Leading Liberal Politician Attacks Germany’s Cultural Protection Law

The controversy surrounding Germany's cultural protection legislation rages on.

The German legal framework has hindered art trade. Photo: Wallcoo
Hermann Otto Solms criticized the government's intervention into the art market. Photo: Picture Alliance/ZB via Die Welt

Hermann Otto Solms criticized the government’s intervention into the art market.
Photo: Picture Alliance/ZB via Die Welt

Hermann Otto Solms, head of the German Property Foundation and former chairman of the Free Democratic Party in the Bundestag, has launched a scathing attack against Culture Minister Monika Grütters’ proposed amendment to the German cultural protection law.

In a recent revision of the contested law, the government lifted some restrictions and limits on export criteria, such as the age and value of artworks, were partially changed. Additionally, living artists may now decide whether their works are included on the list of “culturally significant” works.

The politician says the government's attempts at cultural protection are misguided. Photo: Cezary Piwowarski via Wikimedia Commons

The politician says the government’s attempts at cultural protection are misguided.
Photo: Cezary Piwowarski via Wikimedia Commons

In an article published in the German daily Die Welt, the Liberal politician argues that, despite the government’s recent revision of the controversial bill, it still goes too far in its attempt to regulate the trade and export of cultural goods, while it doesn’t go far enough in preventing the trade of illicit art and antiquities.

“The cultural protection bill goes much too far,” Solms writes. “Grütters is approaching the protection of cultural assets from a purely governmental position and exacerbates the situation of those affected—the collectors, artists, artisans and dealers.”

“The bill seriously weakens the German art market and could lead to artists and collectors taking their works overseas as a precaution,” he warned, surely referring to the actions and complaints of German art stars Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter.

Solms points out that if the the law is passed the “German policy of guaranteeing free trade in Europe,” would “not apply to the art market,” and thus “the state intervenes unacceptably in the market process which results in the devaluation of the objects.”

Culture Minister Monika Grütters has been sharply criticized by the German art industry in recent months. Photo: DPA via Tagesspiegel

Culture Minister Monika Grütters has been sharply criticized by the German art industry in recent months.
Photo: DPA via Tagesspiegel

The politician continued by proposing to divide the bill. In his view, the undisputed part regulating the import of ancient looted art and the return of illicit cultural goods should be ratified as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the contentious remaining portion of the draft should be reevaluated in an in-depth consultation and debate.

Solms suggests adopting the British model, whereby the state is granted the right of first refusal to purchase a nationally significant artwork at market price. If the state cannot raise the required funds to buy a nationally significant artwork, it may then be sold on the open market.

Related stories:

He Wasn’t Bluffing: Georg Baselitz Takes Back His Works From German Museums

Gerhard Richter Joins Baselitz And Threatens to Pull Loaned Artworks from German Museums

Germany Revises Controversial Cultural Heritage Protection Law

Proposed Law Regulating Art Sales Would Destroy German Art Market Experts Say

What’s Stopping the German Art Market from Competing Internationally?


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