The sale of the photographs aims to save the Langmatt Museum. Through research at Christie’s, it became clear shortly before the auction that Cézanne’s still life painting “The Bowl of Fruits and Ginger” had a problematic provenance. PR disaster or happy coincidence?
Do the works contain looted artistic background? In order to clarify this question, the management of the Langmatt Museum in Baden decided about a year and a half ago to examine more closely some of the paintings in the collection.
Some of Switzerland’s most famous researchers have been hired. The three paintings by Paul Cézanne, which will be auctioned in New York next week, were also examined. The result: the most valuable paintings bore the first indications of a potentially problematic origin.
New evidence of origin has been found
Museum director Markus Stegemann says further research at Christie’s provided the conclusive evidence. There was also a lot of luck involved. “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can search for years and find nothing. You can search for an hour and suddenly find something,” says Markus Stegmann.
The needle in the haystack in this case was an index card. She provided evidence that Cézanne’s still life painting “The Bowl of Fruits and Gingerbread” was owned by the German-Jewish banker Jacob Goldschmidt before it was purchased and became part of the Langmatt Collection.
Markus Stegmann says there is evidence that Goldschmidt’s business in Frankfurt was no longer doing well due to Nazi persecution. It is therefore likely that Goldschmidt only sold Cézanne because he had to make ends meet somehow.
In legal terms, this is called “loss resulting from Nazi persecution.” The painting, of all things, which officials hoped to save the Langmatt Museum financially, was suddenly burdened.
Harm to your image or a happy turn of events?
Therefore, the museum administration quickly negotiated a settlement with Goldschmidt’s heirs. Shortly before the auction, which is already highly controversial. All this can be considered a public relations disaster.
The auction of the three Cézanne portraits from the Langmatt Museum will take place on November 9 at Christie’s in New York.
Museum director Markus Stegmann contradicts: “No, this does not harm the image at all. Quite the opposite.” It’s not every day that a museum reaches an agreement with its heirs, and negotiations can sometimes take years. Reaching an agreement in such a short time would be “very positive,” Stegman said.
He confirms that the Langmatt Museum approached Goldschmidt’s heirs on his initiative. The settlement reached now covers all potential claims of other relatives.
The painting will remain up for auction
The photo does not now go to the heirs, but can be sold at public auction. Stegman doesn’t want to say anything about the settlement amount. He only indirectly answers the question of where the financially troubled museum got the money for such a settlement: “The contract is crucial. It’s signed. That’s why the agreement is finalized. Payment – or whatever you make – will be made later.”
Later – one can explain: after the auction. Markus Stegmann is confident that Cézanne’s “Ginger Pot” will sell. Paintings in which the legal claims of heirs are illustrated generally sell better.
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