• By The Financial District

DUTCH COURT RULES AMSTERDAM MUSEUM CAN KEEP KANDISKY PAINTING

An Amsterdam court has ruled that the city’s Stedelijk Museum does not have to return the 1909 painting by Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky to the heirs of its original Jewish owners. The work by the avant-garde artist, titled Painting with Houses, was sold to the museum in October 1940, five months after the German Wehrmacht took over the Netherlands.

The Amsterdam art museum bought ”Painting with Houses” for 160 guilders, a price which was significantly less than its value. "The museum was not acting in good faith," said the family's lawyers. This was the second ruling declaring that the artwork should not be given back to the Lewensteins, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.


In 2018, the Dutch Restitutions Committee had previously rejected the heirs' claim, saying that the museum's interest outweighed that of the heirs. The commission cited that the Lewensteins, who were owners of a sewing machine factory, had sold the picture voluntarily due to their challenging financial circumstances, which predated the German occupation.


Prior to the ruling, the heirs' lawyer, James Palmer, said overturning the case would send the wrong signal. "If the court ruling stands, the Dutch restitution policy is de facto non-existent and important looted art will probably never be returned in the Netherlands," he said.


The heirs and their lawyers had hoped the committee's previous decision would be repealed today.


Axel Hagedorn, another of the family's attorneys, said previously that the sale of artworks by Jews after the Nazi takeover of the Netherlands in May 1940 should no longer be discussed as "voluntary." "It is nonsense for a Jewish family to voluntarily sell pictures during the occupation," he said. "This is pure looted art," he said.



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