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Zilkens' News Blog

Dr. Stephan Zilkens

Stephan Zilkens

Zilkens' News Blog 5 2024

For almost a century, the pavilions of Germany and France stand opposite each other in the Giardini in Venice, with Great Britain forming the bracket in the centre. This is somehow also an image of an old Europe-centred world. If you read the list of artists exhibiting there from April - Julien Creuzet for France, Yael Bartana and Ersan Mondtag for Germany and John Akomfrah for the UK - they all have one thing in common: they do not work with conventional means of painting or sculpture. They want to convey messages, to sensitise through changes in perception - 'L'art pour l'art' used to be. However, they only create art that works in public spaces - for the art trade and galleries, this could be a signal to stop developing biennial artists so intensively. Yet the Biennale is said to be one of the great art fairs. Visitors to the Schirn in Frankfurt were able to experience a foretaste of John Akomfrah's work until yesterday, as he had a solo exhibition there. At the same time, there is also a fantastic exhibition by Lionel Feiniger with sensational loans from all over the world. Many of the private loans came through Moeller Fine Art.

In general, Frankfurt has a strong cultural week. Barbara Klemm, long-time photographer for the FAZ, is dedicated an exhibition in the historical museum that shows how expressive black and white photography can be. There is also a nice picture of Joschka Fischer with a helmet on a ladder during the 1968 student protests. In the Städel there is an exhibition on Holbein and the Renaissance, which shows beautiful pictures but fails to work out why these particular pictures have been brought together there. In the Kellertheater, an initiative that has been motivating people without drama school to do theatre for more than 25 years, Daniel Glattauer's "Die Wunderübung" (The Miracle Exercise) shows in a delightfully performed production that is worth seeing that good theatre does not necessarily need the big subsidised stages, but primarily a desire for language and acting. "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum", which premiered at Schauspiel Köln on Friday, was a completely different story and was finally well spoken again, but that was it.

Our governments are inventive when it comes to naming laws. Since 2021, for example, there has been the second Management Positions Act, which essentially imposes quotas on listed companies for the gender distribution of board members in order to curb the excess of testosterone in the medium term. This is a drastic encroachment on the property rights of shareholders. However, nobody really wants to take action against this. On the other hand, there are forms of government, e.g. east of Ukraine, where state leaders skilfully organise their eternal values and trample human rights underfoot. At the same time, they spread fake news to weaken their political opponents, which is often shared by women on social media. Or are profiles fake again? Selensky's interview with Karen Miosga on the situation in Ukraine, on the other hand, is a welcome change. You simply can't live in peace if your land-hungry Russian neighbour doesn't like it.

It's good to see that many people are publicly standing up in defence of fundamental rights in Germany and now also in Austria. If the bashing is then replaced by information and arguments, things could change for the better. For this to happen, however, many people would have to learn to listen and accept the truth again.

In Germany, contrary to expectations, the railway strike ends early. The railway union has probably secretly realised that it risks losing the lavish salaries of its top management if the strike continues. In the days of steam locomotives, a stoker (a back-breaking job) and an engine driver drove at the front, and as technology advanced, the stoker was dropped. It is only a matter of time before technological progress also makes the engine driver obsolete. In many places, railway employees are delaying this by posturing and arguing. It is the same technology that the army of public employees of all genders is using to hinder the reduction of bureaucracy and to thwart digitalisation with the support of politicians. In the 1980s, one of the questions posed by McKinsey and Co. was: "Imagine you/your department were to lose 40% of your resources, what activities could you discontinue without neglecting your core task?" The result was perhaps 25%, but the implementation led to significant increases in productivity and greater competitiveness. This should be applied to public administration, then Cologne, for example, would not have 6,000 more employees than before (from 17,500 to almost 24,000) in 8 years of female mayoral rule, but perhaps 2,500 fewer and more financial leeway for forward-looking projects. At the moment, they prefer to work on traffic gridlock, the expulsion of the automotive industry from the city and the increasing neglect of public spaces and museums. Unfortunately, this will not be over on Ash Wednesday.

We wish you all a week of open communication with a stimulating gain in knowledge - buying art is still possible at BRAFA in Brussels until 4 February.

Stephan Zilkens and the team of Zilkens Fine Art Insurance Brokers in Cologne and Solothurn

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