The Best of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig

With the most com­pre­hen­sive Pop Art col­lec­tion out­side of the Unit­ed States, the third-largest Pi­cas­so Col­lec­tion in the world, one of the most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of Ex­pres­sion­ism, and an in­ter­na­tio­n­al­ly sig­ni­f­i­cant col­lec­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is one of the most cele­brat­ed mu­se­ums for art of the twen­ti­eth and twen­ty-first cen­turies world­wide. Another area of em­pha­sis that has been con­sis­tent­ly ex­pand­ed up to the pre­sent is the col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art—be­cause a col­lec­tion is nev­er com­plete.

Max Ernst

Au ren­dez-vous des amis (A Friends’ Re­u­nion), 1922

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In 1922 Max Ernst left Cologne and moved to Paris. There he lived with Paul Éluard and his wife, Gala, whose apart­ment was a meet­ing place for artists and literati. Here they pre­sent­ed ideas and po­ems, or­ganized ex­hi­bi­tions, de­bat­ed in­tense­ly, and laid the foun­da­tions for a new art move­ment: Sur­re­al­ism. In the same year, Ernst paint­ed A Friends’ Re­u­nion, in which in­di­vi­d­u­als from vari­ous eras gather to­gether on a crag­gy mas­sif. Ernst him­self, wear­ing a green suit, sits on Dos­toyevsky’s lap. Stand­ing fur­ther back is the Re­nais­sance artist Raphael, whose bal­anced com­po­si­tions served as a mod­el for the group. From the right the group’s spokes­per­son, An­dre Bre­ton, wear­ing a red cape, rush­es by, an­nounc­ing the new ideas. In the front row the in­di­vi­d­u­als com­mu­ni­cate through sign lan­guage. Be­hind them ap­pear a band of ad­her­ents, who fol­low the new art move­ment. The gather­ing takes place dur­ing a so­lar eclipse, a sym­bol of im­pend­ing change, which the Sur­re­al­ists de­sired in art, politics, and so­cial life.

Andy Warhol

Two Elvis, 1963

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Andy Warhol dis­solved the boun­daries be­tween art and com­merce with his works and in the pro­cess harkened back to ev­ery­day mo­tifs from the world of con­sump­tion. In 1962 he be­gan his por­trait se­ries of fa­mous per­so­n­al­i­ties, to which the work Dou­ble Elvis al­so be­longs. As source ma­te­rial he used a mo­tif from the 1960 west­ern Flam­ing Star, in which Elvis plays a cow­boy. Warhol’s por­trait de­picts an in­ap­proach­able hero from the world of com­merce who, with the aid of the sil­ver back­ground, is el­e­vat­ed to an icon. The lus­trous ma­te­rial, how­ev­er, is not a pre­cious me­t­al but an im­i­ta­tion—an al­lu­sion to su­per­fi­cial­i­ty and the gla­m­orous ap­pear­ance of Hol­ly­wood.

Jack­son Pol­lock

Black and White No. 15, 1951

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In 1955 Jack­son Pol­lock be­gan de­vel­op­ing a vi­g­or­ous, spon­ta­neous paint­ing tech­nique called Ac­tion Paint­ing. He laid the can­vas on the ground, cir­cled around it, and drib­bled and splashed the paint on­to the pic­ture’s sur­face. The re­sult was a dense tan­gle of lines that filled the sur­face like an un­der­growth. Th­ese paint­in­gs have nei­ther a be­gin­n­ing nor an end; with­out a fo­cal point, the strains of paint cov­er the en­tire pic­ture. Black and White No.15 com­bines ab­s­tract trails of paint with hints of fig­u­ra­tion. A face or a mask emerges here and there be­tween the black strains of paint, on­ly to dis­ap­pear again in a jum­ble of lines. Pol­lock, who strived to at­tain a trance-like state while paint­ing, ex­plained: “When you're work­ing out of your un­con­s­cious, fig­ures are bound to emerge.”

Jeff Wall

Wo­m­an and her Doc­tor, 1980-1981

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What ini­tial­ly ap­pears to be a shap­shot or a film still is, in re­al­i­ty, care­ful­ly orch­es­trat­ed. The ar­range­ment of the light, col­or, and de­tails is part of the com­po­si­tion. Jeff Wall worked on the im­age for sev­er­al months; it is not by chance that he is called the “paint­ing pho­to­g­ra­pher.” It is the un­spec­tac­u­lar that makes his im­ages spec­tac­u­lar: the ca­su­al mo­ment, the small ges­tures and fleet­ing glances. Un­der­s­cored by the ti­tle Wo­m­an and Her Doc­tor, am­bigu­ous in­tel­lec­tu­al games im­pose them­selves on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two fig­ure­s—Wall’s work nar­rates a sto­ry whose out­come on­ly the view­er knows. Wall be­longs to the artists of the Van­cou­ver school, a group of artists who in the 1980s in­vesti­gat­ed the ar­tis­tic and so­cial ef­fects of pho­tog­ra­phy.

Martin Kip­pen­berg­er

Like­able Com­mu­nist, 1983

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At­tract­ing at­ten­tion any cost was Martin Kip­pen­berg­er’s ar­tis­tic strat­e­gy. With irony, pro­vo­ca­tion, and wit he chal­lenged so­cial norms and sat­i­rized politics and the art scene. As such, in the midst of the Cold War, he paint­ed this work, which he cheek­i­ly ti­tled The Sym­pa­thet­ic Com­mu­nist. It de­picts the por­trait of a wo­m­an wear­ing a black cap with a red star—a Bud­jonov­ka, the typ­i­cal hat worn by the So­vi­et Army. Al­though Kip­pen­berg­er, as a West­ern artist, in­dulged in com­plete ar­tis­tic free­dom, he provo­ca­tive­ly paint­ed pre­cise­ly the sort of paint­ing that So­vi­et state au­thor­i­ties from would have de­mand­ed from East­ern Bloc artists.

Do­n­ald Judd

Un­ti­tled (Eight Mo­d­u­lar Unit, V-Chan­nel Piece), 1966-68

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Do­n­ald Judd’s works al­ter their sur­round­in­gs sole­ly through their pres­ence. “It isn’t ne­ces­sary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to com­pare, to an­a­lyze one by one, to con­tem­plate.” For Judd the forms and ma­te­rials of his works stood in the fore­ground. He had his me­t­al frames in­dus­trial­ly pro­duced to pre­vent their tak­ing on any sort of sym­bolic charge. As a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, he al­so dis­pensed with ti­tles that would per­mit another in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Hence there are no ti­tles that might per­mit another in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Ar­ranged in a row, the eight iden­ti­cal, rec­tan­gu­lar el­e­ments open up in all di­rec­tions, and in do­ing so de­mon­s­trate the no­tion of in­fi­nite ex­pan­sive­ness in space.

Mark Rothko

Earth and Green, 1955

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At the age of for­ty-six Mark Rothko broke with rep­re­sen­ta­tio­n­al paint­ing and turned to ab­s­trac­tion. From 1950 on he paint­ed float­ing, monochrome planes fo­cused sole­ly on the im­pact of col­or. Along with Bar­nett New­man he is one of the lead­ing ex­po­nents of Col­or Field Paint­ing of the 1950s. In this paint­ing two rec­tan­gles are ar­ranged par­al­lel to one another on a blue back­ground. Through their blurred and hazy con­tours the forms seem to float in a blue space and to al­most dis­ap­pear in it. As such, the dis­so­lu­tion of the chro­mat­ic struc­ture cre­ates a med­i­ta­tive, su­per­na­t­u­ral ef­fect.

Sal­va­dor Dalí

La gare de Per­pig­nan (The Sta­tion of Per­pig­nan), 1965

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René Magritte

La géante (The Giantess), 1929 - 1931

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“I en­dea­v­or to turn fa­miliar things in­to the un­fa­miliar.” Re­al­i­ty and un­re­al­i­ty take on an ir­ri­tat­ing re­la­tion­ship in René Magritte’s work. The tiny voyeur in the fore­ground makes the nude ap­pear like a giant, so that the si­t­u­a­tion be­comes ab­surd. On the right side of the paint­ing ap­pears an al­tered quo­ta­tion from Char­les Baude­laire’s po­em “Les Fleurs du mal” (The Flow­ers of Evil, 1857). Sim­i­lar to near­ly all of the Sur­re­al­ists, Magritte al­so es­teemed the French writ­er, who like them ex­plored the thresh­olds be­tween re­al­i­ty, un­re­al­i­ty, and dream. Magritte pre­sents an un­solv­able puz­zle in his pic­ture, one that ranges be­tween po­et­ry, dream, dom­i­na­tion, and erot­ic.

Max Ernst

The Vir­gin Chastis­ing the Christ Child be­fore Three Wit­ness­es: An­dré Bre­ton, Paul Eluard and the pain­ter, 1926

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Cle­mens von Wede­mey­er

Big Busi­ness & The Mak­ing of, 2005

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Kasimir Male­witsch

Supre­ma­tis­tische Kom­po­si­tion, 1915

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Ed­ward Kien­holz

The Portable War Me­mo­rial, 1968

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Ed­ward Kien­holz was in­spired for this work by the res­to­ra­tion of the is­land of Iwo Ji­ma, which the US had seized in 1946, to Ja­pan in 1968. The mo­tif of the group of soldiers de­rived from a prize-win­n­ing press pho­to that a jour­nal­ist had shot af­ter the cap­ture of the is­land. Al­though the pho­to was posed, the mo­tif was used for pos­tage stamps, posters, and a fa­mous war me­mo­rial near Wash­ing­ton DC. Me­t­al han­dles on the plate on which Kien­holz’s group of head­less soldiers stands re­fer to the ti­tle: The Portable War Me­mo­rial. With it, me­mo­rials ap­pear just as exchange­able as the 475 na­tions, drawn on the chalk­board, that once ex­ist­ed around the world. Wars have re­drawn the bor­ders. On the far left, the wo­m­an in a bar­rel rep­re­sents the pop singer Kate Smith, who be­came fa­mous in 1938 with her ren­di­tion of “God Bless Amer­i­ca.” Next to her hangs the mo­bi­l­iza­tion poster with Un­cle Sam, which was used to re­cruit soldiers in 1917. On the right, ev­ery­day life cont­in­ues as usu­al, just a small, burned Tarzan at the very bot­tom of the right grave­s­tone re­calls the nu­clear threat over­sha­d­ow­ing the dai­ly rou­tine.

Pab­lo Pi­cas­so

La Femme à l'Ar­tichaut (Wo­m­an with ar­ti­choke), 1941

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