The Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (LFC) is a Cuban arts initiative and a platform for Latin American artists. Founded in 1995, the LFC is a non-governmental, non-profit foundation that Peter and Irene Ludwig created out of their love for the arts. It is funded through the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation located in Aachen, Germany. There are multiple Ludwig Foundations around the world, but LFC is an autonomous foundation administered by the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLC). Founded in 2000, the AFLC fosters cultural exchanges between American and Cuban artists and art professionals.1 They collaborate with individuals and distinguished cultural institutions such as Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Joyce Theater, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab, and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute to offer educational and cultural workshops, courses, festivals, internships, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and artist residency programs both in the U.S. and Cuba.2 With his wife, Peter Ludwig was an avid art collector and during his lifetime he amassed thousands of artworks, most of which were donated to museums and other art institutions.
Peter Ludwig was born in Koblenz, Germany in 1925, and his father was an affluent cement manufacturer. His brother was eventually chosen to run the family business, and Ludwig’s own career began successfully in 1951 after he married Irene Monheim, the daughter of one of Germany’s most successful chocolate makers. A year later, he was appointed managing director of Monheim Schokolade, based at Aachen, and in 1969 took over as its chairman.3 Both Peter and Irene studied art history at Mainz University. It gave them a common interest that turned into one of the largest art collections in the world. They spent a lot of their time and energy buying and viewing art. Picasso was one of Peter Ludwig’s favorite artists.4 Today there are no fewer than thirty Ludwig museums in Germany, as well as Cologne, Aachen, Vienna, Budapest and Beijing. The Ludwig’s have endowed these museums with artworks from their extensive collection.5
Ludwig Foundations are recognized in the art world and they are held in high esteem because they represent the values of good taste, discernment, passion, and philanthropic community. The Ludwig’s are universally credited with raising Germany’s cultural profile, improved international relations, and heightened the general awareness of modern art.6 As a media figure, Peter Ludwig was often misrepresented, and his political sympathies were called into question, because of the way he seemed to be using his collection to benefit his business. He ruffled feathers when, in 1986, he rashly commissioned Arno Breker, once Hitler’s sculptor, to make portrait busts of himself and his wife.7 .Peter Ludwig died on July 22, 1996, just after their Cuban Foundation was established and Irene Ludwig died more recently on the 28th of November 2010.
The Cuban Ludwig Foundation benefitted many Cuban artists who would otherwise go unnoticed by the art world. On Peter and Irene’s website it states that the establishment of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation was not intended to serve the purpose of preserving the Ludwig Collection as a monument, but to pursue artistic ventures, in the spirit of the founders, that are future-orientated and productive.8
Other art foundations that support Cuban artists include The Cuban Artists Fund based in New York and Cuba Art New York, another American-based foundation. Just like the Ludwig Foundation these initiatives help fund and support Cuban ex-pats in the U.S. However, they do not provide the exchange opportunities that the Ludwig Foundation offers. The Cuban Artists Fund aims to support Cuban and Cuban-born artists living outside of Cuba with grants.9 Cuba Art New York has a similar goal and was founded by a group of artists and art enthusiasts to create and preserve the contemporary art of Cuban artists for institutions, museums, scholars, galleries etc. to use for reference and display.10 Both of these initiatives are based in America, which is great for recently immigrated or established artists in New York, but in Cuba there is definitely a larger need for these types of social networks.
Another widely known art institution in Cuba is the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art. It is dedicated to the study, research and promotion of contemporary visual arts from developing countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. It was founded in 1983 in homage to Wifredo Lam, an important Cuban artist from the 20th century.11 The Wifredo Lam Center is also responsible for the Havana Biennial, which is an art exhibition held every two years in the heart of the city. In 2015, the city hosted its eleventh Biennial focusing on the relationship between visual production and the social imaginary.12
The Havana Biennial is an event that the Ludwig Foundation is also a part of in Cuba. The supported artists participate in this exhibition where many influential people from around the world gather to discuss art and connect with members of the Latin American art world. This Biennial is invaluable for the exposure it affords up and coming as well as established contemporary artists.
In 2009, Carole Rosenberg, former President of the non-profit, autonomous, non-governmental American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLFC) wrote, “it has been fifteen years since I first visited Cuba. An invitation to attend the Havana Biennial came shortly after our government granted a consent decree making it legal for art dealers to go to Cuba to purchase art. During this period, I had the opportunity to become familiar with Cuban culture and meet artists and art professionals. Inspired by our experience, my husband and I felt a need to do what we could to bring American art to Cuba and Cuban art to the U.S.”13 This testimonial approving Cuban art captures the spirit of Peter and Irene Ludwig. Along with President Rosenberg, the Ludwig Foundation is still supporting Cuban artists today.
1 American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba http://www.aflfc.org/eng/whoweare/index.html.
3 Frank Whitford. “Obituary: Peter Ludwig,” The Independent, July 27, 1996, Arts section, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-peter-ludwig-1330671.html
8 “History and Aims.” Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, http://www.ludwigstiftung.de/6.0.html?&L=1
9 “Organizational History,” Cuban Artists Fund http://www.cubanartistsfund.org/
10 “Who We Are”, Cuban Art New York http://www.cubaartny.org/pages/about/who.html
11 “Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wilfredo Lam: Organizer of the Havana Biennial”, Universes in Universe http://www.universes-in-universe.de/car/habana/centro/english.htm.
12 For more see Universes in Universe http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/.
13 American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, http://www.aflfc.org/eng/whoweare/index.html.