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What Constitutes Art Sales Under Duress? A Dispute Reignites the Question. – The New York Times

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A fight over a landscape painting bought for Hitler is focused on the question of whether its sale was voluntary or forced by economic distress the Nazis helped create.

In 1938, the Jewish department-store magnate Max Emden, who left Germany before the Nazis took power, sold three city views by the 18th-century painter Bernardo Bellotto to an art buyer for Hitler.

The works, which were with Emden in Switzerland, were destined for the “Führermuseum” that Hitler planned for Linz, Austria, but never built.

During World War II, the paintings were hidden in an Austrian salt mine. Officers of the Allied Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Unit — known as the Monuments Men — recovered them at the end of the war, and two of the Bellottos were returned to the German government. The third, “Marketplace at Pirna,” was mistakenly sent to the Netherlands.

In 2019, Germany returned those two works to Emden’s heirs after the government’s Advisory Commission on Nazi-looted art determined that Emden was a victim of the “systematic destruction of people’s economic livelihoods by the Third Reich as a tool of National Socialist racial policy.”

But the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which ultimately came to possess the third Bellotto, has rejected the Emden heirs’ claims since 2007. Its director, Gary Tinterow, argues that Emden sold the painting voluntarily and, that after conducting provenance research and consulting lawyers, “we concluded that we had good title.”

The different evaluations reflect the difficulty of building consensus on what constitutes a “sale under duress.” In 2009, the Terezin Declaration, an international agreement approved by the United States and 46 other nations, specified that the need to find “just and fair” solutions to looted art in museum collections extended to works that had been sold under duress.

Heirs of Dr. Max J. Emden, via Monuments Men Foundation

Understanding market conditions and prices 80 years after the fact can be a daunting exercise. But in some cases, defining duress has not been difficult. The Nazis simply forced some Jewish art dealers to auction their inventories, for example, at prices well below market. Many Jewish collectors also were forced to sell paintings to fund their escape from Germany and pay the “Reich flight tax,” a levy imposed in 1931 to prevent capital leaving the Weimar Republic that the Nazis exploited to seize the assets of Jews escaping persecution.

Though Emden had left Germany years earlier, a large part of his wealth remained there, and after the Nazis took power, it became increasingly difficult for him to access it. His accounts were blocked and from 1937 on, his assets and real estate were seized and he faced financial ruin.

The 1938 sale of the three paintings for Hitler’s museum was arranged by the art dealer Anna Caspari, from whom Emden had bought the work in 1930. The purchase price was 60,000 Swiss francs. The research report by the Houston museum describes this as “an appropriate and fair price.”

The German Advisory Commission’s report, by contrast, said the sale “was not undertaken voluntarily but was entirely due to worsening economic hardship.” It said Emden’s financial predicament was “deliberately exploited by potential buyers” during extended sales negotiations and noted that Hitler’s chancellery purchased a painting “in the style of Bellotto” — a less valuable imitation — for a higher price a short while later.

Tinterow argues that as a private American institution, the Houston museum is not bound by the same moral criteria as the German government. “European governments which participated in the atrocities against the Jews have different standards,” he said in a phone interview. The museum, by contrast, is guided by “centuries of property law,” he said.

But Robert M. Edsel, the chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation, which is supporting the Emden heirs in their claim, said the museum’s response is legalistic and disregards the Washington Principles, an international agreement that is a predecessor to the Terezin Declaration, which identifies principles of fair play designed to compensate those wronged in the war.

Jimmy Bruch

“In 2021, have the Washington Principles faded out of the minds of at least some American museums?” Edsel asked.

David Rowland, a New York-based lawyer who represents the heirs of Curt Glaser, a Jewish art critic and museum director who fled Berlin, said he notices that European museums have been more receptive to restitution claims he has filed related to works that the Glaser family argues were sold under duress, even in cases where the paintings were sold under identical circumstances.

“Some U.S. museums are reverting to strictly legal approaches to claims,” Rowland said. “In Europe, there is more awareness of museums’ moral responsibility under the nonbinding Washington Principles.”

Juan Carlos Emden, the Chile-based grandson of Max Emden, said the family has been trying to recover “Marketplace at Pirna” for about 15 years. He said that in November 2011, a lawyer for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts wrote to a representative of the heirs threatening legal action if the family did not “immediately cease and desist” from contacting the museum and required all correspondence to be sent via its lawyer.

“It was really scary wording,” Emden said by phone. “We didn’t get in touch again until the Monuments Men Foundation got involved.”

A spokeswoman for the museum said its staff members had received “inappropriate and threatening” communications from a representative of the heirs.

Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Until recently, the Houston museum had also questioned whether the painting in its collection was the version that belonged to Emden. After the war, the Monuments Men first identified the work as having belonged to Hugo Moser, an art dealer operating in Amsterdam. (Moser had owned a painting with the same title, attributed to Bellotto.) So “Marketplace at Pirna” was delivered to the Dutch government, which sent it to Moser in 1949. He sold it to Samuel Kress, a New York collector who in turn donated it to the Houston museum in 1961.

But the Monuments Men Foundation has recently unearthed new evidence that identifies the museum’s version of “Marketplace at Pirna” as Emden’s. The front of the Houston work bears an inventory number, added by its 18th-century owner, that is also visible in a photograph of Emden’s painting that was taken by Caspari in 1930, before she sold the painting to Emden.

The foundation discovered the photograph at the Witt Library in London and also found a letter from 1949 in which an official of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit, realizing the painting had been wrongly sent to the Netherlands, asked the Dutch government to send the painting back to Germany.

“The Monuments Men realized that a mistake had been made, but by then it was too late and his letter fell between the cracks in the Netherlands,” said Edsel, of the Monuments Men Foundation. “If this mistake had never been made, the painting would have been returned to the German government and it would have been restituted to the Emden heirs in 2019, along with the other two.”

Tinterow argues that when the Dutch government, a sovereign state, mistakenly returned the painting to Moser, rather than Germany, it nonetheless, under United States law, conferred good title to Moser.

Part of Edsel’s issue with the Houston museum is that he does not think it did enough to track the history of its Bellotto, or is doing enough now to acknowledge the new evidence that suggests the work was once owned by Emden.

Until a few weeks ago, the museum’s website mentioned both Emden and Moser as previous owners in the painting’s provenance section. It no longer includes Emden as a previous owner, just the Dutch restitution to Moser.

Tinterow said that after the Monuments Men Foundation contacted him, he became aware the museum’s online provenance information about the painting was incorrect, because it conflated the provenance of both Emden’s and Moser’s Bellotto paintings. He amended it himself to reduce it to “only what we know to be absolutely true,” he said.

“It was not meant to deceive,” he said. “It was due to my frustration with a garbled provenance that needed to be sorted out.”

Tinterow now accepts that Houston’s version of “Marketplace at Pirna” very likely belonged to Emden and that he plans to update the website provenance as soon as the museum has finished reviewing the matter.

Still, he does not think that Emden sold the work under duress.

The 1938 sale, he said, “was initiated by Dr. Emden, as a Swiss citizen, with the painting under his control at his villa in Switzerland, and concluded by him voluntarily.”

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VIDEO: West Fine Art Show in-person exhibition and fundraiser draws carefully distanced crowds – Aldergrove Star – Aldergrove Star

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Nineteen artists took part in the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)Nineteen artists took part in the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
As he worked on one painting, Richard Brodeur positioned another for visitors to view at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)As he worked on one painting, Richard Brodeur positioned another for visitors to view at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
There was a good turnout at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)There was a good turnout at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Organizer and artist Brian Croft reported a good turnout at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)Organizer and artist Brian Croft reported a good turnout at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Nineteen artists took part in the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)Nineteen artists took part in the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

A return to a carefully monitored in-person event by the West Fine Art Show and charitable fundraiser at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove drew a good turnout, organizer and co-founder, historical landscape painter Brian Croft, said.

“A lot of people buying, a lot of paintings coming off the walls,” is how Croft summarized the three day event that wrapped up Sunday, Sept. 19.

“Sales were good.”

Social distancing and other COVID precautions were being followed, with numbers carefully monitored, Croft told the Langley Advance Times.

Social distancing was maintained at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Social distancing was maintained at the West Fine Arts fall exhibition and fundraiser for the Langley Hospice Society at the Glass House Estate Winery in Aldergrove held from Friday, Sept. 17, to Sunday, Sept 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

“We watch it very closely,” Croft remarked, but they were only forced to delay admission to keep numbers within limits once.

“Just for a few minutes.”

Today, Sunday, was the last day of the exhibition at Glass House, 23449 0 Ave, open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Artists include Croft, Brent Cooke, Jodie Blaney, John Ferrie, Richard Brodeur, Emily Lozeron, Lorn Curry, Joyce Trygg, Jim Pescott, Ken Nash, Graham McKenzie, Felicity Holmes, Serge Dube, Alison Philpott, Drew Keilback, Judy Vanderveen, Catherine Traynor, Victor Gligor, Patricia Falck and Lizete Dureault.

Music was also provided throughout the weekend by Langley guitarist John Gilliat.

READ ALSO: Artists come together again to benefit Langley hospice

Partial proceeds from the fall event will go to support Langley Hospice Society.

Admission is free, but donations to the charity are welcome.

Last year alone, the September show raised more than $10,000 for the charity, bringing the contributions to date to more than $70,000 for hospice.

One show in early spring (which had to be held virtually this year for the first time) raises money for the Langley School District Foundation, as well as a show held in the mid to later part of May in conjunction with the Cloverdale Rodeo (which was cancelled this year) and typically benefits the CHILD Foundation.

READ ALSO: The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

More photos from the event can be viewed online.

More information about the artists can be found online at www.westart.ca.


Have a story tip? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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Public art installation in Owen Sound about hope, healing and more – Owen Sound Sun Times

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When Metis artist Tracey-May Chambers began her #hopeandhealingcanada installations earlier this year, her main goal was about reconnecting as Canada and Ontario began to reopen from the pandemic.

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Since then her installations have remained symbols of connectivity, but have also become about creating a dialogue about the difficult subjects of past and present racial discrimination against Indigenous people.

“I sort of lost direction and I wasn’t sure which direction to go after COVID because it was such a weird time for creating. I am a sculptor most of the time but would prefer to do installations because I like to be outside,” the Hamilton artists said Saturday outside the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound where she was installing her latest work. “I was just trying to figure out how to illustrate connection in a tangible way and this is what I came up with.”

But as her works evolved and became more intricate and more complicated, the discussion around the installations also became much more complex, particularly after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of children at former residential schools in the spring and early summer.

“It became something else entirely and questioning whether there was actually any connection between First Nations communities – being Indigenous, Metis and Inuit — or have we always been completely separate,” said Chambers. “I began talking to people about it, which is great. No one knows what to do. No one knows how to move forward from this.”

While the project is about hope and healing Canada, Chambers said the installations have given her the opportunity to specifically talk about the decolonization of Indigenous people with those who may not otherwise have that discussion.

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“Most settlers don’t talk about decolonization because it has always been their life, so they don’t see it. They feel things don’t need to change because everything is OK to them, but clearly it is not,” said Chambers. “Being in the space is an act of decolonization and literally that is what it comes down to for me.”

Chambers installs her works, both indoors and outdoors, sometimes lasting a day and other times up to six months. The installation just west of the Tom Thomson gallery along 2nd Avenue West is to be in place until Oct. 1, and taken down following the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Metis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers, from Hamilton, installs her #hopeandhealingcanada project in the parkette just to the west of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Chambers uses red yarn to symbolize connectivity – between each other, ourselves and our communities, and our environment. Chambers is installing works across Canada, each one intended as an act of decolonization, inspiring people to connect, offering the hope that people can find healing and the path towards deeper understanding. The Owen Sound installation will run until Oct. 1.
Metis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers, from Hamilton, installs her #hopeandhealingcanada project in the parkette just to the west of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Chambers uses red yarn to symbolize connectivity – between each other, ourselves and our communities, and our environment. Chambers is installing works across Canada, each one intended as an act of decolonization, inspiring people to connect, offering the hope that people can find healing and the path towards deeper understanding. The Owen Sound installation will run until Oct. 1. Photo by Rob Gowan The Sun Times

The red yarn that Chambers has used in her pieces, “representing danger and power, but also courage and love,” will be reused again and again as she travels the country constructing the installation. She has plans to do 69 of the works in total.

“It will be used somewhere else across Canada and it will look totally different from this, and that is an act of decolonization because capitalism is a part of colonization,” Chambers said. “Really most people would throw it away and get a new one because it is easier. It made me realize reusing this is an act of decolonization by saying no to capitalism and saying no to that throw-away society, which is not an Indigenous world view.”

Chambers said that while she is sparking some conversations about difficult subjects, much more has to be done.

“I still see this sort of backlash against something like Every Child Matters. How could I feel it is getting anywhere if that organization isn’t getting anywhere,” Chambers said. “But at least I am getting these tiny conversations that are part of a bigger conversation, and that is the best that I can do.

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“The hope is there that the conversations will be there. It is just that some days are harder than others.”

Tom Thomson Art Gallery Curator of Public Projects and Education Heather McLeese said they are doing what they can to break down all barriers, both real and perceived, at the local gallery.

“Public art is a big focus for us, and projects that are talking about decolonization and truth and reconciliation, are not easy conversations at all, but they are necessary,” said McLeese. “That is what we should be doing here at the gallery and the city has been extremely supportive of this whole project.”

More details about Chambers’ installations can be found at https://www.traceymae.com/hopeandhealingcanada.html

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On the Avenue Art Gallery puts spotlight on northern artists during provincial art fair – Prince Albert Daily Herald

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Prince Albert gallery is one of 17 from across the province hosting online and in-person exhibits

Prince Albert’s On the Avenue Art Gallery is one of two new additions to the annual Art Now provincial fine art fair, and curator Jesse Campbell says it’s a great opportunity to showcase northern artists.

On the Avenue is one of 17 galleries showing exhibits during the annual art fair, which runs online until Sept. 26. Residents can also visit the gallery in person from Sept. 24-25 to see 38 pieces from 10 different artists, and go online to view panel discussions and artist talks hosted from around the province.

“It’s really exciting because it’s a great opportunity to work with a huge variety of artists and curators and writers and arts professionals,” Campbell said. “(It’s) not only (artists) from Saskatchewan, but arts professionals who have roots in Saskatchewan, but live further afield. There is a lot of opportunity to, I think, create some interesting experiences with art and look at a variety of topics in art being made on the prairies.”

Galleries across the province will showcase a wide variety of artists, but On the Avenue chose to focus on work from members of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

Campbell said art education takes a different form in the north, where families and communities pass techniques down to younger generations instead of universities or art schools. That’s created a unique artistic tradition that’s rarely showcased on the provincial stage.

“I think it really shows the way that a lot of people have lived traditionally in northern Saskatchewan,” Campbell explained. “There’s a lot of work that’s quite descriptive and narrative. It’s not terribly abstract, but you still do get distinct feelings and moods that come across in the work.”

The variety is what stood out most for Campbell. The exhibit showcases everything from paintings and sculptures to traditional Indigenous art forms like birch bark biting. A lot of the materials are traditional too, which exhibitors taking advantage of wood and antlers to create their pieces.

“It’s a really good look into what artists are doing north of us here in PA,” Campbell said. “I hope (viewers) get a little bit of an understanding of what artists in the north are focusing on, the kinds of materials they’re using, and how there’s a lot of tradition being passed down through the artwork.”

Art Now held their opening online reception on Sept. 16, where viewers got a glimpse of the more than 600 works of art on display across the province. In just three days, more than 3,000 visitors have logged on to view the exhibits.

Campbell also helped organize a series of artist talks and panels, which will continue throughout the week. That includes an artist talk with Molly R. Ratt on Sept. 21, which is presented by On the Avenue Art Gallery. Replays of previous talks are available on the SaskGalleries YouTube page.

In-person events are limited to only two days. Campbell said that’s an unfortunate side-effect of COVID-19, but she’s confident the online exhibits will impress art lovers from across the province.

To register for upcoming panels and artist talks, or to view those held previously, visit artnow.ca/online/events.

This is Art Now’s sixth year of operation. It celebrates the variety and quality of original fine art made in Saskatchewan. All shows are free to attend or view.

Upcoming online events for the Art Now Saskatchewan Art Fair

Sunday, Sept. 19

1 p.m. – Panel Session No. 4: Culture C(l)ash: can Indigenous artists make a living without selling out

Tuesday, Sept. 21

1:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Sandra Knoss

4:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Molly R. Ratt*

7 p.m. – Panel Session No. 5: Art as Life – the Creative Process

Wednesday, Sept. 22

Noon – Artist Talk: Edie Marshall

3 p.m. – Artist Talk: Shelley Hosaluk

Thursday, Sept. 23

1:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Maia Stark

3 p.m. – Artist Talk: Michaela Hoppe

Sunday, Sept. 26

Noon – Artist Talk: Dave Gejdos

1:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Arlette Seib

*Presented by On the Avenue Art Gallery

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