The Satiricum was originally opened as a national caricature collection of the GDR in an independent section of the already existing museum. The Satiricum was founded in 1975 on the initiative of caricaturists and newspaper cartoonists organised in the Verband Bildender Künste and the Staatliche Bücher- und Kupferstichsammlung. The aim was to collect artefacts of everyday culture next to those of contemporary visual art. Satirical drawings and caricatures were not only purchased, but also presented in frequent exhibitions, the most important of which were the GDR Caricature Biennale exhibitions.
But there are not only contemporary caricatures in the museum. The collection is built upon a basis of historical caricatures from the 17th to the 19th centuries, mainly of princely origin. Among them are important works by English, German and French artists, such as Hogarth, Chodowiecki, Rowlandson, Gillray, Boilly, Monnier and Daumier. The English caricatures, all of high quality, come from Princess Elizabeth’s collection. Many of the most famous caricatures were created by James Gillray.
In addition, there are numerous colour prints by Honoré Daumier, the greatest caricaturist of his time in France, and many German works from the Vormärz and the German Revolution in 1848.
Later on, satirical magazines, i.e. the »Simplicissimus« or »Der Wahre Jacob«, and collections and estates of renowned artists, were added.
From 1975 to 1990 pieces of art of Eastern German caricaturists and newspaper cartoonists, including not only drawings, but also smaller sculptural objects, were acquired. This special collection of more than 10,000 works represents an excellent part of satirical art picturing GDR-history and current affairs of that time. From 1990 onwards, the collection activity was extended to the whole of Germany, whilst still primarily focusing on East Germany.