On February 5, 1976 Peter and Irene Ludwig and the City of Cologne signed a donation contract founding the Museum Ludwig. The contact stipulated that the couple would donate 350 works of modern art and that the City of Cologne would in turn erect an independent “Museum Ludwig” for these objects created after 1900. Conceived by the Cologne architects Peter Busmann and Godfrid Haberer, the “double museum,” which housed both the Wallraf-Richartz Museum and the Museum Ludwig, opened in 1986. In 1994 it was decided to divide the two institutions. From this point on, the building on the Bischofgartenstrasse has housed solely the Museum Ludwig.
Today the collection of the Museum Ludwig includes the most significant trends of twentieth-century and contemporary art. The founding cadre of the collection was provided by the Cologne lawyer Josef Haubrich (1889–1961). In May 1946, directly following World War II, he donated to the City of Cologne his collection of Expressionist art (Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Otto Mueller) and other works of Classical Modernism (Marc Chagall, Otto Dix). In October 1946 a selection of one hundred paintings was shown for the first time at the old University of Cologne.
Peter Ludwig, then a young student, was among those who saw this exhibition. Both the collection and the patron deeply impressed him and provided the impetus for his own art collection.
Though Peter and Irene Ludwig’s donation in 1976, numerous exceedingly qualitative works of the Russian avant-garde dating from 1905 to 1935 (Goncharova, Larionov, Exter, Popova, Malevich, Rodchenko) made their way into the newly established museum. Along with these came the most comprehensive collection of American Pop Art outside of the US (including paintings, objects, and environments by Rosenquist, Warhol, and Wesselmann).
In 1957 the holdings were enriched by a group of works by Max Beckmann, in the form of the “Georg and Lilly von Schnitzler Bequest.” In 1958 the museum was able to purchase the Willi Strecker Collection, which included major works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Oskar Kokoschka, and Paul Klee, among others. Between 1976 and 1988 Günther and Carola Peill also donated significant portions of their collection (paintings and graphics by Max Ernst, Alexei von Jawlensky, Willi Baumeister, Ernst Wilhelm Nay).
In 1994 Peter and Irene Ludwig gifted ninety works from their Picasso holdings to the City of Cologne, with the stipulation that the Wallraf-Richartz Museum be relocated to a building of its own.
Peter Ludwig, the institution’s namesake, did not live to see the reopening of the Museum Ludwig on November 1, 2001, but Irene Ludwig marked the occasion by donating an additional 774 works by Picasso. With them the Museum Ludwig has the third largest Picasso collection worldwide, after Barcelona and Paris, and offers a representative cross section of all the genres, materials, and techniques explored by the artist. Since 2000 the Museum Ludwig has been particularly devoted to collecting and presenting technical media in the area of contemporary art. As such, essential works by Aernout Mik, Diana Thater, and Mike Kelley were acquired through purchases.
On November 1, 2001 the museum was reopened by Kasper König. Under his direction (2000–12) the collection was expanded with essential pieces and entire groups of works, especially in the area of contemporary art, and is today one of the leading museums of modern and contemporary art in Europe.
Since then, the collection continues to steadily expand its holdings of leading developments in contemporary art.
The Museum Ludwig is founded with the signing of a donation contract by Peter and Irene Ludwig
Founding year of the Collection of Photography and Video (purchase of works from the Gruber Collection)
The new building by Busmann and Haberer opens
Major gift made by Günther and Carola Peill
Peter and Irene Ludwig donate ninety works from their Picasso collection to the Museum Ludwig
Kasper König becomes new director
The museum reopens with the exhibition Museum unserer Wünsche (Museum of Our Wishes); Irene Ludwig donates 774 works by Picasso
´The museum is gifted a collection of Russian avant-garde art as well as twenty-six classical modernist works, from the bequest of Irene Ludwig, one year after the patron’s death.
Philipp Kaiser takes over as new director until February 2014
New presentation of collection opens: Not Yet Titled. New and Forever at Museum Ludwig
Yilmaz Dziewior takes over as director