Updated: Mar 30, 2020
By Alex Stuart
Merkel has called for more opportunities for women in the arts, and a debate on colonial-era art in Berlin’s new Humboldt forum.
This initially slipped under our radar, having been overshadowed by Merkel’s announcement that same day that she would not be standing for re-election. However, her demand for greater equality of opportunity in the arts world is important: despite making up around half of the German cultural workforce, just 16% of women hold decision-making positions at major cultural institutions. She said in her speech: “Let’s ask ourselves—how many female conductors have we experienced? How many women rank among the top-selling painters? The answers are rather sobering.” Merkel believesbalanced grant panels and award juries are the way forward. Merkel sees “one of the most complicated issues” facing the new Humboldt Forum (opening next year) as being how to handle artefacts acquired by Germany during colonial times. The debate has been raging all over the world for some time now, often resulting in the ‘repatriation’ of artefacts due to investigations such as Operation Missing Idol in America putting pressure on cultural institutions. The museum has already faced criticism for not doing enough to identify unethically acquisitioned items in public collections. Here is an interesting recent interview with art historian Bénédicte Savoy, who in July resigned from her position on the board of experts of the Humboldt Forum, in protest of the lack of funding going into provenience research.