The mumok, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, was founded on September 21, 1962, as the Museum of the Twentieth Century (later the 20s House) in the Swiss Garden, located in the Austrian Pavilion that had been built by Karl Schwanzer for the Brussels EXPO in 1958, and was refurbished as an exhibition hall. Founder director Werner Hofmann was given the promising and yet also problematic task of setting up a collection of modern art. In just a few years he managed to purchase many significant works of classical modernism, and to expand the collection in a targeted manner based on the few works that were already held by the museum.
On April 26, 1979, the Palais Liechtenstein in Alsergrund was opened, and rented as a second exhibition building so as to gain more space for the museum. This opportunity was thanks to the efforts of Hans Mayr, the president of the Vienna Künstlerhaus at the time, who organized an exhibition with contemporary artworks from the Aachen collection of Peter and Irene Ludwig for Vienna in 1977. While this show was still running, the Ludwigs agreed to provide a number of works on loan to Vienna. An Austrian committee, set up by national minister Dr. Herta Firnberg, conducted negotiations with the Ludwigs on the selection of works. Around one hundred loaned works were agreed in a first contract, but this number had nearly doubled by the time the new Vienna collection opened. The focus of this project was on pop art and photorealism, as had been the case in the 1977 exhibition. In 1978, the Cologne collection of Wolfgang Hahn with its holdings in nouveau réalisme and Fluxus was acquired, thus quickly expanding the museum’s collection.
In 1981, the Austrian Ludwig Foundation was established, by Herta Firnberg and Peter and Irene Ludwig, and about a third of the hitherto loaned works from the Ludwig collection was now transferred into the possession of the foundation. In return, the Republic of Austria committed to an annual guaranteed payment to the foundation with which further artworks could be purchased. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the foundation in 1991 the museum received a further gift. By way of thanks to the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for donating such significant modernist works of art, the minister of science at the time, Erhard Busek, concluded a contract with the foundation in which the name Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien was agreed.
On September 15, 2001, the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien was reopened in the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna’s historical center. This cubic building clad in basalt lava was built by architects Ortner & Ortner, and provides 4,800 m² of exhibition space for monographic or thematic exhibitions and alternating presentations of the museum’s own collection, which now comprise some 10,000 works of modernist and contemporary art.