The contemporary art collection begins with the mid-1960s and continues to today. The focus of interest was at first concrete and later conceptual art. The affinity for sculptural work and room installations outweighs that of paintings, which tend more towards monochromatic color fields than painterly color modulations. Graphic work and illustrations are dominated by line or clear color surfaces.
The DKM collection owns approximately one-third of the work of Ernst Hermann, the only sculptor in the junger westen group founded in 1948 in Recklinghausen. His artistic path can easily be traced in his transition from informal to concrete art. The collection also features Hermann’s «Düsseldorfer Raum» (1994) one of the key works in the artist’s oeuvre.
Other contributions to concrete art include work by Swiss painter and sculptor Gottfried Honegger, painter and draftsman Peter Stein, sculptor Hugo Suter, likewise Erich Reusch with his floor sculptures made of steel ingots and soot boxes, Ulrich Erben with color fields and Alf Schuler with his gravity-formed sculpture.
The collection also houses two small sculptures by Norbert Kricke along with a series of drawings, including six paper works and a «last exhale» made shortly before his death. In a steel sculpture by Otto Boll, the tapering ends of an imaginary circle draw a complete ring around the room.
Included are also monochromatic color fields by Tadaaki Kuwayama, while Bernd Minnich is featured with an atmospheric work in white, yellow and gold in a transverse rectangular shape. Nevertheless Qiu Shi-Hua’s large, white canvas show a landscape appearing as though out of a fog. Abstract Expressionist painting is represented with the work of Duisburg artist Manfred Vogel. Line-animated intaglio prints by Ben Nicholson (1966/67) occupy the space between abstract and figurative representation and boulder-breaking powers are manifested in sculptures by Ulrich Rückriem, who plays with the contrast between polished and natural surfaces. Rückriem also made a series of pictures entitled «Damenthema». The work of Giuseppe Spagnulos also shows the force of breaking steel.
Various kinds of conceptualism are seen in work of Chinese artists Ai Weiwei, Yin Xiuzhen and Song Dong, Japanese Yuji Takeoka, Hayato Goto and Katsuhito Nishikawa, Korean Jai Young Park and Lee Ufan, English artist Hamish Fulton and Richard Long and Germans Christiane Möbus, Dorothee von Windheim, Raimund Kummer, Thomas Virnich and Nikolaus Koliusis.
The collection has also acquired eight of the 1001 chairs «fairy tales» Ai Weiwei created with an equal number of Chinese he brought to Kassel for the 12th documenta in 2007, along with «Colored Vases», 39 Neolithic vessels (2000/3000 B.C.) dipped in colorful industrial paint so that nothing of their millennia-old history remains to be seen. Yin Xiuzhen’s installation «Peking Opera» transports the viewer into scenes of everyday life in China while Song Dong’s installation «Writing with Water» invites the viewer to write their thoughts with water and a paintbrush on a stone tablet. Yuji Takeoka transforms pedestals, platforms, vitrines and cabinets as elements of a museal presentation in discreetly effective forms that shift attention to the void, the absence that is nevertheless felt as an energy, while Katsuhito Nishikawa’s «Physalis» not only emulates the fruit, it transposes its shape as a giant magnification in an autonomous sculpture.
Hayato Goto’s boat sculptures indicate subtly conveyed content, such as the artfully assembled branches entitled «people». Meanwhile land art protagonists Hamish Fulton and Richard Long allow the viewer to take part in various wanderings through a poetically described sentence, a series of drawings or photographs illustrating the dimensions of time or material gathered en route and shaped as a stone circle. A flash of humor runs through Christiane Möbus’ work: «Knochenarbeit» («back-breaking work» in English) lines bits of marrowbone into a chain, just as «Einer von Vieren» («one of four») features a stuffed flamingo under a table with four fields close to the ground with a sloping, glass plate. It begs the question: have three flamingos disappeared?
In «Von der Schule bis zur Kirche» («from the school to the church»), Thomas Virnich conveys an idea of the situation in his studio in a former school, over several houses to the church, while the houses’ interiors are exposed from the basement to the roof. His sculpture «Großer Pott» («large pot») consists of two interrelated parts: an old, empty copper cauldron and several pieces of burned copper clay assembled in a form that matches the cauldron’s volume.
Photography occupies its own area in the collection, the broad radius of which encompasses both travel photography taken in 19th century Egypt and Japan and the contemporary work of Wolfgang Volz and Jaroslav Poncar, going further to include the outer reaches of classical photography with names such as Albert Renger-Patzsch, Adolf Lazi, Herbert List to Candida Höfer and Bernd and Hilla Becher. Contemporary positions include Korean artist Kyungwoo Chung, Ruiji Miyamoto and Kazuo Katase of Japan, Germans Robert Voit, Claudia Terstappen and Ulrich Tillmann, whose work «Meditationen» («meditations») developed into the Museum DKM logo.
The areas of New Art and Photography – far more comprehensive than can be described here or on view in the Museum DKM – are constantly growing.