A wooden sculpture from about 1500 by German artist Niclaus Weckmann, "Holy Family"— a 1948 gift from Alastair Bradley Martin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — is shown on exhibition at the museum Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in New York. The sculpture is among 53 works in the museum's collection, once looted during the Nazi era, but returned to their designated owners before being obtained by the museum through donation or sale. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)AP
By MAYSOON KHAN, The Associated Press/Report for America
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Museums in New York that exhibit artworks looted by Nazis during the Holocaust are now required to let the public know about that dark history through signs or placards put on display with the stolen objects.
Experts estimate that at least 600,000 pieces of artwork were looted from Jewish people before and during World War II. Some of those objects ended up in the world’s great museums.
The new rule comes as many museums in the U.S. and Europe are reckoning with collections that also contain numerous objects looted from Asia, Africa and other places during centuries of colonialism.
An oil on wood painting, center, by Italian artist Bachiacca, "Leda and the Swan"— a 1982 acquisition from the Jack and Belle Linsky Collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — is shown on exhibition at the museum Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in New York. The painting is among 53 works in the museum's collection, once looted during the Nazi era, but returned to their designated owners before being obtained by the museum through donation or sale. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)AP
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law in August requiring museums to put up signs identifying pieces looted by the Nazis from 1933 through 1945.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, said it had identified 53 works in its collection as having been seized or sold under duress during the Nazi era.
All of those objects were obtained by the museum after being returned to their rightful owners. But Andrea Bayer, the museum’s deputy director for collections and administration, said the public still should know about their history.
“People should be aware of the terrible cost to people during World War II as these confiscations took place, and how these peoples’ treasures that they loved and had been in their families, had been torn from them at the same time their lives were disrupted,” she said.
A 15th century work from the Netherlands, "Crib of the Infant Jesus" — a 1974 gift from Ruth Blumka to the Metropolitan Museum of Art—is shown on exhibition at the museum Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in New York. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)AP
The museum, however, does not intend to put up such a sign on a Picasso painting called “The Actor,” which it received as a gift in 1952.
That painting was once owned by Jewish businessman Paul Leffmann, who fled Germany — first for Italy, then ultimately to Brazil — to escape the Nazis. As Leffmann liquidated assets in 1938, he sold the painting to Paris art dealers for $13,200.
Leffmann’s great-grandniece, Laurel Zuckerman, sued the Metropolitan Museum in 2016, claiming it was a bargain-basement sale price that reflected the family’s desperation to flee Europe. The museum countered that the price was actually high for an early Picasso at the time. A U.S. court eventually dismissed the lawsuit.
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