Heirs Reject Spoliation Panel Ruling

Martin Bailey has an excellent piece for the Art Newspaper on a recent decision involving the U.K.’s Spoliation Advisory Panel.  The collection of experts helps to avoid restitution litigation and makes recommendations when descendants of Nazi-era art owners discover works of art may be in museums in the U.K.  The heirs of Dr. Curt Glaser pursued a Nazi-era claim that eight drawings, (including this drawing by Renoir) currently held by the Courtauld Institute were part of a forced sale in 1933.

The Spoliation panel disagreed:

A key piece of the evidence was a letter from Glaser to his artist friend Edvard Munch on 19 May 1933, the last day of the auction. He wrote that after the death of his first wife and falling in love again, “I have freed myself of all my possessions, so that I might start over again completely new”. Eleven days later he married Marie, and within a month or so they had left Germany. The panel felt that the letter to Munch suggested “mixed motives” behind’s Glaser’s departure, but the heirs dispute this, pointing out that he had had to flee because he was regarded as Jewish and had been dismissed from his job.

On 24 June the Spoliation Advisory Panel concluded that the claimants’ “moral case is insufficiently strong to warrant a recommendation that the drawings should be transferred to them”. Glaser had “obtained reasonable market prices at the auction”, namely 284 reichsmarks (around $1,200 at the time). The Glaser lawyer, New York-based David Rowland, disputes this, saying that “prices were depressed at the time, because other Jewish victims and intellectuals were also selling their belongings”.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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