Tag: Grünbaum

OTS: Seven works from the Grünbaum Collection restituted in New York

Hier finden sie die deutsche Version

Lawsuit against the Republic of Austria has been filed in New York. Will the Albertina and the Leopoldmuseum follow the example of the American museums and voluntarily restitute 12 paintings?

Vienna/New York (OTS) – Seven important works of art by Egon Schiele were ceremoniously handed over to the heirs of Viennese cabaret artist Fritz Grünbaum on Wednesday afternoon. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office calls the act a crucial milestone in one of the longest-running Holocaust restitution cases in the art world.
The ceremony to return the artworks to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, who was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp in 1941, took place in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, in whose jurisdiction the case lies.

“This is of enormous importance in our world,” stressed Timothy Reif, one of the Grünbaum heirs, referring to the descendants of Holocaust victims who have been demanding the return of looted property for nearly 80 years. “It sets the tone and agenda for all future cases. For more than a quarter of a century, the Grünbaum heirs have been fighting for the return of various Schiele works. These demands, which have led to civil suits in the courts, are closely followed in the art world.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office took up the case in December 2022 after a New York civil court ruled in 2018 that Fritz Grünbaum had not sold or returned any of his works before his death, meaning his heirs were the legitimate owners. Prosecutors were able to present evidence that the seven works had passed through the hands of a Manhattan dealer, claiming legal jurisdiction. This time, however, was different: several museums and collectors contacted by prosecutors agreed to return the Schiele works to the heirs after being told they had stolen property.

The seven works voluntarily returned were owned by three museums – the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Morgan Library & Museum, both in New York, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California – as well as two collectors, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and a longtime advocate of Holocaust restitution, and the estate of Serge Sabarsky, a well-known art collector. An eighth work from Sabarsky’s estate was previously returned to his heirs.

“Fritz Grünbaum was a man of incredible depth and spirit, and his memory lives on through the artwork that is finally being returned to his relatives,” Bragg said in a statement. “I hope this moment can serve as a reminder that despite the horrific death and destruction at the hands of the Nazis, it’s never too late to recover some of what was lost.”

This has also brought the issue of the paintings from the Grünbaum Collection held by the Austrian museums Albertina and Leopold Collection back to the center of restitution policy.
The heirs of Fritz Grünbaum have brought suit in the Southern District Court in New York against the Leopold Museum, the Albertina, and their legal or de facto owner, the Republic of Austria, for a declaration of ownership and restitution of the following works by Egon Schiele:

1. Dead city III (1911) (P.213)
2. Self-portrait with grimace (1910) (D.705)
3. Standing man with red scarf (1913) (D.1420)
4. Red blouse (1913) (D.1394)
5. Embracing nudes (1914) (D.1606)
6. Intertwined nudes (1912) (D.1147)
7. Seated girl with yellow cloth (1913) (D.1278)
8. Devotion (1912) (D.1418)
9. Standing girl with orange stockings (1914) (D.1488)
10. Self-portrait as penitent (1911) (D.942)
11. Aunt and nephew (1915) (D.1797)
12. Seated female nude on red cloth (1914) (D.1504)

The Austrian representative of the heirs after Fritz Grünbaum, Herbert Gruber, comments:

“It is astonishing in this context that none of the defendants’ representatives contacted the representatives of the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum in any form to find an out-of-court solution. The Republic of Austria hired one of the most expensive lawyers in New York with an hourly fee of USD 2000 in any case, and this despite the disastrous results in looted art cases such as Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, also called “Golden Adele”.”

Mediakit (German/English)

Austrian legal representative of the heirs after Fritz Grünbaum:
Mag. Michael Pilz
Telephone: +43 (0)1 406 05 51
Email: michael.pilz@jus.at

American legal representative of the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum:
Raymond J. Dowd
Phone: +1 212 682 8811
Email: rdowd@dunnington.com

Erwiderung zur Presseaussendung der Sammlung Leopold

Am 01.11. erschien eine Presseaussendung des Leopold Museum:

Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung (ver)wehrt sich gegen Raubkunst-Vorwürfe

Darin behauptet das Museum, die Restitutionsforschung des BMUKK hätte eindeutig festgestellt, das die Sammlung Grünbaum nicht als Raubkunst zu bezeichnen sei.

Dies ist die Sicht des Leopold Museums, doch was sagen andere Stellen dazu? Read more

New York Times: Dispute Over Nazi Victim´s Art

The similarities between two art works being auctioned next month by Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York are striking. Both were created by the Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. And both once belonged to FritzGrünbaum, a Viennese cabaret performer whose large art collection wasinventoried by Nazi agents after he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he died.But there is also a notable difference in the way the houses are handlingthe sales. Read more

Leopoldmuseum wants to restitute stolen artworks / Leopoldmuseum will restituieren

Charting a New Course | ARTnews.

“ . . . I think we should come to terms with history.” And, he adds, “Nowadays, I don’t think a museum can afford not to approach this in a proactive and positive manner. What I think sets me apart from many other people of the same positive approach is that I think the best way to deal with it is to talk and to come to a mutually positive conclusion…”

(Diethard Leopold, Son of Rudolf Leopold)

We are very happy about Diethard Leopolds will to return looted artworks and therefore want to be of help in his efforts.

We kindly remind the Leopold Museum Privatstiftung of the claim for restitution regarding the collection Fritz Grünbaum, unanswered since February 15, 2011:

2011 02 15 Claim Leopoldmuseum (German only)

[scribd id=106133836 key=key-27gtplnzeunjihu3t2ji mode=scroll]

For the 15 Drawings & paintings from the Collection Grünbaum find details  here

So, as stated by Diethard Leopold:

“. . . That’s why I say let’s get together and speak, …”

We are waiting for his reply!

2012 05 05 Schiele case could damage NY business

2012 05 05 Schiele case could damage NY business

Schiele case could damage NY business, say dealers

Ruling in long-standing restitution battle may threaten defence that a purchase was made in good

By Gareth Harris. Market,  Issue 235, May 2012, The Art Newspaper
Published online: 10 May 2012
International dealers have joined forces to lobby against potential US legislation that could have a “significant and negative impact on the art market in New York”. The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), the Society of London Art Dealers (Slad) and the UK dealer Richard Nagy are unhappy about moves in a US court that could “dramatically limit the application of the laches doctrine”, which is a defence procedure commonly used in disputes over titles to works of art.
The trio has filed an amici curiae statement (a “friends of the court” supporting brief) relating to the long-standing legal row over ownership of an Egon Schiele drawing, Seated Woman With a Bent
Left Leg (Torso), 1917, which once belonged to the Austrian art collector Franz Friedrich “Fritz” Grünbaum. Two New York collectors, Charles Katzenstein and Nelson Blitz, have also contributed to the brief, according to the court documents; Katzenstein declined to comment.

The legal battle dates back to 2005, when the case was first heard in the US district court. It involves various parties including the US collector David Bakalar and Grünbaum’s heirs, the Czech citizen Milos Vavra, and the New York resident Leon Fischer.

Vavra and Fischer claim that the Nazis stole the drawing from their family (Grünbaum fled Vienna in 1938 and died at the Dachau concentration camp in 1941). Bakalar disputes this, claiming instead
that Grünbaum’s sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs, sold the drawing to the Swiss dealer Eberhard Kornfeld of the Galerie Gutekunst in 1956. Later that year, Kornfeld sold the piece to the Galerie
St Etienne in New York. In 1963, Bakalar bought the work from the Manhattan dealer in “good faith”, he says.

The case was first heard in the US district court in New York in 2005. Three years later, the court applied Swiss law and ruled in Bakalar’s favour. But, in 2010, the US court of appeals reversed
this decision, saying that New York law should apply. A district court ruled again in Bakalar’s favour in 2011. The case is now going through a second hearing in the appeals court.

The laches doctrine, which forms a major part of Bakalar’s defence, is now in jeopardy, according to the group. “For the past 25 years, good-faith purchasers of art have relied on the laches
doctrine to protect themselves from stale or frivolous claims to ownership,” state the court papers, that were filed at the end of March by the lawyers Jon Dean and Julian André of McDermott
Will & Emery LLP, which represents Nagy, the ADAA and Slad.
The trio is particularly alarmed over two specific changes that Vavra and Fischer are seeking.

Firstly, that the “duties of diligence relevant to a laches defence inquiry trigger only after thetrue owner learns of the location of the stolen chattel”. Secondly, that the “knowledge or actions
of a claimant’s ancestors cannot be imputed to the claimants when determining if laches should apply”. The group argues that Vavra and Fischer are seeking “to eliminate the laches doctrine’s
protections and make the time for claimants or their heirs to file a [recovery] action virtually limitless”—which means that each new generation of alleged heirs could potentially challenge title
to works of art.

Without such protection, buyers would “have to think twice about doing business in New York”. The group argues that collectors may even avoid lending works to New York-based museums, and might take their business to other US states where “the laws are more favourable to good-faith purchasers”.

“The laches doctrine is really the only defence a good-faith purchaser has against a claim,” says Gilbert Edelson, of law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, representing the ADAA. “A good faith
purchase must establish that a claimant delayed unreasonably in pursuing a claim.” Edelson gives a theoretical example of a claimant who does not sue immediately because heor she is aware of witnesses who might hurt his or her case. If those witnesses die, the claimant could choose to file a suit within the 20-year statute. Although the buyer could not assert a
defence under the statute of limitations, they could seek protection under the laches defence “because the claimant did not assert the claim promptly, and the death of witnesses prejudiced the defendant”.

But Raymond Dowd of Dunnington, Bartholow and Miller LLP, representing Vavra and Fischer, dismisses these arguments, calling the laches doctrine a “classic ‘sit on your hands’ defence [which] has traditionally been a very heavy burden [for claimants]”. He says that his clients do not want to eliminate the procedure, and are not arguing to “re-set” the clock for successive claims, but
emphasises that the onus should be on “purchasers to show that they have exercised due diligence. Bakalar has not demonstrated this.” Dowd adds: “Bakalarargues on this appeal that the whereabouts of Grünbaum’s art collection… remains a mystery. The reason why any ‘mystery’ remains is because Bakalar and certain art dealers have succeeded inblocking discovery in this proceeding.” Meanwhile, “Nagy has a direct financial interest in, and probable possession of [Schiele’s] Woman in Black Pinafore, 1911, which was stolen from Fritz
Grünbaum,” states the declaration filed by Dowd in opposition to the amici curiae.

But a later opposing motion disputes that the piece was stolen, saying that “while Nagy previously purchased an ownership interest in Woman in Black Pinafore, Nagy voided the purchase in October 2011 and no longer possesses [the work]”. The documents add that the London dealer has never handled any Schiele works with provenance relating to Mathilde Lukacs. Bakalar’s lawyer, William Charron of Pryor Cashman, says: “Dowd’s perspective isnot rooted in the evidence or in reality.”

2012 04 16 “Art Dealers Asociation” Amicus Letter / Amicus Brief

2012 04 16 Reply to Opposition to Bakalar Amici Motion for Leave to File Amicus Brief


It is a remarkable that now towards the end of the process, the art dealer represented by the London dealer Richard Nagy http://www.richardnagy.com participates in the proceedings. This commitment to the “Art Dealers Asociation” shows the real opponents of this procedure around looted art, namely deprived families versus art market. Richard Nagy is personally affected by this courts procedure, because part of his portfolio is the de facto inalienable Schiele painting from the collection of Fritz Grunbaum >> Woman in Black Pinafore, JK 888 << . As per “Art Basel, Daily newspaper, Thursday 16, june 2005” the painting was on offer by auction house Richard Nagy for € 650 000,–


Es ist bemerkenswert, dass nunmehr gegen Ende des Verfahrens die Kunsthändler prominent vertreten durch den Londoner Kunsthändler Richard Nagy http://www.richardnagy.com. Dieses Engagement der „Art Dealers Asociation“ zeigt die eigentlichen Fronten dieses Verfahrens um Raubkunst auf, nämlich beraubte Familien versus Kunstmarkt. Richard Nagy ist persönlich materielle von diesem Verfahren betroffen, da er das Schiele Bild aus der Sammlung von Fritz Grünbaum >>Frau mit schwarzer Schürze (Woman in black Pinafore), JK 888<< de facto unveräußerbar in seinem Portfolio hält. Laut Art Basel Daily Newspaper vom Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2005 war das Bild von Richard Nagy um € 650.000,– zum Verkauf angeboten worden.

Girl with black pinafore