Artist Miriam Cahn announced in a letter to the Kunsthaus Zurich, which was later published in the Jewish newspaper Tasks, that she planned to remove works from an art institution following the museum’s decision to exhibit the Bührle collection. The Bührle collection was amassed by Emil Georg Bührle, who made his fortune selling weapons to Nazi Germany and benefited from slave labor provided by the Nazis.
“I don’t want to be represented in ‘this’ art museum in Zurich anymore,” wrote the 70-year-old Jewish artist. “I would like to remove all my works from the Zurich Art Museum. I will buy them back at the original retail price.
Many of the works that Bührle acquired while the Germans occupied Paris were then returned to their rightful owners once the judges ruled that they had been looted, but the collection still remains largely tainted. Nevertheless, in 2012 the Kunsthaus Zurich planned to acquire the Bührle Collection, which included many valuable Impressionist works of art, through a loan agreement with the Bührle Foundation. The Foundation first began looking for an institution to host the works in 2008, following the theft of four works by Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet from the collection, which resided in a villa in Zurich, reported the New York Times.
At the time of the initial loan agreement, the museum has not suffered any setbacks. It wasn’t until 2016, when the museum started building a new wing for the collection, that a series of protests were sparked. Cahn’s recent announcement follows the completion of the expansion project and the seemingly final decision to exhibit the collection despite numerous protests. The Kunsthaus Zurich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A feminist figurative artist, Cahn’s paintings are held in collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, among others. This is not the first time that Cahn has withdrawn works in protest. In 1982, Cahn withdrew her paintings from Documenta 7 because she felt she had been abused by Documenta’s art director at the time, Rudi Fuchs.