Artist Miriam Cahn announced in a letter to the Kunsthaus Zurich, which was later published in the Jewish newspaper Tachles, that she planned to pull works from art institution following the museum’s decision to display the Bührle Collection. The Bührle Collection was amassed by Emil Georg Bührle, who made his fortune selling weapons to Nazi Germany and benefitted from Nazi-supplied slave labor.
“I no longer want to be represented in ‘this’ art museum in Zurich,” the septuagenarian Jewish artist wrote.”I wish to remove all my works from the Zurich Art Museum. I will buy them back at the original sale price.”
Many of the works that Bührle acquired while the Germans occupied Paris were later returned to their rightful owners once judges decreed they were looted, yet the collection still remains tainted to many. Nevertheless, in 2012 Kunsthaus Zurich made plans to acquire the Bührle Collection, which included many valuable works of Impressionist art, through a loan agreement with the Bührle Foundation. The Foundation initially began to seek out an institution to host the works in 2008, following the theft of four works by Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh, and Monet in the collection, which resided in a villa in Zurich, reported the New York Times.
At the time of the initial loan agreement, the museum faced no pushback. It wasn’t until 2016, when the museum began to build a new wing for the collection, that a series of protests were ignited. Cahn’s recent announcement followed the completion of the expansion project, and the seemingly definitive decision to display the collection despite numerous protests. Kunsthaus Zurich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A feminist figurative artist, Cahn’s paintings are held in collections all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, among others. This is not the first time Cahn has withdrawn works in protest. In 1982, Cahn pulled her paintings from Documenta 7 because she felt she had been mistreated by Documenta’s artistic director at the time, Rudi Fuchs.