Stedelijk Museum Will Keep Contested Kandinsky Painting – ARTnews.com
A Dutch court has ruled that the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam can keep Wassily Kandinsky’s painting “Paintings with Houses” from 1909, ending one of the most famous pending restitution claims. The work belonged to Robert Lewenstein, who fled Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1940, and in the lawsuit Lewenstein’s heirs alleged that the country’s official restitution commission had “shown an appearance of partiality and conflict of interest” on the matter.
Painting with Houses was sold to the museum by Fredrik Müller auction house in 1940 at a reduced price compared to what Lewenstein’s father paid in 1923, a few months after Lewenstein left the Netherlands for France. The judgment says: “How exactly the work was auctioned, in whose name and under what circumstances, has remained unclear despite extensive investigations.” However, the rejection of the heirs’ claim by the Restitutions Commission from 2018 cannot be annulled, since it was found no “serious flaws” in his judgment.
On the subject of matching items
The court also ruled that “the heirs have not demonstrated that there would be partiality and conflict of interest among the members of the Restitution Committee”. Axel Hagedorn, an attorney representing the heirs, told the New York Times the verdict was “incredible,” adding, “I never expected that, and also regarding the legal advantages we had on this case. “
According to the Times, the Stedelijk Museum intends to update the wall text attached to the painting to convey its full story. According to reports, “The Stedelijk Museum believes it is important that the history of this work has now been examined as thoroughly as possible and that the Restitution Committee, after years of independent research, was able to reach binding advice.”
The ruling follows the publication of a report recommending that the Dutch Refunds Commission be more “sensitive” in handling claims and that it abandon its practice of balancing the interests of museums in the cases it manages.