Tag: Fritz Gruenbaum

In the News: In Case Over Nazi-Looted Art, Dispute Over $1.4M in Prejudgment Interest Heats Up

“As long as they continue to assert title, we can’t sell the artworks,” said the lawyer for the
Jewish heirs to an Austrian 1920s art collector who had owned the Egon Schiele paintings
before the Nazis imprisoned him.

The heirs are claiming that interest on the artworks they
won possession of continues to grow as the interest amount is disputed and leave for appeal
on the merits is sought.

Law Journal
Übersetzung NYL-Joural

Here a rough german translation

Übersetzung NYL-Joural

In the News: Dissecting the HEAR Act

“For years, now, Grünbaum’s heirs have fought to bring home works that were once part of his collection; however, they have faced a lot of push back and failure in the process. In 2005, an attempt to restitute Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (Torso) by Schiele was thwarted when the court deemed that too much time had passed for Grünbaum’s heirs to lay claim to it. In 2015, Grünbaum’s heirs began the process of seeking the return of Schiele’s Woman in a Black Pinafore (1911) and Woman Hiding her Face (1912). Thanks to the HEAR Act, the case was heard and, in his ruling, Judge Ramos stated: ‘The HEAR Act compels us to help return Nazi-looted art to its heirs […] the gut-wrenching process by which Mr. Grünbaum’s property was looted.’”

Read the whole article here: https://www.lootedart.com/U28K6F947771

In the News: Gruenbaum Heirs Take on an Art Foundation That Rights Nazi Wrongs

The German Lost Art Foundation operates a database of art likely looted by the Nazis, a list that has earned plaudits for helping to return works taken from Jews during the Holocaust.

But now the foundation is being criticized for removing from public view 63 works by the Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele, as a result of lobbying by several dealers who specialize in the artist. The dealers contend the works in question were never stolen.

The removal — a rare step — is being challenged by the heirs of a popular Viennese cabaret performer, Fritz Grünbaum, whose sizable art collection, including 81 Schieles, was inventoried by Nazi agents in 1938 after he had been sent to a concentration camp where he died.

20180827 Jewish Heirs Take on an Art Foundation That Rights Nazi Wrongs - The New York Times

 

Press Clipping: Legal battle over Schiele works owned by Jewish entertainer who died in Dachau

His heirs’ attempts to recover them will be framed by President Obama’s Holocaust Act

by David D’Arcy  |  6 April 2017

A dispute in New York over two watercolours by Egon Schiele will revisit the tragic life of their owner in the 1930s, Fritz Grünbaum, a popular Jewish entertainer in Vienna who died a Nazi prisoner in Dachau.

Some also see the case as an early assessment of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, which regularised a federal statute of limitations of six years, beginning with the discovery of an object, during which claims can be made for the recovery of Nazi loot in the US. The statute affirms a US interest in the restitution of art stolen during the Nazi era.

 

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Press Clipping: A Suit Over Schiele Drawings Invokes New Law on Nazi-Looted Art

The New York Times

A Suit Over Schiele Drawings Invokes New Law on Nazi-Looted Art

By WILLIAM D. COHAN FEB. 27, 2017

Egon Schiele’s “Woman Hiding Her Face” (1912) is one of two drawings at issue in a suit brought by heirs of the collector Fritz Grunbaum.

When the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act was adopted unanimously by Congress in December, it was widely praised as a necessary tool to help the heirs of Holocaust victims recover art stolen from their families during World War II.

Now the efficacy of the HEAR Act, as it is known, may get an early test in New York State Court, where the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, an Austrian Jewish entertainer, are citing it in efforts to claim two valuable colorful drawings by Egon Schiele.

Read the full article in the New York Times here

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Gruenbaum-Schieles saved and blocked in New York

The heirs of Fritz Grunbaum persuaded a Manhattan judge Tuesday to block the sale and transport of two works by Egon Schiele that belong to Mr. Grunbaum’s collection.  The works were featured by Richard Nagy of Richard Nagy, Ltd. at the Salon + Design fair held at the Park Avenue Armory, New York.

Tuesday, Justice Ramos of the New York Supreme Court entered a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) providing that Woman in a Black Pinafore and Woman Hiding Her Face, shall not be transferred or otherwise removed from  New York by any person or entity.

A hearing is scheduled for December, 1st in Manhattan.

download

201511 16 Summons

20151117 Order to show cause with temporary restraining order

 

2010 09 07 New York Law Journal: 2nd Circuit Sends Art Ownership Dispute Back to the Drawing Board

Finden Sie die deutsche Übersetzung hier


Austria / Czech Republic / United States

Who really owns a drawing by the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele?

Daniel Wise

New York Law Journal

September 07, 2010

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait 1914

The heirs of an art collector who perished in a Nazi concentration camp have been given another chance to establish their claim that a drawing by the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele was stolen from their family.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled in Bakalar v. Vavra, 08-5119-cv, that Southern District Judge William H. Pauley erred in applying Swiss law as opposed to New York law in determining ownership of the work.

The panel’s ruling vacates Pauley’s finding that David Bakalar, an American art collector, became the rightful owner of “Woman Seated with Bent Left Leg (Torso)” when he bought the drawing from a New York gallery in 1963 for $4,300.

The New York gallery had acquired the black crayon and water-based paint drawing four months earlier from a Swiss gallery. In 2004, Bakalar sold the drawing at an auction conducted by Sotheby’s in London for $675,000.

Sotheby’s put the sale on hold after the heirs to Austrian art collector and cabaret performer Franz Friedrich “Fritz” Grunbaum stepped forward to claim ownership of the piece. Grunbaum was arrested by the Nazis as he fled Vienna in 1938 and died at Dachau in 1941.

The two heirs, Czech citizen Milos Vavra and New York resident Leon Fischer, traded lawsuits with Bakalar in 2005, with both sides seeking to be declared the rightful owner.

In declaring Bakalar to be the owner, Judge Pauley applied Swiss law, under which Bakalar, as a good-faith buyer, would acquire title to the work after five years without a claim being asserted, even if the drawing had been stolen.

New York law on the issue is very different: under no circumstances can a thief pass good title and a person from whom property was stolen has a claim superior to a good faith purchaser.

Writing for the circuit, Judge Edward R. Korman, sitting by designation from the Eastern District of New York, concluded that Pauley had relied on the wrong test in choosing to apply Swiss law. The panel remanded the case to Pauley for further proceedings, and, “if necessary, a new trial.”

Korman also wrote a concurring opinion, questioning Pauley’s finding that the Grunbaum heirs failed to produce “any concrete evidence that the Nazis looted the drawing.”

Korman wrote that his reading of the record suggests to the contrary that Grunbaum was “divested of possession and title [of the drawing] against his will.”

Judges Jose A. Cabranes and Debra Ann Livingston joined in Judge Korman’s main ruling.

Provenance in Dispute

The question of whether the Schiele drawing was stolen by the Nazis is sharply disputed.

Bakalar contends Grunbaum’s sister-in-law sold the drawing along with 45 other Schiele works in 1956 to a Swiss art gallery, Galerie Gutekunst. That claim is backed up by documents in files maintained by the Swiss gallery, which show “beyond rational dispute” that the sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs, was the seller, said Bakalar’s lawyer, James A. Janowitz, of Pryor Cashman.

The lawyer for the heirs, Raymond Dowd of Dunnington, Barthlow & Miller, called Bakalar’s claims “a complete fabrication based upon forged documents.”

About four months after the Galerie Gutekunst acquired the drawing, it sold it to the Galerie St. Etienne in New York, which seven years later sold it to Mr. Bakalar.

Korman said Pauley should have considered which jurisdiction had the greatest interest in the case.

New York has a “compelling interest” preserving the integrity of its art market as its state Court of Appeals has stated on several occasions, Korman wrote. For instance, in Guggenheim Foundation v. Lubell, 77 N.Y.2d 311 (1991), former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler wrote for a unanimous Court, “New York enjoys a worldwide reputation as a preeminent cultural center. To place the burden of locating stolen artwork on the true owner…would, we believe, encourage illicit trafficking in stolen art.”

By comparison, Korman described the Swiss interest as being “tenuous.” Application of New York law might cause New Yorkers to take a closer look at the work’s provenance, and that in turn, he reasoned, “might adversely affect the extra-territorial sales of artwork by Swiss galleries.”

For choice of law purposes, that Swiss interest, he concluded, must give way to New York’s “significantly greater interest” in preventing the state “from becoming a marketplace for stolen goods.”

On the question of Bakalar’s ownership, Korman noted that the record indicated that Grunbaum was forced to execute a power of attorney giving his wife control of his artwork four months after he was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned at Dachau.

Under Uniform Commercial Code §2-403(1), which has been adopted in New York, status as a good faith buyer only attaches if a transfer of property is “voluntary,” he wrote.

In Grunbaum’s case, the circumstances “strongly suggest he executed the power of attorney with a gun to his head,” Korman said. If that was so, he wrote, under New York law “any subsequent transfer was void.”

“[Mr.] Bakalar’s suggestion that the power of attorney constituted a voluntary entrustment to property to [Mr. Grunbaum’s] wife is a proposition that remains for him to prove.”

“Unless he does so,” Korman added, even if Grunbaum’s wife, Elizabeth, transferred ownership to her sister to prevent the work from falling into the hands of the Nazis “she could not convey valid title to the artwork.”

2010 09 02 Second Circuit Rules Drawing Case involving Fritz Grünbaum

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in a case involving the Estate of Fritz Grunbaum.

Zweitinstanzliche Entscheidung Bakalar vs. Vavra (deutsch)

The Second Circuit concluded:

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.