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The Ugly Truth Behind Beautiful Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gertrude Stein exhibit will be amended to include mention of her Nazi sympathies.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/9/2012, 9:51 AM

Holocaust Artwork
Holocaust Artwork
Reuters

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s popular “The Steins Collect,” which features more than 200 works that demonstrate the influence of the renowned artist and author Gertrude Stein, will be amended to include mention of her Nazi sympathies, the museum said Tuesday.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind pushed the issue, saying the museum had failed to inform its visitors, both at the exhibit and on their website, that Stein was a Nazi collaborator who lobbied for a Nobel Peace Prize for Adolf Hitler in 1938.

“The public has a right to know. Transparency is extremely important; historic accountability is important,” Hikind told 1010 WINS. “Gertrude Stein was a miserable person who collaborated with the Nazis.”

Stein and her brothers were major patrons of modern art in Paris during the first decades of the 20th Century.

Hikind said she was only allowed to remain in France and continue collecting art because she aided the Vichy government in its collaboration with the Nazis. He asserted that the public has the right to know the person that existed behind the art and said that the museum has an obligation to inform visitors how Stein was able to maintain the art “while her fellow Jews were being robbed, tortured and murdered.”

“It’s about being honest,” Hikind said. “They cannot sweep this under the rug. New Yorkers will not tolerate that.” 

The museum insisted the exhibition was about the collection and the works of art, not Stein. The exhibition is about her “family’s efforts to collect art principally before World War I not just before World War II,” Harold Holzer, Senior Vice President for External Affairs at the museum, told 1010 WINS.

Holzer added the exhibition makes no mention of Stein’s literary life, her poetry, or her sexual orientation.

“There are books available at the exhibition that discuss her politics and her literature, nobody is keeping any of this a secret,” the museum said in a statement. However, the museum now plans to add a line to the exhibit exploring how and why Stein’s art collection survived World War II.

“The Steins Collect,” featuring the paintings of Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso and Renoir, will remain on display at the museum through June 3.

In an administrative blunder last week, the White House cited Stein in its official press release praising Jewish contributions to American society in honor of Jewish Heritage month. Following the dismay of the Jewish community, the White House corrected the error and omitted reference to Stein.