German Poster Museum

Lucian Bernhard Priester [Hölzer], 1915

Lucian Bernhard
Priester [Hölzer], 1915

The German Poster Museum is unique in Germany and has one of the largest one of the largest special collections in the world. In 1974, with the help of with the help of private initiatives and support from the as a municipal museum. Since 2008 it has been an independent department of the Museum Folkwang, supported until 2023 by its association, the Deutsches Plakat Forum e.V. Since 2010, the exhibitions of the German Poster Museum have been shown in the Museum Folkwang.

Please note that the exhibits of the German Poster Museum are not on permanent cannot be exhibited permanently for reasons of conservation and that the the German Poster Museum does not have its own premises. In you will find information on the temporary exhibitions of the exhibitions of the German Poster Museum. In addition, you will find posters can also be found in changing constellations in the collection presentation of the Museum Folkwang.



Even though the Deutsches Plakat Museum was only founded in 1974, it already has an eventful history behind it. There are two lines of tradition to which the museum can refer: Firstly, the German Museum of Art and Trade, which Karl Ernst Osthaus founded in 1909. The arts and crafts and commercial graphic works assembled there were part of his self-image in viewing art, which was an unusual combination in this breadth, since art was strictly divided into "high and low" and the divisive determined the definitions. This was different at the Folkwang Museum, where overarching efforts to create an overall concept could be seen early on. This approach still explains the diversity of the collection, which can now be seen again in the permanent exhibition.

On the other hand, it is the Folkwang School of Design in Essen that came to the poster from a completely different angle. In 1964, the opportunity arose to acquire an important collection of French posters from around 1900 from a Munich art dealer. From the original idea of collecting posters as illustrative objects for study, the impulse developed to found a poster museum. This was initially done through an association, then in partnership with the city of Essen. This is where the roots of the development towards the German Poster Museum lie.

Nevertheless, the incorporation of the Deutsches Plakat Museum into the Museum Folkwang in 2008 can in a certain sense also be described as a return, a "missing link", a return of the poster to the structures of the Museum Folkwang. In any case, this new constellation influences the collection and exhibition focuses. In addition to the poster-specific - thematic or monographic - exhibitions, it always happens that the poster is seen as a supplement or as the other side of a coin or as a thematic variation on other exhibitions.

With the death of Karl Ernst Osthaus in 1921, his life's work disintegrated. The paintings and sculptures as well as, the collections of graphic art and world art were sold to Essen, where they were merged with the collections of the Essen Art Museum to form the Museum Folkwang in 1922. The then director of the Essen Art Museum, Ernst Gosebruch (1872-1953), and the then Lord Mayor of the City of Essen, Hans Luther (1879-1962; term of office 1918-1922), may be regarded as important initiators and organisers of this purchase. In Hagen, however, the holdings of the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe and those of the Werkbundarchiv were initially left behind. Max Creutz (1876-1932) came from Cologne, where he had been director of the Museum of Decorative Arts there, to become director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld in 1922. One of his first official acts was to initiate talks on taking over the collections of the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe, which were concluded in 1923. These collections are still in Krefeld today. The first major exhibition of historical posters in Germany after the Second World War took place in Krefeld in 1961 under the title "The Youth of Posters". It was organised by the then director Paul Wember (1913-1987). It was not until 1997 that a larger selection from the acquired collection was shown again.

In 1968, a large exhibition was presented at Villa Hügel, for which a catalogue was also published: "Paris around 1900". It was organised by Hermann Schardt (1912-1984) and Karl Heinz Feuerstein (1910-1987), both professors, as well as by Carl Hundhausen (1893-1977), at the time also a lecturer at the Folkwangschule and managing board member of the Villa Hügel e.V. association. The exhibition was a great success. When the first national poster museum was opened in Warsaw in the same year, the urgent wish arose to found such a museum in Essen as well. To this end, the association Deutsches Plakat Museum e.V. was founded in 1969. By 1974, the collection already contained around 25,000 posters. The association was overwhelmed by this mass and turned to the city of Essen for help. In 1974, the city of Essen then agreed to establish the Deutsches Plakat Museum as a municipal museum, thanks in part to financial supporters from the business world, such as Coca-Cola Deutschland (then headquartered in Essen). Frieder Mellinghoff (*1941) was appointed the first director and held this post until 2002. A first provisional location was found in the Haus Industrieform (Old Synagogue). Here the association also showed numerous exhibitions.

In 1981, the collection was moved to the centre of the city of Essen. The posters found a home in the basement of the Rathenaupassage, and in 1983 the gallery of the Deutsches Plakat Museum was opened in the same building. Around 150 exhibitions were held there until its closure in 2002. The Triennials in particular attracted international attention. The collection grew rapidly - almost beyond control. The basement rooms soon became too small, and due to structural changes outside the rooms, the climate could no longer be maintained either. In 2002, the depot was closed and the DPM Gallery closed, but after thorough preparations, an emergency programme was initiated from 2004 to save the collection. A concept was developed and implemented with the Herzog-Wodtke paper restoration workshop, which included cleaning the holdings, re-sorting them and relocating them. In 2005 René Grohnert (*1956) took over as director of the Deutsches Plakat Museum. With the new building of the Museum Folkwang, the museum landscape in Essen was to change profoundly and as a result the Deutsches Plakat Museum was also to be incorporated into the new building. Under the museum director Hartwig Fischer (*1962), the Plakat Museum became a department of the Museum Folkwang.

With its approximately 350,000 objects, the collection today provides a quantitative basis from which to compile a wide variety of profiles and qualities. The German Poster Museum has proven to be an enormous potential of the Museum Folkwang, which must continue to be explored and expanded.


The collection contains a total of more than 350,000 posters from the fields of politics, business and culture. The collection spans from the beginnings of poster development to the present day. The focus is on documenting the development of German posters in a European context. The collection contains works by well-known artists and innovative designs as well as posters as documents of everyday history.

The main focus is on early German posters (1880 – 1914), posters of the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1933), GDR (cultural) posters (1949 – 1989), FRG posters (1948 – 1989) and posters from the reunified Germany (after 1990). Historically grown special collections include: French posters (around 1900), Polish (cultural) posters (1955 – 1995) as well as Swiss (cultural) posters (1960 – date).


Please send picture requests to


Head: René Grohnert
T +49 201 88 45 109
F +49 201 88 45 122