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Art History

May 13, 2014 | Posted by | No Comments

Swiss Museum Inherits Looted WWII Art

Cornelius Gurlitt photo: CBS NEWS

Reported by CBS/AP: A Swiss museum has announced that it has been named the “unrestricted and unfettered sole heir” of a German art collector who, two years ago, was found hoarding more than 1,000 missing artworks in his Munich apartment. Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive 81-year-old son of one of Hitler’s favorite art dealers, died Tuesday. His collection of long-hidden artworks set off an uproar over the fate of art looted by the Nazis.

The Museum of Fine Arts Bern in Switzerland announced they were contacted by Gurlitt’s lawyer, Christoph Edel, and told the news. The museum expressed their shock in a written statement, saying “at no time” did Gurlitt have “any connection” to the museum.

“At the same time, (we) do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature,” it said in a statement.

All of the art in the collection was acquired by Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’s father. He was a leading art dealer chosen by Hitler to sell the art, most of which was stolen from the walls of museums, or from Jewish-owned galleries and collectors.

As Morley Safer reported in a 60 Minutes story last month (embedded below), German authorities stumbled upon Gurlitt’s collection in 2012 and what they found was astonishing: works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Max Beckmann – the largest cache of missing art found since World War II. Once the art was seized by authorities in February 2012, a legal battle ensued over who really owns the art.

In April, Gurlitt agreed to cooperate with authorities and return any artwork proven to be stolen to their rightful owners. So far, no artworks from the collection have been returned. Chris Marinello, a lawyer for the heirs of art dealer Paul Rosenberg who have claimed ownership of a painting by Matisse found in Gurlitt’s apartment, is buoyed by Wednesday’s announcement. Before Cornelius Gurlitt’s death, his lawyers said it was his intent to return the painting by Matisse to Paul Rosenberg’s family. Marinello believes that deal will be honored and the Rosenberg family expects the painting, now worth an estimated $20 million, to be returned soon. Marinello says, “Let’s hope German authorities will expedite this process to make up for two years of missteps since the hoard was first discovered.”

Of Gurlitt’s bequest to The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Marninello went on to say, “Under no circumstances should this collection be known as the Gurlitt collection. It was assembled only due to the persecution and horrors of the Holocaust.”


April 10, 2014 | Posted by | 1 Comment

The Largest Outdoor Art Show

Nighthawks, 1942 Edward Hopper The Art Institute of Chicago

Reported by Deborah Vankin/LA Times:

Among the denim-clad glamour girls and blockbuster movie stars staring down from the billboards of the Sunset Strip, images of great American artworks will be displayed this summer in what organizers are calling “the largest outdoor art show ever conceived.”

Five museums — the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York — have come together with the Outdoor Advertising Assn. of America to execute Art Everywhere, a sweeping, interactive art campaign.

American Gothic, 1930 Grant Wood The Art Institute of Chicago

Along with billboards in Hollywood, the images will be displayed in Times Square and bus stops, subway platforms and signs around the country.

The public is invited to vote on its favorite American artworks from a master list of 100 that the museums have curated from their combined collections, the frenetic color-drippings of Jackson Pollock and the fluid curves of Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil blossoms among them. The 50 most popular images will then be featured throughout August on about 50,000 billboards and signs in select U.S. cities.

Classic Landscape, 1931 Charles Sheeler National Gallery of Art

The campaign, which follows a similar program in England last year, may be a publicity play for the museums, but it’s also an effort to raise awareness of art nationwide.

Untitled, 2008 Cindy Sherman Whitney Museum of American Art

“Images out of sight may be out of mind,” LACMA Director Michael Govan said. “Art Everywhere puts marvelously diverse American ideas and stories told through images in the open air with public involvement — reminding us of the many more great images that are accessible in our museums.”

The Water Fan, 1898/99 Winslow Homer The Art Institute of Chicago

Voters will be asked to consider not just paintings but photographs, multimedia works, drawings on paper and decorative objects from the 18th century to 2008. Grant Wood’s now-iconic “American Gothic,” of a rigid-looking farmer clutching a pitchfork beside his daughter, was nominated by the Art Institute of Chicago. LACMA’s black and white John Baldessari photograph from the mid-’60s, “Wrong,” is also in the mix.

Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth, c. 1890 Martin Johnson Heade National Gallery of Art

“In a way, it’s a mini history of American art — and an opportunity for people to identify which works resonate for them personally,” said Dallas Museum of Art Director Maxwell L. Anderson. “I hope families and individuals will have a fresh look at our collective cultural heritage and see the potential in their lives of visiting museums and appreciating great works of art.”

White Center, 1957 Mark Rothko Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Voting will take place at, where the final list of artworks will be announced June 20. Among the artists whose works are on the ballot: Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Ed Ruscha, Catherine Opie, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Frank Lloyd Wright.

PH-143, (1955-No.2), 1955 Clyfford Still Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“The beauty of this project,” Govan said, “is that we can share these masterpieces of American art with people all around L.A. and the rest of the country — no admission necessary.”


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.



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