01 July 2013

1998: Year Zero of Art Restitution?

Highlights from that fateful year include, but are not limited to:

-the seizure of two paintings by Egon Schiele at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which prompted some soul searching in Austrian government and museum circles, the outcome of which was the world’s only Art Restitution Law;

Logo, Source: PCHA
-Congressional hearings in Washington, DC, on the role of the US government in facilitating or hampering the restitution of assets looted from Jews and other victims of the Third Reich;

–the establishment of a Presidential Commission to examine the role played by the US government in the recovery and return of property stolen from Jews between 1933 and 1945,

–the recently established Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO), a component of the New York State Banking Department broadened its mandate to include looted art claims,

–the organization of a landmark international conference aimed at creating a new consensus regarding the dispensation of justice in matters of plunder against Jews and other victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution,

–passage of the Holocaust Victims Redress Act and the aborted introduction of legislation to tighten due diligence practices in American museums (an attempt that was scuttled by then Congressman Schumer’s ambition to become Senator or his close relationships with New York museums, hard to say…).

What a year!