The idea of art halls came to Europe at the end of the 18th century. Artists who wanted to exhibit and sell their art together protested against the established art museums, which often did not want to exhibit modern art.
In Denmark, the first art hall was founded in 1891 under the name “Den Frie Udstilling” in protest against the admission requirements for the state exhibition building Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. The founders included J.F. Willumsen, Vilhelm Hammershøi and the couple Harald and Agnes Slott-Møller.
The Aarhus Kunsthal was opened in 1917 and more were added during the 20th century. During the spirit of optimism in the 60s and 70s, many new art galleries opened.
At that time, the art halls wanted to organize innovative art exhibitions without being in possession of permanent art collections that museums have.
In 1992, the Association of Art Halls in Denmark (FKD) was founded. FKD currently has 16 art institutions. In these art halls only art is shown, while Ærø Kunsthal does both showing art and selling the works.
In addition to the large established art halls, over the past decade art halls have sprung up in several larger and smaller towns, such as Varde and Møn. Often with business people as key players who run the art venues.
Today there are about 50 larger and smaller art halls in Denmark. In 2018 Ærø Kunsthal opened in Ærøskøbing. Ærø Kunsthal is one of the largest art halls in Denmark (1,000 m²) – and is located in a town with 950 inhabitants.
In 2018, Ærø Kunsthal had 12.000 guests – and in 2019 15.000 guests are expected.