The Swedish police also said Tuesday it would not look into whether the work broke the Swedish law that protects ‘the peace of the dead’ as the possible crime was committed outside Sweden’s borders.
“I’ve seen the reactions, both from the Jewish community in Malmö and from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,” gallery owner Martin Bryder told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper.
Carl Michael von Hausswolff claims he used ashes taken in 1989 from a crematorium at the Majdanek concentration camp and mixed them with water to nine paintings featured in the exhibit entitled “Memory Works”.
Upon learning of the exhibit, Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in the United States issued a stinging rebuke of von Hausswolff, comparing him to the Nazis.
“Mr. von Hausswolff, you, like the Nazis’ use of human skin for lampshades and fat to produce soap have similarly twice murdered the bodies that were once the ashes you have desecrated, turning art into abomination,” wrote Samuels in an open letter on the Centre’s website.
“Hitler, as an aspirant painter, would have surely applauded.”
The monochrome work, featuring vertical brushstrokes in a rectangle representing the suffering of the victims, has been on display at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund since November 10th, and has prompted strong reactions from critics and members of the public.
“You shouldn’t use remains as souvenirs,” Swedish art critic Tor Billgren told The Local.
A police complaint was also filed against von Hausswolff accusing him of “disturbing the peace of the dead”, and calling the artwork a “desecration of human remains”. The investigation will not go ahead, as the ashes were taken from abroad.
Staff at the Majdanek concentration camp museum issued a statement expressing their “shock”, comparing von Hausswolff’s actions with the 2009 theft of a sign from the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Following public outrage, however, gallery owner Bryder has opted to take down the exhibit ahead of its scheduled December 15th closing.
“Christmas should be a time of peace and harmony. So I’m closing the exhibit now,” he told Sydsvenskan.