Max Stern in 1951.

Düsseldorf Reverses Decision to Cancel Max Stern Exhibition, Following Public Outcry

The mayor of Düsseldorf, Thomas Geisel, backtracked on his controversial decision to cancel an exhibition dedicated to Jewish dealer Max Stern that was scheduled to open at the Stadtmuseum in February. He came under fire for citing “current demands for information and restitution in German museums in connection with the Galerie Max Stern” as the reason for not hosting the show.

According to Catherine Hickley of the New York Times, Mayor Geisel will allow the institution to stage the exhibition in a “more complete and revised form.” “It was never my intention to sweep the life and career of Max Stern under the carpet,” Geisel said. Among the changes stipulated by the city are the involvement of an additional curator, who has yet to be appointed, and the establishment of a “scholarly advisory board,” which will assist with research and recommend best practices for communicating about the works that are currently the subject of restitution claims. As a result, the opening date of the show has been pushed back and is now slated for October 2018.

Titled “Max Stern: From Düsseldorf to Montreal,” the exhibition was organized as a tribute to Stern’s legacy. The dealer was forced to sell his family’s gallery and collection of artworks after the Nazis rose to power in 1937. He eventually fled Germany and settled in Montreal. In 2002, his heirs launched the Max Stern Restitution Project, in partnership with the three universities to which he bequeathed his estate: Concordia and McGill (both in Montreal) and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Among the works included in the exhibition is Wilhelm von Schadow’s painting The Artist’s Children, which used to hang in the mayor’s office. The restitution project asserts that this work rightfully belongs to Stern, but the city rejected the claim.