Collection of Contemporary Art

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion in­cludes the most im­por­tant artists of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and con­tem­po­rary art. The works of mod­er­nism and art from 1945 to 1970 are ar­ranged chrono­log­i­cal­ly from the up­per­most to the mid­dle floor. The con­tem­po­rary art in the stair­well and on the base­ment lev­el forms the back­bone and foun­da­tion of the mu­se­um, look­ing in­to the past and the fu­ture. At the same time, the col­lec­tion pre­sents the di­verse me­dia and con­cep­tu­al man­i­fes­ta­tions of con­tem­po­rary art, which do not fol­low a firm­ly estab­lished canon and can­not be cat­e­go­rized in­to styles.

In or­der to con­vey the wide range and di­ver­si­ty of sub­ject mat­ter of the con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, the pre­sen­ta­tion on the base­ment floor will change about ev­ery two years. Each pre­sen­ta­tion takes a pro­gram­mat­ic work as its start­ing point. This work pro­vides key ques­tions that can be ad­dressed in dif­fer­ent ways in the other works. Jim­mie Durham’s Build­ing a Na­tion (2006) plays the key role in this pre­sen­ta­tion. His walk-in sculp­tu­ral in­s­tal­la­tion is a perme­able ar­chi­tec­tu­ral ensem­ble of rough­ly as­sem­bled found items. It us­es quo­ta­tions to ref­er­ence the Unit­ed States’ re­la­tion­ship to its found­ing myth and its found­ing his­to­ry, which are di­rect­ly linked to the mur­der of the Na­tive Amer­i­cans and the vi­o­lent ex­ploi­ta­tion of re­sources. This in­s­tal­la­tion rais­es fur­ther ques­tions for the other ex­hibit­ed works: How do so­cial sta­tus, gen­der, and cul­tu­r­al agree­ments de­ter­mine the per­cep­tion of re­al­i­ty? How is their rep­re­sen­ta­tion crit­i­cal­ly ques­tioned in pho­tog­ra­phy and video? What role does the artist play in the work, es­pe­cial­ly in paint­ing? What dif­fer­en­ti­ates the sculp­tu­ral in­s­tal­la­tion from other works in our ex­pe­ri­ence of art?

So­cial Role Mod­els

Pho­to­graphs and video are per­ceived as im­ages of re­al­i­ty. How­ev­er, they on­ly show a par­tial view from a priv­i­leged po­si­tion. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly evi­dent in the im­age of wo­m­en, for ex­am­ple, which is de­ter­mined by role mod­els in mass me­dia, ad­ver­tis­ing, and art his­to­ry, as well as by so­cial sta­tus. San­ja Ive­cov­ić and Stephen Wil­lats make clear how view­ers are in­flu­enced by th­ese fac­tors in their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the sub­ject. Louise Lawler breaks the stereo­typ­i­cal im­age of wo­m­en with sur­pris­ing cap­tions. Car­rie Mae Weems ad­dress­es the dou­ble in­vis­i­bil­i­ty as a wo­m­an and a black artist. Michal Hei­man’s in­s­tal­la­tion us­es a sup­posed psy­cho­log­i­cal test to ex­amine sublim­i­nal mean­ings in snap­shots from a pri­vate pho­to al­bum. Can­di­da Höfer and An­dreas Gursky, by con­trast, show the lim­its of the doc­u­men­tary. In Rien du tout (2006) by Maya Sch­weiz­er and Cle­mens von Wede­mey­er, doc­u­men­ta­tion and fic­tion are in­ter­wo­ven when young peo­ple from the out­skirts of Paris si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly ap­pear as back­ground ac­tors in the sto­ry of a the­ater re­hear­sal and in the video. They raise the ques­tion of whether and how the sub­jects are able to make them­selves heard.

Paint­ed Re­al­i­ty

The ges­tu­ral paint­ing of Art In­formel and Ab­s­tract Ex­pres­sion­ism was long re­gard­ed as an im­me­di­ate ex­pres­sion of the artist. Af­ter Sig­mar Polke and Ger­hard Richter, be­gin­n­ing in the 1980s artists such as Martin Kip­pen­berg­er, Al­bert Oehlen, Su­sanne Paesler, Ge­org Herold, Rose­marie Trock­el, and Yan Pei-Ming have al­so worked against this myth. They try “bad paint­ing,” have com­put­ers paint, trans­late the pain­ter­ly ges­ture in­to streaks of caviar or pic­tures in wool, or use po­lit­i­cal sym­bols and peo­ple as eye-catch­ing sub­jects. Ilya Kabakov, Ker­ry James Mar­shall, and Lubai­na Himid have other fo­cus­es. Kabakov in­volves the ac­tu­al view­ers of his in­s­tal­la­tion Unaufge­hängtes Bild in a sto­ry about art and its ex­hibit­ing. Mar­shall draws on tra­di­tio­n­al art and paint­ing tech­niques to cre­ate a ro­man­tic por­trait of the Afri­can Amer­i­can mid­dle class which is miss­ing in the West­ern art canon. In her work, Himid com­bines paint­ing with ac­tivist en­gage­ment against the ex­clu­sion of black artists from ex­hi­bi­tions and art his­to­ri­og­ra­phy.

Found Items

Jim­mie Durham’s ex­pand­ed sculp­ture in­volves the view­er in a par­tic­u­lar way that tran­s­cends the vis­i­ble. The ma­te­rials and the ar­range­ment of the found items al­low for an open, pro­ces­su­al ex­pe­ri­ence of art which dif­fers from that of two-di­men­sio­n­al pic­tures. This is al­so true of Zoe Leo­nard’s Tree (1997/2011), a dis­as­sem­bled tree that has been re­con­struct­ed with me­t­al parts and is both a thing and a sculp­ture. Cady No­land works with found ev­ery­day ob­jects such as el­e­ments of a sh­in­gled roof and a me­t­al truck trail­er, which re­fer to the Amer­i­can myth of un­limit­ed free­dom and mo­bil­i­ty. Man­fred Per­nice de­rives his sculp­tures made of press­board from struc­tures such as the Han­ge­lar air­port tow­er. Kat­suro Fu­nakoshi choos­es cam­phor wood, which he carves based on Re­nais­sance por­traits and free-stand­ing sculp­tures from the Ka­maku­ra pe­ri­od.

Wall texts in the pre­sen­ta­tion ori­ent vis­i­tors, and short texts pro­vide fur­ther de­tails on in­di­vi­d­u­al works. In ad­di­tion, Michal Hei­man, Lubai­na Himid, and Jeff Wall have been in­vit­ed to talk about their work.

The pre­sen­ta­tion of the col­lec­tion is made pos­si­ble by gener­ous fund­ing from the Ge­sellschaft für Mod­erne Kunst am Mu­se­um Lud­wig e.V. and the Ci­ty of Cologne.