Today we remember both Dr. Max Stern, art historian and art dealer, born in Mönchengladbach on April 18th 1904 (d. 1987), and his father, art dealer and auctioneer Julius Stern, born on April 18th 1867 in Anröchte (d. 1934). Father and son share the same birthday.
Since July 2018, an international research project, the Stern Cooperation Project, funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, Magdeburg (DZK), and by the Max & Iris Stern Foundation, Montréal, has been functioning through a team of scholars from Canada, Israel and Germany.
The Stern family was an important part of the German-Jewish artistic and commercial world. Their trajectory across continents, as a result of Nazi persecution, is reflected in our research team.
Our goal is to reconstruct the history of the Stern family and of their Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf. The family´s Jewish origin cost them basically everything they had, and forced them to leave Düsseldorf: they lost their auction business, their gallery, their home, their savings, and their art collection. The Sterns were “denationalized” and Dr. Max Stern´s doctorate degree was rescinded.
Today hardly any traces are left of the Stern family in Düsseldorf. The Galerie had been located on the elegant Königsallee, numbers 23 and 25, but its structures were demolished in the 1950s. The gallery’s footprint is now occupied by an elite fashion shop and there is no reference to the Stern family.
Our multi-national and interdisciplinary team – combining perspectives from disciplines such as art market studies, biographical studies, antisemitism studies, art history and history – allows us to tell the family story and the stories of their art businesses in new and meaningful ways.
Before Corona, our work meant visiting archives, libraries and museums most notably in Canada, Israel, Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Now, the worldwide restrictions due to Covid19 mean we have to find new ways to continue. Using video conference technologies, we stay in touch with our colleagues in Israel and Canada, and are able to exchange, discuss and adjust strategies of documenting, assessing, and analyzing archival evidence
We are currently in the middle of our second year of funding, and we hope to obtain prolongation for the third year, which would be the maximum duration.
Our research advances in various ways – e.g. we are tracing objects and documenting the transactions of the gallery, we are following the family Stern into their countries of exile, and conducting research there, in order to reconstruct the life and the conditions that awaited them there. The Stern family’s emigration pathway connected Israel, the United Kingdom and Canada. We are doing our best to continue this work under the given circumstances and it is indeed very moving to receive correspondence of archivists, librarians and museum staff who, faced with the same difficulties, answer us from their homes.
But today, April 18th 2020, is the day to remember this special moment of the two birthdays of Julius Stern and Dr. Max Stern.
STERN COOPERATION PROJECT TEAM (cf. photo REASEARCH TEAM, f.l.t.r.) : Prof. Dr. Catherine MacKenzie, Canadian supervisor, Montréal | Evgeniya Makarova M.A., research fellow Canada, Montréal | Elina Meßfeldt, B.A., assistant, ZI (not pictured) | Anne Uhrlandt, M.A., project coordinator, ZI | Dr. Stephan Klingen, supervisor, ZI | PD Dr. Christian Fuhrmeister, supervisor, ZI | Dr. Noah Benninga, research fellow Israel, Jerusalem