Opening: 9.5.2017, 7 pm
Exhibition: 10.5. – 17.6.2017
Curated by: Heinrich Schwazer
In collaboration with: Bozner Kunstauktionen
Art Treasures from Florence in South Tyrol during the Second World War
In the last months of the Second World War, from August 1944 to May 1945, South Tyrol was the storage site for an inconceivable quantity of art masterpieces. Several hundred paintings and sculptures from the Uffizi Gallery and other Florentine museums, including works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Lukas Cranach, Botticelli, Donatello, Caravaggio, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto, Roger van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt, were bundled off by the German “Military Department for the Protection of Art” in Italy to the former court building in Passeier and the Neumelans Castle in Sand in Taufers. The remote areas in the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills were seen by the National Socialist art experts as comparatively safe storage sites against the attacks of the Allies that were coming closer every day. A total of 37 truckloads with artworks of high quality and indeed the highest quality were transported by “Art Protection” from Tuscany to South Tyrol in the period between 8 August and 9 September 1944. With minor exceptions, the works were seized by the Americans after the collapse of the Third Reich and transported back to Florence in July 1945.
Were the depots temporary storage for organised art theft by order of Nazi bigwigs, or were the art protection activities rescue measures for the immeasurable art treasures and cultural assets of Italy? Until the present day, there is heated debate among historians about this question: German historians tend to emphasise the rescuing action, whereas Italian and American ones deplore losses, misappropriation and theft of valuable cultural assets. The systematic art theft at an unprecedented scale by the Nazis – researchers into looted art estimate that three to five million works of art were stolen in the conquered territories – at least raises suspicions.
On the basis of photos and film footage from the National Archives in Washington, the exhibition “Adam and Eve in South Tyrol. Art Treasures from Florence in South Tyrol during the Second World War” at the foto-forum Bozen/Bolzano shows the sometimes dramatic accommodation and safekeeping of the works in the depots of St. Leonhard in Passeier and in the Neumelans Castle in Sand in Taufers.