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Artistic and cultural freedom

The autonomy of creative work is afforded a high priority in Germany. For this reason, the state provides funding for cultural institutions and working artists.
Maler im Atelier
© Getty Images/Digital Vision

The independence of art and culture is guaranteed by the German Constitution – article five states: “Arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free.” Underlying this is the belief that impulses from art and culture are hugely important for a modern democratic society. It therefore follows that the state supports cultural creators and institutions to ensure their independence from the market.

Art and culture are also funded privately in Germany, however, for example by companies and foundations, and public and private funding are often intertwined. The state supports the efforts of private donors, for example through tax breaks, and thus provides for indirect public funding beyond its own budget. In addition to this, there are further approaches to subsidizing art and culture. The creative social class established by the Federal Government, for example, ensures that independent creatives enjoy a similar social security framework to those in gainful employment. They only have to contribute half of their insurance costs themselves, while the other half is paid through subsidies from the Federal Government and social security contributions from businesses that make use of art and communication services.

“Neustart Kultur” program in the Corona pandemic

Nevertheless, the Corona pandemic threatens to leave small cultural institutions and freelance artists facing financial difficulties, so the Federal Government has set up a series of programs to support them. Self-employed individuals and small business can apply for urgent Corona aid, for which funds totalling 50 billion euros have been made available. The special “Neustart Kultur” program comprises subsidies of around one billion euros and is aimed primarily at cultural institutions that are largely financed through private funds. The short-time work model is also being applied within the cultural sphere.

Germany believes that artistic and cultural freedom remains an important asset that is worthy of protection even during the Corona pandemic. This applies all the more since for some years now, this autonomy has been increasingly called into question by right-wing nationalist parties in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. These groups are demanding that cultural subsidies be made dependent on content. To counter such demands, Berlin’s Akademie der Künste launched an initiative that brought together around 60 institutions in the “European Alliance of Academies”, which published its manifesto in October 2020. The manifesto states that the Alliance stands for “the freedom of the arts as a prerequisite for our cultural, social and political way of life”.