The Visual Arts Section has existed as long as the Academy itself. Together with the Architecture Section, it forms the core element of the "Academie der Mahl-, Bild- und Baukunst" founded by the Elector Frederick III in 1696. In the course of its over 300-year history, its members have included Andreas Schlüter, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Carl Blechen, Max Liebermann, Heinrich Zille, Käthe Kollwitz, and Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
These days the Visual Arts Section is composed of members who represent the entire spectrum of the interdisciplinary-oriented contemporary visual arts. Its international membership consists of sculptors, painters, art theoreticians, photographers, curators, filmmakers as well as conceptual, video, and sound artists.
In the Akademie der Künste, there exists – in addition to the Visual Arts Section – the Visual Arts Archive as well as the Art Collection, each with its own tasks dedicated to the visual arts. An affinity exists through the work with the Academy members. The Visual Arts Archive, focusing on the collections of the members, acquires, preserves, and develops – amongst other items – written legacies as well as documents from artists circles and associations starting from the 19th century through to the present day. The Art Collection maintains works of the applied visual arts with its form shaped by the work of its members. In the context of self-designed exhibitions, the collaboration between the Section, the Archive, and the Art Collection has repeatedly proven to be particularly valuable.
In May 2012, Wulf Herzogenrath was elected as Director and Birgit Hein as Deputy Director of the Visual Arts Section.