The Museum Ostwall displays art from the twentieth century. It was opened in 1949 as the first new museum to be founded in the only recently established Federal Republic of Germany. In 2010, the museum was moved to the Dortmunder U.
The Metropolis Ruhr is tasked with constantly reinventing itself. Art and culture help to define a location. This is a task to which the Museum Ostwall has dedicated itself. A task which began with museum founder Leonie Reygers. A key element of her design was to exhibit art and culture in an accessible place which was inviting and open to all citizens. For this reason, she had amateur art and museum-based educational work with children particularly at heart when designing the museum, an approach which earned her the Federal Cross of Merit.
In accordance with this attitude, as of 2019, the Museum Ostwall's permanent exhibition can be visited for free.
The Museum Ostwall itself can be found on the fourth and fifth floors of the Dortmunder U. The area for temporary exhibitions is located on the sixth floor. The fourth floor is primarily focussed on works from the Fluxus movement. When it comes to this avant-garde artistic movement from the 1960s, the Museum Ostwall is considered the first port of call within the Metropolis Ruhr. Fluxus celebrates the creative idea in itself – an intentional affront to the elitist understanding of art widespread in bourgeois circles. In the permanent exhibition, visitors can discover works from artists such as Joseph Beuys, Allan Kaprow, Milan Knízák, Alison Knowles, Dieter Roth, Daniel Spoerri and Wolf Vostell, among others.
In this museum, it is recommended that visitors let themselves be led on a journey which takes them back through time, starting with the Fluxus movement. A journey which continues with Nouveau réalisme, the Informel and ZERO, and leads all the way back to Classic Modernism.
When the museum was founded, the collection mainly focussed on the field of Classic Modernism. It displayed that which the Nazis had considered "degenerate" art. This section of the Museum Ostwall is still a highlight of the museum. It houses Germany's second-largest collection of works by painter Alexej von Jawlensky, a collection which is surpassed only by that of the Museum Wiesbaden.
In the Museum Ostwall, the "Brücke" artists' association is represented in the form of artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Emil Nolde and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. The "Blauer Reiter" group is also represented here, with works from Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and August Macke displayed next to Alexej von Jawlensky, mentioned above.
The acquisitions and exhibitions made by the museum in past years are signs of a museum which is able to keep up with the times – and which has a keen sense for groundbreaking photo, video and sound works. This becomes particularly clear in their "shop window" and "loudspeaker" formats, which are used exclusively to present contemporary artists.
Museum founder Leonie Reygers' philosophy is a common theme which can be found throughout the Dortmunder U. This starts in the KunstAktionsRaum and the exhibition of integrated action points, where visitors to the Museum Ostwall are invited to express their own creativity, and carries through to initiatives which have only just now been made possible through the museum's relocation to the Dortmunder U. For example, those wandering through the building can find workshops and media laboratories on the second floor (UZWEI – Kulturelle Bildung) which are aimed at all ages. These set-ups enable playful, interactive discourses on all genres of art and are designed to be as widely accessible as possible.
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