10 myths about culture in Germany

Germany's cultural world in numbers

The big screen

On average, Germans go to the cinema just 1.5 times per year. During its heydey in the 1950s, the silver screen attracted over 800 million visitors per year. Today, it's just 121 million.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Berlin is a creative hot spot

For every 1,000 residents in Berlin, there are 11 artists. The German capital has the highest ratio of artists in the country and, with 370, the most exhibitions per year. Berlin also boasts more culture-related businesses than any other German city: 18.3 percent of all companies registered there work in the cultural arena.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

No shortage of orchestras

With 131 public orchestras employing 10,000 musicians, Germany has the densest musical landscape in the world. The country's orchestras range from a 12-member chamber ensemble in Prenzlau to the 185-member Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Germany's oldest orchestra, in Kassel, has performed since 1503.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

No country does more theater

Germany is home to 142 state-funded theaters. Tthe smallest, in Naumburg, holds just 80 spectators and has 11 employees, while the largest theater in Hamburg has 1,200 seats. Stuttgart boasts the world's largest performing arts center for drama, ballet and opera - a 1,400-seat hall where 1,350 employees put on 900 shows for 450,000 people annually.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Opera with a tradition

With 527 opera performances each year, Berlin is the number one in Germany, but not the world. The most annual opera performances are held in Moscow (582) and Vienna (535). But in terms of the largest number of seats for viewing opera, Bayreuth takes the world record, with 2,500 seats in two historical opera houses. Germany's largest opera house, the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, has just as many.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Many art dealers, small art market

With 9,804 galleries and art dealers, Germany takes second place globally, behind the US. However, when it comes to art auction revenues, Germany only claims a miniscule 2 percent of the international market, which is led by the US, Great Britain and China.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Neverending books

Every year, more than 90,000 books are released on the German market. If they were lined up side by side, they would fill a bookshelf that is 2.5 kilometers (1.4 miles) long.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Music for the masses

Bochum Total, which is free of charge, draws over 800,000 visitors every year, making it the largest music festival in Germany. In terms of commercial music festivals, however, Rock am Ring is the largest, attracting 87,000 visitors annually.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

For the love of music

Some three million amateur musicians participate in a choir or orchestra in Germany, which has the fourth-largest music market in the world. Another 64,000 people work professionally as musicians - enough to fill a small city the size of Weimar.

Germany's cultural world in numbers

Incredible architecture

The Cologne Cathedral is the most-visited tourist site in Germany and the country's most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting six million people to its Gothic spires each year. The first building in Germany to be placed on the World Heritage List was the Aachen Cathedral in 1978; the most recent is the Bauhaus Ensemble in Bernau near Berlin.

Does Germany have a world-class cultural scene? We look at 10 popular myths about culture in Germany and see how they stand up to the facts. It's not an easy task in a place where culture is considered holy.

"We are a nation with a strong cultural tradition!" emphasized Germany Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière a few months ago in his controversial thesis on the country's "Leitkultur" (leading or guiding culture). Klaus Lederer, Berlin's culture senator and member of the Left party, even declared art and culture the "strongest weapon against terrorism" when opening a classical music festival in the capital recently.

If there is anything that German politicians tend to agree on during election season, it is their belief in the power of music and literature.

It is a consensus that crosses party lines in the Bundestag, ensuring that subsidies for the arts flow. Before the summer break, the ruling coalition made up of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) decided to increase federal cultural funding by a hefty 23 percent in 2018, totaling 1.67 billion euros ($1.98 billion).

The sheer numbers

Germany is very proud of its cultural landscape. Many even consider it the best in the world. Are they right?

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A glance at the sheer statistics in the land of poets and thinkers, musicians and artists in 2017 is mind-boggling.

The country counts 2,117 publishers and 3,803 bookstores, 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 1,654 cinemas with 4,739 screens. There are also 142 public theater companies with around 40,000 employees in 825 venues, 12,000 public libraries, 931 music schools with 1.4 million students, 29 art academies, 9,804 galleries and art dealers, and 6,372 museums. The list is neverending.

While the older generations continue to speak of a "Kulturnation," conjuring up high-brow images of Bayreuth, Weimar and the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, economists and culture managers now refer to the "creative industries."

The term is better suited to the digital age, incorporates measurable data instead of elitist criticism, and sounds more dynamic. That's something the federal government has recognized, noting with enthusiasm that the creative industries are essential "to a modern Germany like hardly any other."

Lacking courage and creativity?

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Culture is one of the driving engines for German soft power. The federal and state governments invest more than 10 billion euros annually in cultural endeavors like youth theaters, music schools, chamber orchestras, renovations of historical buildings or museum expansions. That adds up to 123 euros per citizen - the cost of a mid-sized Ikea bookshelf.

Do lots of money and lots of jobs mean lots of creativity? Not according to the news magazine Der Spiegel, which wrote in a special German edition ahead of the election that it is "too little for such a large, wealthy country. Too little courage, too little love, too little creative risk."

Mediocrity is widespread in the arts, maintained the news magazine: unimaginative architecture, interchangeable detective novels instead of great novels, powerless intellectuals. But those who question the "fetishistic cultural state" have a hard time of it in Germany.

How much competition can culture take?

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In 2012, a letter of dissent from four culture researchers (titled "Der Kulturinfarkt") challenged the thinking behind high cultural subsidies that seemed to merely serve self-preservation. Should culture be subjected to creative competition and measured by its success? That sounded like the worst kind of neo-liberal sell-out. Not in the cultural nation of Germany, please! The text wasn't debated.

DW is looking in greater depth at these facts onDW Culture Facebook page. The television show "Arts.21" is broadcasting a special edition measuring the cultural landscape in Germany and telling the history behind the nation's cultural myths.