History and Architecture


Built between 1925 and 1929, the Grassimuseum is one of the few larger German museum complexes constructed during the Weimar Republic. For the historic area between the Old Johannis Cemetery and Johannis-Square, Hubert Ritter, Leipzig's head of municipal planning and building, designed an extensive complex in collaboration with the architectural office Zweck und Voigt. The layout follows the tradition of European palace building. The architecture combines a clear, functionally oriented style with the expressive decorative forms of Art Deco – visible in the roof construction with its “golden pineapple” shape. The pillar hall built in 1927 is the heart of the complex and also follows this zigzag style. The design of the eighteen high windows along the main staircase, which Josef Albers designed in 1926, is committed to the rational aesthetic of Bauhaus.

In the night of December 3rd, 1943, the museum complex faced severe destruction by fire and explosive bombs. The reconstruction and restoration began immediately after the end of the war, and first temporary exhibitions were held as early as 1949. During the era of the German Democratic Republic, only the most necessary measures for the preservation of the building were carried out.

The renovation of the building complex began in 2001 and was completed in 2005, restoring it to its original shining splendor. Located in the eastern corner of the city center, with luscious green courtyards and the adjacent Old Johannis Cemetery, the area poses as a unique cultural attraction and is simultaneously a place of peace and relaxation.

The name of the GRASSI Museum is derived from Franz Dominic Grassi, a Leipzig merchant of Italian origin. After his death in 1880, he bequeathed a fortune of more than two million marks to the city, which was subsequently used to promote and realize numerous building projects, parks, and monuments. The old Grassimuseum was built between 1892 and 1895. Originally, it housed the Ethnological Museum Leipzig and the Museum of Applied Arts Leipzig. Today it is the home of the Leipzig Municipal Library.

Museum’s History in Motion

1874

Grand opening as Germany’s second museum of applied arts.

 

1892-95

Construction of the first GRASSI Museum at Wilhelm-Leuschner-Square (now the municipal library), funded through the estate of Leipzig-born merchant and art patron Franz Dominic Grassi. The newly constructed building was designed after blueprints by the head of municipal planning and building Hugo Licht and was intended to give the Museum of Applied Arts and the Ethnological Museum a worthy space.

 

1896

Prof. Dr. Richard Graul (1862–1944) was the director of the Museum of Applied Arts from 1896 until 1929. His many undertakings and activities had a great impact on the museum and left a lasting mark on the structure of the collection.

1925-1929

Construction of the new GRASSI Museum at Johannis-Square – one of the most modern museum complexes of its time.

1926

The art fair GRASSIMESSE, which was first held in 1920, was hosted in the wing by Hospitalstraße (now Prager Straße) beginning in 1926. This venue provided an ideal space for the elite of artisans and craftsmen.

1927

Although construction on the museum had yet to be completed, the pillar hall was used as an exhibition space.

 

1943–1945

In 1939 the GRASSI Museum was forced to shut its doors due to the war. During the Second World War, a great part of it was destroyed. A large part of the collection went into storage for safekeeping.

 

1945

Damage to the buildings from the war was fixed provisionally. After the war, large parts of the building complex were rented out to third parties.

1952

Opening of a provisional permanent exhibition in five of once thirty showrooms.

 

1981

The development of the museum after 1945 shows that in comparison to many others, it was negatively affected by the German partition. It lost a great part of its network, exhibitors and international visitors. Due to damage to the museum’s heating system the small permanent exhibition was closed in the early 1980s.

 

1994

On October 8, 1994, after a 12-year hiatus, with a modest space of just five rooms, a permanent collection highlighting artisanal European craft from the middle ages until the twentieth century was back on display. 99% of the original collection was still in storage.

2000-2006

Reconstruction of the entire GRASSI building complex until 2006. The Museum of Applied Arts is temporarily moved to an interim space in the inner city of Leipzig.

 

2007

Re-opening of the museum after its extensive restoration and modernization. The grand opening of the first exhibition gallery for the new permanent exhibition “From Antiquity to Historism” in 30 rooms.

2010

Opening of the second permanent exhibition „Asian Art. Impulses for Europe“.

 

2010

Complete restoration of the pillar hall with its typical Art Deco elements.

 

2011

Reconstruction of the stairwell window by Josef Albers – the world’s largest glass design by a Bauhaus artist.

2012

Opening of the third and last permanent exhibition „From Art Nouveau to the Present“.

 

2015

Reconstruction of the historical lamps in the stairwell.

2018

The vision of a museum‘s extension was discussed in the special exhibition GRASSI FUTURE.

 

2023/24

The museum will celebrate its 150th anniversary of its foundation (in 1873) and opening (in 1874).

Impressions