ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Tel Aviv museum cancels event with Christie’s after auction of Nazi-linked jewelry

Tel Aviv Museum of Art faced criticism for collaboration with auction house after sale of collection belonging to a family that became rich by dispossessing Jews during Holocaust

Christie's international head of jewelry, Rahul Kadakia, speaks on his mobile telephone behind a display case of jewels during a press preview of the 'World of Heidi Horten' sales in Geneva, on May 8, 2023. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Christie's international head of jewelry, Rahul Kadakia, speaks on his mobile telephone behind a display case of jewels during a press preview of the 'World of Heidi Horten' sales in Geneva, on May 8, 2023. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

JTA — The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has canceled a conference it was due to host with Christie’s  — the latest fallout from the auction house’s recent sale of jewelry with links to the Nazis.

The December conference was meant to cap a year-long series by Christie’s celebrating the 25th anniversary of an agreement on the restitution of Nazi-looted art. But the museum faced criticism for working with Christie’s after the auction house held a $202 million sale of jewelry belonging to a family that became rich partially by dispossessing Jews during the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA had called on the museum to cancel the event, writing in a statement that the event would provide “a platform within the Jewish state for Holocaust profiteers to justify their plunder.”

The foundation’s president, David Schaecter, also claimed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that there was a “clear conflict of interest” because a senior Christie’s executive also sits on the board of a group that fundraises for the museum. Christie’s denied that a conflict of interest was present and said the executive was not involved in planning the museum event.

In a statement on Sunday to the Israel Hayom newspaper, the museum said it would be canceling the event due to the reaction it has sparked.

“The Tel Aviv Art Museum is attentive to criticism and bound by public sentiment and has decided not to host the ‘Reflecting on Restitution’ conference with Christie’s,” the statement said.

The ‘Briolette of India’ necklace featuring a 90-carat diamond on sale as part of Heidi Horten’s collection. (Christie’s)

The museum added in the statement that it has “a longstanding professional relationship with Christie’s” and that the December conference would have included families of Holocaust survivors, in addition to historians and legal experts.

It said the conference “was planned long before” the controversial sale of jewelry belonging to the late Heidi Horten. Horten, who died in 2022, was the wife of the late Helmut Horten, a member of the Nazi Party who dispossessed Jews of their businesses in a process called “Aryanization.”

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