Posts Tagged ‘Camille Pissarro’

The Thyssens’ Poisoned Chalice

It was recently announced that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid has suffered a loss of some 4.5 million Euros during 2014. Considering the fragile state of Spain’s economy and the fact that, contractually, they are not permitted to capitalise on the value of the collection by selling any of the pictures, it was bad news.

But worse was to come. For it was also revealed that the total legal costs of defending a claim by surviving members of a German Jewish family against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum for the return of a picture painted by Camille Pissarro that they claim to have sold under duress to the Nazis in 1939, and which was subsequently procured by the Thyssen family before being sold on to the Spanish nation, has now reached 1.3 million Euros.

Heini Thyssen and his father had always used their art collection as a smoke screen behind which they could hide the fact that much of their fortune was the result of profits earned fuelling and arming the Third Reich and supplying it with banking facilities.

One of the unfortunate effects of such a restitution claim is that it reminds people of the Thyssens’ Nazi past and the fact that it is the Spanish people who are being obliged to fund the protection of the Spanish ‘investment’ as well as the defence of the Thyssens’ name, who in turn have not exactly been forthcoming in contributing to the coffers of the Spanish tax authorities.

And while the American lawyers are representing the Cassirers on a contingency basis, which avoids the family having to make any contribution to costs, the plaintiffs remain all too aware that every time they mount another appeal (which they are doing at this very minute), the Spanish legal fees, for which there is no ultimate profit which they can be offset against, continue to mount. As do the Museum’s losses. Thus there must come a time when the Spanish will be obliged to ‘take a view’ and hand the picture back.

To us it has always been clear that this collection would one day reveal itself as a poisoned chalice for the host country. The Cassirer claim, if successful, could open the gates to further claims against the museum, as there is no shortage of paintings in its holdings with questionable provenances, a fact that the Spanish failed to identify by independent verification before they committed to buy. The potential for a major eclat is intrinsic to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. The only question is: how long will it take to unravel?

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On 4th April 2016 Mark Kochanski commented:

In a recent court brief the Foundation contends that the plaintiffs (the Cassirers) ”continue their campaign to tarnish the Foundation’s image with “red flags” to suggest actual knowledge of the 1939 taking or, at the very least, a level of negligence that warrants punishment.” The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has tarnished its own image by knowingly hoarding Nazi looted art in violation of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration. This is shameful and the “Baroness” needs to be held to account.

Camille Pissarro: "Rue St Honore, apres-midi, effet de pluie" (1897).

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Brian Sewell Exposes Thyssen Fake But Not Norman Rosenthal

It is a well-known fact that within the money-obsessed art market, exposing fakes is rarely going to make you friends and certainly little in the way of a profit, which is the main reason why my questioning of many of the paintings in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has been met with such deafening silence; particularly in Spain.

It was thus somewhat reassuring when Brian Sewell, the Evening Standard’s legendary art critic, recently took it upon himself to not only expose a painting from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection claimed to be by Edward Wadsworth as a fake, and question Tate Modern for including it in their ‘Futurism’ exhibition (until 20 September), but also to reveal the reason for such dishonesty.

Unfortunately, he didn’t question Norman Rosenthal, veteran Exhibitions Secretary at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and now ‘freelance curator to international museums and galleries’, who has been a member of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid for some 8 years. How could Rosenthal let ‘Wadsworth’s’ ‘Vorticist Abstraction 1915’ be included in the Tate Modern exhibition? Was it done because its inclusion might ‘give (the painting) respectability’, as Brian Sewell suggests?

It seems clear that Rosenthal is a man who may be sailing dangerously close to acting as both poacher and game-keeper. Indeed, he raised more than a few eyebrows with an article in The Art Newspaper of December 2008, where he advocated the introduction of a statute of limitations on the restitution of Nazi-looted art.

My letter to the editor of The Art Newspaper has remained unpublished; until now:

‘8 December 2008
Dear Sir,
Sir Norman’s article concerning Nazi-looted art in your latest issue is fascinating more for what he doesn’t say than for what he does. Surely, the fact that he is a trustee of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum must present him with a conflict of interest; particularly now that the full extent of the Thyssen-Bornemiszas’ involvement with Göring and the Third Reich has been revealed, and a number of paintings in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection are believed to qualify as Nazi-looted art.
This is a fact that cannot have escaped Norman’s attention, particularly in the case of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s Pissarro painting ‘Rue St Honore, Afternoon, Effect of Rain’, which is the subject of a legal action for retrieval by the Cassirer family.
Under the circumstances, Sir Norman’s call for a statute of limitations could unfortunately be seen to be motivated more by his professional interests than his moral judgement’.

Another Fake Thyssen-Bornemisza (nee Wadsworth) ?

Another Fake Thyssen-Bornemisza (nee Wadsworth) ?

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