Art in unlikely places
Art in unlikely places
Proof how resilient the art market is
When a 17th Century Flemish painting appeared on the German version of the Antiques Roadshow an art expert was quick to phone the Police, suspecting the piece had been stolen.
It turned out he was right.
The painting had been stolen from a Jewish family's gallery in Dresden by the Nazi's, as Hitler had ordered that a new art museum be built in his home town of Linz.
It's estimated that 600,000 art works were stolen by the Nazis.
A further 5,000,000 pieces were appropriated between 1933 and 1945
Stored in castles and warehouses across Europe, it was left to the US and British to return these pieces to their original owners.
It took five years after the war to return half of them to their rightful owners.
Many of thestill missingpieces were handled by middlemen and sold to Museums and private collections.
We often talk of collectibles passing to Museums and never coming on the market again.
But in this case theyare slowly emerging.
Museums aregiving back world class artworks to families, many of whom then sell through auction.
Many private collections and Museums have had to negotiate with the rightful owners in order to hold on to their keypieces.
This is clearly good for those that lost theirartworks to the Nazi's.
Italso shows the strength of the art market, that it has been able to absorb all this material coming back into the market.
It shows just how resilient the art market is.
$25 billion unaccounted for...
It is estimated that a further 17billion ($25billion) worth is still unaccounted for, or currently in dispute.
Sotheby's alone is estimated to be handling over $100 million of this material each year on behalf of families who have regained their treasures.
Recently The Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation had to reach an agreement with the heirs of a German-Jewish banker, who had built a huge art collection in pre-war Germany, until he was forced to sell to the Nazis.
It was concerning a Picasso painting "The Absinthe Drinker", and a settlement was reached out of court.
History shows us that on many occasions Great empires, Cities, and Museums have been ransacked.
But normally all is not lost as over time the items graduallyre-emerge onto the market.
Collectors havesafe-guarded these precious pieces... even ifthey werenot the rightful owner.
The saddest thing is when regimes destroy artefacts for one reason or another and that bit of culture, our history, is lost forever.
My experience of lost art
I have just returned recently from a few days in Egypt, on what was a very enjoyable sightseeing trip.
Egypt has had a very interesting history, and was at the forefront of the developing World over 6,000 years ago.
They have been subject to being ruled by many Empires in their history, and the evidence is everywhere to see.
Unfortunately their appreciation of their history and ancient monuments and artefacts is relatively new.
Most of their Pyramids, burial sites and monuments were ransacked years ago.
Clearly the sheer size of the pyramids has protected them, although the limestone cladding was stolen years ago.
The world-famous sphinx was even used for target practice by Napoleon and his troops.
I walked in the footsteps of Howard Carter, the famous British egyptologist, who was sponsored in his work by Lord Carnarvon.
He spent 20 years of his life in search of ancient antiquities and piecing together the history of Egypt.
He began his work there in 1912, and was ready to go home 10 years later, when his horse stumbled and uncovered a stone step, and when they dug out the area they found the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun.
This was particularly lucky as the tomb was below another earlier one, and was the reason why it had remained unopened and with all its treasures intact.
A visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows you the wonders of what was found, and what might have been preserved and exist today from the other tombs if they had not been robbed.
I suppose my point is that collectors preserve history, and the British have always worked hard to do this around the World, and the British Museum has the most wonderful collection of artefacts in the World, available for all to see.
Also, the Egyptians believe that 70% of their treasures still lie hidden and will, one day,be found.
So, the exciting aspect of both these stories of the Germans and the Egyptians is that so much more material will be found, and come to market, for the appreciation of all, and especially to collectors and Museums who will be custodians of the items in a responsible way.
As they say; the thrill is in the chase of finding the items that you are searching for, in the most unlikely places.
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