News / Europe

Jewish Family Presses Austria to Return Famed Klimt Artwork

Visitors look at Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, one of the country's most famous artworks, at the Secession museum in Vienna, Oct. 16, 2013.
Visitors look at Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, one of the country's most famous artworks, at the Secession museum in Vienna, Oct. 16, 2013.
Reuters
— Austria is ready to return one of the country's most famous artworks to heirs of its former owner if a review supports their claim that he was forced to sell it at a knock-down price, the government said on Wednesday.

The case of Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze will test Austria's laws on restitution of looted art. It centers on the Lederer family, Jews who fled to Switzerland when Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938 and the family's extensive art collection was seized.

The collection included the monumental 1902 frieze, paying homage to the German composer's Ninth Symphony and now housed in a climate-controlled room at Vienna's Secession museum.

Erich Lederer got the mammoth work back after the war but with a hitch: Austria would let him export his other artworks only if he sold the frieze to the state at a discount price, family lawyer Marc Weber said.

The New York Times reported that he agreed to sell the frieze to the government in 1973 for $750,000, half of its estimated worth at the time, according to an evaluation by fine art auctioneer Christie's. Weber confirmed the report.

An education, arts and culture ministry spokesman said an commission of researchers from major museums would look into the case and submit its findings to a restitution advisory panel.

That panel would make a recommendation to the culture minister, who would make a final decision. The spokesman did not say how long the case might last or judge its possible outcome.

“This is certainly a valuable work but that makes no difference to the process,” spokesman Raimund Lang said.

He declined to describe the case as a potential loss for the country. “If the ownership is not legal then it will be returned. It is not an issue,” he said.

The Austrian government, which returned six works by Klimt's near contemporary Egon Schiele to Erich Lederer's heirs in 1999, amended its restitution law in 2009 to apply to property that was sold at a discount because of the export ban.

Weber said a dozen heirs were scattered around the world. He represented those in Switzerland. It remained to be seen what would happen to the work should the family win its demand.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid