Digital Art Museum highlights economic clout of art and culture

Opening of Europe's first digital museum likely to boost Hamburg as tourist destination
02 November 2021
Digital Art Museum

Not many cities have been able to replicate the so-called “Bilbao effect” whereby cultural investment and flamboyant architecture have led to an improved financial pedestal. Yet, that is precisely what the Elbphilharmonie has done for Hamburg since it opened in January 2017.  A string of success stories has been unreeled and guests from all corners of the globe and Germany arrive to marvel at Hamburg’s latest landmark. The Elbphilharmonie now ranks third on the "Lonely Planet’s" top 250 of "Germany's Ultimate Travel Destinations".



Contract signed during trip to Asia

Hopes are now high that the Digital Art Museum will replicate the success of the Elbphilharmonie from 2024.  Europe's fist and largest digital museum with a permanent exhibition entitled "teamLab Borderless Hamburg" is being built on over 7,000 square meters with 10-metre high ceilings in eastern HafenCity in Hamburg. This huge space is set to become Europe's largest climate-neutral museum. Various measures will ensure the museum's carbon footprint amounts to zero. 

Initiated by Lars Hinrichs, the idea for a Digital Art Museum in Hamburg came on the heels of a visit to the teamLab's exhibition in 2016 at the Fondation Maeght in the south of France. The teamLab is an international, interdisciplinary collective of artists, programmers, engineers, mathematicians, architects and experts in computer animation. "I was overwhelmed and knew that I wanted to experience this in Hamburg," said Hinrichs and began working his contacts. The contract was eventually signed in 2019 during a trip to Asia which saw Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg and 50 other movers and shakers in politics, business, science and culture visit the Digital Art Museum in Tokyo. 

© Elbphilharmonie Mediaserver Hamburg/ThisIsJulia Photography
Lars Hinrichs in the Digital Art Museum
© teamLab-Borderless-Tokyo
Lars Hinrichs, initiator of the first European digital art museum

Hopes for 700,000 visitors in Hamburg

The extraordinary museums in Tokyo,  Shanghai, Osaka and Kobe are proving international crowd-pullers. Visitors get a personalized, immersive art experience and are encouraged to touch the exhibits and take photographs. The exhibition in Tokyo attracted 2.3 million visitors from more than 160 countries within a year of its opening in 2018. Hopes are now high that a museum in Hamburg would attract around 700,000 art lovers in the first year. "Hamburg is ideal and offers the best conditions for such a digital art museum," according to Hinrichs, who is investing EUR 45 million in the museum.

Tschentscher is eager to see the museum go ahead, and noted: "The Digital Art Museum will be an extraordinary place for digital art. Hamburg is a great location for a European teamLab project with our strong digital scene and comprehensive digitization strategy. The Digital Art Museum, the Digital Campus Hammerbrooklyn and the future 'House of the Digital World' show the diverse perspectives of digitization and will encourage people to help shape the digital future."


Targeting people from zero to 120 years 

The exhibition will also play an educational role. "The following generations can experience digitalisation as far more than simply a cool mobile phone, streaming or games," said Hinrichs. Anything that can be digital will become digital. "Digital art is just the next logical step."

The potential target group is between zero and 120 years old, according to Hinrichs and Caren Brockmann, Executive Director of the Digital Art Museum. "We took our cue from the ages indicated on games which read,  'From zero to 99.' But that seemed too low in view of increasing life expectancy," said Brockmann.

Digital Art Museum The Way of the Sea
© teamLab
teamLab project: The Way of the Sea
Digital Art Museum Flutter of Butterflies
© teamLab
teamLab project: Flutter of Butterflies

HafenCity attracting tourists

Prior to the pandemic, Hamburg notched up 15.4 million overnight stays, which indicates its appeal as a highly successful tourist destination. Not surprisingly, Hinrichs and Brockmann are counting on an influx of national and international art lovers from 2024. "HafenCity is a rapidly developing district where an incredible amount is always happening," said Hinrichs, citing the Elbtower as an example. The 61-storey skyscraper is being built a cost of EUR 700 million and is due for completion in 2025. Hamburg is also one of Europe’s most popular cruise destinations. Three cruise terminals in the Port of Hamburg handled 210 cruise ships with 815,000 passengers in 2019. “Disembarking tourists just have to stroll along to see a plethora of fantastic sights, which will include our Museum of Digital Art from 2024."


Curiosity driving interest

The Digital Art Museum is likely to attract art and digital enthusiasts. "Curiosity is a strong driver. “This exhibition is entirely new in Europe," said Brockmann. The digital press conference in September marked the start of ticket sales and “several hundred interested people have already secured a ticket," he noted. That spells good news for a museum that has yet to be built and will open its doors in three years.