The contract signed on 5 February 1976 by Mr and Mrs Ludwig covering their donation to the City of Cologne marked the founding of Museum Ludwig. In the contract, Peter and Irene Ludwig agreed to endow 350 modern artworks and in return the City of Cologne committed itself to build a dedicated "Museum Ludwig" for works made after the year 1900. The "twin" museum designed by the architectural team Peter Busmann and Godfrid Haberer, and opened in 1986, became home to both the Wallraf Richartz Museum as well as Museum Ludwig. In 1994 it was decided to separate the two institutions and to place the building on Bischofsgartenstrasse at the sole disposal of Museum Ludwig.
5 FEBRUARY 1976
Founding of Museum Ludwig on the signing of the contract with Peter and Irene Ludwig covering their endowment (Russian avant-garde 1905-1935)
Founding of the Photography and Video Collection (purchase of works from the Gruber Collection)
Inauguration of the new building designed by Busmann und Haberer
Endowment made by Günther und Carola Peil
Donation by Peter and Irene Ludwig (Picasso)
Kasper König becomes the new director
1 NOVEMBER 2001
Exhibition to celebrate the reopening of the house - "Museum of our Wishes"
The collection at Museum Ludwig covers the major currents and approaches in twentieth century and contemporary art. The core collection was amassed by a Cologne lawyer, Dr. Josef Haubrich (1889-1961). Directly after World War 2, in May 1946, he presented the City of Cologne with his Expressionism collection (Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Otto Mueller) and works by other representatives of Classical Modernism (Marc Chagall, Otto Dix). In October 1946 a selection of 100 paintings was presented for the first time in the old University of Cologne.
Among the visitors to this now legendary exhibition was a 21 year-old art history student from Mainz - Peter Ludwig. He was not only impressed by the art, but equally so by the collector and donor Josef Haubrich. As a person who had been denied the chance to see contemporary art in his youth as a result of the Nazi regime, after this encounter he resolved to likewise collect art and make it available to the general public.
The first gift from the Ludwigs in 1976 brought works by the Russian avant-garde from the period 1905 to 1935 (Goncharova, Larionov, Exter, Popova, Malevich, Rodchenko) of singular quality and quantity to the newly founded museum. In addition to this came the most extensive American Pop Art Collection outside of the USA (including paintings, objects and environments by Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, Warhol and Wesselmann).
In 1957 the collections were enriched by an important group of works by Max Beckmann in the form of the "Georg and Lilly von Schnitzler Bequest", and in 1958 the Willy Strecker Collection could be acquired and with that important works by among others Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Oskar Kokoschka and Paul Klee. Between the years 1976 and 1988 the husband and wife collectors Günther and Carola Peill donated bit by bit major works from their collection (paintings and graphics by Max Ernst, Alexej von Jawlensky, Willi Baumeister, and Ernst Wilhelm Nay).
Prof. Peter Ludwig, 1994
In 1994 Peter und Irene Ludwig handed the City of Cologne 90 works from their personal Picasso collection on condition that the Wallraf Richartz Museum moved to its own premises. The reopening of Museum Ludwig on 31 October 2001, an event that sadly one of the name givers was no longer alive to see, prompted Irene Ludwig to donate a further 774 works by Picasso. With that Museum Ludwig has the third largest Picasso Collection worldwide, after Barcelona and Paris. It offers a representative cross-section through every genre, material and technique explored by the artist.
Time and again the tradition of collecting and donating has given new impetus to Museum Ludwig: its large exhibition for the reopening of the house - "Museum of our Wishes" (11 November 2001 to 28 April 2002) - made a direct appeal to the people of Cologne and their civic pride, as well as all the museum's other visitors, inviting them to take active part in shaping the museum by purchasing selected artworks and donating them to the museum.