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Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Photo: Sfreimark/Flickr.
Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Photo: Sfreimark/Flickr.

German Government Gives Cultural Sector $1.2 Billion Assist

The German Ministry of Culture has announced $1.2 billion in aid to the country’s cultural sector, which has been on lockdown since last fall owing to the continuing Covid-19 crisis and is expected to remain so through at least February 14. The aid package represents part two of the “Neustart Kultur” (New Start Culture) program, initiated this past July with a $1.2 billion bailout.

“The second culture [$1.2] billion sends a sign of hope and encouragement to the cultural scene that has been struck in its vital nerve,” said Minister of Culture Monika Grütters in a statement, noting that she expected the infusion to set an example internationally. Grütters had originally lobbied for $1.8 billion in aid. Artnet News pointed out that the announced amount is not exceptional for a European country, with the UK putting together a cultural bailout package of $2.1 billion in July and France injecting $2.4 billion into the sector in September. Independent of all aid, the German Parliament in late November approved a $2.5 billion federal culture budget, the largest in the nation’s history.

German museums and large arts institutions were forced to close November 1 as Covid-19 cases surged, with galleries shuttering just weeks later as the virus continued to rage. The ministry has acknowledged that the cultural sector has been “especially affected” by the pandemic. Museums have been clamoring to reopen, with a number of the institutions’ directors signing a letter to state and cultural authorities reading, in part, “Our concern is the containment of the pandemic, but at the same time a reopening of the museums adapted to the respective course of the coronavirus.” German Museums Association president Eckart Köhne, speaking Tuesday with DW, described arts institutions as “safe spaces,” while Susanne Gaensheimer, director of the Düsseldorf Kunstsammlung NRW, in Süddeutsche Zeitung cited museums as providing plenty of room for social distancing.