Gary Smith, former director of the American Academy in Berlin, and Raphael Gross, director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Leipzig, have been appointed by German Culture Minister Monika Grütters as the first Jewish members of the Limbach Commission, established in 2003 to mediate in Nazi-looted art ownership disputes, The Art Newspaper reported.
The commission surprised the art world in 2014 when it concluded that the sale of the $250 million Guelph Treasure, a 40-piece trove of Medieval goldsmith works, which had been forced out of several German-Jewish art dealers from Frankfurt by Prime Minister Hermann Göring, “was not a compulsory sale due to persecution.”
And last March, Grütters faced shocked protests after telling the New York Times that if a Jew is appointed to the commission his “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.” Needless to say, it didn’t play so good in New York City.
Minister Grütters is also introducing an increase in transparency to the workings of the commission, including a promise to publish its schedule and the reasons for its decisions. She also instituted a ten-year limit on members’ terms in office, and she plans to authorize the generation of provenance reports when necessary, paid for by the government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the reforms last week.
“I expect all German museums without exception to be willing to subject disputes to the Advisory Commission as a matter of course,” Grütters said. Unlike its Dutch and Austrian equivalents, the German Nazi Loot commission can only be called if both sides of a dispute agree.David Israel