Since 1817 the Kunstverein in Hamburg has been a place of contemporary art, its production and mediation. This makes it not only the oldest art institution in the city, but also one of the oldest art associations in the entire country. On the occasion of its 200th anniversary, the Kunstverein’s team has begun to reappraise and make use of the eventful history that not only tells of art, but also of the cultural development of the city of Hamburg. The history of the Kunstverein can be divided into the following complexes:
1.The founding period until the opening of the Städtische Galerie des Kunstvereins (1817–1850)
2.The consolidation phase, the transition of the collection from Kunstverein to Kunsthalle, the significance of the Kunstverein in this process. (1850–1919)
3. The period of the Hamburg Secession and Avant-garde (1919–1933)
4. the time of the “Third Reich” (1933–1945)
5. The Rehabilitation of Modernity (1945–1969)
6. The Politicization of the Kunstverein (1969–1985)
7. The autoreflexive present (1985–2018)
The Kunstverein in Hamburg has played an important role among German art associations since the 19th century, as its organizational form and the direction of its activities, such as the founding of an art gallery, have set an example for the founding of most German art associations. The Kunstverein in Hamburg stands for the history of the arts in Hamburg, as it had the first public collection that was handed over to the Hamburgische Kunsthalle around 1900. Hildebrand Gurlitt was one of its directors, and the Kunstverein was expropriated in 1936 to develop into an internationally active exhibition house after 1945. In Germany there are only a few places of contemporary art and culture where participation in artistic production and innovation is as natural and comprehensive as in the art associations.
An extensive part of the material on the history of the Kunstverein has already been collected from the city’s archives, the Kupferstichkabinett of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, and the Kunstverein’s in-house archive, which is still growing. These include, among other things, the collected minute books from the foundation of the Kunstverein until today, a multitude of historical exhibition catalogues and artist correspondence, posters as well as negatives, slides and prints with exhibition views of the past.
Our goal is to create a publicly accessible online archive by the end of 2022 that is easy to use, not only for professional research, but also for interested laypersons. Most documents are currently available as PDF files and can be downloaded.
We are also happy about additional archival documents, of which we don’t know anything yet. If you have any questions, comments or requests, please do not hesitate to contact us.