Amsterdam Museum Will Return Forced Art Sale During Holocaust to Jewish Heirs Following Outcry #holocaust #announcements
Jan Meisels Allen
“Painting with Houses” (Bild mit Häusern ) by Wassily Kandinsky worth $22 million will be returned to the Jewish family following public outcry. The painting was acquired from Irina Klein and her husband under duress during the Holocaust for $1,600. Amsterdam said its city-owned museum, Stedelijk Museum, should return the painting to the family of Irina Klein.
Last December, it was reported on this forum that, “The Amsterdam District Court upheld a 2018 ruling by the Netherlands restitution committee and rejected a restitution case brought by the Jewish heirs that originally owned a painting by Wassily Kandinsky. The painting was bought by the city of Amsterdam at auction in 1940. Amsterdam District Court upheld a 2018 ruling by the Netherlands’ Restitutions Committee that the artwork titled “Painting With Houses,” which is in the collection of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, does not have to be returned to the Lewenstein family. Lawyers of the heirs said they will appeal. The painting is estimated to be worth €18m.”
The museum and city are in talks with the family about making the restitution happen in the near future, the report said.
The Municipality said in its statement, “ 'Due to the long lapse of time and the importance of rectifying injustice, we will return the work without further intervention of the Restitutions Committee. As a city, we have a history and with that a great responsibility for dealing with the injustice and irreparable suffering inflicted on the Jewish population during the Second World War. The municipality of Amsterdam has a moral obligation to act accordingly. The Municipal Executive stands for a fair and clear restitution policy, which essentially makes it possible to return as much art as possible to the rightful owners or the heirs of the owners,' according to the municipality.” See: https://www.parool.nl/amsterdam/gemeente-stedelijk-museum-moet-schilderij-kandinsky-teruggeven-aan-erfgenamen~b5301c72/ (Use Chrome as your browser for translation from Dutch into English)
Before the war, the painting was part of the art collection of the Jewish couple Lewenstein, who ran a successful sewing machine shop on Dam Square. They had an extensive collection of paintings by Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Renoir and Manet, among others. They also had a Rembrandt collection. In the 1920s, the family had bought the 1909 oil painting Bild mit Häusern . In 1940 the family fled the Nazis. The painting was offered n 19409at auction and the then-director of the Stedelijk Museum purchased the painting for 160 guilders considering its value at the times was 2,000-3,000 guilders. Today the painting is worth 20 million Euros.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany considers the painting stolen. Dutch authorities recognized this but have said the “public interest” of having the painting on display at the Stedelijk outweighs that of the family trying to retrieve it.
This position, which diverges from international restitution norms, has provoked international pressure and protests, including by Dutch officials entrusted with handling restitution claims.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee