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Museum Folkwang

The Museum Folkwang in Essen has a long artistic tradition. Today, it is one of the most important museums for modern art in Germany.

The Museum Folkwang's story first began in Hagen and not, as you might expect, in its current location of Essen. 24-year-old banker's son Karl Ernst Osthaus inherited a great deal of money from his grandparents. In 1898, he developed the idea of creating an art museum for the industrial city of Hagen in Westphalia. The aim behind the museum was to make Osthaus' private collection of scientific, ethnographic and artistic exhibits accessible to the public.


Founded in Hagen

The Museum Folkwang was opened in 1902 in Hagen and quickly became an important, groundbreaking museum for modern art in Germany. Its first public collection displayed works from Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh. After the museum's founder, Osthaus, died in 1921, the collection was acquired by the Folkwang-Museumsverein association on behalf of the city of Essen in 1922, at which point it was combined with the Städtisches Kunstmuseum to create the Museum Folkwang. Taking into account the donation of two villas, 1926 marked the year in which construction work began on a new building on Bismarckstraße. This was opened three years later.

Boasting a global reputation even at this early stage of its life, the Museum Folkwang became a target for Nazi hate campaigns during the Third Reich. More than 1,400 exhibits were branded as "degenerate", seized, and sold around the world. The bombs dropped during the Second World War delivered the final blow, reducing the Museum Folkwang to rubble and ash.


Architecture by David Chipperfield

After the war ended, work on rebuilding the collection began by buying back objects and acquiring new ones. The classically modern new building – a collection of cubist building structures, connected by courtyards and bright corridors – was opened on Bismarckstraße in 1960. In 1983, the Museum Folkwang opened an extension to house the former Ruhrlandmuseum, among other things.

With the Ruhr area's appointment as European Capital of Culture in 2010 under the RUHR.2010 campaign, architect David Chipperfield's spectacular new build replaced the wing housing the Ruhrlandmuseum, which was consequently moved to Zollverein in the form of the Ruhr Museum. To this day, Belgian sculptor George Minne's piece, "Fountain with kneeling youths", which already featured in the Museum Folkwang when it was located in Hagen, remains part of the permanent collection.

Today, the Museum Folkwang impresses visitors with the skilful manner in which the old and new wings are brought together through a large hall flooded with natural light, a bright foyer and classic design language. The Museum Folkwang owns collections of paintings and sculptures from the 19th century, the field of Classic Modernism, post-1945 art, and photography. What's more, as of 2010, the Deutsches Plakat Museum, with 350,000 exhibits of its own, also belongs to the museum's collection. The works of well-known poster designers are regularly displayed here.

At 1,400 m², the large exhibition hall is the biggest of its kind in Germany. Entrance to the permanent collection is free.


30. June – 09. July 2023


Studierende der Folkwang Universität der Künste Kuratiert von Marina Abramović und Billy Zhao

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