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CULTURE

New Paris exhibition uncovers trove of looted Nazi art in Louvre

A new exhibition has turned up a hoard of art looted from a Jewish family almost wiped out by the Nazis in the Louvre and other leading French museums.

New Paris exhibition uncovers trove of looted Nazi art in Louvre
Photo: AFP
The show about the booming art market in occupied Paris, when more than two million objects went under the hammer in a frenzy of forced sales and looting, has turned up works by Delacroix and Forain taken from the family by the collaborationist French Vichy authorities.
   
Curator Emmanuelle Polack discovered that the Louvre bought a dozen works seized from the Dorvilles while researching a new book on how Jewish families 
and some of the most important dealers in modern art were plundered.
   
The paintings are still in the French national collection, with three loaned to the Shoah Memorial museum in Paris for the show.
   
Three more works taken from the family — most of whom perished in Auschwitz — have turned up in the Gurlitt hoard of 1,500 Old Masters, Impressionist and Cubist works found in a Munich apartment in 2011.
   
Despite decades of pressure to restore works to their rightful owners, Polack told AFP that there had yet to be a proper audit of the works acquired by the French national collection during the war.
   
“We need to look at their provenance very calmly and scientifically to lift all suspicion over them. It is hugely important that this is done,” she said.
   
France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe  — who visited the museum Monday — boosted the investigative powers of a commission which awards compensation 
to victims of Nazi looting last year after criticism of the slow pace of restitution more than 70 years since the end of World War II.
 
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at the Shoah museum in Paris on March 18th. Photo: AFP
 
'Amnesia' 
 
In January, Polack helped return a painting plundered from the home of France's heroic pre-war interior minister Georges Mandel, a man Winston Churchill hailed as “the first resister”.
   
Mandel, who refused to flee to London with Charles De Gaulle after France fell in 1940, was murdered by members of the French collaborationist “Milice” militia a month before Paris was liberated by the allies in 1944.
   
The portrait of a young woman by Thomas Couture was returned by the German government from the Gurlitt trove. 
   
Polack told AFP that the free-for-all auctions during the war “utterly changed” the Paris art market, then the biggest in the world, and has been cloaked for decades behind “a kind of amnesia”.
   
“Major players whose suspect practices helped them flourish during these dark years were rarely investigated,” she said.
   
Some art world dynasties rose during the war while others never recovered.
   
The exhibition shows how the pillage was pre-planned, with galleries sealed off by German troops after the French capital fell in 1940, and the premises of its most famous modern art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, seized and turned into the Institute for Jewish Affairs, which pumped out anti-Semitic propaganda.
   
More than a third of Rosenberg's 162 seized paintings are still missing, including works by Picasso, Degas and Matisse.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Greed and treachery
 
Another legendary gallerist Rene Gimpel, who joined the resistance, was denounced by a rival dealer Jean-Francois Lefranc and died in a German concentration camp.
   
Others were forced to “aryanise” their businesses, like Pierre Loeb, who had to hand over his gallery to his colleague Georges Aubry.
   
But as the exhibition shows, when the war was over Aubry refused to give it back until Picasso — a communist who had remained in France throughout the war — forced him.
   
Polack said she was now working to help the family of collector Armand Dorville, who had given works to French museums before the war and had intended to leave more in his will.
   
“It is not just about getting paintings back, it is about grief and acknowledging the terrible injustices of the past,” she said.
   
“Confiscating art works was part of a process which started with people being demonised, excluded from professional life, then pauperised when their bank accounts were seized before finally being deported for extermination in the camps,” Polack insisted.
   
The paintings they were deprived of could have helped buy their escape, so “they were caught in a trap”, she said.
   
Prime Minister Philippe did not refer to the often drawn-out legal process of restitution during his speech at the museum, but promised to double state funding for the memorial from next year.
 
Polack said she was encouraged by the attitude of the Louvre. 
   
“I think lending the three works to us (for the show) is a very big step and there is a good dynamic. They know the context and they know we need to work together to do everything properly to solve this problem,” she added.

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MONEY

Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE

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