German Billionaire Threatens to Move His Collection to US Because of Controversial Heritage Law

Artnet 5 August 2015
By Henri Neuendorf

Hasso Plattner is one of Germany's most important collectors.

After gallerists, auction houses, and artists have all spoken up against the German government's controversial plans to amend the country's cultural heritage protection legislation, the first German mega-collector has now made himself heard.

SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, worth an estimated $9.2 billion, has threatened to withdraw his pledge to bequeath his private collection to Potsdam's Barberini Museum if the government's proposed changes are implemented, according to Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten.

The Barberini Museum is an ambitious project commissioned by the software mogul who had planned to show his collection in the reconstructed replica of Potsdam's historic 18th century Barberini Palace, destroyed during World War II.

However, the billionaire fears that the foundation to which he plans to transfer his collection may no longer be able to easily sell individual works.

A rendering of the Barberini Museum, a reconstruction of the 18th century palace built by the Prussian King Frederick the Great. Photo: stadtbild-deutschland

According to Plattner, museums are equally dependent on private collectors as the rest of the international art market. As an example he cited the Boston Museum of Fine Art, which sold a Monet painting to fund essential renovation.

If he changes his mind it could deprive the museum of a 250-piece collection of important impressionist and modern artworks including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, and Emil Nolde.

Construction of the museum is currently underway and it is scheduled to open in 2017.

Platter threatened to move his collection to Palo Alto, CA. Photo: Glass Door

But what is Potsdam's loss could be Palo Alto's gain. The billionaire said that he “owed the city a lot," and is reportedly considering to build a museum for his collection in Silicon Valley, where SAP's headquarters are located, if the German government passes the controversial legislation.

On Monday, Plattner's spokesperson said that the businessman would like to see the proposal dropped or radically revised. He emphasized that words were unlikely to sway Plattner, “there must be action," he said.

Art experts have criticized German Culture Minister Monika Grütters' planned  Cultural Property Protection Act.

Plattner's threats have unleashed panic among Brandenburg's politicians. The collection is seen as essential to attracting visitors to Potsdam, which is already competing with the neighboring art supercity, Berlin.

In response, Brandenburg's ministerial president Dieter Woidke has called on the government to “provide clarity on the proposed provisions of the act."

However, culture minister Monika Grütters seemed unconcerned by the threats. Her spokesperson merely said that Plattner's announcements were “not comprehensible."
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