Joint press release by the BKM, KMK and leading municipal associations
Federal, state and municipal authorities pass resolution to establish the “German Lost Art Foundation” – High-level meeting of cultural policymakers in Essen a success
At a top-level cultural policy meeting held in Essen today, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters, the state ministers of cultural affairs and representatives of the leading German municipal associations agreed to jointly establish the “Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste” (German Lost Art Foundation).
The plan calls to establish the centre in Magdeburg in the coming year as an incorporated foundation under civil law. The founding partners are the German federal and state governments and the leading municipal associations. Following the approval of the plan by the German federal cabinet on 8 October 2014, the joint resolution by the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and municipal representatives was a decisive step toward establishing the foundation on the part of the states and municipalities.
Federal Government Commissioner Monika Grütters stated: “Establishing the ‘German Lost Art Foundation’ one year after the Gurlitt case is a major milestone on the way to investigating cases of National Socialist art theft in Germany. It is simply intolerable that Nazi-looted artworks are still held in German museums almost 70 years after the Nazi terror regime was vanquished. With the Foundation, we are sending a visible signal, a moral signal, which is directly linked to the personal histories of the victims reflected in the history of stolen artworks. We must never forget them nor relativise the suffering which persists across generations. The fact alone that the federal and state governments and leading municipal associations were able to come to an agreement to establish such a foundation with an extremely complex set of tasks in just a few months demonstrates the importance Germany places on compliance with the ‘Washington Principles’. It is also an example of ‘cooperative cultural federalism’ at work. With the “German Lost Art Foundation’ we will jointly succeed in bundling, strengthening and expanding provenance research on Nazi-looted art, as well as significantly improve communication with and between all participants. The Foundation represents Germany’s efforts to modernise the practical search for looted art in museums, libraries and archives in the long term.”
The president of the KMK, Minister Sylvia Löhrmann, emphasised that the decision to establish the foundation by the federal and state governments and leading municipal associations demonstrated how strongly political representatives at all levels wished to address the repercussions of the unparalleled art theft perpetrated by the Nazi dictatorship. “My thanks go to all who have worked with such dedication and concentration in the past months to get the ‘German Lost Art Foundation’ up and running. This joint project represents an active partnership between federal, state and municipal authorities in this field. All sides stand to benefit from this collaboration. The political sphere and the institutions it supports have accomplished a great deal in the past and will continue, bundle and expand their efforts in the future,” said KMK president and Minister of Education for North Rhine-Westphalia Sylvia Löhrmann.
The “German Lost Art Foundation” will serve as the central national and international contact partner in Germany with regard to the implementation of the “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art” (Washington Principles) and the “Joint Declaration” by the German federal and state governments and leading municipal associations to comply with them.
It will consolidate the activities of the Magdeburg Coordination Office and the Office of Provenance Research under one roof and provide direct support to the independent “Advisory Commission” headed by the former president of the Federal Constitutional Court Prof. Jutta Limbach, as well as leading figures in provenance research (e.g. researchers at non-profit provenance research organisations or short-term projects like the “Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund”).
The Foundation’s primary task, however, is to consult and financially support public institutions in their efforts to search for Nazi-looted artworks. In addition, it will create a new funding programme targeted at private collectors and private museums who voluntary comply with the “Washington Principles”. The Foundation will promote further networking in the field of provenance research, initiate and support national and international collaborations, and cooperate with university and non-university research institutes. As per the coalition agreement which particularly emphasised supporting provenance research to investigate the loss of cultural assets under Soviet occupation and former East Germany, the Foundation will also be responsible for this area of activity. The documentation and consultation activities with respect to the war-related relocation of cultural assets will continue to be conducted at the Magdeburg Coordination Office. As stipulated in the Foundation’s charter, federal and state authorities will continue funding the website project “Protection of Cultural Assets in Germany” and the “National Cultural Treasures” database.
The Foundation will begin operating with a 20-person staff, which will include the former employees from the Office of Provenance Research and the Magdeburg Coordination Office. The overall number of employees was increased to take into account that the new Foundation will not only be responsible for continuing the activities of its predecessor institutions, but also to fulfil new tasks, such as developing new funding measures and actively engaging in press and public relations.
In addition to the base capital provided by its founding members, the “German Lost Art Foundation” will receive annual financing by the federal and state governments. The Foundation will be allocated at least four million euros in 2014 from the budget of the Federal Government Commissioner of Culture and the Media. Starting in 2015, the German federal government will increase funding for provenance research to a total of six million euros. The German states, which had previously financed the Magdeburg Coordination Office and the Office of Provenance Research with 608,000 euros per year, will continue contributing this amount to the new foundation.
The subjects discussed at the top-level cultural policy meeting included the upcoming amendment to the Cultural Asset Protection Law, so-called “digital dividends” and a project for a “European Year of Cultural Heritage”. Federal Government Commissioner Grütters also reported on the current state of negotiations with regard to the proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the USA (TTIP). The top-level cultural policy meeting fulfilled one of the goals of the coalition agreement. The federal and state governments are now collaborating more intensively and systematically in planning and financing matters (cooperative cultural federalism). In March 2014, the Federal Government Commission for Culture and the Media called the first meeting in Berlin, to which the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Cultural Foundation of German States were also invited, in order to establish regular dialogue between federal, state and municipal authorities.