The History of the Deichtorhallen Hamburg


Foto: Conny Hilker

The Deichtorhallen Hamburg is one of the largest exhibition venues for contemporary art and photography in Europe. Its programme focuses on the transgression of boundaries and genres in art and, thanks to its innovative exhibitions, the venue stands as a reliable seismograph of the present day. Two captivating, historic steel and glass buildings dating back to 1911/1913 now provide space for spectacular, large international exhibitions. Since 2011 the two buildings – which span from Hamburg’s Kunstmeile to HafenCity – have been complemented by a separate gallery in Hamburg-Harburg housing the Falckenberg Collection.

Between 1911 and 1914 the Deichtorhallen were built as market halls on the site of the former Berlin Station, counterpart to the Hamburg Station in Berlin. They are one of the few surviving examples of industrial architecture from the transitional period between Art Nouveau and 20th century design. Both halls have an open steel construction: the northern hall consists of three naves and 3,800m2 of floor space, while the southern hall (1,800m2) is a central structure with a lantern roof.

Following their original use as market halls the architect Prof. Josef Paul Leihues undertook the restoration and conversion of both halls into an exhibition centre for art and redesigned the outside spaces.

The Deichtorhallen were restored with support of the Körber Foundation and are owned by the City of Hamburg. In 1989 they were assigned to a limited liability company: Deichtorhallen-Ausstellungs GmbH. The Deichtorhallen’s international art exhibition programme launched on 9th November 1989 with Harald Szeemann’s exhibition “Einleuchten”.

Over the years the Deichtorhallen Hamburg have developed into an exhibition venue for photography and contemporary art with three institutional mainstays – essentially three galleries under one name. In addition the Deichtorhallen have access to two of Germany’s most significant private collections: The photo collection of F.C. Gundlach has been housed in the Photography House since 2005. In 2011 the Deichtorhallen expanded into a branch in Hamburg-Harburg housing the Falckenberg Collection. This increased the overall presence of the venues by around 10,000 cubic metres.

Since 2009 Prof. Dr Dirk Luckow has held the position of Artistic Director at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, which he leads together with the Commercial Director Antonius Kaufmann.