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NAZIS

France to hand back Nazi looted art to Jewish family at Louvre

France will return three paintings by the Flemish master Joachim Patinir Monday to the descendants of a Jewish family who were forced to sell them as they fled the Nazis.

France to hand back Nazi looted art to Jewish family at Louvre
Paintings are to be formally handed over at the Louvre Museum. Photo: AFP

The Bromberg family fled to Paris from Germany in late 1938 and were forced to sell the 16th-century “Triptych of the Crucifixion” depicting Christ on the cross the following year, along with several other paintings so they could get to the United States via Switzerland.

The paintings are to be formally handed over to the descendants of Herta and Henry Bromberg at the Louvre Museum by French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen.

It is the second time in two years that the French state has returned despoiled art to the family.

In 2016 it handed over another 16th-century painting, “Portrait of a Man”, by one of the followers of Antwerp artist Joos van Cleve.

The Patinir paintings had languished for nearly seven decades unclaimed in the French state collections after they were recovered in Munich after World War II.

The triptych had been bought at a knock-down price after the German occupation of Paris and was destined for Hitler's Fuhrermuseum in his home town of Linz in Austria, where he wanted to build “the ideal museum”.

Patinir is regarded as the father of landscape painting, and developed the panoramic style that became a hallmark of the northern Renaissance.

France has stepped up its efforts to returned art looted during World War II to its rightful owners, using geneological experts to try and trace
families.

“It is no longer acceptable to wait for descendants to turn up and ask for the restitution of their family's art for them to be given their due,” said former culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who now heads UNESCO.

It is thought that up to 100,000 works of art, and millions of books, were stolen from French Jews or Jews who had fled to France before the German
occupation.

The Allies found around 60,000 of the missing artworks after the war, and France has been returning works to families since the 1960s — although only 30 were given back up to 1994.

Since then there has been a more concerted effort with a commission of experts, historians and archivists dedicated to resolving the problem since 2013.

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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