In the 1960s, the Rhineland was an important focus for massive changes in contemporary art. A new internationally networked generation of artists turned away from traditional notions of art. Inspiration came from everyday life. Everyday objects became the material for art. These artists worked in urban contexts, they broke across the borders between disciplines, and they collaborated with musicians, writers, filmmakers and dancers. Cologne restorer Wolfgang Hahn (1924–1987) was right up with the times, and he began to collect this new art. Over the years his collection grew to become one of the most significant collections of contemporary art, with works of nouveau réalisme, Fluxus, happenings, Pop art, and conceptual art.
Hahn was chief restorer at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, and later at Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Before training as a restorer, he spent five years studying art history. It was his work as a collector and disseminator of art—and as a host—that made him well known. He lived as the avant-garde demanded—art and life were one and the same thing for him. His interest in art did not end when the working day was over. He undertook gallery tours and then carried on into the night in his own home, where artists were regular guests. His widow Hildegard Helga Hahn recalls living with art: “This was our everyday life, our normality. There were countless evenings like this, and they were all interesting and inspiring.” This is how the Hahns’ semi-detached house came to fill up with works by the most important artists of the 1960s. The staircase, the living room and bedroom, utility rooms, basement and garden and even the tiny guest bathroom all became exhibition spaces for the artworks the Hahns purchased, including works by Arman, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, John Cage, Christo, Jim Dine, Robert Filliou, Allan Kaprow, Yayoi Kusama, Gordon Matta-Clark, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Niki de Saint Phalle, Daniel Spoerri, Paul Thek, Jean Tinguely, Franz Erhard Walther, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner, Wolf Vostell, and many more.
In 1978, mumok was able to purchase part of the Hahn collection, and in 2003 a further purchase brought the whole collection together. Then, in 2005, Hildegard Hahn made mumok a gift of Hahn’s library. T0gether, collection, archive and library show the complexity of art in the 1960s. Working together with Museum Ludwig Cologne, in 1917 we will be able to present this collection in its entirety for the first time to the public.