The Ludwig Collection consists of several thousand objects and gathers together art from many continents and epochs. The idea of “world art” was the inspiration. After beginning with classic antiquities and medieval art, the commitment to contemporary art started in the late 1950s. Initially focusing on Germany and France, attention turned to the USA with the acquisition of a work by Tom Wesselmann in 1967. Soon after the perspective was broadened again: while the USA and Western Europe remained firmly in view, interest in art from East Germany, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Latin America grew. Decisive was a concept of art that did not distinguish normatively between “high” and “low”, “applied” and “fine” art, or between “West” and “East”. Today the Collection’s holdings are to be found in 26 public museums as donations or permanent loans.
Here key individual works from the Collection are presented in detail:
“Untitled (DON'T SHOOT CIVILIANS)” by Jenny Holzer and Lady Pink
The art of both Jenny Holzer and Lady Pink takes place primarily in the public sphere. Holzer became known with conceptual, text-based works. She printed words and aphorisms (“Truisms”) on posters, advertising boards, T-shirts and stickers affixed in the New York City streetscape. The provocative works revolve primarily around political topics such as power structures, feminism, and power. Lady Pink was one of the protagonists of the early graffiti scene in New York.
In their collaborative paintings, which were created during the period 1983–85, the two artists combine concepts from Holzer’s text-based works with spray paintings by Lady Pink. The motifs were inspired by series of photos, taken by photojournalist Susan Meiselas, of the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In front of an urban background, the picture shows flames, a masked insurgent, and a tank. Holzer’s unequivocal appeal stretches across the entire image area: “DON’T SHOOT CIVILIANS”.
Peter and Irene Ludwig purchased the work in 1990 and donated it the same year as a permanent loan to the Neue Galerie in Aachen, today the Ludwig Forum for International Art. It is on show from spring 2021 in the exhibition “The Cool and the Cold. Painting from the USA and the USSR. Ludwig Collection” at the Gropius Bau in Berlin, or alternatively it can be viewed in the catalogue published prior to the exhibition opening.
"Ocean" by Ivan Lubennikov
Ivan Lubennikov captures various impressions of big-city life in his work. By uniting numerous perspectives and playing with proportions, he evokes the impression of a collage. A woman wearing a fur-trimmed coat in the left half of the picture carries her purchases in nets. The various visual elements seem to spring forth from her perception: high-rise facades, a small section of the colorful bustle of a crowd, a neon sign. The figure seen from the back in the middle of the picture, the shadow of which ends abruptly, is surreal in its effect. It faces an abstracted traffic light represented by colored circles. The people in the right half of the picture are unrelated to one another and thus refer to anonymity in the midst of the crowd. Out of their midst protrudes a working-class figure, depicted in earthen hues, who seems to come straight out of a wall mosaic in the style of Socialist Realism, which helped shape the appearance of Soviet cities.
Cityscapes are also very important in Lubennikov’s work, inasmuch as he himself contributed to their creation. He was commissioned with numerous wall paintings and frescoes in the public sphere.
The work was purchased by Peter and Irene Ludwig through the art export salon of the USSR art fund in Moscow and presented to the Ludwig Múzeum in Budapest in 1989. The work will be part of the exhibition “The Cool and the Cold. Painting from the USA and the USSR. Ludwig Collection,” which unfortunately has been postponed to spring 2021 due to COVID 19. The catalogue to the exhibition is available now.