The BVDG, under the leadership of its newly appointed chairman Gerhard F. Reinz, assumed control of the Internationaler Kunstmarkt Köln from the Verein progressiver deutscher Kunsthändler in 1984. As part of this transition, the fair was rebranded as "ART COLOGNE". The 18th edition of the fair, which took place in November, featured 160 exhibitors from 10 different countries. Notably, the contemporary show titled "Kunstszene New York", curated by Rudolf Zwirner, received widespread acclaim. Additionally, a special museum exhibition showcased works from the esteemed collection of the Kunstmuseum Bern. The fair attracted an impressive attendance of 50,000 individuals, solidifying ART COLOGNE as the center of the burgeoning art scene in the Rhineland and establishing it as the most successful art fair worldwide in 1984. This surge in the art market confirmed Cologne's status as a premier destination for art enthusiasts from around the globe.
The following year, the 1985 edition of ART COLOGNE was met with resounding praise from the press. A prominent West German art critic, in a glowing review, proclaimed it to be "perhaps the finest art fair of them all". Drawing parallels to the renowned Documenta exhibition, which had often been referred to as a "Museum der 100 Tage" (museum of 100 days), ART COLOGNE was playfully dubbed a "Museum der 7 Tage" (museum of 7 days). Demonstrating its continued success, the fair attracted 500,000 visitors, further solidifying its reputation as a premier art event and highlighting its ability to captivate audiences on an international scale.
ART COLOGNE in 2001, where Ingvild Goetz, a renowned gallery owner and collector, was honored with the prestigious ART COLOGNE Award, had a significantly shortened duration of only five days. Despite this decrease in time, the number of visitors, totaling 65,000, saw only a relatively minor decline. However, the impact of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center resulted in fewer American collectors attending the event compared to the parallel auctions, which now showcased both old and contemporary art, presenting a new source of competition for art fairs across Europe. The prevailing fear of terrorism and war, the repercussions of the European currency transformation to the Euro, numerous company bankruptcies, and the effects of the dotcom crisis, which were becoming increasingly evident in Europe, all contributed to the atmosphere surrounding ART COLOGNE 2002. Additionally, there was a growing criticism concerning the fair's appearance and changing conditions. These concerns were especially significant considering the art fair market's expanding global reach, necessitating adjustments to its fundamental structure.