This article is cross-posted (see Copyright Litigation Blog by Raymond Dowd)
In late June I was invited to speak on a panel of legal experts on artwork looted by the Nazis. My topic was legal obstacles to the recovery of stolen artworks.
The image you see here is of an artwork by the artist Egon Schiele called Girl with Black Hair. Every major Schiele expert in the world – Jane Kallir, Eberhard Kornfeld and Rudolph Leopold – has said that this artwork came from Fritz Grunbaum’s collection. Yet Oberlin College refuses to return it – or even to share their research or conclusions about where they believe it came from. Oberlin’s website shows that the work mysteriously surfaced in Switzerland in 1956 – and stops there.
U.S. museums and liberal arts institutions concealing the origins of their artworks is one of the biggest obstacles to researchers being able to restitute artworks to the Jews and other Nazi persecutees from whom they were stolen. As Holocaust victims and their descendants die, U.S. museums simply wait, knowing that they have stolen artworks in their collections. In his 2006 testimony to Congress, AAMD Director James Cuno estimated the number of potentially Nazi-looted works in U.S. museums at “tens of thousands”.
It is astonishing that U.S. museums can engage in this Holocaust denial and feel no backlash. Shame on Oberlin College. Its Dean should be tossed out on his ear.
Amb. Stuart Eizenstat supports a U.S. Art Restitution Commission. Good for him, and not a moment too soon.
You can find my full speech in Prague at the link below.
Disclosure: I represent the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, a Jewish cabaret performer who was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.