US Court Denies Germany’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Brought by Heirs of Jewish Art Dealers Persecuted by Nazis

An object from the Guelph trove.

Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a federal judge in Washington, DC, denied Germany’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed to recover the Guelph Treasure, a trove of devotional and medieval art objects once owned by the House of Guelph—a centuries-old European dynasty—sold by a group of German-Jewish art dealers in 1935 for just over a third of its market value to the state of Prussia. The case is one of the first to be influenced by the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act. The HEAR Act makes it less difficult for the heirs of those persecuted by the Nazis to file restitution claims in the US, writes Laura Gilbert of the Art Newspaper.

Heirs Jed Leiber, Gerald Stiebel, and Alan Philipp say their relatives were forced by the Nazis into selling the treasure for almost nothing (and the dealers were made to look like villains because of their Jewishness and because the objects were considered German state treasures). The plaintiffs say the transaction was overseen by Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, as they wanted the Guelph pieces for the Reich. Leiber, Stiebel, and Philipp cite a letter from Frankfurt’s mayor asking Hitler to “create the legal and financial preconditions for [the treasure’s] return.” After the sale was taken care of, Goering presented the Guelph trove as a “surprise gift” to Hitler.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and Germany are in charge of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin, where the Guelph Treasure is currently on view. They state that the sale was a valid “arm’s length negotiation.” According to Germany and the foundation, the works’ low price was due to the floundering German art market and the Great Depression. Judge Kollar-Kotelly turned down the defendants’ argument for dismissing the suit, citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which halts lawsuits against other countries but makes exceptions where the government breaks international laws. The looting of Jewish property by the Nazis “constitute[s] genocide and genocide . . . is a clear violation of international law,” said the judge. In the original motion to dismiss, Germany and the foundation argued that the statute of limitations had passed for a claim on the treasure. The HEAR Act, however, changed such limitations and the defendants retain the right to raise the issue in future cases.


June 27, 2017

Art Gallery of Ontario Appoints Four New Curators

From left: Julie Crooks, Alexa Greist, Wanda Nanibush, and Caroline Shields.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has appointed four new curators: Julie Crooks, assistant curator of photography; Alexa Greist, assistant curator of prints and drawings; Wanda Nanibush, assistant curator of Canadian and Indigenous art; and Caroline Shields, assistant curator of European art.

Stephan Jost, the Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO of the museum, said, “The four areas in which Alexa, Caroline, Julie, and Wanda will work are all central to the vision for the future of the AGO. Whether they are cornerstone collections, such as European or Canadian art, or growing areas of focus such as Indigenous art or photography, each of them brings an exceptional and diverse range of experiences to their work here.”

Crooks received her Ph.D. from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies from its department of history of art and archaeology. She is a cocurator for the Of Africa project at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, where she was given a Rebanks Postdoctoral Fellowship to research the involvement of Black and African audiences with the museum’s African gallery, and the history of black people in Canada via photography.

June 27, 2017

New York’s MoMA Receives $50 Million Gift

New York’s MoMA.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art announced today that the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation has made a gift of $50 million in support of the museum’s ongoing renovation and expansion project, which will add 50,000 square feet of gallery space, allowing the museum to reconceive the presentation of its collection and exhibitions.

In honor of the Cohens’ generosity the museum will create the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center for Special Exhibitions, MoMA’s largest contiguous gallery. Located on the sixth floor, the Cohen Center will have an adaptable floor plan and will be used to regularly present large-scale exhibitions.

“Steven and Alex Cohen are incredible philanthropists, whose longtime generosity to the museum exemplifies their deep commitment to sharing the art of our time with the widest possible audience,” said MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry. “This gift will have an extraordinary impact on our ability to present exhibitions at a scale that is virtually unprecedented. I am also thrilled to have Steve as a new member of our board of trustees.”

June 27, 2017

Palais de Tokyo Names Artists for Its First US Exhibition with Expo Chicago 2017

The interior of the Roundhouse.

The Palais de Tokyo has announced the participating artists for “Singing Stones,” curated by the museum’s Katell Jaffrès, an offsite exhibition that will open in conjunction with the 2017 Expo Chicago art fair as part of the museum’s “Hors les Murs” (Outside the Walls) program, which organizes satellite exhibitions at various art events around the world. The show will be held at the Roundhouse, a former horse stable on the campus of the DuSable Museum of African American History in South Chicago, designed by Burnham and Root and erected in 1881. “Singing Stones” marks the museum’s first staging of a show on US soil. French and international artists will be creating new work for the exhibition through a residency partnership with Mana Contemporary Chicago.

The participating artists in “Singing Stones” are Wilfrid Almendra, Thomas Teurlai, the Floating Museum Collective, Florian Pugnaire, David Raffini, Raphaël Zarka, Dorian Gaudin, Guillaume Leblon, Daniel G. Baird, Bouchra Khalili, Cauleen Smith, Lola Gonzàlez, and Andrew Schachman. “Singing Stones” opens on September 12 and runs until October 29. The fair begins on September 13 and ends September 17.

June 27, 2017

Shortlist Announced for 2017 Jarman Award

Marianna Simnett, The Needle and the Larynx, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 15 minutes 17 seconds.

Alex Greenberger of Artnews writes that the shortlist for the 2017 Film London Jarman Award—which recognizes a filmmaker based in the UK—has been announced. One among the six selected artists will receive a cash prize of about $12,700. The recipient of the prize will be announced on November 20.

The artists on the list are Lawrence Abu Hamdan (who won the Nam June Paik award in 2016), Oreet Ashery, Adham Faramawy, Melanie Manchot, Charlotte Prodger, and Marianna Simnett.

The Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, Adrian Wootton, said of the shortlist, “These artists work in a world that is fast-moving, innovative, and ever-changing, and their work reflects this. It challenges us to think differently about the world we see around us, and has the power to alter our very perception of what it means to be a contemporary filmmaker.”

June 27, 2017

Arts Council England Grant Saves Museum in Walsall

The New Art Gallery Walsall. Photo: George Benson / Stereographic.

An Arts Council England grant to the New Art Gallery Walsall, which opened in 2000, will keep it from shutting down, reports Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper. The council is giving the museum about $4.5 million, which will be distributed in the amount of $900,000 annually until the year 2022.

The museum, known for it collection of works from Picasso and Van Gogh gifted by the widow of sculptor Jacob Epstein, was in danger of closing after the Walsall Council proposed to reduce funding the museum last November from around $1.14 million a year to zero by 2020. People from the British art world—such as artist Cornelia Parker and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine Gallery’s artistic director—wrote a letter to The Guardian protesting the museum’s closure, calling it “a devastating blow to the life of the community.” The museum is now trying to partner with the University of Wolverhampton in order to curtail its financial dependence on the Walsall Council.

June 27, 2017

François Pinault Reveals Plans for New Contemporary Art Museum in Paris

An architectural model depicting Pinault’s new museum. Photo: Luc Castel.

Billionaire art collector François Pinault has revealed details of his plan to open a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. The edifice, according to its architect Tadao Ando, will be a “completely circular museum” and located right between the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre, at the very center of Paris, inside of a building that was once used for wheat storage, then served as the base for the commodities stock market. The museum is scheduled to open in 2019 and will cost about $122 million to complete. It will have close to 9,850 square feet of exhibition space, a black box theater, and an auditorium below ground level that will be able to seat three hundred people.

“With the creation of this new museum, I am writing the next chapter of my cultural project, whose goal is to share my passion for contemporary art with as broad an audience as possible. This story began in Venice more than ten years ago, when I opened Palazzo Grassi, then the Punta della Dogana. These two spaces will maintain a close and constant contact with their Parisian sibling,” said Pinault at a press conference announcing the new museum. “As in Venice, the Paris museum will show works from the Pinault collection and present living artists.”

The museum will be funded entirely by Pinault’s family company, unlike the city’s Vuitton Foundation, which has been criticized for relying heavily on state support. “When I see how difficult conditions are for so many today, and in view of the many priorities the government has to deal with, I would have considered it scandalous to rely on public help,” Pinault said.

June 26, 2017

Merryn Schriever Appointed as Director of Bonhams Australia

Merryn Schriever

Bonhams has named Merryn Schriever as the company’s new director in Australia. She succeeds Mark Fraser, who recently left the auction house to pursue other opportunities in the art world.

“Merryn’s proven track record—as evidenced by the superb result for our June sale—makes her the perfect fit to assume the leadership for Bonhams in Australia,” Matthew Girling, global CEO of Bonhams, said. “Bonhams remains committed to holding sales in Sydney and I know that Merryn will continue to build upon our success.”

Schriever, who will be based in Sydney, joined Bonhams as a senior art specialist in 2013. She recently curated the $2.7 million sale of Australian and Aboriginal Art that included Brett Whiteley’s Hummingbird and Frangipani, 1986, which sold for $545,000. Prior to joining the auction house, Schriever worked for Deutscher and Hackett as an art specialist and was a member of the business development team at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

June 26, 2017

Judge Orders Exhumation of Salvador Dalí’s Body for Paternity Suit

Salvador Dalí. Photo: Wally Rizzo for Paris-Match Collection Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation

A judge in Madrid has ordered the exhumation of the body of Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí after a woman, who claims to be the artist’s daughter, filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the Spanish state and the Gala-Salvador Dalí foundation, Raphael Minder of the New York Times reports.

Born in 1956, Pilar Abel, a tarot card reader, says that Dalí had a “clandestine love affair” with her mother, Antonia Martínez de Haro in Port Lligat, the fishing village where Dalí and his wife Gala lived. Abel took legal action so that she could officially be recognized as the artist’s child and “after that, whatever corresponds to me.” Abel said that her mother, who worked as a maid at the time, told her as well as other people that Dalí was her father on several occasions. Commenting on her physical resemblance to the painter, Abel told El Mundo that “the only thing I’m missing is a mustache.”

According to the court, no other biological or personal effects of the artist remains, therefore Dalí’s corpse must be exhumed in order to obtain a sample of his DNA. Dalí was buried in a crypt below a theater and museum of his design in his hometown of Figueres. The artist’s foundation announced today that it will appeal the judge’s ruling. Dalí, who died in 1989, several years before Gala, had no children and left most of his works to the Spanish state.

June 26, 2017

German Collector Announces Plans for New Museum in Bavaria

Susanne Klatten

German art collector Susanne Klatten, BMW’s major shareholder and the richest woman in Germany, has announced plans to establish a foundation in Nantesbuch near Bad Tölz in Bavaria, Germany, according to Monopol.

The foundation will eventually house Klatten’s private art collection, comprising over six hundred pieces by artists such as Michael Beutler, Olaf Holzapfel, Kaarina Kaikkonen, Alex Katz, Anselm Kiefer, Karin Kneffel, and Robert Longo. The new museum is designed to exist in harmony with nature. Visitors to the site “should find a little distance from the unrest of the city,” Klatten said, adding it is “like the entrance into another world.”

Klatten did not disclose the construction or operational costs of the foundation. Artist Mischa Kuball has been commissioned to create one of the first new works for the foundation’s site.