museum global

Variétés - Le Surréalisme en 1929, 1929, (known as the Surrealist map of the world), prints, illustrated books, photomechanical reproduction, letterpress

A research project
(since 2015)

Ever since the late 1990s, we have seen a growing interest in a global historical perspective of modernism, a term referring mainly to artistic tendencies emerging in the 20th century in Paris, Vienna, and later New York. As the art gallery of a federal state that is devoted to precisely this type of modernism, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen has launched a three-year research project entitled museum global in order to engage in a process of critical analysis and questioning that calls attention to other possible narratives of modernism that point beyond the Western canon. The central question here is: in a diverse society, how can we work in useful ways with a self-contained collection of modern art that is based on Europe and North America? Which other points of view, themes, and questions – concerning our own collection as well – might be associated with a broadening of perspectives vis à vis other forms of modernism in South America, Africa, and Asia? And what does this mean for our understanding of modernism as such?


museum global is being implemented jointly by the museum's curatorial and education departments, and is designed to lead to a fundamental sensitization to other themes and perspectives, both internally as well as externally. In this context, art-historical themes are regarded as inseparable from the question of the speaker's perspective. In preparation for the exhibition, therefore, a variety of educational formats and methods are under development that respond to the interests and orientation of a society that is being transformed by migration, and which addresses transcultural aspects.



Alongside individual education and thematic discussions, a central focus of the research project – major components of which will be made accessible to the public – is on the process of scholarly work and on sensitization to hitherto unfamiliar themes and questions. The two international conferences represent crucial intermediate steps along this path.


A sensitization to a global art history will also be deepened through the public event series at the Schmela Haus. Among other activities, participants in the Curator in Residence Program will present their work. This program, a collaboration with the Goethe Institute, was launched in 2014 and will run for a period of five years. Non-European (artist) curators are invited to live and work here in order to contribute to shaping the program of the Schmela Haus through dialogic processes. Visiting Düsseldorf to date have been curators from Egypt, Japan, and Brazil.

Beyond official events, the research team of the Kunstsammlung will be inviting selected scholars to attend internal workshops as an intensive form of training and exchange.


Numerous scholarly conferences, symposia, and lectures around the world testify to a resounding interest in this research topic. The same is true of the continuously growing list of relevant publications. Evolving as a function of our research activities around museum global has been a new focal area within our publicly accessible museum library at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. 



Further information

The project museum global is a research project of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, in cooperation with the Chair of Global Art History at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies of Heidelberg University, with scientific advice by Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja.

museum global will culminate in November 2018 in a big exhibition, which will situate works in the collection of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in an international context.

Both the research project museum global and the exhibition receive support from the Federal Cultural Foundation.


Federal Cultural Foundation, Museum Global programme

Social Media
Project playlist on the Kunstsammlung YouTube channel:

Interview series "Local modernisms in a global context"

Interview with Partha Mitter

Interview with Wendy Shaw


Team of the Project

Kathrin Beßen, Janine Blöß (freelance), Prof. Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer, Julia Hagenberg, Dr. Doris Krystof, Nóra Lukács (freelance), Dr. Isabelle Malz, Dr. Maria Müller-Schareck, Sarah Schmeller, Peter Schüller, Melanie Vietmeier (freelance), Thelma Marimba Williamson