Dutch descendants’ art hopes are raised

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Dutch descendants’ art hopes are raised

Government said it would re-evaluate the holdings of the Netherlands Art Property Collection and would ask the country’s Cultural Heritage Agency to help identify the providence.

Wassily Kandinsky’s Painting with Houses has been fought over in Amsterdam
Wassily Kandinsky’s Painting with Houses has been fought over in Amsterdam

Suspected Nazi-looted paintings held by state museums in the Netherlands will be reappraised after ministers promised to return them to the descendants of their original owners.

In a statement last week, the government said it would re-evaluate the holdings of the Netherlands Art Property Collection and would ask the country’s Cultural Heritage Agency to help identify the providence. 

To date, Jewish families have had to submit claims for the return of artworks, and then had to persuade a panel that the benefit from their restitution trumps the benefit or public good of the institutions holding them.

Analysts say that may no longer be necessary under the new system, which had been on the cards since December, when a government-appointed commission criticised the national restitutions committee, prompting the resignation of its chair.

In 2013, the Jewish Lewenstein family filed a claim for the restitution of Painting with Houses by the Russian abstract art pioneer Wassily Kandinsky, held by the Stedelijk Museum. Last year, an Amsterdam court ruled that the museum could retain the £20 million painting from the Lewenstein collection, despite the Nazi theft.

The Netherlands was initially a leader in Holocaust art restitution among European states and has already returned 588 pieces from its collection of 1,600+ works, but in recent years several claims have been refused, prompting last week’s rethink.

Artnews.com reported that the government said it would now “aim to return as much as possible of the art looted by the Nazis during the Second World War to its rightful owners”.


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