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Austria/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

The debate over the status of major cultural institutions has been going on since the second half of the 1980s. A great number of initiatives and demands to grant more autonomy to the cultural institutions and to relinquish state agendas were proposed. The restructuring of the "Association of Austrian Federal Theatres" is an example, which demonstrates moves towards greater partnership or "divestment" between the public and private sectors: A Federal Act on the Reorganisation of the Federal Theatres in 1998 created the Theaterholding GmbH, a holding company owned by the federal government, which has four subsidiaries organised as private limited companies: Burgtheater GmbH, Wiener Staatsoper GmbH, Volksoper Wien GmbH and ART for ART Theaterservice GmbH. The holding company has shifted its operative tasks and financial management to the subsidiaries, which can use their respective property free of charge. With this change, theatre directors are fully accountable for their financial management. The ART for ART, Theaterservice GmbH is an enterprise offering services in the fields of stage and costume design, storage and transport, building maintenance and stage engineering, ticket sales, as well as services in information technology (data processing). Since 2004, Burgtheater GmbH, the Wiener Staatsoper GmbH and the Volksoper Wien GmbH have each had a 16.3% holding in ART for ART. Arts matters are decided upon by the art directors who run the stages jointly with the commercial directors. The companies are supervised by a board, an arrangement which in turn involves the risk that the directors might be limited in their artistic freedom.

After a financial scandal and inconsistencies in the accounting matters of the Burghteater, the Federal Theatre Organisation Act was amended in 2015: in addition to an increase in the annual basic renumeration of EUR 14 million, an agreement on goals and performance for the next three years was implemented. As of now, the commercial management as well as the artistic director is appointed directly by the Federal Minister for Arts and Culture in close cooperation with the Federal Theatres Holding and the supervisory boards.

Chapter published: 02-02-2016

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