THE HISTORY OF
THE MUSEUM OF LACQUER ART

The origins of the Museum of Lacquer Art in Münster stem from a number of favorable circumstances and, above all, from two passionate collectors: Dr. Erich Zschocke and Dr. Kurt Herberts.

Over a period of decades, both collectors acquired significant elements of lacquer art from all over the world – randomly at first, but increasingly systematically over time. One by one, they collected carefully selected and precious rarities from East Asian, European and Islamic countries and cultures. What started out as a hobby soon developed into a passion, and a sense of style and good taste evolved into profound connoisseurship.
 
In the mid-1920s, Dr. Erich Zschocke (1901-1978) had taken on a senior position in his friend Hans Herbig’s family business, the lacquer factory Herbig-Haarhaus in Cologne. Zschocke was an aesthete and a sophisticated art lover, who himself collected ancient porcelain. In the 1930s, he attended to the lacquer art already owned by the company and expanded it into an impressive collection through systematic acquisitions. The collection was moved to various locations in time for most of it to survive the World War II unscathed. The collection was supplemented and enriched by further purchases, and in the 1950s, the “Herbig-Haarhaus Lackmuseum” (Herbig-Haarhaus Lacquer Museum) was opened at the company headquarters in Cologne. In addition to European and East Asian lacquer art, it also displayed objects from the Islamic and South American cultural environments. Many of the objects were published for the first time in two standard references on lacquer art initiated by Zschocke.
 
In Wuppertal, entrepreneur Dr. Kurt Herberts (1901-1989) began collecting historic lacquer art objects in the 1930s. However, his collection was destroyed in the bomb attacks of World War II, apart from a few exceptions. But Herberts was not disheartened by this, and, after the end of the war, he began to systematically rebuild his collection.
 
In 1968, BASF Farben + Fasern (now BASF Coatings) bought the Cologne-based lacquer factory Herbig-Haarhaus. The company’s collection of lacquer art was thus also transferred into the possession of BASF.
 
In 1982, the opportunity arose for BASF to also take over Dr. Kurt Herberts’ private collection of lacquer art. This acquisition signified a valuable addition to the already-existing Herbig-Haarhaus collection.
 
With the two collections united, BASF now called more than 2,000 objects of lacquer art its own and cherished the desire to make them permanently accessible to the public in one place. When the “Stadtmuseum” (city museum) moved out of the classical villa on Windthorststraße in Münster in 1992, the management at the time joined forces with further sponsors and, in a combined effort, succeeded in finding a home for the Museum of Lacquer Art.
 
The Museum of Lacquer Art moved into its new quarters in the city mansion from 1911 in the heart of the city center, and the grand opening was held in 1993.
 
Today, many guests from all over the world visit the museum each year to see its globally unique collection of lacquer art from East and Southeast Asia, Europe and the Islamic world with objects from the past two millennia. Its inventory also includes a library comprising some 4,500 books. Selected works on lacquer art, including rarities written in Chinese and Japanese, as well as historic books on European lacquer art and its formulas since the 17th century can be found here.