Düsseldorf. Collection of 20th-century paintings founded in 1961 in Düsseldorf, capital of the Land (state) of Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia) and opened to the public in 1965. It is unusual among collections in that it was founded by parliamentary decree and built up from scratch in a short space of time. The decision to found it was taken after the regional government of Nordrhein-Westfalen bought 88 works by Paul Klee from an American private collection. The Klee collection established a principle that nothing prior to that artist should be included. The aim was to build up a collection based on quality rather than history. The result has been a rather predictable collection of ‘big names’, but there is a classic black-and-white Pollock and one of the finest of Picasso's late paintings. It is now divided into two collections: K20, which deals with art up to 1980; and K21, opened in 2002, which contains contemporary art. Paradoxically, it is this second collection which is housed in an old building, at one time occupied by the state parliament. The first director was Werner Schmalenbach, who initially built up the collection. In 1990 Armin Zweite took up the position.
W. Schmalenbach, Picasso to Lichtenstein: Masterpieces of Twentieth-Century Art from the Nordrhein-Westfalen Collection in Düsseldorf (1974)