As I prepare for a trip to Vienna for next week’s International Bar Association Annual Meeting, there is some topical restitution news, but it is hardly good. The imminent incarceration of Stephan Templ, a journalist and historian, for the omission of another relative from his mother’s application for Holocaust compensation, is as bizarre as it is disheartening. One hopes that a pardon, his last available recourse, will soon be forthcoming.
Topics: Maria Altmann, Reibpartie, Robert Amsterdam, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Der Standard, Stephan Templ, Nazi Looting, Scrubbing Parties, Ringstrasse, Ambassador Manz, Museum of Modern Art, Holocaust, Beethoven Frieze, Lothar Furth, Unser Wien: “Arisierung” auf österreichisch, Heinz Fischer, Restitution, Elisabeth Kretschmer, National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victi, Egon Schiele, World War II, Eva Blimlinger, Portrait of Wally, Austria, The Missing Image, Natural History Museum, Ruth Beckermann, Gustav Klimt, Albertinaplatz, Our Vienna: “Aryanization” Austrian Style, Kurt Hankiewicz, Vienna, Anschluss, Baldur von Schirach, Limbach Commission, International Bar Association, Tina Walzer
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
As expected, the Austria’s Advisory Committee (Der Beirat gemäß § 3 des Bundesgesetzes über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständen aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen und Sammlungen, BGBl. I Nr. 181/1998 i.d.F. BGBl. I Nr. 117/2009, (Kunstrückgabegesetz)) issued a decision on Friday with respect to the Lederer family’s claim to the famous Beethoven Frieze. In a lengthy opinion, the Committee recommended against restitution, prompting widespread speculation about what the claimants would do next. The mural is installed at Vienna's iconic Secession Museum (my photograph of the museum exterior, taken today, is below), and is one of the icons of fin-de-siècle Vienna.
Topics: Guelph Treasure, Kunstrückgabebeirat, Galerie St. Etienne, Strasbourg, European Court of Human Rights, Marc Weber, Beethoven Frieze, Beethovenfries, Restitution, Jane Kallir, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Der Beirat gemäß § 3 des Bundesgesetzes über die R, Lanter Rechtsanwälte, Secession Museum, Gustav Klimt, (Kunstrückgabegesetz), Vienna
Der Standard in Austria reported this week that a recommendation is expected on Friday in the claim by the heirs of Erich Lederer to the famous Klimt Beethoven Frieze in the Secession Museum in Vienna. The issue in this case is not a Nazi-era theft per se, but the effect of Austria’s post-war restitution law, which returned ownership to the Lederer family (it was looted from Erich Lederer under the Nazi) but forbade export, leading to a sale. The Lederer family has argued that that amounts to a second taking. As I made no secret last week with regard to Germany’s intended National Cultural Property Designation for the Welfenschatz that my clients have sued to recover, this kind of export prohibition is now recognized for what it is: an effort to hinder restitution. The same kind of claim was made against the Leopold Museum in Vienna for Portrait of Wally, namely, the allegation that the post-war sale was not valid under the circumstances because of the export prohibition. That case settled in 2010, the painting remains in Vienna.
Topics: BGBl. I Nr. 181/1998 i.d.F. BGBl. I Nr. 117/2009, Erich Lederer, London, sales under duress, Nazi-looted art, Beethoven Frieze, Jugendstil, Restitution, Austrian Cultural Ministry, World War II, Leopold Collection, Switzerland, Secession Building, Der Beirat gemäß § 3 des Bundesgesetzes über die R, Portrait of Wally, Austria, 14th Secession Exhibition, Wiener Secessionsgebäude, Zürich, Gustav Klimt, (Kunstrückgabegesetz), Vienna, Anschluss, Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Leopold Museum, Limbach Commission, New York, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
There was a curious non-development today in Austria concerning the dispute over Gustav Klimt’s famed “Beethoven Frieze” located in the Secession Building in Vienna. At issue is whether a post-war sale by Jewish survivors to Austria of a famous painting that the law of the time did not allow to be exported can be considered a sale under duress and justify restitution.
Topics: Erich Lederer, London, sales under duress, Nazi-looted art, Beethoven Frieze, Germany’s Limbach Commission, Jugendstil, Restitution, Austrian Cultural Ministry, World War II, Leopold Collection, Switzerland, Gesamtkunstwerk, Secession Building, Der Beirat gemäß § 3 des Bundesgesetzes über die R, Portrait of Wally, Austria, 14th Secession Exhibition, Museums, Wiener Secessionsgebäude, Zürich, Gustav Klimt, (Kunstrückgabegesetz), Vienna, Anschluss, Dr. Rudolf Leopold, New York, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Vienna’s Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) has restituted 177 botanical drawings and prints to the heirs of Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld. The restitution, while somewhat delayed following a 2011 recommendation by Austria’s Advisory Council under the country’s Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austrian National Museums (Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenstände aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen), highlights the increasing sophistication of that Advisory Council, particularly compared to recent steps backward by the Limbach Commission in Germany. Austria, once a lightening rod for criticism about confronting wartime and Nazi provenance issues, returned these drawings because of the clear problems with trying to portray any 1941 conveyance by a Viennese Jew as an arms’ length transaction—even without direct evidence of coercion. Just as importantly, it brushed away the defense that the drawings had been acquired in good faith as an excuse to continued possession, a dramatic change from the perspective usually taken by civil law countries.
Topics: Theresienstadt, Lvov, Nationalbibliothek, Galicia, Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austr, Germany, Nuremberg, Nazi Victims, Treblinka, Dr. Rudolf Engel, Naturhistorisches Museum, Henry David Thoreau, Hermann Goring, Hitler Youth, Mario Lanzer, Gauleiter, Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld, National Library, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständ, Restitution, Clara Levy, Hapsburg, Luxembourg, Vienna Natural History Museum, Ryk van der Schot, Empress Maria Theresia, World War II, The Three Graces, Franz Stefan von Lothringen, Lemberg, Ukraine, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquinn, Rosalia Kronfeld, Austro-Hungarian empire, Drei Grazien, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Israeli Cultural Society, Austria’s Advisory Council, Gustav Klimt, Schönbrunn, Vienna, Anschluss, Welfenschatz, Baldur von Schirach, Limbach Commission
One of the issues exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing Gurlitt collection stalemate is the question of Germany’s restitution procedures with respect to art. As the Bavarian legislative proposal to abolish the statute of limitations for claims against bad-faith acquirers is considered by the Bundestag, the “German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property” has issued a decision over what has become known as the “Guelph Treasure” (Welfenschatz) in the collection of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The March 20, 2014 opinion (available, so far as I know, only in German at this point at www.lostart.de) underscores the issues around claims of sales under duress, and the appropriate present-day procedural remedy. Readers should also brush up on their medieval German history to keep up.
Topics: Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, German Supreme Commercial Court, Holy Roman Empire, Guelph Treasure, Bundeshandelsgericht, German Supreme Constitutional Court, Z.M. Hackenbroch, Karl Blechen, Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Niedersachsen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Act of State, Kingdom of Hanover. Königreich Hannover, Dr Alexander Lewin, Prussia, Lower Saxony, Anselm Feuerbach, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Hessen, Fogg Art Museum, Congress of Vienna, Julius and Clara Freund, Kurhannover, Dresdner Bank, Hermann Goring, Austrian Supreme Court, Johann J. August von der Embde, House of Welf, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Wilhelm Leibl, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Harvard, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Gurlitt, Restitution, George I, J.S. Goldschmidt, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Queen Victoria, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Kurfürsten, Jutta Limbach, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Gustav Klimt, Bundesverfassungsgericht, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, I. Rosenbaum, Electors
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
A new piece at the Art Newspaper reflects on the importance of the Portrait of Wally case. Wally was seized in 1998 by customs officials on the theory that it was stolen property when imported into the U.S. The painting sat in a warehouse for 12 years, until a settlement returned the painting to Vienna in 2010 and a payment to Lea Bondi's heirs was made. I recall well the citywide celebrations in the Austrian capital when the painting returned; banners on lampposts proclaimed Bildnis Wally kehrt zurück—Portrait of Wally returns!
Topics: Maria Altmann, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam, The Art Newspaper, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, FSIA, Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Portrait of Wally, S.B. 2212, Immunity from Seizure Act, Customs, Gustav Klimt, Vienna