German Museums Almost as Frustrated as Families Seeking Restitution


The New York Times puts a face and story the abstract issue of Germany’s failure to address the legal issues surrounding the art works seized by the Nazis. They spoke to Wolfgang Buche, a curator who is frustrated by the situation:

“The legal situation is relatively obvious and clear,” said Mr. Büche, who oversees the collection at the Moritzburg Foundation in Halle. “With art taken from Jewish collectors, there are sometimes legal or at least moral circumstances under which they can seek to have their works restituted. We can only seek to buy them back.” […] Mr. Büche, the curator, would like his pictures back, too. Yet, in his three decades at the Moritzburg museum, he has been able to celebrate the return of just 16 prewar items, a tenth of a collection that once ranked among the most impressive in the country.

Some of the museum’s prewar works now hang in the Museum of Modern Art in New York or at Harvard University after having been traded on the open market like many so-called degenerate works once confiscated by the Nazis.

Only occasionally do those works travel back to Halle on loan. Such special exhibitions are the biggest draw to the museum, which, despite a renovation in 2008, struggles to attract 60,000 to 70,000 visitors a year.
“We always try to buy back our works, when they turn up, but as a state-funded museum, we can’t compete against big bidders,” Mr. Büche said.

Enduring Nazi Law Impedes Recovery of Art (NYTimes)