Swedish police said they would not pursue the matter as a criminal investigation after local media reported public complaints that the artwork violated the nation's "peace of the dead" statute. Authorities said since the alleged theft of the ashes took place outside the country it wasn't in their jurisdiction, the news website TheLocal.se reported Monday.
Artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff said he took ashes from the crematorium at Majdanek concentration camp in 1989 and saved them until now. He said he mixed the ashes with water to create the painting "Memory Works."
The man's work drew stinging criticism from several outlets.
"Mr. von Hausswolff, you, like the Nazis' use of human skin for lampshades and fat to produce soap have similarly twice murdered the bodies that were once the ashes you have desecrated, turning art into abomination," said Shimon Samuels, director of the U.S. Simon Wisenthal Center. "Hitler, as an aspirant painter, would have surely applauded."
The painting has been on display since Nov. 10 at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund. Bryder said the controversy was enough to make him close the exhibit ahead of its scheduled Dec. 15 closing.
"Christmas should be a time of peace and harmony," Bryder said. "So I'm closing the exhibit now."