The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in a case involving the Estate of Fritz Grunbaum.
Grunbaum was arrested while attempting to flee from the Nazis. After his arrest, he never again had physical possession of any of his artwork, including the Drawing. The power of attorney, which he was forced to execute while in the Dachau concentration camp, divested him of his legal control over the Drawing. Such an involuntary divestiture of possession and legal control rendered any subsequent transfer void.
Fritz Grunbaum’s art collection made headlines when D.A. Robert Morgenthau seized Egon Schiele’s Dead City from the MoMA in New York City. At the same time, Morgenthau seized Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally, which was also stolen. Portrait of Wally was returned by Austria this summer.
The Grunbaum heirs are waiting on Austria to make a decision on whether or not to return Dead City and the other artworks stolen from Fritz Grunbaum that are now in the Albertina and Leopold Museums. Austria has promised to issue a report soon, and then The Austrian Commission for Provenance Research is expected to rule.