Posts Tagged ‘Guillermo Solana’

Carmen Thyssen’s Salon des Refusés

So finally her museum has opened in Malaga. The international public don’t seem particularly interested despite the initial free entry and guest appearances of thirty pictures from Tita’s Madrid collection. But the most important event was the subsequent signing of the contract, which should of course have taken place prior to the pictures’ arrival and the museum opening. The spokesman for the United Left in Malaga’s city council, Mr Pedro Moreno Brenes, even went as far as stating that the signature only happened once the town council had agreed to supply yet further millions to cover running costs.

According to an article in Diariosur Newspaper it also appears that Mrs Thyssen has the right to remove 10% of the pictures permanently and another 15% for up to nine months. So what the Andalucians believe they have invested more than 36 million Euros in may not be quite what they end up with. Already there seems to be some doubt as to the museum’s potential profitability as six million euros of the investment is infact a subsidy for the running of the museum for the next two and a half years. After which the museum is expecting to be able to self-finance – but only fifty percent of the running costs -, which basically means the council will probably have to invest at least another fifteen to twenty million for the full fifteen-year loan, from which Tita claims she will not receive a penny.

At the signing of the agreement a small but vocal group of protesters made their opposition to such extravagance obvious. They were members of a recently formed national group of protesters who are unofficially known as Los Indignados.

There is still no news as to why Tomas Llorens and his assistant, Maria Lopez, left the Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga in such a hurry. One can only presume it was something they considered financially or legally advisable, or possibly both, while Tita must now be somewhat embarrassed by the fact that Llorens remains on the board of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. It is also rather confusing that the current director of the Madrid museum, Guillermo Solana, continues to promote Tita’s collections despite the fact that the Spanish government has apparently already succeeded in a legal action regarding the passing-off of the Thyssen-Bornemisza “brand”, obgliging her to call her museum Museo Carmen Thyssen rather than Museo Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. God knows how much that cost her to defend or who paid the legal bill for her Malaga venture, considering the tax complications involved with pictures owned by three different offshore trusts!

Anyway, Carmen Thyssen has finally confirmed the rumours that she, like Spain itself, is experiencing financial difficulties. She has even warned the Malaga city council that while she is at present loaning her pictures for ‘nothing’ she will eventually, of course, have to receive some form of recompense. There have also been accusations that she has failed to show-up for a number of museum-related, social events. Hopefully because she was busy with more profitable pursuits.

Drawing by Alagram at STATE Magazine (

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Preciosismo: A Fairy Tale Of Modern Spain (by The Great Collaborator)

As the ravenous ThyssenArt Beast proceeded to eat its way through Malaga’s hot, sleepless nights, the Board of the Museo Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation met for the very first time, presided over by ‘Our Precious Lady Carmen of The ChaChaCha’.

It seemed fitting for such a splendid occasion that it occurred in the town’s ‘Great Hall of Smoke and Mirrors’, which glittered proudly for ‘Carmen The Accumulator’s’ reunion with Vice-Presidente Francisco de la Torre (conservative mayor of Malaga), councillors Miguel Briones, Mariluz Reguero and Pedro Moreno Brenes, Tomas Llorens (former director of the Museo Thyssen Madrid), Guillermo Solana (current director of the Museo Thyssen Madrid) and one Teresa Sauret Guerrero. Only the identity of the other three members of the eleven-strong MCTBF board remained shrouded in deepest mystery.

Now, for some time, the unruly Izquierda Unida and their friends had been the lone ‘voice in the wilderness’, most un-‘preciously’ questioning the wisdom of spending tens of millions of Euros of taxpayers’ money on refurbishing crumbling provincial palaces to create more Thyssen Museums, bearing in mind that the Thyssens’ ‘precious’ immortality had already been subsidised in the country’s capital for twenty years to the tune of some 500 million Euros.

The main concern was the question of how many and exactly which of ‘The Baroness’s’ 1000 paintings – valued by The Great Art Expert herself at 800 million very ‘precious’ Euros – would eventually be housed in the new great institution. The only words crossing Her Magnificence’s own rose-scented lips was that they would all be ‘very nice’ and ‘very…..precious’, a view shared whole-heartily by the other defenders of The ThyssenArt Beast, all of them interested parties in their own ‘precious’ ways.

And so, as Mayor de la Torre opened the day’s proceedings, it looked like any remaining dissent could finally be quelled once and for all, when the solemn declaration was made that there would be not one but…..EIGHT (!) collections at the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Malaga, and that these would comprise ‘romantic landscapes’, ‘naturalist landscapes’, ‘naval paintings’, ‘old masters’, ‘pictures from between the centuries from Tradition to The Renovation’, ‘portraits of Andalucia and Spain’, ‘costumbrism’, and, finally…..: ‘PRECIOUSCISM’!

Unwaware that this was just a word created during a game of scrabble between Guillermo Skywalker and Anikin Rosenthal, the common folk at once began to cheer uncontrollably. Men threw their hats in the air and women frantically fanned their flushed cheeks, while everyone whooped and hollered in manic delight: ‘It’s a miracle! My God, a miracle! What a great Baroness she is, Our Lady ChaChaCha. She is so beautiful and so good to us! We are so utterly greateful to her! Long may she live! Long may she live!‘.

Indescribable scenes of sheer, ‘precious’ ecstasy ensued, the crowd chanting ‘Pre-cious! Pre-cious! Pre-cious! Pre-cious!’ until their voices grew hoarse.

Finally, The ThyssenArt Beast’s old Jedi Master, Yoda Llorens, managed to regain control over the hysterial mob and delivered his coup de grace: the museum’s Mission Statement. Apparently it was ‘the intention of the museographic contents of the new art centre’….to mould a picture of Spanish society, and of that of Andalusia in particular, beginning with the romantic period and stretching through to the begining of the 20th century’.

Here the breath of the common folk was held for some time as they struggled to grasp the true meaning of the Jedi Master’s wise words. Stunned silence pervaded the air, until, out of the blue, one lone voice of dissent, Al Panpan, spoke out: ‘This picture of Andalusia which you are planning to ‘mould’, is a manipulative and unreal picture which was constructed from afar and represents the starting point of all the problems that came crushing down on us in the 20th century. I propose that Carmen Cervera inaugurate her new little museum wearing flamenco flounces and that the mayor joins her dressed up as The Joker’.

Security pounced at once, bundled up the obviously insane lone critic and quickly ushered him off to an uncertain future, but dark clouds began to gather, as great thunder rolled and lightening flashed, threatening to shatter the multitude of ‘precious’ mirrors. Suddenly, the form of ‘Borja, The Great Mighty Heir’ filled the doorway, lit by a single shaft of ghostly light. Terror descended. The people shivered with fear. Pausing, ‘The Great Mighty Heir’, with his inimitable stutter (a sure sign of true aristocratic breeding) began to read out passages from Hola Magazine, that most ‘precious’ of avant-garde gazettes: ‘G-g-gggg Gggigive me my Dddddog, my Dodododgy Ggggg-Goya. This is my uneq- eq- eqqqqq, un-eq, my un-eqqqqquiqui-, my uneqqqqui-vocal right!’, he finally roared in his booming voice.

It was later said that at this exact, precious moment in time, The King, who was not present but many hundreds of miles away, felt a sharp pain in his side and began to fear the worst for his magnificent, ‘precious’ friend, Tita Thyssen, and lo he was grieved!!

Sensing The King’s grief in reverse telepathy, the people started shouting: ‘Go home, Great Mighty Heir! Sling it! Get a job! And don’t you dare touch OUR precious paintings! They are OUR precious paintings, do you understand??!!’

And with a last whimpering roll of thunder he was gone.

The Great Impressionables had spoken. And so it was that The Great Accumulator’s ‘precious’ paintings were saved for the Spanish nation forever. Or as long as the Four Amigos can keep reaching deep into the wallets of the precious people of Spain.

The Fantastic Four: Guillermo 'Skywalker' Solana, Lady ChaCha, Francisco 'The Joker' de la Torre and Tomas 'Great Jedi Master Yoda' Llorens, addressing the people of Malaga on 21 October 2009

The Four Amigos: Guillermo 'Skywalker' Solana, 'Carmen The Accumulator', Francisco 'The Joker' de la Torre and Tomas 'Great Jedi Master Yoda' Llorens, addressing the people of Malaga on 21 October 2009

The Dodgy Goya.

The Dodgy Goya.

Another Dodgy Painting: Allegedly A 'Santa Marina' by Francisco Zurbaran. Soon to be housed at the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Malaga?

Another Dodgy Painting: Allegedly a 'Santa Marina' by Francisco de Zurbaran. Soon to be housed at the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Malaga?

The Lady Dances

The Lady Dances (Manuel Cabral Aguado Bejarano, 1889)

Dance At The Palace

Dances At The Palace (Eugenio Lucas Villamil, 1894)

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Thyssen Truth Must Come Out Before More Tax Money Goes In (by Caroline Schmitz)

I recently came across an article about August Thyssen in the summer series on famous scions of the Lower Rhine region, published by the Rheinische Post newspaper, under the promising headline ‘A Globaliser From The Start’. But it contained the sentence ‘After the World War, August Thyssen lost his foreign participations’. As somebody who has studied the Thyssens for some fourteen years now, it was the kind of throw-away remark that sharply reminded me once again of the systematic manipulation of history that has accompanied this dynasty’s personal and corporate affairs for a very long time.

If you wish to get a very basic idea of what I’m talking about, go to German Wikipedia and check out the entries for Alfred Krupp, Hugo Stinnes, Friedrich Flick and August Thyssen; all four legendary German industrialists of similar status and place in history. Krupp warrants 5 illustrated pages, Stinnes 11, Flick 10, but Thyssen barely manages to make three quarters of a page! Why should this be so? The chief publicist and archivist of ThyssenKrupp, Professor Manfred Rasch, is more than capable of producing lengthy features on the founder of the Thyssen empire at opportune moments in local publications, such as Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, which are hugely sympathetic to the image of a company that still remains one of the major employers in the Ruhr area, as well as far beyond. So why does he not ensure that extensive and accurate information is available on a more general level?

The answer is: because there are many black holes in this dynasty’s history which would be too difficult to broach. Instead, gloss-overs and simplifications have been produced over the years by the official guardians of the Thyssen legacy and reproduced by unwitting journalists and historians. But even the most consistently spin-doctored histories are eventually bound to come unravelled. This is particularly true in times of bust such as today, when money becomes scarce and people re-examine their loyalties; as long, of course, as they can enjoy the freedom of democracy rather than being forced into the shackles of authoritarian rule so admired by the likes of Ecclestone, Mosley & Co.

One reason why the Thyssens have always purported to have ‘lost everything’ in the war (for the family members tend to ‘go the extra mile’, insisting all was lost, not just the foreign assets) is to excuse their involvement in arming the German Empires of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler respectively. If it were shown that they actually profited from those regimes, the Thyssens would receive far less sympathy and respect than they do when portrayed as the sacrificial victims of the conflicts, who had to rebuild their fortunes each time from scratch by the sweat of their own brows. The latter being very much the picture painted on the new website of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

In actual fact, while other industrialists were punished for their support of the Reich, the Thyssens were not. They were even compensated for their losses. After World War I, this included their Lorraine ore mines and steel works, which the French insisted they give up. Heini Thyssen himself admitted to David and myself that far from his family losing, for instance, his grand-father’s Brazilian interests after 1918, he was able to liquidate some of them in the 1970s at vast profit. Despite such good fortune, ‘foreign assets’ have always been a particularly contentious issue in the Thyssen historiography, not least because this most quintessential of German dynasties, whose name still remains one of those inextricably linked with the fatherland’s deepest sense of national prosperity, honour and pride, has continuously reaped the benefits of German industry, while simultaneously refusing to admit allegiance to the country.

While the destruction of August Thyssen’s personal files after his death in 1926 ensured the public could never realise that this supposed German patriot had in fact moved his ultimate ownership structures abroad before 1914, a more overt public relations exercise was necessary after 1945 when the magnitude of the Nazis’ criminal activity came to light. That is why official communiques began to over-engineer Heinrich Thyssen’s cosmopolitan credentials, giving assurances that he ‘had distanced himself from Germany as a young man’, that he ‘became a Hungarian in 1906’, that he ‘gained a doctorate in philosophy in London’ and that he ‘settled in Switzerland in 1932’. On closer inspection even of the official sites, however, inconsistencies soon start to appear for all of these claims.

As far as Heinrich’s nationality is concerned, ThyssenKrupp AG has for some time now resorted to the line: ‘He kept his Hungarian citizenship until he died, but nevertheless acted ‘deutsch-nationally’ at times in the 1920s and 1930s. For this vague statement to be allowed to paraphrase the activities of such an important (if shielded) figure of 20th century history is quite simply astonishing. And of course it can in no way explain how German works owned by Heinrich Thyssen were still able to claim war damages from the allied government for Germany in 1946 on the basis of Heinrich being ‘a German abroad’. The fact is: Heinrich Thyssen lived in Lugano from 1938 (not 1932! – more of this later) until his death in 1947, controlling his German interests with the help of visiting managers and this makes him somebody who acted ‘deutsch-nationally’ (if this is what you want to call it), throughout Hitler’s time in power and beyond.

Turning to Heinrich’s academic title: the assertion of a doctorate in philosophy gained in London is pure fabrication. That is why it does not appear on the German websites, where it is clear and very acceptable to people that the doctorate was gained in Germany in the field of natural sciences. It is, on the other hand, very much emphasised in Spain, where the government’s expenditure of in excess of $600 million dollars on the Thyssen-Bornemisza art collection seems to make it imperative to stress the founder’s alleged cultural and specifically non-German credentials.

Here on, we also find echoes of Francesca Habsburg‘s recent attempts to designate August Thyssen as the true founder of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (even to the extent where a recent museum web-incarnation called him ‘August Thyssen-Bornemisza’!), thereby rebranding the whole dynasty as the art collectors she would like them to be (making her fourth in a row) rather than the industrialists and bankers that they really were. But the official website of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum also makes another announcement: ‘We know the collection was installed at Rohoncz Castle before Heinrich abandoned Hungary in 1919’. This is particularly worrying as the comprehensive catalogue of the museum squarely confirms the documentation in the Thyssen Archives showing that the first purchase made for the collection was in 1928 (unless that too has now been re-written!)

The smoke and mirrors at Museo Thyssen continue: ‘It is through the correspondence between August Thyssen and Auguste Rodin, namely in a letter from 1911, that we can see that August’s son Heinrich had by that time started his collection’. We have researched the same letters during the writing of our book but never came across anything that would confirm this. The official line basically intimates that with his transformation into a ‘Hungarian aristocrat’ in 1905 (the real dated being 1906-07), Heinrich Thyssen had also, somehow, acquired an art collection.

What seems clear to me is that people in charge of that museum are finally realising that they have a particularly grave problem on their hands. However, not knowing what to do about it, their inability to address serious issues breeds insecurity and confusion. That’s why another sentence has been added to the website: ‘We have few details about the first years of the collection’. While I guess it would be unfairly over-stressing the point if one reminded the Spanish tax payer once again, how much money he contributed and is still paying to the Thyssen Museum, the indelible facts concerning the early history of the collection are these: the Thyssen Collection was never at Rohoncz (Rechnitz). It was only named ‘Rohoncz Collection’ by Heinrich Thyssen with the specific aim of making it sound like an Austro-Hungarian heirloom. Unbelievably, the public as well as the media have bought this fiction decade after decade.

The staff of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung got equally confused in October 2007, when they ran David’s piece on Heinrich Thyssen’s daughter, Margit Batthyany, and her involvement in the murder of 180 Hungarian Jews at Rechnitz Castle in March 1945, which had been published two weeks earlier in The Independent. None of the many continental journalists and historians who subsequently busied themselves in denigrating our work, such as Anja Seeliger of Perlentaucher fame for instance, actually figured out that the reason why the two features were markedly different was not only because of overt censorship in Germany, but also because staff at FAZ saw fit to fact-check the article – the fruit of 14 years of research – against the grossly inaccurate (ThyssenKrupp AG / Museo Thyssen / Thyssen Family) Gospel According to Wikipedia, the same Wikipedia that has rejected our corrective suggestions outright.

Back at Frankfurter Allgemeine: out came 1938 as Heinrich’s settlement date in Switzerland, in went 1932 (to ensure that Heinrich’s presence in Germany after Hitler’s ascension to power could be denied). Out went the proviso that the collection was never at Rohoncz, in went the age-old phrase that it was housed there. Out came our statement that the Thyssens acquired the Erlenhof stud farm from the liquidators of the persecuted Jew, Moritz James Oppenheimer, in 1933. In went the fabrication that Heinrich Thyssen’s business empire was completely separate from August or Fritz Thyssen’s empire. While we are grateful to FAZ for publishing the feature, this type of inaccurate ‘editing’ of copy in a newspaper of such quality should be of concern to everyone.

And even today, two years after the publication of our book, the Spanish museum continues to insist that ‘Heinrich Thyssen’s enterprises were completely separate from the German steel industry’, when even ThyssenKrupp’s website has been admitting for a while now that Heinrich owned the Press- and Rolling Works Reisholz and the Oberbilker Steelworks, both plants that produced canon for Adolf.

Spain is also still holding on to the idea that Heinrich was ensconced in Switzerland from 1932 onwards, where he ‘opened the doors of his gallery to the public in 1936’. Apart from family archival evidence, Heinrich’s own war-time curator, butler and companion, Sandor Berkes, assured us that the gallery building remained unfinished until 1940 and was only opened to the public in 1948. As can be seen from the picture above, far from being locked away in his Swiss villa, in 1936 Heinrich was, amongst other things, happily socialising at the German Derby with his personal friend Hermann Göring, whom he also assisted with personal and Reich banking facilities.

With a background of such systematic disinformation, it does not come as a surprise that the personal assertions by Thyssen family members are also becoming more and more ‘retrograde’. Francesca Thyssen is quoted as explaining to the Austrian ‘News’ Magazine in November 2008 (available in hard copy version only, not online!): ‘Of course my great-uncle (Fritz) was truly deeply enmeshed in Nazi-crimes, that’s no secret. That’s why my grandfather (Heinrich) took the name Bornemisza from his wife, because he left this whole family. Because he wanted to be different and wanted to leave this family’. Or, in other words: Heinrich Thyssen foresaw the coming of the Third Reich by 27 years!…

I can understand that the various guardians of the Thyssen legacy would feel the need to rewrite the unacceptable history of this family. But I do not appreciate the fact that journalists, historians and those who should know better continue to encourage the belief in facts which they know to be untrue or should admit to be so since the publication of our book. As far as the Spanish public in particular is concerned, which is at this very moment being told by Guillermo Solana, the director of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, that new gallery space is urgently needed in Malaga and Sant Feliu de Guixols because the Madrid museum is ‘running out of space’, I feel the time has come to tell him that before any more tax funds are poured into Thyssen projects, the Thyssens might be more truthful about their past and that of the collection, while the Spanish government must admit how much they have and are paying the Thyssens for the display and storage of their paintings.

Celebrating the victory of Erlenhof's 'Nereide' at the 1936 German Derby. At the centre of the picture are (to the right) the winning horse's owner, Heinrich Thyssen (in grey top hat) and (to the left) his friend and associate Hermann Göring (in white suit to the left) (photo: Tachyphot Berlin, copyright: David R L Litchfield

Celebrating the victory of stud farm Erlenhof's 'Nereide' at the 1936 German Derby. In the centre of the picture are (to the right) the winning horse's owner, Heinrich Thyssen (in grey top hat) and (to the left) his friend and associate Hermann Göring (in white suit) (photo: Tachyphot Berlin, copyright: David R L Litchfield)

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