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How the Brandhorst Collection Found Its Way into the Museum

Ausstellungsansicht Museum brandhorst mit Werken von Cy Twombly Wie die Sammlung Brandhorst ins Museum fand

Introducing text

While Museum Brandhorst was founded ten years ago, the collection on which it is based is much older. Its story begins in 1972.


Collecting is good for relationships.
– Cy Twombly


Anette Petersen, later Brandhorst, and Udo Brandhorst had just moved to Cologne. They had met in Munich in 1965, and soon discovered their common passion: collecting art. Some sporadic purchases of classic modernist works were made – but since prices were starting to become astronomical, they both realized that they would not be able to build a significant collection in this area, so they opted for contemporary art. In this field, they both had the same favorite: the American Cy Twombly.


The painting “Orion III (New York City)” (1968) marked the beginning. A deep friendship developed between the couple and Twombly, which meant that the Brandhorsts were able to see many of his pieces before they even left the studio. But Twombly was only one of the main focuses of the incipient collection. Within a short period of time, the pair collected an impressive number of works from the neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, by artists such as Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, and Bruce Nauman. Today, these pieces perfectly complement the modern art collection of the Pinakothek der Moderne, which also belongs to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections).


In the 1980s and 1990s the couple expanded their collecting activities. The focus of their interest was now placed on what is sometimes known as “critical postmodernity”: that continuation of the neoavant-garde that concentrates on the dark, abysmal aspects of the capitalist lifestyle. Artists like Mike Kelley, Cady Noland, Jeff Koons, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, and Damian Hirst were added to the collection. Later, another large focal point was created with Andy Warhol. Today the Brandhorst Collection owns the most significant selection of Warhol’s works outside the USA, at 120 pieces.


In 1993 the Udo and Anette Brandhorst Foundation was set up, and in 1999 a cooperation agreement was signed between the foundation and the Free State of Bavaria – the basis of the museum that would open ten years later, with the task of preserving the collection, conducting research, and presenting it to the public. In the meantime, the foundation’s collecting activities have continued. In the last ten years, the collection has grown from around 700 works to 1,200. Most recently, works by artists such as Amy Sillman, Jutta Koether, Wolfgang Tillmans and Arthur Jafa were added. This has resulted in a corpus that demonstrates clear lines of development from the middle of the 20th century to the present day. The concentrated density of top-class institutions is increasingly making Munich a hot spot when it comes to contemporary art: the Pinakothek der Moderne, with its four institutions, Sammlung Goetz, Haus der Kunst, Kunstverein München, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, and the Kunstbau, as well as Villa Stuck – what other German city can compete?


In the future the objective is to expand the previous geographic focus of the collection – USA and Germany –, while at the same time upholding its stringent orientation. The challenge presented is always the “historization of the present,” as Armin Zweite, former director of the collection, put it – presenting to the public in real time that which might be relevant from the perspective of future hindsight, or tomorrow’s canon, if you like. A mission that the collection has admirably mastered over the last 47 years.