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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ronald Lauder's Hypocrisy?

Very interesting and slightly disturbing piece in the Forward. Apparently, Ronald Lauder, heir to the Lauder fortune and a longtime advocate for restitution of art lost to Jews during the Holocaust, has not exactly practiced what he advocates.
When the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a Viennese art collector who perished in the Dachau concentration camp, began trying to track down their ancestor's collection of Egon Schiele paintings, they hit what they thought was a stroke of luck: At least two of the pieces seemed to have ended up in collections associated with cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Museum of Modern Art, former treasurer of the World Jewish Congress and, most important, a major advocate of Holocaust-era art restitution.

Given that Lauder himself had argued vociferously for museums and private collectors to disclose the provenance, or ownership history, of any pieces thought to have been looted from Jewish homes during World War II, the family members assumed that they would easily get information about Lauder's collection.

They assumed wrong.
Apparently, Lauder is refusing to give up any information about the provenance of holocaust-era art that is in his personal collection, even though he has made statements in the past encouraging museums to do so, and even testified before Congress regarding this issue. Some are crying foul:
Despite his high-profile advocacy for openness — including testimony before Congress in 1998 — Lauder has never publicly listed the works in his own collection, many of which are by painters who were popular with Jewish collectors before the Holocaust. And a museum that he founded has failed to fulfill its pledge to post provenance information for its collection.

...On the Web site of the Commission for Art Recovery, an organization that Lauder founded in 1997 as an offshoot of the World Jewish Congress, the cosmetics heir wrote that museums "must review their collections to identify and then publicize any art in their collections that may have been stolen."

Given such statements, a number of art restitution experts said that Lauder's reluctance to release information about his own collection has been "hypocritical," in the words of one leading Holocaust researcher, Mark Mazurovsky.

"When the time comes for comments about restitution, he's very eloquent," said Ori Soltes, a lecturer in art history at Georgetown University and a founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. "But when the time comes for action that requires a more personal inward look, he seems considerably more reticent."

I don't claim to know all the details here, but if there is any truth to this article, he certainly seems to setting lower standards for himself than he so vociferously sets for others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

'mr. term limits for all' is a prick. I would expect no less from him.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Ger Tzadik said...

That's unfortunate if true, but not shocking. After all, it's easy to see how he might consider "in the hands of a Jew." as rightful ownership. The original owners are less important now.

It's plain wrong, but not shocking.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I would love to understand how you assess Mr. Lauder as a "prick." He, unlike the dribble commentary above and your own personal attack, is a generous and a person of good will. YOU do not know him, but cast aspersions based on what???? Simply because he has had good fortune in his life, does not make him someone isolated from the rest of civilization as some pushy, meager hypocrite obtaining assets because he can. The actual owners of the Schiele piece he recently purchased WAS A MORE THAN GENEROUS amount and the owners wanted to sell to Lauder. I am sure Lauder has reasons why he does not disclose which would probably moot any criticism tha Forward and others write and say. He has done more for this and other jewish causes at his own personal risk I might add, that you schmucks should come to appreciate than casting hate!!

7:24 PM  
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