Like its predecessor, the “Zeichnungs Schule respective Maler- und Bildhauerakademie” (School for Drawing, Painting and Sculpture) founded in 1770, the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts was first housed in the Wilhelminum, the former Jesuit college in the Neuhauser Strasse, after its establishment in 1808. Despite early additions, there was a shortage of space early on, which was compensated by other buildings throughout the city. Only in the 1880s did it receive the prestigious building where it is still located.


King Ludwig I had already considered such a construction, but the draft presented in 1826 by Friedrich von Gärtner was thwarted by the latter’s opponent Leo von Klenze. Promising preparations only began after Ferdinand von Miller requested 800,000 guilders from the Bavarian State Parliament for a new building in 1875. The reparations paid by France to the German Reich after the failed war of 1870/71 finally enabled two million guilders to be planned for construction.


Various locations were debated; Gottfried von Neureuther was finally commissioned in 1875 to execute his design close to the Siegestor. A lack of financing for the project, whose costs had grown to over three million guilders, however, interrupted construction in 1880. After 700 Munich citizens voiced their concern in a petition stating that “the arts would move out of Munich and Bavaria to the detriment of the city and the state”, further funds were approved. On July 31, 1886, the finished building was transferred to the academy by Prince Regent Luitpold.


It was an elongated building in neo-renaissance style, with a central pavilion and four corner pavilions on both outer wings. From the honors courtyard on the southern side, a central staircase and two curved ramps led under the distinctive portico. The planned sculptures facing the front were not fully executed and the niches provided for them remained empty. A representation of Pallas Athena towered over the middle section of the building; it was lost to the ravages of war. Medallions with artist portraits and stone plates engraved with the names of famous artists formulated the art-historical canon of the founding age.


In its location between Schwabing and Maxvorstadt, the academy now illuminated both of these quarters of the city and significantly shaped their cultural life. Schwabing acquired its reputation as an artists’ quarter during this age, as well as one where the art of life was celebrated – a standing it retains to this day. The Kunstverein and Glaspalast became central presentation locations for professors and graduates.


In 1912, the north side of the building facing the academy garden was expanded by the addition of an auditorium. It was created to display ten valuable, large-scale Gobelin tapestries that King Max I Joseph had given the academy in 1815, and its dimensions were scaled accordingly. The tapestries had been woven in the 1730s in the manufacture of the French King Louis XV and were based on Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican’s Stanza della Segnatura. They include the “Parnassus” and the “School of Athens”.


The Gobelins were evacuated during the war and survived, but financial conditions after the war dictated economy. Instead of the originally curved French ceilings in the five pavilions, which had originally given the building an elegant and light character, flat roofs were mounted. The corner pavilions thus lost their distinctive contours. Inside, the former decorative splendor could not be restored; much was also removed during reconstruction, however, especially because post-war modernists thought little of nineteenth-century historicism. Pragmatic spatial planning increased the usable space with mezzanines, but the high and daylight-flooded corridors remained, which create an impressive room experience.


Just a few years after its renovation, the academy building proved to be too small. Plans discussed during the early 1960s for an extension on the academy’s west side did not become specific until 1992, when Coop Himmelb(l)au won an architecture competition. The extension only became reality in 2003 when the foundation stone was laid. In 2005, the building was moved into.


Professor Dr. Walter Grasskamp