Monday, December 28, 2009

Leopold Foundation Investigation Report Issued: Austria To Investigate Leopold Museum, Victim Compensation Promised

According to a December 25, 2009 article in the Kurier, the Austrian government has announced that a 2,000 page report of an investigation into the Leopold Museum's holdings of artworks looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust has been completed but has not yet been released to the public. 

Apparently, the Leopold is refusing to return the stolen artworks, but will offer money instead.

More stalling from Austria on Egon Schiele's Dead City and Portrait of Wally.  Austria claims to have been investigating these cases for a decade, it is scandalous that they haven't yet done the right thing.

Let's hope Austria releases the report quickly.

A rough summary follows:

Leopold Museum: First Restitution Report
Exchange by all participants on the basis of recognized facts. Report by the provenance researchers engaged by the Leopold Museum and Culture Minister Claudia Schmied. According to Schmied’s plan, an independent commission will be created in the second half of January that will make recommendations about returning objects. The Leopold Stiftung has also said that as a “sign of good will,” they are prepared to make financial contributions to victims and heirs.

The provenance researchers, Michael Vladika and Sonja Niederacher have drafted a report of around 2,000 pages, but have not released the details. This report is supposed to be published in January. Until then, they are bound by confidentiality agreements. The Ministry and the Leopold Museum are taking time to study the report.

The researchers said that they need more time to study the collection of cabaret performer Fritz Gruenbaum, from whose collection Dead City III and Portrait of Wally were confiscated in New York in 1998, and which precipitated a debate. Wally is the subject of an on-going court case in New York and is not treated in the report.

The report covers, among other works, four Schiele graphic works from the collection of Karl Maylaender, who was deported to Lodz in 1941. It also treats three works by Anton Romako that were taken from the collector Oskar Reichel, which Leopold acquired by exchange.

If the Leopold Collection, which has been a foundation since 1994, is considered to fall under the 1998 Restitution Law [which applies to state collections] then these works would certainly be the subject of restitution cases. Leopold has maintained that he acquired these works in good faith as a private citizen. The question is, “what did he really know?” stands at the center of the matter.

No comments: