Worcester Art Museum, Clark Symposium on Tracking Nazi Looted Art

A free online symposium, “Art Restitution and the Holocaust: A Symposium on Current Research and Educational Resources” on Thursday, October 14, will examine the recovery of stolen works of art from several angles, focusing on the wide range of stolen treasures by Nazis during WWII.

Presented by the Worcester Art Museum in partnership with the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, the program coincides with WAM’s exhibition “What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the search to get it back)” presented until January 16.

Neumann (1879-1959) was a businessman and collector of Jewish heritage art in Vienna, Austria, who fled the Nazis and lived in Paris and later Cuba before settling in New York around the end of his life. Most of Neumann’s art collection was seized by the Nazis in Vienna, and he also lost the remaining works he took with him to Paris.

According to an announcement from WAM and the Strassler Center, the free one-day virtual presentation series is open to anyone interested, including academics and educators. Special sessions are also planned for kindergarten to grade 12 teachers.

Speakers from museums and universities will examine the scope and scale of the theft of works of art during the Holocaust; the complexities of how stolen art is recovered; how curators and others research and find the provenance of missing and recovered works of art; how kindergarten to grade 12 teachers can find and use resources on these topics, and how they can bring class discussions around the art itself.

The exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum includes this work by Giovanni Battista Pittoni, the younger (Italian, 1687-1767), Hannibal vowing revenge on the Romans, circa 1720, oil on canvas, The Selldorff family in memory of Richard Neumann.

Strassler Center executive director Mary Jane Rein, who was instrumental in organizing the symposium, describes the Holocaust as a vast criminal enterprise that included large-scale robberies. “A symposium on this topic gives WAM the opportunity to address these wrongs on behalf of the museum community and recalls the important work of the Monuments Men, including George L. Stout, former director of WAM from 1947 to 1954,” says Rein .

In the aftermath of WWII, Stout’s mission was to save stolen art. In fact, the character of George Clooney in the 2014 film, “The Monuments Men,” was loosely based on Stout, who went on to set a distinguished record in advancing art conservation in this country.

Marnie Weir, director of education and experience at WAM, said the symposium is a good way to examine studies, experiences and relevance around the recovery of confiscated art. “Now more than ever, it is essential to ensure that such stories come to life and are widely shared,” she said. Few Holocaust survivors remain to tell their story.

The conference program and the speakers:

12:30 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Claire Whitner, Director of Curatorial Affairs and James A. Welu Curator of European Art at the Worcester Art Museum. Whitner will discuss WAM’s Neumann exhibition and how his heirs located works in the family collection and loaned them to WAM.

Alessandro Algardi (Italian, 1598-1654), Pope Innocent X (bozzetto), circa 1640, terracotta, The Selldorff family in memory of Richard Neumann.

12:45 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Sam Sackeroff, Assistant Curator Lerman-Neubauer, The Jewish Museum, New York. After World War II, around one million works of art and 2.5 million pounds stolen by the Nazis were recovered. Many more have been destroyed. Sackeroff will speak about the Jewish Museum’s new exhibition, “Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art”.

1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Victoria Reed, Sadler Curator for Provenance, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reed will explain the detailed work of provenance research and how international law and research has progressed over time.

2:45 to 3:30 p.m. Lisa Silverman, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Silverman will share information gathered from researching Central European Jews and their property and the connection to the restitution of looted art after the Holocaust.

3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jonathan Petropoulos, John V. Croul Professor of European History, Claremont McKenna College. Petropoulos will talk about his recent book, “Göring’s Man in Paris: The Story of a Nazi Art Plunderer and His World”.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 Educator Session

1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dustin Tenreiro, Senior Program Associate, Facing History Facing Ourselves. Tenreiro will talk to teachers about WAM’s Neumann exhibit and how to use it as a springboard for talking about the Holocaust.

Maerten van Heemskerck (Netherlandish, 1498-1574), Left altar wing with male donor, c. 1540, oil on panel, The Selldorff family in memory of Richard Neumann.

2:45 pm-3:30pm Robin Stein, author of “My Two Cities”; Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Central Mass Federation. Stein will discuss how Holocaust survivor Hanni Myer’s escape from Vienna in 1938 and eventual settlement in the Boston area inspired her to create a book for young people to share this story.

Stein and Myer worked together to visit schools and share the lessons of war, tolerance and immigration with a new generation. Schimmel will talk about the main sources and resources he used to teach young people about the Holocaust.

More information and a link to register for the symposium, go to worcesterart.org.

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