German museum renounces claim to Munch art

5th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 January 2006, BERLIN - Berlin's greatest art museum renounced Wednesday any claim to a million-dollar Edvard Munch painting that a Norwegian collector is to sell next month at a Sotheby's auction.

5 January 2006

BERLIN - Berlin's greatest art museum renounced Wednesday any claim to a million-dollar Edvard Munch painting that a Norwegian collector is to sell next month at a Sotheby's auction.

Art experts had earlier suggested that the National Gallery in Berlin demand the return of "Summer Day", a work of expressionist art that the Nazis condemned about 1937 as "degenerate", removed from the gallery walls and sold abroad to raise funds for the Nazi war chest.

The auction comes at a controversial moment, when art galleries in Germany and elsewhere are being roiled by demands that all sales of artworks under duress in the Nazi era be voided. Most claimants have been German Jewish families prohibited from owning art treasures.

But this week, some experts argued that German public collections had also been victims, since they were forced to sell off expressionist and abstract works, many by Jewish and Communist artists, at a fraction of their value.

The Prussian Cultural Foundation, which operates the National Gallery in Berlin, disagreed, saying it had no such legal claim.

"It was the German state museums themselves which did not consider the reviled art worth keeping. Though the state collections suffered from this haemorrhage, they were fatefully intertwined with the state that did it," the foundation said in a statement.

Summer Day, painted in 1903, was bought in 1938 by Norwegian shipowner Thomas Olsen. His son, Fred. Olsen, 77, has put 12 Munch works up for sale next month. Another of the 12, "Team" painted in 1916, hung in a museum in Essen, Germany before the Nazi era.

Neither will be among the three Olsen Munch paintings to be shown in Germany before the February 7 London auction, Selei Serafin, a spokeswoman for Sotheby's Germany, said Wednesday.

Professor Odd Bjorn Fure, head of the Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, said in a 2002 interview that the current owners of the Munch works should consider returning them to the museums in Germany.

Norwegian-born Munch, who lived from 1863 to 1944, is considered one of Europe's most important expressionist painters.

The Nazis showed from 1937 to 1941 a collection of art of the "Modern movement" that they condemned as pessimistic and degenerate.

DPA

Subject: German news

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