German Culture Minister Meets With France to Find Common Ground on Colonial Heritage and European Policy

Germany is keen on a joint approach to the problem of looted artefacts as the Humboldt Forum nears completion in Berlin.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen and Germany's minister of culture Monika Gruetters on October 10, 2017. Photo JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images.

The German minister of state for culture, Monika Grütters, and her French counterpart, Françoise Nyssen, met in Paris on Friday, April 6, to discuss common projects and concerns, including a possible multilateral approach to African heritage, which was collected during the colonial era, in the nations’ museums.

The German government has been under increased pressure since the French President, Emmanuel Macron, became vocal about the subject, pledging to put African art in French museums on display in African cities. (He stopped short of promising restitution.)

According to an official statement from the German ministry, Grütters pressed the French ministry about the urgent issue of colonial heritage and the need for arranging next steps as a multilateral effort with the French government and other partners. Artnet News reached out to the French ministry of culture for further details about what these goals will entail, but did not receive a response by the time of publishing.

Germany is readying to open the controversial Humboldt Forum in Berlin in 2019, which will unite the city’s ethnographic and Asian art collections in a reconstruction of its Prussian-era palace.

Rendering of the Berlin Palace. Copyright Stiftung Berliner Schloss – Humboldt Forum / Franco Stella

“The fact that the first foreign trip during my second term in office was to visit my French colleague in Paris was a personal concern to me. At the same time, the friendship and the close exchange between two major cultural nations are also the driving force behind Europe,” said Grütters, who was reappointed to her cabinet position this February by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Grütters also met with France’s foreign policy adviser Philippe Etienne and Claudia Ferazzi, the cultural advisor to President Macron. She will also visit the Musée du quai Branly and in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris to further discuss colonial heritage as well as a possible cooperation with the Humboldt Forum and other German institutions.

In the coming months, the German Museums Association will issue its first recommendations on the issue, a project being undertaken with the financial support of the German Cultural Ministry, overseen by Grütters.


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