The 53 pieces of art that went on exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last week, worth millions of dollars, are on loan from several French museums.
If the exhibit is a success, some of the paintings won’t return to France — they’ll go back to their rightful owners or the owners’ heirs.
The works in “Looking for Owners: Custody, Research and Restitution of Art Stolen in France During World War II,” are among some 100,000 Jewish-owned items that were stolen from museums and private collections by the Nazis during their French occupation. Never reclaimed by their owners, who perished during the Holocaust, the paintings in The Israel Museum exhibit — including masterpieces by Matisse, Monet, Degas and Seurat — eventually became the property of French institutions.
Visitors to the exhibit can put in claims for the paintings.
“The exhibition is a kind of memorial to our loss in Europe,” said James Snyder, museum director. “What we are showing are works of art and also works that are stories. Each work that comes to us tells a different story.”
French Culture Minister Christine Albanel, above, who attended the exhibit’s opening, said her country has a “very strong desire” to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. The exhibit is organized under the auspices of the French culture and foreign ministries.
A visitor, above left, looks at Monet’s “Snow in the Setting Sun.”
The Israel Museum opened a parallel exhibition called, “Orphaned Art Loot: Looted Art from the Holocaust,” including Jewish ceremonial objects stolen by the Nazis.