Looted by the Nazis, five paintings are removed from a museum in Switzerland

The Kunsthaus Zurich has announced that it will remove five paintings by old masters from one of its collections, following new international directives on art looted by the Nazis.

A sixth painting from the Emil Bührle collection could also be affected, indicates in a press release the foundation responsible for managing the masterpieces amassed by this arms dealer in the murky circumstances of forced sales and Nazi dispossession during the Second World War. . His private collection has often been associated with Nazi looting.

The other five paintings will be removed from the museum on June 20, the institution announced in a separate press release. These are “Portrait of the Sculptor Louis-Joseph” (1863) by Gustave Courbet, “Monet’s Garden at Giverny” (1895) by Claude Monet, “Georges-Henri Manuel” (1891) by Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec, from “The Old Tower” (1884) by Vincent van Gogh and “The Rising Road” (1884) by Paul Gauguin.

international recommendations

The Emil Bührle Foundation explains that it made this decision after carrying out a new evaluation of the collection, following the recent publication of new international recommendations, called “best practices” in terms of restitution of works looted by the Nazis.

This document, adopted in March by more than 20 countries, helps “to clarify and improve the implementation” of the “Washington Principles”. Adopted in December 1998 by 44 countries, these non-binding guidelines established standards for working toward the restitution of stolen works.

Following the publication of the new directives, the foundation “identified five works from the collection” which could be called into question, she explains.

“solutions with descendants”

The foundation says it strives “to find fair and equitable solutions with the descendants or legal heirs of the former owners.”

The museum welcomes the approach taken by the foundation but “deeply regrets, in the interest of visitors, that five of the paintings will be removed”.

When evaluating the collection, the foundation considered that a sixth work – “La Sultane” (1884) by Edouard Manet – should also be the subject of special attention, even if it does not fall under the following the new directives.

“The Foundation is ready to offer a financial contribution to the estate of Max Silberberg in connection with the tragic fate of the former owner”, a German collector who died in a concentration camp, she indicates.

The famous Zurich Museum of Fine Arts was the subject of criticism during the opening in 2021 of an imposing new building intended to house the impressive collection of 170 works by the German industrialist and patron who was naturalized Swiss.

To turn the page on the controversy, the Kunsthaus called on experts responsible for retracing the journey of certain works and presented an exhibition last year focused on transparency.

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