History and Architecture

Das beleuchtete Gebäude des Grassimuseums bei Nacht

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.

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Museum’s History in Motion

Schwarz-weiß Fotografie eines Eckgebäudes in einer Straßenzeile; erster Sitz des Kunstgewerbemuseums Leipzig


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


schwarz-weiß Fotografie des neu gebauten Grassi-Museums (heute Stadtbibliothek)


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.


schwarz-weiße Fotografie des Prof. Dr. Richard Graul, er sitzt auf einem Stuhl, trägt Anzug und Brille und raucht eine Zigarre; von der Seite fotografiertt


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.

schwarz-weißes Luftbild des neu gebauten Grassi-Museums, unten die Johanniskirche


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

schwarz-weiß Fotografie des Museumsgebäude von der (heutigen) Prager Straße; links-mittig der große zweifache Schriftzug Kunstgewerbe


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.

schwarz-weiß Fotografie der Pfeilerhalle, links und rechts die Pfeiler, in der Mitte leere Ausstellungsfläche und zwei große Zugangstüren


The pillar hall is opened on the occasion of the special exhibition "European arts and crafts". The exhibition also extends to other rooms of the still unfinished museum building.


schwarz-weiß Fotografie des zerstörten Gebäudes, Dach fehlt, nu die Stahlkonstruktion ist zu sehen, links und rechts Schuttberge


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


schwarz-weiß Fotografie des zerstörten Gebäudes vom Innenhof, fehlendes Dach und zerstörte Fenster erkennbar,


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.


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


schwarz-weiß Fotografie des Gebäudes vom Innenhof betrachtet


Due to damage to the museum’s heating system the small permanent exhibition was closed in the early 1980s.


schwarz-weiß Fotografie einer Ausstellungsansicht, im Vorgerund eine große Vitrine mit Objekten


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.

Außenansicht eines Gebäudes in der Leipziger Innenstadt, Interimsgebäude


Reconstruction of the entire GRASSI building complex until 2005. The Museum of Applied Arts is temporarily moved to an interim space in the inner city of Leipzig.



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.

Ausstellungsansicht: abgedunkelter Raum, rechts ein asiatischer Paravent, in der Mitte eine Vitrinen mit einem roten Objekt, im Hintergrund weitere Objekte und Sitzgelegenheiten


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


Fotografie der Pfeilerhalle, links und rechts die Pfeiler, in der Mitte leere Ausstellungsfläche und zwei große Zugangstüren


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


Fünf rechteckige, vertikal aufgestellte Buntglasfenster


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

[Translate to English:] Stahlrohrmöbel in der Dauerausstellung, Foto: Karola Bauer


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


Treppenhaus, im Hintergrund eine Reihe länglicher Buntglasfenster, im Vordergrund eine goldene Leuchte auf dem Treppenansatz


Reconstruction of the historical lamps in the stairwell.

Animation eines neuen Gebäudes aus Backsteinen vor dem Grassimuseum


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


Gebäudeansicht; Treppenturm von außen


Renovation of the two stair towers.


Detailaufnahme der goldenen Buchstaben, die den Museumsnamen am Gebäude bilden


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