Discovering the Collection

Since the summer of 2019 Museum Folkwang has been presenting its collection in completely redesigned halls. Taking New Worlds as the overarching theme, the presentation is destined to enable visitors to experience the long-standing collection in a new form, and often from surprising angles. Now, painting is juxtaposed with photography, sculpture or prints, and enters into unprecedented and inspiring constellations with world art and poster art.

Each hall of the collection is arranged to cut across media and epochs alike. Firmly in keeping with the Folkwang idea of the museum’s founder Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921), the different genres and fields of the collection interact. From the early days of the collection, with key works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and the German Expressionists, through to the present day, the Folkwang cosmos now unfolds before the viewer’s eye from a contemporary perspective. The new presentation covers the entire sections of the museum devoted to the collection in the main building and the new wing, inviting visitors to discover the collection anew.

The central pieces in the collection, each of them bound up with unique stories of their own, are spread across the total of 25 halls. Each hall is named after a key work that serves as its thematic anchor. Among these key works are such important paintings as La moisson (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, and also surprising pieces such as Claude Kuhn’s satirical poster The Fish in Sheep’s Clothing (2011). All the halls address new beginnings and new times. The presentation title of New Worlds thus also homes in on current political and social themes such as migration, the flood of images and Fake News in the social media – offering a contemporary take on a collection that has grown over time.

The room entitled Prometheus Bound kicks off the tour of the New Worlds. It is dedicated to how artists have engaged with the myths of Creation in different cultural contexts. Alongside Barnett Newman’s painting, mythological figures such as Max Beckmann’s Perseus (1941), Auguste Rodin’s bronze Eva (around 1881) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s photograph Head of a Viper (1925) are all on display. Osthaus’ activities as a collector in the early days of the last century and the simultaneous acquisitions by Ernst Gosebruch, the first director of the museum in Essen, are the focus of two halls in the main building. From the first Van Gogh paintings acquired for a German museum via the works of Modernist artists such as Paul Gauguin through to works that have emerged as our visitors’ favourites, such as Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait with Camelia Branch (1906-7) or Max Liebermann’s The Parrot Man (1902), these halls present the impressive legacy of the museum’s founding years and the key protagonists then. The annex showcases sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbruck juxtaposed with works by Katharina Fritsch, and images by Camille Corot contrasted with works by Per Kirkeby. Claude Monet encounters Mark Rothko, and August Macke’s Modes: Woman with Parasol in front of Milliner's Shop (1914) is set alongside the legendary German Federal Railways poster campaign Everyone’s Talking about the Weather – Other Than Us (1968). From Rudolf Belling’s design for a car radiator figurehead Mythical Creature (so-called Horch Animal) (1923) to the group of outsized Pinocchio sculptures Two Thieves, One Liar (2006) by Pop artist Jim Dine, New Worlds highlights the sheer diversity and range of this unique collection, cutting as it does across epochs, media, formats and themes.

Exhibition view Prometheus Bound
Works: Barnett Newman, Auguste Rodin,
Max Beckmann

Exhibition view Ecce Homo
Works: Honoré Daumier, Grave sculpture
(around 1520), Thomas Schütte

Exhibition view Vermisst die Welt
Works: Per Kirkeby, Wilhelm Lehmbruck

Exhibition view Alle reden vom Wetter. Wir nicht
Works: Oliviero Toscani, Jürgen Holtfreter, McCann Erickson

Photos: Jens Nober, Museum Folkwang