Esther Schipper is especially known for exhibiting and finding markets for ephemeral and time-based conceptual projects and for the longstanding and continuous collaborations with its artists, whose work spans across a wide spectrum of practices.
The gallery was founded 1989 in Cologne and opened with General Idea’s ¥en Boutique. Many of the artists with whom Esther Schipper has worked since the 1990s, among them Angela Bulloch, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, are central figures in radically rethinking the exhibition as a form and taking it as a critical medium. To this day the gallery represents AA Bronson and the Estate of General Idea. Also during the early years in Cologne, Julia Scher joined the gallery, exploring the theme of surveillance across multiple media.
In 1995 Esther Schipper, now operating as Schipper & Krome, opened a project space in Berlin, and in 1997 moved its entire operations to the German capital. The program was initially expanded to include both noted artists in their early career such as Thomas Demand and Ugo Rondinone, and artists closely related with Berlin, such as Matti Braun, Christoph Keller and Christopher Roth, whose activities went beyond exhibitions to include lectures, talks, performances and musical events, decisively shaping the gallery's reputation as an engaged, discursive environment.
After six years at its Auguststrasse location, in 2001 the gallery moved just a short distance away, to a townhouse on Linienstrasse. Coinciding with the return to the founding name, Esther Schipper, the space was remodeled by Caruso St John Architects in 2004 to accommodate the demands of the wide range of practices in its steadily growing program. Further additions to the gallery's program of internationally recognized artists followed: among them Nathan Carter, Ceal Floyer, Ann Veronica Janssens, Grönlund-Nisunen, and Gabriel Kuri.
Eventually Esther Schipper moved from Berlin's Mitte district to the Tiergarten area in 2011, taking up premises designed by Arno Brandlhuber in a residential building at Schöneberger Ufer, near the Neue Nationalgalerie. Isa Melsheimer, Karin Sander, Tomás Saraceno, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Jean-Pascal Flavien, and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané joined the gallery shortly thereafter.
In May 2015 the gallery merged with Johnen Galerie. After a two-year transitional period, both galleries are now housed under Esther Schipper. Integrating archives and operations, the two teams merged as well and the gallery now represents Martin Boyce, David Claerbout, Ryan Gander, Francesco Gennari, Rodney Graham, Andrew Grassie, Martin Honert, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Roman Ondak, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, Wiebke Siem and Liu Ye.
In April 2017 Esther Schipper opened its current location at Potsdamer Strasse 81E, designed by Selldorf Architects in cooperation with Berlin-based firm s1 architektur. In an adjacent building offices, archive and library have been housed since May 2016.