Art law Museums News Canada

Canadian government funds research on Holocaust-era art

As the country starts its term leading an international alliance, six museums receive $190,000 for provenance project

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has returned Gerrit van Honthorst's The Duet, 1623-24, to the grandson of the Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro

Canada’s term leading the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a partnership among 31 countries, is off to a strong start. Last week, the government donated $190,000 to fund provenance research for Holocaust-era art at the nation’s museums. The Canadian Art Museum Directors Association will collaborate with six Canadian museums, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario, on the project.

“With the support of the Government of Canada, directors of Canadian art museums and galleries will develop their professional expertise and contribute to the international call for transparency, justice and closure, in one of the most sordid chapters of 20th-century history,” said Josephine Mills, the president of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Association, in a statement.

Canadian museums’ renewed focus on provenance research is already yielding results. Last week, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts announced it had returned The Duet, a 17th-century painting by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst, to the grandson of the Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro. Spiro, a Hamburg-based arms dealer, and his wife were forced to sell the painting during the Second World War.

The Duet is the cover lot of Christie’s Old Master paintings sale, to be held on 5 June in New York. It is estimated to sell for $2m to $3m. Spiro’s grandson, Gerald Mathis, told The Canadian Jewish News that he would donate “a substantial amount” of the sale’s proceeds to the Montreal museum “for acting in good faith”.

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