Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot
Swiss-Jewish artist Miriam Cahn.

Swiss artist Miriam Cahn who was born in 1949 in Basel to a family of Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi persecution in Germany and France, says she wants to remove all her works on display at the Zurich Art Museum in response to the outcry over the museum’s Bührle collection suspected of being linked to art looted by the Nazis. Cahn announced her decision in a letter that was published on Wednesday by the Jewish magazine Tachles (Miriam Cahn zieht ihre Bilder vom Kunsthaus Zürich ab).

According to the Zurich-based German-language Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick, earlier in December, a heated debate erupted over the origin of the collection’s 203 works on display at the Zurich museum.


German industrialist Emil Bührle, who died in 1956, earned his wealth from selling arms to Germany during and after World War II. He used his fortune to accumulate an art collection which he bequeathed to the foundation bearing his name. The Bührle Foundation insists that none of the works on display in Zurich—where Bührle settled down in 1929—were looted from Jews. Nevertheless, the museum’s display of works belonging to the foundation is considered an insult to the victims of the Holocaust. In response, the museum announced that it plans to launch an independent commission to investigate the source of the works.

Painting by Miriam Cahn. / Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw via Wikimedia

“I no longer want to be represented in ‘this’ art museum in Zurich,” Cahn said in her letter. “I wish to remove all my works from the Zurich Art Museum. I will buy them back at the original sale price.”

“Buying art doesn’t whitewash! Collecting art doesn’t make you a better person!” Cahn wrote.

Cahn is a world-famous figurative painter, sculptor, and author. Her pictures can be found in leading museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York City. In the past year, there were extensive exhibitions of works by Cahn in Basel, Munich, and Paris.

Meanwhile, Guy Bollag, the son of a Zurich gallery owner who serves as the spokesman for a group of like-minded Jewish colleagues, issued an open letter to Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch, on behalf of “Jewish families who had to endure a lot of suffering in Switzerland during the Second World War.” Bollag called on the mayor to intervene in the museum and the Bührle foundation brouhaha, “Your silence as elected mayor and politically responsible for the city of Zurich in the Bührle-Kunsthaus case is deafening and unbearable. We reach you as Jewish people, as descendants of families who have suffered a lot from the Holocaust and anti-Semitic official acts in Switzerland at the time. We feel slapped and abandoned…”


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