Showing results 1 - 12 of 49 for the tag: Nazi loot.

January 28, 2016

Is not knowing an artefact was Nazi loot an excuse to retain it?

Posted at 2:47 pm in Similar cases

The Musée des beaux-arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland has been in the news recently, for their refusal to return a Constable painting looted by the Nazis to the heirs of the rightful owner.

The excuse given by the museum is that they did not know that they purchased the item in good faith. Further to this, they also argue that as a neutral power in the Second World War, their history is unencumbered by the holocaust.

Neither of these reasons holds much credibility for me though. If the legitimacy of a purchase is merely down to good faith, then surely this leads us down a route where nobody asks awkward questions when making a purchase. Even if the due diligence process was thorough, this should not be an acceptable excuse. although perhaps there is an argument that some compromise could be made – either between the museum and the rightful owners, or potentially the governments of countries that expect their institutions to be able to do the right thing. There is no precedent for the second argument – that Switzerland had no involvement in the situation that led to the looting. Britain was actively fighting against the Nazis during the Second World War, arguably giving it a stronger claim to this than Switzerland, but various institutions have already made restitutions in similar cases and the right to do this is enshrined in law by the Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Act.

Despite all the above though, what this article skips over, is that the Holocaust is not a special case in this regard. Museums should make far wider examinations of provenance and their justifications for ownership. The Benin Bronzes and the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum are just some of the many other cases currently outside of the legal frameworks that allow for the return of Nazi loot, meaning that the institutions that hold them feel little need to argue a case, as they know that there is no legal way for the items to be deaccessioned from their collections at present.

John Constable’s Dedham From Langham, 1813

John Constable’s Dedham From Langham, 1813

From:
Guardian

Why a Swiss gallery should return its looted Nazi art out of simple decency
Jonathan Jones
Wednesday 27 January 2016

Memory has many colours. A work of art that survives the centuries is an embodiment of history, marked invisibly by all the hands that have held it. Who owned it? Where did it hang? These are not just arcane questions for scholars but the network of human experience that haunts works of art in museums and makes them richly alive.

The hunt for works of art looted by the Nazis matters. Researchers who discover the true owners of a painting stolen in wartime Europe and later acquired innocently or knowingly by a museum or gallery are piecing together shadowy stories of oppression, injustice, murder and destruction. Why did the Nazis loot art from Jewish owners? It was not only greedbut an ideological belief that Jews contributed nothing to European civilisation and did not deserve to share in it.
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February 24, 2015

Germany sued in US courts over Nazi looted Guelph treasure

Posted at 2:02 pm in Similar cases

Once again, the courts of the District of Columbia seems to be one of the destinations of choice for litigation involving Nazi loot.

In this instance, the items in question are the Guelph Treasures, which two claimants were sold under duress by their ancestors in 1935 to the state of Prussia, then overseen by high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring. The treasures are currently displayed in Berlin’s Bode Museum.

Part of the Guelph treasure currently on display in Berlin

Part of the Guelph treasure currently on display in Berlin

From:
Wall Street Journal

Germany Is Sued in U.S. Court Over Medieval Treasure Acquired by Nazis
By Mary M. Lane
Updated Feb. 24, 2015 12:13 a.m. ET

BERLIN—A year after Germany pledged to bolster its efforts to return art stolen by the Nazis, Jewish claimants to medieval relics valued at millions of dollars say the government isn’t living up to its promise.

Two claimants to a collection of medieval Christian treasure filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday against the German government and the government-controlled museum that owns the artifacts. They allege their ancestors sold the collection, known as the Guelph treasure, under duress in 1935 to the state of Prussia, then overseen by high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring.
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January 22, 2015

SCOTUS rules against Norton Simon Museum looted art apeal

Posted at 9:35 pm in Similar cases

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Norton Simon Museum, which aimed to prevent a court case brought by the heir of Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker.

The appeal claimed that the claims made by the heir (Marei von Saher) conflicted with the US policy of resolving war-related art disputes and therefore with its right to conduct foreign affairs. The rejection of their appeal clears the way for von Saher to bring litigation against the institution, in an attempt to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war.

You can read some more information about the background to the case here.

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

From:
Art Newspaper

By Laura Gilbert. Web only
Published online: 20 January 2015
Supreme Court rejects Norton Simon’s appeal in looted art case

The US Supreme Court today, 20 January, declined to hear the Pasadena-based Norton Simon Museum’s appeal in a case contesting its ownership of a life-size pair of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Adam and Eve, around 1530, belonged to the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who fled the Netherlands in 1940 after the Nazi invasion.

The Supreme Court’s rejection allows Goudstikker’s heir, Marei von Saher, who has been battling for the paintings in federal court since 2007, to continue her lawsuit. It also leaves standing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that pursuing her claims does not interfere with the US government’s conduct of foreign affairs.
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December 3, 2014

Gurlitt bequest to open way for return of Nazi loot

Posted at 9:36 am in Similar cases

A bequest to a small Swiss Museum by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers could open the way to restitution for more than 1000 items.

Franz Marc's 'Pferde in Landschaft' forms part of the Gurlitt bequest

Franz Marc’s ‘Pferde in Landschaft’ forms part of the Gurlitt bequest

From:
Wall Street Journal

Swiss Museum Close to Accepting Nazi-Era Art Bequest
Kunstmuseum Bern to Make Final Decision on Gurlitt Bequest in Days; Looted Pieces to Be Returned
Mary M. Lane
Nov. 19, 2014 7:34 p.m. ET

BERN, Switzerland—A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.

Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.
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April 7, 2014

Stealing culture was around well before the Monuments Men

Posted at 12:52 pm in Similar cases

The film Monuments Men has drawn attention to one small episode in the dishonourable history of looting artefacts. the reality is of course, that it is something that has gone on for thousands of years & still continues today, albeit more covertly than at some points in the past.

Its great that a film highlights a topic like this, but we shouldn’t see it as an isolated incident – a one off aberration that relates to a different time & place.

Scene from the film Monuments Men

Scene from the film Monuments Men

From:
Statesman (Texas)

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, April 5, 2014
‘Monuments Men’ highlights WWII looting, but stealing culture has been around for ages
By Melissa K. Byrnes

Special to the American-Statesman

George Clooney’s latest movie, “The Monuments Men,” takes viewers on a beautifully filmed journey through Europe in the last years of the Second World War. The plot follows a group of western Allied soldiers charged with saving the masterworks of European civilization from the retreating Nazis — and the advancing Soviets. Where, though, did this fascination with cultural heritage begin?

Cultural artifacts have long been seized as prizes for military victory. This tradition can be traced back to the myth of the Golden Fleece, stolen by Jason and his Argonauts. The celebratory stone tablet of Naram-Sim was seized by the Elamites around 1250 B.C., later claimed by 19th-century French excavators and now sits in the Louvre. Homer recounts the Greek sacking of Troy, while the Bible tells of Nebuchadnezzar raiding the Temple of Solomon.
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October 30, 2013

Netherlands Museums Association sees return of Nazi loot as “moral obligation”

Posted at 3:34 pm in Similar cases

Nazi loot in museums has been a hot topic in recent years for many countries. While some countries are still dragging their heels in terms of any attempts at restitution, it appears that the Netherlands has taken a far more proactive approach & is examining museum collections across the board to identify artworks, along with possible rightful owners.

1921 painting 'Odalisque' by Henri Matisse

1921 painting ‘Odalisque’ by Henri Matisse

From:
Haaretz

Dutch museums identify 139 likely Nazi looted artworks
Paintings by Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky are among works thought to have been taken from Jewish owners during Holocaust.
By The Associated Press | Oct. 29, 2013 | 6:40 PM

Dutch museums announced Tuesday they have found 139 artworks that may have been looted during the Nazi era, including paintings from masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The major review of all museum collections in the country found art that had either dubious or definitely suspect origins.
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October 22, 2013

Feldmann case redux? New settlement reached between nazi loot heirs & British Museum

Posted at 6:02 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Back in the relatively early days of this blog, there was a lot of press coverage about the case of the painting belonging to Arthur Feldmann. Dr Feldmann was a Czech Jew whose paintings were seized by the Nazis. Eventually, some of his paintings ended up in the British Museum. The British Museum claimed that they wanted to return them, but couldn’t.

As a result of this, they brought a legal case, seeing if it was possible to over-ride the British Museum act. A lot of papers made out that the story that the case was about the Elgin Marbles, although this was more media spin than anything else. If you are not familiar with the case, I wrote a fairly lengthy analysis of it here. Some of the legal details from the case, which were not published until later are here.

Following the trustees of the British Museum losing the case (I’m not sure that anyone ever expected anything different), there were demands for changes in the law to handle such situations, although in reality, discussions relating to this aspect of Nazi loot restitution had already been going on for some time before that. These discussions were eventually incorporated into the law (after fairly long delays), in the form of the Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution bill.

In the end, because the British Museum was not allowed to return the paintings, the heirs settled instead for financial compensation (something that was outside the scope of the British Museum Act).

That should have been the end of things, but it appears that it wasn’t. The paintings that were the subject of the earlier case were not the only ones in the museum, that the Feldmann Heirs claimed were rightfully theirs. Although the original case was dealt with by the Spoliation Advisory Panel. This most recent case was not though & was instead dealt with through direct negotiation with the museum (the reasons behind this are not given in the articles that I have read).

Young Couple in a Landscape, 1535-45, in the style of Georg Pencz

What is interesting, is that as I described above, the law now allows the British Museum to return Nazi loot. The Feldmann heirs were still happy to accept an ex-gratia payment though, in lieu of the actual artwork being returned. Once again, the reasons for this are unclear, but the fact remains, that even when the law allows is, not every restitution case is settled by the actual artefacts being returned.

In some cases, the rightful owners only want it acknowledged that they are the owners. In many instances, people accept that the museums are better placed to look after expensive works of art – often you do not want something like this in your home, due to issues with controlled humidity & temperature, security, insurance costs etc.

From:
Haaretz

British Museum compensates collector’s heirs for art looted by Nazis
Family of Arthur Feldmann proved Gestapo had seized work of art in Czechoslovakia in 1939.
By Eitan Buganim
Oct. 17, 2013 | 2:15 AM

The British Museum agreed to compensate descendants of a Jewish art collector who owned a medieval German drawing in the style of Georg Pencz, which the Gestapo looted from his home with the rest of the family’s art collection in March 1939. The museum accepted a spoliation claim by collector Arthur Feldmann’s grandson, Uri Peled. It made an ex gratia payment that allows the museum to keep the drawing, “Young Couple in a Landscape,” painted around 1535-45.

The drawing had been acquired by the museum in good faith from Mrs. Rosi Schilling, in 1993. Peled, who lives in Tel Aviv, proved after extensive research that the drawing had originally belonged to his grandfather and was seized from him in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1939. Neither of the Feldmanns survived the war.
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February 21, 2013

Louvre returns nazi looted paintings to descendant of original owner Richard Neumann

Posted at 9:12 am in Similar cases

In the space of a few years, return of artefacts looted by the Nazis has become almost the accepted norm, although it in itself is very much a special case offered favourable terms compared to almost any other disputed artefacts.

While the return of such disputed items is great, I do not see how an automatic dispensation should be applied to a single special case, while all others (no matter how strong their case) are treated as second class citizens on the journey to restitution.

From:
BBC News

15 February 2013 Last updated at 10:56
Louvre museum returns Nazi-looted artwork

Seven paintings taken from their Jewish owners in the 1930s are being returned to their surviving relatives as part of an ongoing French effort to give back looted, stolen or appropriated art.

The works include four paintings that currently hang in the Louvre in Paris.
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November 12, 2012

Revisiting S2212 – The flaws inherent in the Foreign Cultural Exchange Judicial Immunity Clarification Act

Posted at 7:03 pm in Similar cases

Nikki Georgopulos has written a very extensive piece for the Plundered Art blog about the man issues with Senate Bill S2212 (the Foreign Cultural Exchange Judicial Immunity Clarification Act). While the act gives the impression of helping the current situation, in reality it causes as many problems as it solves.

Her article is in two parts.

Part 1.

Part 2.

June 19, 2012

Learning how to spot Nazi looted artefacts at the Shoah Legacy Institute

Posted at 8:16 am in Similar cases

Coverage of the Provenance Research Training Program that took place in Germany last week.

From:
Times of Israel

Experts trained in recovering art looted during Nazi era
Millions of items stolen during WWII and Holocaust still unaccounted for; some pieces ending up in auction after elderly owners pass away
June 16, 2012, 1:56 am

BERLIN (AP) — Call them the looted treasure detectives.

Experts from museums, auction houses, government agencies and other institutions are meeting in Germany this week as part of an international effort to train art-world professionals in recovering art and cultural treasures looted during the Nazi era.
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Leopold Museum settlement to allow them to keep Nazi looted Schiele painting

Posted at 8:00 am in Similar cases

Vienna’s Leopold Museum have settled with the claimants of Jenny Steiner to allow them to keep a painting by Egon Schiele. Previous court rulings had instructed the museum to return the painting, which had been looted by the Nazis. It is unclear what the cost of the settlement was for the museum.

To an extent, cases such as this point that there is more than one way to settling restitution cases – and that a case does not necessarily open the floodgates for the emptying of museums. In many cases, the original owners either don’t want, or don’t have the facilities to look after the artfacts in question, but are looking for some sort of compensation for its loss, or in some cases merely an acknowledgement that they are the legitimate owners of it.

From:
Bloomberg News

Austria’s Leopold Museum Settles on Nazi-Looted Schiele Painting
By Zoe Schneeweiss – Jun 14, 2012 11:00 AM GMT

Vienna’s Leopold Museum agreed to settle with the remaining claimants of Jenny Steiner to keep in its collection Egon Schiele’s “Houses by the Sea,” that was stolen by the Nazis.

The 1914 painting belonged to Steiner until she fled Austria in 1938, shortly after the Nazis marched into Vienna. She escaped to Paris and later emigrated to the U.S. with her two daughters. The painting was seized and sold by the Nazis, then later auctioned. Rudolf Leopold, the founder of the Leopold Museum, acquired it in 1955.
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May 25, 2012

Dispute over Senate bill S. 2212 over looted artefacts loaned to museums

Posted at 8:07 am in Similar cases

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act has stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the USA.

Many who have examined the bill (S. 2212) say that despite exemptions in the planned law, it is only really there to protect the interests of the big museums – while reducing the chances of recovering looted artefacts by the original owners (or their descendants).

From:
New York Times

Dispute Over Bill on Borrowed Art
The heirs of Malevich sought to recover paintings, including the ones displayed above center and right.
By DOREEN CARVAJAL
Published: May 21, 2012

The lending and borrowing of famous artworks is the essence of cultural exchange between museums in the United States and abroad. So routine is the practice, and so universally valued, that the American government has traditionally protected it with a law that shields a lent work from being seized by anyone with a claim to legal ownership while the art is on display here.

In recent years, though, American museum directors have come to fear that this safeguard has eroded, and that foreign museums, dreading entanglement in costly ownership battles, are more hesitant to make loans. So they have asked Congress to increase the security for global art swaps.
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