A long-standing restitution dispute between Germany’s Kunstsammlung NRW and the heirs of the Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, regarding the provinance of Juan Gris work, Die Welt reports. The museum has called on the panel of experts from the so-called Limbach Commission to adjudicate the ongoing issue. The commission’s rulings will be officially non-binding, but can hold significant sway in deciding restitution cases. The museum has asked the help of the panel of experts from the Limbach Commission to adjudicate the case.
The Kunstsammlung NRW claims that after years of provenance research it has not any found evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt that Juan Gris’s work ‘Guitar and Ink Bottle on a Table’ (1913) belonged to the Jewish art dealer. The museum’s research suggests that the disputed painting may have been on consignment or jointly owned by several gallerists – when the painting was sold to a London collector in 1934. The heirs of Flechtheim believe the sale was decided on under the ongoing threat of Nazi persecution.
The heirs of the Jewish art dealer have successfully reclaimed a number of works based on the commission’s recommendations of restitution. In 2013, the city of Cologne restituted Oskar Kokoschka’s Portrait ‘Tilla Durieux’ (1910) to Flechtheim’s heirs. The Kunstmuseum Bonn previously negotiated a compensation package with the family to keep a painting by German expressionist Paul Adolf Seehaus.
Gris was a Spanish painter and sculptor born in Madrid who lived and worked in France for most of his life. The artist islosely connected to Cubism, after October 1925, Gris was frequently ill with bouts of uremia and cardiac problems. He died of renal failure in Boulogne-sur-Seine (Paris) on May 11, 1927, at the age of 40. The top auction price for a Gris work is $57.1 million (£34.8 million), achieved for his 1915 painting ‘Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux’. This surpassed previous records of $20.8 million for his 1915 still life ‘Livre, pipe et verres’ and $28.6 million for the 1913 artwork ‘Violon et guitare’.
Alfred Flechtheim was one of the Weimar Republic’s most successful art dealers. He fled to London to escape the Nazi’s in 1933, but subsequently died in poverty in 1937.