'A Wish Came True'
An L.A. Museum Displays Klimt Paintings Taken by Nazis and Restored to

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; Page C01


Maria Altmann says the portrait of her Auntie Adele somehow looks bigger
than she remembered, as the Gustav Klimt masterpiece of a sensual lady bound
in gold was unveiled here at the county art museum Tuesday, almost seven
decades after it was stolen from her family by the Nazis following their
march into Vienna.

The story of this Klimt painting -- its creation, its subject, its looting,
the discovery of the theft and the legal battle to have the art returned --
reads like a sweeping, romantic epic of loss and redemption, a tale that
spans the hothouse salons of fin-de-siecle Vienna, the darkness of the
Holocaust and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The five paintings now on display, including the 1907 gold portrait of a
wealthy, headstrong Viennese Jewish socialite, comprise one of the most
watched and valuable Nazi art restitution events in recent memory. That
socialite, Adele Bloch-Bauer, was a model, patron and perhaps a lover of

Together, the five canvases, according to art appraisals conducted during
the course of the legal case, may carry a value of $300 million -- although
a price for the main portrait is admittedly a guess, because works of its
notoriety and renown rarely appear at auction.

"How do you come to a figure? The paintings, especially the portraits, are
iconic masterpieces of 20th-century art. They are just the rarest of the
rare, and they are beyond the art market," says Stephanie Barron, senior
curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which will display the
paintings until June 30 and would clearly like the Klimts to find a
permanent home here.

Maria Altmann is 90. She is a little hard of hearing, and when we visited
her middle-class home in Los Angeles a few days before the Klimt show
opened, she pressed her hand to a wall to steady her balance. But her memory
is sharp, as she displays.

At the museum Tuesday, she was dressed in a mint-green pantsuit with pearls
at her neck. "I am just so happy," Altmann tells an audience of patrons,
curators and journalists before a tour of the exhibition. Altmann speaks a
prewar Viennese German rarely heard these days even in Austria -- and even
after six decades in Los Angeles (where she worked as a dressmaker,
sometimes out of her home), her English retains the waltz of her native
tongue. Happy, she says, "that today after so many years a wish came true,"
and she reminds the audience that it was 68 years ago that "the paintings
were stolen from my auntie's house."

Altmann is asked whether she bears any resentment toward the Austrian
government, which fought so hard to keep the paintings in the Austrian
Gallery of the Belvedere Palace, a federal museum in Vienna, where they have
been hanging since soon after the war ended. "No," she answers. "I am a
person who tries not resent. But it has been difficult for me. I was angry
at times."

She says she thinks her Aunt Adele would have liked to see her portrait
hanging here in Los Angeles. "She was ahead of her time," Altmann says. "She
would have loved to live as a woman in America now," where she would not
have been the frustrated, childless wife of an industrialist 17 years her
senior. She would have gone to university and into politics, Altmann
imagines, "not be enclosed in teas and ladies' parties."

In the exhibit hall, Altmann poses for the clicking cameras of reporters
beneath the portrait of Bloch-Bauer, which is a thing to behold. Unlike the
poster reproductions that have adorned a generation of dorm rooms, the gold
in the actual painting appears to throb with light.

"It's so beautiful, but it also has an edge, you know?" says Barron, the
curator. "It is undeniably a masterpiece, but it's also the kind of painting
that the public falls in love with. It's absolutely glorious, and so are the
others," which include another portrait of Adele, this one a feast of
primary colors painted in 1912, and the three landscapes, depicting a beech
forest, an apple tree and view from Lake Atter, where Klimt spent his
summers (with his lifelong mistress, among others).

As Barron points out, Gustav Klimt is most famous now for his psychological
paintings of women, some of them in erotic drawings and oils, and others in
more formal (but often still sensual) portraits, including the commissioned
work he did of the wealthy wives of Viennese bankers, merchants and
industrialists, who often came from prominent Jewish families.

Art historians and critics differ in their opinion of the messages of the
Adele Bloch-Bauer painting. Is she embraced in gold? Or entombed? Where some
see a sumptuous dissolve and opulence and ease, others see Adele as
imprisoned -- held in a static pose, divorced from nature, choked by wealth,
by finery, by things. And her face? Does it show a quiet warmth? Or

Early 20th-century Vienna was just the kind of place where these analytical
mind games would have resonated. At the time of Klimt, his city was
exploding with modernist challenges to the formal academy and the status
quo. There were new kinds of journalism and architecture. It was the time
when Sigmund Freud wrote his "Interpretation of Dreams." When Ludwig
Wittgenstein was reworking philosophy. And composers Gustav Mahler and
Arnold Schoenberg were remaking music. The coffeehouses, salons and theater
were filled with shared talk of social revolution. "The culture makers in
the city of Freud," wrote the historian Carl E. Schorske in his work on
Vienna, "defined themselves in terms of a kind of collective Oedipal

Klimt himself was at the center of new art and artistic controversy (he got
into trouble for pushing the boundaries of old Viennese taste). While he was
famous, Klimt remains something of a cipher. The son of a goldsmith, he
began his career as an artisan-decorator himself, before bursting onto the
art scene with daring commissions that often focused on nude, erotic,
sometimes plainly sexual females. He never married, was a bohemian who
consorted with his models and was often found in his studio, draped in a
painter's smock or Arab burnoose, with nothing on underneath. Upon his death
from a stroke in 1918, at age 56, a trove of erotic drawings was found,
including a number depicting his models pleasuring themselves (also at his
death, several mistresses came forward with 14 children they claimed Klimt

Maria Altmann, born in 1916 in Vienna, was of course too young to remember
Klimt, but she recalls her Sunday visits to Adele and her husband
Ferdinand's mansion on one of the best streets in the city, a short walk to
the Opera House, and filled with the couple's collections of porcelain,
furniture, tapestries and the Klimts.

"It is true, they call it the palais , and I hate the word 'servants,' but
she and Ferdinand had them. There were butlers and maids and an old cook,"
Altmann recalled on an afternoon a few days before the exhibition opened, as
she drank a cup of tea and nibbled on Swiss chocolates. "We lived among
antiques, but what do children know of antiques? We were wealthy, but I did
not know."

Altmann recalls that her aunt was envious of Maria's mother, because she did
not have any children herself, having lost them to miscarriage and a
stillbirth. "So, then, she had no use for children," Altmann says. She
probably even disliked the Sunday afternoon teas. "She was very different
from my mother, the social butterfly. Adele wanted to surround herself with
brains, with artists and intellectuals. I don't think she was very happy at

It has long been rumored, although never proved through letters or diaries,
that Adele and Klimt carried on a long affair. It would have been in keeping
with the fervor of the times, and Klimt's reputation, and further, there are
clues. A painting by Klimt in 1901, "Judith With the Head of Holofernes,"
uses a model for the ecstatic biblical femme fatale Judith that greatly
resembles Bloch-Bauer, right down to the same necklace. Laura Payne, author
of "Essential Klimt," wrote that the work is also considered one of the
artist's most erotic paintings.

Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925 at age 43. Her husband,
Ferdinand, memorialized her by keeping fresh flowers in her bedroom at the
palais , where he also hung the Klimt portraits. It was from these walls
that the art was seized by the Nazis.

After the annexation of Austria by Germany in March 1938, Ferdinand fled
first to his castle outside Prague and then to Switzerland, leaving the
Klimts behind. (During the war, Ferdinand's Czech castle was used to house
Reinhard Heydrich, one of Hitler's planners of the Nazi's "final solution"
to exterminate the Jews of Europe.)

For her wedding, Maria Altmann had been given a necklace that once belonged
to Adele; the Gestapo took it, and according to the Altmann's attorney the
jewelry went to the wife of the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering as a
present for his wife. Altmann's husband was briefly jailed in Dachau, but
was ransomed out by his brother. The Altmanns escaped from Berlin, via the
Netherlands and London, and settled in Los Angeles in 1942.

During the war, the Nazis Aryanized the Bloch-Bauer factories, took
Ferdinand's stock, confiscated the palais (which was used by the Austrian
national railway, but has just this year been returned to the family). The
Klimts and other collections were plundered -- and given to the Austrian
Gallery or sold. The Nazi method was to place huge tax bills on all of
Ferdinand's holdings and then order his properties and paintings liquidated.

Over the years, the heirs recovered various items from the scattered
Bloch-Bauer estate. But they could not recover the Klimt paintings, because
the Austrian government maintained that Adele had directed her husband to
bequeath the art to the nation at his death (he died in 1945 in Zurich,
almost penniless). Of course, this 1923 request was made before the rise of
Hitler and the German annexation of Austria; it is doubtful that Adele would
have wanted to leave the paintings to an entity culpable for the
extermination of Austria's Jews.

Maria Altmann and the four other heirs were without much hope until an
Austrian journalist named Hubertus Czernin wrote a series of articles in
1998, based upon recently opened Austrian art archives from the war years,
which showed that the Klimt donations the government had received were
coerced. Altmann's attorney, Randol Schoenberg (the grandson of composer
Arnold Schoenberg), used a new restitution law to seek their return after
first winning a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, enabling him to pursue
the case in U.S. courts.

Both sides, however, agreed for the case to be heard in binding arbitration
before a panel of three Austrian judges. "The Austrian government was
arrogant," Czernin says. "They couldn't believe that they would lose because
they couldn't believe they had done something so wrong." But the judges
concluded unanimously in January that the Klimts had been looted.

And so here they are in Los Angeles. Schoenberg says the family has not
decided what to do with the paintings -- whether they will be sold, donated
or both, and to whom. "They're taking their time," Schoenberg says. "It's
been 68 years, and a long legal ordeal, and they are just getting used to
the idea that they won."

At the opening exhibition Tuesday, Martin Weiss, the consul general of
Austria, attended the festivities. He sought to move on. "Both sides thought
they were right," Weiss says of the Austrian claim that Adele wanted the
paintings to stay in Vienna. "But it was good that the decision that was
reached was reached by an Austrian court, and we can accept that." He smiled
diplomatically. "It's a good day for L.A."

ŠĘ2006ĘThe Washington Post Company

Maria Altmann, 90, in front of "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," a 1907 portrait of her
aunt, among five paintings taken by the Nazis almost 70 years ago and
restored to the family by Austria. (By Chris Pizzello -- Reuters)

Exhibit Highlights Stolen Paintings
Five prized paintings stolen from a Jewish Austrian family by Nazis during
World War II will soon be on public display.

Click on link for audio

'Mona Lisa of Austria' Finds New Home in L.A.
by Luke BurbankĘ
Day to Day, April 5, 2006 á Some of the most treasured paintings by one of Austria's greatest artists have a new home -- in Los Angeles. The five paintings by Gustav Klimt were the objects of a long-running legal battle between the Austrian government and a Jewish family that once owned the art.
The Altmann family claimed the Nazis stole the paintings during World War II. The Austrian government claimed the paintings were willed to the state, fair and square.
Finally, an Austrian arbitration panel this year ruled the paintings belonged to Maria Altmann, who now lives in the United States.
For the past 60 years, the paintings had been on display at the Austrian National Museum's Belvedere Gallery. Now the five famed paintings, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have a new home for the next few months -- the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which houses some of the best-known modern art in America.
"I couldn't be happier and more grateful that they happened to come to Los Angeles, which has been my hometown for so long," Maria Altmann says. "That they are now here is just too good for words."
Altmann, now 90 years old, attended the premiere at LACMA, where the paintings will be on display until June.

Click on link for audio
ArtTalk  KCRW
show for
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Golden Opportunity Beckons LACMA [Listen] [Listen] [Listen]
In spite of this morning's downpour, there was one place in Los Angeles where a festive mood prevailed. There was no sunshine there, but people were smiling nevertheless. A soft golden glow was reflected on their entranced faces thanks to five jewel-like paintings by Gustav Klimt...

Los Angeles Times
April 4, 2006    E-mail story Ę Print Ę Most E-Mailed
Portrait of a cultural battle
The display of looted Klimt paintings at LACMA raises questions about national ownership and the fate of great works of art.

By Christopher Knight, Times Staff Writer

As a celebrated Modern painting goes on temporary view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art today, the masterpiece becomes the latest work looted by the Nazis during World War II to have been returned to its rightful owner. Ninety-year-old Cheviot Hills resident Maria Altmann successfully sued the Austrian government for return of the treasure, seized from her uncle's home after he fled Vienna in 1938.

News of the restitution sent shock waves through the international art world after an arbitration court issued its January ruling. The famed 1907 "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer" by Gustav Klimt Ń an image of Altmann's aunt, which will be shown at the museum with four other Klimt paintings also returned to the family in the landmark settlement Ń ranks as a supreme icon of early 20th century art.

  The three-month loan to LACMA of a textbook painting is partly a gesture of gratitude to the city where Altmann emigrated. But it's also a holding action. With the seven-year legal battle over title to the art now settled, the heirs face a daunting question: What obligations Ń if any Ń does the family have in determining the ultimate fate of a painting of monumental cultural significance?

The perplexing, often prickly subject of cultural patrimony is taking center stage.

Until now, the spotlight has focused on legal issues around art's ownership. Since the end of the Cold War, when the political map of Europe began to be redrawn, long-sealed Soviet and other archives have been shedding dramatic new light on the whereabouts of paintings and sculptures stolen by the Third Reich.

More recently, legal disputes over war booty have been joined by an intense international wrangle over looted antiquities. A series of articles in The Times last year led to February's return of the most prized ancient Greek vase in the United States Ń the Euphronios Krater, acquired 34 years ago by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art Ń to the Republic of Italy, its legal owner. In a related, closely watched case, an American antiquities dealer and a former J. Paul Getty Museum curator are on trial in Rome for trading in stolen ancient art.

But now those questions of legality are being linked to another, in some ways even thornier dispute. Judicial arguments over property go on every day in courtrooms large and small. But in matters of art, who finally owns culture? Is there a moral dimension to consider, separate from property rights?

Since 1945 the Klimt portrait has been a centerpiece at the Austrian National Museum's Belvedere Gallery, where it hung next to the artist's most widely reproduced work, "The Kiss," painted immediately after. Altmann's lawsuit demonstrated conclusively that the museum had no just legal claim to the work. (Case documents can be read at www.adele.at.)

Still, when the Austrian government announced in February that no federal funds would be made available to buy any of the five Klimts, a group of Viennese citizens launched an as-yet unsuccessful campaign to raise sufficient private money to do so. Their goal: to "save" Austria's cultural patrimony.

The patrimony claim rests on a belief that Klimt's work embodies the artistic, intellectual and social life of turn-of-the-century Vienna, so removing the portrait from Austria is inappropriate.

Cultural artifacts are often used as tools to establish identity. The sprawling Hapsburg Empire was the world that Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer and her industrialist art-collector husband, Ferdinand, all knew; but the empire was dissolved after World War I. As a much smaller Austria emerged, the struggle to forge a new national identity focused on honoring historical Viennese culture.

"Theirs was the land of Mozart, the Strausses and Klimt," noted Jonathan Petropoulos, a Claremont McKenna College history professor who specializes in Nazi art theft, writing in a chronicle of the Bloch-Bauer collection compiled for the Altmann case. Klimt's art signified Austrian character.

Given these paintings' particular story, Los Angeles could also make a persuasive patrimonial claim Ń one related to Southern California's midcentury prominence as a refuge for Central and Eastern European Jews fleeing Hitler. Altmann herself arrived in L.A. from Vienna by way of Liverpool, England, in 1942.

Many European painters who were Jews fled to New York, then the center of the American art world; but writers and performing artists tended to come West, where employment in the movie industry was promising. The L.A. ŽmigrŽ community included composer Igor Stravinsky, conductor Otto Klemperer, writers Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, theater director Max Reinhardt, movie director and screenwriter Billy Wilder, actress Marlene Dietrich and more.

The Altmann family's attorney in the Klimt case, E. Randol Schoenberg, is the grandson of Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg, who also sought refuge in L.A.

This local history is reflected in the permanent collection at LACMA, where the Klimt exhibition is on view through June. The museum's Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, with 5,000 works on paper by German and Austrian artists and a library of more than 4,000 related volumes, is a collection unparalleled in the United States. Through exhibitions, LACMA has also carved out a unique place among major American art museums by telling an alternative history of early 20th century art Ń one not centered in Paris, as most histories of the period are, but in Central Europe and Russia. Among a half-dozen such shows are 1991's "Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany" and 1997's "Exiles and Emigres: The Flight of European Artists From Hitler."

This kind of patrimony claim, whether Vienna or L.A. for Klimt or Italy for antiquities, is tribal or nationalistic. "National and local self-esteem are sacred writ in international protocols," observed David Lowenthal, professor emeritus at London's University College, in a recent essay titled "Heritage Wars" for the online magazine Spiked. Art is tied to a specific milieu by an idea known as essentialism, which holds that art embodies fixed traits representing a group of people.

From there, it's a short step to presuming the art belongs with them. Lowenthal, dismissing such claims as "possessive jealousies," asserts instead that "Essentialism is a persistent delusion ... politically correct but practically wrong Ń wrong because we are all multiply mixed, wrong because ancestral pasts cannot be possessed anyway."

Using art as an ancestral symbol attempts to create a history, not record it, he believes.

The primary opposing notion is the cosmopolitan view Ń the claim that art represents the aspirations of humanity, so any artwork finally belongs to the world. Historical art's specific location is thus of little concern, as long as works of major consequence are publicly accessible.

Princeton philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, a champion of cosmopolitanism, wrote recently in the New York Review of Books that tribal and national claims can even fly in the face of the greatest art, which is often flamboyantly international. "If the argument for cultural patrimony is that the art belongs with the culture that gives it its significance," he noted, "most art doesn't belong to a national culture at all."

That is certainly the case with the Euphronios Krater, a painted Greek vase found in an Etruscan tomb in what became, thousands of years later, a country called Italy. Is the cultural worth of the vase Greek, Etruscan or Italian? Italy emerged as a nation 150 years ago from a collection of kingdoms and city-states; like Austria, the new country also struggled to forge a national identity. Historic cultural artifacts served that purpose.

"This is a political statement [by Italy]," said Metropolitan Museum director Philippe de Montebello of the krater's return, accepting the legal judgment while dismissing the cultural patrimony claim at a panel discussion last month.

In the emerging showdown between essentialism and cosmopolitanism, one trump card may be something less abstruse and more blunt than philosophy. Altmann has said Klimt's great golden portrait of Adele must be sold, because her family does not have the means to donate the work to LACMA or another museum, which is where she would like it to be. Valuation is an inexact science, but published estimates of the portrait's market value are in excess of $100 million. For capitalist cultures, art objects belong to the highest bidder. In those terms, economic might makes cultural right.

Klimt art returned by Austria on view in L.A.    Ę


A museum visitor studies "Houses in Unterach on Lake Atter," a 1916 painting
by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt that is part of a special exhibition of
Klimt paintings looted by the Nazis during World War II, at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, April 4, 2006. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello
Tuesday, April 04, 2006 5:40:29 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Five Gustav Klimt paintings stolen by the Nazis and
ordered returned from Austria went on display in Los Angeles on Tuesday
after a lengthy dispute highlighting the ownership complexities of the
world's great art works.

The paintings, valued at more than $120 million, include a famous golden
portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, wife of the original owner of the work. They
had been displayed at a Vienna museum since World War II after being seized
by the Nazis when Germany annexed Austria in 1938.

After a seven-year legal case, an arbitration court in January ordered the
Austrian government to return the five paintings to Los Angeles resident
Maria Altmann, the niece and heir of Bloch-Bauer, who fled Nazi-ruled
Austria for the United States.

Altmann, 90, originally wanted the paintings to remain in an Austrian museum
but authorities said they could not afford to buy them back.

Altmann instead loaned them to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for
three months, saying she wanted to thank the city "which provided me a home
when I fled the Nazis, and whose courts enabled me to recover my family's

Altmann said her uncle and aunt always wanted to make their collection
available to the public but the final destination of the returned Klimts was
uncertain and one or more of them may be sold.

Klimt, who died in 1918, was the foremost painter of Art Nouveau in Vienna
and his work is considered central to Viennese cultural identity.

The Nazis looted tens of thousands of works of art and despite attempts
after the war to restore major items to their rightful owners, many families
and European institutions are still seeking missing items, art experts say.

More recently, the ownership of antiquities has become a matter of dispute
between the Italian and Greek governments and some of the world's most
prestigious museums.
(c) Reuters 2006.

Looted Klimt Art Will Go On Display At LACMA

(CBS) LOS ANGELES Five major Gustav Klimt paintings stolen from an Austrian
Jewish family by the Nazis during World War II will go on display Tuesday at
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Klimt paintings, which have not yet been shown together in the United
States, were returned recently by the Austrian government to the family of
Los Angeles resident Maria Altmann after a lengthy legal dispute.
The exhibition will be on display until June 20, 2006 and include two
portraits of Maria Altmann's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and three landscapes
-- "Beechwood" (1903), "Apple Tree I" (1911) and "Houses in Unterach on Lake
Atter" (1916).
"We are extremely grateful to Maria Altmann and her family for sharing these
iconic works with the people of Los Angeles," said LACMA director Michael
Govan. These paintings are extraordinary examples from this rich period of
history and we are especially pleased to tell the story surrounding the
family, its relationship to the artist, and their ownership of the paintings
to our visitors from around the world.
Gustav Klimt is considered central to Viennese cultural identity and
symbolizes the history of much of the city's Jewish population. He passed
away in 1918.
Maria Altmann said she wanted the paintings to go on public display to thank
the city and county of Los Angeles, "which provided me a home when I fled
the Nazis, and whose courts enabled me to recover my family's paintings at
long last."
Altmann said it was always the wish of her aunt and uncle, Adele and
Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, to make their collection available to the public.
The Bloch-Bauer family was close with Klimt and commissioned the paintings
directly from the artist. The couple left their art collection to Maria
Altmann and two of her siblings.
Altmann, who is Jewish, was forced to flee Austria in 1938. Her siblings
survived the war and settled in North America, but the art collection had
been stolen by Nazis and scattered throughout Europe.
The decision to return the paintings to the Altmann family was announced in
January. The five paintings by the Austrian artist had been on display in
the Gallery Belvedere in Vienna.

(Š 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


Back to HomeĘ>Ę News Ę> Thursday, Apr 06, 2006
California & the West Ę
Posted on Tue, Apr. 04, 2006email thisprint thisreprint or license this

LA woman welcomes return of Klimt paintings looted by Nazis
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - For years, Maria Altmann hung a framed poster of one of world's most recognizable paintings in the living room of her home.

It's an oil and gold-encrusted portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Gustav Klimt, who is best known for his ornate painting, "The Kiss."

The portrait of Bloch-Bauer serves as a reminder of Altmann's childhood in Austria before the Nazis took over nearly 70 years ago and ripped it off the wall as part of a campaign to loot wealthy Jewish families.

Altmann, now 90, welcomed the original portrait back to her family on Tuesday along with four other Klimt paintings that were unveiled in a ceremony at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The works, including another colorful portrait of Bloch-Bauer and three landscapes, will go on display until June 30.

"To see them here is a dream come true," Altmann said with a smile as she sat in an exhibit room surrounded by the paintings. "Los Angeles has been my hometown for so long, so to have them here is beyond words. I'm going to come here very often and bring friends to see them."

Their arrival capped Altmann's seven-year legal battle to recover her family's possession, estimated to be worth $300 million.

Altmann was a 21-year-old newlywed when she watched the Nazis seize power in 1938 and then steal valuables from her family, including her wedding gifts and the paintings that belonged to her aunt and uncle.

She said she didn't think much about the material loss at the time, because her husband was detained in the Dachau concentration camp. The couple eventually escaped to safety and resettled in Los Angeles in 1942, where she ran a clothing boutique.

Meanwhile, the Austrian Gallery Belvedere in Vienna was made the formal owner of the paintings.

Altmann believed for many years that little could be done to recover the paintings, but her hopes were revived in 1998 when a new Austrian law required museums to return valuable art objects looted by the Nazis.

With the help of attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, Altmann sued for rightful ownership of the paintings. Attorneys for Austria argued that her aunt, who died in 1925, had specified that they be donated to the government gallery.

The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2004 that Altmann could sue the Austrian government. The two sides began mediation and Austrian authorities agreed in January to return the paintings after an arbitration court ruled they must be returned to her.

Despite the lengthy struggle, Altmann said she has no ill feelings toward Austria and praised members of the arbitration court for their "courage and honesty" in voting unanimously in her favor.

"I was very angry with what happened. But now that we have resolved it, I try to see the good side of it," she said.

Displaying her sharp memory, Altmann giggled when asked about the poster that she says will remain in her living room.

"It was given to me from what they called a boyfriend then, not what they call a boyfriend now," she said with a slight Austrian accent. "He didn't even give me a kiss, but my mother was furious when she found out about him."

Her grandson, Ken Altmann, said he's seen the poster countless times while growing up across the street from her.

"I've always been enamored with the history of our family, but I never really got to see it and understand how beautiful the paintings really were," Altmann, 29, said.

He said seeing the actual portrait for the first time gave him a deeper appreciation for its artistry.

"I saw it from a distance, and it was big, much bigger than the poster size. But as I got closer and closer, I kept seeing more depth, more texture with the piece," he said.

He said he never realized there were A's and B's embedded in gold throughout the entire bottom portion of the painting, which represented Adele Bloch-Bauer's name.

He said getting to see the paintings with his grandmother made the experience even more emotional.

"I was worried that if it didn't come through for her, she'd be shattered because she put her heart and soul into fighting justice for the Jewish people and herself," he said. "I'm so glad that she ultimately prevailed."

LACMA and the Klimts

The display of five Gustav Klimt paintings at LACMA is the art world story of the week. In case you missed it: The Klimts, stolen by the Nazis and only just now (!!!) returned to the family of Maria Altmann by the Austrian government (well, that explains it) went on view yesterday at LACMA. For the back story, read William Booth's WP story on the saga.Ę

The next part of the story story is this: Can new LACMA director Michael Govan acquire the paintings for the museum, and for Los Angeles? If Govan can pull that off -- and recent appraisals have valued the quintet at $300 million -- it will be the biggest American museum acquisition coup since, uh, well, since... gosh, who knows? (To put this in perspective, media accounts had Rauschenberg's Rebus going to MoMA for $30 million.)

As anyone who's read this blog regularly knows, LACMA hasn't exactly been acting like one of America's leading museums of late. It has destroyed art. It pimped itself out to Philip Anschutz and his King Tut show. It is playing some strange secrecy game with what will be public information. It can't manage to make sure paintings in its galleries are properly illuminated. It thinks Morris Louis is a member of the New York School.ĘFrom the big stuff to the details, LACMA has bungled it all.

But Michael Govan was the right hire and here's his chance to prove it -- and his board's chance to prove that they are committed to making sure LACMA is one of America's great museums. This is their first big opportunity to say that we, the board, ask atonement for the myriad sins of the Andrea Rich era.

To be sure, the Altmann family isn't offering the Klimts around. As Altmann said yesterday, we just got the paintings back, let us catch our breath. But LAT critic Christopher Knight is already thinking acquisition, and his critic's notebook yesterday sure reads like a critic laying the groundwork for a public plea to LACMA's trustees. (Art world insiders will especially enjoy the nuance and hints in the piece.)

The Klimts are, literally, in LACMA's court. Whether it can keep it there is the first test of LACMA's leadership in the Govan era.

Klimt-Bilder in LA eingetroffen

Museumsbesucher im Los Angeles County Museum of Art vor dem Klimt-GemŠlde
"Adele Bloch-Bauer I".

Nach jahrelangem Rechtsstreit sind die fŸnf Klimt-GemŠlde aus der
…sterreichischen Galerie Belvedere, die an die Erben nach Bloch-Bauer
restituiert wurden, bei der Erbin der von den Nazis enteigneten Familie
eingetroffen: Maria Altmann nahm die KunstschŠtze am Dienstag in Los Angeles
entgegen. Darunter ist auch ein PortrŠt ihrer Tante mit dem Titel "Adele
Bloch-Bauer I".

SiebenjŠhriger Rechtsstreit

Dieses Bild wurde zusammen mit einem weiteren PortrŠt von Bloch-Bauer und
den drei LandschaftsgemŠlden "Apfelbaum", "Buchenwald/Birkenwald" sowie
"HŠuser in Unterach am Attersee" im Los Angeles County Museum of Art
prŠsentiert. Die Kunstwerke werden dort bis zum 30. Juni ausgestellt. "Ein
Traum ist Wirklichkeit geworden", sagte die 90 Jahre alte Maria Altmann.
"Los Angeles ist schon so lange meine Heimatstadt. Sie hier zu sehen, ist
ohne Worte." Die Erbin fŸhrte einen siebenjŠhrigen Rechtsstreit, um den
Besitz ihrer Familie wieder zu erlangen. Die GemŠlde haben einen SchŠtzwert
von rund 300 Millionen Dollar (246 Millionen Euro).

Bloch-Bauers Ehemann floh 1938 in die Schweiz. Die Nazis Ÿbernahmen die
Kunstwerke, die dann in den Besitz der Belvedere-Galerie in Wien gelangten.
Die šsterreichische Regierung hat erklŠrt, sie kšnne es sich nicht leisten,
die Bilder zurŸckzukaufen. Die Werke gelten in …sterreich als nationaler
Kunstschatz. Ein Schiedsgericht hatte den Anspruch Altmann im JŠnner als
rechtmŠ§ig bestŠtigt.


Maria Altmann war 1938 erst 21 Jahre alt. Ihre ganze Sorge galt damals nicht
dem Familienbesitz, sondern ihrem Mann, der in das Konzentrationslager
Dachau gebracht wurde. Das Paar konnte sich aber noch wŠhrend des Krieges
retten und zog 1942 nach Los Angeles. Dort fŸhrte Maria Altmann eine

In Los Angeles hatte Altmann die ganze Zeit Ÿber eine Reproduktion des
berŸhmten PortrŠts im Wohnzimmer hŠngen. Sie habe das Poster von einem
Freund geschenkt bekommen, sagte die alte Dame mit einem immer noch hšrbaren
leicht šsterreichischen Akzent. "Er gab mir nicht einmal einen Kuss, aber
meine Mutter regte sich auf, als sie davon erfuhr."


Trotz des langwierigen Rechtsstreits sagte Altmann, sie habe keine
schlechten GefŸhle gegenŸber …sterreich. Vielmehr bewundere sie die
Mitglieder des Schiedsgerichts fŸr ihren Mut und ihre Aufrichtigkeit. Die
fŸnf Bilder sind die wertvollsten KunstgegenstŠnde, die seit Inkrafttreten
des šsterreichischen KunstrŸckgabegesetzes im Jahr 1998 den ursprŸnglichen
EigentŸmern oder deren Erben zurŸckgegeben wurden.

Artikel vom 05.04.2006 |apa, ap |bib


Klimt-Ausstellung in Los Angeles

LŠnge: 2:27 min
…1 Mittagsjournal - Raimund Lšw

In Los Angeles eršffnet am Dienstag die erste Ausstellung mit den fŸnf
Klimt-GemŠlden, die aus der …sterreichischen Galerie an die in Kalifornien
lebenden Erben zurŸckgegebenen wurden. Ein Schiedsgericht hatte die auf EUR
300 Millionen geschŠtzten Bilder den Nachkommen von Adele Bloch-Bauer
zugesprochen, nachdem die Republik …sterreich viele Jahre eine Restitution
verweigert hatte.

150.000 Besucher erwartet
Das Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) ist das grš§te Kunstmuseum des
amerikanischen Westens. Rund 150.000 Besucher werden bei der Klimt-Schau
erwartet. Ein kurzes Video vor dem Museum informiert die Besucher Ÿber die
Geschichte der GemŠlde und die lange anhaltende Weigerung der Republik
…sterreich den Erben die Bilder zuzugestehen.

Los Angeles wurde wŠhrend des Zweiten Weltkriegs fŸr viele FlŸchtlinge neue
Heimat. "Schšn, dass die Bilder nun den Weg gegangen sind, den auch die
Familie Altmann gegangen ist", meint Stefanie Barren, die Kuratorin der

Vier Monate lang ausgestellt
Maria Altmann ist zufrieden, dass die Bilder hier sind. Was nach der
Ausstellung damit passiert, bleibt offen. Die Erben sind sich aber
dahingegend einig, dass sie der …ffentlichkeit zugŠnglich bleiben sollten.
Man denke an eine Auktion, an der nur qualifizierte Museen teilnehmen

Auch das LACMA wŠre daran interessiert, den GemŠlden eine stŠndige Heimat zu
bieten. Vier Monate lang wird nun die Ausstellung zu sehen sein.