Adolf Fischer in the room for Buddhist art in the newly opened Museum of East Asian Art in 1913, Museum of East Asian Art Cologne © RBA
Adolf Fischer beside a Chinese tomb guardian of the Tang dynasty (618-907), around 1913, Museum of East Asian Art Cologne © RBA

Museum | History

History and mission of the museum

Adolf Fischer (1856–1914) and his wife Frieda (1874–1945) intended that the Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne, which was founded in 1909 and opened in 1913, should present East Asian art of all genres and periods. They were of the strong conviction that there was ONE world art that transcended all geographical and cultural differences, an art in which European and East Asian works of the highest calibre in each region were in mutual correspondence.


Adolf Fischer argued, for example, that visitors to the Hansaring should have the opportunity to make their own comparisons by seeing Christian art in the Schnütgen Museum and then Buddhist art in the neighbouring Museum of East Asian Art, before moving on to the craft collections in what was then the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum of Art and Craft) to view the relevant products from East Asia. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this position, postulating the equivalence of Christian and Buddhist, European and East Asian art, was revolutionary, and cannot be taken for granted even today.

Weimar Republic, National Socialism, war damage

Adolf Fischer died a few months after the opening of the museum in October 1913. Cologne City Council set up a tomb of honour for him in Melaten cemetery, designed by the sculptor Georg Grasegger (1873-1927).

Under the terms of the Foundation Agreement, Frieda Fischer succeeded her husband and guided the museum through the difficult period of the First World War and Weimar Republic. In 1921 she married the jurist Professor Alfred Ludwig Wieruszowski (1857–1945), but in 1937, in contravention of all the financial and implied moral provisions of the original Foundation Agreement, she was driven out of office on account of his Jewish ancestry. The directorship of the museum passed to the director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe; not until 1951 did the Museum of East Asian Art get a director of its own with the relevant specialist competence once more, in the person of Professor Werner Speiser. During the period of Nazi persecution Frieda Fischer-Wieruszowski and her husband were deprived of all civil rights. Frieda Fischer’s books, published in 1938 and 1942, about her travels with Adolf to Japan and China to purchase artworks evidently helped to prevent their deportation to a concentration camp. She died in Berlin a few months after her husband, totally impoverished. At her family’s request, her mortal remains were interred in 1952 by the side of Adolf Fischer at Melaten.

The museum building was destroyed in an air raid in 1944. Most of the holdings were stored in salt mines in southern Germany and survived the war. Those objects, most of them small, which had been deposited in a bunker in Cologne, were lost to thieves.


Opening times

Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm 

Closed Mondays; open on All Saints' Day

Museum is closed on December 24th, Christmas Day (25 Dec), New Year's Eve (31 Dec) and New Year's Day (1 Jan). Museum is opend on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.

Admission prices

€ 5.50 / reduced € 4

KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Museum for all Cologne residents.

How to get here

Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum


The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.

Museum für
Ostasiatische Kunst Köln
Universitätsstrasse 100
D 50674 Köln
Ticket office +49.221.221-28617
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