International News Digest

NOVEMBER 10

An old beer-brewing factory in Berlin will soon house a contemporary art center. The former Kindl factory has been undergoing an $8-million renovation. Unlike many of the city’s publicly funded arts institutions, this project is being financed entirely by the German-Swiss couple Burkhard Varnholt and Salome Grisard, who bought the building in 2011 and who intend to launch the finished center in 2014. Art in Berlin surmises that the Kindl building will be a challenging space to stage exhibitions, with its high ceilings and industrial interiors. According to Andreas Fielder, artistic director of the new center, the building’s seven-story tower would become artists’ studios, and added that Varnholt and Grisard wanted the Kindl building to be “not only a site of perception but also one of production.”

Paris, too, is getting a new art center. According to Le Monde, French department store Galeries Lafayette has plans to open a foundation for contemporary art in the Marais district. The foundation will occupy a 26,000-square-foot nineteenth-century building that’s being renovated by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA. The department store’s director of sponsorship, Guillaume Houzé (who is also an heir to the family business), sat down with Le Monde to discuss his vision for the space. He said that it was definitively not just “a jewelry box to display our collection of paintings.” Instead, he explained that he wanted the site to be “a meeting place of visual arts, design, and lively discourse” and wanted the foundation to “not just to produce works and objects, but also ideas.” The new institution is scheduled to open its doors in 2016.

In a packed press conference last week, German authorities released early details surrounding what is likely to be the biggest trove of twentieth-century art to have gone missing during the Third Reich. The New York Times reported that, while officials released some details regarding the 1,400 works that were uncovered in the midst of a tax investigation, their overall reticence at the press conference—no doubt in preparation for the wave of restitution claims soon to be filed by heirs of the works’ rightful owners—left many shaking their heads. The stash, which includes significant works by Matisse, Chagall, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso, among others, was found in the possessions of Hildebrand Gurlitt's son. Though during the Nazi regime he was fired from two museum posts for having a Jewish grandparent, the elder Gurlitt was nonetheless one of the several dealers who received permission from Joseph Goebbels to sell artworks seized by the Nazi Party to foreign collectors. Said Meike Hoffmann, an art historian called in to appraise the collection, “These are truly museum-quality works, and you simply do not find these on the market anymore.”

Over in Austria, the legacy of Nazi-looted art led to an entirely different turn of events last week: Tobias Natter, the director of Vienna’s Leopold Museum, has stepped down from his position in protest against several members of the institution’s senior staff who reportedly have begun to work with a foundation associated with film director Gustav Ucicky, Klimt’s illegitimate son whose oeuvre includes Nazi propaganda. The Leopold Museum already has a controversial history; its collection included many looted works purchased by Rudolf Leopold, who fought restitution claims until he died in 2010. In an interview with Reuters, Natter noted, “It’s a sad truth that for years the museum was known worldwide as being synonymous with looted art. Why should we besmirch ourselves with this theme again?”