Nazi governor’s son returns looted art to Poland

Plus: Ren Hang (1987–2017) | Paul Schimmel departs from Hauser & Wirth | Lawyer in Pontormo case defends private collector | and recommended reading

27 February 2017

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Nazi governor’s son returns looted art to Poland | Horst Wächter, the son of a Nazi general and governor, has returned three works stolen from Poland during the Second World War, the Guardian reports. The works were taken in late 1939 by Charlotte Wächter, wife of the recently appointed Nazi governor of Kraków SS Gruppenführer Otto Wächter. On Sunday, 78-year-old Horst Wächter attended a ceremony in Kraków to return three of these looted possessions – a 19th-century painting of the Potocki Palace, a map of 17th-century Poland, and an engraving of Kraków during the Renaissance – to the Polish government. The handover, one of the first occasions of art stolen from Poland during the war being returned voluntarily, was negotiated by Polish politician and historian Magdalena Ogórek, who apparently spotted an image of the 17th-century map in an article about Wächter in the Financial Times.

Ren Hang (1987–2017) | Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang has died aged 29. While internationally celebrated for his provocative portraits of naked subjects, the Beijing-based artist was where his work was often censored, and he was arrested several times. Earlier this year Taschen published a photobook of images by Ren Hang, who was working on a major solo exhibition at Amsterdam’s Foam Fotografiemuseum at the time of his death, the British Journal of Photography reports.

Paul Schimmel departs from Hauser & Wirth | Paul Schimmel has left his role as Hauser & Wirth partner and vice president, and director of the firm’s Los Angeles branch, according to a statement released by the gallery on Friday. Schimmel, formerly chief curator at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, joined Hauser & Wirth in 2013 in an unusually high-profile crossover from the non-profit to the commercial art sector which ‘was met with questions in the local art community’, writes Jori Finkel for the Art Newspaper. Finkel adds: ‘Now that his departure has been announced without any additional explanation from the gallery or Schimmel, those questions are circulating again.’

Lawyer in Pontormo case defends private collector | A legal representative for J. Tomilson Hill, the American art dealer, collector and current owner of Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap (1530), has defended Hill’s decision not to sell the painting to the National Gallery based on a ‘major change of circumstance’, and has accused Hill’s critics of ‘paint[ing] him as a villain’, the Telegraph reports. Earlier this month the UK government formally refused permission to grant an export licence for the painting to leave the country, and calls are now being made for changes to the export system. However, in a statement released this weekend Hill’s lawyer describes the Pontormo case as ‘exceptional’ and has argued that owners’ rights not to absorb significant financial loss must be recognised.

Recommended reading | Damien Hirst’s hotly anticipated new project, to be unveiled in Venice this April, has been the source of much recent commentary; the New York Times chips in with a detailed look at the turbulent market history of Hirst’s work. Meanwhile, writing for the Art Newspaper, Brian Allen, former director of the Addison Gallery of American Art, provides some considered comments on the US administration’s planned cuts to federal arts funding, suggesting ‘basic ways to help these agencies both to stay alive and relevant and to achieve focused and better results.’

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