To Aid Struggling Local Galleries and Artists, the German Government Will Boost Its Art Acquisition Budget by 600 Percent

The ministry has increased its art spending from €500,000 to €3 million.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and culture minister Monika Grütters. Photo: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images.

The German federal government is beefing up its art collection in an effort to help struggling artists and dealers. The country’s culture minister announced on Monday that Germany will increase its acquisition budget for contemporary art sixfold this year, to €3 million ($3.5 million), up from €500,000 ($585,323).

As part of the country’s “Culture New Start” program, the government plans to buy around 150 artworks at art fairs and directly from artists and galleries across the country. The new initiative is being tacked onto a €1 billion ($1.17 billion) restart package for the cultural sector.

“By increasing the purchase budget at short notice, we are enabling the Federal Art Collection to provide a rapid and effective impulse to revive art production in the current difficult situation,” said culture minister Monika Grütters in a statement. “Smaller galleries in particular are to benefit from the broad distribution of purchases, and artists are to be encouraged and supported through direct purchases in studios.”

Artists and galleries cannot apply for acquisitions, and all works purchased must be under €20,000 ($23,453) apiece. The acquisitions are made based on recommendations from an independent commission whose members serve for five years. The current jury includes Ulrike Groos from Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Anna-Catharina Gebbers from the Hamburger Bahnhof, Friedrich Meschede from Kunsthalle Bielefeld, and Roland Nachtigäller from Museum Marta Herford.

During a typical year, the jury gathers at Art Basel, Art Cologne, and at Berlin’s now-defunct Berlin Art Fair to make selections. This year, since these events were cancelled or moved online, jury members will likely be spending more time engaging directly with galleries and artists’ studios.

In June, the government shared the details of a major relief package worth €1 billion for the cultural sector that included a reduced tax rate on art (from 19 percent to 16 percent). It also included €450 million in emergency aid and for the “maintenance and strengthening” of cultural infrastructure and €250 million to help cultural institutions reopen with appropriate safety measures, including enhanced hygiene precautions.

The increased budget will offer a major boost to the federal collection, which is loaned to museums and other official ministries and government buildings. To date, it encompasses 1,700 artworks; its annual budget has never exceeded €500,000.

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