For close to thirty years the executors and university beneficiaries of the Estate of Dr. Max Stern have upheld the wishes of an extraordinary individual who, during the course of his life delved into almost all facets of the art world.
His deep love of the arts is embodied in the legacy that he left for universities and museums across North America and Israel. Max Stern's name is connected to a gallery, a curatorship, a sculpture garden, an international symposium, an archive, retrospective exhibitions and numerous endowments earmarked for scholarships, internships, exhibition programming, museum staffing, art acquisition and provenance research. Not surprisingly more commemorations will follow.
Max Stern in Germany, c.1925, National Gallery of Canada, Library and Archives, Fonds Max Stern
In the years when many of these institutional honours were being coordinated, a concurrent decision was made by the executors to dispose of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal and consign to international auctions the five thousand art works in stock. It seems somewhat ironic that this definitive step, both voluntary and strategic, would unexpectedly lead to the rediscovery of another definitive art liquidation connected to Max Stern some 70 years earlier; albeit one that had taken place under great duress.
As more details surfaced about this dark episode of Dr. Stern's life in Nazi Germany and the circumstances that ultimately brought him to Canada during the Second World War, it was learned that he sought restitution of art works from his private collection seized by the Gestapo. While he had some success in recovering a few pieces, the majority of his property was never returned.
Committed to continuing where he had left off, the executors and university beneficiaries established The Max Stern Art Restitution Project. Knowing very well that this initiative would not be without its hurdles, it was agreed that the moral and financial imperatives underlining this cause were worth pursuing as long as necessary.
We hope that this website will be used both as a resource and an example for those government agencies, educational institutions, museums, collectors and members of the art trade who are committed to resolving the injustices caused by Nazi cultural policies.
Clarence Epstein, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Urban and Cultural Affairs