The Leipzig Museum der Bildenden Künste (known as MdBK) is hidden between large buildings in the heart of the city. It is absolutely not a small museum, but you hardly notice it due to its architecture. The museum is housed in a large square building covered with opaque glass panels. Based on the exterior you would not guess that the building houses a very rich art collection from 16th century till present day.
Merchants, publishers, traders and bankers founded this museum in 1848. They were all members of the Leipzig Art Association. An association that still exists and still donates works of art to the museum, including many artworks of regional artists.
Mix of modern and ancient art
At the beginning of 2018 I visited the museum for the first time. I started on the third floor, as recommended by the receptionist. Stepping out of the elevator I immediately encountered a diversity of art works. In the middle of the floor was a large exhibition called Virtual Normality. In which female artists explore the possibilities and limitations of social media. Women who seductively move in front of the camera, life-size photos of women taking a selfie in their underwear and a video of a woman with a mask and in a sexy blue dress walking down the streets of a city in South Carolina. These confrontational images hung right next to artworks from the 16th and 19th century.
One minute you walk through the beautiful collection of Bühler-Brockhaus with mostly 19 century sculptures and paintings, the next minute you stare at porn food photos. With this, the museum has stolen my heart. I love the unconventional display, and the mixing of art.
On the second floor I found two beautiful examples where modern art is mixed with art from the past. One of them, was a photograph by Wang Quingsong. With his photo he responded to the old painting ‘Sieben lebensalter das Weibes’ by Hand Baldung Grien from 1544. It brought a smile to my face.
The second example is part of the permanent exhibition. On the first floor you will encounter a portrait by Andy Warhol hanging in between two paintings of women from the 17th century. Little surprises like this, keeps me alert when walking through a museum.
On the second and first floor you will find art installations that fill the large open areas of this modern museum. Unique pieces of arts that are sometimes created specifically for the museum and the space in which they exhibit.
On the second floor, you will find paintings of Max Beckmann. He was born in Leipzig. This German painter, graphic designer, sculptor and writer was born in 1884, lived in Amsterdam for several years during the Second World War and then moved to New York, where he died in 1950.
His paintings are very powerful and striking. Very different from the paintings by Max Klinger, who was born just 50 years before Max Beckmann. I found his artworks less interesting and his large sculpture of Beethoven, in which he uses all kinds of materials interchangeably, was frankly quite ugly. But that is art, it evokes an emotion and Max Klinger does that.
Contemporary Art in basement
My visit to this museum ended in the basement, where a temporary exhibition of Ayse Erkmen and Mona Hatoum was held. The more experimental artworks are shown here. Although, when I visited the museum for the second time in July, I noticed an exhibition together with the G2 Gallery in Leipzig. Part of this exhibition was G2 latest acquisition of a painting by Neo Rauch, a well-known Leipzig artist from the Leipziger Schule.
Although I could not appreciate or understand all art equally well, the variation in works made the visit to this museum a fascinating experience. I have met many new artists and painters, many of whom were from the Leipzig area.
Plan your visit
Museum der Bildenden Künste is open from 10am to 6pm on Tuesdays, and Thursday till Sunday. On Wednesday the museum opens at 12 am and closes at 8 pm.
Admission is 10 euros and there is free entry each first Wednesday of the month.
Are you curious about their current exhibitions? Click here for their website.