Art Market

Swedish museum leaders are calling for a national panel to guide them on Nazi loot claims.

Benjamin Sutton
Sep 25, 2018 3:40PM, via The Art Newspaper

Daniel Birnbaum, the outgoing director of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, and Olle Granath, a former director of that museum and of the Nationalmuseum, have submitted a proposal to Sweden’s Culture Ministry calling for the establishment of a panel that can advise institutions when they receive claims about artworks in their collections that may have been stolen by the Nazis. The proposal comes just weeks after the Moderna Museet returned a 1910 portrait by Oskar Kokoschka to the heirs of legendary German art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, who fled Germany in 1933 and whose collection was subsequently stolen and sold off by the Nazis.

“We feel a little bit left alone,” Birnbaum told The Art Newspaper. “It shouldn’t be entirely up to us to interpret the Washington Principles.”

The Washington Principles is an 11-point non-binding agreement created in 1998 that has been signed by 44 countries and groups. It stipulated that signatories will work to identify art in public collections that had been looted by the Nazis, and “to achieve a just and fair solution” by the pre-war owners and their heirs. Sweden is one of the signatory countries, though to date only five of the countries that signed the principles—Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, France, and the U.K.—have created national panels to provide guidance on Nazi loot claims.

“The recent writings, discussions and the work that the Moderna Museet has done make it clear that more efforts are necessary,” Per Olsson Fridh, a state secretary in the Swedish Ministry of Culture, recently said on a radio program, according to TAN. “We cannot exclude the possibility that other cases will be discovered.”

Benjamin Sutton
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