Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Grosz MoMA Dispute (UPDATED)

Robin Pogrebin has an interesting story in today's New York Times about an ownership dispute between George Grosz's estate and MoMA over two Grosz paintings in the museum's collection. “As these Grosz works would not have been lost if [German Jewish art dealer Alfred] Flechtheim and Grosz had not had to flee Germany in order to save their lives, the George Grosz Estate claims restitution,” the estate's representative wrote in a 2003 letter to the museum. Earlier this year, as negotiations dragged on, the museum asked Nicholas Katzenbach, a former attorney general and undersecretary of state in the Johnson administration, to investigate the claim. He recommended that it be rejected:

"Mr. Katzenbach noted that when Grosz saw [one of the two paintings] at the museum [in the 1950s], he did not ask that it be returned or that he be compensated. Had he done so, the report added, 'not only would the museum have had the opportunity to ascertain the facts when they were still reasonably fresh and knowable, but it would have had the opportunity to resolve the matter then and there at relatively little cost to it.'"

The estate says it will decide by the end of the month whether to file a lawsuit.

You can see the two works here and here.

The story adds: "This is not the first time Grosz works have been the subject of controversy. The Grosz estate filed a lawsuit in 1995 against the Manhattan art dealer Serge Sabarsky, arguing that Mr. Sabarsky had deprived the estate of appropriate compensation for the sale of hundreds of Grosz works he had acquired. The lawsuit was settled last summer." I discussed that earlier lawsuit here.

UPDATE: Derek Fincham weighs in here.