover story: Kraftwerk's Grandchild (Kraftwerks Enkel). It still represents a stylish combination of danceable sounds and intelligent topical debate today.
Stabil Elite's debut album was selected by Musikexpress as the record of the month. The band since went on an international tour with concerts in Israel, Palestine, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and the US. Band member Lucas Croon meanwhile also worked as a composer of film music and made a name for himself with his DJ sets in the salon as well as in PONG in the NRW Forum.
Pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, better known under his artist name Hauschka, is one of the leading performers of contemporary music. The 2008 album Ferndorf marked his international breakthrough. In collaboration with Dustin O'Halloran, the Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated film music for the motion picture "Lion—A Long Way Home" was released in 2017. He paid an acoustic tribute to the Salon des Amateurs with his album of the same name in 2011.
Hauschka didn't just make music and form his career himself—he also brought other composers and pianists to Düsseldorf. Together with Aron Mehzion, he founded the Approximation Festival in 2005 and is its artistic director. The festival is still based in the Salon des Amateurs today. Each year, internationally renowned artists and young musicians join together here to break boundaries in a contemporary confrontation with the piano to sound out the possibilities of the instrument.
Last but not least, as a member of Der Plan and co-founder of the band DFA, Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke linked the roots of the new music "made in Düsseldorf" from the Ratinger Hof with the present. The musician is always present around the city of Düsseldorf, whether as a programmer behind the sound installations at U-Bahn stop Heinrich-Heine-Allee or as a developer of a 3D organ in the Berger Kirche.
Curated by Sven-André Dreyer and Dr. Michael Wenzel, editorial assistance Thorsten Schaar (Visit Düsseldorf). Participating institutions: Cultural Office of the State Capital Düsseldorf, City Archive Düsseldorf, Heinrich Heine Institute, City Museum Düsseldorf, Tonhalle Düsseldorf gGmbH