Christie’s has canceled its second planned auction of Heidi Horten’s jewelry collection, after controversy arose about her late husband’s business affairs in Nazi Germany.
“The sale of the Heidi Horten jewelry collection has provoked intense scrutiny, and the reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it,” Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East, and Asia, said via email.
The initial Horten auction, held in May in Geneva, fetched $202 million, a world record for a single collection—and far above its initial $160 million estimate. But it generated a significant amount of flak for the auction house, given that Horton’s late husband, Helmut, launched his department store empire during the Nazi era and partly built his fortune buying businesses at bargain rates from Jewish owners forced to sell.
Despite the incredible results, Christie’s did not put out a press release following the sale, as is standard when auctions hit a new record. It did say that it has “committed to donate a significant portion of its commission to organizations that contribute to vitally important Holocaust research and education. It will be up to these organizations, if they so wish, to communicate about these donations.”
But some of those organizations, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, refused those donations, considering them tainted.
The auction’s proceeds were also earmarked for Horten’s foundation, which “supports philanthropic causes, including medical research, children’s welfare, and access to the arts,” Christie’s said.
Though the bulk of Horten’s collection has already been sold, the question is what will happen to the remaining items. As one person close to the situation told JCK: “Should they just be thrown into the sea?” An inquiry to the Heidi Horten Collection was not answered by press time.
Jewish groups, meanwhile, hailed the cancellation as a victory. “We are glad that they recognized the great pain additional sales of Horten art and jewelry would cause Holocaust survivors,” David Schaecter, president of Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA, told The New York Times.
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