Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Prestige Boston Art Museums Will Not Return Objets d'Art Once-Owned by German Collector Curt Glaser

These Nazi art cases are always fascinating to me. 

The Nazis took control of Glaser's collection after persecuting the man for his Jewish faith. The dude must have emigrated to the U.S., as according to Wikipedia he died in 1943, at Lake Placid, New York. 

The Nazi authorities removed Curt Glaser from his post as director of the Berlin State Art Library in April 1933 because he was Jewish. He was also evicted from his home and, the following month, sold most of his art collection at two auctions.

Since 2007, 13 private collectors or institutions — including the Dutch Restitutions Committee, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the city of Basel — have concluded that Glaser sold his collection in May 1933 as a result of Nazi persecution, and agreed to either return or pay some compensation to his heirs for art he sold that wound up in their collections.

But the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have repeatedly rejected the heirs’ claims for paintings that were sold at the same auctions. They argue there is not enough evidence that Glaser sold under duress.

The disparity in the decisions highlights how, 76 years after World War II ended, the criteria for determining whether a work of art that changed hands during the Nazi persecution of Jews should be returned still remains a matter of debate. Both the Met and the Museum of Fine Arts have a record of recognizing claims on art sold under duress. The Met has settled eight claims for art looted by the Nazis or sold under duress since 1998, when the United States endorsed the international Washington Principles, which called for “just and fair” solutions in handling claims for looted art. In 2009, the Terezin Declaration, also approved by the United States, specified that this requirement also applied to sales under duress. The Museum of Fine Arts has previously settled heirs’ claims for 13 objects sold under duress.

But in the cases of two works sold at a May 9, 1933 auction — Abraham Bloemaert’s 1596 painting “Moses Striking the Rock,” which is owned by the Met, and Joachim Anthoniesz Wtewael’s “Actaeon Watching Diana and Her Nymphs Bathing” from 1612, which is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts — the museums have taken a position at odds with other institutions who held Glaser works from that sale.