Heine Would Have Loved This!

Thu, 2017/11/16 - 4:25pm | Your editor
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The day before the catalogue was due to go to the printers, the Duesseldorf Stadtmuseum cancelled an exhibit on the life and work of the Jewish art dealer Max Stern. The exhibit was to open next March. The city fathers blamed “current demands for information and restitution in German museums. Teh exhibit was supposed to go on to Haifa, Israel, in September and Nissim Tal, director of the Haifa Museum said “it came as a big shock to us.” In 2019 its was supposed to move to Montreal.

Max Stern took over the Duesseldorf art gallery from his father in 1934, a year after Hitler came to power. After 1935, as Jew, Max Stern could no longer be an art deal and had to sell the contents at an auction in Cologne. He fled to London in 1938 and later settled in Montreal. He died childless in 1987 and left his estate to Concordia and McGill universities in Montreal and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The 3 universities in 2002 launched a campaign to recover 400 of the auctioned art, the Max Stern Art Restitution Project.

The cancelled exhibition was focused on Stern's life and work and would not have addressed current claims, which makes the Duesseldorf cancellation odd. The head of the Duesseldorf Jewish Community commented that the cancellation was because of “fears on the part of the city that some works will have to be returned to the heirs of the rightful owners” and “the wish to avoid this” The Duesseldorf mayor recently had to give up a painting that hung is his office, The Artist's Childern (1830 by Willhelm von Schadow). Another painting Sicilian Landscape,(1861by Andreas Achenbach) from a private collection which had been exhibited in the city's Museum Kunstpalast was removed in July after the Max Stern Art Restitution Project filed a claim. However the Stadtmuseum gave no information about restitution claims from the planned exhibit on Max Stern

The funding for the Max Stern exhibit had mostly come from the Montreal Jewish community.

Duesseldorf in 1965 named its university after Heinrich Heine who was born there. During the Nazi years his best loved German poem, Die Lorelei, was rebranded as a folk song. By the time Heine wrote the ironic poem about the mermaid who lured sailors to their death he had converted to Christianity but under Nazi rules he was still a Jew.

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