Der Neue Aachener Kunstverein, © Ralph Goertz

Art so­ci­et­ies in #urb­a­nana

Match­makers of the art world

As versed match­makers, the Art So­ci­et­ies (Kun­stver­eine) un­der­stand it bet­ter than any oth­er in­sti­tu­tion to con­nect artists, art lov­ers, art sup­port­ers and in­sti­tu­tions

The matchmakers make their members get in touch without any obstacles in between, their motivation being completely non-commercial. Based on a non-profit operationg principle, the Art Societies are exhibition venues and laboratories for art production,  developing and pushing  experimental art further in all its forms. This includes painting and sculpting as well as performance, digital art and art walks on which artists take their guests along to walks with a focus on art or the artist’s view on the area.


It is apparent: Big exhibition venues and muesums often cannot keep pace with the Art Societies. They are spontaneous, dynamic and therefore able to treat art and artists in that very way. Thus, it is often not the museums but the Art Societies who trace down up and comig young artists, provide ateliers  in order to support them with their first exhibitions. Curiosity is the leading principle here, fear of contact is naturally, the reason being that Art Societies are not dependend on big audiences or large numbers of buyers.

„Jahresgaben“ to honour the members

International neighbours are therefore prone to an envious glace at how art is dealt with in Germany. Visitors enjoy frequently changing exhibitions, luring them out of their everyday-life into the middle of exciting new positions in art. Members of Art Societies are regularly rewarded for their loyality with the so-called „Jahresgaben“.  This way, artworks by Tony Craigg or Thomas Schütte for example had been exposed in Cologne and the Ruhr Area. And, who knows, maybe Alex Wissel will be available next. You don’t know who that ist? Nevermind, this can change soon.

Let us introduce to you..

What began as a self-confident movement away from the dominant corporative state in the 19th century is still working well today. There are 300 Art Societies in Germany, 63 of which in NRW alone. Everywhere  they support and feed into the development not only oft he local but international art scene. They all differ in how they do that so let us present you at leat how nine of them go about this supertask.

Cologne (Temporary Gallery) – Regina Barunke

Crossmedial since 2008 and an art association since 2012. International guest curators come in and out, Director Regina Barunke gladly takes them to exhibition openings in the quaint Pütz Brewery, just a few minutes away on foot.

Cologne (Die Brücke Kölnischer KV) – Moritz Wesseler

Today, he is the Director of Museum Fridericianum in Kassel – before that, he spent five years organising the work of the Kölnischer Kunstverein. At Walther König’s bookshop, very close to his workplace in Wilhelm Riphahn building, he happily browses through the abundant stock of art books.

Aachen (NAK) – Maurice Funken

Artistic Director Maurice Funken shows us the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, his favourite place in the heart of Aachener Stadtpark. When he leaves here, it’s off in the direction of Promenadenstraße. The residential community is quite a nice place to be. 

Bielefeld (Bielefelder KV) – Thomas Thiel

And we have just caught Thomas Thiel, who after ten years as Director of Bielefelder Kunstverein was replaced. Poetry, architecture, music, design and contemporary art all belong together for him. And he prefers to enjoy the view of the Teutoburg Forest that flows through the city from Sparrenburg Castle.

Düsseldorf (KV für die Rheinlande und Westfalen) – Eva Birkenstock

Art is created and practised here, in dialogue with the students who study and work at the nearby Academy of Art. The fact that all of the stakeholders are closely interlinked around Grabbeplatz in the middle of Düsseldorf is celebrated by the art association’s director, Eva Birkenstock, quite particularly and particularly well.

Mönchengladbach (MMIII) – Annette Kremer-Königs

What the art association and its founding chairperson Annette Kremer-Königs value in particular: young art and the curatorial work of young art historians. This takes place in the industrial district, or more specifically: in the old warehouse where MMIII is now located. The city library as a media centre and meeting place is one of Annette Kremer-König’s other favourite places in Mönchengladbach.

Bonn (Bonner KV) – Kyla McDonald

In Bonn, the focus is on artists who have never before had an exhibition in Germany. There is more art in the Artothek (art library) belonging to the art association, where members can borrow art by Beuys or Polke, for example. The interim director Kyla McDonald believes that this is “unique”.

Arnsberg (KV Arnsberg) – Johannes Teiser

The founder of Kunstverein Arnsberg, Johannes Teiser, makes one thing clear: His art association is not intended just be a closed room in which art is shown. First and foremost, it has been a citizens’ initiative in the wonderful town of Arnsberg for more than 30 years.

Dortmund (Hartware MedienKunstVerein) – Inke Arns

An artist’s house became Dortmund’s Hartware MedienKunstVerein, which is now run by director Inke Arns. One of her favourite places in Dortmund is the white colossus, the former West LB building, which one could easily mistake for a Star Wars stormtrooper.

Images and videos

Watch "99sec" - the series of NR­Ws Art So­ci­et­ies