As I mention at “Searching For Nazi-Looted Art“, the most challenging asset searches / investigations can be those in a Holocaust-related art restitution case. The October 30, 2008, Minneapolis Star Tribune article “MIA sends Nazi ‘loot’ home to Paris“, suggests the very same thing. It explains that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts engaged in ten years of detective work regarding Fernand Leger’s “Smoke Over Rooftops”. The Star Tribune article advises that “Smoke Over Rooftops” as Nazi-looted art, was recently returned to its claimants in Paris. Also according to the article, “Smoke Over Rooftops” was purchased in 1951 from New York art dealer Mr. Curt Valentin and his Bucholz Gallery.
Although Mr. Valentin passed away in August 1954, he is portrayed in a number of different ways. The above-mentioned Star Tribune article reports that Mr. Valentin’s “role in the transfer of modern art out of Europe is ambiguous at best“. A biographical note at the Museum of Modern Art’s “Curt Valentin Papers” meanwhile, states that Mr. Valentin was “widely respected as one of the most astute dealers in modern art…“. On January 13, 1941 Time Magazine even published “Domesticated Chisels” about Mr. Valentin’s Bucholz Gallery formerly on 57th Street in Manhattan. In it, Mr. Valentin said: ‘Gallery business is sometimes fun, but I hate having to make money‘.
The 1994 New York Times letter to the editor “Nazi Loot Found Its Way to New York’s Modern Museum” however, alleges that Mr. Valentin / the Bucholz gallery was used as a middleman by MOMA to conceal its purchase of five antiquities at a Nazi auction in Lucerne. Of the five antiquities, MOMA’s Provenance Research Project indicates that four of them had been looted by the Nazis from various museums. MOMA acquired these four from Mr. Valentin’s Bucholz Gallery on April 13, 1939:
- Andre Derain’s “Valley of the Lot at Vers“;
- E. L. Kirchner’s “Street Scene“;
- Paul Klee’s “Around the Fish“;
- Henri Matisse’s “Blue Window“.
It is also true that art at Mr. Valentin’s Bucholz Gallery had been seized by U.S. authorities in 1944 pursuant to the Trading With The Enemy Act. The art was seized on the ground that it was beneficially owned by a German enemy national. Furthermore, Mr. Valentin had Nazi permission to sell art in America, as revealed by the November 14, 1936 letter reproduced below.
(Last edited October 21, 2010)
Copyright 2008-2011 Fred L. Abrams