Controversial collection related to Nazi seizures on display in the largest museum in Zurich

In the 1980s, 31 works by Swiss artist Miriam Khan were purchased by Kunstas in Zurich, the largest public museum in Switzerland. Last December, Khan had Asked the museum Due to the company’s decision to display Emil Georg Bührle’s highly controversial collection, his works should be withdrawn. Burley made his fortune by selling arms to Nazi Germany, and his collection includes works of art that were seized or stolen by Jewish families and collectors from Jewish families during World War II.

Khan’s request, among other things, that he would like to repurchase his works has been reported by various international newspapers because it is linked to an issue that is constantly being discussed: the social responsibility of museums.

Miriam Khan is an internationally renowned artist: she is Jewish, 72 years old, and she is politically and artistically active above all in the feminist movement. His works are currently on display in some of the largest institutions in the world, in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in Tate, London, and in the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, for example. Paris Stock Exchange, Opened in May 2021 by Franசois Pinalt.

In late December, Khan wrote an open letter Touchills, The weekly magazine of the Swiss Jewish Community, said that the “reputation of the museum” in Zurich was “ruined” by the decision to display the Bührle collection. “It is not my problem that this set is displayed in a private setting. But in a public museum, it’s not ethical. Khan therefore demanded that his works be withdrawn from Kunsthaus and that they be purchased at the original price.

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Prior to Miriam Khan’s letter, about thirty historians had publicly denounced the integration of the Bührle collection into the Kunsthaus.

Bührle has a lot of collection Controversial. Last year, the results of the study on its origin were appointed precisely by the Zurich province in view of the exhibition of the collection in the new section of the Public Museum in Zurich.

Emil Burley, born in 1890 and dying in 1956, became Switzerland’s richest man by arms sales during World War II. He initially sold guns to the Allies for about 60 million francs, and later, after the defeat of France, he supplied arms to Nazi Germany for about 540 million francs. “Before and after World War II, Borle was able to establish his world-class art gallery because of the immense wealth he amassed through arms exports,” he said. Explained Matthew Lim Limkrooper, historian at the University of Zurich, author of the study.

– read more: Repository of Nazi art in the United States

Bührle’s first acquisitions were in the 1920s, but he began to create his collection in the late 1930s, during which time the exploits and racial persecution of the Nazi regime had a major impact on the art market. As part of the collection, Bührle bought it from the Swiss Fischer Gallery, famous for marketing many works that had been looted to the Jews, and its owner, in 1939, acted as an auctioneer in the famous auction of “degraded art” removed by dictatorships from German museums.

In total, Bührle bought 600 works for 39 million francs. In 1960, his heirs built a foundation containing 200 paintings, which were later purchased by the Kunstas Museum in Zurich.

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According to many scholars, Emile Burley was not a Nazi, but he traded with the Nazi regime and consolidated his collection using the persecution of the Jews. They are a part of Works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pamilre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, Alfred Sisley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh were later purchased. After some claims and the courts ordered their evidence, they were returned to their rightful owners.

However, according to experts, many dubious works are still part of the collection.

French newspaper The world, Which is the case these days Said Miriam Khan’s story is the precursor to her claim, exploring the source of works in museums and explaining how to recapture captives from those persecuted by the regime. Policies Established in 1998 at the end of the Washington Conference on Art Seized by the Nazis: Unrestricted Policies, but established to promote and support research and to encourage the retrieval of confiscated works.

So far, following the Washington conference, Only five countries (Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands) have set up national committees to determine the source of dubious works of art. But second Deutche Welle, Of the approximately 600 thousand works of art stolen by the Nazis, more than 100 thousand However, they were not withdrawn. Some are still housed in museums and private collections in Europe and beyond, while others are at the center of legal conflicts.

– read more: The story of the Nazi anatomy book we still use

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Despite the criticisms received, Kunstas in Zurich supported its choice; He has not yet responded to Miriam Khan’s request to buy his works back at the original price, much lower than it is now.

However, Kunstas’ decision in Zurich goes in the opposite direction, which has been accepted by many museums in recent years. Faced with a similar controversy, and always linked to questions related to evidence, for example, the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern made a completely different choice. Last December the museum decided to drop forty works or suspicious works confiscated: they are part of a highly controversial collection obtained in 2014 by art dealer Cornelius Kurlitt, associated with Nazi Germany.

Usually, he writes The world, The social responsibility of museums and cultural institutions, and therefore the source of the collections but also the source of the private money that funds the museums are at the center of a broader international debate, which has definite consequences.

For years, artist and photographer Nan Goldin, for example, has denounced the “toxic philanthropy” associated with the Chockler family-owned pharmaceutical company, which funds museums, and the opioid production of Oxycontin. 500 thousand deaths in the United States and Goldin relied on himself. His commitment recently led to a conclusion: in December 2021, the Metropolitan Museum in New York announced the removal of the Chockler family plates from seven exhibition sites.

Artists and enthusiasts include Isabelle Fremeaux and John Jordan in turn Got the result Tate Modern’s partnership with British Petroleum Oil in London.

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