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NAZIS

Norway gallery returns Matisse seized by Nazis

A Norwegian art museum on Friday returned a precious Matisse painting looted by the Nazis in the Second World War to the American heirs of the French art dealer Paul Rosenberg.

Norway gallery returns Matisse seized by Nazis
A section of the work, "Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace" (full painting within text). Photo: Henie Onstad art centre
The 1937 painting by Henri Matisse — "Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace" — worth an estimated $20 million (14.5 million euros), was claimed by the Rosenberg family after it appeared in a temporary exhibition at the Paris Pompidou Centre in 2012.
   
The piece — which has been returned by the Henie Onstad art centre near Oslo — was seized in France by the Nazis in 1941, and was briefly part of the personal collection of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring.
 
It later found its way into the hands of a German art dealer Gustav Rochlitz who owned a gallery in Paris.
   
In 1950, a wealthy Norwegian shipowner Niels Onstad bought the painting from the Parisian dealer Henri Benezit without knowing how he had acquired it.
   
The Matisse went on to form one of the centre-pieces of the Henie Onstad art centre, established in the 1960s by Onstad and his wife, the Olympic figure skating champion Sonja Henie.
   
Although Norway is a signatory to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art it also has a law which grants definitive ownership once a collector has possessed an item for more than a decade.
   
"Henie Onstad art centre's extensive investigation of the case has led to the decision that the return is justified, and HOK's board has decided to return the painting without further conditions," board chairman Halvor Stenstadvold declared on Friday, announcing the unconditional return of the piece.
   
Now the "Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace" will cross the Atlantic following an agreement between the French and American sides of the Rosenberg family.
   
"There is no (contentious) issue," Christopher Marinello, the Rosenberg's lawyer who travelled to Norway to collect the painting, told AFP.
   
The family was continuing to actively search for "hundreds of works" looted by the Nazis during the war, he added.
 
 

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ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

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