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Holocaust ash painter reported to the police

Holocaust ash painter reported to the police

Published: 06 Dec 2012 15:49 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Dec 2012 16:41 GMT+01:00

A Swedish artist has sparked outrage by claiming he used ashes gathered from a Nazi concentration camp crematorium in paintings currently on display at an art gallery in southern Sweden.

A member of the public has now reported him to the police for breaking the Swedish law that protects the peace of the dead (brott mot griftesfriden).

The piece in question is being shown at a gallery in Lund.

In the text alongside the work, artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff explained that he collected the ashes from a concentration camp crematorium in Majdenak, Poland.

Years later, he mixed the stolen ashes with water and used the result as paint on acrylic paper.

The work has sparked a range of reactions from critics, with many upset that von Hausswolff would use remains from Holocaust victims in his art.

"You shouldn't use remains as souvenirs," art critic Tor Billgren told The Local.

Billgren's main objection is related to disturbing the peace of the dead (brott mot griftesfriden), rather than the specific oeuvre's link to the Holocaust.

Author and translator Salomon Schulman, however, reacted with more virulence.

"It is repulsive in the extreme," he told Sveriges Television (SVT).

In a stinging critique published in the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, Schulman also likened the work to a fascination with necrophilia and questioned whether it should be called art.

"Who knows, some of the ashes might come from some of my relatives?" he wrote, adding that he refused to see the work for himself.

Billgren expressed considerable respect for the rest of the exhibition at Lund's Martin Bryder Gallery.

"When von Hausswolff work isn't muddied by naivety he offers exciting and alternative strategies to deal with and remember the horrors of the past," Billgren wrote in his review of the show.

The gallery owner, Martin Bryder, has said it was never his intention to hurt anyone's feelings.

"This wasn't meant to open old wounds, rather it was meant to heal them," Bryder told SVT.

Von Hausswolff is a well-respected artist, once referred to as both "dour and funny" by the New York Times, and has represented Sweden at the Venice Biennale.

"I think Carl Michael von Hausswolff's art is interesting, but in this case he showed bad judgement," Billgren told the Local.

As news broke on Thursday afternoon that the artist had been reported to the police, the TT news agency was unable to reach him for comment.

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Your comments about this article

13:44 December 6, 2012 by RobinHood
The Nazis made lamp shades, book covers, wigs, fertilizer, soap and loads of other stuff. But I don't think they ever got around to "art"; I expect they would have given time.

Seems to be a clear cut case of the wierd Swedish crime of "disturbing the dead" to me.
15:10 December 6, 2012 by Lorie Lasseter-Foltz
It *should be* shocking and it *should be* disturbing. It is a tangible reminder to the human race to NEVER forget and NEVER repeat.
15:56 December 6, 2012 by EP
Typical hypocrisy ... Sweden, feigning neutrality during the war (and profiting from it) got to enjoy probably some nice and cosy summers between 1939-45 and now this moron is trying to make a statement about the horrors of the concentration camps with his so called art? He should just crawl under a rock. Pathetic.
16:15 December 6, 2012 by Bleichroeder
"he collected the ashes from a crematorium in Majdenak"... WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?

You don't just "collect" the ashes. The ashes of murdered Jews is not a souvenir or something he has a right to "collect" = euphemism for steal from a crematoria!!! Doesn't it compute in any way that these were people? They were murdered!!! They did not want to end up as a wall painting by some pretentious shock value obsessed Swede.

these are the only remains of women, men, children, babies and the elderly that were murdered. That is all that is left of European Jews. The ashes should have stayed there as a reminder to next generations - not mixed with acrylic.

Here is another idea, collect the remaining teeth of murdered Jewish toddlers and string them together in the name of art!

Revolting.
16:17 December 6, 2012 by millionmileman
The appropriate justice would be for Andres Serrano to stick this jerk in a giant jar of urine!
16:17 December 6, 2012 by Bleichroeder
"he collected the ashes from a crematorium in Majdenak"... WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?

You don't just "collect" the ashes. The ashes of murdered Jews is not a souvenir or something he has a right to "collect" = euphemism for steal from a crematoria!!! Doesn't it compute in any way that these were people? They were murdered!!! They did not want to end up as a wall painting by some pretentious shock value obsessed Swede.

these are the only remains of women, men, children, babies and the elderly that were murdered. That is all that is left of European Jews. The ashes should have stayed there as a reminder to next generations - not mixed with acrylic.

Here is another idea, collect the remaining teeth of murdered Jewish toddlers and string them together in the name of art!

Revolting.
17:02 December 6, 2012 by Jules
Unfortunately this is symptomatic of much of whats wrong with art in our time, style over substance again. Rather than practicing for years in his studio to try and paint or sculpt more magnificently than any of his predecessors, he instead works out the most shocking way of drawing attention to his "work" hoping the media will bite and thus he will be on to a rather large pay day. Unfortunately it seems to have worked. What a disgusting individual, one wonders what he might make of his relatives being disinterred and their remains being shown off to the public without dignity or respect purely for someone else´s profit? But he is obviously so crass he probably would not care... I hope very much the Police find something to charge him with and that as a result the judiciary are able to either make sure he does not profit from his actions, or better yet he spends a lengthy time behind bars to think on his actions a little.
18:03 December 6, 2012 by Svensksmith
Typical of today's shock jock mentality.
20:04 December 6, 2012 by Keith #5083
It is to be regretted that the language of his art could not find a more respectful way of expressing itself.

Apart from the Swedish law,I sincerely hope that the Polish government charges him with theft,for that is what has occurred. He has stolen from a museum. In England O belive the crim e of 'body snatching/graverobber' still exists.

If one of the functions of art is to comment upon society, he has made a really valid point.Not in his art,but in his actions. For certainly society today appears to demonstrate less respect.
18:05 December 8, 2012 by rufus.t.firefly
If this concerned the ashes of some other group, there would be no controversy about whether or what action to take. This grisly so-called painting would not be on display in a "respectable" gallery.

It, sadly, is not surprising that it is on display in Sweden, and that it remains here despite the acts of grotesque criminality by the artist and the original murderers, as well as the insult and injury to Jews and Survivors in particular, but also to those in general with a shred of decency in them.

The sooner all appropriate charges are brought here and in Poland and the painting is dealt with in some fashion that gives priority to the feelings of the Jewish community of the world, the better. Please let it be soon.
05:24 December 9, 2012 by Ronald Friend
I find this not only macabre but in the worst of taste, and seemingly exploitative. Does the artist not realize that there are living relatives of those who died at Majdanek, not that this alone makes it despicable. My father, an engineer, was transported to Majdanek from Drancy, France on March 4, 1943, Convoy 50. Does not exactly make me feel too good that his ashes could be hanging on a wall in a gallery in Sweden!

Ron F.

Portland , Oregon
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