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7.9.03

Buying Art from the Nazis

On Friday, without any real evidence, I posed a rhetorical question about how hopes to purchase art from the Nazi plunderings may have influenced J. Paul Getty in his newly revealed support of Hitler's regime (see post on September 5). Ever watchful, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes has responded with the following message, which he has allowed me to quote here (and to which I have added some links):

Getty seems not to have been motivated by the opportunity to purchase art from the Nazis. In her definitive history of the Nazi plunder of European art, The Rape of Europa, Lynn Nicholas never mentions Getty. Nicholas calls out several Western industrialists who purchased art from the Reich for a variety of reasons—some of them potentially semi-noble. (For example, Joe Pulitzer bought Matisse's Bathers with a Turtle for 9,100SFr in a 1939 auction of 'degenerate art' because he was pretty sure that the Nazis would destroy it if he didn't. "The real motive in buying was to preserve the art," Pulitzer said. Others, such as Alfred Barr, refused to participate in the auction for a variety of reasons.) This is hardly definitive—Nicholas' book is nine years old and new information may have become available since then, but she mentions many prominent collectors. If Getty had been on the Reich's collector list, I would think it would have made it into her book.
To complement Tyler's thoughtful response to my question, I add the following article (Web Site Goes Online to Find Nazi-Looted Art by Elizabeth Olson, September 7) in the New York Times, and a page of information about Nazi-Era Assets at the Research Library of the Getty Institute. The Web site mentioned by Ms. Olson in her article is the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, run by the American Association of Museums. The Getty is one of the 66 museums currently participating in the registry program.

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