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Swiss Museum Reverses Course On Restitution For Nazi Era Acquisition

March 27, 2020
Edvard Munch - Madonna

Among the works were Edvard Munch’s “Madonna”

The heirs of prominent museum director and art critic, Curt Glaser, were finally awarded a settlement from the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland, for more than 200 prints and drawings estimated to be worth more than $2 million. The museum will pay an undisclosed sum and keep the works by artists including Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, Auguste Rodin, Marc Chagall, and others.

More than a decade ago, the city originally rejected the restitution claim for works that Glaser unloaded before he fled Germany in 1933. The initial position was that the museum made the purchase of the works in good faith at auction in Berlin, and paid market prices. That was until Swiss media uncovered documents that suggested the curator for Basel’s public collections at the time were told to “make cheap acquisitions,” and these purchases were described as “fire-sale prices.” While pressure mounted to review the claim, other museums and collectors began agreeing to restitute works, ultimately leading the president of Basel’s Art Commission to revisit the case.

Experts speculate this may be a sign of Swiss museums being more willing to engage seriously with Nazi-era restitution claims.

Source: Swiss Museum Settles Claim Over Art Trove Acquired in Nazi Era – The New York Times