Word came this week of two resolutions of claims to Nazi-looted art in museums in New York and Cologne, and a new Nazi-looted claim against Germany filed in Washington. Barely a month after the Neue Galerie (of Austrian and German art) in New York announced that it had discovered a “major work” in its collection had a clouded history, the museum announced an agreement concerning the Karl Schmitt-Rotloff painting Nude (1914). It is not known if the Schmitt-Rotloff is the same work to which the museum referred last month. Around the same time, the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Germany, announced that it had agreed to return a drawing by Adolf Menzel that had been sold to Hildebrand Gurlitt as its owners fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the rooves of Schandau) (1886) will be retuned to the heirs of Hamburg attorney Albert Martin Wolffson and his daughter Elsa Helene Cohen. These settlements are examples of constructive dialogue and enlightened treatment of the historical fact. The new litigation likely means the opposite approach from the German defendants.
Topics: Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Gurlitt Task Force, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), Germany, David Toren, Breslau, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Neue Galerie, New York, Alfred and Tekla Hess, Karl Schmitt-Rotloff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Streen Scene in Berlin, Strassenzene, Adolf Menzel
After the restitution of the first two works of Nazi-looted art from the trove of works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, David Toren has announced his intention to auction his work, Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermann. Toren, now more than 90 years old, remembers the theft of the painting from his uncle David Friedmann in Breslau (now Wrocław). Toren is the only claimant to date to have filed litigation over the Gurlitt case. Sotheby’s will auction the work on June 24. Toren explained his motivation for the sale as follows:
Topics: Petra Willner, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Zwei Reiter am Strand, Uta Werner, Max Liebermann, Gurlitt Collection, Two Riders on the Beach, Verena Osgyan, Oberlandesgericht, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, Mittelbayerische Zeitung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Berner Zeitung, David Friedmann
After months of start/stop and hurry up and wait, the Munich court with jurisdiction over the Gurlitt collection has cleared two paintings for restitution to the heirs of their original owners. David Toren and the Rosenberg family will receive Two Riders on the Beach (Ritter am Strand) by Max Liebermann and Seated Woman by Henri Matisse, respectively. This will also result in the resolution of the only lawsuit to date filed over the Gurlitt case (pending in Washington, DC). Toren and the Rosenbergs are to be congratulated for their perseverance, as should their representatives (again, respectively) August Matteis and Christopher Marinello—particularly after some eleventh-hour victim-blaming.
Topics: Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Two Riders on the Beach, August Mattheis and Christopher Marinello, Munich, Rosenbergs, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, W Wall Street Journal, Ritter am Strand
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.
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
Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) reported yesterday that the challenge by Uta Werner to her cousin Cornelius Gurlitt’s will may extend late into this year. Werner has petitioned the court in Munich to set aside the last will and testament that named the Kunstmuseum in Bern as Gurlitt’s sole heir and beneficiary of the 1,280 works of art found in his apartment in 2012, as well as those in Salzburg. In November, the Kunstmuseum, the Bavarian government, and the German government announced to great fanfare but little analysis that the museum would accept the bequest and work with the Gurlitt Task Force to sort through objects with questionable provenance related to Hildebrand Gurlitt’s role as an approved dealer of “degenerate art” under the Nazis, and the concern that some of the objects may be Nazi-looted art.
Topics: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, Stefan Koldehoff, Die Bilder Sind Unter Uns Das Geschäft mit der NS-, Zwei Reiter am Strand, Max Liebermann, Germany, Fall Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, SRF, Hildebrand Gurltt, will contest, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, Task Force, Die Zeit, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, Kunstmuseum Bern, Martha Hinrichsen, Raubkunst, The Pictures Are Under Us Business in Nazi-Looted, last will and testament
Two weeks ago, the Federal Republic of Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the restitution claims brought by David Toren over ownership of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand) by the German painter Max Liebermann. Toren’s uncle David Friedmann owned the painting in Breslau before he was targeted for his collection and it was stolen. Toren had not seen it since adolescence. The painting is further notable for two (related) reasons: it is among the 1,280 works of art found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012, and it is one of only two that the Gurlitt Task Force has recommended be restituted (to Toren). As we noted at the time of the motion, Germany’s tactics seemed odd; Bavaria has committed to complying with the Task Force’s recommendations, and contesting this case seems to make little sense. The likeliest reason, in our view, is to try to make some jurisdictional law that will weaken other potential claimants to the Gurlitt trove.
Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Strand, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund
To date, only one lawsuit has been filed in the United States related to the seizure from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment of some 1,280 works of art, a story that broke a year ago with the concern about the objects’ Nazi-looting connections via his father Hildebrand Gurlitt (the view here last winter was that the longer Germany failed to address the situation comprehensively, the more likely such U.S. litigation became). That lawsuit, brought by David Toren, seeks the return of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand), by Max Liebermann. Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the case yesterday, which is particularly puzzling given that among the very few determinations made by the Gurlitt Task Force (in August), it is that the Liebermann should be returned. The cynical view is that they are looking to forestall future claims, but it is past time for the painting to be returned.
Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund
Eileen Kinsella at ArtNet news reported today that the Gurlitt Taskforce has recommended the restitution of the Max Liebermann painting Riders on the Beach (Reiter am Strand) to David Toren, a New York man who left Germany at age 14 in 1939. His great uncle David Friedmann lived in Breslau, the capital of Silesia (now part of Poland, known as Wrocław). The Nazis catalogued and seized Friedmann’s art collection in 1939-40, and the Liebermann painting appears on those records. It was later found among those 1,280 objects seized from Gurlitt a little over two years ago when he aroused suspicion returning from Switzerland with a large amount of cash.
Topics: Breslau, Eileen Kinsella, Wrocław, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Silesia, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Reiter am Strand, August Matteis, Restitution, David Toren, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), World War II, Switzerland, degenerate art, Poland, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Berner Zeitung, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, ArtNet news
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed claims for ownership of Madame Soler by Pablo Picasso, currently at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Just as the relevance of Judge Jed Rakoff’s comments over another art restitution case brought by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy unexpectedly came to the fore recently, Judge Rakoff’s decision is now the most recent in a line of frustrations for the heirs of Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a victim of Nazi persecution in Berlin in the 1930s. The ramifications of this case may be fairly narrow, however, as the case was premised on allegations of specific transactions in New York rather than general allegations about the conduct of Germany. The claimants could appeal, or perhaps turn to the Limbach Commission if they could be heard (the Pinakothek is a subdivision of Germany for jurisdictional analysis, but it’s unclear at first blush if the Commission would view this claim as within its province).
Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Berlin, commercial activity exception, Cornelius Gurlitt, Florence Kesselstatt, Judge Jed Rakoff, Halldor Soehner, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Julius Schoeps, Upper East Side, Prussia, Max Liebermann, Night Café, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, France, State Paintings Collection, Madame Soler, Museum of Modern Art, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Van Gogh, Munich, Justin K. Thannhauser, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Nazi persecution, Boy Leading a Horse, Restitution, David Toren, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Free State of Bavaria, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kult, Bundesländer, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Le Moulin de la Galette, Kurt Martin, München, Pablo Picasso, Federal Republic of Germany, Limbach Commission, Wissenschaft und Kunst
The Augsburg prosecutor for the State of Bavaria announced today that in connection with Monday’s agreement with Cornelius Gurlitt, the 1,280 works of art seized from Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012 have been “returned” to Gurlitt. Though it does not appear that the objects have physically changed locations, the state officially lifted the seizure, and now has access to the collection for further provenance research pursuant to the agreement, rather than the compulsory process by which it retrieved them.
Topics: German Ministry of Culture, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Bundesministerium für Kultur und Medien, Breslau, Augsburg, Willi Korte, London, Max Liebermann, Claude Monet, Christoph Edel, Gurlitt Collection, Ingrid Begreen-Merkel, Alt Ausee, Hildebrandt Gurlitt, stolen art, State of Bavaria, Reiter am Strand, Salzburg, Restitution, David Toren, Müncher Kunstfund, World War II, Task Force, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Freistaat Bayern, NS-beschlagnahmte Kunst, www.lostart.de, Monika Grütters, Riders on the Beach, Raubkunst, Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz, Bavarian Ministry of Justice, Henri Matisse, Paul Rosenberg