Monday, May 26, 2008

Museum opening stymied by U.S. funding crisis

MuseumZeitraum Leipzig Director Sophie Vogt today announced the museum would not meet its July 2008 opening deadline after the apparent collapse of the museum’s principle benefactor, the Wassmann Foundation, Washington, D.C. The long-awaited museum will house the works of the pioneering German modernist Johann Dieter Wassmann (1841-1898), a native Leipziger. Two years in construction, the critically-acclaimed MuseumZeitraum facility has been carved out of the shell of a turn-of-the-century Jugendstil building in central Leipzig.

Wassmann Foundation staff blame the institution’s financial failure on the sub-prime mortgage crisis and resultant capital collapse in the United States, but have not been any more forthcoming as to the details of the shortfall.

According to staff in Washington, the Wassmann Foundation’s Kaufman Director, Jeffrey D. Wassmann, recently suffered heart failure while on a visit to Australia and is scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery at Melbourne’s Epworth Hospital early next week. He is not expected to return to the United States for some months.

In November 2007, MuseumZeitraum and the Wassmann Foundation signed a watershed accord under which the foundation would return over 100 of Johann Dieter Wassmann’s early modernist assemblage works to Leipzig. To date, fewer than half of those works have been repatriated to Germany. ARTINFO background link

At a joint news conference at the foundation’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, Mr. Wassmann said at the time that the agreement "corrects the misunderstandings and errors committed in the past." It will "pave the road to new legal and ethical norms for the future," he added.

The pact, the first of its kind between an American foundation and a German museum, was hailed as a model for settling repatriation disputes involving other Western arts institutions.

"Germany has won, the Wassmann Foundation hasn't lost, and what has benefited is culture," MuseumZeitraum’s director, Sophie Vogt, said at the signing ceremony.

MuseumZeitraum Leipzig is now pursuing funding alternatives while it restructures current debt. The museum board has set September 2009 as its new goal for completion of the project.

1 comment:

Jim Hart said...

I am most sorry to learn of Jeffrey Wassmann's illness.

Please convey the best wishes from all of us at the Museum of Electrical Philosophy. We wish him a speedy recovery.

In comparison, the financial health of the Wassmann Institute and the delay to the Museum, while regrettable, are of minor significance.

Jim Hart
Director, MoEP