The German couple, Irene and Peter Ludwig, who were the founders of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, had a collection of more than 12 thousand works of art, range from antiquities to contemporary art. The pieces they have donated or lent are on display at 30 museums worldwide, including institutions in Budapest, Cologne, Vienna and Beijing.

The History of the Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art

Irene and Peter Ludwig establish the Ludwig Foundation for Arts and International Understanding.

An exhibition called Universal art since 1960 comes to the Kunsthalle Budapest (Műcsarnok) from the Museum of Modern Arts in Vienna. Seeing the success of the exhibition in Hungary, and because they cannot accept that politically-divided Europe should also be culturally divided, Irene and Peter Ludwig start talks on setting up a museum of contemporary art in Budapest.

The Hungarian National Gallery presents 70 works selected from the Aachen Ludwig Collection. This extendable compilation constitutes the core of what is later to become the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Ludwig Foundation donates 70 art works to the state of Hungary to establish the collection of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art in Hungary. For the present, the collection is managed by the National Gallery.

On the first floor of Building A of the Hungarian National Gallery, the Ludwig Foundation puts 91 works on long-term deposit. The opening of its first autonomous exhibition marks the debut of the Ludwig Museum Budapest, the first institution in Hungary concerned with international contemporary art.

The Board of the Foundation appoints Katalin Néray to head the Museum.

The Ludwig Museum was lead through all its re-organisations and a period of success by director Katalin Néray, art historian and museologist, between 1993 and her death in 2007. Enjoying a widespread international reputation, Ms. Néray, a distinguished expert of contemporary art, played a fundamental role in creating and building up the collection, as well as in working out the museum conception. Her outstanding work and activities were recognised with several prestigious awards and prizes: Munkácsy-prize (1988), Magyar Köztársasági Érdemrend Tisztikeresztje (Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary) (1998), Martyn Klára-prize (1999), Széchenyi-prize (2005). 

The Ministry of Culture and Education issues the Ludwig Museum’s operating license. Its scope of collection is general and Hungarian contemporary art, in line with the contents of the Ludwig Collection. The permanent exhibition is reorganised and the first temporary exhibition opens: Yoko Ono – Endangered Species, followed by others in the same year, including Pablo Picasso. The Museum appoints its first staff member, Krisztina Szipőcs.

The Ludwig Museum Budapest is an independent specialist museum of the Hungarian National Gallery.

Following the sudden death of her husband, Irene Ludwig is instrumental in setting up the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation.
Rearranged on the three floors of the A wing of the Hungarian National Gallery and extended with major works of Hungarian art, the Museum of Contemporary Art – Ludwig Museum Budapest is opened by the Ministry of Culture and Education as a government-funded body. The new museum, given the prevailing realities, set up in an existing space rather than a new, purpose-built facility.
The deed of foundation states that as a specialist museum of national scope, the Museum collects post-1945 general and Hungarian art. Its areas of activity are: collection, research, organisation of permanent and temporary exhibitions, public relations, presentation of affiliated arts, and operation of an art library. Its mission is to integrate the products of contemporary foreign and Hungarian art into Hungarian intellectual life.
The Ludwig Foundation deposit contract is renewed.

The Ludwig Foundation deposit contract is extended for five years, starting (retrospectively) in 1998.

Decision to move from the Buda Palace to the Müpa Budapest (earlier: Palace of the Arts).

The Museum moves into the wing of the Müpa Budapest (earlier: Palace of the Arts) facing the Danube, with 3300 m2 of exhibition space.
A new deed of foundation is drawn up, giving the Museum a new name.
The Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art is a central government-funded body under the authority of the Treasury, with financial independence and full rights. Its supervisory body is the Ministry of the National Cultural Heritage.
Its core activities are museum activity and protection of the cultural heritage.
Scope of collection: post-1960s general and Hungarian art, particularly in the new media (film, video, computer art, photography).
A priority function is to promote Hungarian art abroad.
It also incorporates a methodological centre and information base supporting the presentation and interpretation of contemporary art and its communication to the public. This involves academic research, specialist activities and education – the residency programme and docent programme. New functions, which enjoy particular priority, are museum education, curator training and museologist training.

Between 1991 and 2007, the Museum puts on more than 200 temporary exhibitions.


“The principal initial reason behind the Ludwig museums was not to present the pictures of the Ludwig Collection, but for these pictures to serve as initial capital, an incentive for showing the work of other artists in these museums.”
(Peter Ludwig interview, 1996)

Peter Ludwig writes a dissertation on Picasso’s image of man, and starts collecting his works. Later building up to 800 pieces, the collection is unique in the world, and 3 later works are brought to Budapest.

Having previously been interested only in 18th century craft works, pre-Columbian ceramics and classical and medieval masterpieces, the Ludwigs open up to pop-art. Some of the collection’s most valuable and well-known works have come to Budapest: Andy Warhol Single Elvis, Robert Rauschenberg Hedge, Claes Oldenburg Lingerie Counter and Roy Lichtenstein Vicki, supplemented by notable European pop-art works.

The collection is built up by purchase of contemporary art works. The works placed on deposit and donated are principally expressive and figurative, a reflection of Peter Ludwig’s own taste. Constructivist, geometric, and conceptual works lie outside his sphere of interest.
Photorealism and hyperrealism (Chuck Close, Richard Estes, Malcolm Morley), patter painting (Robert Kushner), graffiti (Lady Pink / Jenny Holzer, A-One); German, Italian and French neo-expressionism (Georg Baselitz, A. R. Penck, Markus Lüpertz, Mimmo Paladino, Gérard Garouste, Christian Ludwig Attersee); the Russian 1980s (Leyderman, Nazarenko, Faybissovich, Gundlah, Yuri Albert); former East German social criticism (Volker Stelzman, Uwe Pfeifer), and iconic works by David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Nancy Graves, Gerhard Richter, Jean Tinguely, Jasper Johns, Robert Longo, Rosemarie Trockel, Arnulf Rainer and Josef Beuys form the other, also authoritative, part of the Budapest collection besides pop-art.
A large part of the Ludwig Collection represents universal artistic standards, and are now unobtainable on the market.

Since the art works received from the Ludwig Foundation represent the pre-1990s era, works produced since then are purchased – often with the continuing financial support of the Ludwig Foundation – by decision of the Museum’s own Board. As a considered part of its mission, it presents and collects work by artists of the former “eastern bloc” (Jiří David, Roman Ondák, Zbigniew Libera, Zuzanna Janin, Teodor Graur, Dan Perjovschi) and sets alongside each other a broad range of definitive international and Hungarian works from particular eras.
In 1996, thirty large companies and private individuals purchased works which Hungarian artists were invited to enter into an improvised exhibition. Many Hungarian artists have donated their works to the Museum, and Galéria ’56 has also made significant donations (Keith Haring, Yoko Ono, Geoffrey Hendricks, Donald Sultan, George Condo, Ross Blechner).