Reopening of Glasgow’s Burrell Gallery rocked by Nazi treasures
The results of an almost £70million renovation program will become evident tomorrow (Tuesday), when the collection assembled by ‘millionaire pie’ Sir William Burrell opens its doors again for the first time in six years.
Two works of art in the Burrell collection were already known to date from 1930s Germany, when they were stolen from Jewish owners.
Glasgow City Council was forced to pay compensation amounting to thousands of pounds to the owners’ descendants.
But a new book by Glasgow museums curator Martin Bellamy says more treasures can now be traced to ‘forced sales’ during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
“A Collector’s Life: William Burrell” states, “Research by the current curatorial team has indicated that there are other works in Burrell’s collection which may have been acquired through forced sales.”
Glasgow Life, however, would not say what those items are, but now accepts that the claim is accurate.
The refusal to identify the works was condemned by Scotland’s foremost historian, Sir Tom Devine.
He said: “As long as the provenance of these objects is established by experts and curators, it should always be made public.
“The question the public will ask is ‘what do they have to hide?
“I find the refusal rather curious. Museum curators always want the truth to come out, and unvarnished. »
Controversial items in the museum include an early 16th-century Swiss tapestry “The Visitation” and a painting “Still Life” by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.
Glasgow Life has confirmed that while the tapestry is in storage, Chardin’s painting will be on display from Tuesday.
Also on display is a 200-year-old “rare bronze ritual wine vessel” that was stolen during a raid by British troops on the Summer Palace in Beijing in 1901. It dates from the Han dynasty and is similar to another item looted from the palace which sold for £410,000 four years ago.
In their new book, Bellamy and co-author Isobel MacDonald reveal shipowner Sir William was candid and open about the source of some of his purchases in small, soft-backed exercise books he used to record provenance , the description and the price paid for each Object.
The book adds: “Some of the practices that were employed would not be considered ethical today. For example, the purchase book entry of a ‘rare bronze ritual wine vessel’ purchased from TJ Larkin notes carefully that it was ‘the looting of the Summer Palace, Beijing, 1901’.
Glasgow Life said in a statement that the looting of the palace in Beijing was “officially sanctioned”. He added: “There is no suggestion that Sir William Burrell was informed that the works he was buying were from forced sales.
“Another item, a Chinese wine-pouring vessel, believed to have been taken during the officially sanctioned looting by soldiers of the Summer Palace in Beijing in 1901, will be displayed.”
The new Burrell Gallery featured in ‘Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ as the Pollok Park location was used as a mystery destination on the popular ITV show.
In the program, viewers are asked to run to an unnamed location if they can determine where it is.
Former X Factor contestant Fleur East invited people to join her on the couch.
She said, “We can’t even see the couch. Someone ditched their Chinese takeout, someone ditched their hot tub, and a mom left her Mother’s Day meal to get here.