Anita Halpin, chairperson of the Communist Party of Britain and treasurer of the National Union of Journalists is in the money:
In the last few months, unbeknown to friends and colleagues, Ms Halpin has inherited one of the most important expressionist German paintings. Yesterday, it was sold for £20.5m.
Ms Luxembourg told the Guardian: “It’s one of Kirchner’s best ever works. Without the restitution claim, the probability of such a work arriving on the market is absolutely zero. There is no other painting like this in the work of Kirchner – it’s so rare. The quality and rarity of it are what justify the price. When you buy a work like this, you are buying a museum piece, part of the cultural heritage of a country.”
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Berlin Street Scene, a vivid vision of the claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing ebb and flow of urban life in 1913, was bought from Ms Halpin by art consultant Daniella Luxembourg on behalf of the Neue Galerie, New York.
Eat your heart out Graham.
Halpin’s grandmother had been forced to hand over the painting to the Nazis in 1936:
In an signed affidavit from 1958, she stated: “During the late evening hours, two agents of the secret police from Nuremberg, coerced me under threat to have the pictures in the Hess collection … returned to Germany immediately. Even though I understood fully that this threat could result in the complete loss of the entire collection, I had no choice other than to give into the pressure being exerted by this all-powerful agency of the government in the hope that my own life and that of my family would not be further jeopardised.”
There was no indication from Ms Halpin’s Communist Party of Britain colleagues at their headquarters in Croydon yesterday as to how the proceeds from the sale of the Kirchner might be distributed.
Would readers hand over the proceeds to the comrades or arrive at the next party meeting in a diamond-studded cape?
Update: By eery coincidence Slate magazine has just asked various American commentators how they would give away a million Dollars.
If I had a million dollars, which I don’t, I would give it to a little cluster of political and intellectual projects in Britain whose purpose is to renovate the liberal left with new ideas. The people working on these projects are best known for having produced a document called the Euston Manifesto, which was composed in a bar near the Euston station of the London metro. (If these people had a million dollars, they wouldn’t have to compose their manifestos in bars—they would be able to rent a proper office for themselves.) Their online journal, Democratiya, has become, by my lights, the liveliest and most stimulating new intellectual journal on political themes in the English-speaking world—certainly the liveliest new thing to appear on the English-speaking left in a good long time. Their project Engage has rather bravely taken up the challenge of arguing against the slightly demented anti-Zionism that appears to have apparently overrun whole regions of British intellectual life. And people from the same group put out a couple of vigorous blogs as well: Harry’s Place and Normblog.
Thanks Paul. Keep buying these lottery tickets.