On Friday, 31 October 2014, a press conference was held in New York in connection with the recently settled claim for restitution involving a work by Schiele formerly owned by the noted Viennese cabaret artist Fritz Grünbaum, who died in a concentration camp. The watercolour is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on Wednesday, 5 November 2014.
In the invitation presented to the Leopold Museum Private Foundation to attend the press conference, which was held in the Museum of Jewish Heritage, reference was made to the claim for restitution, refuted by the Leopold Museum Private Foundation, for another painting by Schiele, "Tote Stadt III" [Dead City III], also from Fritz Grünbaum's collection. This work is part of the Leopold Collection and in the possession of the Leopold Museum Private Foundation.
A joint investigation into the provenance of the painting by the Austrian Federal Government (Ministry of Culture) and the Leopold Museum Private Foundation clearly proved that the "Tote Stadt", like many other works by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) from the Grünbaum Collection, was sold after the Second World War, in the 1950s, by Mathilde Lukacs, Fritz Grünbaum's sister-in-law, to the important Swiss art dealer Eberhard W. Kornfeld, who then sold it on.
The advisory committee established by the Federal Government to examine the dossier of the independent researcher into the provenance of works owned by the Leopold Museum - the so-called Michalek Commission - had already concluded in 2010, based on the extensive studies completed in the same year by provenance researcher Dr Sonja Niederacher that there would be no case for restitution if the Leopold Museum were owned by the Federal Government.
The Leopold Museum Private Foundation was shown to be the legal owner of the painting in question. Should the "Grünbaum heirs" continue to falsely claim that the Leopold Museum is not the legal owner of the "Tote Stadt", the Leopold Museum Private Foundation reserves the right to take legal action.
The auction house Christie's took the incomprehensible but apparently conscious decision to accept an incomplete and false chain of provenance, and refused to recognise the Austrian provenance research - and thus the professional research findings of independent experts, commissioned by the Federal Government, who worked in collaboration with the Leopold Museum Private Foundation. The works of Fritz Grünbaum were never looted art. A deliberate suppression of the facts does not change this situation.
The entries about works from the Leopold Collection formerly owned by Fritz Grünbaum on the website lostart.de are also unacceptable, as the "reported" items are neither lost nor were looted.
Grünbaum Dossier (Niederacher):
Grünbaum ruling (Committee):http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/leopold-museum-private-foundation-defends-itself-against-accusations-of-looted-artworks-281220881.html