Art Law Report

Deletion of Grünbaum Works from Lost Art Database Shows Again How German Government Has Lost Its Way on Nazi-Looted Art

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 27, 2018 at 1:03 PM

The New York Times reported yesterday that the German Lost Art Foundation had removed several paintings once owned by the Viennese cabaret actor Fritz Grünbaum from the Lost Art database.  While the history of these objects is hotly contested, it was a particularly strange choice given that Grünbaum’s heirs just won a judgment earlier this year that the works by Schiele must be returned to them—by reason of Nazi duress.  For a database that has never been suggested as an adjudication of rights but rather as a repository of notice to the world of possible title issues, it was a perplexing choice.  Against the backdrop of the party that the German government and the foundation are throwing themselves in November for which few outsiders have been able to register, the explanation appears much less benign particularly against the backdrop of the government’s historical revisionism in U.S. federal court litigation.

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Topics: German Lost Art Foundation, Fritz Grünbaum, New York Times, Nazi-looted art, NS Raubkunst, Egon Schiele, Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (Torso), Kieslinger, Mathilde Lukacs, A Tragic Fate, Cornelius Gurlitt, laches, Woman in a Black Pinafore, Woman Hiding her Face, res judicata, Charles E. Ramos, Die Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg, Bavaria, Germany, Task Force, Guelph Treasure, Holocaust, National Gallery

Something’s Rotten in Düsseldorf—Max Stern Exhibition Cancelled in Response to Restitution Claim

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 28, 2017 at 10:33 AM

As Germany puts on the much-anticipated exhibition in Bonn of Cornelius Gurlitt’s disputed collection, a strange story has developed not too far away in Düsseldorf.  The Stadtmuseum, which is administered by the city itself, had organized—but now cancelled—“Max Stern: from Düsseldorf to Montreal.”   The exhibition was scheduled to open in February in Düsseldorf, before traveling to the Haifa art museum in September of 2018 and to the McCord Museum in Montreal in 2019.  The city’s acknowledgement that the decision was based on a claim for restitution from the Max Stern Estate is a disturbing development that provides no sound reason to cancel a show about an important dealer who, it is undisputed, was a seminal figure of Nazi persecution. 

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Topics: Düsseldorf, Max Stern, Cornelius Gurlitt, Max Stern from Düsseldorf to Montreal, McCord Museum, Haifa, A Tragic Fate, Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, Nuremberg laws, Germany, Cologne, Köln, Dr. and Mrs. Max Stern Foundation, Max Stern Restitution Project, Francis Xavier Winterhalter, Girl from the Sabine Mountains, Mädchen aus den Sabiner Bergen, The Artist’s Children, Wilhelm von Schadow, The Art Newspaper, Düsseldorf Kunstpalast, Andreas Achenbach, Sicilian Landscape, Norwegian Landscape, Galerie Max Stern, The New York Times, Nazi-looted art, Mayor Thomas Geisel

Germany Identifies Painting from Gurlitt Collection as Nazi-Looted, Progress and Credibility Still Uncertain

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 25, 2017 at 3:28 PM

Only Sixth Work Revealed As Looted Since 2013

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, NS Raubkunst, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, German Center for Cultural Property Losses, Portrait of a Seated Young Woman, Porträt einer sitzenden jungen Frau, Thomas Couture, Georges Mandel, Munich, Salzburg, Gurlitt Task Force, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kulturgutschutzgesetz, Monika Grütters, Rose Valland

Pissarro from Cornelius Gurlitt’s Salzburg Home Returned to Heirs

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 24, 2017 at 11:29 AM

News Accompanied by Deafening Silence About Ongoing Restitution Policy Failures

The German government announced recently that it had returned an additional work of art found in the Salzburg home of Cornelius Gurlitt in connection with the 2013 revelation of Gurlitt’s trove of art originally in the possession of his late father Hildebrand.  La Seine, vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre by Camille Pissarro (1902) has been returned to the heirs of Max Heilbronn, from whom it was taken in 1942 in France.  The accompanying announcement was of a piece with the ongoing fiasco of the Gurlitt affair: a press release touting the personal involvement of Germany’s Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, a self-serving but vague statement about commitments to restitution, and absolutely no explanation or update about what is happening to the hundreds of additional paintings and objects under investigation.  The press release was also sure to mention an upcoming exhibition of Gurlitt collection works later this year.  In sum, the announcement confirms precisely the opposite of its intended effect.

 

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Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Hildebrand Gurlit, Gurlitt, Washington Conference Principles, Monika Grütters, Minister of Culture, Germany, Welfenschatz, Guelph Treasure, NS Raubkunst, Nazi-looted art, Kunstmuseum Bern, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Gurlitt Taskforce

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death

After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection.  Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum.  Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland.  While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.

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Topics: Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Cornelius Gurlitt, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Kunstmuseum Bern, Nazi-looted art, Washington Principles, Nazi-looted art in Munich, Munich, Uta Werner, Oberlandesgericht, SZ, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Jörg Häntzschel, Catrin Lorch, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), Free State of Bavaria, Bayern

Heirs of Nazi-Persecuted Art Dealer Alfred Flechtheim Sue Bavarian Museums

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 6, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Paintings by Beckmann, Gris and Klee Valued at Nearly $20 Million That Once Belonged to Flechtheim Are at Issue in New York Lawsuit

Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed suit against Bavaria and its state museums in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on behalf of our clients Dr. Michael Hulton and Mrs. Penny Hulton, heirs to the renowned and persecuted Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim.  The Hultons have asked the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to restitute several paintings by Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, and Juan Gris that are now in the possession of the German federal state of Bavaria, Adolf Hitler’s and the Nazi party’s homeland, and its Bavarian State Paintings Collections (known in German as the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, or BSGS).  We are aided in this case by our co-counsel Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, Esq.

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Topics: Restitution, Alfred Flechteim, Dr. Michael Hulton, World War II, NS Raubkunst, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt, Bavaria, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Max Beckmann, Juan Gris, Paul Klee, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monuments Men, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Markus Stoetzel, Mel Urbach, FSIA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, George Grosz, Deutschlandradio. Deutsche Presse Agentur, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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

Gurlitt Collection May be Displayed Next Year, Real Progress Still Elusive as Focus Remains on Public Relations

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 13, 2015 at 7:43 AM

After months of relative inactivity, there was news this week in the saga of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive German man from whose apartments in Munich and Salzburg more than 1,280 objects were seized as part of a tax investigation, objects that came under suspicion of Nazi looting because of the privileged position held by his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Unfortunately, the latest news continues a string of public relations efforts that bespeak no real progress as we approach the second anniversary of the public awareness of the story. Quite unlike the plaudits that were thrown around by many last year (though not by us) concerning Germany’s agreement with Gurlitt’s named heir, the reaction has been appropriately skeptical this time.

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Topics: cultural property, Sepp Dürr, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Art Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bonn Minister of Culture, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Munich, World Jewish Congress, Salzburg, Restitution, Müncher Kunstfund, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Monika Grütters, Raubkunst, Green Party, Kunsthalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Ronald Lauder

What to Make of Nazi “Gold Train” Supposedly Buried in Poland

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 1, 2015 at 1:45 PM

I mostly ignored the initial twitterings about a supposedly secret train laden with gold and other Nazi-looted treasures that was buried somewhere near Wrocław, formerly Breslau, in Poland. My reasons were straightforward: just like supposed sightings of the Gardner Museum heist art, or the Amber Room, the story had all the hallmarks of a fable being peddled by someone who, perhaps not coincidentally, was suggesting that they be paid something for their trouble. Whether this is the next Gurlitt saga or just Al Capone’s vault, it’s too early to tell.

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Topics: the Holy Roman Empire, Al Capone’s vault, Soviet, Gauleiter Karl Hanke, Königsberg, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Prussia, Max Liebermann, East Prussia, Red Army, Nazi Gold Train, Amber Room, Bernsteinzimmer, the Hanseatic League, Walbrzych, Restitution, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski, World War II, Markus Stötzel, Poland, the Duchy of Silesia, Bohemia, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, the Kingdom of Poland, Gardner Museum heist, the German Empire

“Between Fairness and Justice for Successors and Possessors”—an Upcoming Conference at the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 24, 2015 at 5:37 AM

I won’t be in the neighborhood, but the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur (Switzerland) is putting on a conference for the second year in a row on August 31. 2015 wrestling with the issue of “flight goods” in particular. “Flight goods” refers to property that was not stolen outright, nor sold under duress, but left behind because of a flight in haste from persecution. Awareness has increased in recent years about this as a category of looted property to be addressed. As with other categories, issues of law, morality, and the rights of subsequent good faith owners/possessors make for interesting discussions. Notable presenters include Matthias Frehner, whose Kunstmuseum Bern is grappling with the Gurlitt bequest, and Anja Heuss, whose Staatsgalerie Stuttgart recently restituted a work to the heirs of I. Rosenbaum. All the speakers and topics look excellent.

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Topics: Berlin, Dr. Peter Raue, Walter Feilchenfeldt, Esther Tisa Francini, Museum Rietberg, Olaf Ossmann, Cornelius Gurlitt, Marc Fehlmann, Art Dealers Association of Switzerland, Between Fairness and Justice for Successors and Po, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Anja Heuss, Kulturstiftung der Länder, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Claudius Ochsner, Matthias Frehner, Alexander Jolles, Winterthur, Dr. Stephanie Tasch, Kunsthandelsverband der Schweiz, Karin Salm, Universität Salzburg, Thomas Buomberger, Restitution, Events, Johannes Nathan, Looted Art, World War II, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Switzerland, Kunstmuseum Bern, Andrea Baresel-Brand, flight goods, Zürich, Prof. Dr. Georg Graf, Radio SRF 2, I. Rosenbaum, Sibylle Ehringhaus

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