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City of Cologne will Receive a Spectacular Gift from the Bequest of Irene Ludwig
Jasper Johns, Zero to Nine (Null-Neun), 1959. Enkaustik und Collage auf Leinwand / encaustic and collage on canvas, 53,8 x 88,9 cm © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011. Foto: Museum Ludwig Köln/RBA.

COLOGNE.- After the unexpected death of Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Irene Ludwig last November, the terms of our generous patron’s testament have been disclosed. The City of Cologne will receive spectacular gifts and permanent loans from the bequest of Irene Ludwig for the Museum Ludwig and the Museum Schnütgen. A total of 528 works from the estate of Prof. Ludwig will permanently enrich Cologne’s collections. Mayor Jürgen Roters announced the donation today in the Historisches Rathaus, expressing deep-felt admiration and gratitude for this Honorary Citizen of Cologne’s decision. “The City of Cologne and anyone interested in art today or in the future will henceforth remember Prof. Irene Ludwig’s extraordinarily generous gift with immense gratitude when visiting one of our museums. This is the ultimate completion of an exceptional and trusting relationship between Cologne and the donors according to the Ludwig’s intentions. Their love for art created the desire for others to participate in the art experience. Thanks to their commitment, the Museum Ludwig is one of the most important museums for modern art in the world. The precious pieces given to the Schnütgen-Museum complement its important collection. We will cherish and honor this unique gift.”

Irene and Peter Ludwig always maintained an intense and close relationship with Cologne. Inspired by a visit of the Haubrich Collection in 1946 that was exhibited in the old, partly destroyed university, the couple began to acquire works for public collections in 1957. In 1963 the first Ludwig purchases entered the Museum Schnütgen as deeply appreciated loans. The couple’s committed and exceptional patronage lasted for over half a century. During this time, they made innumerable high-caliber artworks available to Cologne’s museums. The collections of the Museum Ludwig Köln definitely mark a highpoint of this incomparable love for art.

Peter Ludwig once described the couple’s motivation: “Starting in 1957, we felt encouraged to create highlights in museums with our acquisitions. And by 1968 we were fully aware what motivated us: We intended to close information gaps with our pursuits. We wanted to bring to the public’s attention what prompts activity and widens perspective.”

Peter and Irene Ludwig initiated the founding of the Museum Ludwig in 1976 when they donated about 400 works. Further generous gifts followed, especially in 1994 and 2001, when Director Kasper König began his tenure and Irene Ludwig transferred 774 works by Pablo Picasso. Today, the Museum Ludwig owns the most important Pop Art collection outside the USA and the third largest Picasso collection. The Museum Ludwig is one of the world’s most important museums of modern and contemporary art. An honorary citizen of Cologne, Irene Ludwig expressed this special relationship as well as her close and amicable ties with the Museum Schnütgen with utmost clarity in her testament, bequeathing to the Museum Ludwig Köln and Museum Schnütgen the most spectacular gifts:

Ownership of all Pre- and Post-Revolutionary Russian / Soviet Avant-garde works on permanent loan to the Museum Ludwig at the time of Irene Ludwig’s death will be transferred to the City of Cologne, comprising major works by such artists as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and Natalia Goncharova. The total number of works is 473, among them 130 paintings, sculptures, and objects, and 153 works on paper, and 190 photographs by 84 artists.

Additionally, the City of Cologne is to receive 26 Works from the Exhibition “Von Matisse bis Morimura” that took place at the Museum Ludwig in the fall of the year 2000, among them Classical Modern and Pop Art works by Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg, Kurt Schwitters, and Jasper Johns. These works came to the museum as permanent loans after the special exhibition, supplementing different focal points of the collection.

Last but not least, the Museum Ludwig is to receive Permanent Loans of Eight Paintings and One Drawing from the Private Holdings of Irene Ludwig. Among them the couple’s first acquisition in the Classical Modern field: An early Karl Hofer work entitled “After the Bath” and dated 1912. Other pieces included are by August Macke, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Lyonel Feininger, Alexej von Jawlensky, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock.

In addition, Ownership of 20 Permanent Loans kept in the Museum Schnütgen at the time of Irene Ludwig’s death will be transferred to the City of Cologne. Among them an Ottonian Reliquary Case from Lower Saxony dated circa 1000-1050, a Memento Mori from Western Switzerland, dated around 1520, as well as the Six Glass Paintings from the former cloister of the Altenberg Monastery from Cologne, dated 1505-1520. The latter were recently transferred.

Thanks to this bequest, the Museum Ludwig now owns numerous central Russian Avant-garde works, making it one of the most important collections outside Russia. Whereas Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, Chairman of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation’s Board of Trustees, re-emphasizes the close connection between the Ludwigs and the City of Cologne, she simultaneously points out the consequent responsibilities:

“35 years ago Peter and Irene Ludwig made their first big bequest to the City of Cologne under the condition that a museum of modern and contemporary art be founded. This testamentary decree and the related gift of the incomparable collection illustrate once more the close connections between Irene Ludwig and the City of Cologne as well as her trust in this city. At the same time, this implies the responsibility to equip the Museum Ludwig with all necessary means for permanent scholarly research, maintenance, and presentation facilities of the collection. Thanks to the gifts of Peter and Irene Ludwig, the Museum Ludwig is one of the world’s most important museums for modern and contemporary art, quoted alongside the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Centre Pompidou in Paris. While it must be ascertained that the public is aware of this enormous cultural capital, we must also be aware of the connected responsibilities.”

The City Councilor of Cultural Affairs, Prof. Georg Quander, reemphasizes the importance of Irene Ludwig for the City of Cologne: “Irene Ludwig was an exceptionally generous patron. Not only were she and her husband Peter interested in old as well as in modern art, but she also considered it her cultural mission to make this art available to a wide range of people by giving or permanently lending it to Cologne’s museums. We owe Irene Ludwig our utmost respect and deepest gratitude for this unique gift from her bequest. Her name will always be connected with this city’s cultural riches. Her activities and her generosity will continue to have lasting and lively effects at the Museum Ludwig and the Museum Schnütgen.”

Delighted about the gift, Museum Ludwig Director Prof. Kasper König is also aware of the related challenges: “No matter how you look at it, the Russian Avant-garde Collection is invaluable. It contains absolute masterworks by Malevich or Goncharova who were instrumental in shaping and inspiring the entire following generation of artists. This gift from Irene Ludwig’s bequest is much more generous than we had anticipated. For us, it is an outstanding donation and yet a great mission to take care of, to preserve this collection and make it publically accessible.”

Dr. Dagmar Täube, Acting Director of the Museum Schnütgen: “For the Museum Schnütgen, it is a great fortune that Frau Prof. Ludwig made sure the pieces previously on permanent loan will now be permanently housed in our museum after her death, further adding to its special splendor in the future. Together with the 8th-century Harrach Diptych that the Museum Schnütgen will retain as permanent loan, these objects will constantly remind us of the generous donors whose memory we will always honor and cherish.”

Russian Avant-garde Collection
During the course of 20 years, the Ludwigs assembled one of the world’s most comprehensive and important Russian Avant-garde Collections. The more than 450 works were specifically purchased for the Museum Ludwig and integrated into the collection as permanent loans. This extraordinary collection offers a deep insight into the diverse avant-garde movements between 1905 and the 1930s, among them the Petersburg Organic School, Neo-Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, Rayonism, Suprematism, and Constructivism. Over 70 artists from the time are represented, often with key works, among them Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Wassily Kandinsky, Mikhail Larionov, El Lissitzky, Iwan Puni, Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and Nicolai Suetin. However, as in the case of Kazimir Malevich (over 60 works) and Alexander Rodchenko (135 works), large bodies of work were acquired. The collection thus mirrors the large diversity of questions, also revealing how many artistic positions dealt with all facets of life. The material ranges from examples of visual arts to applied arts, containing contributions from the fields of painting, sculpture, print, photography, as well as projects and designs for the fields of architecture and space, theater and dance, furniture and everyday objects, artist’s books and posters.

The comprehensive Russian Avant-garde Collection was first exhibited in two special shows at Cologne’s Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle in 1986 and 1993. At this point, we are in the process of re-examining the material as part of the project series “Russian Avant-garde.” Until now, we have produced two catalogues entitled “Der Kubofuturismus und der Aufbruch der Moderne in Russland” and “Kasimir Malewitsch und der Suprematismus in der Sammlung Ludwig.” More publications are to follow.

Gift to the Museum Schnütgen
Throughout their lives, the Ludwigs maintained close and amicable ties to the Museum Schnütgen. Irene Ludwig continued this intense friendship after Peter Ludwig’s death. In close personal contact, she always followed our development with great interest, dedication, and generosity. A total of 21 precious permanent loans came to the Museum Schnütgen from the Sammlung Ludwig between 1963 and 2010. Of this group, Irene Ludwig has now bequeathed 20 to the Museum Schnütgen. The material entails high caliber Treasury Art and Glass Painting. Some objects have already been part of our collection for over fifty years, many of them are special highlights. Among the objects are two Rock-Crystal Crosses as well as the finest Champlevé Enamels, an Ottonian Reliquary Casket and other Ivory Carvings. For example, different renderings of the Memento Mori theme like the famous “Table Coffin” from Western Switzerland dated circa 1520. Thanks to its special aesthetics and its artful rendering of death in ebony and ivory, it is considered a particularly impressive example of its kind. It was not until the re-opening of the Museum Schnütgen in 2010 that Irene Ludwig parted with six Glass Paintings from the former cloister of the Altenberg Monastery, making them a particularly generous gift to the museum. Until then, she had kept them in her private quarters. Together with thirteen additional glass panels from the same context, this glass now makes a magnificent entrée into the museum.

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