Why Germany's COVID-19 Relief Plan Is the Envy of the Art World


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By Artnet News. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a public-health emergency, it rapidly proved to be a deep financial emergency, too. With businesses and cultural institutions around the world forced to shutter en masse in the face of social-distancing regulations, questions loom large about how the global economy and the workforce will endure a prolonged period in which all but "essential" laborers must work from home—or not at all. This proposition is especially worrisome in the art industry, where so many artists and small businesses weather precarious conditions even in the best of times, making them especially vulnerable to financial ruin in our current extraordinary moment.

Yet different Western nations are responding to the cultural crisis in very different ways. The United States hammered out a roughly $2.2 trillion rescue package that contained only $300 million specifically earmarked for arts and media causes, and conservative politicians attacked even this paltry amount as wasteful spending. In contrast, Germany announced a federal aid package featuring a whopping €50 billion ($54 billion) to be distributed to freelancers and small businesses, including those in the arts, while the country's culture minister praised artists as "not only indispensable, but also vital, especially now." Even more assistance came from the city-state of Berlin, which began funneling €5,000 payments to individual freelancers almost instantly with the promise that "there will be enough for everyone."

On this week's episode, Artnet News's European editor Kate Brown calls in from her home in Berlin to discuss all sides of Germany's stunning cultural rescue plan. How did a country known for its sometimes-daunting bureaucracy manage to assemble such a generous bailout in such short order? What kind of political climate enabled it? And what does the package mean for the future of the arts in Berlin and Germany at large once the crisis finally ends?

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