Administrative Court Magdeburg: No Access to Files of Limbach Commission under the Freedom of Information Act

Justizzentrum_MagdeburgIn a judgment dated April 21, 2015, the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) Magdeburg held that the files of the so-called Limbach Commission or “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property” by its full name – cannot be accessed on the basis of the German Freedom of Information Act (Informationsfreiheitsgesetz). Regular readers of this blog may recall that we reported the decision of the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in the Hans Sachs restitution matter. The Hans Sachs restitution claims, before they were brought in court, had been dealt with by the Limbach Commission. The Limbach Commission had advised against the restitution of the Hans Sachs Collection from the German Historic Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum) to the heirs of Hans Sachs. Continue reading

Art Law: Limbach Commission Advises against Restitution of Adolf von Menzel’s “Pariser Wochentag”

On February 3, 2015, the Advisory Commission on the Return of Cultural Property (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter) or Limbach Commission for short, published its recommendation regarding a claim for restitution of the Behrens family. The Behrens family requested that a painting by Adolph von Menzel, “Pariser Wochentag”, which is now owned by the Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast, should be returned to them. The Limbach Commission finds that the sale of the painting in 1935 to the Düsseldorf municipal museum (Städtische Kunstsammlung Düsseldorf) for 33,000 Reichsmark was not a forced sale or a sale at an undervalue which resulted from Nazi persecution of the Behrens family. Continue reading

Art Law: The Gurlitt Paintings – A Treasure Trove of Looted Art

Picasso, Chagall, Marc, Nolde, Spitzweg, Renoir, Macke, Courbet, Beckmann, Kandinsky, Kokoschka, Matisse, Liebermann and Dix – the names of the artists, and the sheer amount of art seized by German authorities in Munich in 2012 is making headlines around the world, since news magazine FOCUS broke the news on Sunday. Almost 1,500 paintings were seized, as part of a customs and tax investigation by German authorities, in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt. It is both temping and somewhat dangerous to come up with a legal assessment at this point in time, where many facts are not known. The Augsburg’s public prosecutor’s office (Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg) held a press conference this morning and press reports are coming through as this post is written (here’s the link to the live blog from that press conference on FOCUS). Continue reading

Kokoschka and Cologne: City Council Votes in Favour of Restitution

A follow-up on my earlier post on the claim the heirs of art dealer Alfred Flechtheim to return Oskar Kokoschka’s portrait of Tilla Durieux and the recommendation of the Limbach Commission to return the painting: On April 30, 2013, the Cologne City Council has voted to follow the recommendation. At the same time, the City of Cologne will discuss with the heirs whether there are options to keep “Tilla Durieux” in Cologne, including a possible acquisition.