November 7, 2011

Art Restitution: Klimt painting sold for $40.4m after being returned to owner's grandson

Klimt's "Litzlberg on the Attersee" 1918
by Catherine Schofiled Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

BBC News (online) reported 'Klimt painting fetches $40.4m' when a 1915 landscape of a lake in western Austria ("Litzlberg on the Attersee") by Gustav Klimt was sold by Sotheby's in New York City.

In July the Museum of Modern Art in Saltzburg in Austria returned the painting stolen from Amalie Redlich in 1941 to her 83-year-old grandson, Georges Jorisch, now living in Montreal.

"The Austrian law calls for restitution," Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, responded in an email.  "That means the object is physically returned to the rightful owner.  The position of the Salzburg Museum, much like that of the Leopold Foundation in Vienna, is to reject outright restitution in favor of financial settlements, which allow them to retain title to the claimed object. Ideologically speaking, that stance runs counter to the principle of restitution.  Hence, I would not hail this moment as a victory for restitution but rather as the outcome of an arduous negotiation between an auction house, a claimant, and an Austrian museum, which led to a financial settlement."

You may read more about this case as reported by the CBC, "Nazi-looted Klimt sells for $40" which includes a video and an image of the only descendent of the painting's owners sitting down in his chair at the painting's auction.  CBC concludes it's segment by mentioning that many of the proceeds from the painting's sale will be used to build a new wing at the Saltzburg museum to be named after Amalie Redlich who was murdered after her deportation from Vienna.