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
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
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