090209: MAK-Applied Arts / Contemporary Art: Recollecting. Looted Art and Restitution

MAK-Applied Arts / Contemporary Art: Recollecting. Looted Art and Restitution Life denied With its current exhibition, the MAK attempts to document the art objects confiscated from Jews by the Nazis, as well as the restitution cases of the Republic of Austria after 1945, by presenting 17 individual cases and stories. Starting point is the “Mauerbach Auction” in 1996, which was hosted by the MAK. Christies, on behalf of the Jewish religious community, auctioned off the so-called “abandoned property” – NS looted art, which was part of the inventory of the Federal Monuments Office. Contemporary artists, among them Carola Dertnig, Ines Doujak, and Rainer Ganahl, present their artistic connotations referring to these cases, all displayed on metal steles. Sophie Lillie and Arye Wachsmuth’s video “Retracing the Tears”, shows the backsides of the objects auctioned at the above-mentioned sell-off, on which the former owners’ abbreviated names are easily identified. This clearly proves that the Republic of Austria could have, without any difficulty, researched the rightful owners, or their heirs, long before the auction took place in 1996. The numerous interviews document the bitterness regarding how much time had elapsed before the objects were returned, and how troublesome the battle with Austrian bureaucracy was. They convey the impression that both those affected as well as the researchers and historians are embarrassed about how unfair the Republic of Austria dealt with the victims of Nazi atrocities after 1945. One of these victims is Otto Brill. He was arrested by the Gestapo immediately after the “Anschluss” and forced to surrender his property as well as his factory to the Nazis, otherwise he would be deported to the Dachau. He was able to immigrate to Great Britain with his family. Brill was an art collector and owned part of the Gallery Würthle. In the video, his great grand daughter narrates how tedious the restitution negotiations were, and that her grandmother did not live to witness the restitution of eight art works to her family in 2001 by the Albertina. Carola Dertnig bases her work “Collection Brill – Questions regarding 28033 and 28034” on this story. She projects the catalogue number onto the wall, whereby the provenance of two works still in the possession of the Albertina remains unclear to this day. Dertnig presents both works: an aquarelle by Herbert Boeckl and a drawing by Stefan Pichler, which were probably part of Brill’s collection. The question how these works actually changed hands – possibly as a “free bonus” or a present for the Gestapo – remains unanswered. Nobody knows how Lily Bial’s felt when she learned that a box filled with childhood-memorabilia, put together by her parents, had suddenly shown up. Lily survived the holocaust in Great Britain thanks to a “Kindertransport” in 1939; her parents were murdered in Ausschwitz in 1942. The box is displayed at the MAK and is filled with photos, a doll’s china set, coffee bean boxes, and many other memories. It is one of the most touching objects and proves that even an object without real history is a document for the “dehumanization” (Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek) of a society. By Susanne Rohringer MAK-Applied Arts/Contemporary Art 1010 Vienna, Stubenring 5, until 15.02.09 www.mak.at

MAK - Museum für angewandte Kunst
1010 Wien, Stubenring 5
Tel: +43 1 711 36-0, Fax: +43 1 713 10 26
Email: office@mak.at
Öffnungszeiten: Di 10-21, Mi-So 10-18 h

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