Het Parool: Lewenstein family appealed to get Kandinsky back

[THIS IS AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE ORIGINAL DUTCH ARTICLE “Familie Lewenstein in hoger beroep om Kandinsky terug te krijgen” PUBLISHED ON HET PAROOL ON MARCH 2, 2021].(https://www.parool.nl/kunst-media/familie-lewenstein-in-hoger-beroep-om-kandinsky-terug-te-krijgen~b78b1953/)

The Lewenstein family insists that the municipality of Amsterdam must return Wassily Kandinsky ‘s painting Bild mit Häusern , because it was taken from them during the Second World War.

Het Parool March 12, 2021 , 4:22 PM

The painting Bild mit Häusern (1909) by the Lewenstein family was bought at an auction by the Stedelijk Museum in 1940. IMAGE WASSILY KANDINSKY

That is why the family is appealing against a judgment of the Amsterdam court of 16 December. The court then stated that the municipality of Amsterdam did not have to return the painting.

Before the war, the painting was part of the Lewenstein couple ‘s art collection . On October 9, 1940, the municipality bought the work at an auction, while it was unknown how the painting got there, and included it in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, which was not yet independent at the time.

In 2012, the couple’s heirs asked the municipality to return the painting. Both parties then jointly decided to have the Restitutions Committee of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science issue binding advice on whether the painting should indeed be returned to the heirs.

A four-year study eventually concluded that this was not necessary. It would not be looted art; the family is said to have had the painting up for auction in 1940 due to financial difficulties.

The heirs disagreed and went to court. But it ruled them wrong on all points last December , partly because it had been agreed that the committee’s advice would be binding.

Nazi robbery

In the same month, a report was published by the Kohnstamm Commission, which shows that the Netherlands is doing too little about the restitution of Nazi raided art. This is contrary to international agreements. Moreover, thanks to improved technology, it is now easier to trace the history of a piece of art. According to the committee, there must be a better weighing of interests, in which ‘remedying injustice’ comes first.

The municipality of Amsterdam recently joined in. The municipality therefore wanted the Restitutions Committee to re-examine whether Kandinsky’s painting should be returned, based on the new weighing of interests.

However, the heirs do not like this. The first procedure took a total of five years, and according to the Lewensteins it is already clear what needs to be done. “Now that the weighing of interests in favor of the Stedelijk Museum is off the table, the painting must be returned.”

The Stedelijk bought Bild mit Häusern for 160 guilders; the original value would be about 2,000 to 3,000 guilders. The work is now said to be worth around 20 million euros.