Two Sculpture Pals for ‘Adele Bloch-Bauer I’

New York Times 9 November 2007

Two sculptures by the Belgian artist George Minne have been given to the Neue Galerie by the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose 1907 portrait by Gustave Klimt was bought last year for the museum by Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million. The portrait, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” was sold to him after the Austrian government returned to the family five Klimt paintings looted by the Nazis.

The sculptures had also been seized during World War II and were returned to the Bloch-Bauer heirs only a week ago. The return of the Klimts, which had hung in the Belvedere museum in Vienna for decades, came after a lengthy legal struggle. But the discovery that the sculptures also belonged to the Bloch-Bauer heirs was made by researchers at the Belvedere itself. Still, it has taken some four years for the restitution of the pieces.

“When the decision finally came down in June that the sculptures were going to be returned,” said E. Randol Schoenberg, a lawyer for four of the heirs, “the family felt very strongly that they wanted to donate them to the Neue Galerie in gratitude to Ronald Lauder and the Galerie for their acquisition of the Klimt painting and keeping it in the public eye.”

The sculptures, “Kneeling Youths” (from around 1898), depict two attenuated figures, hugging themselves as if trying to keep warm. “The pose is actually symbolic,” said Renée Price, director of the Neue Galerie. “That medieval, gaunt look led the way to Expressionism.”

The sculptures had also been exhibited at the Belvedere, on and off, for the last 50 years. They now flank the Neue Galerie’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, exactly as they were shown at the 1907 Kunstausstellung in Mannheim, Germany.

“Although Minne is not well known in this country,” Ms. Price said, “he was a crucial influence on the Austrian Expressionists, especially Klimt.”
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