KK coverage of Christie’s despicable auction of nazi-tainted jewelry

I love art and value art and even collect it a little bit. But I know so little about it that I am reluctant to write much about it, especially when there are so many thoughtful and knowledgable critics out there who’ve devoted themselves to understanding and explaining what they’re seeing. So at Esquire or the Observer or even Fine Art Globe, which is owned by my company, I have seldom covered art.

But occasionally the art world intersects with topics I am qualified to cover and this summer that happened with meaningful results.

In May 2023, the venerable auction house Christie’s staged “The World of Heidi Horten,” a “glorious assemblage comprises over 700 jewels, a true embodiment of Mrs Horten’s timeless elegance, glamour and taste for collecting.”

Under pressure from Jewish groups, and also from the New York Times reporter Zachary Small, who would not let the matter go, Christie’s actually acknowledged the nasty way Mrs. Horten came into such a grand fortune, albeit in weak, oblique language, adding to its listing: “The business practices of Mr. Horten during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.”

I wrote about the story in May, breaking the news that a new group led by top DC patent lawyer Steven Lieberman and Rabbi Avi Weiss was searching for heirs to fortunes depleted by the actions of Mr. Horten. I covered it again at the end of August, when Christie’s canceled its planned second sale, which was a shock because the first had been the largest sale of jewelry in history, grossing over $200 million.

The lawyer who formed the group to pressure Christie’s praised my stories and I hope my shedding a light on this played at least a tiny role in adding to the pressure the auction house felt to do the right thing, if belatedly.

Mrs. Horten, looking beautifully bejeweled and not all that crushed over the provenance of those gorgeous earrings. (Christie’s)

2 thoughts on “KK coverage of Christie’s despicable auction of nazi-tainted jewelry”

  1. Ken:
    Tried to find an email address to write to you, but could not. Quite smart.

    I will keep this brief. Your full immersion and love for music comes across in your writing in ways that only a single, impassioned personality could display: ’tis nuanced, informed, and shaped by love. I am 52, currently, and writing about music took me at age 17. I would not say that my history of work is awaiting the chisel and mallet in its field, but that does not mean that I don’t know what is exceptional.

    Okay, so, there is Bowie, and then there are those who have written about Bowie, and those to come, and those to come, ad infinitum. Your writing (about whom or what-ever) has a clarity and thoughtfulness which is–I believe–unmatched by many (since I should stray from gifting you, “most.” This is merely a thanks. You are always an insightful, smart read and I enjoy it to the teeth.

    Thank you for your work.

    1. Thank you for this kind message. I so appreciate it. And it’s kind of fitting, if a bit strange, that you commented on my music writing on a piece that directs viewers toward my miniscoop on a nazi scandal. Those are basically the only two things I think about, so there’s a certain strange logic there. I appreciate you taking the time to be in touch. Means a lot to me. KK

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