About the Collection

Key works of French art after 1945 have been assembled from the important collection of the married couple Peter and Irene Ludwig and made available to the newly founded Ludwig Museum.

The link from Classical Modernism, which still largely determines the current image of French art, to forms of expression of the current art scene is provided by a few, but nevertheless significant works by Wols, Picasso, Dubuffet and the Americans Jasper Johns and William de Kooning. The spirit of a radical turn towards gestural-expressive painting, which was primarily driven by American artists after the Second World War, is ignited by the latter two.

After Paris had initially lost its central position as an art metropolis and American artists came to Paris only briefly, more and more French artists turned to New York to receive new impulses there. This quickly led to a turn to Pop Art, which was taken up, varied, and developed further in France, especially by the “Nouveaux Réalistes. Numerous works by them, including Arman, César, Jean Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle, Martial Raysse, and others, are represented in the collection of the Ludwig Museum and form a first important nucleus of French art after 1945. In the so-called “Edition MAT” (Multiplication d’Art Transformable), from which almost all works of the 1950s and 1960s are gathered in the museum’s collection, there is an interweaving of kinetic and object-related art, which at the same time was born out of the idea of making art affordable for everyone and yet producing individual originals, instead of reproductions. Artists of Nouveau Réalisme, but also protagonists such as Niki de Staint Phalle, Christo, Man Ray, Soto, Pol Bury, Dieter Roth and Karl Gerstner found here a community of interest that was transnational in nature and immensely innovative in concept.

After “Fluxus” (Vautier / Vostell) and “Concept art” (Bernar Venet) followed above all important artist communities such as “Surport(s) / Surface(s)”, which with today well-known representatives such as Daniel Buren, Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Claude Viallat and others have written art history and have been appreciated far beyond the borders of France.

Important works, in part supplemented by important donations, were acquired for the Ludwig Museum. At almost the same time, there was a development in France that dealt with the “securing of traces”. What was meant was nothing other than a partly personal immersion in history, which then turned into generally relevant questions, as exemplified in the work of Christian Boltanski. The “Drawer Cabinet” from 1972 illustrates with each individual drawer the “reconstruction attempt” of Boltanski’s individual search for his own childhood and youth.

The two important works of the artist couple Anne and Patrick Poirier also deal with past times, especially with antiquity. Their “Depôt de Memoire et d’Oblie” from 1992 was conceived especially by them for the outer district of the Ludwig Museum and forms an optical axis between the historic Deutschherrenhaus and the Kaiserdenkmal at the Deutsches Eck.

The 1980s, which in Germany were primarily defined by the “Neue Wilde” (New Wild Ones), were distinguished in France above all by the “Figuration libre” (Free Figuration), which “came along” colorful, poppy, cheeky and in the style of comics. Among them are Hervé di Rosa, Robert Combas and François Boisrond. The influence of Keith Haring is unmistakable.

Important individual positions are continuously expanded and profiled through purchases.


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