Roy Lichtenstein's M-Maybe, Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes and George Segal's Restaurant Window, all icons of American Pop Art, had all just been completed when in 1969 they arrived as a loan at Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. The works came from Peter and Irene Ludwig, who had put together the largest Pop Art Collection outside of the USA.
Roy Lichtenstein's M-Maybe was one of the first loans made by Mr and Mrs Ludwig and is now one of the jewels of the Museum Collection.
The donation of 350 modern artworks by Mr and Mrs Ludwig marked the founding of Museum Ludwig in 1976. It was to be the first museum to exhibit contemporary art in Cologne. Apart from Pop Art, the Ludwigs also made a permanent loan to the new museum of their Russian Avant-Garde Collection from 1906 to 1930, as well as several hundred Works by Pablo Picasso. The Picassos were entrusted to the museum in two generous donations in 1994 and 2001 and are now owned by Museum Ludwig. The Modern Art Department of the Wallraf Richartz Museum with the Expressionism Collection amassed by the Cologne lawyer Joseph Haubrich, formed the basis of the contemporary art collection and was also integrated into Museum Ludwig.
The museum has made it a policy to continue collecting contemporary art - the latest work is always just a few months old. In this way German art from the 1970s and 80s made its way into Museum Ludwig, along with the latest international developments and installations by the younger avant-garde.
Museum Ludwig beside the Dom
1986 saw the opening of the new building nestling between the cathedral, the Rhine and the main railway station. It was home to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Museum Ludwig, and the Philharmonie. In January 2001 the Wallraf-Richartz Museum moved into its own building, leaving art of the twentieth century and the present day with c. 7,500 m² exhibition space for itself.
Since November 2000 Kasper König has been the Director at Museum Ludwig. His name stands for large exhibition concepts such as Westkunst, von hier aus and skulptur.projekte Münster. He freed the building of all the subsequent architectural changes that had been made to it and created a circular route round the museum by installing a staircase that links the temporary exhibition areas with the upper storeys.
The house reopened in November 2001 with the exhibition Museum unserer Wünsche, which brought in works from outside that were hung to complement the works in the collection. The idea was to find patrons and sponsors who would be willing to purchase the works for the museum. The concept worked! In the meantime around 75 percent of the wishes have become realities. It was this initiative that led the museum to take its collection into the future. Not only have historical works been acquired that form the basis for a younger generation of artists, but also contemporary works.
It is Kasper König's wish to promote the dialogue between art and visitor, as for instance in the initiative kunst:dialoge in which young people can talk about art on equal terms with people of the same age, through Talks by internationally acclaimed art historians, and by the "filmbar" on the museum's roof terrace, where each summer a specially curated four-week open air film programme is shown.
"The museum is not there to be visited but to be used, because it belongs to everyone and no one" (Kasper König).