On November 1 a paper issued by the majority Christian Democratic Union party promised to include ‘the effects of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Property on the art trade’ among topics for imminent discussion by the Bundestag.
Politics is playing a part. As part of its election push, the rival Free Democratic Party (FDP) picked up on the opposition to the law and had said it would demand its repeal. With the CDU losing much of its majority, the Green Party and FDP are now in coalition talks (when ATG went to press).
The law has been derided by the art trade as over-complex, draconian and unfit for purpose. Under the new due diligence guidelines, sellers of ‘nationally valuable cultural property’ with a value of over €2500 require proof of the item’s provenance over the previous 20 years.
Many items need to be accompanied by an export licence from the country of origin before they can be offered for sale.
The Aktionsbündnis Kulturgutschutz (AK), an alliance of 20 different stakeholder associations including art dealers, auctioneers and numismatists, has since lodged a complaint against Germany with the European Commission. It says the law is creating an administrative burden the state authorities can’t cope with and places the German art trade at a disadvantage compared to its colleagues elsewhere in Europe.
It points to damage already suffered to trade: auctioneers Nagel and Lempertz have moved sales of Asian art to Salzburg and Brussels respectively.
The AK lists a number of objections to the law asking that Germany ditch a number of provisions in favour of something closer to the British model and the Waverley criteria.