Kestner Gesellschaft (Kestner Society) is an art gallery in Hanover, Germany, founded in 1916 to promote the arts. Its founders included the painter Wilhelm von Debschitz (1871–1948). The association blossomed under the management of Alexander Dorner and Justus Bier, pioneering modern art.
After World War II, Alfred Hentzen took over the management in 1947, followed by Fritz Schmalenbach. In 1997 the Kestner Gesellschaft moved into new premises at Goseriede 11, the former site of the Goseriede Aquatic Center. The new gallery is next to the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, Hanover's newspaper.
The gallery's current and first female director is Christina Végh.
In 1916, with World War I raging, the Kestner Gesellschaft was founded by citizens of Hanover, among them Hermann Bahlsen, August Madsack and Fritz Beindorff. Their goal was to bring internationally renowned and innovative artists and their current works to Hanover. The first exhibition representing the starting point for this concept in 1916 consisted of Max Liebermann's new work. The first director, Paul Küppers, stated at the time that the aim was to present artworks which "do not simply function as a relaxing amusement but instead have a stimulating and – if necessary – provocative and scandalizing effect".
In 1936, the Kestner Gesellschaft was closed under pressure from Hitler's Nazism. The director at the time, Justus Bier, a Jew, presented artists Erich Heckel, Gerhard Marcks, Christian Rohlfs and August Macke – artists who were featured in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich only one year later. Soon after the war, the new Kestner Gesellschaft was opened in the Warmbüchenstraße in 1948 by Hanoverians with service to the public in mind, among them Hermann Bahlsen, Wilhelm Stichweh, Bernhard Sprengel and Günther Beindorff, the director of the company Pelikan.
In the 1990s, this building could no longer meet the high technical demands of modern exhibition operations, and the Kestner Gesellschaft looked for a new location. The former Goseriede Aquatic Center in the centre was chosen, and a team of internationally selected architects designed and oversaw the transformation into a modern exhibition house.
The list of artists whose works have been exhibited during the 75-year history – excluding the years of closure – reads like a "Who's Who" in the history of 20th- and 21st-century art, among them Paul Klee (1920), Wassily Kandinsky (1923), El Lissitzky (1923) and Kurt Schwitters (1924), both friends of the Kestner Gesellschaft, Joan Miró (1952, 1956, 1989), Jean Dubuffet (1960), Marcel Duchamp and Horst Janssen (1965), Pablo Picasso (1973, 1993), Wolf Vostell (1977), Georg Baselitz (1987), Joseph Beuys (1975, 1990), Andy Warhol (1981 as his first retrospective in Germany, 2001), Richard Prince (1991), Rebecca Horn (1978, 1991, 1997), Antoni Tàpies (1962, 1998), Jonathan Meese (2002), Thomas Ruff (2003), Peter Doig (2004), Rochelle Feinstein, (2016/17), James Richards, (2016/17) and Annette Kelm (2017).
In 2017, the third edition of the collection Made in Germany, which is collectively curated on a five-year-cycle by the three institutions Kestner Gesellschaft, Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum Hannover, took place. Under the heading "Produktion. Made in Germany Three", the exhibition focused on the conditions of producing art in Germany. As participating institutions, the Schauspiel Hannover , the Festival Theaterformen, and the KunstFestSpiele are contributing the first time.
Kestner Gesellschaft at the Goseriede
In 1997, the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Gerhard Schröder, inaugurated the new facilities of the Kestner Gesellschaft at Goseriede 11. Simultaneously, the Munich Abendzeitung declared the remodelled exhibition facility "Germany’s most beautiful exhibition house." The remodelling of the former Goseriede Aquatic Center into an up-to-date exhibition house not only incorporates the high technical demands of modern exhibition operations but also preserves and showcases the Jugendstil features of this historic landmark. With its five halls on two levels, the house has at its command more than 1,500 square meters of exhibition surface.
History of the House
From 1902 to 1905 the Hanoverian chief city architectural commissioner, Carl Wolff, oversaw the construction of the Goseriede Aquatic Center. The middle section of the public bathing facility was destroyed in 1943 during the Second World War, and later rebuilt from 1947 to 1953. After the reopening, the pool remained in use until 1982. In the same year, the city placed the beautiful Jugendstil façade under protection as a monument. In 1990 the Madsack publishing company purchased the building, offering the sections of the former women's pool area, entrance hall and all adjoining rooms to the Kestner Gesellschaft for its use. An international architectural competition was launched in 1992 in search of an innovative design for the space with the support of the Norddeutsche Landesbank. Chaired by Prof. Peter P. Schweger, the jury awarded the first prize to the Hanoverian architects Kai-Michael Koch, Anne Panse and Christian Hühn. In collaboration with the curators of the Kestner Gesellschaft, their design was developed further into an elegant and dynamic amalgamation of modern architectural elements. The prize of the Association of German Architects of the State of Lower Saxony was awarded to the building in 1998.
Each of the five halls at Kestner Gesellschaft has its own unique dimensions and atmosphere. Able to accommodate diverse exhibition concepts, the spaces can be transformed with high-tech equipment including a close-meshed and invisible network of electrical connections in the floors, walls and ceilings. The lateral galleries in the Halls II and III can be closed off to create smaller exhibition spaces. The total of twelve entrances into the Claussen Hall may be used to create different orientations of projects and viewers. In planning for the building renovations, care was also taken to create the necessary infrastructure for the careful transport and handling of artworks to and within the halls, with direct access to the exhibition spaces via loading dock. Due to ceiling-high gates on the ground- and upper-floors along with a large elevator, pieces arrive safely and easily into the exhibition halls.
Since 2003, Kestnereditions are being released related to every exhibition. The works, which include graphic art, photography and other art forms, are offered exclusively for members of the Kestner Gesellschaft in limited editions.
Exhibitions until 1936
Exhibitions from 1948 until 1995
Exhibitions since 1997
- Wieland Schmied: Wegbereiter zur modernen Kunst – 50 Jahre Kestner-Gesellschaft. Hannover 1966.
- Ines Katenhusen: Kunst und Politik. Hannovers Auseinandersetzungen mit der Moderne in der Weimarer Republik. Hahn, Hannover 1998, ISBN 3-7752-4955-9.
- Veit Görner: Kestnerchronik. Buch 1, Hannover 2006, Buch 2, Hannover 2009.
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