Museums in North Rhine-Westphalia offer a wide range of fascinating exhibitions with different emphases. Those interested in arts and culture can look forward to artwork from renowned painters, sculptors, photographers and musicians. Institutions will display exhibits of prominent musicians. Historic events and social phenomenons also play a role. In the following you can find a chronological overview of top-exhibitions that will take place this year. They are divided into the sections "Art, Design, Architecture" and "Music, Science, Society".
Please note that interested parties should check the websites of the museums to see whether dates and opening times have changed. There you will usually find information on behavioral requirements, access limits and hygiene measures as well.
Beuys, Beuys, Beuys
An artist leaves his mark, spread throughout NRW
The year of 2021 is all about Joseph Beuys: Many museums from the cultural region are dedicating exhibitions to the exceptional artist at the occasion of his 100th birthday. They focus on his multifaceted oeuvre, his relationships to other artists, or his views on politics, the environment, and society. An overview page shows a selection of the work presentations worth seeing. All of them are part of the anniversary programme beuys 2021.
Dates: Throughout the year of 2021
Overview: Top exhibitions in the Beuys anniversary year
Art, Design, Architecture
New Now, Welterbe Zollverein in Essen
The mixing facility of the Zollverein coking plant is turning into a dedicated production site for the digital arts during the “New Now” festival. 3D-printed sculptures, video clips, and works from the area of virtual reality are created where coal for the industry used to be produced. Visitors are live on site when culture creators work on their pioneering projects dedicated to subjects of the post-industrial world, presenting the harmony of man, technology, and nature, as well as the question of how to design our future. Guests can contribute their ideas into the creative process in workshops and performances during the first three festival weeks. The completed works are then presented in an exhibition. A two-day conference completes the programme.
Dates: 27 August 2021 to 03 October 2021
Dürer was here – a legendary journey, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen
Albrecht Dürer’s journey to the Netherlands in 1520 and 1521 was one of the most productive periods in his life, as he travelled to Antwerp from Nuremberg via Frankfurt, Mainz, and Cologne. At his destination, Dürer met with important artist colleagues such as Quentin Massys, Bernard van Orley, and Conrad Meit. He found inspiration wherever he went. The painter genius met with scholars and princes, eventually attending the coronation of Charles V in Aachen, who reaffirmed his privileges after the death of his most important patron. Dürer created important works of art on this journey, now displayed in the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum together with works by his contemporaries. The 140 exhibits from Europe and the USA include a copy of Dürer’s account book with travel notes, laying out his experiences. This exhibition concludes the “Dürer – Karl V. – Aachen” triad.
Date: 18 July 2021 to 24 October 2021
Leonardo Da Vinci: “Das letzte Abendmahl”, Dalheim Monastery in Lichtenau
Da Vinci’s “letztes Abendmahl” (“Last Supper”) is one of the world’s most famous murals as well as one of the most important Renaissance works. It has left its mark on cultural history in the western world for centuries. Anyone who wants to appreciate the painting in its entirety normally has to travel to the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan to study the representation of this biblical scene. From May 2021 onwards, the same will be possible in Lichtenau-Dalheim, as the LWL-Landesmuseum für Klosterkultur presents a monumental reproduction in the original size of more than nine by four metres. Visitors can enjoy the masterpiece up close here in an impressive atmosphere.
Dates: 11 May 2021 to 02 January 2022
Heinz Mack. Sculptures, Waldfrieden Sculpture Park in Wuppertal
The works of Heinz Mack are inseparably merged with their surroundings, as is made abundantly clear in the renowned artist’s exhibition in the Waldfrieden Sculpture Park that is dedicated entirely to his sculptural work with stone, metal, wood, plaster, sand, glass, or ceramic sculptures rising from a beautiful natural landscape. Works with a powerful character move in space and merge with the light and shadow. Their appearance changes based on the onlooker’s perspective. The exhibition, hosted to celebrate the 90th century of the former co-founder of the artist group Zero, will give visitors the opportunity to discover new things aplenty between trees and sprawling meadows.
Fashion photography of the 1990s, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf
Germany’s most successful supermodel invites you on a stroll through the 1990s’ fashion world. Visitors to the Düsseldorf Kunstpalast can follow Claudia Schiffer to her most famous fashion shows, memorable fashion parties, and the most spectacular photo shoots of a decade. The fashion icon, once discovered as a model on Düsseldorf’s Königsallee, just a few meters away from the exhibition venue, has assembled an exhibition of central photographic works, videos, music, and memorabilia. The comprehensive collection includes pictures by Herb Ritts, Arthur Elgort, and Karl Lagerfeld. Guests will be able to view some intimate photographs before once again focusing on others that are rather on the playful or extravagant side.
Dates: 15 September 2021 to 09 January 2022
A rendezvous of friends – Camoin, Marquet, Manguin, Matisse, Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso in Münster
The Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso presents around 90 paintings, drawings, and graphic works by Charles Camoin, Henri Manguin, Albert Marquet, and Henri Matisse. In its large special exhibition “Rendezvous of Friends”, the Münster location is focusing on shared features between the renowned artists and differences between their styles and works. Since all of them were students of French painter Gustave Moreau, they are commonly referred to as the “Moreau Group”. Each of them went through a Fauvist style period before moving on into other directions. Mutual influence between them is evident, as guests can see when they take a closer look at individual groups of works.
Dates: 9 October 2021 to 16 January 2022
Georges Braque. Inventor of Cubism, K20 of the NRW Art Collection in Düsseldorf
Geometrical bodies are taking shape in paintings. This kind of art focuses on presenting the nature of their shapes, while strict depiction of reality is rendered irrelevant. Young Georges Braque and his friend Pablo Picasso left their mark on Cubism, possibly the most revolutionary era in the history of modern painting, for eight years before World War I. About 60 masterpieces in this style will be exhibited by the Kunstsammlung NRW at K20 Grabbeplatz starting this September. Highlights include Braque’s paintings “Les Abres” (1908) and “Piano and Mandola” (1909-1910).
Dates: 25 September 2021 to 23 January 2022
Discovered! Painting techniques from Martini to Monet, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne
Art production has been harbouring diverse secrets for centuries, ranging from special painting and drawing techniques of the great masters to use of particular materials and substances. The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum is now tracking down these mysteries in its “Entdeckt!” exhibition, uncovering the secret tricks of Martini, Cranach, Rubens, Rembrandt, Friedrich, Manet, Monet, and others. The museum presents research results from about two decades, using cutting-edge technology, X-ray, infrared, and stereo microscopy in order to examine layers of paint and bring light into the dark.
Dates: 08 October 2021 to 13 February 2022
AR-Biennale, NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf
The first AR-Biennale of the NRW-Forum is a digital sculpture park for fans of art to walk in with their smartphones or tablets as their displays present gigantic, moving sculptures resplendent in bright colours in the Ehrenhof and Hofgarten. Labels such as “Is this real?” will take on shape at the push of a button. Game pieces can be moved forward by a few fields on the ground with a swipe. A total of 20 international artists contribute to the interactive open-air exhibition that merges the analogue and digital worlds. The event is to take place every two years in future, presenting the latest innovations of the augmented reality world.
Dates: 01 August 2021 to 20 February 2022
“Brücke” and “Blauer Reiter”, Von der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal
One show, two artist groups, and three museums come together for the new “Brücke and Blauer Reiter” exhibition that presents the work of two associations that were pioneers of classic modernism and are currently considered the most important representatives of expressionism in Germany in correlation. The exhibition combines selected works from the Von der Heydt Museum, the Buchheim Museum of Imagination, and the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz to present a comprehensive overview. Visitors to the Wuppertaler Haus can look forward to enjoying works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Otto Mueller, all members of the “Brücke”. August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky and Paul Klee, among other artists, represent the “Blauer Reiter”.
Date: 21 November 2021 to 27 February 2022
Renoir, Monet, Gauguin. Images of a flowing world, Museum Folkwang in Essen
Museum Folkwang is hosting an assembly of international impressionist masterpieces in an overview exhibition in 2022. The famous composition “On the boat” by Claude Monet and “The Port of Saint Tropez” by Paul Signac will be meeting Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Lise with Umbrella” and Paul Gauguin’s “Girl with a Fan” in Essen. The exhibition “Bilder einer fließenden Welt” exemplifies based on about 120 exhibits how a style was able to develop to the point where it heralded a new era of art. Museum Folkwang’s own inventory is entering into a dialogue with works from the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo for this, with pieces that haven’t been exhibited in Europe at a larger scale since the 1950s.
Dates: 06 February 2022 to 15 May 2022
Peter Behrens - Art and Technology – LVR Industriemuseum Peter-Behrens-Bau in Oberhausen
The redesigned permanent exhibition on the architect and designer Peter Behrens presents architectural models developed specifically according to original designs as well as current and historical photographs of his buildings - going from his early residential house in Darmstadt to the tobacco factory in Linz. The LVR Industriemuseum building in Oberhausen was also designed by Behrens.
Tomás Saraceno - in orbit, Kunstsammlung NRW in Düsseldorf
It is a rather different type of art enjoyment that visitors experience below the huge dome of the "K21 Ständehaus" building that houses the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, the North Rhine Westphalia art collection. They can enter the "in orbit" room installation by artist Tomás Saraceno and, in an extensive web structure covering 3 levels and a total area of 2,500 square metres, move freely between half-a-dozen "spheres", air-filled balls with diameters of up to 8.5 metres. The web sways from the steps, high above the piazza of the museum, and with it, the other people climbing it sway too - a communicative experience. The artist’s room in the K21, which was also designed by Saraceno, shows how the movement in the web construction works. Here, real spiders move about in their own webs.
Dates: the installation is part of the permanent exhibition in K21, but is occasionally closed for maintenance works. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the artwork is currently not accessible. More information can be found on the website of the Kunstsammlung NRW.
Suitable travel offer: Tomás Saraceno - in orbit
Music, Science and Society
The fragile paradise, Gasometer in Oberhausen
A 20-meter-wide globe floats high above the visitors’ heads. Projectors cast high-resolution satellite images of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR; the German Aerospace Center) onto its surface, making our world visible in all its beauty. This grace is fleeting, as the new exhibition “Das zerbrechliche Paradies” (The fragile paradise) in the Oberhausen Gasometer demonstrates impressively with award-winning photographs and videos. Some of these present beautiful landscapes and exotic animals to the guests, while others show smoking stacks or polluted waters to reflect the effects industry has on the environment. The dramatic consequences of human intervention in nature are made visible in these exhibits. The show presents the unadulterated truth, demonstrating the history climate in all its facets.
Dates: From 1 October 2021
Ludwig lives! Beethoven in Pop, rock n popmuseum Gronau in Gronau
The central theme of the exhibition is the traces Beethoven has left in modern pop culture to this day. The multimedia show over three floors shows where Beethoven can still be found today, including in advertising, mobile phone ring tones and in songs by The Beatles, the Toten Hosen, Helge Schneider and Judith Holofernes. The exceptional musician can also be found in films such as A Clockwork Orange and in cartoons like Peanuts.
Dates: 21 April 2021 to 3 October 2021
Global Groove. Art, dance, performance, and protest, Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany
Dancing is more than just a form of expression of one’s own feelings. Its value as a means of communication is demonstrated by the “Global Groove” exhibition at the Museum Folkwang. The institution sketches a cultural history of active interaction, establishing references between western and eastern cultures. Guests visit key moments from the history of modern art and dance in a tour that takes them through a prologue, five settings, and an epilogue, from the first traditional dance steps to the dance canon in different countries. Photographs, paintings, sculptures, films, and live performances reveal overlaps between dance, art, design, performance, and fashion.
Dates: 13 August 2021 to 14 November 2021
The Rainer Werner Fassbinder method. A retrospective, Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn
The name of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-82) represents the most successful years of German cinema after World War II. The director, screenwriter, and actor is the most important representative of the New German Cinema. Some of his productions, such as “Lili Marleen”, “Die Ehe der Maria Braun”, and “Berlin Alexanderplatz” continue to enjoy world renown since they honestly capture and comment on the events of an era. This was reason enough for the Bundeskunsthalle to dedicate an exhibition of its own to this versatile talent, presenting Fassbinder’s controversial work in the mirror of his time. The exhibition brings visitors closer to the reality of life as it was.
Dates: 10 September 2021 to 06 March 2022