Übergabe der Sammlung ETZOLD am 3. Oktober 1970 während der Rede von OB Wilhelm Wachtendonk (1. Reihe v.l.n.r.): Hans Joachim und Berni Etzold, Luise Wachtendonk, Johannes Cladders, Foto: Albert Weber / Archiv Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
OB Wilhelm Wachtendonk, Berni Etzold und Johannes Cladders (v.l.n.r.) bei der offiziellen Übergabe der Sammlung ETZOLD am 3. Oktober 1970 Foto: Albert Weber, 1970 / Archiv Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach
Werke der Sammlung ETZOLD im alten Museum auf der Bismarckstr.
Werke der Sammlung ETZOLD im alten Museum auf der Bismarckstr.
Werke der Sammlung ETZOLD im alten Museum auf der Bismarckstr.
Werke der Sammlung ETZOLD im alten Museum auf der Bismarckstr.

 “For me, a work of art is first and foremost a product of the spirit, of the mind. It reflects its time. The same can be said of engagement with art.” (Hans Joachim Etzold)

On September 30, 1970, Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold signed the contract that made their private collection of contemporary art a permanent loan to what was then the Städtische Museum Mönchengladbach.

The current ETZOLD Collection was primarily assembled by Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold during the 1960s and 70s. The collector couple from Moers placed a clear emphasis on the emerging, often not yet established artistic tendencies of their day. In 1970, the Kölnischer Kunstverein presented the private collection — then comprised of approximately 200 works — to the public for the first time. Among the visitors to this exhibition was Johannes Cladders, director of the Mönchengladbach museum, along with representatives of the city’s cultural committee. With the exhibition still on view, the city and the collectors reached an agreement to lend the collection to the then Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach. The provision of this permanent loan proved crucial to the realization of the present museum building, a structure designed by Hans Hollein that opened on the Abteiberg in 1982. Cladders had already been planning the project at the time.

Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold had been closely associated with Cladders since the late 1950s. They met when Cladders was assistant to Paul Wember at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld. At that time, Cladders advised collectors in the early stages of building their collections. In line with his later acquisition strategy at the Mönchengladbach museum, he advised them to collect contemporary art without recommending specific artists or works. It was in the context of the Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach that the ETZOLD Collection grew to a comprehensive testament to private collecting passion and unwavering commitment to emerging art, with a total of over 500 works.

Today, these holdings consist primarily of early works of Concrete and Constructive art from the 1960s onward. These are joined by extensive collections of Pop Art, early computer graphics, Conceptual Art, and Minimal Art. In an effort to provide insight into art historical connections, Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold also retroactively acquired selected prints from the Constructivist movement of the first half of the twentieth century.

Since 1970, various grouped holdings of the ETZOLD Collection have been complemented by a number of temporary exhibitions and presentations of the collection. With the passing of Hans Joachim Etzold in 1976, Berni Etzold officially declared their collecting activity to be concluded. Ten years later, in 1986, the newly opened Museum Abteiberg presented the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of the ETZOLD Collection titled Sammlung Etzold – Ein Zeitdokument (The Etzold Collection A Contemporary Document). A comprehensive collection catalogue was published to mark the occasion. That same catalogue was expanded in 1989 to include the Pop Art holdings.

Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold’s private collection is now on long-term view in the Museum Abteiberg permanent exhibition. In a run-up to the 50th anniversary of the loan, the museum also presented The Future of Drawing: The New in the Etzold Collection, a three-part exhibition series held between 2017 and 2019. The series was accompanied by an in-depth scholarly and educational supporting program. The anniversary itself will be marked by additional presentations juxtaposing works from the ETZOLD Collection with the museum’s other holdings from the 1960s and 1970s, including works by artists including Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Sonnier, and representatives of the Op Art movement.

The first Sunday after the anniversary, October 4, will be dedicated to the ETZOLD Collection in honor of this long-term loan. Admission is free, courtesy of the Stadtsparkasse Mönchengladbach. Hourly guided tours, beginning at 11:30 am, will highlight areas of overlap between the ETZOLD Collection and the museum’s own holdings. Even the children’s program for kids aged 5 to 12 will focus entirely on the ETZOLD Collection and Op Art works.

Image: Handover of the ETZOLD Collection on October 3, 1970, photograph taken during a speech given by Mayor Wilhelm Wachtendonk (1st row from left to right): Hans Joachim and Berni Etzold, Luise Wachtendonk, Johannes Cladders, Photo: Albert Weber / Museum Abteiberg archive, Mönchengladbach