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March 2, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Howard N. Spiegler on the "Portrait of Wally" case

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Howard N. Spiegler writes of "What the Lady has Wrought: The Ramifications of the Portrait of Wally Case".   This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Art Law Group of Herrick, Feinstein LLP, Art and Advocacy, Fall 2010, Volume 7 and is reprinted with permission.  Herrick, Feinstein represented the Estate of Lea Bondi Jaray, a Jewish art dealer in Vienna who fled for London in 1939 after her gallery was "Aryanized" by a Nazi agent, Mr. Spiegler explains.  He summarizes the case in the first paragraph:

On July 20, 2010, on the eve of trial, the case of United States v. Portrait of Wally, which our firm litigated for more than ten years, was finally resolved by stipulation and order. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan commenced the case in the fall of 1999 by seizing the painting, “Portrait of Wally” by Egon Schiele (Wally), while it was on loan for exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The case has been credited with awakening governments around the world, as well as museums, collectors, and others in the global art community, to the problem of Nazi-looted art almost seventy years after the beginning of the Nazi era in Europe. Although this case will surely be commented on and analyzed for many years to come – including in a documentary film due to be released in the spring – as the attorneys for the claimant in the case, we thought it would be helpful to provide some thoughts from our unique vantage point.

Howard Spiegler is co-chair of Herrick, Feinstein’s international art practice, which includes all aspects of commercial art matters, both in the litigation and transactional areas. He has been involved in several well-known and important litigations brought on behalf of foreign governments and heirs of Holocaust victims and others to recover stolen artwork or cultural property, including the recent recovery by the heir of the famous Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker of over 200 Nazi-looted artworks from the Dutch Government. He has also facilitated recoveries on behalf of the Republic of Turkey of numerous valuable antiquities, the currently pending litigation brought on behalf of the Estate of Lea Bondi Jaray to recover a Schiele painting, “Portrait of Wally”, confiscated by a Nazi agent in Austria in the late 1930’s, and the recently resolved action on behalf of the heirs of Kazimir Malevich, the world-renowned 20th Century Russian artist, against the City of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This last case resulted in the recovery by the heirs of five Malevich paintings. He received his J.D. degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1974. He serves on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Art Crime and regularly writes and speaks around the world on issues relating to art law.

A copy of this issue may be obtained through subscription to The Journal of Art Crime.