From the very beginning, the Ludwig Collection has been a collective achievement of both Irene and Peter Ludwig. It comprises thousands of art objects. The collection includes individual works of art of the highest quality and, in addition, focuses on coherent work groups. It reflects a wide scope of art, including Greek antiquities - a selection of which had been put on display for the first time in Kassel in 1968 - Medieval art, works from the Baroque and Rococo periods, Pre-Columbian works, art from Africa, China and India and, finally, contemporary art, including an exceptional collection of American Pop Art and works by Pablo Picasso. The collection also encompasses decorative arts, including faïence, ceramic tiles, porcelain, islamic ceramics, furniture and applied art, the first acquisitions of which had been made by Irene and Peter Ludwig while they were still students. The early interests of the Ludwigs were focused on Pre-Columbian art and art from non-European cultures. As a result of these activities, the Rautenstrauch Joest Museum of Ethnology in Cologne received as long-term loans supreme examples of Pre-Columbian art and issued significant publications on these holdings in the early 1970s.
It was in 1957 that Irene and Peter Ludwig began concentrating on collecting for the public in order to fill gaps in existing museum holdings. 1957 marks the beginning of a long-term commitment favouring numerous museums in Germany and abroad. In that same year, the Suermondt Museum in Aachen and the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne were the first two museums to benefit from the Ludwigs' generosity: both institutions feature Medieval art and obtained a number of the finest treasures from the Ludwig Collection as permanent loans.