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Swiss Museum Settles Claim Over Art Trove Acquired in Nazi Era – The New York Times



Twelve years after the city of Basel, Switzerland, rejected a claim for restitution of 200 prints and drawings in its Kunstmuseum, officials there have reversed their position and reached a settlement with the heirs of a renowned Jewish museum director and critic who sold his collection before fleeing Nazi Germany.

In 2008, the museum argued that the original owner, Curt Glaser, a leading figure in the Berlin art world and close friend of Edvard Munch, sold the art at market prices. The museum’s purchase of the works at a 1933 auction in Berlin was made in good faith, it said, so there was no basis for restitution.

But after the Swiss news media unearthed documents that shed doubt on that version of events, the museum reviewed its earlier decision and today announced it would pay an undisclosed sum to Glaser’s heirs. In return, it will keep works on paper estimated to be worth more than $2 million by artists including Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, Auguste Rodin, Marc Chagall, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel. Among the most valuable pieces are two Munch lithographs, “Self Portrait” and “Madonna.”

The turnaround is a major victory for the heirs but also a sign, experts said, of a new willingness on the part of Swiss museums to engage seriously with restitution claims and apply international standards on handling Nazi-looted art in public collections. “Switzerland was neutral during the war, but it was a marketplace for art,” David Rowland, the New York lawyer representing Glaser’s heirs, said. “It is now making great progress in coming to grips with these cases. This is a big step forward.”

The Kunstmuseum said it also plans to mount a comprehensive exhibition in 2022, in consultation with the heirs, about Glaser’s role as “a collector, art historian, critic and museum director.”

“It has taken a long time, but this is good news,” said Valerie Sattler, Glaser’s great-niece and one of his heirs. “We were initially all very skeptical that anything would change with this review.”

Born in Leipzig, Glaser began work as an art critic in 1902. From 1909, he was a purchaser for the Royal Gallery of Prints in Berlin. He began to build his own collection and was appointed director of the city’s Kunstbibliothek, or art library, in 1924. At regular art salons, Glaser and his wife entertained artists and intellectuals over tea and liqueurs in their Berlin apartment in the 1920s.

Soon after the Nazis seized power in 1933, Glaser was ousted from his post and the accompanying apartment. He decided to leave Germany and sold most of his collection in two auctions in Berlin. Among the bidders at the Max Perl auction house in May 1933 was Otto Fischer, a curator for Basel’s public collections, who had been given permission to “make cheap acquisitions.”

The Kunstmuseum says its research suggests Glaser received the proceeds for the sales. He left for Paris in 1933 and eventually made his way to the United States in 1941. He died there in 1943.

Glaser’s heirs first approached the Kunstmuseum in 2004. Four years later, the government of Canton Basel, which oversees the museum, rebuffed their claim. It argued the prices that had been paid for the works were typical of the time. It said the auction catalog had given no indication that the works belonged to Glaser and the Kunstmuseum had “exercised all requisite care” in its acquisition.

The heirs, most of whom live in the United States, accused the canton and the museum of “failing on a human level” and “minimizing the Holocaust in all of its aspects.”

But in 2017 the Basel Art Commission, a committee that supports and advises the museum, agreed to review the case. There were several triggers for this reassessment.

In 2014, another Swiss museum, the Bern Kunstmuseum, inherited the tainted collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, a recluse who had hidden away in his Munich and Salzburg homes about 1,500 works inherited from his father, an art dealer for Adolf Hitler. His bequest, and the burden of responsibility it placed on the Bern museum, trained a spotlight on Switzerland’s patchy record in restituting Nazi-looted art and raised public awareness of the plunder and of works sold under duress that had made their way into some museum collections.

Then in 2017, the Swiss public television channel SRF reported that Basel had not been entirely open in its assessment of the Glaser claim. Minutes from 1933 meetings revealed that the art commission at the time was aware the works belonged to Glaser. They also described the purchases as “cheap,” if not “fire-sale prices.”

Meanwhile, other museums and private collectors, particularly in Germany, had agreed to restitute Glaser works sold at the two 1933 auctions. Among those that returned art to the heirs were the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 2014, the Hamburg Kunsthalle in 2015 and 2018, and Berlin’s State Museums, which also installed a plaque honoring Glaser at the Kunstbibliothek in 2016.

When the Gurlitt case drew wide attention to the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Felix Uhlmann, the president of Basel’s Art Commission, said the committee took up “informal contact” with officials there to discuss best practices when it came to international restitution standards.

“The Gurlitt case opened up lots of questions and prompted us to look more closely at the legal basis for restitution decisions,” he said by telephone. “We also looked at how other institutions had responded to Glaser claims, and saw that some had reached different conclusions to the Basel decision in 2008. So we thought we must at the very least revisit this case.”

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Vancouver Art Gallery launches online Art Connects series – North Shore News



The brave new world that is physical distancing has hit the arts community harder than most, if not all, sectors.

No more tours. No more shows. No more face-to-face interaction, at least in the flesh.

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To that end, the Vancouver Art Gallery is returning some semblance of human connection to the fold with the introduction of its Arts Connect series.

Launching Tuesday, March 31, the new series will focus exclusively on “online gatherings that encourage dialogue and connection during this new age of physical distancing,” according to a news release from the art gallery.

Art has the power to connect individuals, communities and cultures,” reads a press release from the art gallery. “No matter its form, art encourages communication, broadens perspectives, enriches the mind and renews the spirit. During challenging times, art can uplift the community through enriching and culturally meaningful experiences.

The new program is free to join and weekly conversations will be live-streamed on the gallery’s Zoom channel. Upon registering, attendees can submit questions and chat directly with fellow attendees during the live stream.

Art Connects makes its maiden voyage at 1:30 p.m. on March 31, when curators Grant Arnold and Mandy Ginson will preview the exhibition, The Tin Man Was A Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power.

Presented at a time that coincides with presidential and congressional election campaigns in the United States, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power is a subtle response to this historical moment,” notes a news release from the art gallery.

Another session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on April 3.

A link to register for Tuesday’s online webinar can be found HERE.


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Nova Scotians with cool film jobs part four: Likely's art of creating a believeable world on film –



EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of profiles of some of the creative Nova Scotians working behind-the-scenes in the film and TV industry at home and abroad was begun before the COVID-19 outbreak. We are running it now to highlight the talents of those who will be working to help get the cameras rolling again once things are under control, either with years of experience under their belts, or just getting started in the world of media production.

When Halifax-based film and television art director Matt Likely first heard that director Robert Eggers was considering making his gothic cinematic nightmare The Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, he thought it was too good to be true.

Likely had seen Eggers’ previous feature The Witch, and loved the care taken to make its 17th century New England setting come alive. He was also aware that its production designer

Craig Lathrop was an old friend who’d hired him on three previous projects, including the 2007 thriller Stuck, shot in Likely’s home town of Saint John by the late horror maestro Stuart Gordon.

Then came Lathrop’s phone call in November of 2017.

“He told me a little bit about the project and that they’d be scouting some locations in Nova Scotia,” recalls Likely. “He had all kinds of questions for me, he had never done a show here, so he was asking about local crews and whether there’d be enough people to do a project of this size.”

Lathrop told Likely they were planning to build a 70-foot lighthouse, and were looking for the perfect rugged coastline to place it on. Even with his enthusiastic sales pitch for Nova Scotia film crews, Likely thought it was still a longshot that The Lighthouse would come here, but that soon changed.

“Then Craig and Robert Eggers and some of the producers came in December, and toured some of the locations with Nova Scotia location manager Shaun Clarke,” he says. “He took them to Yarmouth and they looked at Cape Forchu, and they loved it.

“The harshness of it, the vista, all of it.”

In January, Lathrop returned and he and Likely were working on a budget, “trying to figure out a way to build this damned lighthouse.

“It was a combination of all kinds of different elements to build it, but Craig had a good idea in mind when he came to town, he’d been thinking about it for a long time, but he brought me in as the art director and I brought in more of the local crew like Kevin Lewis as the key scenic artist.”

Working on an Academy Award-nominated feature film is exactly the kind of thing Likely dreamed of doing when he had his first major assignment; as a graphic artist on the locally-shot remake of the 1970s figure skating romance Ice Castles in 2001.

He jokes that he didn’t even know how the film industry worked when he first got hired, working his way up from designing signs and building props to designing sets, “coming up honestly through the industry” to eventually becoming an art director.

His role is to help to match filmmakers’ visions for their projects in the sets and other constructions required, usually on a budget and working with locations that often need to be altered or dressed accordingly.

Likely says the most fun thing is to design and build sets, either in a studio or on location, starting from scratch to provide a unique background for a given scene, with a distinctive visual look.

“You’ve got more freedom,” he says of that approach. “There are always budgetary concerns, but at least you’re custom-making something for the script and making all the choices from the ground up.

“You’re choosing the trim for the door, or the type of wallpaper, the colour of the walls or the ceiling height. All of those choices dictate the kind of space you’re going to have.”

The set of The Lighthouse, filmed at Cape Forchu in 2018. Putting together a 70-foot lighthouse for the Academy-Award nominated film was a challenge for art director Matt Likely. – Contributed

Following The Lighthouse, upcoming Halifax-shot projects bearing Likely’s stamp include the cryogenic lab he built for Seth Smith’s horror/sci-fi hybrid Tin Can and the post-apocalyptic streetscapes he sketched out for the miniseries based on Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

“I’ve been lucky,” he says. “We had problems with the tax credit situation in 2015, and a few of my friends have moved away to work in Toronto and Vancouver. I had just bought a house here in Dartmouth and I wanted to make a go of it here.

“I had been working my way up through the art department, getting to design and art direct some smaller projects, and then I had the great fortune to do production design for Weirdos, for (director) Bruce McDonald, and I was almost pinching myself at the time.”

There was a lot about the Cape Breton-shot Weirdos that attracted Likely, from the fact it would be shot in black and white to the 1970s era it was designed to evoke. Soon after he’d be assigned to a project even more unhinged, the CBC-TV comedy series Cavendish, about supernatural happenings in a small Prince Edward Island town, dreamed up by former members of the Picnicface troupe.

“I felt like once (co-creators Andy Bush and Mark Little) saw what we could do, they were upping the ante each time,” he says of the series that presented a different challenge with each episode.

“Whether it was creating a wax statue of Fred Penner or an edition of the Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. It was just one thing after another, and I feel so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.”

On and off the set, Likely works hand-in-hand with construction coordinators, scenic artists, set builders and props masters. “The craftspeople I’ve worked with here are incredible,” says the art director who was amazed at how quickly things moved for The Lighthouse once it was a go, and Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson were slated to star as the film’s two combative “wickies.”

“But I was most excited by the thought of what we were going to build, it was all beyond what I had ever managed as far as being an art director goes,” he says.
“It just came together so well. We did it, we had paint drying just before the camera started rolling, it was unbelievable.”

With Tin Can and Books of Blood about to see the light of day, and the Stephen King-inspired mini-series Jerusalem’s Lot waiting to begin production once things return to normal, Likely calls The Lighthouse a game-changer that should continue to build momentum for the film industry. “We needed a win, basically,” he says.

“Even without the Oscar nomination for cinematography, the popularity and the reception of the movie in terms of the reviews and so on were huge for us. We’re always wanting to prove ourselves here, and maybe there isn’t as strong an opinion about the industry here as there would be somewhere more established, in Toronto or Vancouver or the States.

“But for a film like that to come here, which required all these skills and trades to not only deliver what was required but to have it be praised so highly after the fact. That sort of thing is huge, and certainly builds confidence for anyone who wants to come and film here.”


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Short-term relief funding created for Calgary art sector amid COVID-19 pandemic – Global News



The Calgary Arts Development has announced $1.15 million in short-term relief funding for those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The funding will help provide immediate relief to arts organizations and workers in the city.

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During a virtual town hall meeting last week, Calgary Arts Development’s president and CEO, Patti Pon, announced the funding.

“We know COVID-19 has impacted everybody — individuals and organizations alike,” Pon said during the town hall.

“We see that there’s a spectrum of urgency and need, and we’ll be using this $1.1 million to address those most urgent needs that are being shared with us.”

The organization re-directed money from existing grant envelopes to make this short-term funding possible.

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Pon said the idea was quickly developed following a survey that assessed needs, and severity of the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry so far.

The survey was completed by industry workers and organizations during the week of March 16.

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“We’re using that data to help us understand where that need is right across the spectrum,” she said.

“The funds have been approved and we are going to move ahead as quickly as we can.”

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The funding will be divided two ways: between organizations and individuals, including artists and cultural workers.

Of the $1.15 million, $950,000 will be allocated to supporting organizations.

The remaining $200,000 will go towards helping individuals cover lost revenue and expenses, Pon said.

“For those who are individual arts workers, document your losses. I cannot stress that enough.”

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“That includes the cancelled plane tickets for events that got cancelled and the contracts that you didn’t get fulfilled.”

Coronavirus: Calgary businesses react to new COVID-19 restrictions

Pon said this funding will be used to fulfill urgent needs and help create more stable footing for the arts industry to continue on in the future.

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“The short term funding will be used to bridge until we’re able to solidify a clear picture of that medium and long-term recovery,” she said.

More information on the funding, and how to apply, will be updated through the Calgary Arts Development website this week.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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