The painter and sculptor Georg Baselitz will resign from his position at the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, a prominent Munich art association, as he leads the ongoing controversy surrounding the statements made by its President Winfried Nerdinger on the pandemic.
Nerdinger, who has headed the academy since July 2019, is the focus of recent faculty protests since he criticized the lockdown policy in an interview with Southgerman newspaper on May 7th. During the conversation, Nerdinger said that the government considered artists “completely unimportant ”due to the temporary closure of art spaces. He also claimed that politicians see the arts sector as something they can do “If necessary or in an emergency, simply do without it.”
In response, 20 academics posted a letter from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung He condemned Nerdinger’s attitude, claiming that, as President of the Academy, he should not make these remarks. The group of authors called his statements “thoughtless and cheap” in view of the extent of last year’s tragedy and asked him to offer the subjects for public debate among academics. In response, Nerdinger claimed that his interview was meant to convey personal views, not the academy’s.
Baselitz said he resigned because of criticism of Nerdinger, not what the president said. According to Southgerman newspapersaid the artist that the behavior of the demonstrators was “disgusting” and that he “doesn’t want to continue sitting under the same roof with these courtiers”.
He also expressed sympathy for Nerdinger’s views. “The federal government has canceled the essential rights of the arts,” Baselitz is said to have written in his letter of resignation.
Many in the German art world have perceived the country’s handling of the pandemic as a problem. In April, the federal government introduced a controversial law, the so-called Infection Protection Act, according to which districts or cities must be cordoned off if there are more than 100 Covid cases within seven days. The law requires curfews and art organizations, including museums, to close.
Baselitz is one of the reprehensible measures to contain the pandemic. In an interview with World on sunday last May he called the “horror stories” about Covid seen on prime time news “bullshit”.
The controversy at the Bavarian Academy has divided its members. Several supporters of Nerdinger published letters in which he accused his opponents of infidelity and a lack of solidarity, although the board has since stopped forwarding open letters. A meeting of the academy is planned for July, where he hopes to solve the problem. “I’ll wait and see, at some point we will have a general meeting,” he told Bayerischer Rundfunk. “At the moment it’s difficult to communicate, that’s a little difficult.”