Being passionate about art is not just a hobby for Berlin-based lawyer Pascal Decker, it’s a full-time job.
Founding partner at dtb, the law firm dedicated to consulting clients specifically in the art world, Pascal Decker uses his knowledge in brand protection, brand management, copyright law, foundation law and estate succession to help support artists, collectors, dealers, museums and cooperations.
Here, we speak to Decker about how he became an art world lawyer, the Jonathan Meese case and how collecting influences his everyday life.
Mr. Decker, you are founding partner at dtb– a boutique law firm especially designed for consulting clients in the art sector. Tell us about your work.PASCAL DECKER
The art sector is in many ways a very specific market. Galleries, collectors, artists and museums want to be certain that their legal advisors are aware of the motley collection of written and unwritten laws and traditions that make the market function. Besides, the art world is a small world with a distinct claim for discretion and understanding. Often, diplomatic skills are more in demand than anything else. All these factors and together with its strong international focus gravitated me from the beginning of my career towards this sector – moreover, you deal with some of the most interesting people you could ever meet, often with vibrant and fascinating personalities.
You are also director of the Brandenburger Tor Foundation and on the board of Rolf Horn Foundation among others and served as Chairman of the Friends of the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. How did your involvement in the arts begin?PASCAL DECKER
To fully answer that question would take a long time so you will get the short version! From my first conscious thought, art and culture have been my strongest source of inspiration. I’m a rather curious person and I love to be inspired by people, ideas and objects. There is no other area of human activity that is as enriching as the arts.
As a lawyer you represented the artist Jonathan Meese in court, who has been accused of performing the Hitlergruß at the University of Kassel. How strongly do you feel about protecting the freedom of art?PASCAL DECKER
The trial ended with the acquittal of Jonathan Meese because the court found that within the specific circumstances Meese’s performance, he was covered by the fundamental right of artistic freedom and therefore not punishable under criminal law. However, apart from that specific case, it is a great concern of mine to protect the arts and in particular the required freedom to create art. It is the nature of art and artistic performances in particular that it can and must be interpreted. Not for nothing, Article 5 Paragraph 3 of the German Constitution guarantees artistic freedom limited only by other conflicting constitutional law.
You work as a lecturer of the certificate course on Curating at the Universität der Künste Berlin. How did this opportunity come about?PASCAL DECKER
The University approached me and offered me the opportunity. I was delighted to play my part in the professional development of the participants. I admit that I adore lecturing and sharing my knowledge and experience with students from an entirely different approach. This complexity is very appealing. In a way I hope to assist my students to grow, to help develop their own future and vision in life.
What exactly do you teach and who is interested in your course?PASCAL DECKER
A wide-range of people are taking this course. In my lectures I focus on contractual and copyright related questions arising in the context of curating. It is important not only to protect the curator, but also the whole project from a legal point of view. For the actual day-to-day work of a curator as well as the success of a project, it is essential to have at least a basic legal knowledge in this field.
How do the younger generation of students differ from when you were a student and how do they respond to your versatile background?PASCAL DECKER
It might be that students in the age of “Bologna” would find it more difficult to develop a versatile lifestyle as training today is usually more regimented. In my opinion most of them are still motivated, full of ideas, idealism and just waiting to get out there and to get on with their life.
Is collecting in some way your refuge from business?PASCAL DECKER
That has a negative ring to it, like isolation and renunciation of the world – I would describe it as a passion more than a refuge. Saying that, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t like to be surrounded by art as well as aesthetic objects in my daily routine. For this reason, you will always find parts of my collection in my business environment. However, in my view collecting and business is a symbiosis – it is inspiring and encouraging to work in a stimulating environment.