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Touring Leipzig and travel back to Berlin

Posted on Jan 15, 2013 in Leipzig | 0 comments

Sketch in Cafe Riquet Leipzig

Just before catching my train back to Berlin, I had a hot chocolate in Cafe Riquet, I mainly went in because it’s a gorgeous art nouveau building and interior, and I wanted to sketch it.

On January 14, I had to check out of my B&B by 10 a.m. and my train back to Berlin left at 2 p.m., so minus the tram ride, I had almost 3 hours to do a self-guided tour of the nicely compact old centre of Leipzig. Unlike Berlin, where everything is very spread out.

Overall, I very much liked Leipzig, and could even see myself staying there for a while. It would be cheap but still offer a lot of cultural inspiration, and it has a bit of an introvert feeling compared to the party animal that Berlin is. One could actually get work done here in Leipzig. And Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy live and work here. They get a lot of art done because they work hard and don’t party, I say with admiration, but also incredulity.

The breakfast room at my pension in Leipzig

The breakfast room at my pension in Leipzig.

Leipzig neighbourhood

The Leipzig neighbourhood where my hotel was.

The old centre of Leipzig.

The old centre of Leipzig. The Nikolai Church where in late 1989 meetings of concerned citizens were held who were forming a resistance to the DDR regime, is here. Only a few months later, the Wall came down.

Leipzig rooftops

Leipzig rooftops near the City Hall.

Shop window with Meissen porcelain

Shop window with Meissen porcelain. Gold is the sign of the times, right? Meissen porcelain is famous. This set costs a lot of money. I have to say, porcelain, crystal, silver, curtains, linens — all those emblems of domesticity are completely uninteresting to me. Sure, I like it when they’re well designed. But do I want to waste my time to wash them, iron them, polish them, store them, and worry about breaking them? Not.

Leipzig building facades

Leipzig building facades.

Leipzig, Mädlerpassage

Leipzig, Mädlerpassage, a nicely preserved fin-de-siècle covered shopping area. Goethe also traipsed around here as a young law student, and built a bar that he frequented here, into his “Faust”.

Window decoration in Leipzig

I like this decorative flower box — a good solution for winter, until you can fill it with live plants again.

 Augustusplatz, Leipzig

Augustusplatz, Leipzig. This used to be Karl-Marx-Platz during DDR times, and I was “admiring” the socialist architecture.

Berlin Ampelmann

Berlin, and clearly Leipzig and other former East German cities, are famous for their “Ampelmann”, the little man in the traffic light who wears a jaunty hat and looks like he’s straight from the 50s. And indeed, I think he was introduced in the early 60s, and this popular graphic has survived the DDR.

East German Ampelmann

Apparently there is even an “Ampelfrau” but she was only used in a few places.

Riquet Chocolate Cafe, Leipzig

Riquet Chocolate Cafe, Leipzig. A chocolate cafe? With 3-D elephant heads? And art nouveau? How could I not go in and draw the place. But I was rushed, I only had 30 minutes for my hot chocolate and sketch before I had to catch my train.

Riquet Chocolate Cafe, Leipzig, interior

Riquet Chocolate Cafe, Leipzig, interior. I normally have a great aversion to anything wicker, but in a place with elephant head decor it seems acceptable.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Back in Berlin, the new Hauptbahnhof there is pretty impressive as well. Unlike the Leipzig train station where all tracks are spread out on one level, the Berlin one has three levels where trains are arriving and departing constantly.

Snow in Berlin

I arrive back in Berlin and find it has snowed while I was in Leipzig. This area of restaurants with large outdoor dining areas at Hackescher Markt looks like it could be a fun place to have a drink in the warmer seasons. Not now.

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Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig

Posted on Jan 14, 2013 in Leipzig | 0 comments

On January 13, I spent all day at the Leipzig Museum der Bildenden Künste. I got there by 11:30 a.m. and was probably the last person to leave at 6:00 p.m. I even ate dinner there. Seeing art all day made me very happy.

Then I took a 1-hour tram ride to a sauna on the outskirts of Leipzig. I had looked forward to sweating out the rest of my cold, but it turned out that sauna does not offer bathrobes or towels for rent, and I did not bring any. A bit disappointed, I took the tram all the way back to my hotel to nurse my cold, catch up on some emails and phone calls to friends and family, and get lots of sleep.

Daniel Richter painting

I made this drawing in Procreate on the iPad of a Daniel Richter painting (Untitled, 2002) at the Leipzig MdbK (Leipzig Fine Art Museum). As I draw more of these copies, I feel my reverence for art dwindle from deity-like admiration to a more human appreciation. I have had a tendency to overly admire artists, and I still do, but at the same time, I remember now that they are people too, full of doubt, trying things out, and sometimes they are brilliant, sometimes full of bullshit.

Three portraits from a painting by Christian Krohg

Another iPad painting in Procreate: three portraits from the painting “Tafelrunde der norwegischen Künstler in Berlin” by Christian Krohg, around 1876. I added my own graphic elements to this one. I painted these portraits quite quickly, in about 8 minutes each. Click on the image to see it bigger.

Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts

The Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts at night.

Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts

The Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts during the day. What does it say about a city that has the audacity to put a 10-story translucent box filled with art in its centre? It says “we care about art and culture.” I was impressed.

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior

The Cafe at the Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste.

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior.

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior.

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior. Art installation by Peter Wegner is visible.

Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste interior

Staircase at the Leipzig Museum der bildenden Künste.

Leipzig courtyard

Leipzig courtyard.

Leipzig dollhouse

Another one of those dollhouses I keep seeing in shop windows in the former East Germany areas.

Leipzig Absinthe bar

A Leipzig Absinthe bar. Absinthe must be the perfect hipster drink; retro, ironic, image-oriented, potentially dead-serious, but not really.

Leipzig building

Leipzig building entrance.

Here is an incomplete list of artists that were represented, most of these are from the former East Germany and most of them I had never heard of before but want to check them out:


Matthias Weischer b. 1973

Tilo Baumgärtel

Neo Rauch

Rosa Loy

Jochen Plogsties

Christoph Ruckhäberle (his work looks a bit like the Canadian First Nations artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun)

Ben Willikens

Katharina Grosse (Richter-like)

Hartwig Ebersbach

Sighard Gille

Henriette Grahnert

Daniel Richter

David Schnell (from Bergisch Gladbach)

Martin Kobe

Falk Haberkorn

Thomas Scheibitz

Julia Schmidt

Beat Streuli (photography)

Astrid Klein (photography)

Tim Rautert

Thomas Strut (photography)

Bertram Kober

Anett Struth

Stephan Balkenhol

Andreas Slominski

Margret Hoppe

Peter Wegner (minimal colorist, reminds me of Fiene Scharp, an upcoming Berlin artist I met)

Franziska Holstein

Werner Tübke

Bernhard Heisig

Karl Kunz

Karl Hofer

Theo Balden

Gussy Hippold

Rudolf Bergander

Max Peiffer Watenphul

Fritz Winkler


Mid-19th century:

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

J.-F. Millet

Adolphe Monticelli

Louis Valtat

Arnold Böcklin

Giovanni Segantini

Leo Putz


Late-19th century:

Max Klinger


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Touring the artist studios of the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Posted on Jan 13, 2013 in Leipzig | 0 comments

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei / Leipzig cotton mill

The 1884 Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei / cotton mill has been converted to artist studios and galleries starting in the late 1990s with the official opening of several famous galleries in 2005 catapulting this “art factory” into the art establishment.

This is the reason why I came to Leipzig: to catch the twice-annual Open House on January 12 at the Baumwollspinnerei. I had read about this former cotton mill in East Germany which had been shut down a while after German reunification. Gradually, it had become home to artist studios and eventually, galleries. Some world-famous artists of the Leipzig School of Art, who are former East Germans and have become known for processing their socialist background in their art, have their studios here. For example, the artist couple Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy, and Tilo Baumgärtel.

I had purposely booked a cheap hotel within a 20-minute walk of the cotton mill studios, so I wouldn’t have to deal with public transit on the day of the Open House, and could get there in a reasonable time frame by foot.

Leipzig-Plagwitz train station signage

Leipzig-Plagwitz train station signage. I like the old-fashioned type face.

Leipzig Plagwitz area

January 12 was a beautiful sunny day. It bears mentioning, because there have been so few sunny days in Berlin. I wanted to make sure to get to the cotton mill by 11 a.m. when the tour opened so I wouldn’t miss a minute. 11 a.m. does not sound that hard to make, but when you’re me, that can be an early time. I walked by some pictoresquely decrepit buildings on my way through Leipzig-Plagnitz.

Leipzig-Plagwitz building for sale

You can purchase a run-down building here. I have no idea for how much, but the real question is, how much is it going to cost you to fix it up?

Leipzig-Plagwitz building

Already-reno’d next to yet-to-be-reno’d buildings in Leipzig-Plagwitz. At least you get a nice before-after comparision.


Still on my morning walk to my destination.


The text above the door frame says something about a metal workers’ union place.

Dentist office window, Leipzig

A dentist office window on my walk. I keep seeing miniatures or doll houses in shop windows. That may have been a popular thing in the former East Germany.


Leipzig-Plagwitz street scene. I liked how non-commercial it looked here. And there were quite a few young people around on bikes. Student dive area for sure. I just have to be clear: I very much liked Leipzig, because it looked so non-commercial in many areas.


I am not sure what the point of these barrels was, except maybe to make a point about the hazards of radioactive waste storage.


A poster for a Mayor-General election of Leipzig in 2013. I like the random rippings.

Curry booth in Leipzi

Germans like curry, whether it’s on their sausages or on actual Indian food.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

My first glimpse of the outer buildings on one end of the Leipzig cotton mill artist studios. I was thrilled to be here.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

It gradually filled up with people in the courtyards and pathways of the cotton mill. Some outside food booths were set up with hot Russian cabbage stew (“soljanka”), sausages, hot tea, and glühwein.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

At the visitor centre in the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, there is a one-room exhibit of paraphernalia of the former industry, cotton textile production, which took place here.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Old spindles at the Leipzig cotton mill.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Windows of artist studios at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Art Nouveau style factory door at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Wayfinding typography at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

A building at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Torsten Russ artist

I met an interesting artist couple who have their studio at the Spinnerei, Torsten and Isolde Russ at their exhibit and we chatted for a long time. I liked both of their work and bought one of Torsten’s books about his one-line drawings, and Isolde showed me a fantastic sketchbook she had created with cutouts, which reminded me of what I had just done for the Sketchbook Project.

Isolde Russ, artist

Isolde Russ, artist. I enjoyed meeting this artist couple.

Torsten Russ, artist

Torsten Russ, artist

Sunset at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Sunset at the cotton mill studios.

Sunset at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

More of the sunset.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

In one of the stairways in one of the many artist buildings inside the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

In one of the hallways in an artist building inside the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

While the spaces look a bit rough, but just right for mucking with paint and art supplies, the plumbing and bathroom facilities have all been recently modernized. They have toilets that you just wave at to flush them. I guess a big wave means you went big.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Some random spray paint remnants from some artist on the wall here.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

A large empty space which could possibly be used for exhibitions, surrounded by studios in just one of the many artist buildings. Such luxury of space.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

Windows in one of the smaller studios that are set aside for promising young artists.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

I was drawn to the artist studio windows, wondering what happens behind all of them, and enjoying their glow.

Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

I met this graphic artist, Katja Zwirnmann, in her studio and shop at the Leipzig cotton mill, and had a chat about graphic design with her. She was a genuinely nice person and I liked her work very much, which consists of offset, screen-printed or handprinted illustrations and designs. She also binds books with hand-printed covers.

Leipzig cotton mill studios at night

I said good-bye to the Leipzig cotton mill studios around 6 pm because I was getting cold and congested and decided to look for a warm place to have a warm meal in downtown Leipzig. I had a wonderful 7 hours here at the cotton mill.

Leipzig office building lobby

After my full day of art viewing at the cotton mill studios, I took the bus to downtown Leipzig to look for some evening entertainment and a meal. During my quest, I walked by this cool lamp in an office building lobby.

Cabarett Leipzig

In the evening, I went to a comedy cabaret “Der gemeine Sachse”, a satire about Saxons. I ended up at a table with a family group of 8 Saxons and felt like a bit of an intruder, but they were nice enough. The cabaret was not as funny as I’d hoped, or maybe I don’t get the Saxons’ humour, or maybe I no longer get German humour. But really, it just wasn’t that funny. There were too many canned, tired, old jokes (as in “three Saxons go to heaven…”), and too little bite for my taste. But the dinner theatre venue was nice, and I was able to get food and drink there, and overall it was preferable to spending the evening in my drab hotel room.

Satiric painting of Angela Merkel

There was a satiric painting of Angela Merkel at the Cabarett Leipzig which I thought was great. They must have modelled her busty look after an infamous photo of her in a very low-cut evening gown.

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A trip to Leipzig

Posted on Jan 12, 2013 in Leipzig | 0 comments

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station

I sketched the main train station in Leipzig.

On January 11, I took a train to Leipzig. The main reason for visiting this city was to tour a large facility of artist studios and galleries which had an open house on Saturday January 12. Unfortunately, I had caught a cold, probably from Jeff, and was feeling very under the weather when I arrived. But I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my trip. Below are my first impressions of Leipzig.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station

The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station: I was shocked when I arrived here at the sheer size of this train station. I learned later that this is the largest train station in all of Europe. Since I had time to kill before I could check in at my hotel, I put my backpack in a locker and spent almost two hours just walking around, photographing and sketching the train station. It was awe-inspiring. On top of everything, there is also a two-level mall below the train station level.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

Just one of several what I call “side halls” of the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station

The Leipzig main train station consists of not just one, but many of these domed ceilings.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

Looking back down one of several giant domed halls towards the main hall of the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station

Looking out of the Leipzig main train station.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof / main train station

Old trains are displayed along one of the many tracks (I think there are well over 20 tracks) of the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

Old trains are displayed along one of the many tracks of the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

Leipzig streets

The streets around the neighbourhood of Leipzig where my hotel was, still looked very “DDR” (East Germany-like).

My hotel in Leipzig

I arrived at my hotel in Leipzig. The street was dimly lit and not as many houses were fixed up from East German times as I am used to from Berlin.

Leipzig streets

An abandoned factory building in Leipzig. The area where I stayed, is an old industrial neighbourhood with small factories, warehouses, as well as residential buildings. I walked by some gloomy sights on my way to a restaurant. I had found what looked like a good place online called “Prellbock” (this means “buffer” in the railroad sense to help stop a train at the end of its track). And Prellbock was indeed a great restaurant; serving large delicious meals of game meat, rabbit, but also schnitzel for dinner for €9 to €14.

Leipzig hotel room

My Leipzig hotel room — it was a bit drab, but adequate. I did not expect more for €29 a night. My cold was at its peak and I was happy to have a warm, quiet room and a bed to sink into.

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