Rheinisches Archiv für Künstlernachlässe

The ‘Rheinisches Archiv für Künstlernachlässe’ (Rhenish Archive for Artists’ Legacies – RAK) is a foundation under civil law for the conservation of the cultural heritage of the visual arts. The archive collects documents from the living and posthumous estates of visual artists, photographers, architects, art historians and art collectors. The documents in the archive are indexed, researched at university level and made available on loan to museums on request for exhibition purposes.

The value of the estate documents under the care of the foundation is demonstrated in in-house exhibitions and made known to the national public via the archive’s own publication series ‘annoRAK – Mitteilungen aus dem Rheinischen Archiv für Künstlernachlässe’ (annoRAK – reports from the RAK).

The RAK is active at board level of the Bundesverbands Künstlernachlässe (Federal Association of Artists’ Estates – BKN) and advises artists and holders of estates on questions relating to documentary records and bequeathed works.

The assets are stored professionally in accordance with the current conservation standards in compliance with European DIN standards for the storage and packaging of paper products. The RAK pays close attention to IPM (integrated pest management) in accordance with DIN EN 16790 for the conservation and long-term protection of cultural heritage within the archive.

The archive is funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen and by the Federal City of Bonn.

Beispiele von Archivalien

Group with Johanna Ey, photo Letter from Paul Westheim to Ludwig E. Ronig, photo Christo in his apartment, photo Dietmar Schneider Exhibition invitation Bernd Damke, photo

Collection profile

As a proactive collection archive, the RAK Nordrhein-Westfalen operates far and wide with a special focus on the Rhenish art scene. One focus of the collection within the first half of the 20th century is on members of artist groups and circles that are of historical interest in an evolutionary context. Modern art collectives included, for example, the ‘Sonderbund’, the ‘Künstlergruppe Niederrhein’, the ‘Kölner Progressive’, ‘Das Junge Rheinland’ group and its successor organisations ‘Rheingruppe’ and ‘Rheinische Sezession’, the so-called ‘Mutter Ey-Kreis’ as well as the ‘Wupperkreis’. After 1945, there was the ‘Rheinische Künstler-Gemeinschaft Köln’, the ‘Neue Rheinische Sezession’, ‘Der Junge Westen’, the ‘Westdeutsche Künstlerbund’ or ‘Gruppe 53’.

With the regained artistic freedom after 1945, the Rhineland became the nucleus of modernism in the Federal Republic. Its proximity to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam benefited a young generation of artists who turned to Informalism or resumed nonfigurative approaches from the years prior to 1933. Cologne and Düsseldorf, in particular, became centres of art education and the art trade, paving the way for an art scene with international appeal against the backdrop of the emerging industry of the Rhine/Ruhr region. An important task of the RAK is to conserve, research and pass on this rich cultural heritage of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Research material

Written documents:

Letters, postcards, telegrams, diaries, notebooks, pocket calendars, manuscripts, directories, books of accounts, price lists, address files, documented transactions with buyers, galleries and museums, public clients, manufacturers, restorers, etc.

Civil status records:

Birth, marriage and death certificates, identity cards, passports, membership cards, graduation certificates, awards

Printed materials:

Invitation cards, posters, exhibition catalogues, illustrated books and exhibition reviews


Documentation of works, exhibition photos, studio photos, portrait photos of the artist, selected family photos, social photos with fellow artists, gallery owners, art historians and collectors. When admitting photographers, acceptance of the complete photographic oeuvre is possible.


8 mm and 16 mm films, videotapes, tapes, records, CDs, DVDs, hard disks and other data carriers

Artistic work:

Selected sketches, sketchbooks, model boxes, drawings, prints, sculptural models, design models, etc.


Selected tools and items such as brushes, palettes, paints, medals, printing blocks, etc.

Instagram / Facebook

The Rhenish Archive for Artists’ Legacies can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. There, we introduce our different artists on a weekly basis as well as a favourite object of the month.

External links to Facebook and Instagram

Click here to go to Facebook and Instagram.