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Museum pays compensation for Glaser art collection

Madonna by Edvard Munch is one of the artworks bought by the museum in 1933 for a cheap price. SRF-SWI

Basel’s Fine Arts Museum has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the heirs of Jewish art collector Curt Glaser as compensation for acquiring artworks from him at knock-down prices when he fled Nazi Germany.

This content was published on March 27, 2020 - 13:00

The museum acknowledged that Glaser had been “a victim of National Socialism” and said it had reached a “fair and just” solution with his heirs. The collection of more than 100 pieces, including works by Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, was bought at auction in Berlin in 1933.

In 2008 the museum denied taking unfair advantage of Glaser, saying it had no knowledge that the artworks belonged to him and insisting that they were purchased at fair market prices for the time.

However, leaked documents later revealed that “cheap prices” were paid in full knowledge that it was for Glaser’s collection. Glaser was forced to flee Germany after being ejected as director of Berlin’s Art Library. He travelled to the United States via Switzerland and died in New York in 1943.

The compensation was paid under the terms of the Washington Principles that address cases of Nazi-looted art, including buyers who took advantage of people selling art at bargain prices under duress to finance their escape from the Nazis.

The museum has also agreed to stage an extensive exhibition of the collection in 2022.

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