Modern German nationalism

There are plans to legally restrict the export of some paintings from Germany, and so far the proposed policy is not working out well.  Collectors are rushing to take their loans off museum walls and get them out of the country, or hold them incognito.

The law would apply to works of historical importance more than fifty years old, worth more than 150,000 euros, and judged by regional boards to be of historic importance.  It is interesting which works may fall under this designation:

In one interview, she [Germany’s culture minister] raised the prospect that foreign works could be classified as national treasures. For example, she said the Warhol silk-screens of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando that were sold by the state-owned casino were “emblematic” of the collecting history of the Rhineland.

Apparently Gerhardt Richter is a hard-core libertarian, like most other painters, because he asserted: “No one has the right to tell me what I do with my images.”

For the pointer I thank Cyril Morong, a loyal MR reader.


"You didn't paint that."

Presumably most of the affected owners are Germans who bought the paintings, rather than painters. And everyone knows if you buy stuff its not yours. Err.

Painters might be affected as well: Many of the paintings on loan in German museums are loaned by the artists themselves. German inheritance tax on these paintings drops by 60% if you keep them in a Museum for more than 10 years (without selling them), after 20 years within the same family the tax is dropped completely.

Now you have kept your paintings in a museum for 10 years and suddenly they are of “historical importance”? Bad luck.

So why is Mr. Baselitz prominently taking his paintings out now (forfeiting the tax privilege)? He became Austrian in May, where inheritance tax applies.

Link in German:

Meant to say "He became Austrian in May, where inheritance tax does not apply."

I suspect few living painters have qualifying works that are more than 50 years old.

'And everyone knows if you buy stuff its not yours'

Check into how the French treat art. There are actually systems that favor the creator of art over its purchaser.

Here is one example -

Here is a broader one -

"If you like your art, you can keep you art."

Where do Hitler's paintings fit into all this? Who owns them, anyway?

Godwin's law noted. I win.
I think George Mason University owns a large collection of Nazi propaganda art, or maybe it's FDR New Deal art.

So there is a fake Ray Lopez, right?

You are likely referring to the Federal Theatre Project - more information at

And yes, Lorraine Brown and John O'Connor were GMU faculty I knew, and I still have a signed copy of 'Free, adult, uncensored: The living history of the Federal Theatre Project' from 1978.

I've found it pretty hard to tell the difference. Nazi or New Deal?

Oddly, I find it remarkably easy to tell the difference. Maybe that has something to do with having grown up in the U.S.?

But then, in a time when we see Queen Elizabeth doing her childish best at a Nazi salute, maybe the past is more complicated than it appears at modern convenient first glance? (Hard as this might be to imagine, the U.S. also created propaganda posters to further its goals - just like the Nazis, the Soviets, the Fascists, and depending on your own personal perspective on the appropriateness of using European terms for Asian societies, Japan of the Shōwa Restoration. Not to mention the British, of course.)

Hmm, the British Royal family is, or were, a bunch of aristocrats with terrible political ideas. So were Roosevelts.

we see Queen Elizabeth doing her childish best at a Nazi salute

Queen Elizabeth is one year shy of ninety. She hasn't been doing anything 'childish' in a good long while.

"Oddly, I find it remarkably easy to tell the difference."

And we know which you chose.

This kind of law can already be found in most European countries, btw.

I doubt it's legal under EU competition legislation.

It can. This is a recognized exception to free trade agreements.

Many legitimate artists, of which there are only a few compared with the plentitude of poseurs, seem to have libertarian instincts. Francis Bacon, as revealed in his famous interviews with David Sylvester, doesn't have much time for the Nanny State:

FB "...I think that being nursed by the state from the cradle to the grave would bring such boredom to life...But, people seem to expect that and think it is their right. I think that, if people have that attitude to life, it curtails--I believe this, I cannot prove it---the creative instinct."


"After all, as existence in a way is so banal, you may as well try and make a kind of grandeur of it rather than be nursed to oblivion:"


"I'm not upset by the fact that people do suffer, because I think the suffering of people and the differences between people are what have made great art, and not egalitarianism."

DS "You're saying, then, that the thing by which a society is to be judged is its potential for creating great art, rather than something like the greatest good for the greatest number?"

FB "Who remembers or cares about a happy society? After hundreds of years or so, all they think about is what a society has left. I suppose it's possible that a society might arise which is so perfect that it will be remembered for the perfection of its equality. But that hasn't yet arisen, and so far one remembers a society for what it has created."

Suppose Germany starts telling Gerhard Richter "what to do with his images" and he therefore decides to start making them in the US. Would history then judge Richter as a great German artist or a great American one? Recent examples abound.

Germany already has restrictions on the transfer of artwork to the U.S. (according to the linked article). This proposed legislation would extend restrictions to transfers elsewhere. The linked article doesn't indicate why Germany has restrictions on transfers to the U.S. but not elsewhere. "One side effect could be to curb the sale of looted cultural treasures from Syria and Iraq, cutting off trade that is used to finance terror groups like the Islamic State." Looted cultural treasures. Germans know about that.

A question for my "hardcore libertarian" friends: In substance, how is this German law any different from the imposition of taxes?

All stealing is not much different from taxes. Taxes really a special case.

It'd be sweet if 'German nationalists' would put some effort into siring and rearing more Germans 'ere the country careers into a social crisis because you have one or two grandchildren working to take care of four grandparents or because the country has acquired an eight-digit population of bad attitude Turks because there aren't enough German young people to do the work.

Sadly for your fantasies about Turks, when Germany finally got around to conducting a census, it discovered about a nice 7 place figure gap in the number of Turks (and other foreigners, though the main assumptions rested on non-existent Turks) assumed to be living here compared to those actually living in Germany.

After all, Germany is a socialist hell hole, one unattractive to go getting immigrants, apparently. And a country that even shrinks in population when it actually bothers to count those who live here, most distinctly foreigners.

After all, Germany is a socialist hell hole, one unattractive to go getting immigrants,

They've attracted at least one repetitious and malodorous snob. That aside, the math in this case is pretty unforgiving.

'That aside, the math in this case is pretty unforgiving.'

Which math? Because the one resulting from the census resulted in Germany losing more than a million inhabitants, a group previously considered to have been largely Turkish, and mostly Muslim.

Let's be honest here - Steyn's math concerning Eurabia was always laughable at best, and when confronted with facts a decade later, it just collapses into ridiculousness.

But his math seems to consistently attract those willing to forgive its blatant inaccuracy in the pursuit of whatever it is they think is the reality we all need to fear.

The 'blatant inaccuracy' you're complaining about would be the World Bank's. The total fertility rate for Germany has been below replacement level without interruption since 1970 and shows no recovery trend. That for Austria has been in the same state since 1972. As we speak, Austria is reproducing at a rate 31% below replacement level and Germany 34% below replacement level. The best you could say about it is that the performance of some loci (Iberia, Greece, and some of the detritus of Yugoslavia) is even worse.

Make the economics of raising more children work, then. When fewer children is a rational choice, why shouldn't they have fewer?

Best students of Late Antiquity can determine, there was an autonomous demographic implosion which hit western Europe from the mid 3d century to the mid 7th century. Not the best time to be out and about in occidental history.

By what standard of rationality do you claim having fewer children is rational?

That's non-rhetorical question. Had you said having more children is rational, I could have asked you the same question.

Raising fewer children is rational, though short sighted, if you're trying to maximize your own short term pleasure. Generally speaking, young adults will have more money, have much more free time and avoid a whole category of noxious chores by not having children. So from a hedonistic, short term, utilitarian point of view, Western Europe's decision to eschew child bearing is perfectly rational.

And after all Germany can always get immigrants like prior_approval to prop up the economy.

Who'd want him?

That's a good insight, but there is also the problem of not having enough kids. The young adult problem simply means delaying childbearing, which still has an effect on population, because you only have 3.3 generations in 100 years, rather than the 4 or 5 there used to be. But people also have less children, even though the marginal effort and chore shock should be reduced with each child. If you're going to have one or two, why not have the third as well, especially in places where a University education is not a life crushing cost? Maybe the focus should be on reducing the perceived detriments of the pregnancy itself, and its post period, to comfort and career?

Comments for this post are closed