Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

A Dispute Over Nazi Victim’s Art Collection

I found this article from the New York Times and realized how little I know about the legalities of purchasing and selling art pieces.

The article discusses the differing opinions about whether the family of Fritz Grünbaum, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, should receive compensation for two paintings by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele that were confiscated by the Nazis at the time of Grünbaum’s arrest.  Christie’s and Sotheby’s happen to be the two auction houses at either end of the debate.  Christie’s believes Grünbaum’s family should be compensated, whereas Sotheby’s believes that Grünbaum’s family should not, following the claim that the paintings were sold by Grünbaum’s wife’s sister to a man named Eberhard Kornfeld, and not stolen from the family. Supposedly, some lawyers denied the family’s claims of ownership believing their claim came too late. However, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets seems to view Kornfeld’s story as suspicious.

Having no background in the visual arts, and no real understanding of all the legalities that go into art purchases and ownership, I cannot speak much to the issue. But I am curious to know, what do some of you visual arts people think?  Is this a common issue?

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About Jenni

My name is Jenni. I am a writer, dreamer, and theatre enthusiast. I love life. I love to travel. I love to laugh. And I think life is beautiful. Follow my Twitter: @imRoseNCrantz

2 comments on “A Dispute Over Nazi Victim’s Art Collection

  1. gormleykimberly
    October 27, 2014

    This sort of dispute is pretty common with paintings bought, sold, or looted around WWII since there are no official rules to follow. Interestingly enough, I don’t think the same dispute happens as often with museum collections of antiquities, many of which were clearly looted from their original situ by colonial powers. Along this same vein of thought, it will be interesting to see what happens in the future with artwork taken under shady circumstances during the wars in the middle east.

  2. hgenetos
    October 31, 2014

    Kim took the words out of my mouth. It has been an issue up for debate for years of who knows these pieces. No different than my article on the Parthenon Marbles. There was a huge find a few years ago of over 1000 pieces of art in Munich. You should read the Washington Post article here. There was one in Vanity Fair that I read that was more detailed.

    It will Be interesting as Kim said to see what happens with art protected by those during the wars in the Middle East. It won’t be to the same extent as the Holocaust clearly.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/11/06/why-nazi-seized-art-is-only-now-resurfacing-and-how-it-will-change-the-art-world/

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