The new management of the Kunsthaus Zurich wants to clarify the origin of the Bührle collection

The new management of the Kunsthaus Zurich wants to clarify the origin of the Bührle collection

Philipp Hildebrand, new president of the Fine Arts Society of the Kunsthaus in Zurich, is committed to shedding light on the origin of the works in the Bührle collection. Independent experts will be responsible for this work.

Former director of the Swiss National Bank Philipp Hildebrand appeared before the media on Monday in Zurich accompanied by the new director of the Kunsthaus Ann Demeester. Both want the provenance of the paintings of the Bührle collection be the subject of an in-depth study.

The Kunsthaus still has important and complex work to do in the search for the origin of the works in the collection. Finding independent experts capable of carrying out this work represents a great challenge, because “it is a very restricted field”, underlined Philipp Hildebrand.

>> Read again: Zurich calls for new historical research on the provenance of the Bührle collection

No calendar

The new president of the fine arts society and the new director of the museum did not want to set a timetable. Preparatory work is underway to ensure the independence of the expert group. The first results should be announced within a year.

The next crucial point will be what will happen to the works of art, which research would reveal have entered the collection illegally. In the context of the Holocaust, it is a question of determining whether paintings were stolen from Jews or whether Jews sold under duress, because they needed money to flee the Nazi regime.

>> Read more: Swiss museums face the sometimes troubled past of their collections

The new loan contract between the Kunsthaus Fine Arts Society and the Bührle Collection Foundation, owner of the paintings, allows “to act more efficiently”, believes Philipp Hildebrand. However, the museum’s only capacity for action consists in eventually taking down certain paintings.

Works from the Emil Bührle collection, in the extension of the Kunsthaus Zurich. [CHRISTIAN BEUTLER – KEYSTONE]

No possibility of sanction

The Kunsthaus has no possibility of sanction. The foundation remains the owner of the works. It is therefore she who ultimately decides whether paintings that entered the collection illegally should be returned or compensated.

Philipp Hildebrand, however, stressed that he could “not imagine” that the fine arts society would not support the need for action if a clear case were to arise. In other words, under his presidency, the fine arts society will work to ensure that paintings are returned when necessary, he said.

Presentation to review

The way the collection is presented to the public at the Kunsthaus is also the subject of criticism. Ann Demeester said this would be revisited “next year”. As history is always presented from new perspectives, communication is a dynamic process “that is never finished”, she added.

Emil Georg Bührle became one of the richest men in Switzerland at the time thanks to arms sales during and after the Second World War. His fortune has allowed him to build an art collection that includes 203 works. He bequeathed it to the foundation that has managed it since 1960.

>> Review the 7:30 p.m. report:

In Zurich, a controversy affects the prestigious Kunsthaus because of the works of the Bührle collection [RTS]

In Zurich, a controversy affects the prestigious Kunsthaus because of the works from the Bührle collection / 7:30 p.m. / 2 min. / December 15, 2021


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