In Germany’s Latest Bailout for the Arts, the Government Is Spending $18.7 Million to Keep Commercial Galleries Afloat

The federal government is releasing funds specifically aimed at helping commercial galleries with their early 2021 programming.

Monika Grütters, minister for culture and media. Photo: Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images.
Monika Grütters, minister for culture and media. Photo: Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images.

The German government has announced a €16 million ($18.7 million) package to help the art market dig itself out of its current slump. The cash injection is intended to help the sector recover after a prolonged lockdown halted art fairs and collector spending.

As a part of its “New Start Culture” program, the country’s culture ministry will provide support to commercial galleries across the country in the form of grants that range between €5,000 ($5,837) and €35,000 ($41,000) for its early 2021 programs. In a statement to the press, culture minister Monika Grütters says her aim is to help “stabilize the art market,” citing its importance both to culture and the economy.

To be eligible, galleries must be based in Germany, operating full-time, and have been in business for at least three yearse. Applications will go live  October 1-31. Decisions will be made in early November.

Grütters says that art dealers are “indispensable talent scouts” who often ensure artists’ livelihood with exhibitions, catalogues, and fair presentations. A recent nationwide survey by the Institute for Strategy Development and the Federal Association of German Galleries and Fine Art Dealers found that German dealers expected to lose, on average, more than 40 percent of their revenue this year.

“I want to support this achievement and set an example for art,” Grütters says in the statement, adding that she hopes the support will help galleries resume their programs as quickly as possible.

Unlike this past spring’s bailouts for freelancers and small businesses—categories that included artists and galleries respectively—this time an expert jury will be reviewing the applications. Galleries must apply with contemporary art exhibitions, digital education projects, or individual projects like readings or lectures, that are set to take place between January and May 2021. Funds are being provided to support transport, insurance, and printing costs, as well as expenses for online presentations and gallery staff.

In addition to this newly announced support, the German government announced that it would lower the tax rate on art from 19 percent to 16 percent this June, when it first announced its jumpstart program for culture. Later this summer, the government also pledged to buy €3 million ($3.5 million) in contemporary art before the end of the year directly from studios and galleries.

It will surely be welcome news to the German gallery system, which has frequently complained about the lack of state support. The Federal Association of German Galleries and Fine Art Dealers tells Artnet News that the support is an “important and long-awaited sign of recognition for the cultural and intermediary work of commercial galleries.” They added that a long-term, substantial tax reduction will be key to helping the art industry restart—bringing it down to a rate that is more competitive with the UK and New York, to 7 percent, instead of 16 percent.

The funds and jury process will be managed by the Kunstfonds Foundation. In addition to the funds provided by the government, 10 percent of the cost of shows must be managed by the galleries themselves.

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