Dear visitors to our website and Friends of Museum Folkwang,
In its century of history, Museum Folkwang has benefited from the remarkable commitment both of the citizens of Essen and of local industry. In 1922 the City of Essen was able to acquire the unique collection belonging to Karl Ernst Osthaus, originally based in Hagen, thanks to the generosity of local entrepreneurs and private patrons. What the City simultaneously “acquired”, was the Hagen-based collector’s philosophy, the guiding principle behind his passion for collecting. Folkwang stands for the idea of communicating the cosmos that is the collection to both experts and laymen, to both the passionate viewer and the simply interested. Folkwang is world art for everybody.
The outcome of this initiative to acquire the collection was one of Germany’s leading museums. At the same time the non-profit Folkwang-Museumsverein, the Museum Association, was established, the co-owner of the collection and, together with the City, the lynchpin of the institution.
The agreement between the City and the Verein forms the basis of one of the oldest public-private partnerships in Germany. This has remained almost unchanged right up to the present day and forms the mainspring of both the continued and gratifying collaboration and the outstanding success enjoyed by Museum Folkwang.
It is our aim to continue to provide important stimuli, to bolster the Museum together and to inspire people. For this we are permanently dependent on support. Why not combine your pleasure in art with active commitment? A living museum needs the support and encouragement of committed citizens.
Dr. Ulrich Blank
Chair of Folkwang-Museumsverein
The Board is responsible for the Verein’s work which takes the form of a voluntary commitment. This work particularly includes formulating collection objectives in close collaboration with the Museum director, putting together the events program and shaping the Verein’s current collaboration with the City of Essen. The link between the Board and the members is the Verein’s office which is managed by two staff members.
The Board currently consists of:
Dr. Ulrich Blank, Chairman
Peter Gorschlüter, Executive Board Member
Dr. Susanne Henle, Vice Chairman
Dr. Ulrich Irriger, Secretary
Stefan Pfeiffer, Treasurer
Prof. Dr. Thomas Budde
Anja von Maltzahn
Gina Becker, M.A. (head of office), Lorena Such, B.A. and Aylin Frank, M.A. (on parental leave) are your contacts for anything connected with the Verein.
They are assisted by Samuel Solazzo, the student assistant (Master of Photography, Folkwang University of the Arts).
Dr. Ulrich Blank, Vorsitzender
Dr. Claudia Edeling
Prof. Ute Eskildsen
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ursula Gather
Dr. Heinrich Hiesinger
Prof. Dr. Thomas Katzorke
Dr. e.h. Achim Middelschulte
Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Olbricht
Dr. Rolf Martin Schmitz
Dr. Johannes Teyssen
Dr. Andreas Urban
Dr. Axel Wiesener
Joint responsibility for maintaining and expanding the collection and for the development of the museum are guiding principles with regard to the collaboration between Folkwang-Museumsverein and the City of Essen on the museum’s Board of Trustees. A contract concluded between the City and the founders in May 1922 serves as the legal basis for this collaboration. This contract regulates, amongst other things
The Board of Trustees is chaired for alternating periods of one year by the Mayor of the City of Essen and the Chairman of Folkwang-Museumsverein.
The Board of Trustees is currently made up of the following persons:
Representatives of the City of Essen
Oberbürgermeister Thomas Kufen
Ratsfrau Tabea Buddeberg
Ratsfrau Anke Löhl
Ratsherr Thomas Cao
Ratsfrau Elisabeth Mews
Ratsfrau Christiane Moos
Prof. Dr. Stefan Orgass
Ratsfrau Jutta Pentoch
Ratsfrau Barbara Rörig
Representative of Folkwang-Museumsverein
Dr. Ulrich Blank
Dr. Susanne Henle
Dr. Ulrich Irriger
Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Olbricht
Representative of the Karl Ernst Osthaus-Stiftung
Museum management (advisory)
As at 1st February 2021
Some 400 members currently demonstrate their commitment to the Folkwang-Museumsverein through their membership. They make a valuable contribution to maintaining the collection and play a role in the cultural and social diversity of the museum.
The following people have been appointed honorary members because of their extraordinary efforts on behalf of the Museum and the Verein:
Dr. e. h. Achim Middelschulte
Dr. Henner Puppel
Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Berthold Beitz
Dr. h. c. Ernst Gosebruch
Dr. Ernst Henke
Dr. Hans Luther
Prof. Dr. Paul Vogt
Museum Folkwang started out as a fortunate symbiosis of art, industry and civic commitment. Between 1922 and 1933 this evolved into the “most beautiful museum in the world”, funded by the City of Essen with the consensual involvement and financial support of Folkwang-Museumsverein, which had been founded in 1922. In it, the large industrial and mining companies and some banks in the Ruhr region came together with private patrons of the arts. Funding of the museum by the City of Essen and its support by the City and the association as partners was also in line with the wishes of the family and heirs of Karl Ernst Osthaus.
The fruitful collaboration between the City and industry, most probably one of the very first public-private partnerships, came to an abrupt end after the founding of the “Third Reich” in Germany. In 1937 the museum was ransacked in raids ordered by the Nazis, and in 1944 the building was destroyed by Allied bombing.
Rebuilding the museum after the Second World War proved to be a difficult and lengthy undertaking. Folkwang-Museumsverein ultimately also assumed responsibility for (co-) financing the new museum building and its extensions.
Through donations from its members the association managed to raise considerable funds, with which it bought back lost art works or replaced them with similar ones. Under the long-standing museum director Dr. Paul Vogt, who enjoyed the association’s full trust and untiring support, Museum Folkwang once again became a leading museum of modern and contemporary art. The association also promoted innovative avenues in art and museum education, as well as the new collection focusses photography and posters. Time and again it had among its ranks supporters of the major art exhibitions with which the Museum Folkwang gained international recognition and enormous popularity as of 1987. At the instigation of and chaired by Professor Berthold Beitz, the charitable foundation Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung decided in 2006 to make available in full the funds for a new building for Museum Folkwang (55 million euros in total). The superb new building was designed by David Chipperfield Architects and opened on time for the Capital of Culture year 2010.
The founder of Museum Folkwang, Karl Ernst Osthaus, came from a family of industrialists. His grandfather, amongst other things, a screw manufacturer in Hagen, was one of the Ruhr region’s leading industrialists and a cofounder of the influential “Langnamverein” (an association for the preservation of industrial interests in the Rhineland and Westphalia) and of the Zentralverbands Deutscher Industrieller (Central Association of German Industrialists). Whilst he was still a young student, banker’s son Karl Ernst Osthaus inherited a significant fortune from this grandfather, enabling him to establish extensive collections, and, under the influence of Henry van de Velde, he devoted himself to collecting modern art, establishing what was probably one of the most venturesome collections of avant-garde paintings and sculptures in existence.
During World War I, Osthaus became seriously ill. Finally, financial difficulties forced him to think seriously about selling the Collection. At the same time, he was worried about the future of his family. He and his wife Gertrud Colsman had five children, some of whom were still underage at the end of the War. In his will, Osthaus stipulated that the Collection should not be sold for less than ten percent of its value and only in its entirety. After his death on March 25, 1921, the City of Hagen did not consider itself in a position to honour these conditions, despite concerted efforts on its part.continue
An initiative to nonetheless keep the Collection in the Ruhr region sprang up from the middle of the region, one that was centred around the director of Essen’s art museum, Dr. Ernst Gosebruch, and was led by the Lord Mayor of Essen, Dr. Hans Luther, and District Administrator Richard Schöne. Albert Janus of the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlensyndikat, his permanent notary Dr. Salomon Heinemann, Dr. Georg Hirschland of Bankhaus Simon Hirschland KG and Dr. Ernst Henke, a young RWE manager, drummed up support and money from industry and the residents of the Ruhr region. At the same time, they started thinking about how to display the valuable works of art assembled by Karl Ernst Osthaus in a future museum, to show them permanently and under the terms of the Folkwang idea. The Osthaus heirs insisted on the establishment of a board of trustees whose authority and composition would ensure a good balance between representatives of the public and private sectors. This is why the votes of the members of the Board of Trustees (representatives of the Osthaus family, of the federal state, of the city and of industry) were distributed in such a way that the two main parties – the City and industry – had to rely on coming to a consensus when making decisions. The Kunstwart or art supervisor, a kind of minister of cultural affairs in the Weimar Republic, was also a member of the Board of Trustees. The representatives of industry came from the group of benefactors, the people who had found the sum of 15 million marks which had been agreed with the Osthaus heirs as the purchasing price. For organizational and legal reasons this board was formed into an association on June 1, 1922, one which, as the “Folkwang-Museumsverein” was, in future, to fulfil an important function, along with the City of Essen.continue
The Ruhr region was, at the time, standing on the threshold of the modern age and was open to new ideas. Developed by Karl Ernst Osthaus, the Folkwang idea of using beauty to evoke a new and better society, to create an environment worth living in and to reconcile art and life fell on receptive ears. It did not make much difference that the tastes in art in the new Folkwang-Museumsverein were still pretty disparate, nor that Gosebruch, the diligent museum director, who also happened to be well-connected in the city, often found that his love of modern art was not particularly well received or even that it was frowned upon. The large corporations, the banks and internationally operating steel and iron works boasted enough proponents of a new and modern “Industrial West”, who were prepared to follow the Folkwang idea and to transform the “coal region” with its “productivity of spirit” into an “object of culture” (according to Das Kunstblatt in 1929). The Museumsverein assembled members of the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlensyndikat, RWE, Waldthausen, an old-established family business, the new Ruhrgas AG (initially as Aktiengesellschaft für Kohleverwertung, as of 1928 Ruhrgas AG, today E.ON), Th. Goldschmidt AG (today part of Evonik), Fried Krupp AG (initially, as of 1922, through its ownership of the Helene Amalie mine and, as of 1936, as a company as a whole, today the ThyssenKrupp Group), the major banks under the leadership of Simon Hirschland KG, plus other companies and citizens of the City.
All the above was aimed at promoting art and culture in this industrial landscape on the river Ruhr but in fact only five more years remained for them to do so. By 1924 the occupation of the Ruhr and inflation had robbed the Verein of all its vigour. After the Wall Street crash on October 25, 1929, the work to establish the Museumsverein faltered. The economic crisis plus increasing political tensions within society and the politics of the day severely restricted the Verein’s scope for action. However, from time to time it was possible for the Folkwang Collection, which was now amalgamated with what used to be Essen’s art museum, to acquire valuable works of art to complement its collection, including such notable examples as Edouard Manet’s singer Faure (1877) and Emil Nolde’s Maria Aegyptiaca (1912).
Back when he was Deputy Mayor of the City of Essen, Hermann Seippel, chairman of the board at Ruhrgas AG, had been involved in the transfer of the Folkwang Collection from Hagen to Essen. In 1928 he became chair of the Museumsverein. Under his aegis the new museum building, which had been planned for years for a location behind the two villas on Bismarckstrasse donated by the Goldschmidt family, could finally be realized. The Museumsverein had not only been involved in the planning but had even made its financing possible.continue
Until 1933 the City and the Museumsverein had come to an amicable agreement about the fate of the Folkwang Collection. But shortly after the National Socialists seized power, the Nazi Lord Mayor of Essen Theodor Reismann-Grone forced through a change in the distribution of votes with the board of trustees to the detriment of the Museumsverein. This is why the latter was not able to resist the withdrawal of its commendable museum director Gosebruch not long afterwards, could only watch helplessly and accept the situation when he was replaced by an SS functionary. In 1937, hoping to climb another rung on the career ladder, the latter sacrificed the Folkwang Collection to the greed of the Nazi regime, making two targeted raids as part of the campaigns against “degenerate art”, campaigns which he accompanied and coordinated himself.
On top of this racist kangaroo courts and persecution meant that the Museumsverein lost its Jewish members, including Dr. Salomon Heinemann who committed suicide along with his wife Anna after the Kristallnacht of 1938, as well as, eventually, Dr. Georg Hirschland, who managed to resist persecution for a long time but was finally compelled to emigrate, along with his family. On the initiative of the Gauleitung a number of valuable paintings from his art collection found their way to Museum Folkwang. A “fundraising campaign” by the City and industry had made these “acquisitions” possible. Only a very small percentage of the purchase price actually reached the Hirschland family – a singular injustice and one that was to be atoned for after the War.
As the brother of Gertrud Osthaus, Langenberg-based silk manufacturer Adalbert Colsman represented the Osthaus heirs on the board of trustees as of 1922. After the death of Museumsverein chair Hermann Seippel in 1937 the search for a successor proved difficult. Colsman felt a commitment to the work of his brother-in-law Karl Ernst Osthaus and decided to accept the position whether he liked it or not and to guide the Museumsverein through the difficult years of dictatorship and World War II.
Over the course of the Nazi dictatorship the funds available to the Museumsverein continue to shrink. Of the few famous works of art acquired by the Museumsverein in this period, it is only the acquisitions dating from the 19th century that are still in the museum’s possession. An important lot of drawings by Emil Nolde was seized in 1937 and is now in the possession of the Sprengel Museum in Hanover. Acquisitions from occupied France and Belgium during World War II had to be returned as soon as the War was over.
After a number of air attacks, the museum building was completely destroyed on March 26, 1944. For the most part, the collections had already been distributed over various “safe havens” prior to this.continue
Directly after the end of the War the Folkwang idea was revived. After 12 years of Nazi dictatorship people felt a great longing for a free culture industry and for modern art. As early as 1946 the Museumsverein’s management board succeeded in reforming. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees took place in December 1947. Although the City of Essen initially refused to relinquish the majority of seats that it had held on the board during the Nazi era, today the number of seats on the Board of Trustees is again equally distributed between the City and the Verein.
One urgent task was to return all the paintings in the Collection that had been “acquired” in 1939 from Georg Hirschland, the Jewish banker who had, in the meantime, died in the United States. Returning the works by the German Romantics was particularly hard for the Museum management and some members of the Museumsverein. Elsbeth Hirschland, Georg Hirschland’s widow, accommodated the museum by donating, in memory of her husband, six important works to the museum to which he had made such a fundamental contribution in establishing. These works included Caspar David Friedrich’s Landscape with Rainbow (1809-10). As of 1965, a member of the Hirschland family has again shown his commitment to the Folkwang-Museumsverein and to Museum Folkwang in the person of Kurt Hermann Grunebaum and later his son Peter K. Grunebaum. Today, Peter K. Grunebaum is an honorary member of the Verein.
The most urgent task facing the Museumsverein was the search for the works of art seized in 1937 and the restoration of the Collection. But reacquisitions have seldom been possible. One of the few exceptions was the painting On the Shore by Erich Heckel (1921), which the Verein was able to repurchase back in 1949. Another important task was including new art movements in the Collection. Here, the museum followed very much in Osthaus’ footsteps and, at an early stage, started to collect international art, initially, amongst other things, French artists, then American and finally east European artists, adding modern sculptures, European arts and crafts and non-European art. The museum also received works of art directly from members of the Museumsverein, a number of whom were themselves collectors.
It was one of the achievements of Ernst Henke in particular that the Folkwang-Museumsverein was once again transformed into an assembly of great art enthusiasts. In formal terms it was not, however, until 1959 that Henke was put in charge of the Museumsverein. Before this he stayed in the background, taking care, amongst other things, of the financing for the new museum building, a job that he performed brilliantly well, with the assistance of Dr. Hermann J. Abs of Deutsche Bank AG. As a result, it was possible to open the new Museum Folkwang on May 27, 1960, thus following on where the first and brilliant Museum Folkwang had left off, the one opened in 1929 and destroyed in 1944.
At the same time, Henke single-mindedly and unswervingly “collected” new members for the Folkwang-Museumsverein. To this end he addressed mainly large regional and national corporations and well-known personalities from the field of industry. He directed his attentions not only to the kind of companies traditionally represented in the Verein, companies from the mining, steel, chemicals and energy sectors and the banks but also, amongst others, the companies Siemens, AEG and Hochtief and the president of the Düsseldorf Chamber of Commerce Ernst Schneider, then Berthold von Bohlen und Halbach, Hermann J. Abs and Eugen von der Heydt. The focus shifted to nurturing members. It increasingly became the case that private members advanced to the ranks of the sponsors and benefactors of Museum Folkwang.
The advent of the coal crisis and the subsequent steel crisis meant that the Folkwang-Museumsverein was faced with the challenge of a change of orientation. Now over 80 years old, Dr. Ernst Henke handed over the reins of the management board to industrialist Berthold von Bohlen und Halbach. Under the latter’s management and, as of 1985, that of his successor, the publisher of the new Ruhr Zeitung Dietrich Oppenberg, Museum Folkwang started to explore innovative avenues in the communication of art (Szene Rhein- Ruhr ´72, Folkwang Festival), avenues that corresponded to the spirit of the times, and thus to the Folkwang idea by offering “art for everybody”. This approach was also supported by the Museumsverein and by its members. However, the Verein’s principal focus was on completing its collection. The City of Essen was now no longer really in a position to acquire works of art any more, although in the boom years it had even outperformed the Museumsverein. From then onwards it was only by targeting individual well-heeled donors and, in particular, lenders amongst the members of the Folkwang-Museumsverein and by collaborating closely with the museum foundations amongst the Essen-based entrepreneurs that allowed the Museum to acquire new works of art. Although the prices on the art market simultaneously rose steeply, this allowed the Museum to treat itself to works such as Marc Chagall’s Champs de mars (1954-55) and, finally, a waterlily picture (1916) and a Cathedral of Rouen (1894) by Claude Monet. In a similar way, it was also possible to repurchase Paul Cézanne’s painting of the Bibémus Quarries (around 1895) which had been seized in 1937.
The acquisition of two significant Essen-based collections in the 1970, the photography collection of Folkwang lecturer Otto Steinert and the collection of Deutsches Plakat Museum in Essen, was also extremely welcome to the Folkwang-Museumsverein, because these sectors particularly well matched the Verein’s white-ranging understanding of art and the Folkwang tradition it had established. However, these collections could only be shown at Museum Folkwang sporadically since thanks to the many new acquisitions the latter establishment had become overcrowded. An extension building had become urgently necessary. When this annex finally opened in 1983 it was possible to show recently acquired paintings– for example those by A.R.Penck, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer – in an appropriate setting for the first time.continue
1987 saw the start of series of major exhibitions at Museum Folkwang, sponsored by members of the Museum and with the considerable support of the Museumsverein. The first such exhibition was dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch and consciously reminded viewers of the way that modern art had been shunned in 1937. It was sponsored by Ruhrgas AG and realized, amongst other things, thanks to the untiring, committed efforts of Dr. Achim Middelschulte, a long-standing member of the company’s board.
Even after its commendable director Paul Vogt moved to Kulturstiftung Ruhr auf dem Hügel, which had been established in 1984, the Museum continued to enjoy successes of this kind, showing major exhibitions which were the recipient of international attention, shows such as those on Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, William Turner, Otto Mueller, Paul Cézanne and Caspar David Friedrich. The takings have allowed the Folkwang-Museumsverein to extend its Collection, with works by artists such as James Ensor, Arnold Böcklin, Franz Ludwig Catel, Otto Dix, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff , Aristide Maillol and Frank Stella, Wolf Vostell, Thomas Schütte, Lothar Baumgarten, Thomas Demand and Nam June Paik, along with drawings by Henri Matisse, Oskar Kokoschka and El Lissitzky. A
Moreover, the Museumsverein was in a position to offer financial support with the renovation and modernization of the old building, which dates from 1960. However, there was not enough money in the kitty to prevent the closure threatening the annex, which had only opened in 1983 and in which considerable technical faults had been discovered. Fortunately, help came in the form of a generous donation by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation. Finished in time for the celebrations to mark the Capital of Culture Year “Essen für das Ruhrgebiet” in 2010, the new Museum Folkwang building marked a high point in the history of Museum Folkwang and of the Folkwang-Museumsverein. The generous donation by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation initiated by Berthold Beitz more than equals the generosity of the benefactors who donation the money to purchase the Folkwang Collection back in 1922. However, the Folkwang-Museumsverein also contributed to the success of the new building project, making, amongst other things, a significant financial contribution to the structural adaptation of the old building.
It remained an isolated episode that during the period between 2010 and 2015 a municipal company misappropriated a maintenance and repair reserve that the City of Essen had earmarked for the new building, following an agreement with the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation. The assets held by the municipal company GVE as part of their reserves had initially been allocated to the construction of a new stadium in Essen but were, shortly afterwards, reassigned to the GVE’s liquid funds in their entirety (statement made by the Lord Mayor of the City of Essen at the meeting of Museum Folkwang’s board of trustees on April 4, 2017).
Taking as its title “The Most Beautiful Museum in the World” (sponsored by E.ON Ruhrgas AG) the opening exhibition referenced the development of the Folkwang tradition in the heart of the Ruhr region, thus acknowledging not only Karl Ernst Osthaus, the author of the Folkwang idea, but also the fruitful interaction between industry, art and the civic commitment on the river Ruhr, something which has, for over 90 years now, been expressed in the work of the Folkwang-Museumsverein.
You can view the version of our statues dated April 5, 2011 in the following PDF document.
„Als Essener Kind in die lichten und hellen Werke der Sammlung Folkwang verliebt, Kunstgeschichte studiert und dann auch die düsteren verstanden. Heute als Mitglied des Museumsvereins dankbar, diese großartige Sammlung aktiv unterstützen zu dürfen. Sie vielleicht auch?“Caroline Becker
„Folkwang ist historische und zugleich aktuellste Programmatik einer Kunst für alle. An der Erfüllung dieses Versprechens auf hohem internationalem Niveau mitzuwirken, machen unsere einzigartige Sammlung und den Museumsbau zu einer wunderbaren Aufgabe.“Marie Luise und Dr. Ulrich Blank
„Einmal Museum Folkwang - Immer Museum Folkwang! Bei mir zum ersten Male im Alter von 9 Jahren. Es macht mir immer noch und immer wieder große Freude! Kommen Sie doch auch dazu...“Prof. Dr. Thomas Budde †
„Seit meiner Jugend zieht mich die herrliche Sammlung des Museum Folkwang in ihren Bann. Die Begeisterung meines Vaters Berthold Beitz für dieses Haus teile ich mit Freuden. Es ist eine Ehre für mich, es nach Kräften zu fördern.“Dr. Susanne Henle
„Ich arbeite gern im Vorstand des Folkwang-Museumsvereins, weil ich von der Sammlung des Museum Folkwang und dem Museum selbst fasziniert bin. Das Museum Folkwang ist ein „Leuchtturm“ unserer Stadt und darüber hinaus. Die Arbeit mit meinen Vorstandskollegen, unserem Museumsdirektor und den Kuratoren macht mir nicht nur großen Spaß, sondern fördert auch mein Interesse an der Bildenden Kunst und erweitert meinen diesbezüglichen Bildungshorizont.“Dr. Ulrich Irriger
„Das Museum Folkwang ist eines der großen unseres Landes. Mein ehrenamtliches Engagement ist Ausdruck meiner Anerkennung und Demut den Idealen und dem Wirken der Künstler gegenüber. Sie gilt es, auch für kommende Generationen zu bewahren.“Prof. Dr. Thomas A. Lange
„Seit 2015 unterstütze ich den FMV als Schatzmeister. Mit meinem ehrenamtlichen Engagement möchte ich einen Beitrag zum Erfolg des Museum Folkwang und damit auch zum kulturellen Reichtum des Ruhrgebiets leisten. Mit meiner langjährigen Erfahrung als Partner und Niederlassungsleiter von Ernst & Young in Essen möchte ich das Museum Folkwang auch darin unterstützen, den gestiegenen Herausforderungen an die Finanzierung des Museumsbetriebs bestmöglich zu begegnen. “Stefan Pfeiffer
„Das Folkwang Museum steht für Qualität und Offenheit, für Begegnung und Vermittlung. Hier geht Kunst durch die besondere Präsentation der einmaligen Sammlung und wechselnder Ausstellungen eine bedeutungsoffene Verbindung mit den Besuchern ein. Es ist eine enorme Bereicherung für den Standort Essen und eine große Freude für mich persönlich ein national und international so viel beachtetes Haus in unserer Stadt zu haben.“Anja von Maltzahn