Hamburg’s 10 Contemporary Art Galleries You Should Visit
When it comes to the visual arts, Germany’s harbour city quietly and confidently rivals Berlin. From world-renowned contemporary collections to intimate independent galleries, Hamburg’s art scene holds its own as an international artistic centre whilst always taking care cast a spotlight upon its local heroes. Here is a dynamic cross-section of the galleries to be found in amongst the canals and red brick streets, with our insider guide to top ten must-see galleries.
Vera Munro Gallery
Serenely overlooking the bank of the Alster river, the Vera Munro Gallery occupies a both beautiful space in Hamburg’s physical landscape and an essential place on Gemany’s avant-garde scene. The building itself constitutes a noteworthy example of Jugendstil architecture, the art nouveau of the German-speaking world. It provides an open stage for the personal tastes of Vera Munro; in her time a model, TV personality, and since 1977 a formidable authority on avant-garde works from Germany and around the globe. The gallery was expanded in 2011, and now holds more than 600 square metres of space where established and up-and-coming artists can mingle side by side. But it’s not just the artworks doing the mingling; with exhibitions frequently featured in renowned art publications such as Artforum International and Frieze Magazine, Vera Munro gallery is a social hotspot of the city.
Vera Munro Gallery, Heilwigstrasse 64, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 474 746
This gallery’s unique fusion of western and eastern, of the abstract and the political, can be directly traced back to the colourful life story of its founder and curator Andrée Sfeir-Semler. Born in Beirut in 1953, she studied art history in her home city, before going on to Germany to complete a PhD on a social history of French art scene of the 17th century. The Middle Eastern themes and artists represented in the gallery’s exhibitions reflect Sfeir Semler’s continued connection to her home country, where the gallery also has a twin. Sfeir-Semler’s mindfulness of both Europe and Asia was exemplified by her recent exhibition of works by Swiss minimalist photographer Balthasar Burkhard, whose monochrome vision of Lebanon perfectly encapsulated her vision.
Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Admiralitätstraße 71, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 3751 9940
Kunstverein in Hamburg
One of the oldest art societies in Germany, the Kunstverein in Hamburg has been formally dedicated to showcasing the very best of contemporary art since 1817. The institution’s history is colourful, having evolved its progressive philosophy in the midst of the March Revolution, and having has its exhibition Malerei und Plastik in Deutschland personally halted by Nazi culture minister Adolf Ziegler in 1936. Today the gallery continues to challenge accepted norms; recently the exhibition Let’s make the water turn black has brought the kinetic creations of Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer to Germany. Working to complex algorithms, this mechanical theatre of sculpture, light and sound is never the same twice, so bringing into play ideas of freedom and ever-evolving identity.
Kunstverein, Klosterwall 23, Hamburg, Germany, +49 40 322 157
Emerging from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, the first building to meet the eye is the grand façade of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. This old building houses some of the greatest works of art from the past five hundred years, including David Caspar Friedrich’s Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer. Yet beyond the grand old entrance looms a vast white box, a signature architectural work by Oswald Matthias Ungers. The striking cubist structure is home to the institution’s Galerie der Gegenwart, which houses an ever-changing selection of contemporary art, from 1960s pop art through to the present day. Curators place emphasis on the constant introduction of new works and re-evaluation of the old, meaning exhibition space is forever in flux. No cultural survey of Hamburg is complete without a visit to this landmark gallery.
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Glockengießerwall, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 42813 1200
An unmissable feature of Hamburg’s harbourside skyline, the Deichtorhallen form the backbone of the Hamburg ‘Art Mile’, and together constitute one of the largest centres of contemporary art in Europe. The gallery’s tripartite structure encompasses three important artistic media. At the building’s centre, the Halle für aktuelle Kunst gathers together more conventional works of painting and sculpture, with works by Richard Serra, Mario Merz and Imi Knoebel lining the halls. In the south building, the Haus der Fotographie pays similar homage to the very best of international photography, tracing the medium’s inception through to the present day. Finally, the Sammlung Falckenberg satellite gallery makes possible large-scale multimedia installations, allowing the loftiest ambitions of the likes of Jon Kessler and General Idea to be realised. And with fourteen million euros’ worth of investment currently being poured into the first of the three galleries, the only way is up for Hamburg’s premier contemporary art establishment.
Deichtorhallen, Deichtorstraße 1, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 321 030
The heliumcowboy artspace might claim to be the most subversive art establishment operating in Hamburg today. Founder Jörg Heikhaus is not shy about his vision to define the future aesthetics of art itself, as he endeavours to send global shockwaves from his little space in St Pauli. Having done away with conventional exhibition tactics, the gallery looks to cultivate the potential of a tiny group of blossoming creatives, and provides these individuals with support for projects both in and outside of the city. Entry is by appointment only, but the bold future vision which awaits the visitor within is more than worth the phone call.
heliumcowboy artspace, Bäckerbreitergang 75, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 4840 8860
The Produzentengalerie lies deep in Hamburg’s labyrinthine industrial canal district. The rusty red brick exterior conceals an unexpectedly clinical arena for the razor-sharp elucidation of a given theme or problem. Currently, the gallery is taking the notion of abstraction as its focus. The visitor is asked what the term might truly encompass: is it a deviation from realistic, figurative art, an aesthetic flight into the spheres of colour and shape, or is it a certain utopian quality in the subject matter? The mosaic of responses by the trio Achim Bertenburg, Heinrich Modersohn and Norbert Prangenberg is characteristic of the Produzentegallerie’s ‘variation on a theme’ approach, bringing together prints, drawings, photography, paintings and sculpture for one common purpose.
Produzentengalerie Hamburg , Admiralitätstrasse 71, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 37 8232
The dynamism of the everyday is the driving force behind the Georg Molitoris Galerie, where Hamburg’s homegrown talent is given a platform for their impressions of the city. Recently featured artists include the pairing of Viviane Gernaert and Anka Manshusen. The former is known for her explorations of pain, injury, and the lust for power through a rather novel medium: fabric sculptures inspired by contemporary action and martial arts films. The viewer might recognise the latter’s photography from Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, where her street photography was passed off as that of Scarlet Johansson’s character. Yet Manshusen’s work deserves to be viewed in its own right, with her chaotic images of European cities combining to constantly reinforce the innate subjectivity of the photographic gaze.
georgmolitoris galerie, Gorch-Fock-Strasse 6, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 17 2451 2617
The experience of Galerie W is one of magic and intrigue, as the enigmatic Wittus Witt seeks to derive artistic merit from the quaint tradition of the Victorian conjuror’s show. At 9 p.m. each Friday, Wittus Witt invites all who are curious to visit his Zauber-salon, where the curtain is raised to reveal a world of illusion and double meaning. Expressly distancing himself from tacky Las Vegas style cabaret, Witt draws his inspiration from 19th century Viennese magician Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, whose performances held a depth and darkness lacking in modern shows. In daylight hours the gallery also showcases local artists’ responses to these ideas of deception and conspiracy so integral to the magical world.
Galerie W, Ifflandstraße 64, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 2275 8374
Galerie Hinaneh von Kories
Since 2005 Galerie Hinaneh von Kories has become an established space in Hamburg for innovative photography. It is of paramount importance for founder Hinaneh von Kories that her gallery not only represents the most promising individual photographers, but also that it reflects the larger shifts and trends of the contemporary photographic art scene. As such, review shows are regularly put together as a means of placing usually separate talents in the context of our time. From Corinna Holthusen’s large-format portraits of human faces, declared by the artist herself to be ‘irritating’, to Stephan Vanfleteren’s unexpectedly captivating collection of shop façades and vitrines, photographs found in this gallery can be relied upon to open up new perspectives on upon the oft-ignored peculiarities of daily life.
Galerie Hinaneh von Kories, Stresemannstr. 384a, Hamburg, Germany, +49 (0) 40 423 2010