Jewish art dealer Max Stern – a critique of the exhibition in Düsseldorf

Das Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf (IMAGO / Reiner Zensen)

Max Stern was banned from working in Düsseldorf in 1935 and had to close his gallery in 1937. In a forced auction, he had to monetize the remaining holdings. Max Stern managed to escape abroad – to Canada.

years of controversy

There has been controversy for years about an exhibition that is supposed to commemorate him and his fortune: the city of Düsseldorf scrapped an original exhibition concept for the city’s museum in 2018. The estate administrators of Max Stern should have attended this exhibition – three universities in Canada and Israel.

(Photo Coalition / DPA / Britta Pedersen)Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf in Krittki
Contribution to the short-term cancellation of the exhibition on Jewish art collector Max Stern (1904 – 1987).

The focus of the planned exhibition at that time would have also been the question of art return. According to the opinion of the city at that time, it was yet to be researched. After international pressure, the exhibition must be held after all. However, estate administrators ended his cooperation as they felt that he and his expertise had been taken away. Originally planned for 2020, the exhibition is now scheduled to open on September 1, 2021.

“Nothing new to expect”

Not everything is in order with the new exhibition, said original researcher Willy Corte at DLF. The reasons for the rejection were not discussed with Canadian experts at the time, which is why the Canadian Stern Foundation and the International Stern Research Project did not participate. Düsseldorf has isolated itself and can no longer benefit from international research work.

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According to Corte, it is doubtful what such an exhibition should have brought about without leading experts: “As someone who has been researching Stern for over 20 years, I can say that it is difficult to understand the biography of Max Stern. There are still large gaps because many of the archival documents the time of National Socialism have been lost.” Willy Corte doubts whether the Düsseldorf exhibition makes sense: “I wonder how the city of Düsseldorf can within a few months put up an exhibition that presents something new.”

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