December 17, 2000
- National Museum lauds retrieval of ancient piece (Theft of
artifacts is hard to control, but the war was a free-for-all)
- Chinese terra-cotta warriors create stir in Taiwan
- query: MUSEUM SLEEPOVER and safety
- British art trade fears losses after tax setback
- Fathers of Confederation artist vandalized his own painting
- Yarrow Offers Reward for Guitar
- Romania blocks auction of famed Brancusi sculpture
- Key to art Nazis stole may be locked away (Commission's plan
to publish postwar loss claims in peril)
- French court holds Nazi-looted art as evidence
- Soviet mole routed art to National Gallery (Curators to study
whether paintings were wartime loot)
- THE ART NEWSPAPER TOURS THE HERMITAGES SECRET
STORE OF TROPHY ART (Art Newspaper's this week's top
National Museum lauds retrieval of ancient piece
Salameh: 'Theft of artifacts is hard to control, but the war was a
free-for-all' Zeina Mobassaleh Daily Star staff
The National Museum held a ceremony on Thursday to celebrate
the retrieval from Vienna of an artifact stolen from the Eshmoun
Temple during the war. The piece, a 46-cm high Hellenistic female
bust, dates back to the third century BC. It belonged to the temple of
Eshmoun, near Sidon. Eshmoun, the god of health, was thought to
protect local children from death. "The theft of a country's artifacts
is hard to control to begin with, but the war was a free-for- all for
these kinds of things because of the absence of government at the
time," said Culture Minister Ghassan Salameh. Academics, government
officials, artists, gallery owners, and members of UNESCO poured into
the museum to hear the minister speak and view the long-lost artifact.
"All my work is influenced by heritage and history," said artist
Simone Fattal. "This piece is an important part of our country's
culture and I will learn from it." The bust is of particular interest
to archaeologists and enterprising thieves because of the type of
marble, sculpting technique, and its age. Its estimated worth is in
the "thousands of dollars," according to museum curator Suzy Hakimian.
She called the retrieval of such items of national heritage a rare
occurrence, and speculated that thousands of artifacts are still
missing, with only a dozen having been retrieved in the last five
years. Most, including this piece, have been reclaimed largely due to
the efforts of a dedicated archaeologist: Rolph Stucky. The Swiss
researcher spent 10 years in Lebanon before the war, studying Eshmoun
Temple and its hundreds of artifacts. About five years ago, he decided
to create an internet site and post a list of some 200 stolen pieces.
By using Stucky's website, gallery owners can recognize if a piece has
been stolen from the country's collection. Usually, they will even
return them free of charge. Thus far, eight items have been returned,
and Salameh says he is optimistic that the returns will continue. "To
recuperate these objects you need to combine three things," he said.
"First, a knowledge of what has been lost, second, a clear- cut
determination on the diplomatic and judicial levels, and then the
cooperation of friends, such as Stucky." According to the minister,
the country's heritage was well-documented before the war, but
international mechanisms for retrieval still needs to be fortified.
According to Joseph Phares, the president of the International Council
of Monuments and Sites, a non-governmental organization dedicated to
the recuperation of national heritage, international law in this arena
is lacking. In coordination with UNESCO, his group is organizing an
international meeting to create the needed legislation. "A lot more
people can benefit from the recuperation of these pieces," he said.
"It's much better to have this artifact in the museum here. This way
it can be studied and help form a better understanding of a country's
Chinese terra-cotta warriors create stir in Taiwan
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- The largest overseas exhibit of China's
famed terra-cotta warriors opened in Taipei on Friday, an event that
some Taiwanese greeted with pride and others with careful neutrality.
More than 3,000 tickets were sold an hour after the exhibit opened.
Schoolchildren, retirees, housewives and others jostled to see the 17
terra-cotta warriors, horses and pieces of bronze, jade and silver
from central China's Shaanxi province. "I've only just read about this
in books, and now it's all here to show all of us that we share one
culture and history," said 28-year old housewife Chiang Su-hsuan, as
she pointed at an impeccably polished terra-cotta horse.
From: Gene Hickman firstname.lastname@example.org
One of our Museum support groups is planning a "sleep over" at
the Museum. They will have some activities in the evening, sleep over
night on cots in our education spaces and leave the following morning.
The participants will be several family groups including children of
Has anyone in our Mailing List had any experience with
this sort of thing? Any security advice?
Chrysler Museum of Art
British art trade fears losses after tax setback
BY DALYA ALBERGE, ARTS CORRESPONDENT
THE British art trade expressed concern yesterday after the European Parliament ended agreements designed to preserve London’s art market from a punitive levy on resold works.
For more than three years the Government has campaigned on behalf of dealers and auctioneers, arguing that the proposed droite de suite levy will drive up the cost of doing business in London, seriously damage the art market and cost thousands of jobs.
The levy is designed to benefit artists and their estates. It would be imposed on the resale price of all works of art for 70 years after the artist’s death.
Earlier this year, changes to the levy were agreed in an attempt to preserve London’s position. It was agreed that the levy would start at 4 per cent for works up to about £31,000, falling progressively to 0.25 per cent for that portion of the price exceeding £310,000.
It was also decided that the maximum levy that could be paid on any single work of art would be 12,500 euros (£7,600). The original agreement also guaranteed that London would stay tax-free for five years.
The agreements, it was hoped, would help London to preserve its valuable art market and prevent it decamping to New York or Geneva.
The European Parliament’s latest amendments threaten that balance. Discussing the amendments, Anthony Browne, of the British Art Market Federation, said: “They seem to have removed the cap on the total amount of royalties payable and have taken away the lowest percentage bands for the more valuable works of art. All in all, the Parliament’s amendments have pushed back most of the gains made during the process of negotiations.” Mr Brown expressed particular dismay that the transitional period has been reduced from five years to two years.
The European Commission says that 250,000 European artists would benefit from the adoption of droite de suite. But the British art trade claims that it will drive vendors to New York or Switzerland and cost up to 8,500 jobs.
Earlier this year, research showed that, even with travel costs, it would be worth taking works of art valued at more than £13,000 to Switzerland for sale and those worth more than £20,000 to America to avoid paying droite de suite on a sale in an EU country.
While some artists are opposing the system, concerned about the negative effects of the tax on their market, the Design and Artists Copyright Society, a non-profit national collecting society for the visual arts, has taken a different view. For years, it has campaigned for such a levy because most artists are living on the breadline.
They argue that high-profile artists such as Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread are among the few who make good livings from their art.
Artists supporting the levy argue that it is really a royalty, not a tax. Unlike photographers or illustrators, who earn a living from reproduction rights, artists creating unique pieces say that they cannot benefit from repeat sales — particularly upsetting as they may have sold the works for a pittance early in their careers.
Peter Blake, the pop artist, has recalled how large paintings which he sold in the mid-1950s for less than £25 now sell for “a great deal”.
He said: “It would be nice to have a part of that.”
A survey funded by the Arts Council found that 37 per cent of artists earn less than £5,000 a year.
Fathers of Confederation artist vandalized his own painting
THE ARTS REPORT - CBC Radio
CHARLOTTETOWN - A painting surrounded by controversy has
been returned to its artist/owner. Last spring, someone wrote "No
Graff No Freedom No Fathers" across the bottom of a painting by John
MacCallum. The painting was on display in the gallery of the
Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown at the time. The
slogan referred to the non-renewal of then gallery director Terry
Graff's contract. Now MacCallum says he was responsible for defacing
his own work: "Just the thing that I had to do. I woke up with the
idea in my head that morning and that was it. I knew it had to go on
there and that's the way it is. "I could picture the painting already
like that and I was counting on their response, which I knew would be
completely negative." MacCallum says he was also upset with the centre
for not paying his artist exhibition fees on time. Those fees have
since been paid in full. Curtis Barlow, the outgoing executive
director of the centre, says the gallery paid MacCallum's exhibition
fees after it received his invoices.
Yarrow Offers Reward for Guitar
.c The Associated Press
BURBANK, Calif. (AP) - Folk singer Peter Yarrow of the group
Peter, Paul and Mary is offering a $500 reward for the return of his
guitar. Yarrow, 62, said the John Larrivee six-string guitar has
extraordinary sound and is an irreplaceable part of the group's
musical legacy. He lost the guitar on a Delta Airlines flight from
Washington, D.C. to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. about two weeks ago, said
Alisse Kingsly, spokeswoman for Warner Bros. Records. The instrument
was in a black case with Yarrow's name on the outside, Kingsly said.
Romania blocks auction of famed Brancusi sculpture
By PETER BARABAS The Associated Press 12/16/00 7:38 PM
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Romania's government has
intervened to stop a private auction in New York City of a prized
sculpture it says left the country illegally, a Romanian official said
Saturday. Romania's consul in New York, Eugen Serbanescu, said in a
telephone interview that Christie's auction house had agreed to
postpone the sale of the bronze sculpture by Constantin Brancusi until
its export status is resolved. Christie's spokesman Joel Gunderson
confirmed the $11 million sculpture had been due to be sold at a
private auction next week. "We managed to stop the sale at the last
minute," Serbanescu said. He said the sale was scheduled for Monday
and authorities do not know the sculpture's location. "We are willing
to accede to your request to block and postpone the sale of the
sculpture until such time that this matter can be resolved," said
Serbanescu, quoting from a letter from Christie's. Gunderson, who
spoke to The Associated Press before being contacted by Serbanescu,
was unreachable later Saturday to confirm that the sale was being
stopped. It is not the first time the cubist figurine of painter
Margit Pogany, called Mademoiselle Pogany, with its huge eyes and oval
face has caused a stir. Its exhibition in 1913 in New York along with
works by painter Pablo Picasso helped signal the birth of cubism. In a
1998 art catalogue, Romania's top Brancusi expert Brabu Brezianu
called the 18-inch bronze "one of the most famous and most daring
portraits of the 20th century." In a letter, Christie's said that it
thought the sculpture had left Romania legally, Serbanescu said. Its
apparent departure has caused an uproar in Romania's art world.
Culture Minister Ion Caramitru said the sculpture's owners had not
requested permission to export it. "This would be theft ... a terrible
loss for Romania," he said. Under Romanian law, art works considered
part of the national patrimony can only be exported with written
permission from the state. The law is under revision, and it is not
clear what punishment people breaking it can expect. Caramitru said he
was alerted to the sculpture possibly being in New York by a newspaper
article. He wrote to the owners, international art collectors
Alexandru and Alvaro Botez, but they declined to provide information.
The brothers, who are said to have homes in various countries,
inherited it from Cecilia Cutescu Storck, a Romanian art collector.
Brancusi himself gave her the work. Phone calls to one of their homes
in Oslo, Norway went unanswered. Caramitru said he worked frantically
Thursday and Friday to locate the sculpture, and has informed
Interpol, and Romania's police and customs offices that it is being
Key to art Nazis stole may be locked away (Commission's plan to
publish postwar loss claims in peril) By Ron Grossman Tribune Staff Writer December 17, 2000
COLLEGE PARK, Md. --
As a government commission on Holocaust reparations prepares to issue its ure, household effects, rare books, Jewish religious materials, musical instruments, antiques, stamp and butterfly collections, as well as fine art.
Beginning earlier this year, researchers for the commission—some of them college students, others professors with expertise in art history—had been sorting through that great mass and typing into a computer the relevant data for works of art.
"It would be a very, very useful instrument," said Ori Soltes, chairman of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, a Washington-based group that aids families looking for property lost during the war, "especially now that American museums have acknowledged their responsibility to publicly account for their holdings and to publish the results of their research on the Web."
The documents the commission had been processing record the disappearance during World War II of such significant works of modern art as Henri Matisse's "Odalisque in Red Pants" and Pierre Bonnard's "Breakfast."
Those documents also witness the pain of Holocaust survivors looking for property stolen by the Nazis, who used the war as an opportunity to loot fine art from their victims on a scale unprecedented in history. In 1945, Hans Feist filed a claim for a painting by the German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach confiscated from his family in Germany. His brother had died in a concentration camp, whil
e Feist had been allowed to leave the country, but at a cost. "Before our emigration, I paid approximately half a million for the 'Judgnabgabe' (Jew tax)," he wrote to U.S. military authorities, "a sort of ransom which had to be paid before it was possible to leave Germany."
A GI on occupation duty in postwar Europe put in a claim for a Courbet painting. "It was owned by my mother," wrote Captain Ulrich E. Biel, "who was deported by the Nazis, late 1942, from her home at Berlin, Rankestr. 9, because she was Jewish. To the best of my knowledge, she has been killed."
A chain of events
Ironically, the Presidential Commission's database could go unfinished even as it has pressured the museum world for greater candor on the issue of looted art. In its final report, the commission will announce that it has negotiated more rigid standards for public disclosure of works that were in Europe during the Nazi era, and thus possibly could have been looted, with the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors, which between them enroll most of the country's museums.
"The American government has called upon the art world to make records of the whereabouts of art during World War II both available and accessible," said Anne Webber, co-chairman of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which is working with Oxford University to establish a clearing house for records pertaining to the issue. "That database would be an important part of our effort."
In recent years, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Seattle Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum and Princeton University have either returned works of art to families that lost them during the Holocaust or negotiated financial settlements with them.
The issue first drew widespread attention in America when the Art Institute participated in an out-of-court settlement of a dispute between one of its trustees, Daniel Searle, who had purchased a Degas painting, "Landscape with Smokestacks" that once belonged to Frederich and Louise Guttmann, who perished in the Holocaust.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Menil Collection in Houston and the Art Institute of Chicago are currently evaluating similar claims that works stolen from Jewish collectors in Europe during World War II afterward found their way into the American art market.
That illicit trade might have been nipped in the bud and looted works returned to their former owners decades earlier had Holocaust survivors' claim forms been available in the immediate postwar years. Indeed, that seems to have been the intention of Ardelia Hall, a crusading State Department official, who collected the mass of documents from which the commission was building its database.
Korte, who has plowed through the material during his research on behalf of Holocaust survivors, said that some current disputes could have been settled earlier, or even avoided, had those documents been made available earlier and in a more accessible form.
Among those records are prewar inventories of the Paul Rosenberg Gallery, a leading Parisian art dealer and the representative of such important artists as Matisse and Picasso. The Rosenberg Gallery was a prime target of Nazi looters after the fall of France in 1940, according to historians of the period.
Ever since the war, the Rosenberg family has been searching for missing works, one of which, Matisse's "Odalisque," was recently returned by the Seattle museum. The family was able to track the painting down only because of a fluke chain of events. In 1995, Hector Feliciano published "The Lost Museum," one of the first book-length studies of the problem of looted art, for which Elaine Rosenberg, Paul Rosenberg's daughter-in-law, lent a photograph of the missing Matisse work. When it appeared, her daughter happened to show the book to a friend, who happened to be the nephew of the Seattle collector who had purchased the painting and eventually donated it to the Seattle museum.
The Rosenbergs' recovery of the Matisse conceivably could have taken place much earlier had documents Hall collected been available to art galleries and auction houses. In 1954, the painting passed through the Knoedler Gallery in New York on its way to the Seattle collector. The gallery or purchaser might have been reluctant to handle the work, had it been public knowledge that it had been looted during the Nazi era.
'A great sin'
During World War II, aware of Nazi looting, the U.S. government imposed strict rules for the importation of artworks into this country. The OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, also compiled a list of European art dealers who were aiding the Nazis in funneling looted paintings and sculptures into the international art market. Both the FBI and postal inspectors monitored communications between European dealers with Nazi connections and galleries in Latin America and the U.S. American officials were concerned that looted art was being smuggled along a clandestine route that led from Nazi-occupied Europe through neutral Switzerland to the Americas.
In 1944, an FBI agent monitored links between New York art dealers and Hans Wendland, a dealer in Switzerland with Nazi connections. In a report now on deposit in the National Archives, the agent reported: "Evidence one picture smuggled into U.S. via Diplomatic Pouch."
That same year, postal inspectors intercepted correspondence between dealers in New York and Mexico about arrangements to surreptitiously bring a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Pisanello into the U.S. The investigator reported that the U.S. dealer cautioned his correspondent, "even the name of the painter of the 'Pink Lady' is not to appear in future correspondence."
By 1946, however, both the government and the art world were anxious to be free of import regulations. New York had become the postwar center of the art market, and American institutions were anxious to fill gaps in their collections with works from Europe. Francis Taylor, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote to the governmental agency charged with monitoring looted art, saying the continuation of customs controls, "will lead to frustration and enmity on the part of the trade which will result in disadvantage to all the institutions involved."
Accordingly, the U.S. government did suspend import regulations on art, but over the vigorous protests of Hall, the State Department's arts and monuments adviser. Hall also fought running battles with the U.S. Army, which had been in charge of returning looted art in postwar Europe. By 1950, the Army was winding up those efforts and shipping claim forms filed by Holocaust survivors to dead storage in military archives. Hall, though, succeeded in having those claims forms transferred to her office, where microfilms were made of them before the originals went into storage. According to Erin Rodgers, a researcher with the Holocaust Commission, Hall wanted to make those records publicly available.
"Hall saw that a great sin was being committed," said Masurovsky, "and she thought that the government should have done something about it,"
For some reason that didn't happen, and upon Hall's retirement in the 1960s, the documents she had collected went into federal archives. There they remained, largely unknown except to a handful of specialists and difficult even for them to use, because they were not organized or indexed. Claims for works of art were mixed in with others for less valuable materials. Then this summer, researchers for the Presidential Commission began the ambitious project of sorting through that mass of material, with the intention of producing the first, computer-searchable database of Nazi-looted art. But with the commission's congressional mandate due to expire at the end of December, the fate of the project remains very much up in the air, despite its potential to solve the puzzle of what happened to so many important works of artworks missing since World War II.
"This isn't just about helping families who suffered losses; there is also so much history of what went on that needs to be written," said Webber. "This is about history."
French court holds Nazi-looted art as evidence
PARIS (AP) -- A French court said Thursday it would not yet return a
painting looted by the Nazis during World War II to a Jewish art-
collecting family, because it wants to use the work as evidence in a
trial. The Schloss family had asked that the painting -- "Portrait of
the Pastor Adrianus Tegularius," by Dutch master Franz Hals -- be
returned ahead of the trial of the New York gallery owner who bought
it 11 years ago. Adam Williams, owner of Newhouse Galleries, bought
the painting from Christie's auction house in 1989. He is to be tried
in France next year for "receiving stolen goods." Williams, who has
said he did not know the masterpiece had been looted, has agreed to
return the painting to the Schloss family. Christie's has already
reimbursed him for the purchase. But the court said Thursday it wanted
to keep the masterpiece as evidence. It will rule during Williams'
trial on whether to return the painting, which was part of a vast
collection owned by a well-known art connoisseur Adolphe Schloss. Of
the 333 paintings from the Schloss collection looted during the war,
more than half have been tracked down. A Schloss family member
recognized the Hals painting as part of the collection when it was
shown at a Paris exhibition in 1990. It was then seized by police.
Judicial officials said Williams, if found guilty, could face five
years in jail and a $416,700 fine. A French court initially threw out
the case in 1996. But the Court of Cassation, the country's highest
court, reopened it in 1998.
Soviet mole routed art to National Gallery (Curators to study
whether paintings were wartime loot)
Isabel Vincent National Post
The National Gallery of Canada says it will investigate the
provenance of some of its most important post-war acquisitions
after the National Post found they were purchased on the advice of a
British art connoisseur who was later unmasked as a Soviet spy.
Anthony Blunt, better known as the Fourth Man in a ring of upper-
class British double agents who worked for the Soviet Union during the
Cold War, was paid an honorarium of at least $1,000 a year by the
gallery to advise its board on European acquisitions after the Second
World War. Blunt drew on a network of fellow spies who acted as art
dealers in Europe to make some of his acquisitions for the National
Gallery. At least one of his contacts, Tomas Harris, is suspected of
having dealt in art looted from Spain by the Soviet- backed republican
side during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. Besides being an
expert on Spanish art, Harris was an agent for MI6, the British
counter- intelligence agency, during the Second World War -- and
historians also suspect him of spying for the Soviets. He sold the
National Gallery several paintings, both with and without Blunt's
collaboration. Harris made several trips to Spain during the civil war
and allegedly profited from the sale of art looted by Soviet-backed
troops. The art was stolen from monasteries, museums and galleries and
sold to a network of dealers in London, Brussels and Paris. The
profits went to the Soviet army to finance its aid to the Spanish
republicans. Despite Blunt's dubious contacts and his own treacherous
history, which was revealed in 1979 by the British prime minister of
the time, Margaret Thatcher, the National Gallery has not included any
of the works he was involved in purchasing for it as part of its list
of 106 paintings with gaps in provenance -- their history of ownership
-- from the 1930s and 1940s. The National Gallery plans to publish the
list on Dec. 29 to ascertain whether any of the paintings were looted
by Nazis from Jews in countries occupied by the Third Reich. The
publication of the list is a response to speculation that galleries
around the world might unwittingly have benefited from art stolen by
the Nazis and sold through middlemen in Paris, London, Brussels and
Amsterdam during and immediately after the Second World War. Though
national institutions around the world are researching the provenances
of works acquired during the Second World War, so far there have been
no similar efforts to track down work looted from Spain between 1936
and 1939. "One thing that one should remember is that the National
Gallery published catalogues of its complete collections in the 1950s
and then again in the 1980s," said Pierre Théberge, director of the
National Gallery in Ottawa. He added the gallery will investigate
works acquired by Blunt to determine whether there are gaps in
ownership. "Anyone actively searching for these paintings would have
had access to this information. We were one of the few galleries in
the world to publish our complete collections," Mr. Théberge said.
During the time the National Gallery made its greatest acquisitions in
Europe, paintings looted by the Nazis and by the Soviet-backed side in
Spain were being sold by dozens of dealers in Europe, who were
unloading some of the world's greatest masterpieces at rock- bottom
prices. In 1937, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, Harris
sold the National Gallery a painting by Spanish artist Jusepe Leonardo
titled St. John the Baptist. According to the National Gallery's
records, the painting was in an unnamed private collection in England
before being acquired by Harris. Before that, there is a gap of more
than 40 years. The earliest provenance records from the gallery show
St. John was in the possession of Count Pedro Daupias in Lisbon at the
turn of the century. "As far as we are aware, the painting was in
England since 1892, and this is what we know for a fact based on the
provenance," Mr. Théberge said. On the advice of Blunt, the National
Gallery acquired Augustus and Cleopatra in 1953. At the time, the
painting was attributed to the French painter Nicolas Poussin. Blunt,
a world-renowned Poussin expert, helped the gallery buy the painting
for $500 from Harris's Spanish Art Gallery in London. The rather
sketchy provenance suggests Harris acquired the painting in 1938;
before that it was in an unnamed private collection in Britain. Blunt
also advised the National Gallery on the purchase of Abraham and the
Three Angels, by 17th-century Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban
Murillo. Though the painting was not acquired through Harris in
London, it does have a questionable provenance. The painting,
commissioned to adorn a hospital in Murillo's native Seville, was
looted by Napoleonic troops during their rampage through Europe. Blunt
also advised the National Gallery on J. M. W. Turner's Mercury and
Argus, which it purchased in 1951, and on the 1949 purchase of
Lamentation, by the Flemish master Quinten Matsys. Neither of these
paintings appears to have a suspect provenance, nor were they
purchased through Harris's London gallery.
Subject: THE ART NEWSPAPER TOURS THE HERMITAGES
SECRET STORE OF TROPHY ART
The Art Newspaper.com
This week's top stories (abbreviated weekly Art Newspaper
The Art Newspaper tours the Hermitage's secret store of trophy art
800 Western paintings, great Chinese frescoes and archaeological treasures kept in attic
By John Varoli
ST PETERSBURG. On the top floor of the Hermitage is one of the museum's spetskhran, or "special storage areas", where part of Russia's World War II trophy art taken from Germany is kept. Until recently, it was only accessible to the museum's director and the curator immediately responsible for the art.
The Art Newspaper has been among the first publications granted access to this once top-secret cache which for half a century, as hostage to the Soviet government's mania for secrecy, hid some of the greatest works of art from the eyes of the world.
"For the past 55 years none of these works has ever been or studied by scholars," said Boris Asvarishch, curator of the Hermitage's department of the History of West European Art, as he enters a room containing nearly 800 paintings, most taken from Berlin museums and palaces after the war.
"As you can see, we don't store our art in dusty basements as the media often claims," he adds. "The conditions here are satisfactory for preservation."
Three racks of paintings, each two storeys high, occupy this room of about 40 square-metres. Built in the 19th century, like most of the Hermitage, it lacks modern temperature monitoring equipment and climate control.
"This is a problem of all old museums, and while ours might not be ideal, the situation is under control and no works of art are damaged in storage," said Vladimir Matveyev, the Hermitage's deputy director who overseas building maintenance. "The most important thing is not to allow sudden changes in temperature, and the walls of the Hermitage are thick enough so that this does not happen."
Most of the trophy art is planned to be transferred to the Hermitage's modern storage site, in the north part of the city, when it is completed in probably several years time-if funding can be found to complete the half-finished structure.
Some of the paintings are damaged, but Hermitage officials said most of this occurred during World War II when they were in storage in German bunkers.
The finest works among the trophy paintings are the Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Monet, and Picasso, are already on display in the Hermitage. But among the ones in storage are an El Greco, and works by the school of Titian, Tintoretto, and Rubens. Most came from leading, private collections such as that of German industrialists Otto Gerstenberg and Otto Krebs.
The origins of some paintings, however, are unknown, but a few come from the personal collection of Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazi officials.
"Germany has already been given a full list of what we have, so there are no secrets here," said Dr Asvarishch.
One floor down, on the Hermitage's second floor, in the vicinity of major exhibits, there is another spetskhran for nearly 6,000 items of Asian art, most taken from the Museum of East Asian Art in Berlin. They too have spent the past half century in obscurity, but will now be studied.
"We have not thrown the doors of the spetskhran wide open, but we are willing to let scholars come and study them," said Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage.
Among the greater works of art are 8th- and 9th-century wall murals from a Buddhist monastery in western China, all of which are still in the metal boxes the Soviet army used to transport them.
"They were believed destroyed or lost during the war, but they are here," said Anatoly Ivanov, curator of Middle Eastern art at the Hermitage. "All these items will be studied, but we do not expect any major discoveries because German scholars had sufficiently studied them before the war."
These could be sections of the frescoes removed from the Bezeklik temple site at the beginning of the 1900s by German archaeologist Albert Von Le Coq. Von Le Coq rediscovered these caves near Turfan in Xinjiang province and took 24 tons of their contents back to Europe in three trips. Later, British archaeologist Aural Stein also removed antiquities from Bezelik, these treasures are now in the stores of National Museum in Delhi, leaving almost nothing at the site.
If these are indeed the Bezeklik murals, their rediscovery will have a huge impact on the study of Asian antiquities.
Other items in storage are hundreds of 18th- and 19th-century Japanese silk paintings, as well as various Japanese and Chinese decorative art and household items.
Finally, on the museum's first floor, with a view on the embankment closely guarded by thick metal bars, Yuri Piotrovsky, deputy head of the department for East European and Siberian archeology, and first cousin to the director, talks about the hundreds of archaeological trophy artefacts in his care.
Nearly 400 pieces of the Schlieman collection of Trojan artifacts are here. Of a total 9,000 items in the Schlieman collection, about 6,000 are now in Berlin, with another 300-the most priceless gold artifacts-in Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Arts. About 2,000 have been lost, says Dr Piotrovsky.
The other items in this department are from Roman, Celtic, and Merovingian civilisations. The last is comprised of a large collection of several hundred items that Hermitage officials would like to put on display with their colleagues from Berlin's Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte, perhaps in 2002.
"There needs to be a joint effort to study these items to establish definitively what we have and what has been lost," said Yuri Piotrovsky.
Outcry as Polish actor slashes Nazi portraits
Exhibition of film stills of actors in Nazi uniform is closed
By Georgina Adam
WARSAW. One of Poland's best known actors and film stars is currently under police investigation and faces a possible prison sentence for slashing a portrait of himself, in an exhibition last year in Warsaw's leading contemporary art gallery.
The events happened shortly after "The Nazis" opened at the publicly funded Gallery Zachenta. The show consisted of an uncaptioned series of photographs of actors in Nazi uniform, taken from film stills without the actors agreement, by the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski.
Accompanied by TV cameramen and reporters and as the cameras rolled, the actor Daniel Olbrychski, featured in one of the portraits, entered the gallery, pulled a sword from under his greatcoat and slashed some of the exhibits, then tore the two featuring himself from the wall and left. The choice of the sword was significant: it was one used in a film about a swashbuckling Polish hero and patriot Kmicic.
Mr Olbrychski later declared: "I defend the right to say that there are some frontiers of decency which were clearly overstepped in this exhibition, and I reacted violently in the hope that my gesture will highlight my objections. I did it in the spotlight of the camera and flashlights because I wanted for Poland to know about my feeling about such 'artistic practices'. Furthermore I received the agreement of other actors whose portraits were in the show, including the French film star Jean-Paul Belmondo who agreed that I should protest in their name. I can understand that there are opportunistic artists but I cannot understand why the director of such a serious institution as Zachenta has accepted this. Soon Mrs Anda Rottenberg [the director] will organise an exhibition at which she will expose the faces of known actors on lavatory paper because she considers that as we are public figures she is entitled to do so. It is unthinkable."
Mrs Rottenberg riposted, "In my opinion the artist Olbrisky is suffering from a lack of popularity and therefore created an event so that he should be in the news. This was vengeance against defenceless creation," and called the police, who closed the show.
The controversy continued after Poland's Minister of Culture, Kazimierz Ujazdowski, weighed in and called for it to be reopened, but on condition that it was accompanied by a commentary explaining the role of Nazism and the meaning of the exhibition. He added that national cultural institutions must not be the place of exhibitions which could be interpreted as praise for Nazism. With Poland (where painful memories of the brutal German World War II occupation are still fresh) following events day by day, a leading academic, Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski, noted that, "In films Nazis are presented as impeccable. They are clean, in well-pressed uniforms; the actors associated with these roles personify the Fascist vision of superman".
However, in an open letter 15 Polish artists and critics declared that, "It is in bad faith to interpret the exhibition as a glorification of Fascism; it draws attention to the undoubted fascination of cinema and mass media with Hitler's henchmen". The show has already been seen without incident in London, Berlin and Frankfurt, and some of the works have been acquired by the New York Jewish Museum. Finally, curator Adam Szymczyk, following the artist's request, decided to close the show.
Uklanski had refused to make changes, explaining that, "It is a restriction of the freedom of speech when the Ministry of Culture makes decisions about the programmes in cultural institutions financed by public money, and which, in principle, are independent".
“An insult to forgery”
An Indonesian art auction of Modern Masters is postponed
By Jonathan Napack, email@example.com
JAKARTA. Indonesia is a big country and everything about it is larger than life; its despots, its riots and, apparently, its art frauds.
Those used to the cultural desert Jakarta became under Suharto would have been delighted to arrive at the capital’s five-star Regent Hotel last November. In the hotel’s ballroom, auctioneers Batavia and Amana,supported by the Jakarta Arts Council, were offering over 100 paintings by the likes of Van Gogh, Degas and Picasso, valued at millions of dollars.
But those who looked closely smelled a rat. Many works were labelled “seems to be by” or “inspired by”. "Observation on this oil painting… indicates an old painting," said one certificate. Press releases listed prices of up to $4 million, although some paintings were privately offered for as little as R13 million ($1,430).
It turned out that Batavia and Amana had been founded just eight months earlier by a shadowy figure known as Syahdam. The Jakarta Arts Council, while better known, was only founded two years ago. Its expert Soelebar Sukarman, recruited for the sale, tried to counter the rising outcry by arguing that “emotions” were more important than provenance. The National Museum, however, was more canny—it refused a “gift”of a “Van Gogh” sketch which bore the signature “Vincent.”
After the press dove into the controversy, Sinta Nuriyah, wife of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, cancelled a scheduled appearance at the exhibition. Finally, just hours before the sale, Batavia and Amana gave up, announcing it was “postponing” it for three months.
“They were facing a very disgruntled public,” says art critic Amir Sidharta. “People came hoping to see masterpieces and instead they got a bunch of 100% bogus art. It was an insult to forgery.”
Other sources, speaking off the record, said the auction was apparently organised by speculators who had bought these works during the salad days of
the early- to mid-1990s and were hoping to get rid of their now depreciated mistakes. They pointed to the highly suspicious role of the Jakarta Arts Council, suggesting many of its members had been such collectors.
“You don’t discount any possibility,” says Sidharta. “After all, this is Indonesia.”
Thieves take Rodins from museum storeroom
Rodins given to commemorate the siege of Stalingrad
By John Varoli
ST PETERSBURG. At the beginning of November, two bronze Rodin statues were stolen from the Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad in the south Russian city of Volgograd.
The statues, “Jealousy” and “A Kiss” (Rodin's own replica of the famous marble statue by the same name in the Musée Rodin in Paris) were given to the people of Stalingrad in 1945 by French citizen, West Maccot, in recognition of the city’s heroic resistance to the Nazi onslaught. The siege of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles of the World War II, and the turning point on the eastern front.
According to the Kommersant newspaper, Russia’s leading daily, Ms Maccot purchased the statues at auction in Paris in 1901. The museum gained possession of the statues in 1984, and since then they have been in storage and never on public view.
The theft appears to have been carried out by two men who remained in the museum after it closed, and then made their way to the storage area where the alarm had already been turned off, which police have taken as evidence that the theft was an inside job.
Museum officials are refusing to comment on the incident, but according to St Petersburg press reports, police believe that an attempt will be made to sell the statues abroad, if this has not already been done.
"Appropriation" art may land museums in hot water
By Martha Lufkin
NEW YORK. In a lawsuit filed against two museums, a university press, "appropriation" artist Barbara Kruger and others, questions are being raised about the legal consequences of making and exhibiting collages alleged to contain copyrighted material.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in New York, seeks damages for copyright infringement from the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LA MoCA), Public Service Television, the MIT Press, artist Barbara Kruger and others. The plaintiffs are seeking to hold the defendants liable for promoting and selling the disputed image, which they say was distributed on T-shirts, magnets, books, brochures, cards, websites and street billboards, including two immense building displays in New York arranged by the Whitney.
"The Whitney Museum does not believe that the claims against the museum have merit", a spokeswoman for the Whitney told The Art Newspaper.
The plaintiffs are Thomas Hoepker, who says that Kruger infringed his copyright in his image, "Charlotte as seen by Thomas", which was published in the German photography magazine Foto Prisma in about 1960. The image shows a woman holding a magnifying glass. The plaintiffs say that Kruger used the image in untitled works dated 1999 and 2000, adding to it the words, "It's a small world but not if you have to clean it". One of the Kruger works was exhibited at the Whitney from July to October 2000, in a travelling exhibit organised by LA MoCA, which bought and owns the Kruger. Charlotte Dabney, whose face appears in the image, is joining Hoepker in the suit. The defendants used Dabney's face commercially without her consent in violation of civil rights laws in New York and California, including sales and marketing, the plaintiffs say, making her "a public spectacle".
In addition to seeking impoundment of the alleged infringing material, the plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against further exploitation of the image, statutory and punitive damages and attorney's fees. The complaint seeks damages of up to $100,000 per wilful infringement, and $20,000 per statutory infringement, or alternatively the defendants' gains or the plaintiffs' loss and damages under civil rights laws.
In the 1980s, American "appropriation" artists, including Kruger, Richard Prince and Sarah Charlesworth, used and altered images from popular culture, including photo archives, newspapers and television, challenging the notion that photographs told an objective truth. While photographs might be documentation in one context, they could easily be altered, these artists showed, by inserting text phrases that changed the message.
The lawsuit raises the question of what happens if an underlying image used in such a work is not in the public domain. But to win significant damages, presumably the plaintiffs would have to show that they would have earned profits by licensing the work to Kruger, and also how much of the defendants' profits were attributable to the presence of the Hoepker photograph in Kruger's work. If the copyrighted image instead lay dormant for decades with no commercial exploitation, there may have been little to infringe.
"All of the Defendants [are] sophisticated in the art world and familiar with the laws of copyright and privacy and had full knowledge that [they] could not use [the] image without written consent or permission" from the plaintiffs, the complaint says. It is hard to see however, how a borrowing museum would have such knowledge about an image included in a collage borrowed as part of a loan show.
Both Public Service Television (PTS) and MIT Press, the plaintiffs say, displayed or disseminated the image without permission to their detriment, including display of the image on the PTS web site and publication by MIT Press of a catalogue containing the image.
"The work the defendants chose to express could have been expressed in many other ways without copying the plaintiffs' unique expression of an idea," the complaint says.
Some of the defendants intentionally removed Hoepker's copyright management information, the plaintiffs say. They argue that they did not discover the infringements earlier because of this and because the image was wilfully displayed with a false designation of origin with no credit to Hoepker.
In August 2000, the plaintiffs complied with US copyright law securing exclusive rights and privileges to the image, they say. Prior US copyright registration was not required for the lawsuit, they say, because Hoepker, a German national, created the image in Germany.