German auction house blasted over Jewish-owned art sale

AFP 9 February 2011

MONTREAL — Three university beneficiaries of Jewish art dealer Max Stern's estate on Wednesday blasted a German auction house for planning to sell a painting they say was looted during the Nazi era.

Concordia University and McGill University in Montreal, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem claim an old master work by Flem Alexander Adriaenssen (1587-1661) in the possession of Lempertz Auction House in Cologne, Germany.

The painting "Fish still life, shellfish, perch, pike, oyster and cat" is believed to be "the same painting lost to Stern at the hands of the Nazis through a forced sale in 1937 at the same auction house," they said.

The three schools asked Lempertz in 2009 to pull the painting from sale to allow due diligence on its provenance and identification. But according to the universities, Lempertz refused.

The preliminary findings of an investigation, the artist's signature and the work's precise measurements lead them to believe, they said, that "there is little doubt the painting is the same one that was auctioned off in the forced sale."

The schools said the auction house's position that it possesses a different painting and is selling it was "disappointing and highly questionable."
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