Ghost of Nazi
era haunts huge collection July 10, 2004
German museum curators, who are ready to unveil a huge private art collection,
are digging into the Nazi-linked past of a relative of the collector.
As Berlin prepares to unveil one of the world's biggest private art collections,
curators said Tuesday they had recruited historians to shed light on the
controversial Nazi-linked past of its founder.
The collection of Friedrich Christian Flick, comprising some 2,500 works, is due
to open in September. Berlin beat out other world capitals that had vied to host
its first public exhibition.
But the event has faced fierce criticism already, especially from Jewish
community leaders in Germany, who rail against showcasing a collection begun by
Flick's grandfather, a notorious collaborator of the Third Reich.
Friedrich Flick was one of Adolf Hitler's biggest arms manufacturers and tied to
SS chief Heinrich Himmler, and was sentenced to seven years in prison for crimes
including using Nazi slave labor. He was released after three years and pardoned
The younger Flick has been criticized for refusing to contribute to a slave
labor fund set up by German industry and the government, although he has set up
a fund to fight racism and xenophobia.
An earlier effort to display the collection in Zurich, Switzerland, near where
Flick lives, at a museum to be specially built by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas
never got off the ground. It, too, met with complaints from Jewish groups and
Swiss cultural organizations.
One Jewish leader in Germany, vice president of the German Jewish central
council Salomon Korn, has accused the German billionaire of seeking to ''whitewash''
his family name with the art show.
Research and debates about the family's World War II past are planned in
conjunction with the show, which opens Sept. 22 at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum
of contemporary art.
The Institute of Contemporary History in the southern Germany city of Munich has
been named to lead the research into the World War II-era history of the Flick
family, said Klaus Dieter Lehmann, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage
Foundation, which acquired the rights to display the collection.
Its researchers will have ''access to all the necessary archives'' and their
work will be made public, said Lehmann.
A series of conferences and debates is also scheduled in tandem with the
exhibition on the role and responsibilities of art patrons, as well as on the
current polemic at the Berlin museum.
Friedrich Christian Flick inherited part of the collection, then worked to build
it into one of the world's foremost modern art ensembles, with work from Marcel
Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Francis Picabia, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Richard
Serra, Bruce Naumann and Cindy Sherman, among others.
It is based around three trends represented by Duchamps and his search for a new
definition of art, Picabia and conceptual art and Alberto Giacometti and his
take on anonymity in the 20th century.
It assembles valuable photographs, from historic work by Walker Evans to the
very trendy Jeff Wall.
Video artists including Nam June Paik and installation work by the like of Jeff
Koons are also included.