The Princely Collections rank among the most outstanding private art collections in the world. For many years, anyone speaking of culture in the small country of Liechtenstein was referring to these treasures of European art, which span five centuries. Culture as experienced in everyday life by the inhabitants of this Catholic country, one that was still a poor agricultural society at the onset of the 20th century, was part of the Christian tradition. Religion constituted the foundation of culture.
Not until Liechtenstein’s economy rapidly caught up with modernisation following the Second World War did a true cultural landscape begin to develop. Whereas the roots of the Princely Collections lie in the Baroque ideal encompassing princely patronage of the arts, today, representatives from the Liechtenstein private sector also promote art and culture in its entire scope. The state cultural policy had its inception in the 1960s and 1970s as a consequence of private initiatives. Today, the state plays a key role in supporting the rich cultural life on four levels: internationally within Europe, nationally in the Rhine Valley region, and within the country’s eleven villages.
The year 2008 represents a new milestone in Liechtenstein’s cultural policy. A modern law both reinforces and simplifies the state’s cultural mandate. With the Liechtenstein Cultural Foundation, a central institution is now assuming responsibility for the advancement of private cultural activities. Culture at the onset of the 21st century is interpreted in a contemporary manner and includes folk culture, science, heritage, museums and exhibitions in addition to music, the fine arts, literature, architecture, theatre, dance and film. Furthermore, 2008 is the year of the second Cultural Congress – the first having taken place in 2000 – with the goal of continuing to stimulate cultural policy discussion and cultural development. In 2012, the Liechtenstein government decided to create a new, comprehensive Office of Cultural Affairs within the National Public Administration. This represents a further milestone on the government’s path toward structuring cultural policy in a focused way.
The state provides funding for artists, cultural projects and cooperative activities, and also assumes the responsibility for public institutions – the Music School, the School of Fine Arts – both established through private initiatives – the National Library, the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts) as the national gallery, and the National Museum. This oldest cultural facility owes it founding to the Historical Society, which, beginning with its establishment in 1901, extensively shaped the cultural development during the 20th century. The Society is also the initiator for maintaining cultural assets and championing historic preservation – the bridges connecting us to the past. In August 2012, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has prepared a modern Law on the Protection of Cultural Assets. The new Law aims to provide a comprehensive basis for the protection of cultural goods in Liechtenstein.
The acknowledgment of culture’s great impact on humanity and society as a whole shapes Liechtenstein’s cultural policy. This is similarly reflected in the profile of the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, which specifically targets topics dealing with the contemporary attitude towards life within Europe. This national gallery presents international works of art while at the same time, in its function as a regional museum, emphasising the cultural wealth of the Rhine Valley region.
In 2000, private donors presented the country with the Kunstmuseum. On display are works from the Collections of the Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein as well as from the State Art Collections – established in 1967 – which, with their works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries, create a chronologic link to the Collections of the Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. Paintings by Ferdinand Nigg are included in the collection, the Liechtenstein pioneer and recluse, who produced his works in Germany, who joins other major names associated with the Classic Modern period.
In 2000, a spirit of cultural optimism reigned: Liechtenstein put cultural diversity on view at Expo 2000 in Hanover and participated in the Europe-wide project Literature Express Europe 2000. In the 1990s, cultural activities increased by leaps and bounds: The Symphony Orchestra, the Musical Company and the International Guitar Days were introduced. Professionals in fine arts, music, literature, theatre and dance redoubled their creative efforts and Liechtenstein books made their debut at the Frankfurt and Leipzig German-language book fairs. From 1964 to 2007, cultural promotion has been under the aegis of the Cultural Advisory Council, providing impetus for numerous cultural projects. It functioned in an advisory capacity to the government during the drafting of the Cultural Promotion Act of 1990, which ensures free artistic expression for every person in the country.
Since 1999, the Office of Cultural Affairs – which previously was directly affiliated with the government and will now become part of the new, comprehensive Office of Cultural Affairs within the National Public Administration – has coordinated the various governmental responsibilities relating to Liechtenstein cultural issues. It advises the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, implements projects and represents Liechtenstein in international and regional commissions. In its function as the operational centre for the country’s regional and international engagement, it is active in the cultural commissions at the Council of Europe, EFTA / EEA and the International Lake Constance Conference (IBK). International cultural exchange, as well as public cultural policy, plays an ever-increasing role in Liechtenstein’s foreign policy. In 2010, the government approved a concept for the country’s future cultural foreign policy. Liechtenstein has taken the lead internationally with its new Corporate Governance Act for State Enterprises adopted in 2010. With this new law, the government steers and supervises state enterprises in a responsible and qualified manner, subject to oversight by Parliament. This guarantees that cultural institutions in the Principality of Liechtenstein are managed in a transparent and efficient way.
In Liechtenstein, as in other small countries, culture is considered a significant component of the national identity. In this spirit, “My Country” was the title of the 2010 Cultural Forum. In 2012, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs further established the Liechtenstein Cultural Forum project. With the economic boom after the Second World War, many different nationalities, cultures and religions were drawn to the small state of Liechtenstein. According to the Cultural Mission Statement of 2011, getting to know each other through cultural encounters is a key element of a tolerant approach to diversity. Under the motto “An avalanche is made up of crystals”, the 2012 Cultural Forum drew attention to each individual’s qualities and opportunities for action. In 2013, the Cultural Forum focused on the topic of building culture in Liechtenstein and the added value contributed to culture by architecture. With the “Young Culture Liechtenstein” promotional prize in the amount of CHF 10 000 (8 312 EUR), the state of Liechtenstein is also supporting innovative projects in professional arts and culture.
Two important historical events were at the centre of cultural life in 2012: First, the “300 Years of the Upper Country” celebrations commemorated the contract selling the County of Vaduz to Reigning Prince Johann Adam Andreas of Liechtenstein in 1712. The Prince had already bought the Domain of Schellenberg – today’s “Lower Country” – from the Counts of Hohenems in 1699. His motives were not economic, but rather political: In 1396 in Prague, Roman-German King Wenceslaus IV granted Vaduz and Schellenberg imperial immediacy, a precondition for Liechtenstein’s later sovereignty. The Principality of Liechtenstein was founded in 1719 and elevated to an imperial principality. Johann Adam Andreas is not only considered the founder of Liechtenstein, he also expanded the Princely Collections with one of its centrepieces, namely the world-renowned works of the Decius Mus Cycle by Peter Paul Rubens.
Secondly, the Liechtenstein National Museum commemorated the history of the postage stamp in the small state in 2012 with its exhibit “100 Years of Liechtenstein Stamps 1912-2012”. The high artistic quality of the postage stamps attracts the interest of philatelists worldwide. The first Liechtenstein stamps appeared on 1 February 1912 and showed the portrait of Reigning Prince Johann II in three denominations. They were designed by Jugendstil artist Koloman Moser, one of the founders of the Vienna Secession in 1897. The first stamp series was based on the postal treaty between Liechtenstein and Austria. The conclusion of the postal treaty with Switzerland, which entered into force on 1 February 1921, was a significant turning point in the history of Liechtenstein postage stamps. After the First World War, when the Danube Monarchy collapsed, Liechtenstein turned toward Switzerland. With the postal treaty of 1921, Switzerland took over postal and telephone services in Liechtenstein, but allowed the country to issue its own stamps.
In 2013, Liechtenstein discovered its potential as a country for the cultural and creative industries. The Institute of Architecture and Planning at the University of Liechtenstein launched a research project on cultural and creative sciences. The researchers analysed the role of architectural design in the creative industry of Liechtenstein and the Alpine Rhine Valley. On the basis of this foundational knowledge, they are planning to develop a model strategy for sustainable urban and cultural development. At the 2013 Liechtenstein Cultural Forum, an exchange with experts in the fields of architecture and culture from Liechtenstein and its neighbouring countries took place under the title of “Cultural Space and Spatial Culture”. The starting point of the project is the Liechtenstein Cultural Mission Statement of 2011, in which the Ministry of Culture of the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein defines the goal of promoting the cultural and creative industries. The vision is by 2020 to develop into a country that is perceived internationally through its culture. In this way, Liechtenstein is following the plan of the European Union to invest more heavily in the cultural and creative sector. In September 2014, the University of Liechtenstein presented the first Creative Industry Report for the country on the basis of statistical data for the years 2005, 2008, and 2011. According to that report, the number of people employed in the creative industries is comparable to cities such as Vienna and Zurich. The report is considered an important step for making the huge creative potential of the country visible (see also chapter 3.5.1).
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The cultural activities in a small country are dependent on an exchange with the world beyond its own borders. Cultural foreign policy both regionally and internationally is a high priority in Liechtenstein. Culture is deemed to be a means toward integration and European dialogue. With their “cultural diplomacy”, the diplomatic representatives contribute to Liechtenstein’s international prestige. The government’s mission statement regarding cultural goals formulated in 1995 and confirmed in 2000 is currently being refined and systemically implemented. Liechtenstein is reinforcing its engagement as indicated by its recent 2008 Cultural Promotion Act and the newly established Liechtenstein Cultural Foundation.
Culture being an integral part of the national identity, it is, at the same time, an expression of a sophisticated broad-mindedness. Cultural activities designed and enjoyed by the numerous elements comprising society are characterised by an extraordinary sense of diversity worthy of promotion. One standing goal is to cultivate cultural assets. Another is to enable every citizen to engage in discourse with the testimonies of his or her own culture as well as foreign cultures, to experience these testimonies not only as a segment of his or her own history but of human creative power as a whole. The state guarantees the requisite liberal framework, nurtures the cultural environment and actively complements private art and cultural promotion.
A key element in Liechtenstein’s cultural policy is the principle of subsidiarity, which stimulates and encourages private initiative. Even the major cultural institutions such as the Music School, the theatre and various cultural societies owe their current existence to the initiative of small groups. The state becomes involved when cultural activities are facilitated through additional funding and personal engagement, primarily to render exhibits or constructions possible. Many actors and numerous forms of cooperation play their part in the national model. The country’s eleven municipalities contribute to the promotion of culture through the principle of subsidiarity. Patrons and sponsors are one category of guarantor for the wide variety of cultural projects within the country. For instance, Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz has awarded the Josef Gabriel von Rheinberger Prize since 1976.
The Liechtenstein composer and music educator attained international standing in the second half of the 19th century. Since 2003, the International Josef Gabriel Rheinberger Society has promoted and disseminated his extensive work throughout Europe. On the occasion of the 175th birthday of the Late Romantic composer, a special exhibition in the Liechtenstein National Museum commemorated Rheinberger’s extensive correspondence with musicians, composers, publishers, painters, and poets. Since 2014, the extensive Rheinberger music documentation – including first editions of musical scores – has been available in the Liechtenstein National Archives. This was a gift from the Harald Wanger family, in honour of the long-time collector and director of the Rheinberger Archive in Vaduz who died in 2011.
With its collections, the Princely House makes a special contribution to cultural life in Liechtenstein and especially also in Vienna. Businesses in the export and financial industry also dedicate funds to the promotion of culture. For instance, they build up collections and promote cultural projects in Liechtenstein and abroad. Since 2011, the Liechtenstein National Museum has been the home of the Adulf Peter Goop Private Collection, which includes a collection of more than 2 300 Easter eggs unlike any other in the world, such as numerous one-of-a-kind Russian masterpieces including from the world-famous Fabergé workshops in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Cultural policy objectives
Liechtenstein’s cultural policy targets the general public, artists, cultural institutions and projects. It involves more than just promoting culture, extending to advocating a public forum, ensuring advantageous general conditions and supporting the interests of artists. Cultural policy is closely related to other political areas: to foreign policy, financial policy, tourism, communication policy and educational policy. Cultural policy means more than merely administering and promoting cultural issues; it always impacts on society as a whole. The cultural and educational institutions, the houses of knowledge, learning and entertainment are prerequisites for society’s existential needs.
In the face of the increasing convergence taking place in Europe, becoming acquainted with other cultures assumes a key role. It is clearly desirable not to eradicate our differences, but instead to look upon them with tolerance. Approximately 33.7% (as of 2013) of Liechtenstein’s population are non-citizens. A cultivated involvement with each other results in a more receptive society, thus giving rise to a more broadly reinforced sense of self-esteem. Cultural policy also means improving the quality of human coexistence.
For more than ten years, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein has deliberately sought out topics that deal with the contemporary attitude toward life in Europe. The government Ministry of Culture also supported the “Little Constellation” project in 2010, which was launched as a research project in San Marino in 2004 and serves as a platform for contemporary art in small European states and micro-areas. The platform’s goal is to offer a different look at the current situation of modern societies. This is motivated by the demand for an expanded critical view of potential future developments.
In 2012, Liechtenstein decided to join Traduki, a European network for literature and books initiated cooperatively in 2008 by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria, the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia, KulturKontakt Austria, the Goethe-Institut and the S. Fischer Foundation. The network promotes the translation of literature from, to and within South-eastern Europe.
Since 2013, Liechtenstein has made use of the worldwide network of libraries of the Goethe Institutes of the Federal Republic of Germany. These now also offer publications from Liechtenstein on the country’s history and culture. The Goethe Institute promotes German language and culture and engages in international cultural cooperation.
The goals of Liechtenstein’s cultural policy correspond to those of the Council of Europe, specifically to promote identity, creativity, diversity and access to cultural life.