FUNDUS—Writings in the histories of art, culture, and philosophy

Since 1959, more than 150 volumes have been released in the FUNDUS series. With a rich tradition with roots in the oppositional movement and intellectual milieu of East Germany, the series comprises writings on contemporary tendencies in the arts and aspects of the histories of art, culture, and philosophy. Writers’ critical engagements with the contemporary world and current affairs have been a mainstay of the series, as have been reprints and editions of seminal historic writings.


FUNDUS was launched, initially as a series of paperbacks, by Verlag der Kunst in Dresden in 1959. Von der Notwendigkeit der Kunst, or Of the Necessity of Art, was the title of the first volume, edited by Ernst Fischer. Erhard Frommhold, a thinker of the GDR’s Marxist left, oversaw the series until the fall of the Wall, defying massive political pressure to toe the party line. Whether Frommhold pursued a strategic vision and hoped that the FUNDUS books would hone readers’ critical consciousness and spur them to press for changes to the system is hard to say. What is certain is that he shared the confidence of many intellectuals that broad dissemination of knowledge would gradually undermine the aporias of ideology. Doubts about the capitalist system and the conviction that, after two world wars and the Nazi era, it was destined for the ash heap of history motivated him to develop his publishing project, which he pursued with passionate dedication for four decades.

In 1952, a twenty-four-year-old Frommhold applied to Verlag der Kunst in Dresden. He was hired as an editor, became chief editor and, finally, publisher. Championing a universal intellectual and visual culture, he not only disregarded the national focus, he simply refused to acknowledge the aesthetic traditionalism that dominated in the propagandistic art media. Frommhold was determined to see the world as an unfinished reality, an open terrain in which ideas and sensual experiences could flourish. The impetus behind FUNDUS also sprang from his ethical desire to not sacrifice the creative potentials of his own history to the pragmatism of politics.

In the 1970s, the GDR at long last permitted some subjects that had been taboo to be broached. The authorities strove to modernize the public image of the socialist German state, recasting it as a sovereign and confident country that held its own in the ideological contest with the other Germany. This shift afforded thinkers the leeway to reenvision the progressive culture of twentieth-century modernity. Frommhold had braved existential challenges and prevailed. FUNDUS remained a series of meticulously produced publications: cultural-historical portraits of different periods, documents related to individual artists, writings on cultural theory, architecture, and urban planning.


When the Wall fell, the Treuhandanstalt, the government agency established to privatize East German enterprises, invited investors to gamble with the remaining assets of the former GDR. Among them was Frommhold’s life’s work—he left the publishing house in 1992. His erstwhile employer was subsequently acquired by Gordon & Breach, an academic publishing house. Gerti Fietzek and Michael Glasmeier gave the series a new design and edited FUNDUS until it was taken over by the German-Jewish publisher Philo in 2001. The reunification-era debut volume was an ostensibly “old” title, but one that had never been published in German translation: Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man spoke to many urgent questions raised by the new realities of a reunited Germany and its media landscape, which was undergoing profound changes.

In January 2008, the Hamburg-based entrepreneur and art collector Harald Falckenberg founded Philo Fine Arts, which secured the FUNDUS series’ continued existence until 2023. In more than six decades, FUNDUS introduced readers to the ideas and writings of scholars in the humanities including Ernst H. Gombrich, Clement Greenberg, Rosa Luxemburg, Bazon Brock, and Peter Weibel as well as artists like Jeff Wall, Almut Linde, and Jasper Johns and leading art-world thinkers like Tom Holert, Isabelle Graw, Diedrich Diederichsen, and Harald Szeemann.

Since the spring of 2024, all titles in the series that are still in stock have been made available again through booksellers across Germany and abroad; planned reissues and new releases will be published under DISTANZ’s imprint. The series’ defining characteristic—important ideas and theories set out by experts in their fields—will remain the same, while many new authors and books on issues in contemporary life, aesthetics, and culture will extend its reach.