The Salzburger Kunstverein was founded in 1844 by Prince-Archbishop
Friedrich Schwarzenberg, artists and representatives of the civic society interested in art. It was one of the first such institutions in Austria. The interest of the population was so great that already on 9 May 1844 the citizens of Salzburg proudly reported in a letter to the district office in Linz that 600 participants had registered. In 1885 the “Künstlerhaus,” housing studios and an exhibition area, was built in a style typical for the late 19th century. Nowadays its the only building dating from the 1880s to be seen in Salzburg.
The task of the Salzburger Kunstverein was to promote and sell contemporary fine art from the territories of the monarchy and neighbouring foreign countries. Like all art associations the Salzburger Kunstverein was therefore a forerunner model of the private galleries. Initially the pictures were distributed similar to prizes in a raffle in order to spare the middle class the need to decide which works of art to select.
The 150 year history of the Kunstverein is characterised by high and low points. Since the 1990s the association has introduced and consistently followed an international programme in keeping with the intentions of the founders.