Category: Press Clippings

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.”

2010 09 07 New York Law Journal: Zweites Bundesberufungsgericht will Rechtsstreit über Kunstbesitz nochmals von vorne anfangen (translated articel)

For the original version in English have a look here

Zweites Bundesberufungsgericht will Rechtsstreit über Kunstbesitz nochmals von vorne anfangen

Daniel Wise

New York Law Journal


Die Erben eines Kunstsammlers, der in einem Konzentrationslager der Nazis ums Leben gekommen ist, haben noch eine Chance erhalten, ihren Anspruch nachzuweisen, dass eine Zeichnung von dem österreichischen Expressionisten Egon Schiele von ihrer Familie gestohlen wurde.

Das 2. US Bundesberufungsgericht hat letzte Woche in Sachen Bakalar v. Vavra, 08-5119-cv, geurteilt, dass sich Richter William H. Pauley (südlicher Bezirk) in der Feststellung des Besitzers des Werkes bei Anwendung von Schweizer Recht im Gegensatz zu New Yorker Recht geirrt hätte.

Der Beschluss des Gremiums annulliert Pauley’s Feststellung, dass David Bakalar (ein amerikanischer Kunstsammler) der rechtmäßige Besitzer von „Woman Seated with Bent Left Leg (Torso)“ [Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem Knie (Torso)] wurde, als er 1963 die Zeichnung von einer New Yorker Kunstgalerie für 4.300 $ kaufte.

Vier Monate zuvor hatte die New Yorker Kunstgalerie die mit schwarzer Kreide und Farbe auf Wasserbasis erstellte Zeichnung von einer Schweizer Kunstgalerie erworben. 2004 hat Bakalar die Zeichnung bei einer durch Sotheby’s in London durchgeführten Auktion für 675.000 $ verkauft.

Sotheby’s legte den Verkauf auf Eis, nachdem die Erben des österreichischen Kunstsammlers und Kabarettisten Franz Friedrich „Fritz“ Grünbaum vorgetreten sind, um ihren Besitzanspruch auf dieses Werk zu erheben. Grünbaum wurde bei seiner Flucht von Wien 1938 von den Nazis festgenommen und ist 1941 in Dachau verstorben.

Die zwei Erben, der tschechische Staatsbürger Milos Vavra und der New Yorker Leon Fischer, haben 2005 zusammen mit Bakalar gegenseitig Prozesse geführt, wobei beide Parteien als rechtsmäßiger Besitzer anerkannt werden wollten.

Bei der Feststellung, Bakalar sei der Besitzer, hat Richter Pauley Schweizer Recht angewendet, wonach Bakalar, als gutgläubiger Käufer nach fünf Jahren den Anspruch auf das Werk erwerben würde, ohne dass irgendein anderer Anspruch geltend gemacht wurde – auch wenn die Zeichnung gestohlen worden wäre.

Bei dieser Frage unterscheidet sich New York Recht sehr: unter keinen Umständen kann ein Dieb irgendein ordnungsgemäßes Eigentumsrecht übertragen und eine Person, dessen Eigentum gestohlen wurde, hat ein höheres Anspruchrecht als ein gutgläubiger Käufer.

In einem Schreiben für das Bundesberufungsgericht kommt Richter Edward R. Korman, vom New Yorker Ostbezirk bestellt, zum Schluss, dass sich Pauley bei der Anwendung von Schweizer Recht auf die falsche Überprüfung verlassen hätte. Das Gremium hat den Fall an Pauley für weitere Verhandlungen zurück verwiesen und, „falls erforderlich, für einen neuen Prozess“.

Korman schrieb noch eine zustimmende Beurteilung, worin er Pauley’s Feststellung in Frage stellt, dass die Grünbaum Erben es versäumt hätten, „irgendwelche konkreten Beweise zu liefern, dass die Zeichnung von den Nazis geplündert wurde“.

Korman schrieb, dass sein Verständnis der Akte eher darauf hinweist, dass Grünbaum „gegen seinen Willen seines Besitzes und Eigentumsrechts [der Zeichnung] beraubt wurde“.

Richter Jose R. Cabranes und Richterin Debra Ann Livingston stimmten Richter Korman’s Haupturteil zu.

Streit über Provenienz

Es wird heiß bestritten, ob die Schiele Zeichnung von den Nazis gestohlen wurde.

Bakalar behauptet, dass Grünbaum’s Schwägerin die Zeichnung 1956 zusammen mit 45 weiteren Schiele Werke an eine Schweizer Kunstgalerie, Galerie Gutekunst, verkauft hätte. Diese Behauptung wird durch Dokumente in den Akten der Schweizer Kunstgalerie unterstützt, welche „vernunftsmäßig unumstritten“ zeigen, dass die Schwägerin Mathilde Lukacs die Verkäuferin war – sagte der Bakalar’s Anwalt, James A. Janowitz, von Pyor Cashman.

Der Anwalt der Erben, Raymond Dowd von Dunnington, Barthlow & Miller, nannte die Behauptungen von Bakalar „eine komplette Erfindung, basierend auf gefälschten Dokumenten“.

Ungefähr vier Monate, nachdem die Galerie Gutekunst die Zeichnung erworben hatte, hat sie diese an die Galerie St. Etienne in New York verkauft, welche diese wiederum sieben Jahre später an Herrn Bakalar verkaufte.

Korman sagte, Pauley hätte überlegen müssen, welcher Gerichtsbezirk das größte Interesse an diesem Fall hatte.

Wie das Berufungsgericht des Staates New York bei verschieden Gelegenheiten erklärt hat, besteht für New York „zwingendes Interesse“ daran, die Integrität des Kunstmarktes zu bewahren. Zum Beispiel, in Guggenheim Foundation v. Lubell, 77 N.Y. 2d 311 (1991), schrieb der ehemalige vorsitzende Richter Sol Wachtler für ein einstimmiges Gericht: „New York genießt seinen internationalen Ruf als überragendes Zentrum der Kultur. Wenn man die Last, gestohlene Kunstwerke zu finden, auf den rechtmäßigen Eigentümer abwälzt…würde dies, glauben wir, den illegalen Handel in Raubkunst fördern.

Im Vergleich, Korman beschreibt das Schweizer Interesse als „dürftig“. Die Anwendung von New York Recht könnte zwar dazu führen, dass die New Yorker die Herkunft des Werkes näher anschauen – was wiederum, überlegt er, „ausländische Kunstverkäufe durch Schweizer Kunstgalerien negativ beeinflussen könnte“.

Bei der Auswahl des anzuwendenden Rechts müsste dieses Schweizer Interesse aber dem „erheblich größeren Interesse“ von New York weichen, den Staat davor zu schützen, „einen Markt für Diebesgut zu werden“.

Zur Frage Bakalar’s Eigentumsrecht bemerkte Korman, dass aus der Akte hervorgeht, dass Grünbaum genötigt wurde, vier Monate, nachdem er von den Nazis festgenommen und in Dachau inhaftiert wurde, eine Vollmacht zu erteilen, wodurch seine Frau Kontrolle über seine Kunstwerke erhielt.

Gemäß §2-403(1) des einheitlichen Handelsgesetzes, das in New York eingeführt wurde, wird der Status als gutgläubiger Käufer nur bei „freiwilliger“ Übertragung des Eigentums verliehen.

Im Fall Grünbaum, lassen die Umstände „stark darauf schließen, dass er die Vollmacht mit vorgehaltener Pistole erteilte“, sagte Korman. Wenn dies stimmte, schrieb er, wäre laut New York Recht „jegliche nachfolgende Übertragung ungültig“.

„Die Andeutung von [Herrn] Bakalar, diese Vollmacht stelle eine freiwillige Übertragung des Eigentums an [Herr Grünbaum’s] Frau dar, ist eine Behauptung, welche er erst noch beweisen muss.“

„Wenn er dies nicht tut“, fügte Korman hinzu, auch wenn Grünbaum’s Frau Elizabeth das Eigentumsrecht ihrer Schwester übertragen hat, um zu vermeiden, dass die Werke in die Hände der Nazis geraten, „konnte sie kein gültiges Eigentumsrecht auf die Kunstwerke übertragen“.

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.”

Press clippings


2009 07 07 EURO (CZ) Případ Grünbaumovy spírky & translation

2009 06 28 Justice slow for Holocaust survivors 64 years on – Feature

2009 05 21 New York Law Journal Robbing the Jews Book Review

2009 05 18 Der Standard Das Schielen nach toten Städten

2009 05 15 Wiener Zeitung Leopold-Museum kontert erneut auf


2009 02 27 Cleveland Jewish News Nazi-plundered art hiding artfully in plain sight?

2008 10 22 ArtNews A Decision – But Doubts Remain

2008 09 02 The Boston Globe Collector Awarded Schiele Drawing

2008 07 01 The Federal Lawyer Federal Courts and Stolen Art: Our Duty to History

2008 04 01 ArtNews Unreveling the mystery of Dead city

2007 09 12 The New York Observer Dealer with the devil

2007 02 19 NY Observer Lawsuit over Schielepainting has legs

2006 08 25 New York Law Journal Heirs bid to prove rights to Schiele work advances

2006 2 07 The Forward Newspaper Shoah Suit Puts Scrutiny On Lauder’s Art Collection

2005 09 10 Page Six Heirs Seek 100M Stolen Art

2005-10-09 Palm Beach Daily News Lauder Gallery Drawn Suit

2005-09-10 Financial Times Artist leaves a legacy in his troublesome image

2005-04-01 Der Standard Was nützt mir mein Geist

2003 01 15 Falter Mit Verlusten ist zu rechnen / Loss to be anticipated