A backwards way to sell Nazi-looted paintings

Museum hangs art back-to-front to raise awareness.

THE WIESBADEN Museum reverses a painting looted by the Nazis in a bid to raise money to purchase it (photo credit: THE WIESBADEN MUSEUM)
THE WIESBADEN Museum reverses a painting looted by the Nazis in a bid to raise money to purchase it
(photo credit: THE WIESBADEN MUSEUM)
BERLIN – A museum in Wiesbaden, Germany, has come up with a novel plan to buy back a painting stolen from a Jewish collector during the Nazi era.
The Wiesbaden Museum has hung the 19th-century painting by Hans von Marées backwards, in a bid to raise public awareness and also the $118,000 it needs by November 5 to buy the painting from its rightful heirs, museum director Alexander Klar announced in late October.
The rightful heir to the collection is the British-based Gerta Silberberg Discretionary Trust. In 1980, a local collector bequeathed the painting to the museum.
Miriam Olivia Merz, a researcher of the Wiesbaden Museum, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the painting was turned backwards as “a genuine gesture to engage in retrospection by showing the backside.”
She continued that “on the backside one can see the old writing, the seal, and label,which tell the history of the painting.”
The painting, titled “Die Labung” (Sustenance), was part of the collection of Jewish industrialist Max Silberberg of Breslau. He was forced to sell the collection to the Nazis in 1935.
Silberberg and his wife, Johanna, were later killed in Auschwitz.
When asked by the Post how much money the museum has raised to purchase the painting, Merz said “we still have not reached our goal.” She declined to name a figure.
According to Merz, the Wiesbaden Musuem had a strong connection with National Socialism because of Hermann Voss, who was the director of the museum during the Nazi period. Adolf Hitler assigned Voss to collect art work for the future “Führer Museum.”
The museum started the initiative to purchase the painting asking Q, an organization devoted to creative work, to develop a plan. A joint campaign from the museum and Q produced the initiative to raise funds.
The amount to be raised covers onethird of the value of the painting plus the cost of the fund-raising campaign, according to an online report from Hessische Rundfunk radio and TV.
The Wiesbaden Museum is located in Wiesbaden, the capital of Hesse state.
HR Online reported that Wiesbaden Museum was a repository for art robbed from Jewish owners during the Third Reich. The museum has been researching the provenance of works in its collection, with an aim to providing restitution. It already has returned two paintings to their proper heirs, or bought them back, HR reported.
JTA contributed to this report.