Since 1922, the collection of the museum has belonged equally to the City of Essen and the Folkwang-Musemsverein e.V. At the beginning of the 20th century a contract of cooperation was signed between the municipal and private partners, one still valid today, ensuring the museum’s continued development. Essen and the Museumsverein are committed to an equal partnership. The Kuratorium, a sort of museum supervisory board, consists of equal numbers of members from the Museumsverein and the City. Parts of the private half are the votes of the heirs of Karl Ernst Osthaus, who founded the museum in Hagen in 1901, creating the first museum for modern art in Germany.
The history of the Folkwang-Museumsverein e.V. begins in 1922, with the death of Karl Ernst Osthaus one year before. Suddenly the opportunity to acquire the Hagen Folkwang-Museum for Essen arose. Very quickly, companies, banks and citizens collected the 15 million Reichsmarks necessary, and the Folkwang-Museum moved to Essen in the autumn of 1922. The donors founded the Folkwang-Museumsverein and concluded a contract with the City of Essen defining the rights and duties of both parties. Their shared aim was “… to administer and expand the Folkwang-Museum founded by Dr. Karl Ernst Osthaus in Hagen and, as a public collection, to make it permanently available for the purposes of research and public education…, to support the fine arts [as well as] …. furthermore to maintain and promote the museum’s international reputation and character in supporting the activities of the academic employees in teaching and research as well as all efforts of the museum for international cooperation in the arts”.
This partnership is now well-established. Every year the chairmanship of the Kuratorium alternates between the chairman of the board of the Folkwang-Museumsverein and the highest representative of the city of Essen. Among other things, the Kuratorium decides on requests of loans of artworks and selects candidates to be hired by the city of Essen. The Folkwang-Museumsverein does not see itself as a service provider like the Kunstring Folkwang, with its large membership. The Museumsverein, membership of which is by invitation only, fulfils its historical task with great responsibility. Restricted membership guarantees its capacity to act.