Art, what is it good for? Top German court set to decide | News | DW | 29.11.2018
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Art, what is it good for? Top German court set to decide

A German artist has sued the city of Mannheim for removing her creations from its art gallery. Germany's highest civil and criminal court is now considering the case.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) deliberated on Thursday over whether an artist should receive compensation for having her artworks destroyed or removed in the course of renovation work at a gallery.

The work "HHole" by artist Nathalie Braun Barends, which consisted of holes running through seven stories of a section of the Kunsthalle Mannheim, disappeared when the wing was gutted to create an open space reaching up to the roof. Her light installation "PHaradise," situated in the dome of the building, also fell victim to repair work on the roof.

The artist wants the art gallery to either reinstall her works or to pay her compensation of at least €220,000 ($250,484) in the first case and at least €90,000 in the second.

Braun Barends herself has described her work "HHole" to DW as an "art experience" that could be had only when the work was viewed as a whole, saying that photos of it would not suffice to give "a full picture."

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No success so far

Up to now, courts have rejected her lawsuit, saying that the rights of the building's owners — in this case, the city of Mannheim — have priority and that they must be free to use and convert the building as they choose.

New building of the Kunsthalle Mannheim (picture-alliance/dpa/U. Anspach)

The new section of the art gallery opened in June

The court was also considering a similar case from the capital, Berlin, where artists have demanded compensation after the black-light mini golf course they helped construct was remodelled by the operator.

Although BGH rulings are technically binding only for the case in question, lower courts almost always accept its interpretations of the law.

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