Germany/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

Over the past few years, the Federal Government, the federal states (Länder) and the municipalities have increasingly relinquished direct responsibility for running cultural facilities and programmes. This organisational restructuring of the cultural sector is not only strongly advocated by the state but also favoured by representatives of the business sector and groups in society, provided it does not involve an abdication of the state from its responsibility to ensure financing.

Institutional reforms now reflect a growing preference for new sponsorship models while at the same time demanding that the public sector maintains its responsibility to ensure funding. Two strategies should be distinguished in this context:

  • the partial liberation of cultural institutions from the confines of budgetary and public service law and from municipal and other administrative structures through choice of another legal form such as a limited liability company or a foundation. The assumption that such change of legal form would result in a reduction of public funding, however, has thus far proved incorrect; and
  • the transfer of tasks (such as allocation of public resources and maintenance of facilities) to institutions in civil society (generally foundations and associations). This strategy of cooperating with intermediary organisations is particularly prevalent at the federal and Land levels.

Irrespective of these trends, which certainly reflect an increasingly widespread acknowledgement of the important role of civil society or third sector actors, the fact remains that most municipal cultural institutions are still integrated into and bound by the structures and hierarchies of public administration.

The transfer of public sector responsibilities to private sponsors in the cultural sector began in Germany as early as the 19th century. Prominent national and internationally renowned cultural institutes such as the Bach Archives in Leipzig, the Beethoven House in Bonn, the Archives of German Literature in Marbach, the Goethe Museum in Frankfurt am Main, the Weimar Classics Foundation in Weimar, and the National Museum of German Art and Culture in Nuremberg are privately run but receive public funding from all three levels of government. Many of these institutions belong to the Working Group of Independent Cultural Institutes (ASKI).


Chapter published: 12-09-2016


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