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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘art’

Talk About Art, Change Your Life

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

“I wandered for a time looking for what was always right there” – Astrid Daley

 

Do you notice the things around you?

Do you really see the homes, stores, and buildings that you pass every day?

How well do you truly see?

Art Historian Amy Herman’s new book Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life argues that most of us do not notice the things around us. We do not really see the homes, stores, and buildings we pass every day. And we do not truly see well.

For many years, Herman has been teaching a workshop at the Frick Museum in New York City entitled “The Art of Perception.” The workshop began when she brought a course created by a dermatology professor at Yale University to New York medical schools. This course taught students to analyze works of art in order to improve their patient observation skills. In other words, students looked at works of art and described the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the object. Shockingly, a clinical study found that students who took the “The Art of Perception” course had diagnostic skills that were 56 percent better than students who did not take the course. The presumably unrelated skill of observing art correlated with the skill of diagnosing patient illness.

Herman’s work poses and then answers the questions: “How can looking at Monet’s water lily paintings help save your company millions? How can noticing people’s footwear foil a terrorist attack? How can your choice of adjective win an argument, calm your children, or catch a thief?”

In reality, we all see just fine, but what Herman teaches and refines is visual intelligence – a set of skills that we are born with but do not know how to use effectively. Looking at art and describing what we see, helps sharpen our visual intelligence and communicate more effectively.

Over the last two decades, Herman has trained police officers, business executives, medical professionals, and customer service representatives in the art of perception. Of course, Herman understands the skepticism involved in using works of art to train people to do their jobs in very different fields. “Looking at old painting and sculptures is definitely not the first thing most people think of when I tell them we’re going to get their neurons firing and increase their brain-processing speed. They picture engaging in cutting-edge 3D computerized training or at least wearing Google glasses while walking down a busy street, not strolling through a museum viewing objects that have sat still for hundreds of years. But that’s exactly the point: art doesn’t walk away. If you want to study human behavior, you can park yourself somewhere public and people watch: guess at who they are, why they’re dressed that way, where they’re going…until they leave. And you’ll never know if you’re right or wrong. Or you could analyze words of art that we have the answers to: the who, what, where, when, and why. Art historian David Joselit describes art as ‘exorbitant stockpiles of experience and information.’ It contains everything we need to hone our observation, perception, and communication expertise.”

Looking at art forces us to engage in an entirely new thought process. Research shows that people learn best when they are in a slightly stressful situation (which novel experiences like looking at art can create). Therefore, perhaps the best way to reevaluate and reassess something we always do – the way we parent, the way we interact with others, the way we do our jobs, or the way we view the world around us – is “to step outside of ourselves, and outside of our comfort zone.”

Rifka Schonfeld

Report: Germany Returned Nazi-Looted Art to the Nazis who Looted It

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Germany returned Nazi-looted art to the high-ranking Nazi families who stole it rather than to the families from whom it had been taken, according to a report by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), which says it has recently discovered this remarkable scandal that has been covered up by Germany for decades.

The family of the late Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus of Vienna, represented by CLAE, who are still trying to recover their 160 looted paintings, had good reason to think two of their paintings would be in the state-owned museum in Munich, the Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen (Bavarian State Paintings Collections). Records show they were handed over to Bavaria by the US government in 1952 for the purpose of restitution. To their shock, they found the paintings had instead been given by the Bavarian State in the early 1960s to Henriette Hoffmann-von Schirach, daughter of Hitler’s close friend and photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and wife of the notorious Gauleiter of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach. Von Schirach was condemned at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity for the deportation of 60,000 Austrian Jews.

Bavarian State Paintings Collections

Bavarian State Paintings Collections

Gottlieb Kraus (1867-1952) and his wife Mathilde Kraus (1873-1954) were prominent members of Viennese society. Gottlieb Kraus was a businessman and honorary consul for Czechoslovakia in Austria. Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, he and his wife assembled a notable art collection of over 160 paintings, and their apartment was opened as a public museum to display it in 1923.

Gottlieb and Mathilde, together with their daughter Marie, fled Vienna soon after the Nazis took power in March 1938. Their flight took them via Prague, Brussels, England and Canada, before they were eventually able to settle in Washington DC. They discovered after the war that their entire collection left in Vienna had been seized by the Nazis in 1941, some selected for Hitler’s Linz Museum. Their daughter Marie made unsuccessful efforts over decades with both Germany and Austria to find and recover their possessions, but was blocked at every turn. These efforts were continued after her death in 1997 by the several grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Gottlieb and Mathilde.

The Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), is an international, expert and non-profit representative body which negotiates policies and procedures with governments and cultural institutions and promotes the identification of looted cultural property and the tracing of its rightful owners. It represents families from all over the world, acting on their behalf to locate and recover their looted artworks. It has been instrumental in the return to its rightful owners of over 3,500 items of looted property since it was set up in 1999. It also provides a Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 at www.lootedart.com to fulfil Washington Principle VI which called for the creation of such a repository of information.

Anne Webber, Co-Chair of CLAE, said CLAE’s research shows that in the 1950s and 1960s Henriette Hoffmann-von Schirach recovered scores of paintings from Bavaria. It seems that Bavaria thought restitution meant restitution to the Nazis rather than to their victims.

Among the high ranking Nazi families negotiating to get back art, some of it looted, were the Goering, Hoffmann, Bormann, von Schirach, Frank and Streicher families. In many cases they negotiated directly with the Director of the Bavarian State Museums and Ministers in the Bavarian government. While their demands were dealt with promptly and efficiently and with little requirement to prove their claims of ownership, the looted families had their claims thrown out or impossible hurdles were created to prevent them recovering their artworks. The families are still experiencing the same barriers to recovery of their looted works of art today.

One of the two Old Master paintings handed over to Mrs Hoffmann-von Schirach in 1962 in exchange for the paltry sum of 300 Deutsch Marks, was sold by her the following year for 16,100 Deutsch Marks to the Catholic Cathedral Association of Xanten in Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia.

In July 2011, on behalf of the Kraus family, CLAE made a claim to Xanten for the painting, providing extensive proofs of its shocking history: looted by the Gestapo in Vienna in 1941 from the collection of Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus; acquired in Vienna with other paintings from the Kraus collection by Heinrich Hoffman through the good offices of his son-in-law Baldur von Schirach; found by the Allies at the end of the war; returned to Bavaria by the US with the restitution obligation; and then returned to Mrs Hoffmann-von Schirach in 1962 on the flimsiest of grounds.

Despite the Cathedral of Xanten publicly proclaiming its proud ‘anti-Nazi’ past, it seems this attitude does not extend to property stolen from Jewish families. In the five years that CLAE has been trying to achieve an amicable settlement, the Cathedral Association, of which the local Bishop is part, has not once acknowledged the historical injustice perpetrated on this family or the persecution it has suffered. It has provided no documentation of any kind, nor a single proof of evidence of a good faith purchase. It has locked away the painting and only and repeatedly denied settlement of the claim on the grounds that it must have “an index linked return on its investment” of 1963. The last settlement offer by CLAE was made in September 2015 when the family stated their wish that their claim be resolved by the end of October 2015. Anne Webber said there has only been silence from Xanten in the nine months since.

CLAE’s several requests for an explanation of the post-war ‘return-sales’ to the Nazi families, made to the Bavarian State Museums, the Bavarian State government and the German Foreign Ministry, met with equal lack of success, as did its requests for documentation. CLAE was told that there were only four documents consisting of five pages in total. CLAE embarked on its own research, uncovering hundreds of pages of records and the details of this scandalous history.

JNi.Media

‘Woman in Gold’ Helen Mirren Testifies for Holocaust Art Restitution Bill

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

British actress Helen Mirren testified in Congress Tuesday in support of a bill to make restitution easier for American heirs of Holocaust era victims, The Art Newspaper reported. Mirren starred in the 2015 British drama “Woman in Gold,” about Austrian-born Jewish American Maria Altmann’s court fight to recover her family’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” by Gustav Klimt (her late aunt modeled for the picture), which had been stolen by the Nazis.

Mirren told two Senate judiciary subcommittees in a joint hearing on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act that “the very act of Nazi expropriation was not only unjust but it was inhumane.” She added, “Greed, cruelty, self-interest and domination will always be with us, it’s an easy option. Justice is so much more difficult, so much more complex. But we all dream of justice. We are incapable of changing the past, but fortunately we have the ability to make change today.”

“Restitution is so much more, much more than … reclaiming a material good,” Mirren said. “It gives Jewish people and other victims of the Nazi terror the opportunity to reclaim their history, their culture, their memories and, most importantly, their families.”

The legislation is sponsored by Republican senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Other supporters of the bipartisan bill included president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder, and senators Al Franken (D, Minnesota), Chuck Grassley, (R, Iowa) and Orrin Hatch, (R, Utah).

Lauder, who purchased the Klimt painting after Altmann had sued the Austrian government to give it back, and won, told the Senators, “What makes this particular crime even more despicable is that this art theft, probably the greatest in history, was continued by governments, museums and many knowing collectors in the decades following the war.”

Today the Klimt painting is part of the permanent collection of the Neue Galerie, a museum of German and Austrian art Lauder co-founded in New York.

David Israel

Report: German Culture Minister Backs Jewish Delegate For Art Restitution Commission

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Germany’s minister of culture says she supports the inclusion of a Jewish community member in Germany’s “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property” — better known as the Limbach Commission.

The committee is named after its chairperson, Prof. Dr. Jutta Limbach, the former head of the German Federal Constitutional Court.

Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture, confirmed her support of a Jewish committee member to Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin, during a meeting last Tuesday at the offices of the Federal Chancellery of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The committee was established 13 years ago by the German federal government together with the German states and municipalities, with the purpose to act as an advisory body in disputes involving the restitution of cultural assets held by German institutions. Even though its resolutions are legally considered non-obligatory, it is viewed as a mediating and intermediary agent. Furthermore, the fact that the head of the committee is a former Federal Constitutional Court judge, along with the high public profile of the rest of the committee members, means that its resolutions are vested with high moral authority.

In recent years, a number of claims made to the committee received a large public and media exposure, which at times led to criticism regarding the committee’s work, with Jewish factors calling to consider adding a member of the Jewish community to the committee.

During her meeting with Rabbi Teichtal, Grütters stated that she views with the utmost importance, the efficient and open handling of restitution claims of cultural and artistic assets of holocaust survivors and their legal heirs. Grütters added that it is the duty of the German government including the ministry of culture, towards the holocaust survivors and their families. Therefore, she intends to positively consider adding a member of the Jewish community to the committee board in her forthcoming talks with the German states and municipalities, in order to boost the confidence in the committee’s work and its transparency.

Rabbi Teichtal thanked the minister for her commitment to the Jewish community in Germany in particular and towards the Holocaust survivors in General.

The rabbi added that minister Grütters is a true friend of the Jewish people and that if there are any arguments regarding certain issues, it is important to verify that they are handled in the way arguments should be handled between friends.

Hana Levi Julian

Egypt’s Chief Cleric Scolds Israel Over Nude Dancers in Holy City of Jerusalem

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Now there is no doubt at all that the Messiah is most certainly on the way.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam scolded the People of Israel Saturday over the humiliation to the sanctity of the holy city being perpetrated by allowing a nude performance to take place in Jerusalem.

Allam warned Israel on Saturday that “More Than Naked,” a performance Friday by 12 nude dancers at the Jerusalem Theater that was part of the 55th Israel Festival, “contributed to the spread of terror, extremism and instability” in the region.

Moreover, he called the performance a ‘humiliation to the sanctity of the holy city,’ according to a report broadcast by Galei Tzahal Army Radio.

The remarks came a day after the show, by Austrian choreographer Doris Uhlich, appeared on stage at the Jerusalem Theater.

The Islamic cleric pointed out that the performance constituted an arousing provocation, and as such, was an offense to the sensibilities of observant followers of all three monotheistic faiths.

It is beyond ironic that it required the Islamic chief cleric of our southern neighbor, Egypt, of all nations, to remind the Jewish Nation of where to draw the line in encouraging “artistic” or “cultural” expression.

Members of the Jerusalem City Council were also upset to learn that they were funding a nude dance performance as part of the Israel Festival. It was decided that next year the Jerusalem city council will have to approve all performances before funding them.

Hana Levi Julian

Guggenheim Museum Website Calls Israel “Racist,” Falsely Claims it Censors Art

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Elder of Ziyon website}

The famous Guggenheim Museum in New York has a blog that says it “tells the Guggenheim’s evolving story, and offers insights on visual culture, urbanism, and the global art world, along with regular discoveries from the archives.”

It recently posted this outrageous piece by Chen Tamir, called “Censorship in Israel:

Over the past two years, the arts in Israel have been increasingly threatened by censorship and draconian government funding proposals. Some see this as the beginning of a culture war not unlike the one endured by the United States during the 1990s, when politicians used arts funding reform as a political tool to curry favor with conservative constituents. Freedom of speech is not treated with the same reverence in Israel as it is in the States; the country was not founded on a constitution that privileges such liberty. (Indeed, there is no Israeli constitution, a fact that some would consider a root cause of its racist and lopsided legal system and civic infrastructure.) The state of stagnation and worsening division in Israel/Palestine further entrenches the occupation, allowing more settlements to be built and inflicting further oppression on Palestinians. The metanarrative in Israel is one of continuous existential fear and victimization, which leads to the increased justification of insularity and nationalism, and the silencing of opposition.

Tamir includes many half-truths and absurd exaggerations as well as a complete disregard for the definition of “censorship.”

The calls for and instances of censorship over the past two years have been both top-down (from government officials) and grassroots (by private citizens calling for the removal of artworks). Some individuals have taken matters into their own hands and established paramilitary organizations that spy on human rights activists and organizations, most notably the extra-political group Im Tirtzu, which recently published a blacklist of “moles”—cultural producers of all stripes who support leftist organizations that they perceive as anti-Zionist.

Im Tirtzu is paramilitary?

And why is art that defames a nation free speech, but compiling a list of people behind that art is “censorship?”

Here’s another example of “censorship”:

Artist-choreographer Arkadi Zaides was criticized for a video and dance work incorporating footage from B’Tselem’s Camera Project (through which cameras are given to Palestinians to document conflicts with the army and neighboring settlers). The Museum of Petach Tikva, which presented the work, was asked by the municipality to close the exhibition early following pressure from a “concerned citizen,” while the Ministry of Culture withdrew its funding from the show (although the exhibition remained open until its scheduled end date a few days after this incident).

So, not a single person was deprived of seeing the show. How is that censorship?

Further examples include the redirection of arts funding to things like the Zionist Art Prize, and right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acting as temporary Minister of Education, vetoing the 2015 candidate for the Ministry’s annual literature prize.

That is not censorship either.

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev have been responsible for a string of incidents of or attempts at censorship, ranging from the banning of books and plays to a withdrawal of state funding from Jaffa’s Elmina Theater unless its director, Norman Issa, reversed his refusal to perform in a settlement in the West Bank. Regev, who previously served as the chief censor of the Israeli army, recently treated the director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Suzanne Landau (herself recently accused of self-censorship) to a surprise Friday-night phone call to ask about a work of art in a recent exhibition by Uri Katzenstein.

The only thing in this list that is actual censorship is the supposed “banning of books and plays.” Curiously, Tamir doesn’t mention their names, but almost certainly he is referring to the Education Ministry taking an anti-Israel novel off of its reading list as “banning,” which it isn’t. Almost certainly there has been no banning of any play as well.

It takes a while before we find out how Tamir defines “censorship”:  the refusal of a nation to fund art that directly attacks it.

Herein lies the crux of contemporary censorship: funding. As in the American Culture Wars, public funding is being manipulated to become a mechanism of censorship.

That is not censorship by any definition. Making it somewhat more difficult for an artist to make a living from public money is not censorship. I can make art if I want, but if the Guggenheim decides not to make an exhibition of my artwork and the government doesn’t fund me I am not being “censored.” If publishers aren’t interested in my poetry and the BBC refuses to air my play and MTV doesn’t want to air my music videos, I am not being “censored.”

The entire article is a string of lies that simply misuses the meaning of the word “censorship” to falsely paint Israel as a racist society.

The Guggenheim Museum should remove this article. Not because I support censorship – I emphatically do not – but because I do not believe that the museum should publish lies, fabrications and slander. Tamir has the full right to post her lies on her own website and the Guggenheim has the full right to reject publishing a litany of her lies and half-truths.

If supporters of the Guggenheim decide to withhold their funding to show their displeasure for the museum becoming a mouthpiece for anti-Israel propaganda, that isn’t censorship either.

Elder of Ziyon

Two Roman-Era ‘Mummy Paintings’ Stolen By Nazis Returned to Jewish Heirs

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Two Roman-era mummy paintings stolen by the Nazis from Felicia Lachmann-Mosse were returned to the family heirs last month. Lachmann-Mosse was the daughter of German-Jewish art collector Rudolf Mosse, a publisher and philanthropist who died in 1920.

The artifacts were confiscated with the rest of the Mosse art collection in 1933, and sold with more than 400 items at an auction in 1934. But Lachmann-Mosse had already fled Germany with her husband, reaching safety in 1933.

After the Third Reich placed the Rudolf Mosse Foundation (as the family’s Company was known once the Nazis (took control) into receivership, it “confiscated and disposed of the family’s artwork and artifacts at auction — published in auction house catalogs (Lepke and Union),” according to the website of the Mosse Art Restitution Project. “This documentation did not represent the entirety of the Mosse family art collection. Items were removed from the collection after the confiscation and prior to the auctions.”

The paintings described above are mummy portraits of a young man and a young woman, both deceased. When Egypt was part of the Roman empire, the traditional embalming and mummification included a painted portrait of the departed.

The two portraits owned by Mosse were eventually acquired by German writer Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” They were purchased from his widow for approximately $137,000 as part of a collection by the University of Zurich in 1979.

Mosse’s heirs gave a “financial contribution” to the university in exchange for the paintings, the school said, but it is not clear whether the “contribution” was voluntary or required.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/two-roman-era-mummy-paintings-stolen-by-nazis-returned-to-jewish-heirs/2016/05/03/

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