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Kestnergesellschaft, art institution in Hanover

Kestner Gesellschaft (Kestner Society) is an art institution 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 [de] and Justus Bier [de], pioneering modern art.

After World War II, Alfred Hentzen [de] took over the management in 1947, followed by Fritz Schmalenbach [de]. 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 institution hit the headlines in 2005 when it exhibited a mud house created by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra featuring a room with mud floor reminiscent of Hanover's Maschsee, an artificial lake.

The institution’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), Andy Warhol (1981 as his first retrospective in Germany, 2001) Jean-Michel Basquiat (1986 as the youngest at age 25,[1] 1989), Georg Baselitz (1987), Joseph Beuys (1975, 1990), 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 [de], 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[edit]

The House[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Exhibition Spaces[edit]

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[edit]

Artist First exhibited year Add'l exhibited years
Theodor Alt 1922
Eduard Arnthal 1921
Hans Arp 1924
Ernst Barlach 1918 1919, 1931
Max Beckmann 1918 1919, 1931
René Beeh 1921
Herman Bieling 1922
Alf Björn 1925
Albert Bloch 1921
Walter Bondy 1925
Theo von Brockhusen 1918 1919
Max Burchartz 1921 1923
Erich Büttner 1918 1919
Karl Caspar 1916
Theo Champion 1925
Lovis Corinth 1917 1928
Elisabet Delbrück 1924
Otto Dix 1927
Kees van Dongen 1922
Bernhard Dörries 1926
Hans Düne 1924
Josef Eberz 1917
James Ensor 1927
Adolf Falke 1924
Lyonel Feininger 1919 1924–25, 1932
Conrad Felixmüller 1921
Margarete Fischer-Bayer 1925
Naum Gabo 1930
Gerlwh (Gerardus Ladage) 1922
Vincent van Gogh 1928
Walter Gropius 1931
George Grosz 1921
Erich Heckel 1919 1935
Franz Heckendorf 1918
August Heitmüller 1921 1922
Ferdinand Hodler 1925
Carl Hofer 1925 1927
Adolf Hölzel 1918
Willy Jaeckel 1916 1917
Alexey von Jawlensky 1920 1924
Wassily Kandinsky 1923
Fred Kayser 1924
Paul Klee 1919 1931
César Klein 1918
Linda Kögel 1924
Wilhelm Kohlhoff 1919
Oskar Kokoschka 1925
Georg Kolbe 1933
Käthe Kollwitz 1929
Bruno Krauskopf 1919
Alfred Kubin 1930
Wilhelm Lehmbruck 1920
Max Liebermann 1916
El Lissitzky 1923
Adrian Lubbers 1925
August Macke 1918 1925, 1935
Franz Marc 1931 1936
Gerhard Marcks 1936
Frans Masereel 1926 1931
Ludwig Meidner 1918
Moritz Melzer 1920
Gerd Meyer 1924
Paula Modersohn-Becker 1917 1922, 1934
László Moholy-Nagy 1923
Wilhelm Morgner 1922
Edvard Munch 1929
Heinrich Nauen 1918
Emil Nolde 1918 1922, 1924, 1928, 1934
Max Pechstein 1922
Pablo Picasso 1932
Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1925
Paul Riess 1925
Auguste Rodin 1925
Emy Roeder 1922
Christian Rohlfs 1919 1924, 1930, 1936
Wolf Röhricht 1921
Josef Scharl 1933
Oskar Schlemmer 1932
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1920 1923
Carl Moritz Schreiner 1922
Otto Schulze 1919
Kurt Schwitters 1917 1918, 1924
Götz von Seckendorff 1919
Max Slevogt 1932 1934
Milly Steger 1922
Käthe Steinitz 1922
Stanislaus Stückgold 1917
Ernst Thoms 1926
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1925
Wilhelm Trübner 1917
Albert Weisgerber 1917
Emil Rudolf Weiß 1917
Konrad Westermayr 1920
Rudolf Wolke 1917
Heinrich Zille 1931
Leni Zimmermann-Heitmüller 1921 1922

Exhibitions from 1948 until 1995[edit]

Exhibitions since 1997[edit]


  • 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.


  1. ^ Basquiat, Jean-Michel (2019). Basquiat-isms. Princeton University Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-691-19283-3.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°22′39″N 9°43′54″E / 52.37750°N 9.73167°E / 52.37750; 9.73167