Switzerland’s largest museum, the Kunsthaus Zürich, is missing two old masters. This is likely to paint the former president of the Swiss National Bank, Philipp Hildebrand, in a bad light.
Sometimes there are media releases with content that readers can hardly believe. This is what happened with the Kunsthaus Zürich’s communiqué on Tuesday.
Two works of art were ‘untraceable,’ it said tersely.
Police called in
Since the beginning of 2023, two of over 700 works that the Kunsthaus had taken down after the fire in August and sent for internal cleaning had disappeared. Internal searches have been unsuccessful.
Since theft could no longer be ruled out, the Kunsthaus filed a complaint ‘against persons unknown’ on January 13 and asked the police to investigate, officials said of the incident.
It is hard to believe that two weeks will soon have passed before the museum involved the police. And, that it then takes almost another two weeks to inform the public is no better.
Hope of the management
The ‘missing persons’ are the small-format paintings “Soldiers in Camp” by Robert van den Hoecke from the middle of the 17th century (18.8 x 24.7 cm). The other painting is by Dirck de Bray “Daffodils and Other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Marble Slab” from 1673 (30.9 x 23.5 cm).
The century-old works of art are private permanent loans. Both paintings on oak wood are framed and glazed.
According to the statement, the management hopes that the paintings will find their way back to the Zurich Kunsthaus undamaged.
Gifts from individuals
The Kunsthaus is assisting the police in the investigation and has entered the missing works on the famous “Art Loss Register,” the world’s largest database of lost and stolen artworks.
For generations, collectors have entrusted their treasures to the Kunsthaus Zürich.
Nearly three-quarters of the paintings and sculptures in the collection are on permanent loan or are gifts from private individuals. “The possibility that works cannot be found at the moment, despite great security precautions, shocks us,” Kunsthaus director Ann Demeester said of the incident.
The museum has set up a crisis team that is meticulously investigating the incident, the statement added. All other works that were on display at the moment of the fire are fully present, the museum assured.
Ultimately, the misery is also likely to fall on the former president of the Swiss National Bank SNB, Philipp Hildebrand (see picture).
In fact, he has been the president of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, i.e. the sponsoring association of the Kunsthaus, since 2022. Commenting on his election – with a mere 63 percent of the vote – he said that the job was an ‘exciting and socially-valuable task.’ This should certainly include securing 100 percent of permanent loans.
As the Zurich “Tages-Anzeiger” writes in today’s print edition, the Kunsthaus Zürich has already once before been the victim of an art theft.
In 1968, the work “Woman with Rose Head” by Salvador Dalí disappeared. A few years later, however, the work reappeared in France and was returned to the museum.
The Kunsthaus Zürich is now hoping for another such ‘happy ending’ to this incredible scandal.