The release last week of The Woman in Gold, the feature film adaptation of The Lady in Gold by Anne Marie O’Connor, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds as Maria Altmann and her attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, respectively, as well as Tatiana Maslany as the younger Altmann and Daniel Brühl as Austrian journalist Hubertus Czernin, is an important opportunity to reflect on the legal importance of the case. Even today, the case provides lessons about the way some victims are still treated, and how one individual can make sure the past is never forgotten. The looting of Jewish art collections was a concerted effort whose prominence should never be forgotten. And perhaps even more, it robs those who did survive of the dignity of remembering their family experiences. Consider: the next time you gather with your extended family, look around the room. Pick something that you’re accustomed to seeing when the family meets. Now, imagine it had been stolen or surrendered under duress, and was hanging on the wall of a national collection that denied it had been taken. How would you feel? This is the dilemma faced by many claimants, and it is precisely why Altmann matters so much.
Topics: Maria Altmann, The Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, Guelph Treasure, The Woman in Gold, Daniel Brühl, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Academy of Fine Arts, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Hitler, Tatiana Maslany, Anne Marie O’Connor, Supreme Court, A Few Good Men, Belvedere, E. Randol Schoenberg, World Jewish Congress, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Ryan Reynolds, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Neue Galerie, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Switzerland, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Helen Mirren, Museums, Fritz Altmann, Gustav Klimt, Vienna, Welfenschatz, Hubertus Czernin, Ronald Lauder, Austrian National Gallery
A recent loan to the National Gallery in London has grabbed headlines discussing the history of the painting, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, by Gustav Klimt, surrounding World War II and the persecution of Jews in Austria. Somewhat puzzlingly, the coverage has downplayed the fact that that very painting was already the subjective of an exhaustive proceeding in Austria that denied restitution, a decision reviewed and affirmed by the Austrian Supreme Court (though, apparently, also the subject of more recent requests for reconsideration). Should a claim for restitution or seizure be filed while the painting is outside Austria, in the UK or the US, it could have a troubling effect on respect for final judgments, as well as unintended consequences for restitution claimants who may find their judgments collaterally attacked elsewhere. As difficult as it may seem, the painting cannot be disturbed without putting a great deal more at risk.
Topics: Maria Altmann, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Jonathan Jones, National Gallery London, the Guardian, Vita Künstler, Dr. Erich Führer, Beethoven Frieze, Belvedere, the United Nations Convention on the Recognition a, Jugendstil, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Hermine Müller-Hofmann, Amalie Zuckerkandl, Restitution, Neue Galerie, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna in 1900, Kokoschka, Secession, Secession Museum, Austria, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Fin de siècle, Gustav Klimt, Vienna, Anschluss, UNCITRAL