From the famous art collection of the couple Peter and Irene Ludwig, key works of French art from after 1945 were made available to the newly-founded Ludwig Museum. The link from classical modern art to the present state of art in France is effected by a few but important works from Wols, Picasso, Dubuffet as well as from the Americans Jasper Johns and William de Kooning. The latter two ignited the spirit of a radical turning to gesture-expressive painting, which was driven forward after the Second World War mainly by American artists. As Paris then lost its central position as the art metropolis, American artists came to Paris only for a short period and more and more French artists travelled to New York for fresh inspiration. There was a sudden turning to Pop-Art, that in France was grasped, changed and developed mainly by the "Nouveaux Réalistes". Numerous works by these artists, such as Arman, César, Tinguely, Spoerri, Martial Raysse and others, are represented in the collection of the Ludwig Museum and form a first important germ-cell of French art after 1945. In the so-called "Édition MAT" (multiplication d'art transformable), which is represented by all important works from the fifties and sixties, a crossing over of cinetic and object-related art took place, which originated in the idea of making art affordable for everybody. Artists of the Nouveau Réalisme, and also protagonists like Niki de Saint Phalle, Christo, Man Ray, Soto, Pol Bury, Dieter Roth and Karl Gerstner, found here a common interest which was boundless and highly innovative in its concept.
After "Fluxus" (Vautier / Vostell) and "Concept art" (Bernar Venet), important art communities followed, such as "Support(s) / Surface(s)", which had well-known representatives such as Daniel Buren, Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Claude Viallat and others, who wrote art history and who are recognized far beyond the borders of France. Significant works, sometimes supplemented by substantial donations, were obtained for the Ludwig Museum . At almost the same time there was a development in France, a clash about "securing of evidence", which meant nothing more than a personal reaching into history which then transformed into generally relevant enquiries, as exemplified in the work of Christian Boltanski. The "Chest of Drawers", from 1972, clarifies with each individual drawer the "Attempt at Reconstruction" of Boltanski's search for his own childhood and youth. Also two important works of the artist couple Anne and Patrick Poirier deal with the past, mainly with antiquity. Their "Dépôt de mémoire et d'oubli" from 1992 was conceived especially for the outer area of the Ludwig Museum and it forms an optical axis between the historical Deutschherrenhaus and the Emperor's Monument at the Deutsche Eck.
During the eighties, when in Germany the "Neuen Wilden" ("New Savages") had their determining influence, the "Figuration libre" erupted in France : colourful, trendy, naughty and in the style of the comics. To this group belongs Hervé di Rosa, Robert Combas and François Boisrond. The influence of Keith Haring is enormous.
Important single positions are continuously extended and defined by purchases.