Wednesday 6 November 2013

Sensationeller Kunstschatz!

More than 1500 modern artworks, including pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Nolde, Franz Marc, Beckmann, Klee, Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Liebermann have come to light in 'a shabby Munich apartment', according to the German magazine  FOCUS. And there's a Guardian piece here.  This is a huge hoard of what the nazis vilified as entartete Kunst or degenerate art.

It's an extraordinary find and opens up a can of worms. Who owns this stuff? How was it acquired? If, as seems likely, the paintings were either sold for a pittance by Jewish owners (and presumably non-Jewish ones as well) desperate to liquidate their assets and flee the country or simply confiscated by the thugs in charge at the time, then they should rightly and with the minimum of fuss be returned to the owners, or their heirs.

But something I've never been clear about is why the process of reparation applies to artworks (as of course it should) but not, it seems, to anything else. Why should art collectors alone be the beneficiaries of such acts of restitution and not, say, those who lost things other than artworks? Or, come to that, what of Londoners and countless others who suffered loss of property (and much worse) in the Blitz? How come an Egon Schiele worth a king's ransom can be restored to its original owner's heirs (and, I repeat, rightly) and then sold at auction while the  . . . oh, to hell with it.

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