Ron Lauder is liable to be bent out of shape by a story in The Forward today. It nails the billionaire business mogul-cum-philanthropist’s deceptive, contradictory, and hypocritical stance on the restitution of Nazi-looted art as 1) a prominent collector who may or may not own some of it, 2) a former treasurer of the World Jewish Congress, which advocates Holocaust-era art restitution, and 3) a former chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, which has been involved for years in a scandalous restitution case.
In a story headlined “Shoah Suit Puts Scrutiny On Lauder’s Art Collection,” reporter Nathianiel Popper writes:
When the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a Viennese art collector who perished in the Dachau concentration camp, began trying to track down their ancestor’s collection of Egon Schiele paintings, they hit what they thought was a stroke of luck: At least two of the pieces seemed to have ended up in collections associated with cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder …
Given that Lauder [left] himself had argued vociferously for museums and private collectors to disclose the provenance, or ownership history, of any pieces thought to have been looted from Jewish homes during World War II, the family members assumed that they would easily get information about Lauder’s collection.
They assumed wrong.
Despite his high-profile advocacy for openness — including testimony before Congress in 1998 — Lauder has never publicly listed the works in his own collection, many of which are by painters who were popular with Jewish collectors before the Holocaust. And a museum that he founded has failed to fulfill its pledge to post provenance information for its collection.
The last time a reporter bent Lauder out of shape on this subject, the reporter was dumped by his employer. I’m referring, of course, to David D’Arcy. As I’ve previously written, D’Arcy’s contract with National Public Radio “was terminated after a piece he did on Holocaust art theft and the Museum of Modern Art sent MoMA board chairman Ron Lauder so far around the bend that museum officials accused D’Arcy of ‘shabby reporting’ and pressured NPR to repudiate it.”
Will Popper get the same treatment? I don’t think so for lots of reasons I’ve already explained many times, mainly having to do with NPR’s management. Will Lauder need cosmetic surgery? Dunno. The Forward is not likely to offer it.