Guerrilla Girls Unfurl Giant Banner on Facade of Museum Ludwig in Cologne

The collective of art activists turn their attention to Europe.

The Guerrilla Girls unfurled this banner on the facade of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Photo: Courtesy Guerrilla Girls.

The Guerrilla Girls, the New York-based collective of feminist art activists, is in Germany for the 40th anniversary of Cologne’s Museum Ludwig. As part of their involvement in the upcoming group show, “We Call It Ludwig. The Museum is turning 40!,” the Girls are taking aim at the museum.

“The Guer­ril­la Girls col­lec­tive will take a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach by crit­i­cal­ly ree­val­u­at­ing the col­lec­tion from a femi­n­ist per­spec­tive,” reads the description on the exhibition page.

In a new online video with German subtitles, the Guerrilla Girls lament that in one of Germany’s most diverse cities, the works in the Museum Ludwig’s collection are 89 percent male, and 97 percent white, and that the museum has done little to become more representative of the community it now serves, where over 17 percent of its residents are non-German.

The collection includes notable works by Ot­to Dix, Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­n­er, Marc Cha­gall, and Pab­lo Pi­cas­so, among other blue-chip artists, and has placed an emphasis on Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ists, and those denounced as “degenerate” artists during World War II.

New acquisitions appear to appeal to a broader canon, including works by Cosi­ma von Bonin, Yvonne Rain­er, Os­car Tu­a­zon, and An­drea Fras­er, among others. And yet, the Guerrilla Girls claim that only 11 percent of the Museum Ludwig’s collection is by women, and only 2 percent by artists of color.

In response, the activists unfurled a banner on the museum’s facade listing the “advantages of owning your own art museum,” which includes several points, such as “Your huge donations get you huge tax breaks, while people think you’re an incredibly generous philanthropist.”

A translation of the Guerrilla Girls' banner. Photo: Courtesy Guerrilla Girls.

A translation of the Guerrilla Girls’ banner. Photo: Courtesy Guerrilla Girls.

The Museum Ludwig itself was established in 1976 with the donation of 350 works of modern and contemporary art by the chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig and his wife Irene. The collection is also composed of the Expressionist and Modern art collection of lawyer Josef Haubrich—who donated his collection to the city of Cologne in 1946.

The activists point out that only 4 percent of the winners of the lucrative €100,000 Hahn Prize awarded annually by the Friends of the Museum Ludwig have been artists of color, and that the prize has never been awarded to a woman of color. Additionally, the group claims that the rise in private museums reinforces the lack of diversity because top collectors tend to collect the same artists.

The Guerrilla Girls are known for wearing gorilla masks. Photo: Courtesy Guerrilla Girls.

The Guerrilla Girls are known for wearing gorilla masks. Courtesy of the Guerrilla Girls.

“Unless the art in the museums is as diverse as the culture it’s supposed to represent it isn’t telling the history of art. It’s telling the history of money and power,” says one of the masked activists in the video.

There are 25 participating artists in the group show, which offer, the museum states, “a kalei­do­s­cop­ic im­age of the in­sti­tu­tion.”

“We Call It Ludwig. The Museum is turning 40!” is on view at the museum from Au­gust 27, 2016–January 8, 2017.

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