Published: January 30, 2001
Trade News from around the World
A Jewish family claims a painting at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., belongs to them and was acquired by a former Nazi Party member after the family fled Germany during World War II. Yale, which has the painting on long-term loan, told the Associated Press January 22 that it is investigating the claim, first reported in The Boston Globe. The painting, “Le Grand Pont” by Gustave Courbet, is one of dozens of European artworks that is on loan to Yale from Herbert Schaefer, a lawyer who now lives in Spain. Schaefer, 90, said he bought the painting legally from a dealer in 1938, but he refused in an interview with the Globe to divulge the seller or the purchase price. Eric Weinmann of Washington, D.C. claims his mother bought the painting in 1935 from another Jewish family at an auction in Berlin. Weinmann remembers the 1864 painting in his family’s home “vividly,” said his lawyer, Thomas R. Kline. The family found out the painting was at Yale during an exhibition of Schaefer’s collection in 1998. Kline said the ownership of the painting raises questions because of the time the work was sold and Schaefer’s past. Schaefer joined a Nazi paramilitary group in 1933 and joined the Nazi Party in 1938, the Globe reported. He served in the German army in 1940, was wounded, and spent the rest of the war years as a lawyer for armaments manufacturers and other Nazi officials. “Someone acquiring art during this time period has some burden to explain the lawfulness of his acquisition,” Kline said. The Weinmann’s purchase may have also been related to Nazi coercion of the previous owner, Max Silberberg, Kline said. The Weinmanns did not know at the time the painting was being sold under Nazi pressure, he said. Kline hopes Yale will help determine how Schaefer ended up with the painting, and will act as intermediary to reach an agreement between Schaefer and the Weinmanns. Kline said that Schaefer’s prewar position as a legal intern and Nazi Party member gave him the opportunity to buy art – from dealers or at Nazi-sponsored auctions – while the owners fled the country or were shipped off to concentration camps. “The fact he bought it from a dealer or at auction – if he did – doesn’t mean he bought it legitimately, Kline said. In 1981, Schaefer placed 17 paintings with Yale on long-term loan, including “Le Grand Pont” and other works by European artists. Eventually, Yale reached agreements with Schaefer to borrow 48 paintings – an arrangement that Yale hoped would be permanent after Schaefer died. A Munich art dealer who was a Yale graduate and the director of a German museum helped bring the university and Schaefer together, said Jock Reynolds, the director of Yale’s art gallery since 1998. “This was an innocent attempt by Yale scholars to bring paintings here for study and research,” Reynolds told the Globe. Research has found that “Le Grand Pont” belonged to Max Silberberg in the 1930s, and was sold at auction at Galerie Paul Graupe on March 23, 1935. The identity of the buyer of the painting has never been confirmed and the exact whereabouts of the work in the period immediately following the sale are unknown, Yale said. The painting will remain on display at the art gallery until the matter is settled, under an agreement between Yale and Schaefer.
Carol Vogel of The New York Times writes on January 29 that London’s Royal Academy has purchased, for $7.3 million, the previous home of the Museum of Mankind, situated behind it, “as part of a $58 million expansion to double its space and greatly increase its educational facilities.” British architect Michael Hopkins will design the project, which will feature an atrium linking the two buildings. More space for the academy’s schools and workshops, a new lecture theater, and a large art gallery are also being planned.
Sotheby’s disputes claims it mismanaged an antiques auction three years ago in New York, reports Leslie Hoffman of The New York Times (January 27). Al Luckett Jr., a Santa Fe art dealer, contended in an Albuquerque, N.M. court this week that the auction house did not “properly prepare and market the auction of his collection of Spanish colonial furniture, religious artifacts and Native American pots.” Luckett asked for $3 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. Representing Sotheby’s, Steven A. Reiss argued that Luckett overestimated the 250-lot collection. William Ruprecht, Sotheby’s CEO, and Leslie Keno, senior vice president of the auction house, are expected to support the firm’s claims in court.
The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, N.H., has acquired a late Eighteenth Century chest-on-chest that will enhance the museum’s holdings of fine Boston furniture. The 1780s chest-on-chest features the construction and design that exemplifies the best cabinetmaking in Boston during the late Eighteenth Century. Originally owned by Bartholomew Kneeland of Boston and gifted to the Currier by Mrs Lois Moore, the Kneeland monumental block front chest-on-chest is in superb condition, with its original brasses and an old, warm finish.
Swann Auction Galleries, New York City, has announced that Nicholas Lowry, 33, assumed the title of president and with it the day-to-day management of the company. He will also continue his duties as principal auctioneer and director of the poster department. George Lowry, who has been president since 1970, was named chairman. He will carry on as head of the autographs department while devoting time to special projects and long range planning.
A stolen painting by Oscar Berninghaus, a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, was recovered in the Cleveland suburban home of an alleged mobster, the FBI said. “Pueblo Indian Woman of Taos,” was stolen in 1989 from the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. The painting, probably done in the 1920s, shows a woman next to a horse. The FBI seized the painting at the Orange home of John Montana, 82, after learning that it had been offered for sale. Montana, who has not been arrested or charged, declined to comment on January 23, The Plain Dealer said. Montana has an unlisted phone and could not be reached by The Associated Press. The painting and another work, “The Pipe Maker,” by E. Irving Couse, were stolen after hours on July 4, 1989, from the museum, where they hung side by side. The FBI in El Paso, Texas, recovered the Couse work in 1991 and returned it to the museum. Montana had asked a Cleveland art dealer to find a buyer for the Beringhaus.
A nonprofit group has purchased a Frank Lloyd Wright parallelogram-shaped home, one of the architect’s “Usonian” examples, and surrounding 10.5 acres for $1.7 million on January 18 from owner Russell Kraus. The home, which is said to be in good condition along with its furnishings, is one of two Wright homes in St. Louis, Mo. It was completed in 1955. Even the bedrooms and bathrooms in the 1,900-square-foot home were parallelograms. The home came with two right angles, three doors and many instructions. True to form, Wright told Kraus where to place the furniture, what bushes to plant, even what brand of vacuum to buy. The nonprofit group, which calls itself the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebworth Park, reports the Associated Press, will restore and manage the home. The St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the property.
Lloyd M. Schwan Jr., 45, an American furniture and interior of the 1980’s and 90’s, died on January 19 at his home in Kutztown, Pa. He committed suicide, his family told William L. Hamilton of The New York Times. “The Crinkle Lamp,” which Schwan created in 1996 with Lyn Godley, then his wife, is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Godley and Schwan formed GodleySchwan Design in 1984, which produced furniture, tableware, lighting and cabinetry. Schwan began Lloyd Schwan Design in New York City one year before the couple divorced in 1999.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said January 22 he will ask the Legislature to spend $100 million on enhancements to The State Museum of Pennsylvania and other historical sites when he delivers his annual budget address next month. Ridge, back in Harrisburg after attending the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., made the announcement after touring the 35-year-old museum with Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed. According to Timothy D. May of the Associated Press, the governor proposes spending $80 million from the state’s General Fund on renovations to the museum, including major upgrades to the building’s systems, such as elevators, escalators and ventilation and air-conditioning equipment.
The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Ariz., has been given one of the largest private collections of Northern Native art in the United States. The Dr and Mrs E. Daniel Albrecht Collection of Northern Native Art complements the museum’s collections of Native art and cultural material from the Southwest. The Albrechts, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., and Santa Fe, N.M., have collected Native artwork for more than 40 years. Dr Albrecht is a past president of the Heard Museum Board of Trustees. His wife, Martha, is a longtime volunteer and past president of the museum’s volunteer group, the Heard Museum Guild. The collection includes more than 1,000 works of art and cultural material of Inuit and indigenous people of the North.
The Mississippi House has approved another $1 million to cover expenses for a Spanish art exhibit that opens March 1 in Jackson. House Appropriations Chairman Charlie Capps, D-Cleveland, told the Associated Press the money will come from an unclaimed property fund administered by the state treasurer’s office. The “Majesty of Spain” exhibit will feature objects from the Spanish National Heritage and Prado Museum. It will be open through September 3 at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion. The first pieces arrived in December. King Juan Carlos I and his wife, Queen Sofia, are expected to attend the opening of the exhibition.
Rockefeller Center’s 18-foot-tall, 8-ton sculpture of Prometheus that is a fixture in one of the more heavily visited tourist sites in town has been covered with a protective box so that the statue can be regilded, Nora Keane, a spokeswoman for center owner and manager Tischman Speyer Properties, told AP. The massive bronze statue by Paul Manship had been moved in January 1999 so that the granite walls and fountain could be repaired in the plaza, which serves as a winter skating rink and a summer garden. For about six months, Prometheus sat in the spot occupied each winter by the center’s Christmas tree, before it was returned to its original perch. The statue will be coated in double weight 23 and one quarter karat gold leaf.
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