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Art History

April 8, 2014 | Posted by | No Comments

Woman In Gold

Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). Via Wikimedia Commons.

According to Artnet News:

The true story of one Holocaust survivor’s fight to win back her family’s priceless Gustav Klimt paintings will be the subject of the upcoming film Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, Deadline reports. Mirren will play Maria Altmann, an aging Jewish refugee whose aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, famously served as a model for the Austrian symbolist painter. Adele’s husband, Czech sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, owned five paintings by Klimt, including two portraits of his wife.

Left: Helen Mirren in 2013. Right: Maria Altmann in 2010. Photos: Angela George, Gregorcollins. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The movie takes its name from the most famous of the five pictures, a striking 1907 portrait done largely in resplendent gold tones titled Adele Bloch-Bauer I. When Altmann ultimately won her case, the five paintings were estimated to be worth $150 million, making it the most valuable case of restitution of Nazi-looted artwork.

Birkenwald I 1903 by Gustav Klimt

Adele, who died in 1925, requested in her will that the works be donated to the Austrian state museum. Ferdinand, their legal owner, who lived another 20 years, instead bequeathed his estate, including the paintings, to the couple’s nieces and nephews.However, Nazis stole the paintings, 16 Klimt drawings, and an impressive porcelain collection from the Bloch-Bauer estate during Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria. After the war, the Austrian government justified keeping the paintings based on the terms of Adele’s will.

Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) by Gustav Klimt

Altmann, who escaped Europe with her husband after he was held by the Nazis in the Dachau concentration camp in 1938, thought for many years that her aunt and uncle had left their collection to Austria. In 1998, she discovered the truth of her uncle’s will, and set out to reclaim her family’s art.

Apfelbaum (ca. 1912) by Gustav Klimt

The film will depict her eight-year legal battle with the Austrian government. After a panel hearing with the Austrian Cultural Ministry returned the drawings and porcelain, but not the paintings, the case was brought to trial in California, as Altmann could not afford the exorbitant legal fees (equal to the value of the items for which restitution was sought) demanded by the Austrian courts. The dispute went all the way to the United States Supreme court, before Altmann was granted satisfaction by an arbitration panel in Austria.

Häuser in Unterach am Attersee (Houses in Unterach on Attersee Lake), ca. 1916 One of Five Klimts Repatriated to the Bloch-Bauer Heirs in 2006

Altmann and her family later sold the paintings. New York’s Neue Galerie bought the film’s namesake for $135 million, at the time a record sum. Christie’s auctioned the other four to private collectors for a cumulative $192.7 million. Altmann died in 2011 at age 94.

 

January 14, 2014 | Posted by | No Comments

For The Love of Art

Detroit Institute of Arts photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

According to the Washington Post: A group of national and local philanthropic foundations have pledged $330 million to bolster Detroit’s municipal pension funds and help protect the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection from a sale to creditors, according to federal mediators involved with bankruptcy proceedings.

Detroit Institute of Arts photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and seven other philanthropic organizations have offered millions to ameliorate two primary and seemingly unrelated concerns — the plight of pension recipients and preservation of fine art — that have dogged Detroit since it filed for bankruptcy in July.

The Window 1916 by Henri Matisse appraised at $40-$80 million.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, who is overseeing the mediation, called the pledges an “extraordinary and unprecedented effort” and noted that additional foundations are expected to offer support. But the announcement did not say that an agreement has been reached with Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, who has previously called for the museum to be monetized to lessen debt obligations.

Self Portrait with Straw Hat 1887 by Vincent Van Gogh appraised at $80-$150 million.

In July, Detroit filed for bankruptcy, claiming that it could not repay $18 billion in debt. The city owns the DIA’s 65,000-piece collection, which some have argued should be sold to pay creditors. According to an independent appraisal by the New York-based auction house Christie’s, the portion of the collection purchased with city funds is worth between $454 million and $867 million. Other independent appraisals have valued the collection at between $1 billion and $2 billion.

The Wedding Dance c. 1566 by Pieter Bruegel The Elder appraised at $100-$200 million.

The truth is, people love art and will do a lot to support arts and culture in a city in desperate need of economic revival. Art is good for the soul!

 

November 7, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

Treasure Trove of Missing Art

A newspaper box — seen in front of the Munich apartment building that is home to Cornelius Gurlitt, 80 — announces the discovery of 1,500 paintings that had been looted by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. Gurlitt had hoarded the missing modern works in his residence. His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, was an art dealer who had overseen the confiscations of what the Nazis termed "degenerate art." Lennart Preiss / Getty Images

Reported by the Associated Press:

AUGSBURG, Germany — A hoard of more than 1,400 artworks found by tax investigators in a German apartment includes a previously unknown piece by Marc Chagall and works by some of the masters of the 20th century, authorities said Tuesday. Some of the works are believed to have been missing since they were seized by the Nazis.

Ingo Kallis hangs art by German artist Max Pechstein during preparations for the “Degenerate Art” exhibit in Museum Junge Kunst in Frankfurt Oder. Patrick Pleul / European Pressphoto Agency

Investigators searched the apartment in an upscale Munich district in February 2012 as part of a tax investigation that started with a routine check on a Zurich-Munich train in late 2010.

Authorities said they found 121 framed and 1,285 unframed works — including works by 20th-century masters such as Pablo Picasso, Max Liebermann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and earlier works by artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustave Courbet, Auguste Renoir and Canaletto. The oldest work dates back to the 16th century.

Employee Ingo Kallis hangs the etching “The Match Seller” (1920), by German artist Otto Dix, during preparations for the “Degenerate Art” exhibit at Museum Junge Kunst in Frankfurt Oder, Germany. Through Jan. 26, the museum is showing a selection of degenerate art. Patrick Pleul / European Pressphoto Agency

Prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz told reporters in the Bavarian city of Augsburg that investigators have turned up “concrete evidence” that at least some of the works were seized from their owners by the Nazis or classed by them as “degenerate art” and seized from German museums in 1937 or shortly after.

A painting by the German Expressionist Franz Marc, projected during a news conference, was among hundreds of works discovered by German authorities in a Munich apartment during a tax investigation.

“Degenerate art” was largely modern or abstract works by artists that the regime of Adolf Hitler believed to be a corrupting influence on the German people.

Officials are investigating whether the suspect in the case was in wrongful possession of the paintings.

A self-portrait by Otto Dix.

The paintings were found in one room at the apartment, where they were “professionally stored and in a very good condition,” said Siegfried Kloeble, the head of the customs investigations office in Munich. He said it took a specialist company three days to remove the paintings from the apartment; officials refused to specify where they are being kept.

Kloeble said investigators “think it’s unlikely that any more paintings were stored elsewhere” by the suspect.

An unknown work by Marc Chagall.

Meike Hoffmann, an expert on “degenerate art” at Berlin’s Free University who is helping the investigation, presented pictures of a selection of works from the collection.

They included a painting by Chagall that Hoffmann said isn’t included in lists of the artist’s work.

“These cases are, of course, of particularly high art history significance for researchers,” she said. Experts haven’t yet been able to determine where the Chagall came from, she added, describing the research as “very, very difficult.”

Another work, possibly by Henri Matisse.

Hoffmann also presented an unlisted painting by Henri Matisse, apparently dating back to the 1920s.

“When you stand in front of the works, see the ones that were long thought to have been lost or destroyed and in a relatively good state — some of them dirty but not damaged — you have an incredible feeling of happiness,” Hoffmann said.

 

October 10, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

Forgotten Fabergé

A Fabergé statuette of Empress Alexandra’s Cossack bodyguard that has just been rediscovered and is up for auction. Photo: Walter Hill/lStair Galleries

According to The New York Times Arts Beat blog: Russian royals loved to collect figurines of their subjects. The Fabergé workshops produced about 50 sculptures in semiprecious stones and gold representing peasants, servants and the occasional Gypsy singer and street sweeper.

Two of the works, with glittering eyes and thick gray beards, realistically portrayed Imperial Cossack bodyguards. A depiction of Dowager Empress Marie’s servant Alexei A. Kudinov remains at Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg. A statuette of Empress Alexandra’s bodyguard, Nikolai N. Pustynnikov, was long thought lost.

A depiction of Dowager Empress Marie’s servant Alexei A. Kudinov at Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg

It was actually sitting in an attic in Rhinebeck, N.Y. In the 1930s, a Fabergé collector had acquired it in Manhattan from the dealer and industrialist Armand Hammer. It re-emerged this summer, with original receipts, when a descendant’s estate was cleaned out. Stair Galleries in Hudson, N.Y., will auction it on Oct. 26. (It is estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.)

Lillies of the Valley Egg, 1898 Image courtesy of The Forbes Collection

“This is really a major addition to the literature — it’s a historical discovery,” said Gerard Hill, a Fabergé specialist who researched it for Stair. Fabergé fakes have been proliferating lately, Mr. Hill added, but he is convinced that the forgotten Cossack is real. “The expression in the face — nobody can do that these days,” he said.

Fabergé artisans carved sardonyx, nephrite and cacholong to capture Pustynnikov’s careworn forehead, creased boots and chest medals.

The Coronation Egg, 1897 Image courtesy of The Forbes Collection

The figurine was part of mounds of Soviet booty that Hammer helped sell off to shore up the Communist regime with hard currency. According to “Selling Russia’s Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art, 1917-1938” (M. T. Abraham Center/Abbeville), a forthcoming book by nine Russian scholars, “Hammer effectively acted as the main intermediary in the efforts made by the Soviet government to ‘export the world revolution,’ a role which proved quite profitable.”

Objects that he imported, with czar provenance, have reappeared in the last few months. A two-inch metal cross brought $5,100 at a Skinner auction in Boston. An enameled icon painting of the Resurrection sold for $50,000 at Humler & Nolan in Cincinnati.

Hen Egg, 1885 Image courtesy of The Forbes Collection

More Imperial possessions are going on view in the next year. The Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is renovating a palace in St. Petersburg for his Fabergé collection. Another Russian billionaire, Alexander Ivanov, keeps adding to his Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. In November, an exhibition at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, “The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost,” will contain some of Hammer’s wares.

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September 19, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

Oppression Leads to Expression: Tibetan Art

What do you know about Tibet? I’m betting it’s not from what you’ve seen in the headlines about the small Asian country – because there haven’t been any. I have to admit, I am somewhat ignorant of the state of affairs in the country. Tibet has been under military occupation of China since 1951.

Tibet, www.abbeytreks.com

Tibet is largely isolated from the Western world. What we don’t see is that each day the lives of Tibetans are under attack. Past basic human rights violations, sources of pride and culture like the Tibetan flag and national anthem, are banned. Possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama can result in imprisonment, or torture. Expressing ones desire for freedom will result in detainment, and even torture.

Rabkar Wangchuk, Spiritual Mind and Modern Technology, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 78 x 48 inches, The Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection

So it is with excitement and haste that the Art World sees one of the the first Tibetan Art Exhibitions to come to the United States. From a country whose message we rarely hear, we may hear their voices perhaps only through their art. Curator Rachel Perera Weingeist reached out to Tibetan artists all over the world to create the exhibition, “Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art.” Creating the show as an anonymous comment from Tibetan artists, Weingeist believed more artists would be able to freely express what they experience under military oppression without fear of later consequences. To her surprise, the artists still chose to sign their names to each work, wanting to stand behind the image of Tibet they have chosen to share.

Anonymous: Tibetan Contmporary Art, absolutearts.com

The show is a candid reflection of modern Tibetan life featuring more than 50 sculptural works, paintings, mixed media, and film from 27 different artists. A vast majority of the exhibition’s themes center around the conflict between the Chinese and Tibetan governments. Under Chinese regime, Tibetan names are not even recognized to exist. On official identification, Tibetan names are replaced with “First Name Unknown” or “XXX.” This is the subject of one artist’s work in the exhibit, photographing an Identification Card, with all of the information complete, less the name, which reads “XXX.”

Jhamsang , "Mr. XXX," 2010, shambhalasun.com

As Stephanie Strasnick reports for ARTNews, the exhibition has at times a solemn tone, with still seeing hope in some of the artworks. Much of the work is a comment on the merging of the traditional Tibetan arts culture and the contemporary images we know in the Western world today.

      

Kesang Lamdark, "Dorge Drakkten", 2012, www.newpaltz.edu

Kesang Lamdark, "Dorge Drakkten and Kiss", 2012, shambhalasun.com

Funding and a majority of the artworks were generously loaned to the exhibition by Shelley and Donald Rubin, who donated a vast collection of Himalayan art to the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. “Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art” is on view at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz through December 15 and will travel to the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont and the
 Queens Museum of Art in New York next year.

 

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