German government backs down on cultural protection legislation

The German culture minister has announced plans to revise the government’s proposed cultural protection legislation. Monika Grütters’ announcement comes after sustained criticism from a number of high profile German art professionals. 

The government planned to introduce a protection law that would necessitate an export licence for ‘national treasures’ – i.e. paintings and artworks older than 50 years and valued at over €150,000. There were fears that this would damage the German art market’s ability to compete on an international stage and restrict artists, collectors, museums and galleries.

The artists Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter have both threatened to withdraw all loaned artworks from all German museums should the controversial plans come about. 259 of the country’s art dealers wrote an open letter to Grütters protesting the proposition.

Grütters has therefore outlined revisions to the draft legislation. It will now only apply to works older than 70 years and valued at over €300,000. Lenders will also have an opt-out clause, leaving the decision of whether the work is a national treasure or not in their hands. This will no doubt be welcome news to critics of the Bill. As Richter, one of Germany’s best-known contemporary painters, said: “Nobody has the right to tell me what I should do with my pictures.”

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