Three works by the Austrian artist Egon Schiele claimed by the heirs of their former owner, a Jewish collector and artist who was a victim of the Nazis, were seized by the American justice system in important museums in the United States, a judicial source learned on Thursday, confirming information from the New York Times.
In seizure orders dated Tuesday, the New York State Supreme Court finds that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that these drawings by the Austrian Expressionist artist “are stolen” and “illegally possessed.”
Several million dollars
russian prisoner of war (1916), a watercolor and pencil on paper valued at $1.25 million, was confiscated from the Art Institute of Chicago; portrait of a man (1917), a pencil drawing on paper valued at one million dollars, was seized at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, northeast while black hair girl (1911), a watercolor and pencil on paper valued at $1.5 million, was confiscated from the Allen Memorial Museum of Art at Oberlin University (northeast, Ohio).
The orders specify that the works may remain “in progress” for a period of 60 days. “We are convinced that we have legally acquired this work and that we legally possess it,” the Chicago museum responded, stating that it wanted to defend itself in the context of “an (open) civil dispute in federal court.”
“We will fully cooperate with authorities’ requests,” the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh said.
According to the New York Times, the current investigation concerns a dozen works by Egon Schiele looted by the Nazis.
Fritz Grünbaum’s heirs have been taking legal action for years to recover works of art that belonged to their ancestor. The American justice system ruled against them in 2005, considering that they acted too late, but they won the case over two works in 2018.
Source: BFM TV