Court Says Heirs of Holocaust Victim Can Keep Nazi-Looted Works | Modern Society of USA

Court Says Heirs of Holocaust Victim Can Keep Nazi-Looted Works

Court Says Heirs of Holocaust Victim Can Keep Nazi-Looted Works

Thaddeus Stauber, the lawyer for Mr. Nagy, the art dealer, said his client was undecided about whether to pursue the case further in court. In a statement, Mr. Stauber said that while he was pleased the lower court did not find that his client had “acted improperly” in obtaining the artworks in 2013, he was disappointed that the Appellate Division did not allow “a trial on the merits here” and had “instead disregarded the careful expert reports commissioned from respected provenance experts.”

The appellate panel rejected the argument, long made by Mr. Nagy and others in court, that while the Nazis inventoried the drawings, they never actually seized them, and that they had ended up in the possession of Mr. Grünbaum’s sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs. She was said to have then sold them to Eberhard Kornfeld, a Swiss art dealer, after the war.

Mr. Kornfeld published a catalog of Schiele artworks in 1956, including both “Woman in a Black Pinafore” and “Woman Hiding her Face,” but it made no mention of Ms. Lukacs in the chain of provenance for any of the artworks. He said in a 2007 deposition in a separate restitution case that he had no idea the works had once belonged to Mr. Grünbaum.

All the Schiele artworks in Mr. Kornfeld’s 1956 show were later sold to a single American dealer, Otto Kallir, before being sold off to a variety of other people.

When the provenance of some of the Schieles came to be challenged, Mr. Kornfeld testified in 2007 that he had purchased the works from Ms. Lukacs. He presented various documents to support that account. But the heirs have dismissed the documents as forgeries or after-the-fact creations in court papers, and neither the lower nor appellate courts treated them as substantial evidence.

“We note that there are no records, including invoices, checks or receipts documenting that the Artworks were purchased by Kornfeld from Mathilde,” the appellate judges wrote. “Moreover, even if Mathilde had possession of Grünbaum’s art collection, possession is not equivalent to legal title.”

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