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Germany, Leipzig

Leipzig – Visit to Grassi Museum for applied arts

grassi museum leipzig

Leipzig, just a two hour drive from Berlin, is the location of the Grassi Museum. Here you will find one of the best collections of applied arts from the periods Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Bauhaus. It also houses a very fascinating and insightful permanent exhibition of applied arts from the antiquity till historicism.

Grassi museum Leipzig view

View from the Grassi museum towards Augustus Platz

History

The Museum für Angewandte Kunst is the offical German name for this museum, but everybody knows it as the Grassi Museum. It houses three museums of which the museum of applied arts is one.

Grassi museum collection

Sometimes design favors over functionality

In October 1874, the museum was opened in Leipzig’s old office house. It was called the Leipzig Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Arts and Crafts). The purpose of the founders was to make objects available to local artisans so they could copy the patterns and shapes. A very smart move that contributed to the prosperity of local craftsmen in Leipzig.  In those early years of industrialization, objects and designs from previous time periods became popular again. This period, 1840 to 1900, is also known as historicism in Germany. For many years craftsmen copied foreign designs and objects with impunity. The Grassi museum has a Chinese wall decoration from a country house in Zehmen in her collection, completely made by German craftsmen.

Grassi museum mansion chinese wall

A Chinese style decorated wall, made by German craftsmen, brought to the museum from a local mansion

Thanks to a large donation by Franz Dominic Grassi, a special building for the collection of this museum could be built. It opened in 1929 and yielded a total of 27,000m2 exhibition space. Due to various bombardments in World War II the museum had been seriously damaged. The museum’s collection could be saved, but the building itself was in ruins.

It was not until 1994 that restoration and reconstruction work began for the museum. It was so badly damaged that the famous staircase windows by Bauhaus artist Josef Albers and the red pillar hall had to be reconstructed.  The renovations ended in 2012 with the opening of the last exhibition hall.

grassi museum albers

Staircase windows by Josef Albers

grassi museum pilaren hal

The red pillar hall in the Grassi Museum

Today, you will find three museums in the Grassi Museum. An museum for music instruments, an ethnographic museum and this museum for aplied arts.

Grassi museum leipzig

Current building of the Grassi Museum

Highlights Art Nouveau to contemporary design

Since most of the visitors come to this museum for her extensive Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Bauhaus collection, I will start my review with that period.

Many of the objects in this collection come from the Grassi Fair. An applied arts fair held in Leipzig from the 1920’s till the thirties. Since 1997, the fair is held again every year in the month October.

Art nouveau Lalique broche

Broche by René Lalique 1898

Grassi museum art deco

At the entrance of the exhibition you will find an A4 booklet. It contains the translation of the various information boards and texts in several languages. Very useful when your German language skills are limited.

All the objects are put together based on style and region.

Grassi museum Leipzig
Grassi design leipzig

Designs from the 20st century

Grassi design leipzig

Marianne Eggimann (Leipzig) – VolMond (2010) and Fruchtkorb Wire Ball by Anna Lorenz (UK, 2003)

Highlights from antiquity to modernism and Asian Art

This part of the exhibition starts with artifacts from antiquity and Roman times, but the highlights of the collection begins at the Gothic era. One of the more valuable pieces is a carpet from the 16th century with the legend of Tristan depicted on it. The altarpieces from the early 1500s, surrounded by images from that period, are also impressive.

Grassi religieuze kunst

Religious art from early 16th century

In the Italian space hangs a ceiling from Venice whose paintings are probably from the 1700s. Beautifully decorated with flora, fauna and mythical figures. Fritz von Harck donated this ceiling in 1943/44.
Grassi Italian room
Italian room
The real treasures are in the small dark rooms within the large halls. Here you will find an old chimney dressing from the 16th century that originally hung in the town hall of Leipzig. Or you will find a movable limb doll from 1525, of which only 8 have been found so far.

Grassi 16th century tapestry

Mantle piece from the 16th century

Within the collection there is also a section for utensils made of pewter, metal, brass and copper. They express the more stereotypical image of German house ware. Just like the collection of beer and other drinking appliances, for which a special space has been set up.

Grassi design german

A nice combination of typical German drinking mugs and unique earth ware.

An section within the collection focuses on objects from Asian and Arabic countries. In the 17th century more and more objects from this region became available due to the international trade.
If you talk about porcelain, then you can only talk about Meissen when you are in Sachsen. This world renown porcelain manufacturer created some unique pieces. The Grassi museum of course has also some. After the Meissen section, the visitor will enter rooms dedicated to the Neoclassical and Biedermeier period.

Grassi Meissen teapot

Teapot from the Meissen factory

Grassi 19th century design

Egyptian influences in 19th century designs

The attendant of the museum will direct you to the first floor of the red pillar hall where various objects from Japan, Iran and China are exhibited. The Japanese room and the Iranian corridor are particularly impressive.  The Coromandel lacquer screen from China is being considered as one of the highlights.

Grassi kamerscherm chinees

The Coromandel lacquer screen from China

Plan your visit

Admission to the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Künst is 8 euros. Every first Wednesday of the month the museum has free admission and children under 18 are always free to enter.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 – 18.00.

In addition to a shop, the museum also has a small café on its premises and behind the museum is an old cemetery. The old cemetery can be visited without an admission ticket.

For more information about the museum and temporary exhibitions, please visit the website of Grassi Museum.

 

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