August 11, 2006

Returned Klimts may end up back in Austria

Posted at 5:28 pm in Similar cases

Klimt paintings that were looted by the Nazis & returned to the original owner’s heirs in the USA may be repurchased by Austria. This restitution cases was always one about writing a wronged act in the past & personal financial gain. The heirs never really wanted the paintings themselves. Cases like this are very different to that of the Elgin Marbles, where they would be returned to be seen in a situation closer to their original context, & are part of a country’s cultural identity. In many ways, the Klimts are more a part of Austria’s cultural identity than that of the heirs who have live on the opposite side of the world.

China Post (Taiwan)

Friday, August 18, 2006
Buyer could bring Klimt back to Austria

A prominent businessman said Wednesday he has found a buyer to purchase one of five Gustav Klimt paintings that were recently returned to a California woman whose family lost them to the Nazis and bring it back to Austria for public display.

Christoph Leitl, president of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, refused to identify the prospective buyer, who he said could afford the estimated euro19.5 million (US$25 million) price tag for “Haeuser in Unterach am Attersee” and has been interested “for a long time.”

The five Klimts were handed over by Austria in January to Maria Altmann of Los Angeles and other family members following a seven-year legal battle. An arbitration court had ruled that they were improperly seized when the Nazis took over the country during World War II.

Austria’s decision to give up the artworks, which had been displayed for decades in Vienna’s ornate Belvedere castle, represents the costliest concession since it began returning valuable art objects looted by the Nazis.

Culture Minister Elisabeth Gehrer said the government had desperately wanted to acquire the masterpieces, which are widely regarded as national treasures, but that they would have cost four times the annual budget for Austria’s national museums.

Four of the five Klimts are scheduled to be sold through Christie’s auction house in New York this fall.

The fifth _ a gold-encrusted portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Altmann’s aunt _ already has been purchased by New York’s Neue Galerie, a museum of German and Austrian art co-founded by cosmetics mogul Ronald Lauder. “To simply auction them off would _ in my view _ not be a positive signal for Austria,” said Leitl, who hopes at least one of the works soon will be back in Austria. If the purchase goes through, “Haeuser in Unterach am Attersee” would be displayed in the Lentos Museum in the northwestern Austrian city of Linz, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of Vienna, Leitl said.

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