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One of Gustav Klimt's most famous paintings should not be returned to the heirs of its original Jewish owners, an Austrian panel has ruled.

The "Beethoven Frieze" was looted by the Nazis but returned to the family of Jewish industrialist August Lederer after World War Two.

But it was subject to an export ban.

The heirs had argued this forced Lederer's son Erich to sell the work at a cut-rate price. The museum where it is now on display disputed this claim.

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Following the return of two Benin bronzes looted by British troops in 1897, officials in Nigeria have reiterated their call for the British Museum to relinquish its collection of bronzes and return them to their country of origin, the BBC reported.

During a trade mission to Benin in 1897, seven British officials were reportedly killed by the men of the Oba, the King of Benin. In retaliation, the British killed thousands and set the city on fire in what has been described as “the most brutal massacre of the colonial era." Following the attack, the King's palace was looted and more than 2,000 artworks and religious artifacts seized.

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With the recent loosening of US restrictions on trade with Cuba, prisoner exchanges and the promise of warmer relations to come, the two countries are closer than they have been for 50 years. But for those Cuban exiles in the US whose art was seized by the Cuban authorities in the 1960s, restitution of their property is still no closer. Cuba continues to reject the charge that the art in question was stolen, and has no mechanism for its return.

The latest case involves a Cuban-born neurosurgeon who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Javier Garcia-Bengochea is claiming Francesco Guardi’s "View of the Lagoon between the Fondamenta Nuove and Murano," 1757, from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana. Garcia-Bengochea says that one of his relatives bought the painting at Parke-Bernet in New York for $1,000 in 1957 and then took it to Cuba.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 March 2014 10:56

Art Hoarder Agrees to Return Nazi-Looted Works

Cornelius Gurlitt, the German man who had been hoarding a trove of Nazi-looted artworks in his Munich apartment, has agreed to return the works to their rightful owners. Gurlitt's lawyers are currently working with the descendants of Paul Rosenberg, a French art dealer, to return Henri Matisse's "Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in Armchair."

In November 2013, it was reported that in 2012, more than 1,400 artworks were uncovered in Gurlitt's apartment. In February 2014, around 60 more works were found in an Austrian home owned by Gurlitt, including works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pablo Picasso.  Two subsequent visits turned up 178 more works.

Gurlitt, 81, is the son of the art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, who reportedly acquired the works in the late 1930s and 1940s. Gurlitt's father had been put in charge of selling the stolen artworks abroad by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, but secretly hoarded many of them and later claimed that they were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden. Gurlitt sold a number of the paintings over the years and lived off of the profits.

In November 2013, Gurlitt announced that he would not negotiate the return of the works in his possession.

Published in News
Friday, 26 April 2013 14:44

Billionaire to Return Looted Bronzes to China

Francois-Henri Pinault, a French billionaire and CEO of the luxury-goods brand, Kering (formerly PPR), has announced that he will return a pair of Qing dynasty bronze statues to China. The looted bronzes were part of a 2009 auction at Christie’s in Paris that sparked a campaign in China aimed at putting an end to intimidation by foreign powers. Officials from Beijing have applauded Pinault’s efforts to create a more camaraderie-focused dynamic between France and China. Pinault is the owner of the Artemis Group, Christie’s holding company.

The works to be returned to China are the bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit, which were part of a group of 12 animal heads that were looted from Beijing’s Summer Palace by French and British troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Since emerging as a powerful international force in recent years, China has been campaigning for the return of the works. Five of the bronzes have been given back to China and one is in Taiwan while the whereabouts of the remaining four pieces remain a mystery.

The bronzes being returned to China by Pinault were previously owned by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and were put up for auction in 2009 following his death. Chinese officials voiced opposition at the time of the sale and an advisor to a Chinese government fund placed the winning bid on the bronzes but never ended up paying for them. The works were returned to Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s former partner.

Pinault is working with the Cultural Heritage Administration to get the bronzes back to China as quickly as possible. The decision is a clever move on Pinault’s part as his businesses, which include Gucci and Puma, have been thriving in China’s growing consumer economy.

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