Ketterer Kunst Expands to LA as German Market is Threatened by New Cultural Protection Law

The German auctioneers are setting their sights across the pond.

Ketterer Kunst headquarters in Munich, Germany. Photo: Ketterer Kunst

The German auction house Ketterer Kunst has announced that it is expanding to America, and has hired art expert Stella Michaelis to lead its US operation from its newly founded Los Angeles office.

“I have been wanting to re-open our house to new overseas clients for a while now, and to offer our American buyers and sellers a more comprehensive and personalized service,” owner and CEO Robert Ketterer said in a statement.

The art auctioneers, who specialize in Expressionism, operated an office in New York throughout the 1970s and 1980s. “We’ve had an office in New York before, so the US market is not completely new to us,” Ketterer spokesperson Michaela Derra told artnet News over the telephone.

This time, with the auction house looking to strengthen its position in the contemporary art segment, Los Angeles was the chosen spot. According to a press release, the house sees the West Coast city as “the new top location for contemporary art.”

As opposed to New York, which focuses “on the art market,” Ketterer believes that Angelenos are “more interested in the content,” which “keeps attracting both young and evolving as well as highly acclaimed and established artists.”

“Our new office on the West Coast will serve all of America, assisting both consignors and buyers alike,” Robert Ketterer emphasized in the release. “I am particularly pleased that we were able to win over the expert Stella Michaelis, whose experience and knowledge of the art market will help with this challenging task,” he added.

Meanwhile, the timing of the announcement suggests that Ketterer is the first major German auction house to expand outside its domestic market as the ratification of the government’s controversial and potentially damaging cultural heritage legislation draws closer.

The government’s plans to amend Germany’s cultural heritage protection legislation—which seeks to tighten export regulations of cultural items—has been met with fierce criticism from all quarters of the German art industry. Critics fear the legal changes could severely harm the German art market in comparison to the international competition.

“The main reason for our renewed presence in the USA is to be closer to our buyers and consigners,” Robert Ketterer told artnet News in an email. “Through a competent representative in the USA we can react faster and advise clients personally.”

“In regards to the latest developments in Germany in terms of the cultural heritage protection amendment, we also see interesting perspectives for our representation in the USA,” he added.

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