Art Association in Hamburg

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The Kunstverein in Hamburg has had its headquarters on Klosterwall since 1993

The Kunstverein in Hamburg is a non-profit , registered association dedicated to the mediation of contemporary art . It was founded in Hamburg in 1817 , making it the second oldest art association in Germany after today's Kunstverein Nürnberg, which was founded in 1792 .


Foundation (1817–1825)

From 1817 onwards, nineteen "art-loving" members of the Patriotic Society , all veterans of the Wars of Liberation , met every week in the house of the Hamburg master lead decker David Christopher Mettlerkamp for conversation evenings and to exchange ideas about private collections of drawings and prints. After the group of participants continued to grow, the decision was made in 1821/1822 to move to the Georg Ernst Harzens art dealer in Johannisstrasse 48 near the stock exchange. In the course of this spatial change, there was also the desire to give the merger an institutional form, and the first statutes were now written on January 24, 1822. With the "Hamburg Art Association" at that time, the second art association in Germany was founded after the creation of the " Art Society " in Nuremberg in autumn 1792, here with the following program:

"§ 1 The purpose of the art association is the multi-sided communication about the visual arts."

- First statutes of the Kunstverein in Hamburg, 1822, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett

"Multi-page communication" meant the periodic dissemination of news about art.

The 19 founding members included Mettlerkamp and Harzen, who was now appointed honorary managing director, the lawyer and later President at the Hamburg Commercial Court, Adolph Halle , the painter Siegfried Bendixen , the malacologist and businessman Peter Friedrich Röding , founder of the Museum for Objects of Nature and Art , the painter Heinrich Joachim Herterich and the lithographer Johannes Michael Speckter , who later together founded the first lithographic establishment in Northern Germany, the historian and editor of the " Hamburg Correspondent " Carl Friedrich August Hartmann , the Senator Joachim Nicolaus Schaffhausen , the painter Leo Lehmann , the insurance broker Nicolaus Hudtwalcker , the doctor Nikolaus Heinrich Julius , later reformer of the prison system, the former confectioner Christian Wilhelm Lüdert , meanwhile trained as a painter, the architects Alexis de Chateauneuf and Carl Ludwig Wimmel , the art collector and privateer Aardt de Beurs-Stiermans with se a son, the painter André Paul de Beurs-Stiermans , the writer and diplomat Johann Georg Rist and the painter Gerdt Hardorff . Until the amendment to the statutes in 1848, membership was only possible through election with a two-thirds majority of the already admitted members.

First activities, amalgamation and March Revolution (1826–1849)

After the official establishment, the company continued to devote itself intensively to the exchange and discussion of its own collections. In 1824 the collector, art historian and patron Carl Friedrich von Rumohr , who had since joined the club, was appointed the first honorary member of the association. From April 13 to May 18, 1826, under the responsibility of Bendixen, Chateauneuf, Hardorff, Harzen, Herterich and Friedrich Sieveking , who later became the first mayor of Hamburg , the Kunstverein's first public exhibition and thus the first public art exhibition in Hamburg at all took place instead of. The exhibition venue was the house built by Chateauneuf on the corner of ABC-Straße / Neustädter Fuhlentwiete. According to the invitation, there were paintings by "patriotic artists", primarily German painters, most of them from Hamburg and often not older than twenty years. Among them were Louis Asher , Johann Joachim Faber , the brothers Günther and Jacob Gensler , Victor Emil Janssen , Carl Julius Milde , Christian Morgenstern and Friedrich Nerly , but also Johan Christian Dahl from Dresden with six pictures and a "Professor Friedrich in Dresden", namely Caspar David Friedrich with three paintings, including Der Watzmann from 1824–1825 and Das Eismeer from 1823–1824. But also copies of old masters, designs by architects belonging to the art association as well as works by "art lovers", that is, artistic amateurs, were part of the exhibition, as was common at the time. Also in 1926 a painting lottery association was founded in Hamburg and affiliated to the art association. This sponsored artists through membership fees and original works of art were raffled annually, for example a moonlight landscape by Caspar David Friedrich in 1927. In 1829 the second public art exhibition with works from the most important German and Dutch schools was held in the concert hall of the Theater am Gänsemarkt . Until the fire in Hamburg in 1842, such major sales exhibitions for contemporary art took place every two to three years. From 1834, the Hamburg Artists' Association from 1832 also exhibited in the Kunstverein's exhibition hall. In 1836 the association's members decided to build up their own graphic collection, for which older art was purchased from association funds, even if the collection grew mainly through donations and bequests . This is how the painting Die Hülsenbeckschen Kinder by Philipp Otto Runge came into the collection. In the association statutes, which were expanded in 1837, the "general development of the art sense", that is, the public educational task of the art association, is now recorded, which resulted in the continuation and expansion of large art exhibitions. Even though there was an exhibition of paintings by older masters from Hamburg's private collection in 1842, the focus was on contemporary art and was shown in some very large exhibitions, but often without order or structure, as was common for exhibitions in the 20th century. According to the reception of the Hamburg press, the aim was nevertheless achieved to bring people into contact with the visual arts, who previously stayed away from it.

In 1848 the art association was merged with the painting lottery association under the new name of the art association in Hamburg . After the amalgamation, the association had 467 members, 30 of whom were women, with the Kunstverein in 1847 only having 59 members. Influenced by the ideas of the March Revolution , the statutes were also revised in 1848. Membership was now free to anyone with an annual membership fee and decisions were made democratically by a deliberation meeting , which was chaired by a first spokesman . The first such first spokesman for the association after the merger was Christian Petersen from 1849 , professor of classical philology at the Academic Gymnasium .

Restoration, Empire and Weimar Republic (1850–1932)

Exhibition poster of the Kunstverein Hamburg, 1907

In 1850 the 11th art exhibition, comprising 819 works, took place in the rooms of the Patriotic Society and recorded almost 10,000 visitors in seven weeks. In the meantime the art association had developed into the central art institution in Hamburg. In the same year, on March 13th, the public painting gallery was opened in the Börsenarkaden on Adolphsplatz . These spaces provided by the city were requested by the art association for its collection, which has grown in the meantime. In 1851 the permanent exhibition with works by foreign and Hamburg artists was opened in these rooms . As early as 1852, the rooms in the Börsenarkaden were expanded, as they were no longer sufficient for a painting gallery and permanent exhibition . In 1856 these rooms had again become too small and so Harzen issued a will that his property and his collection would be bequeathed to the city, provided that the city would create its own art museum.

Two years later, for example, a committee was formed to build a public museum in Hamburg and collected such amounts of donations that the city was also forced to pay a building subsidy. As a result, the Hamburger Kunsthalle was opened on August 30, 1869 with a collection of 412 paintings and numerous sculptural works. The basis for the Kupferstichkabinett was formed by 30,000 drawings and prints from Harz's legacy. In the same year the art association moved into the art gallery and opened its first exhibition at this place the following year with the 21st art exhibition. With Eduard Unger , a managing director was hired for the first time in 1884. This year, the permanent exhibition was relocated to the newly created stock exchange extension due to renovation work in the art gallery . In 1886, Alfred Lichtwark was elected the first director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle with the support of the Kunstverein. Until Lichtwark's death in 1914, the Kunstverein would keep purchasing works for the Kunsthalle. In 1887, photographs were shown for the first time in an exhibition at the Kunstverein, and in 1888 the Kunstverein already had 2,105 members.

In 1896 the graphic collection of the Kunstverein was transferred to the Kunsthalle and three years later, in 1899, the association moved into new exhibition rooms at Neuer Wall 14, in which it was exhibited together with the Kunstgewerbesammlung, which later became the Museum of Art and Industry . At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of exhibitions by local, national and foreign artists steadily increased. In 1906 alone, there were over a dozen exhibitions by mostly less well-known artists. In 1914 the rooms on Neuer Wall had to be vacated because the house was to be demolished. From 1915-1916 the Kunstverein was in the east wing of the old Johanneum at Speersort until it returned to the Kunsthalle in 1916, but had to close down the arts and crafts collection due to a lack of space. From 1922 onwards, annual exhibitions were held by the Hamburg Secession artist group, founded in 1919 . In 1921 the Kunstverein moved again, this time from the old Kunsthalle building to the cabinets in the basement of the new building. In 1925 the art association only had 1000 members. The number of members continued to decrease in the following years, for example the association had 899 members in 1930, 631 members in 1932 and only 337 members in 1936. For the 100th birthday of the Kunstverein, which was mistakenly assumed in 1927, it showed all of European modernism in the show European Contemporary Art and thus reached around 40,000 visitors.

Thanks to the proceeds from this exhibition, the Kunstverein was able to acquire a villa at Neue Rabenstrasse 25 as its first own domicile, which was opened in 1930 by Karl Schneider after renovations and an extension . By roofing the garden courtyard with a skylight hall, an exhibition area of ​​12 × 28 meters was created on the ground floor. On the three upper floors there were further smaller exhibition areas and space for a library, business premises of the association and a caretaker's apartment. One third of the construction costs of 120,000 marks was borne by the Kunstverein, two thirds by the city of Hamburg. With these new exhibition rooms, the Kunstverein was able to further sharpen its exhibition profile and, as it has been since the beginning of the 20th century, increasingly focus on thematic individual and group exhibitions instead of detailed overview shows. Among other things, the focus was on the Hamburg Secession and avant-garde tendencies of the time such as Expressionism , Cubism and Russian Constructivism . On May 1, 1931, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had been dismissed from the König-Albert-Museum in Zwickau because of his modern conception of art, was appointed the first director of the Kunstverein through the mediation of Ludwig Justi .

Period of National Socialism (1933–1945)

In Hamburg, too, the National Socialists took a stand against Gurlitt's conception of art. The Hamburger Kunstverein "... promote the international and Bolshevik art course" announced the National Socialist sculptor and high functionary of the Kampfbund for German Culture , Ludolf Albrecht , who was appointed on March 5, 1933 as a representative of the already harmonized Reich Association of Visual Artists of Germany Gau Northwest Germany . On March 12, 1933, the 12th exhibition of the Hamburg Secession was opened, which was closed again on March 30 by the Hamburg police chief. Gurlitt was able to hold an exhibition of modern Italian art in April 1933 - with temporary support from the National Socialist First Mayor of Hamburg , Carl Vincent Krogmann , who had been in office since March 8 - in which he also housed modern German works. But the pressures soon became too strong because, among other things, Gurlitt's supporter Krogmann, who was not averse to modern art, was pursuing his own National Socialist goals and giving up Gurlitt's protection. Krogmann began the Kunstverein same switch . District Court President Robert Johannes Meyer, the chairman of the association, did not want to enforce this and resigned on June 1, 1933. Gurlitt was forced to resign on July 14, 1933. His successor was the art historian Friedrich Muthmann .

In 1936 the exhibition was forced to close again: the head of the Reich Chamber of Culture , Adolf Ziegler , himself came to Hamburg to ban the annual exhibition of the German Artists' Association of Painting and Sculpture in Germany in 1936 organized by Heinrich Stegemann on the occasion of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin . The exhibition featured works by Barlach , Beckmann , Dix , Feininger , Kirchner , Munch , Nolde and Schmidt-Rottluff, among others. Most of these artists have faced difficulties from the regime themselves. Ziegler dissolved the artist association after his fourth visit with the remark "Most of the exhibited works are art of the decay". In the same year, both the chairman of the Kunstverein, Hans-Harder Biermann-Ratjen, and its managing director Friedrich Muthmann were deposed.

Adolf Ziegler also arranged for the club building in Neue Rabenstrasse to be sold. In 1937 the building was foreclosed , which was initially rented by the city to the Nazi women and later used by a bank. The art association then moved back into the art gallery . As the organizer of the incriminated exhibition, Stegemann had to submit to a professional procedure that was dubbed a court of honor. A total of four attempts to reconstruct this last free German art show after the Second World War testify to its importance in art history: 1964 in the Berlin Academy of the Arts , 1986 in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn , 1996 again in Berlin and 2016 in the Hamburg State and University Library . After the “ Total War ” was proclaimed and the air raids on Hamburg , the Kunstverein was closed in 1944 by order of the authorities.

Post-war period until moving to today's house (1945–1993)

In 1945 the art association was re-established with the statutes from before 1933. The association had 471 members, no rooms for exhibitions and no access to association accounts. In 1946 the first post-war exhibition with an overview of Hamburg artists took place, held in the Bock & Sohn art dealers in the Colonnaden and in the basement of the Kunsthalle. The artistic director of the Kunstverein was also the director of the Kunsthalle Carl Georg Heise , the first chairman is Walter Claas. From then on, the art association worked as an independently financed exhibition department of the art gallery. In 1947 a series of exhibitions was devoted to the rehabilitation of modernism. In 1949 the Kunstverein moved into new exhibition halls in the old Kunsthalle building. In 1958 Jackson Pollock had his first exhibition in Germany at the Kunstverein. In 1962 the art association had 3,025 members again.

At Ferdinandstor, east of the Lombard bridge and next to the art gallery, the art association built a new association building designed by Paul Seitz in 1963 . This was on May 3rd with the exhibition Cezanne . Gauguin . Van Gogh . Seurat . Pioneer of modern painting opened. In 1965, the Kunstverein organized Francis Bacon's first exhibition in Germany. In 1966 the art association had 4,255 members. At the time of the 1968 movement , social issues were the focus of artistic debates and thus the conceptual art of Joseph Beuys , Blinky Palermo , Dieter Roth and Hanne Darboven . From the 1980s onwards, the art association developed as a place where social, cultural and political disputes based on its own claim "are not only conducted, but initiated" about art. Philippe Parreno , Pierre Huyghe , Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Liam Gillick continued this tradition in the 1990s. In 1991 the building at Ferdinand's Gate was demolished to make way for the Gallery of the Present, which was completed in 1995 , whereby the mural painting of Palermo from 1973 had previously been exposed. The art association is temporarily visiting the small Deichtorhalle . In 1992 a former bicycle shop was temporarily used on Michaelisbrücke / Admiralitätsstrasse.

From the move to the Klosterwall until today

In 1993 the art association moved into the current building at Klosterwall 23. The first exhibition in the new building was backstage. Topology of contemporary art with 25 young artists from Europe and the USA. In 2014, Bettina Steinbrügge was appointed the first female director of the Kunstverein. In 2017, the Kunstverein celebrated its 200th birthday with the exhibition The History Show in collaboration with the Art History Seminar of the University of Hamburg . In the meantime, the Kunsthalle is dedicating the exhibition The Art is Public - From the Art Association to the Art Hall and the Museum for Art and Crafts the exhibition “To revive the sense of art”. 200 years of the Kunstverein in Hamburg . In its anniversary year, the art association had 1,906 members.

According to its Mission Statement published in 2018, the Kunstverein sees itself as "committed to promoting those artists who produce today and who help shape the cultural heritage of the future", as in its long history. One would like to orientate oneself on international developments of contemporary art and with a focus on a high-quality presentation of experimental art as well, encourage artists who "show new perspectives on social issues" and "also the way to a different way of living together [... ] formulate ". The art association in Hamburg is a member of the working group of German art associations .


Art Association in Hamburg

The current building of the Kunstverein was an old market hall , which was redesigned by the architectural community Störmer und Partner , Floder & Simons into a modern exhibition space without denying the original character of the place. Two floors of the hall are used by the Kunstverein: The entrance area on the ground floor offers space for the foyer, cloakroom and sanitary rooms as well as a 200 m² artificial light room for exhibitions, which is surrounded by workshops and magazines. The offices of the employees are located on a newly moved mezzanine floor. On the first floor there is a 1000 m² exhibition hall with daylight .

List of First Chairmen

List of directors

List of exhibitions (selection)


  • Maike Bruhns : Excluded , in: Art in Hamburg 1933–1945 . Hamburger Kunsthalle 2005, ISBN 3-89757-309-1
  • Uwe Fleckner & Uwe M. Schneede (eds.): Bourgeois avant-garde - 200 years of the Kunstverein in Hamburg , Hatje Cantz: 2017.
  • Carl Töpfer : First art exhibition in Hamburg , in Georg Lotz (ed.): Originals from the realm of truth, art, mood and fantasy , 1826, No. 47, Col. 369 f., No. 48, Col. 379 f. , No. 49, Col. 388 f., No. 50, Col. 396 f., No. 51, Col. 405 f., No. 52, Col. 409 f., No. 53, Col. 417 f. , No. 54, Col. 426 f., No. 55, Col. 437 f., No. 56, Col. 443 f., No. 57., Col. 454 f., No. 59, Col. 468 f ., No. 60. Col. 478 f., (Detailed contemporary consideration).
  • Florian Waldvogel : Libretto for a possible art association. Libretto for a Possible Art Association. Art Association in Hamburg (2010)

Web links

Commons : Kunstverein in Hamburg  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Crasemann: The history of the origins of the art association in Hamburg . In: Hamburger Kunsthalle (ed.): Annual report of the Kunst-Verein zu Hamburg for 1900 . Hamburg, S. 17 .
  2. Uwe M. Schneede: A public for art - The beginnings of the art association in Hamburg (and elsewhere) . In: Uwe Fleckner, Uwe M. Schneede (ed.): Bourgeois avant-garde - 200 years of the art association in Hamburg . Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7757-4374-7 , pp. 13 .
  3. a b Uwe M. Schneede: A public for art - the beginnings of the art association in Hamburg (and elsewhere) . In: Uwe Fleckner, Uwe M. Schneede (ed.): Bourgeois avant-garde - 200 years of the art association in Hamburg . Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7757-4374-7 , pp. 14th f .
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Uwe M. Schneede: A public of the art - The beginnings of the art association in Hamburg (and elsewhere) . In: Uwe Fleckner, Uwe M. Schneede (ed.): Bourgeois avant-garde - 200 years of the art association in Hamburg . Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7757-4374-7 , pp. 271 ff .
  5. a b Uwe M. Schneede: A public for art - the beginnings of the art association in Hamburg (and elsewhere) . In: Uwe Fleckner, Uwe M. Schneede (ed.): Bourgeois avant-garde - 200 years of the art association in Hamburg . Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7757-4374-7 , pp. 17th f .
  6. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle: Art is public - From the art association to the art gallery (wall text). Retrieved August 3, 2018 .
  7. ^ Kunstverein in Hamburg: Revised statutes of the Kunstverein, minutes of the 194th meeting of January 16, 1937 . In: Kunstverein in Hamburg (ed.): Protocol book of the Kunstverein .
  8. nb In: Neue Hamburgische Blätter . tape 21 . Hamburg 1846.
  9. ^ Bahlsen: House of the art association in Hamburg . In: Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung . tape 50 , no. 45 , November 12, 1930, pp. 776-780 .
  10. More details: Maike Bruhns: Art in the Crisis. Vol. 1: Hamburg Art in the “Third Reich” . Dölling and Galitz, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-933374-94-4 .
  11. Maike Bruhns: Art in the Crisis. Vol. 1: Hamburg Art in the “Third Reich”. Dölling and Galitz, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-933374-94-4 , p. 102.
  12. s. Correspondence between Heinrich Stegemann and Karl Henke v. August 1936 about the Hamburg exhibition. Stegemann estate in the Flensburg Municipal Museum .
  13. Exhibitions since 1950 ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on November 29, 2016) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. ^ A prohibited exhibition. (Retrieved November 29, 2016.)
  15. a b c Art Association in Hamburg. Retrieved August 21, 2018 .

Coordinates: 53 ° 32 ′ 54.7 ″  N , 10 ° 0 ′ 24.1 ″  E