The Stedelijk Museum: BILD MIT HÄUSERN - WASSILY KANDINSKY
Stedelijk director David Röell acquired this painting in October 1940, at an auction held by Frederik Muller & Co. in Amsterdam. According to the auction catalogue, the work was part of the “Estate L., Amsterdam.” Research into its provenance by the Stedelijk Museum showed that Hedwig Lewenstein-Weijermann, a Jewish woman, had inherited the painting in 1930 from her husband, Emanuel Albert Lewenstein, who had owned the painting since 1923. It was unclear who exactly had put the work up for auction in 1940, and possible that this had been an involuntary sale. For this reason the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Museum, and the heirs submitted an application to the Dutch Restitutions Committee in 2013 for further investigation and binding advice on the future of the work. On 1 November 2018 the Restitutions Committee advised that the work should remain in the Stedelijk collection. According to the Restitutions Committee, the most probable situation is that the work was auctioned in 1940 in consultation with Irma Klein and Robert Lewenstein, after the latter inherited it from his mother. The committee concluded that while the sale of this work cannot be viewed separately from the Nazi regime, it was also partly a result of other factors (including the worsening financial circumstances already affecting Klein and Lewenstein before the German invasion). In addition, the Restitutions Committee states there are no indications that the museum did not purchase the work in good faith in 1940. The heirs challenged this ruling by the Restitutions Committee before the Dutch court, which declared their claims to be groundless on 16 December 2020. In December 2020, the Kohnstamm Committee’s report, “Streven naar rechtvaardigheid” (Striving for Justice), was published. It states that the balance of interests currently applied by the Restitutions Committee fails to serve the legal restoration which should be pursued in this case. The Municipality of Amsterdam endorses this statement. It argues for a reassessment by the Restitutions Committee based on an adjusted framework of assessment. The Stedelijk Museum fully supports this and, as it did in 2018, will commit to any advised course of action. On August 26, it has been announced that the municipality of Amsterdam, as the current owner, has decided to return the work to the heirs in its quest to rectify injustice for victims of the Second World War. This will happen as soon as possible. For further information regarding the provenance investigation, see restitutiecommissie.nl/en.