Heirs demand the return of Kandinsky paintings

[THIS IS AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE ORIGINAL GERMAN ARTICLE “Erben fordern Rückgabe von Kandinsky-Gemälde” PUBLISHED ON THE SALZBURGER NACHRICHTEN WEBSITE ON OCTOBER 29, 2020] (https://www.sn.at/kultur/allgemein/erben-fordern-rueckgabe-von-kandinsky-gemaelde-94872073)

ThursdayOctober 29, 2020 1:25 p.m.

The heirs of the Jewish Lewenstein family have requested the return of a painting by Wassily Kandinsky in an Amsterdam court. The “picture with houses” (1909) was sold to the Stedelijk Museum in October 1940 under pressure from the Nazi regime. It is a clear case of looted art, said the heirs’ lawyer, Axel Hagedorn, in court on Thursday. “The picture must be returned to the bereaved.”

The picture was sold together with the work “The Colorful Life” (1907), also by the Russian painter Kandinsky. The heirs also want to get this picture back, which hangs in the Lenbachhaus in Munich. However, the German “Advisory Commission in connection with the return of cultural property stolen by Nazi persecution, especially from Jewish property” decides on this.

The Amsterdam Art Museum bought “Bild mit Häuser” in 1940 for 160 guilders – according to the plaintiff, well below the value at the time. “The museum did not act in good faith,” said the lawyers.

The heirs are demanding that the court invalidate a decision by the State Returns Commission. This had rejected the claim of the heirs in 2018. The picture was also sold because of financial difficulties of the Lewensteins. The interest of the museum outweighs that of the heirs. According to the plaintiffs, the ruling violates the so-called Washington principles for dealing with Nazi-looted art.

The applicants also question the objectivity of the Commission. According to an expert opinion, at least three of the seven members had business relationships with the museum to which they had ultimately awarded the picture. When the judgment will be made is still unclear.

Source: Apa / dpa