“As the oldest Kunstverein in Germany, the Kunstverein Nuremberg—Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft looks back over centuries of tradition. For many years I was the chairman of this association, which has, over the last decade in particular, understood how to combine this tradition with progressiveness and an eagerness to experiment, and to inspire an open and intensive exchange of artistic ideas.”
The Kunstverein Nuremberg was founded in 1792 as a Kunstsozietät, a society of art enthusiasts and artists, making it the oldest Kunstverein in Germany. Then as now, it is dedicated to the mediation of contemporary art and the exchanging of ideas about the societal issues currently being raised by artists. Its program presents regional, national, and international artistic productions, thus contributing significantly to the cultural diversity of the city of Nuremberg. Through regular exhibitions, guided tours, artist talks, lectures, film programs, and publications, the aim is to present new ways of thinking within art and to anchor them in our active discourse, as well as in our shared art experiences today. The Kunstverein Nuremberg—Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft sees itself as a vibrant place where the societal significance of contemporary art is discussed and reflected.
In 1792 the art dealer and patron of the arts Friedrich Frauenholz, the painter Johann Peter Rössler, and the doctor Johann Benjamin Erhard founded a “circle for the cultivation of art in Nuremberg” together with fifteen other like-minded individuals. The purpose of this association was to bring together the involvement of both artists and patrons of the arts, thus permanently strengthening the cultural landscape of Nuremberg. Though the society initially enjoyed mostly regional prestige, later prominent members such as Peter von Cornelius, Christian Daniel Rauch, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in particular bestowed nationwide recognition upon the association. Since its union with the Albrecht Dürer Verein in 1830, the Kunstverein bears the name of the city’s most important artist in its title.
There have been numerous major exhibitions during the Kunstverein Nuremberg’s multifaceted history, frequently featuring artists who would later become famous. For example, contact with Max Liebermann, the head of the Akademie in Berlin, led to the presentation of printed works in Nuremberg by artists such as Adolph Menzel, Carl Spitzweg, and Arnold Böcklin at the beginning of their careers. Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky also had exhibitions at the Kunstverein Nuremberg in the 1920s. Also of note is a highly regarded exhibition by Pablo Picasso in response to Lucas Cranach, which was conceived in 1973 while Picasso was still alive.
For a long time, the Kunstverein used to arrange its exhibitions in various locations: the Pilatushaus and an office in the castle were the society’s main venues, and its exhibition projects also made guest appearances at venues such as the old Norishalle, which is now the Kunsthalle, the former Franconian gallery, and the rooms of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, founded in 1871.
The presentation, mediation, and advancement of current art production have been at the center of the Kunstverein’s activities from its foundation to the present day. Under the direction of Natalie de Ligt (2003–2007) and Kathleen Rahn (2007–2012), the Kunstverein Nuremberg has been able to strongly emphasize its national and international features, far beyond the borders of the region. Its programmatic work was recognized in the spring of 2011 with the ADKV-ART-COLOGNE AWARD FOR KUNSTVEREINE, which is awarded by a jury, who make their selection from a shortlist of ten Kunstvereine throughout Germany that have been nominated by experts. The Kunstverein Nuremberg’s program was also significantly enriched in 2011 when Hans Friedrich Defet (da Vinci paintbrush factory) founded the MARIANNE DEFET PAINTING FELLOWSHIP in memory of his deceased wife. This five-month scholarship is designated for young international artists primarily working in the medium of painting and is alternately awarded by the Kunsthalle Nuremberg, the Institute for Modern Art in Nuremberg, and the Kunstverein Nuremberg.
In addition to collaborations with other regional and international art institutions, there is an ongoing cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg. Simone Neuenschwander was head of the Kunstverein Nuremberg from January 2013 until December 2017. Her program focused on artists’ differing perspectives and knowledge production regarding their own experience of reality. Alongside this, the exhibitions’ themes were developed further in the Minutes event series in the form of talks, lectures, performances, and film screenings. Milan Ther has been the new director of the Kunstverein Nuremberg since February 2018.
Since 2003, the Kunstverein Nuremberg has been located in the administrative building of the former Milchhof, which was designed by the architect Otto Ernst Schweizer (1890–1965) in the style of the Neue Sachlichkeit and built between 1929 and 1931. Today the former complex of the Bavarian dairy facility is still regarded as an outstanding example of an early Modernist industrial building. The Milchhof factory buildings were demolished at the beginning of 2008 and the only remaining building is the administrative building at Wöhrder See where the Kunstverein Nuremberg holds its exhibitions in impressive rooms on the ground floor.
The members are the essential foundation of the Kunstverein, supporting its missions and ambitions as well as helping to advance the mediation of contemporary art in the city of Nuremberg. In addition to free entry to all of the Kunstverein Nuremberg’s events and exhibitions, as well as those at other Kunstvereine throughout Germany, special art trips are offered to members that expand the artistic dialogue beyond the city of Nuremberg. Members also have the opportunity to purchase artworks in the form of annual exclusive limited-edition works at affordable prices.
Milan Ther (Director)
Ann-Kathrin Eickhoff (Curator)
Robert Müller (Assistant Curator)
Peter Naumann (Chairman)
Dr. Christoph Giehl
Elke Antonia Schloter
Kulturreferat der Stadt Nürnberg
Press coverage of the ADKV Award for Kunstvereine:
Member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Kunstvereine ADKV