Wang Guangyi, 大批判- Maxwell House Coffee/ Große Kritik - Maxwell House Coffee, 1990, Öl auf Leinwand, Sammlung Ludwig, Leihgabe Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, © Wang Guangyi, Foto: Carl Brunn / Ludwig Forum Aachen

Switch. Pop, Points and Politics from the Ludwig Collection

On October 6, 1964, The American Supermarket opened on East Seventy-eighth Street in New York. The shelves were packed with fruits and vegetables, canned food, laundry detergent, and much more. What looked at first glance like a supermarket was in fact an exhibition at the Bianchini Gallery with “products” from, among others, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol. American Pop Art mirrored the media, mass consumption, the car, stars, and the metropolis. It both reproduced and oriented itself around industrial forms of production. It sharpened the senses to the everyday, the profane, the vulgar, and the random and forcibly shifted the coordinates of the Western art world that had been valid until then. After the initial euphoria of the progress during the Kennedy era, Pop Art evolved in the face of social eruptions that not only made increasingly obvious the cost of growth and prosperity but also heightened sensitivity to the political abysses of gleaming surfaces. The Vietnam War, racism, and women’s rights are just some of the explosive themes of that era that art also grappled with.

Peter and Irene Ludwig began collecting Pop Art before it became internationally famous at documenta 4 in Kassel in 1968. From 1967 to 1969, Peter Ludwig collected around 150 works by the Pop artists living in Lower Manhattan and thus earned the nickname “Mr. More.” Today, the Ludwig Collection is famous for the presence of American Pop Art, which had an echo first in Europe and then in the 1980s took its consumer goods to the former USSR and as far as China. There, Pop Art invented new labels such as Soz Art, Chinese Pop Art, and Political Pop. The Ludwigs followed that trail and acquired numerous works in this globalizing visual language of capitalism, though it always also engaged with socialist propaganda and the local political realities there.

The exhibition Switch. Pop, Points and Politics explores the phenomenon of Pop Art by starting with the holdings of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Collection at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen. In keeping with the focus of the institution, which since its opening in a former umbrella factory in 1991 has always addressed the Global South and the former Soviet republics as well, Switch looks at art that addresses the international entanglements of capital, politics, and art. The presentation of the collection confronts protagonists of the genre such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol in United States, Ai Weiwei in China (and the USA), and Gerhard Richter in Germany, on the one hand, and works in the collection by their female counterparts, on the other hand, such as Saskia de Boer, Laura Grisi, Dorothy Iannone, and Hilka Nordhausen, as well as with non-Western artists of the 1980s and 1990s. Ultimately, works from this period were selected that either offer counterpoints to the phenomenon of Pop Art or reflect on its zeitgeist in other nuances.

Switch: Pop, Points, and Politics continues a series of presentations of the collection that began in 2022 that looks critically at specific focuses of the collections at the Ludwig Forum that have since become historical. It is an attempt to understand history as an ongoing past and present in order to update and question constantly the collections of the Ludwig Forum and their histories with an eye to their inclusions and exclusions.

Artist of the exhibition: Jo Baer, Nairy Baghramian, Judith Bartolani, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Saskia de Boer, Jonathan Borofsky, Peter Brüning, Erik Bulatov, Claude Caillol, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Laura Grisi, Wang Guangyi, Duane Hanson, Jenny Holzer, Dorothy Iannone, Jörg Immendorff, Magdalena Jetelová, Jasper Johns, Ando Keskküla, Konrad Klapheck, Gabriel Kuri, Roy Lichtenstein, Lee Lozano, Attila Mata, Hilka Nordhausen, Claes Oldenburg, Lady Pink, Gerhard Richter, Karla Sachse, George Segal, Wolf Vostell, Franz Erhard Walther, Andy Warhol, Ai Weiwei, Yu Youhan 

Curated by Eva Birkenstock, Esther Boehle and Holger Otten


Image: Wang Guangyi, 大批判 – Maxwell House Coffee/ Great Criticism – Maxwell House Coffee, 1990, Oil on canvas, Ludwig Collection, Loan Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, © Wang Guangyi, Photo: Carl Brunn / Ludwig Forum Aachen

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