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You Can Buy Kichener Reproduction Oil Paintings at GalerieDada

 

Kirchner Oil Painting Returned

 

 

 

German officials and museum directors are meeting on Monday to discuss fears that the country could lose countless masterpieces as a treasure hunt for art stolen by the Nazis heats up.

The meeting has been called by Culture Minister Bernd Neumann following the restitution of one of the most important art works of the German Expressionist period, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's "Berlin Street Scene".

It was returned in August to Anita Halpin, the chairwoman of Britain 's Communist Party and the granddaughter of its original owner, a Jewish-German shoe manufacturer who sold it under duress.

From 1933, Hitler's henchmen routinely extorted art works from Jewish collectors or deported them to death camps before ripping masterpieces of their walls.

This month, Halpin had the Kirchner auctioned off by Christie's art dealers. It was bought by the heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire, Ron Lauder, for 38 million euros (48 million dollars).

Lauder plans to hang it in his private Neue Galerie in New York , which is already home to the world's most famous restituted art work, the "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" by Austrian Secessionist Gustav Klimt.

He bought the Klimt for 135 million dollars, the highest price ever paid for an oil painting, from the Altmann family to whom Austria returned it after a seven-year legal battle.

Austrian authorities could not match the record sum to keep it in Vienna , where it had been a tourist magnet, nor could Berlin 's Die Bruecke museum afford to buy back the Kirchner.

The fate of the Klimt and the Kirchner, along with a surprise claim this month for a prized Picasso, has raised concerns that the moral issue of returning stolen art is being clouded by money and cynicism.

The chairman of the Federation of German Museums, Michael Eissenhauer, said the vertiginous prices fetched by the oil paintings prove that restituted art has become a status symbol for the super rich and a moneyspinner for art dealers who face great demand for a finite pool of works from the modern and Impressionist periods.

"It is really worthwhile to keep an eye out for these paintings as they seem to breathe a little life into the art market," he wryly told the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel.

The head of the foundation that runs Die Bruecke museum was more blunt.

"Everybody knows that the people behind many of these restitution claims are not really the heirs but the big auction houses," said Ludwig von Pufendorf.

A decade ago, both Christie's and Sotheby's set up departments to trace art works stolen by the Nazis that qualify for restitution, of which there are an estimated 100,000 worldwide.

Former German culture minister Michael Naumann said the country's museums have discreetly gone on the defensive, delving into the suspect provenance of valuable oil paintings to develop a strategy to counter potential claims.

He was the driving force behind Germany 's decision to sign an agreement in Washington in 1998 to return art works that were confiscated from their rightful owners.

Afterwards, the accord was given a wide interpretation, obliging museums not only to return art looted by the Nazis but also pieces that families left behind when they fled the Third Reich or sold hastily to finance their exile.

Der Spiegel news magazine commented that eight years after the deal was inked, "the joy of that moment has been tempered by irritation at the wave of restitution claims."

It said a dozen German museums are bracing for restitution claims for about 50 important works.

The Wilhelm-Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen already faces a claim for another work by Kirchner, his "Small Blue Horses", while the Sprengel museum in Hannover is being asked to return Franz Marc's "Cat Behind A Tree".

But an outcry over the loss of the first Kirchner canvas has shown that art foundations and the public do not want Berlin to give up contested German treasures without a fight.