Kandinsky Painting Returned to Jewish Heirs by Amsterdam Museum

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On Monday, the city of Amsterdam handed a picture of the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky to the heirs of a Jewish couple who sold it when they tried to escape the Netherlands after the Nazi invasion during World War II.

The 1909 work “Painting With Houses” has been held since 1940 by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, which houses a collection of 95,000 art pieces in the city of Amsterdam.

The city said in a statement that it had reached an agreement “on mutual respect” with the couple’s heirs, Robert Lewenstein and Irma Klein, to resolve the ownership dispute that began a few years ago.

“As a city, we have a great responsibility to deal with the indescribable suffering and injustice given to Jews in World War II,” Deputy Mayor Turia Meliani said in a statement. I did. “To the extent that anything can be recovered, our society has a moral obligation to act accordingly.”

The question of whether to return the job has become part of a broader debate about how the Dutch authorities should evaluate the refund request.

David Rohl, a former director of the Stedelijk Museum, bought this painting at an auction in 1940.

It’s unclear who decided to sell the painting, but the auction took place just months after the Nazi invasion, and the museum admits that “this may have been an involuntary sale.”

In 2018, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam discovered that the Stedelijk Museum could hold paintings, the Dutch Return Commission, a national committee that handles allegations of Nazi looting. The decision balances the interests of cultural institutions against the interests of those who seek to retrieve works of art allegedly seized during World War II, some of the decisions stated by the Return Commission. It was one of.

The Return Commission admitted that “Painting With Houses” was previously owned by Lewenstein and Klein, but the move was, to some extent, “caused by the deteriorating financial situation in which they were successful. It must be. ” Before the German invasion. “

In addition, the panel says that while one plaintiff, Ms. Klein’s heir, “has no special relationship” with the painting, the work “occupies an important position” in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection. I found that.

The panel’s decision was upheld by a Dutch court. However, a committee convened by the Dutch Minister of Culture later made a mistake in the Return Committee’s “balance of interests” approach and resigned two members of the Return Committee, including the Chair.

A year ago, the mayor of Amsterdam and several other officials (collectively known as the mayor and the University of Alderperson) wrote that they agreed with the findings, which claimed greater sympathy for the return process. ..

“Especially the suffering suffered by Jews during World War II is unprecedented and irreversible,” they wrote, adding that society had a “moral obligation” to remedy it. ..

And last summer, Mayor Femke Halsema announced that he had begun discussions to hand over the painting to the heirs of the previous owner. However, the decision to do so was subject to the approval of the city council.

The city of Amsterdam said it was more important whether Mr. Lewenstein and Mr. Klein experienced financial distress before selling the painting, rather than the fact that the sale was made after the Nazi army entered the Netherlands. It seemed like I was looking at it.

The heirs and the city said in a statement announcing the transfer that the return was justice to the principle of “returning works of art that were unknowingly removed from possession during World War II due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. Give. “

James Palmer of Mondex Corporation, who has pursued claims and assisted heirs, said: Not surprisingly, I’ve been asking for years. “

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