Critics argue that the Scottish public will no longer be able to see
works of art. Anger has been growing in Scotland over the revelation
that the Lord Chancellor is to take art works reported to be worth £1m
from Scottish galleries to his London home.
Scores of works will be removed to decorate Lord Irvine's luxurious
official Palace of Westminster residence which he will move into in
April following refurbishments worth £650,000. Earlier this week it
emerged that £189,000 had so far been spent on furnishings. But the
"looting" has been condemned by art critics and has infuriated
political parties. Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal
Democrats, Willie Rennie, said: "These paintings are for people to
see. Unless the Lord Chancellor can stretch his large expenses budget
to free flights to his London palace for people in Scotland then he
should return the paintings.
"Tony Blair's new slogan should be - For the few, not the many."
Among the eight paintings borrowed from the Scottish National
Gallery in Edinburgh are two important McTaggarts, a Geddes, a Wilkie
and a Boudin. Some 19 plaster busts and 10 rare prints from the
gallery have also been lent. From the National Gallery a number of
18th and 19th century prints of luminaries from politics, science and
arts have been lent.
Timothy Clifford: 'standard practice'
Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, Timothy Clifford, defended the move and said it was "standard practice". "I don't think we have ever refused any government body before. We lend to the Secretary of State in Scotland at Bute House and Dover House and to the Prime Minister." Mr Clifford said the loans were agreed to in September and the Lord Chancellor and his wife had visited the galleries last summer to look at the works. Leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond described the move as one of "unbelievable arrogance".
Alex Salmond: 'unbelievable arrogance'
"Derry Irvine is displaying a breathtaking arrogance which is entirely in character. His looting and pillaging of Scottish art works will cause great anger both in the artist and academic worlds." But a spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's department insisted that none of the works were being taken down from galleries. "None of the works are currently on display anywhere. There are 80 pieces of art being provided from the Royal Academy, the National Maritime Museum, the National Gallery of Scotland and the Imperial War Museum. But Mr Salmond added: "There are plenty of public buildings in Scotland which could house these items and thereby ensure genuine public access. "Taking them down to Derry Irvine's house in London is nothing to do with access but everything to do with self aggrandisement."
Shadow Culture Secretary Francis Maude said: "Power has gone to his head. Not to mention his furniture. It is not surprising his colleagues are getting fed up with it all." But Downing Street has come to the aid of the Lord Chancellor, A spokesperson said the story had been overblown and that press coverage of Lord Irvine's activities had been consistently unfair.
TONY Blair defended Lord Irvine yesterday after allegations that the
Lord Chancellor was "looting" artworks from galleries to adorn his
official Westminster residence.
The Prime Minister sanctioned a spokesman to give a detailed rebuttal
to the charge, which is regarded as "unfair nonsense".
Lord Irvine himself is understood to be furious at the allegations
and feels that he is being subjected to a "vendetta" following the
controversy over the £650,000 refurbishment of his official quarters.
A Downing Street spokesman said Lord Irvine was being "unjustifiably
vilified" by "gratuitous" media attacks.
The latest row blew up after it was disclosed that Lord Irvine has
borrowed 87 works from the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish
National Portrait Gallery for three years to display in his official
residence, which will be opened to the public on a limited basis from
April. The loan, the biggest granted to an individual, was defended
yesterday by the galleries involved.
The total number of works of art on loan is more than 100, with 87
from the National Galleries of Scotland, 12 from the Royal Academy of
Art in London, three oil paintings from the National Maritime Museum
in Greenwich and an undisclosed number of First and Second World War
pictures from the Imperial War Museum.
The National Galleries of Scotland released details of the 87 works,
which included eight paintings, 19 busts, 10 prints by Piranesi and 50
prints from the National Portrait Gallery.
Opposition parties have accused Lord Irvine of behaving like a
"medieval baron" but Downing Street said the Lord Chancellor was being
picked on unfairly. The spokesman said other departments had pictures
on loan from galleries, including 10 Downing Street, which had about
100 pictures currently on loan. He insisted that none of the works
being loaned to Lord Irvine were on public display and all were in
storage "in dark cellars".
The Lord Chancellor's office said that the curators were delighted
that Lord Irvine was to put them in the public domain. They would be
open to view by arts clubs and other members of the public when the
Lord Chancellor's residence is open to the public.
It has not yet been decided how many of the 15 rooms in his official
residence will be opened because it is also the private home of Lord
and Lady Irvine.
The Downing Street spokesman said: "If this had been in respect of
any other Government building, I don't think the newspapers would
have raised a peep."
Lord Irvine had been the victim of "a number of stories we have not
regarded as particularly fair and this story is one of those".
Lord and Lady Irvine, who is an art historian, personally handpicked
the paintings and sculptures over the last few months.
Last night Dennis Canavan, the Left-wing Labour MP for Falkirk West,
criticised Lord Irvine for "taking these priceless works of art" in
the wake of the controversy over the refurbishment of his residence.
But Timothy Clifford, the director of the National Galleries of
Scotland, defended the move and said it was "standard practice". He
added: "I don't think we have ever refused any government body before.
We lend to the Secretary of State in Scotland at Bute House and Dover
House and to the Prime Minister. It's standard practice."
He added that his personal political bias was Conservative, but he
believed the media had been "a bit tough" on Lord Irvine.
The loan from Scotland includes one Boudin; two of the gallery's 19
paintings by William McTaggart, who has been described as one of
Scotland's greatest artists; one of 32 works by Sir David Wilkie; 19
of its 200 Albacini plaster busts, including Socrates, Aphrodite and
Eros; and 50 prints from the portrait gallery, dated 1748 to 1832.
Anne Lorne Gillies, the arts spokesman for the Scottish National
Party, said his behaviour was reminiscent of a "medieval baron looting
Scotland's art treasures" and "indulging his arrogance". She added:
"It is based on self-aggrandisement and it is nonsense to claim the
paintings are being made available to the public. Lord Irvine's office
is not exactly the next port of call for the average Scottish art
Struan Stevenson, for the Scottish Tory Party, said the "raiding" of
Scotland's cultural heritage was unacceptable.
(Electronic Telegraph London)
THE Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, is helping himself to more
than 100 souvenirs after visiting some of the nation's grandest
treasure-houses, it emerged yesterday. The sheer scale of his
borrowing for the Palace of Westminster appears to be record-breaking.
He has picked out more works than any other figure in his position:
the total number of works on loan from national collections to other
government buildings or individual politicians stands currently at
The Lord Chancellor's artistic activities contrast dramatically with
those of the Prime Minister, who has changed only a handful of the 36
works loaned to 10 Downing Street, while Gordon Brown, the Chancellor,
has borrowed 18 for No 11 and Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, is
believed to have only one.
Lord Irvine has taken his pick from four institutions: 87 items come
from the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, 12 from the
Royal Academy of Arts, four from the National Maritime Museum in
London and an unspecified number - but in single figures - from the
Imperial War Museum.
The Royal Academy confirmed yesterday that it had loaned a selection
that included British masters such as Augustus John, Sir William Orpen
and Sir Edwin Landseer. "It is not unusual for the Royal Academy to
loan works," a spokeswoman said, noting that its permanent collection
of nearly 2,000 works by Royal Academicians rarely saw the light of
day because of a lack of space.
The Imperial War Museum, which has an active lending programme that
includes government buildings and military messes, would prefer its
15,000 works of art to be on show somewhere, rather than being kept in
storerooms. The National Maritime Museum said: "Lots of national
museums loan art or objects to government departments. We lend, for
example, to the Ministry of Defence and Admiralty House."
Lord Irvine has on his walls John Wilson Carmichael's Bombardment of
Sveabourg, 1855; Jules Achille Noel's Napoleon III Receiving Queen
Victoria at Cherbourg, 1859; Samuel Scott's A First-Rate Shortening
Sail, 1736, and A Danish Timber Barque, 1736.
His selection from the National Galleries of Scotland of seven
paintings, 19 plaster busts and more than 60 rare prints is worth an
estimated £1 million. It is the largest number of artworks borrowed by
an individual from Scotland's galleries and includes work by some of
the country's finest 18th and 19th-century artists.
Lord Irvine's decision to take them to London has been described as
high-handed by Duncan MacMillan, curator of the Talbot Rice Gallery in
Edinburgh and author of Scottish Art 1460 to 1990. "I think the scale
is startling," he said. "At least two of the paintings are significant
Scottish works, including Sir David Wilkie's Josephine and the
Fortune-Teller, which in my opinion should be on display in a public
collection. It is a major work of art."
The removal of so many pictures without consultation has allegedly
upset staff at the National Galleries in Edinburgh. One, who declined
to be named, said she had been astonished: "Surely they would be
better hung in a gallery where anyone who wants to see them can."
Roger Billcliffe, a former director of the Fine Art Society in
Scotland, said he was concerned that the artworks might be damaged by
exposure to bright light: "Works that are considered delicate are kept
carefully by museums in appropriate conditions."
Julian Spalding, director of Glasgow Museums, said it was a common
practice to lend works of art, but not in such large numbers. "We have
given Mr Blair eight pictures for public display in No 10. We lend
only pictures from our collection that can be seen by the public and
we lend only a few."
Timothy Clifford, director of the National Galleries, defended his
decision to hand over the pictures, which include two paintings by
William McTaggart and prints by Sir Henry Raeburn, insisting that the
row was "the most enormous storm in the tiniest tea cup". He said: "It
is perfectly normal for galleries to lend works of art to politicians.
We have to - we are civil servants. It is an appropriate function of
the National Galleries and standard practice. No one gets excited
about pictures being given to 10 and 11 Downing Street."
The National Galleries had loaned worked of art to Malcolm Rifkind,
the former Scottish Secretary, for Bute House, his official Edinburgh
residence, as well as Lady Thatcher and Tony Blair for use in No 10.
"Remember, we are lending to an institution, not to an individual. I
do not think we have ever refused to lend art to a government
minister," he said.
Lord Irvine visited the National Gallery and the Scottish National
Portrait Gallery for a few days last summer before he made his
selection. Mr Clifford, who accompanied him round the National Gallery
store, said: "Lord Irvine has got a very good eye. He is not a
philistine. When his apartments are complete, I am sure they will look
Mr Clifford, who has seen where the pictures will hang once the
£650,000 refurbishment of the apartments is complete in April, added:
"They will look wonderful and in keeping with the look of the place.
As you walk down a gloomy staircase, there will be a little group of
Piranesi's prison prints at the bottom, which will look marvellous."
Mr Clifford said the pictures were on loan for three years with the
understanding that the galleries could ask for them back at any time.
Whatever else may be said about the Lord Chancellor's choice of art,
there is nothing to suggest undue modesty. The pictures he has chosen
from the National Galleries of Scotland include the grandest names of
19th-century Scottish painting. They complement his own collection of
early 20th-century paintings, which boasts some of the best of the
Scottish colourists. "Mouth-watering" was the reaction of one envious
collector yesterday. On the other hand, Lord Irvine of Lairg's tastes
could not be said to be at the cutting edge of modern art. The works
he has chosen suggest art for pleasure, rather than anything too
challenging. Considering that some of the young Scottish painters
working today have been finalists or winners of the Turner Prize, much
sought-after by international collectors, he might have been a little
more adventurous. I doubt if the Saatchi brothers will be beating a
path to his door.
Sir David Wilkie, one of his choices, is a landmark Scottish painter
of the 19th century, famous for his scenes of bucolic life and some
portraits that compare with the best of Raeburn. Josephine and the
Fortune-Teller is a luscious picture in the Baroque style, full of
drapery, clouds and arch expressions. "Wilkie trying to be Guercino"
was the way one critic described it acidly. Two paintings by William
McTaggart, a 19th-century landscape painter of genius, arguably
Scotland's Turner, are not, however, his most demanding works. Harvest
at Broomieknowe and Autumn Evening, Broomieknowe are set in the gentle
countryside of East Lothian and were described yesterday by a gallery
owner as "lovely". The frames, he added, were splendid.
The inclusion of 19 plaster busts by Albacini suggests that Lord
Irvine may have had furnishing in mind as much as aesthetics.
"Decorative kitsch," snorted one critic yesterday, "a sort of
postmodern approach to interior decor." However, to have busts of
Aphrodite and Eros as well as Socrates might suggest a judicious
balance between the romantic and the intellectual, befitting a modern
Lord Chancellor. There was more respect for his choice of ten prints
by Piranesi, famous 18th-century engravings of prisons, which are of
serious interest for scholars, and whose removal from Scotland,
however temporary, could cause controversy.
One thing is clear: Lord Irvine is a grand patron of the arts at a
time when serious patronage is sorely lacking. His taste in Scottish
art of a certain period cannot be faulted, and in this he may well
have been helped by his wife, Alison, a graduate of the Courtauld
It is a pity, however, that he has not felt able to stray into the
late 20th century. "This is a collection that a Lord Chancellor might
have put together a hundred years ago," was one comment. "Why, even
Cardinal Wolsey collected contemporary painters, such as Holbein."
If he does wish to bring his Scottish collection up to date, Lord
Irvine might consider some of Peter Howson's gruelling scenes from
Bosnia, or, in view of the Government's welfare-to-work programme, his
painting The Noble Dosser, complete with pierced ear and scarred
belly. He might find room in one corner for the Turner Prize-winner
Douglas Gordon's video installation showing continuous footage of his
own arm, shaved and unshaved. And in another, perhaps, the pictures of
Ken Currie, a latter-day Breughel with a taste for figures marked by
bubonic plague being carted off to hell.
Art, after all, can be a salutory reminder that we are, in the end,
CARDINAL WOLSEY, the Lord Chancellor to whom Lord Irvine of Lairg
jokingly compared himself last year, was every bit as fond of lavish
decoration as his 20th-century successor (Mark Henderson writes).
He was known as a patron of the arts, although much of his patronage
was financed with distinctly dirty cash: he never balked at the chance
to enrich himself at the expense of the populace. Like Lord Irvine,
Wosley was a man of taste, employing such distinguished contemporary
artists as the Dutch painter Holbein and the Italian sculptor
Further spending went on his sumptuous palace at Hampton Court - so
richly furnished it aroused the envy of Henry VIII - and on
magnificent banquets there and at his London residence, York Place,
which the Venetian Ambassador considered to be finer than those served
by Caligula and Cleopatra.
thanks a lot for collecting the reports about Lord Chancellor Irvine. It
is without doubt very interesting to read about the naturalness
politicians take art away from public museums on loan. I did not realize
before that this is happening and it's amazing to see how the directors
and curators of museums oblige.
I wonder now wether the same methods of decorating the home of
politicians are used in Germany and Austria as well. It would be nice to
hear from professionals or people who are concernd with museums in
Germany if somebody has heard about a similar story. Is there somebody
on this mailinglist from the German speaking community? Please do
contact me under email@example.com
(selbstverstaendlich auch in Deutsch).
Thank you, Ton, for forwarding this message,
mit freundlichen Grueßen,
A court agreement Wednesday returned 15 works of renowned artist
Robert Rauschenberg for public display in his exhibit at the Menil
Collection, while the legal fight that led to the seizure of the $6
million in artwork rages on.
Attorneys for the Menil and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which
is sponsoring the traveling exhibition, filed a lawsuit early
Wednesday that asked for a temporary restraining order forcing the
return of the artwork seized Friday.
They alleged that the defendants -- Austin Art Consortium Inc. and
Austin art broker Alfred Kren -- violated state laws in gaining orders
for deputy constables to seize the artworks Friday. The art was stored
in a warehouse, pending a public sale to satisfy a $5.5 million
default judgment gained by the defendants against Rauschenberg in
Austin. That suit centered on allegations that the artist failed to
pay commissions due ACCI and Kren.
On Wednesday, state District Judge Lamar McCorkle approved the
agreement for the return of the art. In it, the Menil agrees to not
allow the artwork to be moved until further legal orders are issued by
a "Texas court of appropriate jurisdiction."
Attorneys in the case said the jurisdiction is currently uncertain
because there is legal action in both McCorkle's court and in the
126th District Court in Austin -- and the issues could be ultimately
determined by an appeals court. However, the lawyers said they are
hopeful that, regardless of the outcome of the debt issue or
ownership, the art will remain on display through the end of the
multivenue Houston exhibit on May 17.
David Medack and Gary Schumann, attorneys for Kren and ACCI, said
they expect the court fight to shift back to state district court in
Austin, where the judgment was entered against Rauschenberg.
"I suspect the wheels will get rolling very quickly," Medack said.
The dispute centers on ownership of the artwork. Schumann said that
even the exhibit information states it belongs to Rauschenberg.
However, museum attorneys and those for the artist said it is instead
the property of Untitled Press Inc., a Florida company that is owned
Seizure of the art attracted international attention to the museum
and exhibit. The suit said the Menil paid $150,000 to the Guggenheim
to exhibit the work, and $1.1 million more in transportation and
related costs of exhibition.
The suit by the Menil and the Guggenheim said that publicity
devastated the respected reputations of both institutions. Owners of
collections will refuse to lend works to a museum unless they are
assured of the security of the artwork at those institutions, the suit
"This is a time in the international art world when all eyes are
focused on Houston and the Menil museum," said the Menil attorney Bob
Singleton. He said the museum had fielded calls from "all over the
world" from concerned owners wondering if their loaned art was seized.
The message from the publicity, he said, is that "Houston and Texas
is not some place to loan your art, because somebody is going to take
Guggenheim attorney Justin Toth said the seizure was illegal because
Rauschenberg's company -- not the artist himself -- was the true
owner. Regardless, Toth said, the Menil and the Guggenheim have legal
possession of the works.
He said the creditors and deputy constables could have properly
executed the legal writs by merely taking it to the Menil, without
disturbing the artwork itself. New York State, he said, has a law
banning such seizures of artwork from museums. Tactics by the
creditors "were designed to embarrass" the artist, he said.
Schumann said the seizure was entirely legal and not intended to
disturb the exhibition. He (Rauschenberg) had repeatedly ignored
efforts by AACI and Kren to deal with him, and that the seizure "got
his attention after he's been thumbing his nose at the Texas courts
all this time."
Schumann said deputy constables worked with museum staff to minimize
the problems, and even had the staff crate the works to insure no
damage. He said that they only took 15 works out of the 300 on
exhibit, "and nobody but an art expert would miss these."
As for the museums' fears about the reaction to news accounts of the
case, Schumann noted that interest in the exhibits has increased as a
result. "The message they've been sending out to the press is that any
publicity is good publicity," he said.
The Guggenheim had hosted the exhibit four months, ending on Jan. 11.
Houston is showing Rauschenberg's works at the Menil, the Museum of
Fine Arts and the Contemporary Arts Museum through May 17. It is
scheduled to travel for a June 27 opening at the Museum Ludwig in
Cologne, Germany. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, will have
the exhibit beginning Nov. 20.
For what it is worth, loans of art to politicians occurs in the U.S.
as well as abroad. As a security consultant, I can't violate the
confidentiality to talk about who is doing it, but I can tell you that
more than a few times I have been involved in projects to: 1. find
missing art that has been on loan to offices and homes, 2. advise on
how to secure art on loan to offices and homes or to survey the
offices or homes prior to a loan, and 3. render an opinion that a loan
to a politician is absolutely out of the question for security
reasons. I am asked to render this opinion so that the museum director
doesn't have to be the one to say "no."
Steve Keller, CPP
22 Foxfords Chase
Ormond Beach, FL 32174 USA
The most serious Austrian losses of cultural treasures during and after the Second World War are primarily due to the so-called "Entlehnung" (borrowing) of cultural objects from Austrian museums and monasteries to be used as decoration in national socialist offices. Until this day, most of the valuables have still not been returned by the 'borrowers', their legal heirs, or present owners. As early as in 1938, the "Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien" (Museum of Art History Vienna) had to 'lend' three series of tapestries to the "Reichskanzlei" (Chancellery of the Reich) in Berlin. All three series were handed over to the Reichskanzlei with borrowing slips of February 27th, 1939. Since the end of World War II they are lost without trace. The tapestry series depict scenes of the life of Alexander the Great (8 tapestries, Dutch, 17th century, following Charles Le Brun's paintings and the cartoons made after them for the gobelin manufacturing in Paris). They further show scenes of the life of Decius Mus (5 tapestries, Brussels, 17th century, with the city symbol of Brussels, after cartoons by Rubens) as well as episodes from the life of Dido and Aeneas (8 tapestries, Antwerp, 17th century, by M. Wauters following cartoons by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli). In the same way 9 tapestries from the "Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien" were 'lent' to "Karinhall" (the country house of Hermann Goering in Schorfheide/Brandenburg) and are missing since the end of the war. Six of these hunting scenes - Goering was a so-called "Reichjaegermeister" (hunting master of the Reich) - not only carry the city symbol of Brussels but also the signature of the weaver Daniel Eggermans. They were woven around the middle of the 17th century after sketches by Peter Paul Rubens. Three other hunting scenes, all marked with the symbol of Brussels and the name of the weaver Frans van der Borght, date back to the middle of the 18th century. Research from 1973 to 1975 on the whereabouts of the tapestries led to the National Museum of Warsaw/Poland, where two of the tapestries of the "Kunsthistorisches Museum" could be located; originally they had been taken to the "Gauleitung" of Niederschlesien (Lower Silesia) in Breslau in 1938. A year later the People's Republic of Poland gave these tapestries back, pointing out that "they were given to them by the Russians". Therefore, the question arises if the third tapestry "The Battle of Alexander and the Capture of Darius' Family", Flemish, 16th century, which was also lent to Breslau could be found. Especially the objects of the picture gallery of the "Kunsthistorisches Museum" which were lent to the "Reichskanzlei" in Berlin are of major artistic and historical value. An example are the paintings by Angelika Kaufmann that were aquired by Emperor Joseph II. Lists of such paintings are available in the "Kunsthistorisches Museum", as well as similar lists of historical weapons (also from the "Kunsthistorisches Museum"), and lists of losses suffered by the Austrian Museum for Applied Arts and by the Austrian Gallery in the Belvedere. Other institutions than state museums signed "Leihvertraege" (loan contracts) more or less under duress. One example shall be mentioned. During the administration of the Upper Austrian St. Florian convent by the national socialist "Gauleitung", respectively by the "Reichsrundfunkanstalt" (Broadcasting Company of the Reich) many objects went missing: paintings (e.g. Breughel's "Der Brand von Rotterdam" (The Fire of Rotterdam)), copper engravings (e.g. Adam Sculptor Maruanus, Michelangelo, 73 engravings by Ghisi, "Figuren der Deckengemaelde der Sixtina" (Figures of the Ceiling Frescoes of the Sixtina), ca 1650), gobelin upholsteries of tables and chairs. Then after the war, very valuable furniture of the Upper Austrian convent "Kremsmünster" disappeared; they had been taken by order of the infamous national socialist "Gauleiter" August Eigruber. While the whereabouts of the series of tapestries, paintings, weapons, etc., which are the property of the "Kunsthistorisches Museum" Vienna and of the other collections mentioned, are still unknown, the properties of the Austrian National Library could be located: 560 numbers of Pahlewi-papyri and parchments from Middle Persia have been discovered in the Hermitage of St. Petersburg. Although the director of the Hermitage, Michael Piotrowski, declared his willingness to return the collection still wrapped in the original paper envelopes, it's the bureaucracy which has since prevented the return. The question suggests itself whether those missing artworks 'lent' to the "Reichskanzlei" in Berlin, to "Karinhall" and to Breslau also could have been taken to Russia and might still be there today. Another starting point for research into Austrian losses of cultural treasures are the monasteries, churches, castles and palaces outside the cities. For safety reasons a great number of artworks were taken to these places during and after the war. Apart from extensive destruction of buildings and great damages to other buildings, it is surprising how few moveable cultural treasures were destroyed, since Austria was part of the immediate war-zone. A very lamentable incident, however, is the fate of Immendorf Castle, situated in the Northeast of Lower Austria, which was completely destroyed on May 8th, 1945, by an explosion of no military necessity. Highly valuable moveable treasures were sacrificed through this act of senseless destruction carried out by one of the units of the SS division "Feldherrnhalle". All the private art collection, kept in the castle for safety reasons since 1943, as well as the stocks of the Museum for Applied Arts of Vienna and of the Austrian Gallery were destroyed (among them works by Gustav Klimt). Losses of cultural goods taken for safekeeping to the buildings mentioned above and losses of their original furniture immediately after the war can be summed up under three perspectives:
1. The Allied military forces needed rooms for their lodging and administration. Clearing the buildings of the stocks often was done hastily and without realizing the value of the objects. Therefore, many objects were deposited in inadequate rooms or piled up in the open; like this almost the entire works of the composer Richard Strauß were destroyed.
2. The furniture needed in the military offices was taken from museum collections and the interiors of castles and probably destroyed by use.
3. Due to the negligence and lack of interest of the supervising
personnel plundering was facilitated; in the light of such an easy
access, many soldiers, prisoners of war in those days, and local
people could take whatever they desired.
Because of the massive amount of objects lost, it would be beyond scientific accuracy to even attempt to quantify or estimate the kind of damage and loss suffered. >From what has been said, it is clear that after the war in Austria - other than in Germany - no transportation of cultural treasures as spoils of war took place. The reason for that seems to be the Moscow Declaration from November 1st, 1943, in which the Allies stated that in 1938 Austria had become the victim of aggression. Also the individual attitude of certain officers of the Allies led to the return of cultural treasures to their place of origin, not only on the side of the Western Allies (direct returns of artworks to the Austrian museums, careful transportations from recovery sites such as Alt Aussee, Bad Ischl and Lauffen via the Collection Point in Munich to Salzburg and Vienna) but also the Soviet side helped to prevent some losses, by providing ten lorries daily by Marshall Konjew to transport works of art back to the museums. As an exception - or rather a violation - to the Moscow Declaration can be regarded the treatment of about 30 boxes with manuscripts and books belonging to the University Library of Graz which were transported towards Maribor by troops from ex-Yugoslavia. Recently one of the 85 manuscripts vanished then was offered for sale to the university. A similar situation applies to the Castle Grafenegg/Lower Austria: Soviet soldiers transported artworks by the waggon load, so that an empty castle was left behind. A list of these losses does exist. The "Oesterreichisches Bundesdenkmalamt" (Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments and Cultural Properties) tried at all times to recover all pieces of art, situated in Austria in 1938, and to return them to the country. By doing so the specialized department exceeded its usual agenda, but a separate institution responsible for the return of looted cultural treasures did not and still does not exist in Austria. The whereabouts of Austrian cultural goods still held back in other countries are investigated on the diplomatic level. In the future, the "Zentrale Stelle" (Central Office) of the "Bundesdenkmalamt" will have the authority to implement the guideline 93/7/EWG (European Economic Union) on the return of cultural goods illegally taken from the territories of the countries belonging to the European Community.
In George Flynn's article "Rauschenberg art returned" of 18th Feb you
report Menil Attorney Bob Singleton as saying that the message from
the publicity is that: "Houston and Texas is not some place to loan
your art, because somebody is going to take it."
Art Loans are not just at risk in Texas, but world wide - witness the
recently siezed Schiele paintings in New York and the controversy over
a Morisot painting in San Francisco. There have even been cases where
somebody has stolen art from one museum in order to be able to lend
or give to another! See Art Loans Gone Awry at
Nevertheless Mr Singleton may speak truer than he knows: the Rauschenberg Art Loan is not the first Art Loan in Texas to go wrong.
In 1990 the $5M Denney Loan Collection was removed from the Dallas
Museum of Art by means of forged letters signed as if by the owner but
written after his death. These works of art by Appel, Alberto Burri
(the Italian artist who was earlier a POW in Texas), Dubuffet,
Fontana, Sam Francis, Louise Nevelson, Mathieu, Saura and Tapies were
subsequently made the subject of an apparently bona fide dontation to
the City of Toulousein France, thereby depriving the Denney estate of
most of its assets. The legal struggle to recover the collection is
still ongoing. (One item, a sculpture by Horst Egon Kalinowsky, still
remains in the care of the DMA, but that is another, and equally
You will find the full Denney story at:
"Lessons from the Denney Collection"
In this paper I make some positive suggestions for improving the security of Art Loans, including a distributed register of art loans accessible via the internet.
I would much appreciate it if you could bring the URL of "Lessons from the Denney Collection" to the attention of your readers. I would be more than willing to contribute a short piece on the subject of the risks of art loans to the Chronincle if you so wished.
Dr Antony Anderson
26 Westfield Drive
Newcastle upon Tyne
UK NE3 4XY
Tel/Fax +44 191 2854577
With the art world in more than the usual uproar in light of all the
activities to repatriate art and cultural material "displaced" by war
and aggression over the last 60 years, it seems that the idea of title
insurance for art, similar to that universally used for real estate,
should be an attractive proposal. Has any one proposed this in a
formal fashion? I also wonder if art stealing equivalent to that done
in the World War II period also occured in the World War I period.
There should be records about W.W.I art stealing equivalent to that
done in the World War II period. Perhaps some of our subscribers know
more about this. For some strange reason looting that took place
many years ago becomes acceptable in the long run (for example the
looting of the Elgin Marbles from Greece, now in the British
Museum). It is a very good thing that so much attention is given to
the W.W.II period (it is a shame that it took so long for people to
really realize what happened in those days and that all of us had to
wait until 1997 for real action to recover looted art). This must
never happen again. So let's not wait fifty years before paying
attention to the looting of art during recent wars.
On our http://museum-security.org/artcrime.html we have a link to a page totally dedicated to the destruction of museums and libraries in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fifty years from now, if, Deo Volente, many of us are still alive, we cannot afford to say that we did not know about that. I am convinced that a large part of the war in former Yugoslavia was financed by the illegal trade in cultural property (both art, books and ancient manuscripts).
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- For the past year, Robert Duff has worried about a telephone call or knock on the door that could send him to a Bolivian prison for six years. Unlike others who have faced possible extradition for violent crimes or drug trafficking, Duff's offense might seem innocuous. He exported native textiles from Bolivia. But he is caught up in an increasingly bitter legal, political and cultural war over control of patrimony -- artifacts considered a central part of a people's cultural history. In the Americas, the fight has its roots in the European migrations that overwhelmed indigenous American civilizations centuries ago. The struggle has intensified in recent decades as governments representing the descendants of ancient civilizations have pledged to hold on to remnants of their heritage. Laws passed to uphold those pledges in the United States and elsewhere are worrying collectors, dealers and museums with a financial or professional stake in free trade of native artifacts. And Bob Duff's criminal conviction shows why these interests have ample reason for their concern. "This could signal the end of museum collecting as we know it," said Frederick Schultz, president of the National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental & Primitive Art, based in New York. Without a viable international antiquities market to bestow a monetary value on artifacts, collectors argue it is doubtful many of the world's existing cultural treasures would have been preserved. The trend toward greater restriction, they say, limits trade and private ownership, and will hinder the ability of museums to obtain artifacts from different cultures and past civilizations. Archaeologists and officials in artifact-rich "source" countries say, however, that the laws are needed to quell a boom in the illegal trade of items looted from archaeological sites. They say the pillage of artifacts has caused irreparable harm to the study of past civilizations, and that the United States -- the largest importer of antiquities -- should take the lead in enacting and enforcing restrictions. "Unless collectors, dealers and museums act very positively we will see over the next five decades the complete destruction of the cultural heritage of some countries," said Lyndel V. Prott, with the cultural advisory division of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. "It is not surprising that countries that are seriously affected are passing very severe control laws. They have a responsibility to their own people to try to preserve something."
Duff, 45, would agree that the laws are severe. For nearly two decades, he collected and openly exported Bolivian textiles and other artifacts. But on Sept. 27, 1993, Bolivian officials searched Duff's La Paz residence for stolen colonial church artifacts. Not finding any, they seized his collected artifacts, along with other items such as the rugs on his floor and blankets on his bed. Some 500 of the 700 items -- including ceramics, stone bowls and figurines --were alleged to be Bolivian antiquities, although many items were made recently, he says. The authorities also seized a 200-year-old Peruvian rug Duff had purchased for $22,500 in the United States and had brought to Bolivia for repairs by the skilled weavers there. "It was not even Bolivian, but they claimed it as national patrimony," Duff said. Duff was arrested under laws prohibiting the sale, export and collection of cultural items made before 1952. La Paz District Attorney Javier Dipps agreed to drop charges, Duff says, if he would pay a fine and return 80 Andean Indian textile weavings that he had shipped to his Florida home. When he returned the weavings, however, Bolivian cultural officials claimed the textiles corroborated allegations that he was an illegal exporter of national antiquities Duff fled Bolivia after prosecutors returned his passport and told him they could no longer honor their prior agreement to drop charges. "They told me I would never get a fair trial in Bolivia because I was political cause, not a judicial cause," Duff says. He was tried in absentia and without his knowledge in late 1996, convicted and sentenced to the maximum six years in prison. His Bolivian attorneys only discovered his conviction a few days after his appeal date had expired. Duff says he didn't know about the laws he was charged with violating until his run-in with authorities. Like other critics of new patrimony protection laws, he contends that the Bolivian law is vague and too broad. He says he was aware of a specific, publicized ban in the late 1980s on the sale and export of communally owned textiles from the Indian village of Coroma. His textiles were not from Coroma, he says, but were bought from private, family owners. Duff says he declared them properly with Bolivian and U.S. Customs officials. (Bolivian officials initially alleged that several of Duff's textiles might be from Coroma, but have since dropped that allegation.) And Duff says that government officials, businesses and tourists continue with impunity to buy, sell, collect and export items similar to those confiscated from him. Store owners and other sources confirmed that such items are advertised and sold in Bolivian tourist shops, store owners and other sources say. "My crime is that I had such quality and quantity of artifacts," Duff said. "I was a legal collector fraudulently prosecuted by Bolivia in order to `Get the American!' " Duff became subject to possible extradition within days of his conviction, when the United States and Bolivia signed a 1996 treaty that made drug trafficking and the "traffic of historical and archaeological items" extraditable offenses. The prior U.S.-Bolivian extradition treaty -- in effect since 1900 -- had failed to list either of the two offenses as crimes serious enough to merit extradition. "I think Duff simply got railroaded by the Bolivian government," said a U.S. gallery owner and Andean textiles collector familiar with Duff's case. "Until U.S. collectors like Duff and I went to Bolivia in the 1970s, there had been no market for these weavings. Without us these textiles would have been lost forever. "For 400 years the Bolivian government did nothing to help preserve these items and everything to ensure the textiles' destruction," said the collector, who asked not to be identified. "Now that the rest of the world likes these items, the government is saying that no one outside of Bolivia should own them." An official at the Bolivian Institute of Culture said it is "a possibility" that the institute will pursue Duff's extradition, but declined further comment. U.S. State Department officials say they are unaware of any attempt to extradite Duff, but defend the U.S.-Bolivian extradition treaty as a valuable weapon against drug traffickers and other criminals. But Duff says the treaty has opened U.S. citizens to prosecution in absentia under the vagaries of foreign law and inequities of an unfamiliar justice system.
His attorney suggested the government might sacrifice Duff or other collectors in the war on drugs. "If our government believes it can gain drug traffickers in return for an art collector, they may make the deal because it makes them look tough on crime," said Houston attorney Mike Lamson. The international debate is fueled by wide differences over exactly what constitutes cultural patrimony. Many of the wealthier "market" countries have narrow definitions of cultural patrimony and few restrictions on the trade or private ownership of art. Poorer "source" countries define patrimony broadly, restrict the export of artifacts and limit private ownership. Dealers and collectors maintain that many antiquities are redundant or otherwise lack special archaeological, historical or cultural significance. "How many ceramics and textiles does a nation need for its collections and research purposes? How many is enough?" asked Joe Rose, a former New York antiquities dealer. "The truth is the overwhelming majority of affordable and collectable ancient objects have little or no relevance to the cultural patrimony." Nonetheless, some source countries have filed successful protests seeking repatriation of antiquities from art dealers, collectors and museums. Last December, Mali and Guatemala asked for the return of Malian terra cotta figures and pre-Columbian Mayan artifacts exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, alleging the items were looted. Both nations have banned the export of artifacts without permission. Museum officials say the items were brought to the United States legally. During the dispute, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala assisted Guatemalan officials, and even offered to pay their air fare to Boston to view the Mayan artifacts. Art dealers and collectors say this represents a significant change in U.S. trade policy, which historically has allowed the free commerce of art and and has not enforced foreign cultural patrimony laws. Embassy officials say they simply were complying with a recent bilateral agreement designed to help Guatemala protect its cultural patrimony. Since April, the U.S. State Department has entered into similar agreements with Peru, Mali and Canada. The restrictions -- authorized under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act of 1983 -- require antiquities buyers to gain export permits from source countries before exporting hundreds of types of artifacts dating back as early as 12000 B.C. U.S. Information Agency officials who recommended the restrictions say the agreements, known as memorandums of understanding, are designed to thwart a multibillion-dollar illicit trade of art and antiquities. Dealers and collectors say the cost figure is exaggerated. "We are struggling for a balance between a legitimate trade in objects that encourages understanding and education, vs. the destructive takings that occur simply because a lot of money is driving the market," said Martin E. Sullivan, director of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz., and chairman of USIA's Cultural Property Advisory Committee. The memorandums don't ban trade in antiquities, because they only require that dealers obtain permits from source countries, Sullivan contends. And the measures can be re-evaluated when they expire in five years. But U.S. art dealers and collectors claim the memorandums represent a de facto ban since several of the source countries seldom issue export permits for antiquities. The patrimony issue, they say, has become intimately linked with nationalist feelings and memories of past exploitation by richer, market countries. Dealers fear the new restrictions may prompt a rash of questionable patrimony challenges that will pose a real risk to dealers, collectors and museums. "Even a small country has more lawyers than a rich person," said Joe Gerena, a dealer of ancient, Asian and tribal art in New York. "They will say: `It's all cultural patrimony; It all belongs to us and we want it all back,' " he said. Even the Cultural Property Implementation Act's sponsor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-New York, has threatened to convene hearings in the Senate Finance Committee to investigate whether federal officials have gone overboard with the recent restrictions. "Central to our intention drafting the act was the principle that the United States would bar imports of particular cultural properties, but only as part of a concerted international response to a specific, severe problem of pillage," Moynihan said in a recent letter to USIA Director Joseph Duffey.
U.S. art dealers and collectors argue that adopting strict import control laws on artifacts unilaterally -- without other major art-market countries participating -- may only send the art into a black market where the public wouldn't see it, or to such countries as Japan, Germany or England that lack similar import restrictions. James F. Fitzpatrick, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer representing national art dealers, argues that the memorandums represent a de facto, piecemeal U.S adoption of the controversial Unidroit Convention on Stolen or Illegal Exported Cultural Objects, which has not been ratified by Congress. Unidroit is the French acronym for a larger effort to expedite legal procedures that cross international boundaries. And the convention on cultural objects is intended to stem illegal trading and smuggling of cultural relics. The convention allows a signatory country to attempt to reclaim cultural property by filing a lawsuit directly in the courts of another signatory country. Although a number of source countries have signed and ratified the convention, few market countries are expected to ratify it. Critics say that under Unidroit, good-faith purchasers of artifacts could be forced to return antiquities without compensation. Objects exported without a source country's permission would be not merely illegal exports, but stolen property. Supporters argue that Unidroit and the recent U.S. trade restrictions are essential to protect archaeological sites from looting and to prevent the flow of cultural property to consumers in wealthy market nations. The U.N.'s Prott, author of the three-volume Law and the Cultural Heritage, says most source countries just want to keep a "representative sample of their heritage." These countries fear that once cultural artifacts are exported, they'll be gone for good because the source countries can't match the price on the international market. In the early 1980s, most museums began to use greater caution in acquiring antiquities, and many signed a code of ethics requiring strict proof of legal ownership, known as provenance. Ricardo Elia, an associate professor of archaeology at Boston University, estimates that more than 80 percent of existing private and museum artifact collections have come from "looted" archaeological sites in which trained scientists were not present to oversee and document the excavation. "The secret little claim of the art market is that it is the rare piece that is stolen," Elia said. "The fact is that it's the rare piece that gets caught and has to go back." Susan McIntosh, a Rice University anthropologist and USIA Cultural Property Advisory Committee member, agreed that most artifacts in existing collections were removed without the approval of source countries. "I think the question is: `How far back do you want to apply the standards of today?' " she said. Elia says clues to history have been destroyed in the pillaging of the world's monuments, burial grounds and other archaeological sites. Looting flourishes in economically depressed countries where impoverished peasants and laborers search for archaeological treasures that bring high prices from wealthy collectors. Even under the tighter restrictions, the incentive to plunder may continue because of record prices at auction houses like Sotheby's, where a pre-Columbian gold pendant sold last year for more than half a million dollars. "The Latin American peasants who engage in off-season digging to uncover materials are clearly doing it because it is a form of harvest, a form of subsistence that replaces other things if crops fail," said Sullivan, the chairman of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. "Economic development and lending in countries where looting is happening needs to be a piece of the puzzle to stop this problem." Looting has wrecked some sites, Elia says, citing as one example the Central American nation of Belize, where archaeologists discovered "looters' camps" with bulldozers and housing for 70 to 80 people. "These items are ripped out of sites and tombs, and it's being done in such a way that the information is completely destroyed," he said. "The object isn't lost, but associations and contexts are lost, rendering them useless for scientific study." "It's like you had a history book and ripped out many of its pages," said Carlos Enrique Zea Flores, Guatemala's vice minister of culture. "When you try to read the book, you lose so much that is becomes difficult to understand." George Ortiz, one of the world's top art collectors, says that because of brisk Third World development, many new discoveries result from chance finds during construction and agricultural work. "With no free market in antiquities there is no reason for the chance finder to save anything," said Ortiz, 70, who lives in Vandoeuvres, Switzerland. He maintains that collectors have protected the world's antiquities from widespread destruction in natural disasters and wars. Though most artifacts were not found in their "historical context" within an archaeological site, Ortiz says, "the reality is that scholarship over the past 200 years -- based on the study of art, most of which had lost its context -- has immeasurably contributed to our understanding." Ortiz also challenges source country claims of "national patrimony" because he says "borders change, the geography of religions and populations change, and the ethos of the inhabitants change." "Instead of each little group claiming its own heritage, we need to create one common culture allowing art to circulate around the world," Ortiz said. He says he fears growing art-trade restrictions, compounded by the failure to require source countries to exhibit and share their archaeological treasures, will prevent museums from obtaining new art. "Millions of school children and citizens from countless countries have enjoyed, learned and shared the cultural heritage of humanity in museums and exhibitions," he said. "At the inception of all art museum collections are passionate collectors." Art collectors say the current trend is that artifacts will remain in the source country. "It means that you must go to Turkey to see Turkish art, or go to Egypt to see Egyptian art, or Italy to see Roman art," said David Lantz, a New York-based art dealer. But source country officials contend that the restrictions will not prevent the temporary loan of artifacts to museums and researchers. "If the main purpose of a museum is to show cultural patrimony from anywhere in the world, they can do that through temporary exhibits," said a Peruvian Embassy spokesman who asked not to be identified. "The emphasis should go that way instead of through private ownership and looting." McIntosh, the Rice University professor, is sympathetic to that viewpoint. She disputes
"The most sought-after artifacts come from remote areas where
construction and road projects don't occur," she said, "and looting
in such areas often is systematic and organized." "The myth of chance
finds," Elia added, "allows collectors to pretend you have these
farmers accidentally finding these things and in order to avoid the
onerous Nazilike bureaucracy of the state, they smuggle them out and
people collect them. It makes collectors appear like saviors
preserving art." But critics of the stricter rules say that they
benefit corrupt officials able to earn extra money by accepting
bribes in return for export permits. "These laws are usually designed
to seize the patrimony from peasants and poor, and convert it into
the hands of the rich and powerful who are politically connected and
who then sell these items in Europe, Japan or the United States,"
said an antiquities dealer. Besides, they say, it often is difficult
to link an artifact with any certainty to a particular nation's
cultural history. "For example, the Andean cultures crossed a lot of
boundaries," said one major collector who declined to be identified.
"They didn't stay within the strict political boundaries that exist
today, but crossed into four or five countries." And some items
claimed as patrimony, such as coins, stamps, blankets and textiles,
have been bartered and circulated for centuries, sometimes throughout
entire continents. Collectors also note that source countries often
lack the resources to exhibit or store existing artifact collections
-- a deficiency that some of the countries acknowledge. But U.S.
officials say they will insist that these countries do their part to
preserve and protect artifacts. "If we monitor closely and there is
evidence things aren't changing, or a graft and bribery system is in
place, I would be hard-pressed to argue that the United States should
spend time and energy to enforce something the host country has
failed to enforce," Sullivan said. Many collectors say the lack of
funding and failure of archaeologists to dig more artifact sites has
led to loss of cultural patrimony. Added Lantz, "It's not like these
things under the ground are in inert gas-sealed cases. They are in
the ground and deteriorating every year." Various cooperative
programs have been proposed -- though not adopted by source countries
-- to better finance archaeological excavations. The proposals
include the use of a private corporate sponsor or a United Nations
umbrella foundation to help finance excavations. But whatever
happens on the political and diplomatic front, for now Robert Duff is
a convicted criminal facing at least the possibility of extradition
and time in a Bolivian prison. "The absurdity of it all," Duff said,
"is that the ceramics, stone bowls and textiles that were confiscated
were destined to be lost without the attention and reverence brought
to them by collectors like myself." To add insult to injury, the U.S.
Internal Revenue Service has ordered Duff to pay $115,000 in taxes
and penalties on the value of his seized artifacts and returned
Andean textiles. The IRS denied Duff's attempt to classify the
artifacts and weavings as commercial inventory, and instead ruled
that the items constituted private, personal holdings not eligible
to be considered a business loss. "In my criminal conviction the
Bolivian courts said I was exporting commercial items for sale, while
the IRS is claiming that my items were not commercial sale property,
but private, personal property," Duff said. "I guess its too bad the
IRS doesn't work for Bolivia."
Here is the translation of the first part of a DER STANDARD article
and a summary of the second part, which is just documents and so on.
The interesting thing about it is that the Schiele-case in New York
started this discussion in Austria and it might strike back now
because some of the art, which was stolen by the National Socialists
from Jews in Austria ended up in Museums in USA.The folowing article
is about that and how museums and state galleries in Austria fighted
after the 'Anschluss' to get the best pieces which where stolen from
Jewish people who fled the country. I wonder when Germany will start
to discuss those things.
Samstag/Sonntag, 21/22. February 1998, Seite 1
Wien - After World War II the Republic of Austria acquired much more
by Nationalsocialists looted art objects than it was common
knowledge until now. In the Art History Museum alone are more than
hundred paintings on exhibition which until 1938 belonged to Jewish
private collections. The archivist oft he Art History Museum, Herbert
Haupt: " I assume that everything which was acquired between 1938 and
1945 is questionable. Many objects stayed after the war in state
galleries because of compulsion: Under the excuse of the
preservation of Austrian cultural possessions the owners or their
heirs would not get an export-license. For example the heirs of the
industrialist Bloch-Bauer had lo leave back a large part of his art
collection in Vienna after 1945 to be able to export at least a few
(c) 1998 DER STANDARD
The STANDARD Saturday/Sunday, 21/22. February 1998, page 8 series:
"To delay for tactical reasons " STANDARD author Hubertus Czernin
about the National Socialist art robbery, which was followed at the
second republic by the next :a legacy of the dishonor, which concerns
most Austrian museums and should be finally reappraised now.
In the Austrian gallery in the Belvedere are 32 paintings of Gustav
Klimt . Seven of it once had been in possession of the entrepreneur
family Bloch- Bauer, as it is to take from the stock catalog of the
Buchenwald (Birkenwald): 1948 Vermächtnis Familie Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Adele Bloch-Bauer I: 1941 Widmung von Adele Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Schloß Kammer am Attersee III (Wasserschloß): 1949 Widmung von Familie Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Adele Bloch-Bauer II, stehend: 1948 Vermächtnis Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Der Apfelbaum I: 1936 Widmung von Adele und Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Häuser in Unterach am Attersee: 1948 Vermächtnis Familie Bloch-Bauer, Wien.
Amalie Zuckerkandl: 1988 Widmung von Dr. Vita Kuenstler (ehem. Zuckerkandl, Wien; Bloch-Bauer, Wien; Prof. Mueller-Hofmann, Wien).
Some about the attribution appears strange: The portrait 'Adele Bloch - Bauer I' cannot have been dedicated by the wife Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer in1941, since she already died in 1925. The painting the 'apple tree I', painted by Klimt 1912, can have been just as little intended in 1936 by the family Bloch -Bauer to the Austrian gallery, since it appears also after the " Anschluß" 1938 (means the connection with Germany) in the inventory lists of the art collection of the family, as can be proved. About the portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, which remained unfinished, it cannot not be said, when and how it was delivered. On basis of the documents which are available to the STANDARD it cannot be said when and how it was given away from the collection Bloch-Bauer - in 1939 it is in any case still mentioned as a piece of the family.
Much which was publicly discussed in the passed weeks and months, after the seizure of two paintings of Egon Schiele from the collection Leopold in New York about National Socialist art robbery and the laid down restitution of art objects to its original owners after 1945is to describe and explain by the example of the collection Bloch-Bauer - as a story of theft by the Nazis and following compulsion by the Second Republic (of Austria). . More than one hundred pictures in the Austrian museums, which is low counted, can clearly be identified as by National Socialists stolen property which the State Departments acquired after the war. Concerned are all larger Austrian museums and in addition the auction house Dorotheum which became in the course of the history one of the main tradecenters for art objects of doubtful origin. .
The author Hubertus Czernin describes further very detailed the
economic situation of the family Bloch-Bauer. They where
connoisseurs and owned one of the largest and exceptional beautiful
art collection in Austria which was widely known. They fled to
Zuerich in 1938 and had to leave their collection behind of course.
Even Hitler ordered 6 of their paintings, many pieces where auctioned
off in Vienna. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer did not want to come back to
Austria after the war and he engaged a lawyer in Vienna to find the
remaining art work. Bloch-Bauer died in 1946 and his heirs tried to
get the art collection back which was scattered all over Austria and
hidden away in different places. A mountain of documents in the
Federal Office for Monuments shows, says Huberus Czernin, how the
victims of the National Socialism got deceived once more by the
democratic Austrian Authorities and curators. After the looting by
the National Socialists the robbery by the Second Republic followed,
this time under the guise of preservation of Austrian interest and
Austrian cultural possessions. And then he quotes documents which
proof, that and how the authorities cheated and fighted to be able to
keep some of the paintings. They used a kind of blackmail and moral
pressure and some legal tricks and managed this way to give back only
18 of 40 paintings.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, says he did not decide on the refurbishment of his apartment The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, has hit back at critics of the controversial £650,000 refurbishment of his official residence and his decision to borrow works of art from public galleries. In his first personal statement on the matter, Lord Irvine said that he did not decide to upgrade his apartments in the Palace of Westminster. He said the decision was made by the House of Lords. He also said that artworks which will be displayed there would come from reserve collections. He added that the public would be able to view his rooms and the works of art. He said the decision to refurbish his residence was made by several Lords committees and agreed by the full House. "The quality of the refurbishment of the Lord Chancellor's residence is determined by the decisions of these committees and is to no higher a standard than would apply to any other part of the Palace of Westminster of comparable importance," he said. Lord Irvine also said that the building was an important part of national heritage and deserved to be maintained in a historically authentic manner. He pointed out that Lord Boston of Faversham, chairman of Lords committees, had said in July last year that a duty was owed to future generations to ensure that the building was maintained in such a way that they could appreciate it. Lord Irvine also insisted that neither he nor his department had ever tried to say that the refurbishment was actually agreed before Labour came to power.
On the recent controversy surrounding the loan of art for display in
the apartments, Lord Irvine said all the pieces he was borrowing would
come from reserve collections and were currently not on show. He said
they had been loaned on the express undertaking that they would be
returned immediately if requested. He added that there would be
"substantial public access to view the residence and these works." He
said a number of charities had sought permission to use the residence
for charitable fund-raising occasions. "All these requests have been
met and these charities will enjoy the use of the residence free of
any charge," he said. He also said the decisions to lend works of art
were taken by the independent trustees of each of the following
The Royal Academy
The Imperial War Museum
The National Maritime Museum
The National Gallery of Scotland
Myles J. Connor Jr., the imprisoned art thief who has been linked to
the $200 million robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is
hospitalized with an unknown medical illness, his attorney said
yesterday. Fellow inmates said Connor, 55, was removed from his
prison cell at McKean Prison in Lewis Run, Pa., yesterday afternoon
on a stretcher and taken to a hospital in nearby Bratford, attorney
Martin K. Leppo said. Prison officials would not release information
about Connor's condition, but ''I t's certainly some kind of medical
situation,'' Leppo said. Connor had been suffering from a serious flu
last week. But the former Milton resident has no history of heart
trouble, and Leppo said his client keeps a strict athletic regimen -
running 50 miles per week and doing 1,000 push-ups a day. Connor,
who is serving a 10-year sentence for trafficking in stolen art,
recently suggested he might offer information that would lead to the
return of the 11 paintings stolen from the Gardner in 1990 in
exchange for his release.
ANNE E. KORNBLUT
This story ran on page D11 of the Boston Globe on 02/23/98.
c Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.
A FOURTH-CENTURY obelisk looted by Italy from Ethiopia 60 years ago
is to be returned to its original site "within the next two months",
Italian officials said yesterday.
The announcement appears to bring to an end a long-running dispute
over the fate of the obelisk, pictured, which was removed from the
holy city of Axum in 1937 by Italian troops on the orders of Benito
Mussolini, the Fascist dictator.
Its return was negotiated by President Scalfaro, who visited Addis
Ababa last November and formally apologised for Mussolini's invasion
and occupation of what was then Abyssinia in 1935.
The colonisation of Ethiopia was part of Mussolini's attempt to
create "an empire worthy of ancient Rome". The 60ft-high granite
obelisk was erected amid triumphal ceremonies outside the Fascist
Ministry for Colonial Africa, now the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation, near the Circus Maximus.
Ethiopia was liberated by the British in 1941, but the obelisk
remained in Rome. Maria Luisa Tabasso, of the Ministry of Culture,
said Italy was obliged to return "war booty" under treaties with its
former colonies dating from 1947.
The return of the monument, however, has been held up not only by
political opposition from the extreme Right, but also by technical
doubts about whether the obelisk could be moved without damage.
Signora Tabasso said that in 1937 the obelisk had been found lying on
the ground in five pieces at Axum, which is in an earthquake zone. It
was taken to Italy in pieces and re-erected, with the fragments joined
together by iron rods. She said it could therefore be dismantled again
for the move back to Ethiopia.
Eugenio La Rocca, the Superintendent for Archaeology in Rome, said
the Ethiopians had offered to replace the monument with "a work of
modern art sculpted from the same kind of stone", as a "gesture of
reconciliation and friendship".
(Times of London)
Paintings from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are on loan all
the time. About 5% of our collection is displayed here at our museums
and this is a way for us to exhibit more paintings. Presently,
paintings from our collection grace our State Capital building in
Sacramento and our City Hall in San Francisco. There's even a
painting in Mayor Brown's office. Naturally, all loans are accounted
for by our Registrar (T. Chen). My concern from a security viewpoint
is humidity and lighting and the protection of the artwork is
difficult when it is on loan.
Standard-Autor Hubertus Czernin about the looting of art by National
Socialists which was followed by the looting of the Second Republic:
The Austrian Gallery in the Belvedere still calls art work its own
which never was ment to belong to it.
Museums, State Galleries and other interested people on governmental
level had been served perfectly. The directors and art experts
travelled to Vienna to have a look at the booty in the
'Reichskunstdepot' - the storage rooms of the 'Reich' - at the
'Hofburg'. For example the Major of Salzburg at that time thanked in
February 1940 for the ,most friendly supported viewing" and ordered at
the same time 80 singular pieces from the collection of Oskar Bondy.
(Some quotations follow from the exchange of letters between the
state authorities and curators and directors of museums which proof,
how they shared out the work of art, which was confiscated by the
Nationalsocialists from Jewisch collections. A.K)
The mediculousness with they divided out Jewish property is
remarkable. The documents at the Office for Protection of Monuments
show, that every single work of art was catalogued, got numbers and
was earmarked for that museum which showed interest for the looted
(Examples of which object of art from confiscated Jewish collections
went to which museums, everbody wanted to profit. A list of paintings
shows how a lot of it went to the Austrian Gallery, some paintings
were given back after the war, but not all. A.K.):
Only now, after the minister for culture and science, Elisabeth
Gehrer, has required the Austrian museums to open up their archives it
is possible to start a systematic investigation of the
Nationalsocialistic looting of art and the Austrian politic of
restitution. (Elisabeth Gehrer did this after the confiscation of the
Schiele paintings in New York, A.K.) The archivist of the
Kunsthistorischen Museums, (Historical Museum of Art), Herbert Haupt:
,I stand for it that everything will be cleared up. I think in any
case that everything which was purchased in the years between 1938
till 1945 was questionable."
Also a look into the catalogue of the 'Residenzgalerie Salzburg' of
the year 1955shows what is still not cleared up and reappraised: Quite
a few paintings are registered with , purchased in 1944"- among them a
'Stilleben Herbert Böckl und Gustav Klimts Am Attersee '-is registered
with: ,purchased in 1944." Really purchased? Or stolen and ,arisiert"?
Or extorted for ridicolous prices like the unique collection of
contemporary art of the dentist Heinrich Rieger from Vienna, who was
killed in Theresienstadt in 1942. It was 'purchased' after the
'Anschluß 1938' by the painter Luigi Kasimir and his compagnon Enrnst
Edhoffer for 17 000 RM.
Recherche: Gabriele Anderl/ Hubertus Czernin
Tomorrow: Looted Art in the Historical Museum of Art
(c) 1998 DER STANDARD
The complete newspaper (Der Standard) is full of art-articles and
they opened up not just the archives but a new office on restitution
for Jews who got robbed by the Nationalsocialists and cheated by the
burocracy of the Second Republic.
Until now there is nothing in other newspapers about it and I expect
quite an uproar about that, and I wonder what is going to happen in
There is a long interview with the minister as well and a long, long
article of the series.
It is fascinating - 60 years after it happened all of a sudden it
comes up and disturbes all those established museums, there are hundreds
of paintings in museums which are looted art - imagine!
Donnerstag, 26. Februar 1998, Seite 1
Wien - To guarantee a complete reappraisal of the archives regarding
the extorted or not restituted work of art Minister for culture
Elisabeth Gehrer ordered to install a clearing and service office
above party politics. An art historian is to deal with the inquiries
of the families who have been robbed during Nationalsocialism and past
war times respectively have been forced to donate paintings. In
addition Gehrer ordered to contact the affected persons respectively
their descendants. She declared at the STANDARD-Interview that no
documents are hold back. Should the directors and curators of the
museums not obey to her instruction to reveal the material it would be
punished. Even if the claim for the work of art had come under the
statute of limitation she pleads vehement for it to handle the
restituion "generous", "if there was something morally not
(c) 1998 DER STANDARD
Donnerstag, 26. Februar 1998, Seite 28 Kommentar
Who says A can try for a long time everything in order not to have to
say B as well. Because of this principle on politics often seems to be
incontrovertible one is not just pleased but also a littel astonished
about the newest announcement of the minister for culture Elisabeth
Gehrer: In January she said A and ordered to open up the archives 50
years late to make inquiries how it happened that a lot of treasures
of art which have been stolen from their Jewish owners endet up in the
museums of the Second Republic after 1945. This was followed by B now
and the insurance of the will really to take the consequences which
means to approve that illegal purchased objects are "generously" of
It might be late, even very late, but never to late to compensate the wrong. Austria's government needs it badly. How it was proofed by the STANDARD through precise investigation the state after the war purchased a until now unknown number of art treasures in a way which was wether morally nor legally acceptable. They are shown in the museums until today with vague information about their provenance, and all of us have been standing in front of it if we visited one of those houses and have been - not knowing how justified - 'thieving' (play on words in German, it means also mischievous) proud about our collective possession.
How welcome the announcement of Gehrer therefore might be she would be better off not to emphasise the "generosity" to much. The complete, unconditional return of the by the NS-regime expropriated private possession had not even been a "generosity" if it had happened immediate in 1945. Austria is because of its substantial complicity on the crimes of Nationalsocialism obliged to the victims, at least the heirs of the victims, to give material justice in the end.
Es ist Zeit für die Wahrheit. Wie es scheint und seit langem allen
unterschwellig bewußt war, hatte sich nach 1945, durchaus passend zu
Erscheinungen in anderen Bereichen, in Österreichs Museumsszene ein
von Eifersucht und Habgier geprägtes, von historischem
Schuldbewußtsein dagegen völlig unbelastetes Distributionsunwesen
ausgebildet, das in vielen Fällen an die beteiligten und allseits
ausgestreckten Hände exakt dieselben Kunstwerke vergab, die schon in
der NS-Zeit ihr Begehren geweckt hatten. Als Greifwerkzeug diente in
verzwickteren Fällen etwa das Kunstausfuhrgesetz von 1918, das jede
Ausfuhr eines Kulturgutes an eine Ausnahmebewilligung des
Bundesdenkmalamtes band. Im Hagel von Einflußnahmen nötigte dieses Amt
offenbar Emigranten, die ihr Hab und Gut in Österreich lassen hatten
müssen und nach dem Krieg nicht in dieses Land zurückkehren wollten,
zu "Schenkungen" ausgesuchter Objekte, wofür im Gegenzug andere
Objekte die Ausfuhrgenehmigung erhielten. Das Amt machte sich so,
zweifellos unrechtmäßig, zum "Keiler" der Kunstsammlungen der jungen
Zweiten Republik. Gehrers Wille zur Restitution fragwürdig erworbenen
Besitzes wird auf das abwartende Mißtrauen jener stoßen, die bzw.
deren Familien über fünfzig Jahre das Verhalten des offiziellen
Österreich beobachten mußten. Dieses Mißtrauen darf nicht abermals
bestätigt werden. Das Vorhaben, daß der Bund von sich aus auf einzelne
Erben zugeht, ist deshalb zu begrüßen. Doch wäre es darüber hinaus
unverständlich, würde die Anerkennung der moralischen Pflicht bei den
Museen haltmachen, also im engsten Bereich des Anlaßfalles, der
peinlichen Beschlagnahme zweier staatlicher Schiele-Bilder in New
(summary: It is about time to tell the truth. It seems that after the war museums and galleries were much more occupied with satisfying their greed than with finding a historical feeling of guilt. After the war they had an opportunity to get what they had already been looking for a long time during the NAZI period. The 1918 law on exportation of valuable art was used as an excuse. Emigrants that did not want to return to Austria after the war were 'invited' to donate objects of art in return for permission to take other objects out of the countr. Geherer's intention to return art will be met with suspicion by those who experienced Austrian's officail policy for fifty years.)
Like the Austrian Gallery in the Belvedere the Kunsthistorische Museum as well calls a number of paintings ist own which have been puchased during Nationalsocialism: So wie die Österreichische Galerie im Belvedere nennt auch das Kunsthistorische Museum eine Reihe von Bildern sein eigen, die in der NS-Zeit erworben wurden: Ludolf Backhuizen, Kriegsschiffe und kleinere Schiffe in einer Brise (erworben 1944); Bartolomeo Bettera, Stilleben mit Musikinstrumenten, Globus und einem Teller mit Gebaeck (erworben 1939) und Stilleben mit Musikinstrumenten, Notenblaettern und Buechern (erworben 1939); Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Amors Krönung (erworben 1941); Ferdinand Bol, Maedchen mit Lira da Gamba (erworben 1942); Jan Both, Landschaft mit Merkur und Argus (erworben 1941); Pieter Claesz, Vanitas-Stilleben (erworben 1941); Jacob van Geel, Waldlandschaft (erworben 1942); Johan van Hughtenburgh, Reiterkampf (erworben 1945); Alessandro Magnasco, Gerichtsszene (erworben 1941) und Waescherinnen (erworben 1938); Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt, Bildnis einer jungen Frau (erworben 1941); Joos de Momper d.J., Gebirgslandschaft mit Burg (erworben 1942) und Gebirgslandschaft mit Flußtal (erworben 1942); Bartolomeo Passarotti, Bildnis einer alten Frau (erworben 1943); Giambattista Pittoni, Hannibals Schwur (erworben 1938); Rembrandt, Selbstbildnis im Pelz, mit Kette und Ohrring (erworben 1942 von Frau von Mendelssohn); Salomon van Ruysdael, Landschaft mit Plankenzaun und hohem Wolkenhimmel (erworben 1939); Isaak Soreau, Stilleben mit Fruechten, Weinglas und Blumenvase (erworben 1944); Dirck Stoop, Italienische Seekueste (erworben 1943); nach Valentin de Boulogne, Musizierende Gesellschaft (erworben 1942); Januarius Zick, Paulus in Athen (erworben 1945).
In addition to that are those paintings which immediately after the war were extorted from the former owners in exchange for an export licence for other work of art:
Dazu kommen jene Bilder, die unmittelbar nach dem Krieg frueheren Eigentuemern gegen die Erteilung der Ausfuhrgenehmigung fuer andere Kunstwerke abgepreßt wurden: Aelbert Cuyp, Landschaft mit Hirt und Herde (1947 von Louis Rothschild gewidmet); Frans Hals, Tieleman Roosterman (1947 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Alphonse Rothschild gewidmet); Bildnis eines Mannes (1947 von Baron Louis de Rothschild gewidmet); Bildnis einer Frau (1947 von Baron Louis de Rothschild gewidmet); Hans de Jode, Maultiertreiber (1947 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet); Gabriel Metsu, Maedchen und Offizier (1947 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet); Isack van Ostade, Halt vor dem Wirtshaus (1947 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet); Hyacinthe Rigaud; Graf Philipp Ludwig Wenzel Sinzendorf (1948 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet); David d.J. Teniers, Erzherzog Leopold Wilhelm in seiner Galerie Bruessel (1948 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet); Jan Wynants, Landschaft mit Jaegern (1948 von Baronesse Clarisse de Rothschild zum Gedaechtnis an Baron Al_phonse de Rothschild gewidmet).
Dedications with a similar background lead to the assumption that
other work of art in the Kunsthistorisches Museum was extorted as
well: Widmungen mit aehnlichem Hintergrund sind auch noch bei anderen
im Kunsthistorischen Museum haengenden Gemaelden zu vermuten: Bei
Bartholomaeus d.AE. Bruyns auf Eichenholz gemalten Portraet des
Gerhard von Westerburg, das 1947 von Rudolf von Gutmann "gewidmet"
wurde. Gutmann, der ueber eine beachtliche Sammlung verfuegte, war
1938 emigriert. Das Gemaelde Diana Stuart, Lady Milner von Sir Thomas
Lawrence, wurde ebenfalls 1947 von Baronin Valerie Springer
"gewidmet". Gentile Bellinis Kardinal Bessarion verehrt die
Kreuzreliquie kam 1950 in den Besitz des Museums - mittels einer 1950
erfolgten Widmung durch Erich Lederer.
(c) 1998 DER STANDARD
Mittwoch, 25. Februar 1998
In the fiftties Heinrich Drimmel took a turn against the practice of restitution "Offends against moral principles" Standard-author Hubertus Czernin about Nationalsocialstic looting of art which was repeated by the Second Republic : The Federal Goverment already knew in the 50ies about the questionable proceedings htr authorities used on restitution. Of course, if owner or heirs applied they would be refunded. But not much more happened. The Austrian treaty intended something different: Paragraph 1 des Artikels 26 im Österreichischen Staatsvertrag: "... Austria binds itself in every case, where property, legal rights or interests in Austria since March 13. 1938 because of racial descent or religion of the owner has been object of forcible assignment or measures have been taken of sequester, confiscation or control, to give back the indicated property and to make restitution of all legal rights and interests with all attachments. Where return or restitution is not possible, there will be granted a compensation for all losses which have been taken because of those measures, to the same extent like every Austrian citizen gets on war damages now or lateron.in general.." But very often one was satisfied with formal action. For instance the Austrian Federal Government published in 1969 in the 'Wiener Zeitung a list of 8423 works of art, which was sent to all embassies. But - what was to achieve since nearly nobody red the 'Wiener Zeitung'? Only a glance into the archives of the Office of Monuments in Vienna is enough to realize how much there is still to reappraise. Displaced persons who just managed to save their lives had been deceived of their legitimate right - be it because of carelessness, because of lack of interest or even deliberate. It nearly seems like the new state authorities in the time after the war looked at it as a 'Holschuld' - duty? of the victims and their descendants to get restitution. (Even the top level politicians of the new state after the war did not want to know anything about thoroughly restitution. The author proofs it by documents from the years 1945-1952). Albert Sternfeld, who was engaged in questions of restitution like nobody else for many years wrote already in 1990 how things where handled in Austria: "Victims quite often had to make many concessions because they and not the 'Ariseure' (Nationalsocialists) where under pressure."
The Viennese historian Oliver Rathkolb investigated one of the most spectacular cases within this context. It concerns the collection of August Lederer of which remainings his son Erich, who was banished in 1938, wanted to export to Switzerland after the end of the war. Erich Lederer for that had to leave with the Republik of Austria several paintings, drawings and watercolor paintings: Gentile Bellini, Kardinal Bessarion verehrt die Kreuzreliquie (im Kunsthistorischen Museum); drei Entwürfe zum Zauberflötenzyklus von Moritz von Schwind: die Aquarelle Königin der Nacht; Pamina und die drei Knaben; Pamina und Monostatos (Albertina); Egon Schiele, sechs Handzeichnungen (Albertina); Franz Alt, Inneres des Stephansdoms (Stadt Wien). The case Lederer concerned the Federal Government as well. In March 1950 Minister for Sience Felix Hurdes wrote to chancellor Leopold Figl: "The demands of the 'Bundesdenkmalamt' - Federal Office for Monuments do not seem to be exaggerated to me. I could not agree anyhow to hinder the Bundesdenkmalamt in its efforts to save some important pieces from the collection Lederer for the Austrian cultural possession." Six years later Minister for science , Heinrich Drimmel, in a letter to Hurdes, who in the meantime became 'Nationalratspräsident' - President of the National Assembly - looked after the case Lederer: "I refer to our talk these days about the request of Mr. Erich Lederer. I had another look at the documents in the meantime because it always was on my mind that the practice about those questions not just offends against the law but also against morals. In my opinion it is inevitable that even the most generous export allowing which are burdened with the shortcoming of a gift under the well-known circumstances belittles in the opinon of the public the obligingness of the Denkmalamt and therefore the state authority itself. Now that this questionable compromise-solution is practised for years and the art treasures of the state this way have increased its value a lot. (...)" Drimmel proposed a revised version of the export regulations. Because of the persistence of Erich Lederer the Austrian government was concernd with the case up to the 70ies. Only then negotiations succeded, which have been started by Bruno Kreisky personally and with the help of the industrialist Karl Kahane, to put the matter off dispute finally. The Republic of Austria purchased at this time one of the most valuable objects of the collection Lederer: Gustav Klimt's 'Beethovenfries' .
Other victims of the Nationalsocialists had even more difficulties,
because quite often art work, which was looted by the
Nationalsocialists could not be found anymore. From the lists, which
had been made by the US-Allies about the collection Thorsch for
example it is to reconstruct that - not to talk about other assets -
only a small part of the work of art was on restitution. Those are
some of the disappeared pieces:
Dirk Daelens, sechs Landschaftsbilder;
holländisch/deutsch 18. Jhd., zwei Reiterbilder;
holländisch/deutsch 17. Jhd., zwei Stilleben;
holländisch, Mädchen mit Schüssel/Krug;
Agricola, Gräfin Defours-Waldrode (lag zuletzt im Lager der Bodencreditanstalt);
ein vom Hofmaler der englischen Könige Jakob I. und Karl I., dem Holländer Daniel Mytens (erste Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts), gemaltes Porträt;
Rudolf von Alts Interieur einer kleinen Kirche;
ein Landschaftsbild des Franzosen Constant Troyon (1810-1865);
eine Zeichnung des Niederländers Ludolf Backhuizen (1631-1708);
zwei Stiche von Jean Michel Moreau (1741-1814);
das Aquarell Landschaft mit Kirche von Thomas Ender;
und eine Vielzahl von Familienporträts.
In the documents of Thorsch in the archive of the Bundesdenkmalamt
there is not the slightest indication where those paintings and work
of art could have remained. Very likely one or the other piece endet
up in the Dorotheum. (auction hall)
Recherche: Gabriele Anderl/ Hubertus Czernin
(c) 1998 DER STANDARD
BY JENNIFER HOWARD | 1998 isn't even two months old and already it's been a lousy year for the art world. In January, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau slapped the Museum of Modern Art with a subpoena -- the legal equivalent of shouting obscenities at a black-tie fund-raiser. At issue: two paintings by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, on loan to MOMA from Austria's Leopold Museum. Morganthau is holding the paintings in New York while he decides whether they should go back to the heirs of the original owners, Viennese Jews who lost them to the Nazis.
Though it stands out for sheer drama and its greater implications for museums, Morgenthau's action is just the latest in a series of assaults on the art business. Last year in Britain, journalist Peter Watson lobbed a grenade at a pillar of the art establishment when he published "Sotheby's: The Inside Story." The book, played up in the British press, makes the eminent auction house out to be a den of pimps and thieves, willing to subvert the laws and jeopardize the cultural heritage of other countries in order to smuggle valuable objects into London and onto the sales block. Watson also aired his allegations in a series of TV programs he did for Britain's Channel 4; in the U.S., "60 Minutes" picked up the story.
The American edition of "Sotheby's: The Inside Story" doesn't have all the dirt the British edition did -- material on arcane schemes involving Iran, Japan and the British Rail Pension Fund didn't make the transatlantic jump -- but it still slings enough mud to keep Sotheby's in dirty laundry for a long time. For Sotheby's, Watson suggests, money is the only object. Are you in the market for some rare Apulian vases, illegally excavated from graves in southern Italy? Easy. Have a hankering for sacred carvings swiped from villagers in India? No problem. Or maybe you want to get your Old Master painting out of Italy, which, along with India, has some of the most stringent export laws in the world. Laws, apparently, were meant to be broken. Want to make sure that Old Master goes for a tidy sum? Let the auctioneer do a little "chandelier bidding" -- accepting fictitious bids to drive the price up.
Although the sins he describes are many, plausible and infuriating, Watson's no angel. He's a little too pleased with himself for uncovering all this sliminess. And he likes to forget he's writing nonfiction, slipping eagerly into spy-novel mode to describe the undercover operations -- complete with surveillance vans, cameras hidden in jewelry, even a sting involving an Italian Old Master painting -- that he and his team used to collect proof of wrongdoing. And when it comes to ethics, Watson doesn't bother to classify different magnitudes of transgression. (Is chandelier bidding really as heinous as grave robbing?)
Rarely does a book topple an institution, and the Sotheby's that Watson describes, hepped up on money and aristocratic arrogance, isn't about to crumble. Though much of his evidence seems sound -- the team secretly taped a Sotheby's employee practically begging a client to let him smuggle a painting to London -- no legal prosecution followed. (Sotheby's did make the requisite noises of protest and conducted an "internal investigation" that resulted in a few personnel changes.) Still, as an article in Art and Antiques pointed out last year, Sotheby's top brass now run the show out of New York, and in New York there's a feeling that the old ways of doing business are as antique as anything in a Sotheby's catalog. Revelations like those in "Sotheby's: The Inside Story" make you think it's past time museums and auction houses were held accountable for what they do.
And they are being held accountable. Not every case of contested art
offers the seedy thrill of catching Sotheby's with its pants down, or
the drama of the district attorney and the disputed Schieles. But this
year will see a boom of such cases, as the victims of cultural
property crimes -- from Holocaust victims' heirs to countries tired of
watching their heritage auctioned off -- learn to point fingers and
bring suit. No wonder the art world is nervous. The tussles over who
owns what are likely to get more and more bruising, as those seeking
reparation find the nerve and the cultural support to challenge those
whose business depends on hanging on for dear life to what they've
SALON | Feb. 26, 1998
Jennifer Howard, assistant editor of the Washington Post Book World.
WORCESTER, Mass. -- In days of old, when knights were bold, they
had squires armed with greasy rags to keep their armor from
rusting in the rain. Six hundred years later, squires are in short
supply. And the iron breastplates and greaves that once deflected
battle axes and longbow bolts proved just as vulnerable to water
when a ruptured pipe flooded storerooms in a museum devoted to
arms and armor. "Water is the worst enemy of a collection like
this," said Kent dur Russell, director of the Higgins Armory
Museum. "It rusts instantly. Fire would have been far easier to
deal with." At least 200 items were damaged. Restoration is
expected to take months and cost more than $85,000. The museum is
trying to raise money for the repairs. Modern armorers have taken
the place of the squires, gently removing the rust by hand using
ever finer and softer polishing compounds and cloths. As a final
protection before an item is placed on public display, it is
dipped in a soft protective wax. The flood during the New Year's
holiday started when a heating pipe burst in a third-floor office
and sent water cascading through the administrative wing below. It
swept away a gift shop -- just reopened after a $100,000 face-lift
-- soaked a newly refurbished library and research center and
poured into basement storage rooms housing thousands of pieces of
centuries-old armor. "We had just completed our most successful
year, endowments were up, the renovations were finished and we
came in the next morning and found this," said dur Russell. "Even
the heating pipe that broke was relatively new." The water stopped
short of the castle-like exhibit halls housing the museum's prime
pieces, which range from ancient Greek and Roman helmets to more
than 70 suits of medieval and Renaissance armor. And it came
inches from destroying a special display of illuminated
manuscripts. But the extensive research collection was hard hit,
even though storeroom walls were shrouded in protective plastic
and many items were separately wrapped. Experts in armor from
around the world have rallied to help with the huge task of
sorting through and cataloguing the damage. "It's triage," said
Walter J. Karcheski Jr., a curator who splits his time between the
Higgins museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. "And at the same
time that we need to stabilize the collection and minimize the
rust damage, we can't move too quickly for fear of doing more
damage." Even the slight bit of salt and acid on human hands is
enough to damage the brittle old steel used by early European
armorers, he said. "Each time it is cleaned a little of the metal
is lost, no matter how careful you are," Karcheski said, ruefully
examining a bloom of rust on the cheek of a mid-16th century
German Burgonet helmet. "And over the centuries some of the pieces
can become paper thin."
Copyright 1998, The Detroit News