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'The Story of 'Street Scene': Restitution of Nazi Looted Art, Case and Controversy'

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The Story of 'Street Scene': Restitution of Nazi Looted Art, Case and Controversy


Gunnar Schnabel and Monika Tatzkow




A German edition of this book was launched in Berlin on 10 December 2008, with the title Berliner Strassenszene: Raubkunst und Restitution - der Fall Kirchner, ISBN 978-3-00-025526-7.

In the autumn of 2006, a controversy exploded in Germany about the restitution of the expressionist masterpiece  'Street Scene' by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.  The painting had been seized from the great expressionist collection of the late Alfred Hess, a German shoe magnate.  Found in the collection of Berlin's Brücke Museum, it was reclaimed by his grand-daughter and returned to her. 

The painting's return and subsequent sale was widely criticised in Germany.  Some suggested that the claim was not legitimate, others that it was a 'betrayal of the German nation', allowed only because Germans were 'proud of their guilt'.  Some in Germany suggested the claim was motivated purely by greed, that it represented a capitulation to profit-seeking American lawyers and their Jewish clients.  Ludwig von Pufendorf, director of the Brücke Museum Foundation, talked of 'a business' that had 'nothing to do' with moral restitution.  Such scarcely concealed antisemitic slurs provoked great concern.  

In this book, the authors, Gunnar Schnabel and Monika Tatzkow, who spent a year independently researching the case, tell the story of the painting, of the Hess family and of the two year battle over the painting's return. 

The book was published in English by Proprietas Verlag to coincide with an exhibition of Kirchner's 'Street Scene' series of paintings at the Museum of Modern Art New York from 3 August to 10 November 2008, ISBN 978-3-00-024710-1. 

Details of the exhibition, which includes the Hess painting, are here.  The publisher's flyer, with details of how to obtain the book, is available here.

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