AArticle Launched: 03/18/2006 12:00 AM PST
After 68 years, Klimt paintings find way 'home'
By Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
Jim Altmann fell asleep on a recent night thinking about his mother's
victorious claim that she - not the Austrian government - was the rightful
owner of five Gustav Klimt paintings worth about $300 million.
He dreamed his family was sitting in the living room of his mother's
Angeles home when the doorbell rang. It was UPS. They had the paintings.
"I called my mom and told her about the dream," said Altmann, 50, of
Hills. "And she said, 'You're not too far off. They're going to ship them to
the L.A. County Museum of Art."'
The Klimt paintings that Maria Altmann knew as an Austrian girl left
this week for Los Angeles, where her family found refuge after escaping the
Nazis almost 70 years ago.
But the paintings are not the kind to be hung above the mantle. On April
they will be exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where they
will remain through June.
"Eventually, they will be sold to museums or the appropriate people
can be seen," said Altmann, the 90-year-old "Klimt Warrior," as her sons
call her, who sued Austria on behalf of herself and four other heirs.
The paintings are believed to be the largest restitution ever ordered
Nazi-looting case. They include the 1907 gold portrait of Altmann's aunt
known as "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," which is valued at $120 million and is
considered one of Klimt's two best pieces.
LACMA, which asked to hold the exhibition, is working with Altmann and
other four heirs to keep the paintings on "permanent display," said
Stephanie Barron, the museum's senior curator of modern art.
"We can hope," Barron said. "There are a lot of very wealthy people
Klimt, who was born in Vienna in 1862 and died in 1918, was a personal
friend of Altmann's aunt and uncle, the Bloch-Bauers. They were one of three
families who owned most of his paintings.
Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer were part of Austria's wealthy Jewish
community during the early 20th century. He was a sugar magnate, she a
Social Democrat who mingled with leftist politicians, artists and
They couldn't have children. Their wealth was willed to two nieces and
nephew. Altmann is the only one still living.
When Adele Bloch-Bauer died in 1924, she left all her property to her
husband but asked him to bequeath their art collection to the Austrian
National Gallery at the Belvedere Palace.
Before he died, though, Nazis seized the Bloch-Bauer possessions and
property, including the Klimt paintings, which had hung in Adele's bedroom
as a memorial.
The paintings became a source of pride for Austria. One of the country's
most important artists, Klimt's work is erotic and suggestive, distinguished
by gold backgrounds and mosaic patterns. He was known to spend a year or
more on some pieces.
"The paintings give us a sense of the power of art at the turn of the
century in Vienna," Barron said. "They are glorious, intimate, psychological
and astonishingly beautiful paintings that transport us to another time and
Altmann, the daughter of a lawyer, had grown up with maids, cooks and
butler. But she was largely unaware of their wealth.
In 1938, Altmann's father died naturally and her husband, Fritz, was
in a concentration camp. When the paintings were stolen later that year,
Altmann said, "I couldn't have cared less."
Eventually, Fritz escaped. He and his wife fled, settling in Los Angeles
1942. They began socializing with other Austrian Jewish refugees and put
together a familiar life in an unfamiliar land.
Fritz worked for his brother's cashmere sweater
any; Maria ran a Beverly Hills women's boutique. But they didn't live like
the Bloch-Bauers had.
"When I was a little boy, my mom showed me a reproduction of this painting,"
Jim Altmann, the youngest of four, said about the gold portrait. "My mom
said, 'If my aunt would have left us this painting, our lives would have
been totally different."'
Thirty years ago, Altmann moved into a simple one-story house on a quiet
street with a coastal breeze. Her Cheviot Hills backyard is quintessential
Los Angeles: a pool and a view of the Pacific. The interior is decorated
with antique statues and paintings. But there is no place for a real Klimt;
besides, Altmann already has that "Adele I" lithograph - not to mention the
portrait's place on wrapping paper and a coffee mug, which Altmann finds
Klimt was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schoenberg, the
composer and grandfather of E. Randol Schoenberg. Altmann was a close friend
of the younger Schoenberg's maternal grandmother and has always seen him as
"Randy" was 32 when she called him with hopes his mother could provide
advice in recovering the Klimt paintings. It was 1998 and Austria was
considering - and eventually passed - a law that required the National
Gallery to return any donations made in exchange for having other property
seized by the Nazis returned.
Schoenberg's parents were vacationing in Vienna and the young lawyer
found himself taking on the case. It was all-consuming.
"My night job was a lot more fun," he said of the unbilled time he spent
the Klimt case. "It was the kind of thing you could talk about at cocktail
parties and everybody would be interested."
All his client ever wanted was for the Austrian government to acknowledge
that the paintings still belonged to her family, Altmann said. She made a
plea for an apology as late as during a 1998 meeting with Austrian officials
in Vienna. When they walked, she sued.
The case went through the courts until reaching the U.S. Supreme Court
February 2004. When the court ruled that Altmann could sue Austria,
Schoenberg suggested they instead have the case decided by three Austrian
arbitrators. He didn't want a U.S. court to issue a rule in their favor and
have the Austrian government balk.
"We really were looking at an endless and hopeless procedure in the
until the Austrian government agreed to the arbitration," said Schoenberg,
who attended Harvard-Westlake when it was Harvard School.
Now 39, he's argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (winning the rare
sue a foreign country), he's won an unprecedented case (proving that five
national treasures didn't belong to that nation) and he's secured himself a
seemingly large reward (though he and Altmann declined to discuss the
"It turned out my night job was actually much better than my day job.
knew it?" Schoenberg said. "Everybody just thought I was nuts."
Brad A. Greenberg, (818) 713-3634
17. Mrz 2006
19:37 Ê Adeles Weg nach Los Angeles
Spedition Kunsttrans transportierte die Klimt-Gemlde ab
Ê Wien - Einen fetten Auftrag hat die auf Kunsttransporte aller Art
spezialisierte sterreichische Spedition Kunsttrans an Land gezogen. Sie hat
die fnf restituierten Klimt-Bilder aus sterreich abtransportiert. "Wir
haben an Randol Schoenberg eine Mail geschrieben, ob wir beim Transport
helfen knnen. Frechheit siegt", sagt Geschftsfhrer Andreas Kratohwil.
"Wir haben uns mit dem Belvedere, den Erben, Herrn Schoenberg und dem
Museum besprochen und uns dann um alles gekmmert", sagt Kratohwil. "Alles"
hei§t Versicherung, Security, Zlle, Ausfuhrgenehmigung, Transport.
Eigens angefertigte Klimakisten und bewaffnete Sicherheitseskorte
Die wertvollen Gemlde wurden in eigens angefertigte Klimakisten verpackt
und mit Kurieren und bewaffneter Sicherheitseskorte per Lkw nach Mnchen und
Luxemburg gebracht. Von dort wurden sie getrennt und an verschiedenen Tagen
in klimatisierten Frachtflugzeugen nach Los Angeles geflogen. "Wir haben
drei Transporte gemacht, das ist aus Sicherheitsgrnden notwendig", sagt
Kratohwil. Und natrlich gab es ein Stillschweigeabkommen, "aber das ist bei
allen Kunsttransporten so". "Es war schon ein heikler Transport. Aber es ist
alles gut gegangen", meint Kratohwil. Freitag landete das letzte Gemlde in
Los Angeles. ber die Kosten eines solchen Auftrages mchte Kratohwil nicht
reden, "aber es ist nicht billig".
Kunsttrans wurde im Jahre 1974 gegrndet und war das erste auf Kunst
spezialisierte Transportunternehmen in sterreich. 44 Mitarbeiter
beschftigt die Spedition und erwirtschaftet einen Umsatz von rund acht
Millionen Euro im Jahr. (DER STANDARD, Printausgabe vom 18./19.3.2006)
16. Mrz 2006
19:59 Ê Adeles Wert hher als kolportiert
Laut Einstufung des Kunstversicherungs-Consulters
Wien - Der sterreichische Kunstversicherungs-Consulter Barta &
bekannt, dass die Versicherungssumme fr den Abtransport der fnf
restituierten Klimt-Gemlde "ber den kolportierten Marktwerten" liege.
Randol E. Schoenberg, der Anwalt von Maria Altmann, hatte gegenber
STANDARD einen Gesamtwert von rund 250 Millionen Euro genannt. Die
sterreichische Regierung sah sich ob dieser Summe nicht in der Lage, die
Bilder, darunter die "Goldene Adele", zu erwerben. (trenk /DER STANDARD,
Husslein sieht keine parteipolitischen Motive
Die knftige Direktorin der sterreichischen Galerie Belvedere, Agnes Husslein-Arco, hat sich Freitagabend in der "ZIB 2" davon berzeugt gezeigt, dass parteipolitische Grnde bei ihrer Bestellung keine Rolle gespielt haben.
Skeptisch gegenber Klimt-Bilder-Kauf
Es habe bei allen Besetzungen der letzten Jahre Auswahlverfahren gegeben. "Grundstzlich zhlt die Person und nicht die Parteipolitik." "Sicher nicht" will Husslein, die 1994 fr die VP als Nationalratskandidatin angetreten war, spter in die Politik umsteigen. "Ich bleibe lieber bei der Kunst".
Zur Rckgabe der Klimt-Bilder an Maria Altmann sagte Husslein, das sei
die richtige Entscheidung gewesen. Skeptisch u§erte sie sich darber,
ob man weiterhin versuchen sollte, die Bilder, die derzeit auf dem Weg
in die USA zu ihrer Besitzerin sind, zurckzubekommen.
Geld fr andere Dinge verwenden
"Wenn man den Wert und das Geld berlegt, das man dafr einsetzen muss, und den Aufwand in Relation setzt, was man da fr zeitgenssische Kunst oder andere Dinge machen kann, soll man es belassen, wie es ist".
Befragt, ob sie sich bei Altmann fr den jahrelangen Kampf um ihr Eigentum entschuldigen wrde, sagte Husslein. "Natrlich, absolut. Jeder soll sein Recht bekommen, das ihm zusteht."