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Spain has failed in the restitution of stolen art

Ronald Lauder (New York, 1944) is the president of the world jewish congress, but it is also the driving force that fight from 30 years ago for the restitution

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Spain has failed in the restitution of stolen art

Ronald Lauder (New York, 1944) is the president of the world jewish congress, but it is also the driving force that fight from 30 years ago for the restitution of works of art facts for the nazis. Founder of the Commission for recovery of Art and the Neue Galerie in New York, Lauder does not hide his frustration at what he considers lack of political will in Europe in the repair of the ravages of nazi. The criticism is especially sharp for Spain, which accuses him of failing in its responsibility to investigate and restore artworks stolen. Former ambassador, collector and influential representative of the jewish community, receives this journal in a dispatch of a luxurious Berlin hotel, surrounded by an entourage and a security own of a head of State.

A long court battle

'Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Indeed, of Pluie' by Camille Pissarro. DEA / G. NIMATALLAH De Agostini/

The legal battle between the family Cassirer the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Spanish State collects more than three decades. The lawsuit focuses around a box of Camille Pisarro, Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Indeed, of Pluie, which claims the family of a jewish woman, is forced to sell the painting in 1939 to escape the nazis. The box is exposed in Madrid since 1992.

on The 4th of December is planned the holding of a trial in California. “What is elucidated Tuesday is whether at the time of the purchase, the Foundation knew or could have known that what they bought was stolen,” explains Bernardo Cremades Román, representing the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, personadas in the trial. “There are indications that analysis at the time of purchase was poor,” he says.

The Foundation argues that in 1993 they purchased the box without the benefit of “the minimum indicia of bad faith”, the baron Thyssen-Bornemisza. “The sale was carried out with the maximum publicity and impact public,” recalls the Foundation in a note, where he explains that the study's legitimacy at the time of the sale “revealed no irregularity”. The baron had bought the painting in 1976 in the gallery, Stephen Hahn, New York, and had formed part of international exhibitions. But in the year 2002, the family Cassirer claimed the box after learning that he was in Madrid. In any case, the museum in madrid holds that “it would have acquired the ownership by prescription, for the course of three years of peaceful and uninterrupted possession in good faith and just title”.

Question. What is the main obstacle to achieve restitution of stolen art?

Response. The lack of transparency and a tool to combat it is scanning. It is essential so that people can look at the collections and know who owns each work and since when. Why can't the museums digitize their collections and to show the public what they have?. It should not be a private initiative. The countries that are signatories of the principles of Washington should encourage it, countries such as Spain and Germany.

Q. Can Spain do more?


The Thyssen Museum will not return the 'pissarro' plundered by the nazis ESP AME BRA CAT ENG Newsletter Subscribe to THE COUNTRY Culture Books Film Music Theater Dance Art Architecture Comic Bulls Blogs Babelia Holders " Reopened in the U.S. the case of the box of the Thyssen plundered by the nazis

A. despite the fact that Spain supported the principles of Washington, has completely failed Casinometropol in its application, for the restitution of stolen art. The Spanish Government commissioned a report in 1998, whose findings were criticized, because he said that Spain had been a country of transit during the Holocaust but not of destination of stolen art, despite the fact that it is proven otherwise. Spain decided that it was not responsible for carrying out research on the works of art that ended up in Spanish museums during and after the war. Spain does not have restitution laws and their museums do not investigate and that is unacceptable. The greatest example is the case Cassirer.

Q. The case will go next Tuesday to the courts in the united States. The museum argues that it was an acquisition legitimate and good faith in 1993 to baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.

A. The National Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid is the Rue Saint-Honoré, dans l'après-midi. Indeed, of pluie by Camille Pissarro, and that work was sold under duress in 1939 when its owner, Lilly Cassirer-Neubauer, had to flee nazi Germany. It was clearly part of the properties of the family Cassirer and must be restored. This case leaves Spain and the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in a very bad place.

Q. You believe that the Cassier they are going to win the case. Why?

A. Because it is very well documented that this box belonged to the family Cassirer. Spain argues that there has been acquisitive prescription, [the legal status that protects a person who has possessed an object so peaceful and uninterrupted], despite the fact that it is considered stolen art according to the principles of Washington. Spain should have recognized that return the box is correct, and should have done a long time ago.

Q. How could the Spanish Government to boost the refunds?

A. I have 30 years involved in the restitution of works of art. In my experience, you need both political will and laws to achieve this and Spain do not have any of the two. From the legal point of view in EE UU, and in my personal opinion, if a piece is stolen and the person that owns it knows that it is stolen, is just as guilty as the person who stole it.

Q. Do you Think that Germany, the country that should serve as an example drags the feet?.

A. There is political will, but the actions do not match often with the words. I'm afraid that museums germans did not want to do it because it means to digitize 5,000 to collections and to let the world see what you have. It is a lot of work and may lose many of the works, but in the end, it all boils down to one question. Are they willing to do what is right?

Q. But Germany devotes many resources to the restitution and significant progress has been made.

R. But they should do more. 20 years have passed since the principles of Washington and this issue has not been resolved. Often, we see that countries only react to cases like Gurlitt.

Q. What Do you think is the motivation last to hinder the return to the heirs of the victims of the Holocaust?

A. it Is a mixture of greed, intransigence and a lack of extreme sensitivity towards the victims. More and more countries are returning art stolen bywho want to defend their reputation and it is a shame that Spain, which has a reputation as wonderful to ignore this issue.

Q. on The margin of museums, lack the involvement of the private collections.

A. it is Not easy. That required that people were to open their own private collections, and many will not do so voluntarily. Is a lack of a comprehensive strategy for private collections and art vendors.

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