Art Law Report

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Fifth Recommendation for Restitution

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2015 at 4:51 AM

Sophisticated Analysis of Adolph von Menzel Drawing Distinguishes Itself from Recent Revisionism Elsewhere

As the original term of the Gurlitt Task Force (Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund) winds down, the panel has issued a report on a work that it deems appropriate for restitution: Interior of a Gothic Church (Inneres einer gottischen Kirche) by Adolph von Menzel (pencil drawing, signed/dated 1874). The drawing has been called Church in Hofgastein in some English language articles.

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Topics: Interior of a Gothic Church, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi Germany, Inneres einer gottischen Kirche, Dresden, Gurlitt Task Force, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Ernst Julius Wolffson, Washington Principles on Nazi-Looted Art, Advisory Commission, Munich, Albert Martin Wolffson, Salzburg, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, World War II, Switzerland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Elsa Helene Cohen, Limbach Commission, Jörg Häntzschel

Bruegel Painting In Vienna Spurs Argument Over Allegations of Nazi Looting in Poland

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 28, 2015 at 10:03 AM

Most often in restitution battles the disagreement boils down to whether a painting was looted, and/or whether it changed hands under circumstances that failed to pass clear title to the predecessor of its current possessor. Then, controversy frequently ensues about the extent to which the possessor resists restitution on grounds other than the title of the painting (jurisdiction, statute of limitations, etc.). Rarer is the type of dispute where the parties don’t even agree about what they’re disagreeing about, like the one brewing between Austria and Poland over a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder that hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559).

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Topics: Musée des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Krakow, Nazi-looted art, Diana Blonska, Gauleiter, Otto Gustav von Wächter, Feliks Kopera, Charlotte Wächter (née Bleckmann), Restitution, Kampf gegen Fasching und Fasten, Frau Wächter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Poland, Austria, Museums, Vienna, The Battle Between Carnival and Lent

Stephan Templ, Chronicler of Nazi Looting in Vienna, Set to Begin Jail Term Over Supposed Omission in His Mother’s Holocaust Restitution Claim

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 29, 2015 at 10:03 AM

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.

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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

Backwards, Not Forwards: German Cultural Ministry Submits Revised Cultural Heritage Protection Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 21, 2015 at 6:50 AM

After two months of scathing criticism, the German Ministry of Culture has submitted a watered-down, but still problematic, revision to its Cultural Heritage Protection Law. Back in July, Minister of Culture Monika Grütters announced the initial proposal to amend Germany’s law, or Kulturgutschutzgesetz. The revision, however, is optical at best, and seems targeted only to soften criticism while still taking a regressive view of cultural property that is more at home in the 18th century than the 21st. It will probably pass, to the detriment of forward thinking art market players who will move their trade elsewhere.

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Topics: cultural property, Guelph Treasure, Georg Baselitz, German Cultural Ministry, U.S., Restitution, UNESCO, Switzerland, Austria, Kulturgutschutzgesetz, Gerhard Richter, Museums, Andy Warhol, Monika Grütters, Cultural Heritage Protection, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation, NAGPRA

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld, Little Else Resolved

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 30, 2015 at 10:05 AM

A Munich court ruled last week that the will written by Cornelius Gurlitt in the last days of his life that named the Kunstmuseum Bern (an institution with which he had no relationship whatsoever) was valid, rejecting a challenge by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner. It is emblematic of the strange case of Gurlitt and of German’s bizarre handling of the affair, that this decision resolves very few of the pending issues.

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Topics: Conny Leaks, Focus, Carl Spitzweg, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Potemkin Village, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, German Minister of Culture, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Two Riders on the Beach, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Seuddeutsche Zeitung, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, David Toren, World War II, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Martha Hinrichsen, David Friedmann, Henri Matisse, Jörg Häntzschel, Paul Rosenberg

Development May be Coming Soon In Klimt Beethoven Frieze Case

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 4, 2015 at 8:27 AM

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.

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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

Parthenon Sculpture Loan to Russia: Legal and Diplomatic Fallout Could be Far-Reaching

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 9, 2014 at 6:55 AM

The British Museum has announced that it has loaned to Russia one of the sculptures from the Parthenon that widely known as the “Elgin Marbles” after Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin who oversaw their removal from then-Ottoman occupied Greece in 1811-12. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is the recipient of the loan, specifically, the sculpture of the river god Ilissos from the west pediment of the Parthenon.

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Topics: cultural property, Pandora’s box, the 7th Earl of Elgin, Temple of Zeus at Olympia, George Clooney, Russia, Thomas Bruce, Amal Alamuddin-Clooney, Elgin Marbles, river god Ilissos, Museum of Modern Art, Greece, The British Museum, Restitution, Pausanias, Parthenon Sculpture, Portrait of Wally, Austria, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Ottoman Empire, Museums, Attica, New York

Austria Restitution Advisory Commission Defers Klimt Beethoven Frieze Decision, No Reasons Given

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM

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.

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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

Conflicting Reports About Possible Acceptance of Gurlitt Bequest by Kunstmuseum Bern

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 13, 2014 at 7:02 AM

There have been multiple and conflict reports in the last 48 hours about whether the Kunstmuseum Bern had reached a decision to accept the inheritance from and appointment as heir by Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitt, who died in early May shortly after reaching an agreement with the Bavarian prosecutor concerning the 1,280 works of art seized from his apartment on suspicion of Nazi-looting connections, unexpectedly named the Swiss museum as the sole beneficiary of his will, and as his heir and representative. Just last week, the news was that the Kunstmuseum had resolved to decide by late November, no later than six months after being advised of Gurlitt’s bequest.

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Topics: Reuters, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Tages Anzeiger, Munich, Christoph Schäublin, Restitution, Bavaria, Ruth Gilgen Hamisultane, World War II, Swiss, Austria, Sonntagszeitung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Berner Zeitung, Zürich, Nazi Raubkunst, Münchner Kunstfund

Glass Half Full or Half Empty? Detailed Report Published on Worldwide Efforts to Restitute Nazi-Looted Art Since the 1998 Washington Conference

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 11, 2014 at 6:35 AM

After the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets and the eponymous Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Stolen Art that came out of it, it is hardly surprising that a recurring theme has been to assess the progress of those nations that participated and signed on. Equally unsurprisingly, those assessments are usually more anecdotal than empirical, and usually arise out of a particular case or cases in the context of that country’s response.

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Topics: Graham Bowley, Macedonia, Netherlands, Terezin Declaration, Mussolini, Latvia, Dr. Wesley A. Fisher, Hungary, ICOM, Bulgaria, Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spol, Germany, Bavarian Minister of Culture, Nazi-looted art, Die Welt, Belarus, Lex Gurlitt, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, France, Dr. Ruth Weinberger, Romania, Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, Winfried Bausbeck, Belgium, Slovakia, Vichy, World Jewish Restitution Organization, Bundesrat, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Stolen Ar, Gurlitt, WJRO, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, International Council of Museums, Norway, United States, Luxembourg, Looted Art, World War II, St. Petersburg, Poland, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Ukraine, Austria, Serbia, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germa, Italy, Bosnia, New York Times, Monika Grütters, Slovenia, Estonia, Museum and Politics Conference, National Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, entzogogene Kunst, Czech Republic

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