Thursday, December 7, 2023

A Canadian Art Gallery Refuses to Reckon with Former Director’s Nazi Ties


Canada Winnipeg Art Gallery Nazi ideology evasion history Vienna cover-up scandal NaziGate immigration ratlines Germany whitewashing minimization

More evidence against Ferdinand Eckhardt is revealed since last month’s bombshell story in The Walrus

IT WOULD BE HARD to overstate Ferdinand Eckhardt’s impact on the Canadian art world. Eckhardt arrived in Canada from Vienna in 1953, and under his directorship, the Winnipeg Art Gallery became a late-modernist powerhouse. It is not only home to major holdings of international and Canadian works but boasts one of the largest Inuit art collections in the world. For his pioneering curatorial work, Eckhardt was inducted into the Order of Canada, received honorary degrees, and was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. Meanwhile, his wife, Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté, became one of Canada’s leading composers, helping make Winnipeg more receptive to advanced musical ideas from Europe. Both were formative figures on the prairies.

Much of that glamour has now been dispelled following Conrad Sweatman’s revelations of Eckhardt as a Nazi sympathizer—revelations The Walrus published for the first time on November 9. Building on German historian Andreas Zeising’s investigation into Eckhardt’s Nazi writings, Sweatman’s story draws on months of extensive research and is supplemented by scores of documents from archives in Canada, Austria, and Germany. It paints a picture of a man who, after promoting Nazi tenets in his early thirties, moved to Canada and ascended to one of the highest echelons of the country’s art scene.

These findings—since picked up by the Winnipeg Free Press and CityNews—have put pressure on the Winnipeg Art Gallery to confront the truth about its pioneering leader. The University of Manitoba, a beneficiary of the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation, announced on November 29 that it is conducting an investigation into Eckhardt’s past and is considering renaming its music library, currently named after Eckhardt’s wife.

I decided to catch up with Sweatman to learn more about the fallout from the article and where he thinks things should go next.  (more...)

A Canadian Art Gallery Refuses to Reckon with Former Director’s Nazi Ties

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