About the auction house Hugo Helbing

Hugo Helbing (1863-1938) opened his first art dealership in Munich in 1885 and held auctions in steadily increasing numbers from 1887 onwards. With the move to the corner house built by Gabriel von Seidl (1848-1913) at Liebigstrasse 21 in 1900, Hugo Helbing's 100th art auction was held in April 1902 in his own "museum-like rooms". In the spring of 1906, Theodor Neustätter (1880-1936) joined the general partnership as a partner, and in 1915 Dr. Ernst Spiegel (1878-1953) and Hugo Helbing's son from his first marriage, Fritz Helbing (1888-1943), joined the company.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the art auction business in Germany flourished, and the number of auctions held by Helbing also increased rapidly. Lavishly illustrated scholarly catalogs were published for the more than 800 auctions Helbing held between 1885 and 1937.

Despite a collapse in foreign business, World War I brought little economic loss to the art market sector. In 1916, Helbing opened a branch office in Berlin and formed an auction joint venture with the art salon of Paul Cassirer (1871-1926). Together with the Cassirer firm - represented after Cassirer's death by Grete Ring (1887-1952) and Walther Feilchenfeldt (1894-1953) - Helbing organized more than 80 auctions of important collections until 1932 at a price level that could compete with houses in Paris and London.

Due to Hugo Helbing's generous support of the Bavarian art collections, among others, as well as the leading position of his auction house in Germany, Helbing was awarded the title of Kommerzienrat (Councilor of Commerce) in 1911 and the title of Geheimer Kommerzienrat (Privy Councilor of Commerce) in 1918 at the suggestion of Friedrich Dörnhöffer (1865-1934), Director General of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen.

In addition to the branch in Berlin, Hugo Helbing founded another branch in Frankfurt in 1919, which was located in the villa at Bockenheimer Landstrasse 8, built in 1883 and owned by Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild (1843-1940) since 1917. Helbing hired the art historian Dr. Arthur Kauffmann (1887-1983) as proxy, who soon became director and equal partner.

The "Gleichschaltung" of the German art and antiques trade, which began in July 1933, put an end to the success of Galerie Helbing. The Munich art dealer Adolf Weinmüller (1886-1958), a member of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed chairman of the Association of the German Art and Antiques Trade. He was jointly responsible for the law on the auctioneer trade passed on October 16, 1934, which henceforth denied Jewish dealers an auctioneer's license. In August 1935, forty Jewish art and antique dealers and antiquarian bookshops were ordered by registered letter to "regroup or liquidate" their business within four weeks. Although the "liquidation" of the Helbing Gallery by Max Heiß (1891-1962), the advisor to the regional director of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts in Munich, was to last until 1941, the business had already been crippled by the new auctioneer legislation. Under the management of the "Aryan" authorized signatory Adolf Alt (1866-1947), who had worked for Helbing since 1911, only a few more auctions could be held at Helbing between 1935 and 1937. In the summer of 1937, Arthur Kauffmann was also prohibited from holding auctions at the Frankfurt branch due to his Jewish ancestry. In 1938, he emigrated with his family to London and did not return after the war. Theodor Neustätter died in April 1936, Ernst Spiegel emigrated to the USA in December 1936.

Hugo Helbing was arrested during the "Reichspogromnacht" in 1938, brutally beaten and succumbed to his severe injuries on November 30, 1938 at the age of 75. Fritz Helbing was deported to Auschwitz in March 1943 and murdered there.

The whereabouts of the Helbing Gallery's business records, which were still in existence after the "liquidator" Max Heiß took over the business premises, are unknown to researchers; it is possible that they or parts of them burned in the Munich headquarters as a result of the air raid on November 27, 1944. This makes the information on auctioned objects and customers of Galerie Helbing contained in the hand copies and protocol catalogs all the more relevant.