Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Experts to review Nazi-era art collection

Experts to review Nazi-era art collection

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A visitor looks on Nazi propaganda, at the exhibition How extremism wants to deceive the people on December 10. AFP

Experts to review Nazi-era art collection

Experts will review the methods used to determine the provenance of works in a vast private art collection acquired during World War II by Emil Buhrle, a Swiss museum said on Wednesday.

The announcement by the Kunsthaus in Zurich came as renewed suspicions swirl around the Nazi-era origins of one of Europe’s most prestigious private art collections.

The late industrialist (1890-1956) amassed a fortune selling weapons to both the Nazis and the Allies during World War II, wealth that helped buy around 600 artworks by the end of his life.

The Buhrle Foundation itself confirms that 13 paintings bought by the German-born industrialist, who later acquired Swiss citizenship, had been stolen by the Nazis from Jewish owners in France.

Following a series of court cases after the war, Buhrle returned all 13 pieces to their rightful owners then repurchased nine of them, the foundation said.

But long-simmering suspicions around the provenance of other pieces in the collection, which includes famous works by the likes of Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and Picasso, have picked up steam in recent years.

The collection was long displayed at a discrete private museum on the outskirts of Zurich, but it was determined it should be moved following a spectacular 2008 heist of four 19th century masterpieces.

It was decided to move the collection to the Kunsthaus, one of Switzerland’s leading museums, which this past October opened a new wing to permanently house the works, setting off fresh debate.

A recent book by historian Erich Keller called Das Kontaminerte Museum, or The Contaminated Museum, raises questions around the provenance of the works and criticises a lack of contextualisation.

The Buhrle Foundation meanwhile presented a report to the Kunsthaus on Wednesday over the provenance research it had conducted over the past two decades, concluding that there were no indications of problematic circumstances nor problematic provenances for any of the 203 works in the current collection.

Even though Buhrle conducted business during World War II, “he has not left us a collection of Nazi art”, collection director Lukas Gloor told a press conference, according to the ATS news agency.

The Kunsthaus meanwhile said it had strived to contextualise the collection, including through a historic study by experts at the University of Zurich.

And in a bid to remove any remaining doubts, it said it had appointed “an independent committee of experts”.

They would evaluate whether the methodology and approach used by the Buhrle Foundation to determine the provenance of the works “were correct and whether the results were presented correctly,” the Kunsthaus said.


  • Wing Bank opens new branch in front of Orkide The Royal along Street 2004

    Wing Bank celebrates first anniversary as commercial bank with launch of brand-new branch. One year since officially launching with a commercial banking licence, Wing Bank on March 14 launched a new branch in front of Orkide The Royal along Street 2004. The launch was presided over by

  • Girl from Stung Meanchey dump now college grad living in Australia

    After finishing her foundational studies at Trinity College and earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Melbourne in 2022, Ron Sophy, a girl who once lived at the Stung Meanchey garbage dump and scavenged for things to sell, is now working at a private

  • Ministry orders all schools, public and private, to close for SEA Games

    From April 20 to May 18, all public and private educational institutions will be closed to maintain order and support Cambodia's hosting of the 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games, said a directive from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Cambodia will host the

  • Wat Phnom hornbills attract tourists, locals

    Thanks to the arrival of a friendly flock of great hornbills, Hour Rithy, a former aviculturist – or raiser of birds – in Kratie province turned Phnom Penh tuk tuk driver, has seen a partial return to his former profession. He has become something of a guide

  • Almost 9K tourists see equinox sunrise at Angkor Wat

    Nearly 9,000 visitors – including 2,226 international tourists – gathered at Angkor Wat on March 21 to view the spring equinox sunrise, according to a senior official of the Siem Reap provinical tourism department. Ngov Seng Kak, director of the department, said a total of 8,726 people visited Angkor Wat to

  • Angkor Beer strengthens national pride with golden new look and fresher taste

    Angkor Beer – the "Gold of Angkor" – has a new look, one that is more stylish and carries a premium appeal, as well as a fresher taste and smoother flavour, making it the perfect choice for any gathering. Angkor Beer recently launched its new design, one