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Potential Trouble in the German Art Market

Potential Trouble in the German Art Market

Gerhard Richter, "Jung Frau (bunt)," 1965

The actions of one Culture Minister are greatly upsetting the art world during its summer siesta.

A vast cultural protection law has been proposed by Germany’s Monika Grütters that drastically changes the way German art dealers and collectors would sell art. Referencing the need for an increased focus on German cultural heritage, Grütters proposed a law to create boards in each German state that would evaluate every artwork posed to leave the country. Any work older than 50 years and valued at more than €150,000 would be designated as a national treasure and would need to obtain an export license.

Monika Grütters (source: Der Tagesspiegel)

Monika Grütters (source: Der Tagesspiegel)

If this law is taken into effect it would greatly change Germany’s positioning within the international art market, and German artists, dealers, and collectors are reeling at the potential damage. Already lagging behind the US and the UK in terms of auction house activity and art fair participation, Grütters’ law will push Germany further down the art world pecking order. Dealers who may not be able to sell some of their most valuable works to international buyers, as well as prominent German artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, and Joseph Beuys, would start to lose recognition as the circulation of their works became restricted. Additionally, the proposed law includes a clause that considers privately owned artworks displayed in German museums to have appreciated in value, causing several prominent artists, such as Georg Baselitz, to remove their loaned works from German museums.

Gerhard Richter, "Jung Frau (bunt)," 1965

Gerhard Richter, “Jung Frau (bunt),” 1965

As Germany waits to see how Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet will react to the proposal next month, art professionals ponder the potential threat to the market. Will the German cabinet approve the proposed law, setting in motion a German art drain? Or will Merkel and her team reject the drastic proposal? The art world waits with bated breath.




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