The German artist Gerhard Richter has spoken out against the proposed closure of Museum Morsbroich in Leverkusen near Cologne, saying in an open letter to the city's mayor, Uwe Richrath, that plans to close the Modern and contemporary art institution and sell the collection are “alarming”. The museum was the first in North Rhine-Westphalia to dedicate itself exclusively to contemporary art after the Second World War.
According to German press reports, Richter was inflamed by a report written by the business consultants KPMG, which suggests shutting the museum, formerly a Baroque castle, as part of a municipality cost-cutting measure. The report, which was published last week (22 February), says that the museum closure would save around €778,450 annually.
Richter writes that the “Museum Morsbroich is an institution of high repute whose exemplary work is taken notice of and prized far beyond the borders of the state. A public art collection is not a financial investment that can be plundered depending on the cash situation. It is a piece of art history and represents the cultural memory of its trustees.” The museum, which opened in 1951, houses around 600 paintings and 5,000 prints by artists including Richter, Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz, Yves Klein and Fred Sandback.
In 2008, Richter co-organised an exhibition of his overpainted photographs at the museum. “Two important paintings and numerous watercolours, drawing and prints of mine are in the museum. They were given to Museum Morsbroich by me personally, or by other people on the assumption that Leverkusen would also protect museum holdings as the heritage and collective memory of a local community,” the artist says.
The city’s culture commissioner, Marc Adomat, tells The Art Newspaper: “I hope the idea of closing our museum will not become reality.” Council officials are due to decide on the future of the museum on 27 June.