Karl Ruhrberg

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Karl Ruhrberg (born November 9, 1924 in Elberfeld , † April 5, 2006 in Oberstdorf ) was a German museum director , exhibition organizer and author of numerous publications on contemporary art.


Karl ("Charlie") Ruhrberg was born as the son of Carl and Elisabeth Ruhrberg (née Hagenkötter). He studied art history, theater studies and German in Cologne. Upon graduation, he was from 1956 to 1962 feuilleton -Redakteur of Düsseldorf News and artistic and dramaturgical adviser to the Wuppertal Opera. From 1962 to 1964 he moved to the Deutsche Oper am Rhein as chief dramaturge under Hermann Juch . Among other things, he was editor of the yearbook Deutsche Oper am Rhein 1958–1960 and other opera-specific titles.

Museum director

In 1965 he was appointed founding director of the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf , where he showed overview exhibitions by Joseph Beuys , Edward Kienholz and Mark Rothko . In the renovation phase between the major exhibitions, from 1969 to 1973 Ruhrberg introduced the experimental exhibition series between , which was curated by Jürgen Harten and in which new, more open approaches to art mediation were tried out. The artists Marcel Broodthaers , Robert Filliou , Gilbert & George , Klaus Rinke and Franz Erhard Walther , among others , found an early opportunity for presentation.

From 1972 Ruhrberg headed the Berlin artist program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Berlin, which encompassed music, literature, visual arts and film. In 1973 Ruhrberg - together with Wieland Schmied - was commissioned to prepare documenta 6 . Both organizers of the exhibition returned the order in 1974 after conflicts over the conception; the documenta was only opened in 1977, one year late. Ruhrberg justified his decision by stating that "[...] no exhibition organizers are wanted in Kassel, but office managers".

In 1978 he moved to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, which had been founded two years earlier, as director , a position he resigned in 1984 due to jurisdiction and financial problems. Ruhrberg then advised the city of Cologne on artistic issues.

Freelance curator and author

From 1987 Ruhrberg worked as an art consultant , freelance exhibition maker and as the author of numerous art books. His most important publications include the monographs on Emil Schumacher (1987), Georg Meistermann (1991), Alfred Schmela (1996) and Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1998). His observations The Key to Painting Today (1965), Art in the 20th Century in the Museum Ludwig (1986), Painting of Our Century (1987, 1997) and Painting in Europe and America (1992) have received much attention . The compilation Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhundert , Volume 1 (1998), published by the Cologne-based Taschen Verlag , achieved a high circulation in German and English , in which he - alongside Klaus Honnef - was one of the main authors.

From 1970 to 1975 he was President of the West German section of the Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art (AICA), later its honorary member. Since 1952 he was married to Elfriede Ruhrberg (née Bierbichler) from Oberstdorf. The daughter Bettina Ruhrberg is the director of the Mönchehaus Museum Goslar .


On March 19, 1989, Ruhrberg was awarded the Order of Merit of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Renate Buschmann, Ulrike Groos: Between. 1969−73. Chronicle of a non-exhibition. Dumont Book Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8321-7786-7 .
  2. ^ Karl Ruhrberg, Thomas Deecke (ed.): 30 international artists in Berlin: guests of the German Academic Exchange Service, Berlin artist program . Exhibition in the Beethoven-Halle Bonn 1973.
  3. Time mosaic . In: The time . June 14, 1974.
  4. Merit holders since 1986. State Chancellery of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, accessed on March 11, 2017 .