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After 75 Years and 15 Claims, a Bid to Regain Lost Art Inches Forward – The New York Times

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The judge presiding over perhaps the longest-running art restitution dispute had not been born when the family of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, one of Hungary’s most prominent bankers, filed a claim in Budapest in 1945 for a collection of 2,500 artworks, Renaissance furniture and tapestries.

After 75 years, the case files from the still unresolved claim hold hundreds of thousands of pages in English, Hungarian, Russian, Polish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. There have been 11 court decisions, five appeals and 15 claims by roughly 30 lawyers in the United States, Hungary, Russia, Poland, France, Germany and Switzerland.

The vast majority of works from a collection that once included 10 El Grecos and paintings by Goya, Velázquez, Hals, Courbet, Van Dyck, Corot, Renoir, Monet and Gauguin, are still missing and the Herzog family believes that many are in Russia, Poland, France and many other countries where works are thought to have traveled in the chaos of World War II and its aftermath.

Credit…via Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP

But the heirs have focused in recent years on reclaiming dozens of artworks, including three El Grecos, a Courbet and a Corot, that are now in three Hungarian museums and a university in Budapest. Those works, valued at more than $100 million by the heirs, are the subject of the most recent legal case, which is still winding its way through federal courts in Washington.

“It’s the third generation and fourth generation who is actively pursuing the quest to restitute the memory of the Herzog family, to right the provenance of the looted artworks,” said Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who has represented members of the family for 20 years.

Over the years, the dispute has drawn in all kinds of participants. The United States ambassador to Hungary tried to negotiate a settlement in 1997. Seven United States senators — including Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts — expressed their views on the case in behalf of the heirs.

But Hungary has argued that the Herzog heirs no longer own the art, citing among other rationales that compensation had been paid in 1973 and resolved any claims made by United States citizens against Hungary, a position the heirs dispute.

Thaddeus J. Stauber, a lawyer who represents the government of Hungary in the current suit, said, “Hungary owns the artworks at issue through lawful purchase, gift, and the uniform application of property laws.”

Herzog’s collection, known as one of the finest in Europe, became so impressive and expansive because his “appetite for collecting was insatiable,” said Konstantin Akinsha, an art historian and a leading expert on World War II looted art. “His home had no space for the family and they moved into other homes. All the walls in Herzog’s study were covered by El Greco paintings.”

When Herzog died in 1934, his collection was inherited by his wife, Janka, and then, after she died in 1940, his three children — Erzsebet, Istvan and Andras. It was then hidden by the family in various locations in Hungary, including bank vaults in Budapest.

Credit…Csilla Cseke/EPA, via Shutterstock

Hungarian and Nazi officials found most of the hiding places and took the artworks to the Majestic Hotel in Budapest, the headquarters of Adolf Eichmann, who went to Hungary in 1944 to help carry out Hitler’s extermination of the Jews. When Soviet troops approached the city, Eichmann and Hungarian officials sent works to Germany. Other works were left behind in Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts.

After the war, when the Allies repatriated looted art that was recovered, some Herzog works were returned to Hungary in anticipation that they would eventually be given back to the rightful owners. But many ended up in state museums where, Herzog family members say, they once bore labels that said “From the Herzog Collection.”

The heirs began to make claims in Hungary within a few months after the end of World War II.

For nearly two decades, Erzsebet’s husband, Alfonz Weiss de Csepel, wrote to officials in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United States. The National Archives in Washington has copies of 350 pages from his letters.

Donald Blinken, who was United States ambassador to Hungary between 1994 and 1997, said he worked with Erzsebet’s daughter, Martha Nierenberg, to negotiate an agreement with the Hungarian minister of culture under which works would be returned to the family which, in acknowledgment, would give several back to Hungary.

“We thought we had a deal but a year later we found out that they had reneged,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview.

In 1999, Mrs. Nierenberg filed suit in Budapest asking for 12 works and won in a lower court, but Hungary’s Supreme Court overturned the judgment in 2002. Three years later, the lower court ruled she was entitled to only one painting. She appealed and lost in 2008.

In 2010, the legal battle shifted to the United States when three Herzog heirs filed a suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit was partly funded by the Commission for Art Recovery, which was founded by Ronald Lauder in 1997 to help governments and museums restitute art stolen during the Nazi era.

Credit…Herzog Family Archive

For years the issue has been whether the United States courts have jurisdiction in the matter. American law does not permit lawsuits against state-owned museums abroad but there are exceptions, including in cases where property has been taken in violation of international law, an approach that the Herzog heirs have been pursuing.

“We are asking for the return of works or to be compensated for the heirs’ interest in the works,” said Alycia Benenati, a lawyer for the heirs who has been on the case for 10 years.

Hungary’s efforts to restitute looted art have been the subject of some criticism, most notably from Stuart E. Eizenstat, an adviser to the State Department and an expert on Holocaust-era looted art. He negotiated the Washington Principles in 1998 in which 44 nations agreed to making best efforts to return the art. But at a conference in Berlin in 2018 he was especially critical of Hungary, which he said possesses “major works of art looted on its territory” during World War II and has “not restituted them” despite “being repeatedly asked” to address the matter.

But in May, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Hungarian government from the case on jurisdictional grounds. She did allow the case to go forward against the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery and the Museum of Applied Arts, and the University of Technology and Economics in Budapest.

In July, Judge Huvelle granted Hungary’s request to have the District Court of Appeals review whether the case against the museums and the university in Hungary should also be dismissed. No date has been set for the court hearing.

Though much of the case has revolved around legal technicalities, one of the Herzog heir lawyers said she hoped it could ultimately become a litigation based on the merits of the family’s claim.

Ms. Peresztegi said: “Last year, the French Supreme Court held that as a matter principle no lawful purchase and no application of property law can override the fact that a property was taken as a result of Nazi persecution. I expect that the United States courts will reach the same moral and just conclusion.”

But at this point, the two sides cannot even agree on how long this case will take to get resolved. “The suit will be over in a year,” said Mr. Stauber, who is representing Hungary.

“It could drag on for a few more years,” said Ms. Peresztegi.

Representatives of the Herzog heirs believe they have identified other looted works in Poland and in France, and they have been pursuing those as well. Several years ago, Poland agreed after lengthy negotiations to return a Courbet landscape that had been at the National Museum in Warsaw to the heirs, who sold it at Christie’s in 2014 for $545,000.

“I want to see a resolution,” said David L. de Csepel, a grandson of Herzog’s daughter who lives in Altadena, Calif., and filed the suit with two other Herzog heirs. “I’m 54 years old and I don’t want it passed onto the next generation.”

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Bruce Springsteen and the Art of Aging Well – The Atlantic

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Bryan Derballa / The New York Ti​mes / Redux

I recently saw a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson in the first year of his presidency. He looked like a classic old guy—wrinkled, mature, in the late season of life. It was a shock to learn that he was only 55 at the time, roughly the same age as Chris Rock is now. He left the presidency, broken, and beaten, at 60, the same age as, say, Colin Firth is now.

Something has happened to aging. Whether because of better diet or health care or something else, a 73-year-old in 2020 looks like a 53-year-old in 1935. The speaker of the House is 80 and going strong. The presidential candidates are 77 and 74. Even our rock stars are getting up there. Bob Dylan produced a remarkable album this year at 79. Bruce Springsteen released an album today at 71. “Active aging” is now a decades-long phase of life. As the nation becomes a gerontocracy, it’s worth pondering: What do people gain when they age, and what do they lose? What does successful aging look like?

President Donald Trump is a prime example of an unsuccessful older person—one who still lusts for external validation, who doesn’t know who he is, who knows no peace. Nearly two millennia ago, the Roman statesman Cicero offered a more robust vision of what elders should do and be: “It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done,” he wrote, “but by wisdom, character and sober judgment. These qualities are not lacking in old age but in fact grow as time passes.”

Springsteen is the world champion of aging well—physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. His new album and film, Letter to You, are performances about growing older and death, topics that would have seemed unlikely for rock when it was born as a rebellion for anyone over 30. Letter to You is rich in lessons for those who want to know what successful aging looks like. Far from being sad or lachrymose, it’s both youthful—loud and hard-charging—and serene and wise. It’s a step forward from his Broadway show that debuted three years ago and his memoir, released four years ago. Now he’s not only telling the story of his life, but asking, in the face of death, about life’s meaning, and savoring life in the current moment.

It’s the happiest Springsteen album maybe in decades. “When I listen to it, there’s more joy than dread,” Springsteen told me. “Dread is an emotion that all of us have become very familiar with. The record is a little bit of an antidote to that.” The album generates the feeling you get when you meet a certain sort of older person—one who knows the story of her life, who sees herself whole, and who now approaches the world with an earned emotional security and gratitude.

The album, and the film that recorded the making of the album (I recommend watching the film first), was occasioned by a death. From 1965 to 1968, when rock was in its moment of explosive growth and creativity, Springsteen was in a band called the Castiles. Two years ago, Springsteen found himself at the bedside of a member of that band, George Theiss, as he died of cancer. After his passing, Springsteen realized that he is the sole remaining survivor from that band—the “Last Man Standing,” as he puts it in one of the songs on the new album.

The experience created an emotional vortex and the music poured out of him. “The actual mechanics of songwriting is only understandable up to a certain point,” Springsteen told me, “and it’s frustrating because it’s at that point that it begins to matter. Creativity is an act of magic rising up from your subconscious. It feels wonderful every time it happens, and I’ve learned to live with the anxiety of it not happening over long periods of time.”

On the album, Springsteen goes back in time to those mid-’60s years when he, Theiss, and the Castiles would play in the union halls, hullabaloo clubs, and bowling alleys around Freehold, New Jersey. He goes further back, to his childhood, and reminisces about the trains that used to rumble through town; the pennies he’d put on the tracks; and when he first became familiar with death as a boy, going to the funerals of his extended clan, walking up semi-terrified and kneeling before the casket and then walking back home with a sense of trembling accomplishment.

“Memory is many things,” the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister has written. “It is a call to resolve in us what simply will not go away.” Springsteen has made a career, and built a global fan base, out of going back and back, to Freehold and Asbury Park, and digging, digging, digging to understand the people he grew up around and who made him, for good and ill, the man he became. “The artists who hold our attention,” he told me, “have something eating away at them, and they never quite define it, but it’s always there.”

Even in his 70s, Springsteen still has drive. What drives him no longer feels like ambition, he said, that craving for success, recognition, and making your place in the world. It feels more elemental, like the drive for water, food, or sex. He talks about this in the movie: “After all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It’s there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside of me throughout the day … Over the past 50 years, it has never ceased. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all of the above? All I know, it is one of the most consistent impulses of my life.”

With the Castiles, he not only learned how to do his job but also found his mode of emotional communication and a spiritual awareness. He found his vocation, and his vehicle for becoming himself. A lot of the music on this album is about music, the making of it and the listening to it, the power that it has. The songs “House of A Thousand Guitars” and “Power of Prayer” are about those moments when music launches you out of normal life and toward transcendence. For a nonreligious guy, Springsteen is the most religious guy on the planet; his religion is musical deliverance.

Like every successful mature person, Springsteen oozes gratitude—especially for relationships. The film is largely about the camaraderie of the E Street Band, men and women who have been playing together off and on for 45 years and who have honed their skills and developed a shorthand for communicating. We watch them discussing and arguing over how to put each song together, then savor the end result. The band sounds fantastic, especially the powerful drumming of Max Weinberg.

The film intersperses clips of Springsteen recording and performing with the same guys four decades ago, when they were young and lithe, and today, when they’re a bit grizzled. “We weren’t immune from the vicissitudes. We had the same ups and downs as most rock bands,” Springsteen told me. “It’s like a marriage. The ups and downs have deepened us. The band is as close now as it’s ever been. We had to suffer.”

Letter to You is a sincere and vulnerable album. It conveys Springsteen’s appreciation for the conversation he’s had with his audience, and his appreciation for the dead and the debts we owe them. The core of the album comprises three songs about how the dead live on in us and in the ensuing generations. “It’s just your ghost / Moving through the night / Your spirit filled with light / I need, need you by my side / Your love and I’m alive,” Springsteen sings in “Ghosts,” the best track on the album.

“When you’re young, you believe the world changes faster than it does. It does change, but it’s slow,” Springsteen told me. “You learn to accept the world on its terms without giving up the belief that you can change the world. That’s a successful adulthood—the maturation of your thought process and very soul to the point where you understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.”

Attaining that perspective is the core of successful maturity. Carrying the losses gently. Learning to live with the inner conflicts, such as alternating confidence and insecurity. Getting out of your own way, savoring life and not trying to conquer it, shedding the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies youth, and giving other people a break. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, as they used to say.

That perspective is evident in the movie’s “bright sadness,” to use a term from the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr. Directed by Thom Zimny, the film cuts again and again to overhead shots of snow-covered forests—Old Man Winter coming. But inside the studio, everything is warm and full of music. The dreams of Springsteen and his band came true times a thousand; they have good reason to be content in old age. But studies show that most people do get happier as they age. They focus more on life’s pleasures than its threats.

As you watch the film, you may think of not only personal maturity but also national maturity. America has always fancied itself as wild and innocent; youth, Oscar Wilde observed, is the country’s oldest tradition. After the past 20 years, and especially after the presidency of Donald Trump, we’ve become jaded, and look askance at our former presumption of innocence. But, taking a cue from Springsteen, maybe we can achieve a more mature national perspective in the years post-Trump.

“Joe Biden is like one of the fathers in the neighborhood I grew up with as a kid,” Springsteen told me. “They were firemen and policemen, and there was an innate decency to most of them that he carries naturally with him. It’s very American.”

Approaching 80, Biden is pretty old. Seventy-seven is probably not the ideal age to start such a grueling job as president of the United States. But making the most of the not-ideal is what maturity teaches. The urge to give something to future generations rises up in people over 65, and a style of leadership informed by that urge may be exactly what American needs right now. Today, being 77 doesn’t have to be a time of wrapping things up; it’s just the moment you’re in, still moving to something better. Maybe this can be America—not in decline, but moving with maturity to a new strength.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

David Brooks is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of The Road to Character and The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

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Art comes a Crawling – Coast Reporter

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Your annual Sunshine Coast Art Crawl is here! Creek studios open this Friday, Saturday and Sunday run the gambit from bonsai to photography, from cedar carvings to the crystal gallery with a selection of pottery work to boot. A scaled down event from years past, you may actually have a chance to get to a majority of the studios this time! With 97 studios participating (17 here in the Creek), 76 are open for drop in, the remainder are virtual or by appointment only. Find your map at Eco Freako, the Rusty Hinge and elsewhere, and get Crawling! 

Our little local, the #219, has a temporary covering for the whole front yard that will be up until Halloween. The outdoor licence they hold ends on the 31st so they have decided to go for it, rain or shine! Doors at 4 p.m. except the 25th, last call at 9 p.m. Seating will be limited, and dress for the weather, eh? Where I grew up, the first snow was in the closing weeks of October but that’s another reason why I live here, right? 

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Oct. 23: The Hook, is this from the “line and sinker” fame? Not sure about that but sure to be entertaining! 

Oct. 24: The High Quadra Ramblers are Mack Shields on fiddle and vocals and Kaitlin Chamberlin on banjo, vocals and stepdancing, who recently released their second high-energy album. 

Oct. 25: Martini Madness (2 p.m. matinee) where I imagine there will be martinis, perhaps even some madness? Maybe they are talking about the band? Checkerboard Rock FTW! 

Oct. 30: Captain Fantasy brings your Ween fix for those who would brave the elements! 

Oct. 31: Halloween Party (last night of outdoor stage – details next week). 

Open House at WolfPups! Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3186 Hansen Rd. Your chance to sign up for two upcoming Studio Play Dates: printing with hand-cut stencils, and natural dye T-shirt. Ask Sarita for deets! 

What is art? It is said that a builder uses their hands, a craftsperson uses their head and their hands and an artist uses their heart, their head and their hands. To me, it’s those things created to bring more beauty into the world (I pledged to do this years ago). A solo show early in my career was entitled, “Objects, Useful and Not,” and that said a lot about what art is. From chocolate to blankets, paintings to music, there are a lot of Creekers using their hearts to give us a more decorated life. I spend between one and three per cent of my annual income on art and have not regretted one purchase. Each piece brings me joy. In these difficult days you deserve to have more of the heart of an artist in your life; it will pay dividends to you, our artists and our community as a whole. This weekend is your chance to make it happen. 

As always, I am happy to share your news, event, workshop or what have you. kellybacks@rocket
mail.com

 

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Interactive art installation in Benny park helps local artist be heard during the pandemic

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A new interactive art installation in NDG’s Benny park is making a lot of noise.

Titled the Hexaphone, passersby are invited to see what it feels like to be in a recording studio without ever walking through a door.

Located in the shadow of the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce sports centre, five wooden music stations emit isolated sounds of instruments and vocals from local artists.

Listeners can hear the individual sounds of each musician and instrument but also a complete ensemble when they arrive at the centre of the hexagonal installation.

The sounds are paired with a visual element. Screens give the audience an intimate inside look at a recoding session.

 

The project was put on by the city of Montreal in partnership with the borough, multiple local artists and the Trouble Makers recording studio.

Up-and-coming local singer Thaïs, whose music is featured in the project, said it was a blessing to have her voice and work heard by a new audience during this hard time for performers.

“It was a cool experience, because I can do a show so it was a great way to show my music to public and new people,” Thaïs said.

Seen playing the piano and singing in the installation, as an emerging artist, Thaïs said she was thankful for the opportunity for this kind work.

“We have to adapt during times like this,” she said.

The installation is apart of a city-funded cultural initiative.

The goal of the project, according to the borough, is to allow people to enjoy local talent in a safe environment during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This gives people some kind of artistic and cultural experience given that the options are limited in this context,” borough councillor Christian Arseneault said.

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Arsenault says this gives the public a reason to venture outdoors and experience art in a safe way without leaving their neighborhood.

“It’s perfect for social distancing. There is no need to touch buttons. We feel this is ideal for the situation we find ourselves in right now, ” he said.

The Hexaphone installation operates from 3 to 10 p.m.

The temporary piece will be playing a tune until Nov. 4.

 

Source: – Global News

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