In the night of January 10 2005, twenty-four 17th, 18th, and 19th century paintings, three drawings and dozens of silver objects were stolen from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn. Nowhere to be found for nearly ten years, four of the missing paintings reappeared in Ukraine in mid-2015. Reportedly with direct ties to the local government, Ukrainian criminal groups from the nationalist militia tried to sell back the paintings to the museum. Since then, Hoorn’s stolen artworks have turned into an international topic and a European diplomatic issue over corruption, politics and cultural property. Remarkably, this inconceivable break-through came only a year after another ongoing museum case involving the same nations. Indeed, since 2014 a Dutch institution has refused to restitute the Scythian gold loaned from a museum in Crimea, a land located in Ukraine before its annexation by Russia. Despite the recovery of the four Westfries artworks shortly followed by a fifth painting, the works will not be coming back to the Netherlands just yet. The Ukrainian authorities are delaying their return to investigate where they came from, requesting the museum to provide ancient documents proving ownership.
A Second Exhibition (By Other Masters, Around The Same Subject, New Date) takes the 2005 Westfries Museum art theft and other international cases of missing artworks as a lens of enquiry. Featuring new and recent contemporary artworks by Dina Danish, Kota Ezawa, Li Ran and Leila Pazooki alongside archival interventions by Hong-Kai Wang and the curator, the group exhibition examines our society’s fascination for the spectacle of the missing, a condition perhaps reinforced in today’s age of consumer capitalism. More specifically through a semi-fictional approach, it addresses the consequences and responsibilities of such attraction for what loses or gains significance in historiography.