Among the many legacies of the Gurlitt saga is a renewed focus on the importance of Nazi-approved art dealers like Karl Haberstock to the expropriation, outlawing, and re-sale of art either owned by Jewish collectors or which was thematically disapproved by the Nazi state. Relatedly, it has served as a reminder of the often cursory review that many of these men received after the war, and the acceptance of their proffered explanations, like those of Hildebrand Gurlitt, that “everything was destroyed in a bombing attack.” Now, the German Central Institute for Art history is set to make public the records of Adolf Weinmüller and his eponymous auction house (later renamed Neumeister).
The records will be available at the Lost Art Database website, www.lostart.de, where the Gurlitt Task Force review results have been posted as well, as a joint German-Austrian project involving both the Munich Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History) and the now-Neumeister Auction House.
As Julia Voss reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (my translation):
The art dealer Adolf Weinmüller lived from 1886 until 1958 in Bavaria. Like Gurlitt, he made his most significant professional leap under National Socialism, and like Gurlitt he was also active in art dealing after 1945. Previously, he was known mainly to professionals. When Meike Hopp made public her dissertation “Art Dealing under National Socialism: Adolf Weinmüller in Munich and Vienna” in 2012, it was the first publication that dealt with him. Until only a few months ago, even his appearance was unknown. A photograph has since surfaced that shows an old man with glasses at an auction, discreet, dignified.
The records were discovered in 2013 in a steel cabinet of Weinmüller’s auction business records, with his annotations in catalogues. Included in the cabinet were catalogues from the Viennese auction house Kende, which Weinmüller “Aryanized.” The 93 catalogues include detailed information about consignors, valuations, as well as about buyers. They include records for 33 auctions in Munich and 18 in Vienna.
The importance of these catalogues is high. They include significant numbers of Jewish consignors until 1941, who were seeking to sell their collections, with detailed descriptions of the objects themselves. Interestingly, only the information, and not facsimiles of the catalogues themselves, will be publicized. “Legal reasons” were given as the justification for that, perhaps there are unresolved copyright issues.
It is far too early to tell what the records will reveal that is unknown, but given the Aryanization of Kende and the apparent presence of Jewish consignors at those auctions, it is hard to imagine that the records will not substantiate if not unveil for the first time other looted collections. Two existing books, Was einmal war by Sophie Lille, and Unser Wien, ‘Arisierung’ auf Österreich by Tina Walzer, have made incredible contributions to the history of Jewish collections in Vienna in particular. It will be interested to see what these latest records add.