Charles Goldstein – a New York real estate lawyer whom the New York Times describes as a ‘tenacious advocate’ for recovering art looted from Holocaust victims – died on 30 July in Manhattan at the age of 78.
“Charles Goldstein was the unsung hero of art restitution,” art collector and cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder told the New York Times. The art lawyer reportedly died from complications resulting from an infection. Goldstein was an attorney with the New York firm Herrick, Feinstein. At Lauder’s request, Goldstein developed and led the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR), which was established in 1997 to assist in the restitution of Nazi-looted art to the original owners of the works. The commission maintains that it has recovered or assisted in the recovery of art worth over $160 million, or £103 million.
The commission’s highest-profile success was that of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was a landmark case for CAR. The work now resides in New York at the Neue Galerie, founded by Lauder, who paid $135 million, or £87 million for the painting in 2006.
CAR also supported the return of Gustave Courbet’s painting Femme nue couchée – which had been looted by a Soviet soldier in Budapest in 1944, having taken it from Hungarian Jewish collector Baron Ferenc Havatny – after a four-year process of negotiations. The work later went on view in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Goldstein remained highly vocal on the subject of art restitution throughout Europe and the U.S., as an advocate of art recovery he penned many articles on the subject, the art lawyer attended New York’s Columbia College and earned a JD cum laude from Harvard in 1961. In 1982, Goldstein was profiled in the New York Times, where the publication described him as “real-estate attorney to the powerful.”