German parliament holds minute’s silence for Gorbachev

German lawmakers on Wednesday observed a minute's silence in honour of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who played a decisive role in the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Minute's silence for Gorbachev
Politicians hold a minute's silence in the German Bundestag for Mikhail Gorbachev. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Gorbachev died late August aged 91, and hundreds of Russians paid their final respects to him at a weekend ceremony in Moscow although President Vladimir Putin was notably absent.

“We have a lot to thank Mikhail Gorbachev for,” Bundestag president Baerbel Bas said in an address ahead of the minute’s silence.

“He changed the history of our country, and the lives of millions of people.”

“There are few politicians who are as revered in Germany as he is, and we will remember him as a great liberator,” she added.

“Germans have lost a loyal friend.”

READ ALSO: Berlin to fly flags at half-mast for Gorbachev’s funeral

In power between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev sought to transform the Soviet Union with democratic reforms, but eventually triggered its demise.

While his legacy in Russia is controversial, he is widely respected in Germany for his role in helping bring about the country’s reunification, and his death triggered expressions of gratitude across the political spectrum.

There were calls for a street or square in Berlin to be renamed after him, and official flags flew at half mast in the capital to mark his funeral Saturday.

Gorbachev defended a world order in which states sort to resolve conflicts through dialogue, said Baerbel.

“Russia under Putin has broken with this spirit, and that is a tragic mistake. It is Russia that has attacked Ukraine, and has destroyed European peace by armed force.”

READ ALSO: Gorbachev died at a time of ‘failed’ Russian democracy, says German Chancellor Scholz

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Beckmann self-portrait breaks German auction record

A self-portrait by expressionist artist Max Beckmann smashed the record price for a painting sold at auction in Germany, when it was put before buyers in Berlin on Thursday.

Beckmann self-portrait breaks German auction record

As the hammer came down, the highest bid for Beckmann’s “Selbstbildnis gelb-rosa” (Self-Portrait Yellow-Pink) stood at 20 million euros ($21 million).

Beckmann’s work, which features the artist during his Dutch exile from Nazi Germany, is widely considered a masterpiece.

The sum was “the highest price that has ever been offered for a painting”, auctioneer Markus Krause told the room to applause.

Including fees, the price of the self-portrait will come to €23.2 million, according to the auction house Grisebach.

The previous German record was set in 2018 by another of Beckmann’s works, “Die Ägypterin” (The Egyptian Woman), which fetched €4.7 million.

READ ALSO: Art in Germany: 10 critically acclaimed galleries you can’t miss

The record price for a painting by the artist was set in 2017 when his work “Hölle der Vögel” (Bird’s Hell) — among Beckmann’s most important anti-Nazi statements  – sold at Christie’s in London in 2017 for £36 million.

Beckmann’s self-portrait was initially a gift to his wife Mathilde, known as Quappi, who kept it until her death in 1986. The picture had been in a private Swiss collection for decades, and not shown in public since the mid-1990s.

The painting was displayed behind glass at a public preview ahead of the auction to guard against vandalism by climate activists who have recently been targeting artworks.

Beckmann (1884-1950) enjoyed massive acclaim in Germany during his lifetime, with top dealers placing his work with private collectors and major institutions.

That was until the Nazi regime labelled his daring, politically charged art “degenerate” and removed his paintings from German museums in 1937.

READ ALSO: Germany returns final Nazi-looted artwork from pensioner’s trove

Professionally thwarted and increasingly under threat, Beckmann left for Amsterdam, where he lived in self-exile for a decade before moving to the United States.

Beckmann would ultimately die in New York at the age of 66, of a heart attack on a sidewalk on his way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paintings by Beckmann, now considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, have exploded in value in recent decades.

The most paid for an artwork this year was $195 million, for an iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe by American pop art visionary Andy Warhol.

The bumper price tag is the second largest all-time behind Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million.