Irene (née Monheim, 1927 – 2010) and Peter Ludwig (1925 – 1996) studied art history together, devoting themselves academically to their common passion for art. As successful entrepreneurs, they intensified their collecting activities and amassed one of the most important art collections of the second half of the twentieth century.
After their marriage in 1951, Peter Ludwig joined Leonhard Monheim Schokolade. He was instrumental in the strong expansion of the company’s international activities. The Monheim company was sold in 1986 and Irene and Peter Ludwig continued to run the previously outsourced domestic branded goods business under the name Ludwig Schokolade. In 1998, shortly after the death of her husband, Irene Ludwig sold the company to the Krüger Group in Bergisch-Gladbach.
Back to art: Shortly after the Second World War, the Ludwigs, spurred on by entrepreneurial verve and the desire to promote international understanding, realized that the public sector alone would not be able to compensate for the losses suffered intellectually, ideally, and economically.
From 1957 onwards, this became a self-imposed mission in the public interest.
They amassed a collection spanning more than four millennia. Beginning with the collection of antiquities and medieval sculpture, the commitment to contemporary art began in the late 1950s. Initially focusing on Germany and France, the Ludwigs made the leap to the United States in 1967 with the purchase of a work by Tom Wesselmann. A few years later, the focus shifted again: While the United States and Western Europe remained the focus, East Germany, the former USSR, and later the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Latin America were added as other regions of interest. What was decisive for them was a concept of art that made no normative distinction between “high” and “low”, “applied art” and “fine art”, “East” and “West”.
Their passion and strong cultural-political vision led Irene and Peter Ludwig to develop close personal relationships with curators, museum directors, and other experts over decades, and to negotiate stable contracts with museums and other cultural institutions. This took place across borders and cultures with the idea of promoting international understanding, regardless of the respective political systems in which their interlocutors found themselves.
In close cooperation with public bodies, they made substantial donations or extensive permanent loans from their collections to public institutions.
The establishment of museums and foundations bearing the name “Ludwig” should also be seen in this context. Irene and Peter Ludwig were motivated by their understanding of art as a uniquely human principle of expression that extends national boundaries and operates in a liberal spirit.
They pursued their vision of world art as something that transcends history and individual cultures. Their unconditional love of art is the guiding principle for us as a foundation. This is reflected in the collection, which expresses diversity, courage, and a desire for international exchange.