“Auktion 392” – Reclaiming the Galerie Stern

Nicolas Neufchatel, Portrait of Jan van Eversdyck, 1580

Max Stern took over the long-established Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf, Germany upon the death of his father Julius in 1934. In August 1935 Max received notification that under the Nazi regime, he had lost his professional accreditation and was given four weeks in which to sell or dissolve all holdings of the Galerie. Stern appealed the mandate as he tried to find a suitable “Aryan” owner for the Galerie. By September 1937, having lost his attempts and appeals, he was given 17 days to close his business. In November 1937 on the orders of the Nazi government, Kunsthaus Lempertz in Cologne, one of Germany’s oldest auction houses, sold the inventory of the Galerie Stern. The paintings went on the block by their lot number, “Auktion 392.” It was one of many such forced sales designed to eliminate Jewish participation in German cultural life. Ironically, Lempertz had been connected to the Stern family through professional dealings as early as 1904.

The exhibit at Leo Baeck Institute, curated through Concordia University in Montreal where Max Stern settled after the war, recreates many of the works in “Auktion 392” that are now being sought for purposes of restitution. The task of locating the whereabouts of the many items still missing is very difficult. The task of actually restituting them is even more challenging.

The Institute is especially grateful to Christie’s New York; Sotheby’s New York; and especially to Kunsthaus Lempertz of Cologne and Berlin, for their generous funding of this exhibition and panel discussion.

February 27 – May 31, 2007 at Leo Baeck Institute

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