October 22, 2012

"Lady in Gold" author Anne-Marie O'Connor spoke of "an age of restitution" in Nazi-looted art disputes at Rutgers University

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Correspondent

In the eventful weekend of the annual CHAPS Conference at Rutgers University, I could not help but be interested in the multitude of flyers posted in Voorhees Hall announcing upcoming talks and events.  Of particular interest was an announcement for a talk given by Anne-Marie O’Connor on her book The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.”  So after enjoying a weekend long conference, I made my way back to New Brunswick to hear O’Connor speak about her recounting of the history of Klimt’s painting.

Standing in a small classroom, Anne-Marie O’Connor gave a brief account of the history of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the restitution case concluded only a few years ago.  In an almost disarmingly candid manner, O’Connor told the tale that was “not just a restitution of art but a restitution of history,” sparking discussions of the issues surrounding restitution during the following question period.  The case of this particular painting opened the door on restitution of Nazi-era looted art, ushering in, as O’Connor dubbed it, “an age of restitution.”  An appropriate name since the Hague will be hosting an international symposium on “Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes, status quo and new developments” on November 27, 2012.  As more restitution cases come to light, more undiscovered histories, like those recounted in The Lady in Gold, are laid out for the world to discover.

If you have not read O’Connor’s book, please see Catherine Schofield Sezgin’s review of the book (in three parts) and hunt down a copy of the book to enjoy the complex and extraordinary tale of this painting.