In his best seller “The Hare With Amber Eyes,” the writer and ceramicist Edmund de Waal traces the journey of his Jewish family and their art collection from the late 19th century to the 21st. The book combines history and memoir with a kind of object-oriented ontology, drawing parallels between the diaspora of Jews after World War II and the Ephrussi family’s dispersed possessions (many of them looted by the Nazis). It begins when the author inherits a collection of Japanese netsuke, palm-size carved sculptures dating from the Edo period that had been with his Ephrussi relatives for generations.
Also placed throughout the galleries are images taken this year by the Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, showing the interiors of the former family residences in Paris, which now houses law and medical insurance offices, and Vienna, recently the headquarters of Casinos Austria and now partially unoccupied with a Starbucks on the ground floor. In an image from Paris, ornate cornices are barely visible above rows of filing cabinets and stacks of paper; in Vienna, gilded, chandelier-lit rooms have empty bookshelves and bare curtain rods. With their attention to the banality of the present, these photographs keep the show from becoming the kind of story de Waal is anxious to avoid, “some elegiac Mitteleuropa narrative of loss,” as he writes.