Court: Mass. museum can keep work sold in Nazi era

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2010 11:42 AM
Court: Mass. museum can keep work sold in Nazi era

A federal appeals court has ruled that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts can retain ownership of a 1913 painting by Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka that was sold during the Nazi occupation of Austria.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a lawsuit the museum filed against Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, who claims Kokoschka's "Two Nudes (Lovers)" was sold under duress in 1939 by one of her ancestors, Oskar Reichel, a Jewish doctor and art collector who lived in Vienna.

The museum said its research showed the painting was sold voluntarily and was eventually donated to the museum in 1973.

The appeals court did not rule on the legality of the museum's acquisition of the painting, but said the three-year statute of limitations on Seger-Thomaschitz's claim had run.

The court said that museums should "take all reasonable steps to resolve the Nazi-era provenance status of objects before acquiring them for their collections."

In July, a commission in Austria recommended that four paintings contained in a Vienna art collection should be returned because they were either seized by the Nazis or given up against the will of their former Jewish owners.

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The paintings belong to the Leopold Museum Private Foundation, which has been criticized for allegedly containing works stolen by Nazis.

The commission said three of the paintings once belonged to Reichel.

The commission said that although it was unclear if the works were actually confiscated by the Nazis, "it is certain that Dr. Oskar Reichel had to give up all three paintings because of his persecution as a Jew by the National Socialists."