The Creation of a Trust for Wilhem Loth’s Art in Costa Rica
We interviewed Irina Just one of our friends and member of the expat community in Costa Rica. During the interview, she told us about her desire to create a trust for her father Wilhelm Loth’s
We interviewed Irina Just one of our friends and member of the expat community in Costa Rica. During the interview, she told us about her desire to create a trust for her father Wilhelm Loth’s art who was a renowned artist in Germany. She is interested in donating her collection of his art which she brought with her from the United States to Costa Rica. The collection includes 26 sculptures, 6 paintings, and numerous works on paper. The sculptures and works on paper are from the early 40s to the late 70s. We would like to share this story through her own words with you.
For some context, Irina has been working with The Museum of Costa Rican Art (MAC) because she would like the art collection to go there. We would like to share this story through her own words with you.
Where are you originally from?
Well, I was born in Germany after the war. I am an only child. My father was a sculptor and my mother was an opera singer. I was born outside of Frankfort and then I grew up in Berlin which was a divided city. I was in West Berlin. After I graduated from school, I went back to the Frankfort area and studied linguistics at Frankfort University. Then I got a master’s degree in German and English Linguistics. After that, I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I migrated to the United States.
Can you tell us a little bit about your father and his work?
Sure. As I started to say, he was a sculptor in Germany, quite prominent. His work has been represented in many major museums not only in Germany but in many European cities.
From early on, he knew he would be an artist. He thought he would be a painter. That’s what he had studied, but there was a very famous painter with whom he had corresponded. A very famous German expressionist named Käthe Kollwitz. She said that she saw more three-dimensional aspects of his work. He took that advice and he started sculpting after the war.
He became quite successful. He became a professor in an art academy in Germany. He had students who became famous. I don’t think he was an easy teacher. I think he expected a lot from his students. They thanked him by becoming successful. He was not an easy artist to understand because his subject, the female torso, has been a bit controversial at times. Not in the art world, but in the public because people didn’t see it right. For him, it was about the worshiping of the female form, of the woman and her strength, her body, her power, and her presence. A being that he admired and put on paper or in sculpture, mostly in bronze.
What was the process of bringing your father’s work to Costa Rica like?
Oh God! Expensive! We had a small collection on our farm in Oregon. When my mother became widowed in Germany, she became really ill. She decided she wanted to be with me and her son-in-law as we were her closest family. So, she immigrated to the States when she was 83 years old and lived with us and brought her part of her collection to Oregon.
So, years later when we decided to move, we had to bring it with us. We couldn’t leave it. To whom? To what? So, we moved it all. We had a museum in Oregon come and package everything. They had everything individually crated and packaged. It came with our household affairs in a container. It cost quite a fortune, but we are glad we have it. At that time, we had the money because we had sold the farm at a really good price. We don’t regret it, but it wasn’t easy.
Did your father ever live in Costa Rica or visit it?
No, because he died in 1993 and he didn’t even know about the farm, let alone Costa Rica. That has been a bit of a problem now because we are trying to find a home for the collection. Both Jim and I are 71 years old and we don’t think we could live more than ten years here maybe. You know at some point, we don’t even have to die quite yet, but we probably can’t work this farm because it does need care. When the time comes when we can no longer live here, we want to find a place where this collection in its entirety can be housed and shared with the public. However, because my father was never here it is a little bit hard.
Do you know if your father’s work has influenced artists in Costa Rica or if he did any exhibitions in our country?
I don’t know the answer to that question. I was going to do some research and get back with acquaintances in Germany to provide me with a list of his students. There might be a connection yet. I am really looking hard to find one in order to make this a little bit more desirable. I have not found it.
My father, himself, did not exhibit in Central or South America. He exhibited in North America mostly: once in Canada, New York, Los Angeles, and also in Tokyo. He’s in a museum there permanently represented, but unfortunately not here.
I’ll see if maybe there is a student or an exchange student. I am going to try to at least find an answer if he has or hasn’t.
Have you planned to do an exposition of your father’s work?
I would love to! It would be easy because all of his pieces are all in one place. We have 26 sculptures both in the garden and inside 6 paintings and numerous works on paper that would make a good show. It would cost a little bit to transport it to San Jose, but I am hoping that something can be done soon. We would support that as much as we could by loaning the pieces and being involved. Maybe displaying it for an exhibition which are usually around 6 weeks. It would be nice to see what the public thinks.
Can you tell me about the foundation you want to create for your father’s work?
Yeah, you must understand that the collection we have here is only a small percentage of the work that is still in existence in Germany. We have distant relatives to take care of it, to house it, to have shows all over Germany. They are very active. My father would have been born a hundred years ago now and there are already several shows planned in Germany. So, what we are doing here is with just a small portion of his work.
I want to, if possible, stay here because, number one, there is no family in Germany. So, I am not sure what we are going to do. It is either a trust, a foundation, or a will. I don’t think a will is the right way to handle it. So, it will be either a foundation or a trust. We would donate the pieces now, but still, have them until the time comes when they leave our property. A foundation–well you know everything takes money. We don’t have a lot. I mean if we had a lot of money, we could give a big grant, you know. Something needs to be done with the legal team to make sure that all parties are happy.
I have been working with the MAC which is the Museo de Arte Costarricense and their board of directors. Members of the board-the director and the curator have all been out here. I am currently working with the curator and he has been here twice to inventory everything and photograph everything. Once that is together, we can make a presentation, but I do need legal advice and I need to make sure everything is done properly.
Why did you choose to work with the MAC?
Although it says Costa Rican art, it is a modern art museum. The National Museum is not appropriate, it has more historic things. You know, some may say my father is historic. He was last century, but not quite, and then the MACT is too modern, too vanguard for his work. It is the Museum of Art and Design that mostly shows its own students’ work. I thought the MAC was close to his kind of art.
If it allowed international art, it would be even easier, but it is mostly Costa Rican art and that is a little hurdle for us. Right now, I have been speaking with their Board of Directors, with the director and the two curators. They all have been here and are very much in favor of it. However, it is a political institution and we don’t know what the next one will do. So that’s why I want to give It now if possible.
Why do you think your father’s work is important?
Well, it is not just me saying it as his daughter. There have been films made, there have been dissertations written about him. He is represented in major museums and exhibitions continue to happen years past his death. There are exhibitions annually, but not only in Germany. He is considered one of the prominent sculptors of the post-war era.
Other than yourself do you know of other people in Costa Rica who have pieces from your father or who have attended his exhibitions?
There are a couple of people who have bought and received drawings. Since he has not exhibited here, no, but there have been people who have approached me to come and see the collection here. We are always very open to having people view it and explaining a little bit about it.
You mentioned you needed a sponsor in order to help you donate his work to the MAC?
Maybe it isn’t the right choice of words. I need someone who agrees that this work is important and helps me legally write a proposal and that I know that the work will be in good hands. I know Rafael has approached me.
Which pieces will you be donating and why?
All of them. Every one of them, because it is a matter of getting the whole collection that we have here in one place, and you know you can’t take them with you. I think it is a nice collection because we have sculpture from the early 40s to the late 70s. The same regarding the works on paper.
With the 6 paintings, well, they are from one specific time. They were all done when my dad was on sabbatical in Venice, California. In 1980, he rented a study, but it was too hard to sculpt. It was just too cumbersome and so he painted during that year and these are all the paintings we have from that time. Other than that, we have a good representation from over 4 decades.
As the interview ended, we asked Irina if there was an important piece of the collection that she would like to talk to us about.
She showed us one sculpture which was of her mother when she was pregnant with her. It is highly regarded in Germany.
She told us, “My dad had a foundation in Germany. They didn’t set the prices, but the market set them and so I have that information about the pieces we have here, and this is one of the more valuable pieces. Since they are bronze and a cast you can make copies, but there is an ethical artistic limit. Generally speaking, the bigger the piece, the fewer the copies. This has only existed twice. Regarding the reliefs, there are maybe 5 or 6 copies and the artist establishes that.”
As Irina mentioned, at the moment, she is trying to find a connection between her father’s work and Costa Rica. Since the MAC requires this link, she is trying to find a Costa Rican artist who was taught by her father or was influenced by her father’s work. This requires extensive work and for this reason, she would need help from people immersed in the art world. She would also like to do an art exposition in Costa Rica and for this she will need a sponsor to cover the transportation costs and a place to do the exposition.