Verdict Overturned in "Nazi" Art Flap

Voz Iz Neias? 3 September 2010

New York, NY - A federal appeals court has overturned a verdict that denied the heirs of a Holocaust victim—including a Manhattan man—ownership of a valuable drawing they claim was looted by the Nazis.

The case involves a 1917 work by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, “Seated Woman with Bent Left Leg (Torso),” which Massachusetts sculptor David Bakalar bought for $4,300 in 1963 from a Manhattan art gallery.

Bakalar filed suit when the heirs of Franz Friedrich Grunbaum—including Manhattan stamp dealer Leon Fischer—challenged his ownership after a 2005 auction at which the drawing attracted a top bid of $675,000.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lower-court finding that relatives of Grunbaum, who died in Dachau in 1941, “failed to produce ‘any concrete evidence’ ” of their allegations.

“Our reading of the record suggests there may be such evidence,” Judge Edward Korman wrote for the three-judge panel.

The drawing was among 449 artworks—including 81 Schieles—owned by Grunbaum, a popular Vienna cabaret entertainer who was forced to sign over power of attorney after he was arrested and thrown in a concentration camp by the Nazis in 1938.

Bakalar’s lawyer, James Janowitz, said he would likely ask the entire Court of Appeals to review yesterday’s decision.
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