German culture minister defends controversial art law | Arts | DW

Germany plans to strictly regulate the international sale of works of art and objects considered to have significant cultural value. German Culture Minister Monika Grütters backs the culture protection bill, despite strong criticism from the art world.

“No one has the right to tell me what I do with my pictures,” painter Gerhard Richter told the “Dresdener Morgenpost” newspaper on Tuesday (14.07.2015), in response to the bill. But if Monika Grütters gets her way, the German state might indeed be able to do just that.

Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday, Grütters dismissed nationwide criticism of the cultural property protection bill, saying “protection is not, in my view, expropriation”.

Grütters said Germany must clearly define the concept of “national cultural property”, away from the discretion of individual committees, adding that the intention of the proposed law was to meet demands for better protection of the right to author of the German cultural sector.

Devil in the details

The bill seeks to control the sale of all works of art or artefacts worth more than 150,000 euros ($164,000) and over 50 years old, with the aim of both stemming the flow of the illegal sale of antiquities and to keep works considered “national” in Germany. treasures.” While many in the art world agree that the sale of illegal antiquities needs to be better regulated – particularly in the wake of the Islamic State’s looting of historic sites across the Middle East – they also insist that the collateral impact on the wider German art market will be detrimental.

As the world’s most expensive living artist, Richter is the proposal’s most prominent critic. In February this year, he set a new record on the international market with the sale of his work “Abstraktes Bild” in London, which sold for 41 million euros ($45 million).

Under the Cultural Property Protection Bill, Richter’s works – and other German and international works of art – considered “national treasures”, currently in Germany and meeting the specific criteria, can be listed as “national treasures”. subject to an international embargo on sales, thus barricading them in the country and thus significantly diminishing their value.

Grütters, however, pointed out that the bulk of international art sales today are contemporary works and therefore “effectively excluded from the new rules”.

Top-Down Rebellion

Richter’s criticism follows German artist Georg Baselitz’s announcement on Monday that he planned to remove his works from German museums, in response to the bill.

Likewise, the heir to Max Beckmann’s estate has announced that he will also withdraw the loan of the artist’s works to the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, fearing their “detention” in Germany if the proposal becomes law.

Collectors are also nervous, with Berlin lawyer and arts authority Peter Raue telling DW the law could effectively mean the state can take control of a private collection. “There is no law yet. But if the law comes, then I will advise all these collectors to send their works abroad”, he warned, adding: “It will be an outpouring of blood for museums and the art scene”.

However, Grütters took steps to allay concerns, saying “many fears will prove unfounded” and stressing that the bill is a work in progress and will be circulated to umbrella arts organizations for comment before it is released. be submitted to the federal cabinet.

The Minister also proposed that the 2014 EU Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage be better integrated into German law, after parliamentary approval.

jgt/kbm (epd/dpa)