Swedish museum settles dispute on Nazi-looted art

1945 10 September 2009
By Louise Nordstrom

STOCKHOLM -- A Swedish art museum said Wednesday it had settled a six-year dispute over a painting claimed by the heirs of a Jewish businessman who lost it when he fled Germany in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution.

The Moderna Museet in Stockholm said the settlement was reached when a European art collector agreed to buy German expressionist Emil Nolde's "Blumengarten (Utenwarf)" from the heirs of Otto Nathan Deutsch. The name of the buyer and the amount were not disclosed.

The painting is estimated to be worth between $4 million-$6 million.

Under the deal, the heirs will return compensation paid by Germany in 1961 for the lost artwork, which will remain temporarily at Moderna on loan.

"Both the Deutsch heirs and the Moderna Museet are satisfied with the outcome of the matter," museum director Lars Nittve wrote in a joint statement together with David Rowland, a New York-based lawyer representing the heirs.

The new owner "will loan the painting to the Moderna Museet for up to five years, after which other seminal expressionist paintings from the early 20th century will be lent to the museum for another five years," the statement said.

The artwork, painted in 1917, depicts a garden with brightly colored flowers. It vanished at the onset of WWII as Deutsch fled Germany to the Netherlands. The artwork wasn't seen again until the early 1960's, when it was featured in a German gallery catalog and later reappeared in a Swiss art gallery. The museum says it bought it in good faith from the Roman Norbert Ketterer gallery in Lugano in 1967 and it has been in the hands of Moderna ever since.

Otto Nathan Deutsch died of natural causes in Amsterdam in 1940. Several family members died in Nazi concentration camps.
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