Artists Scrutinize Nazi Family Past of Julia Stoschek – The New York Times
DÜSSELDORF, Germany — In early June, the Julia Stoschek Collection, one of the world’s pre-eminent private institutions for media art, premiered an ambitious new show here to celebrate its 15th anniversary: “Worldbuilding,” an exhibition focused on the intersection between art and video gaming that features works exploring issues like transphobia, gun violence and environmental degradation.
Stoschek, 47, a billionaire heiress to a German car-parts fortune, owns the collection — one of the world’s largest holdings of “time-based art,” a term encompassing performance, film, video and digital works. “The young generation of gamers are raising awareness about serious subjects, like refugees, racism, the treatment of women,” Stoschek said of the “Worldbuilding” show, which runs through Dec. 10, 2023. The works were “made to engage with current topics,” she added. “It’s very of-the-moment and often political.”
Aside from overseeing two popular exhibition spaces in Düsseldorf and Berlin, Stoschek has been on boards and committees at MoMA PS1 and the Whitney Museum in New York, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; she currently sits on the board of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. She has financially supported numerous art projects, including several German entries at the Venice Biennale.
Yet as arts funders have come under scrutiny in recent years — including calls for museums to distance themselves from donors such as the Sackler family and the oil giant BP — observers in Germany have raised questions about Stoschek. Some have argued that there is a contrast between the politics of her collection and the origins of the money that sustains it.
Stoschek’s great-grandfather, the German industrialist Max Brose, was a member of the Nazi Party. During World War II, his automotive company manufactured gasoline canisters and armaments for the German military, partly using forced labor. While numerous German companies, including Hugo Boss and Bertelsmann, have openly grappled with their involvement with the Nazi regime, the Stoschek family has been accused of sweeping its history under the rug.
The family has long said that Brose was a nonideological member of the Nazi Party who treated his company’s forced laborers, largely Soviet prisoners of war, well. This account is supported by a 2008 book the company commissioned from the historian Gregor Schöllgen. Titled “Brose: A German Family Company,” it has drawn pushback from some scholars and journalists for its largely rosy portrayal of Brose, and because the published work contains no footnotes, which has made it difficult to verify its claims. The New York Times learned that footnotes have been available upon request for a few years, but a Brose historian said that no such requests had been received.
As word of Brose’s connection to forced labor and the Nazi Party circulated in the German art world, it led to a debate among artists on the ethics of working with Stoschek.
In 2020, the artist Leon Kahane showed an animated video as part of an installation that obliquely addressed the link between the Stoschek fortune and forced labor in a pop-up display next to Stoschek’s Berlin exhibition space, as a part of the city’s Art Week. The work prompted heated discussion in the Berlin art scene.
Given that Stoschek’s collection “includes artists who deal with colonialism …….
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