Raubkunst-Jäger will Geld: Entdecker von Pissarro-Gemälde klagt auf Honorar

Münchner Merkur 7 February 2012

To read the original German text, click here.

Below is set out an English translation:

Looted art hunter wants money: Discoverer of Pissarro painting taking legal action to obtain his fee

The odyssey of a painting by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) stolen by the Nazis came to an end with its auction at Christie’s in New York. The dispute about the discovery of the painting “Le Quais Malaquais et l’Institut” and the fee due has not ended. The lawyer and filmmaker Norbert Kückelmann from Munich has, in continuation of a law suit at the Higher District Court Munich (OLG) against the heir of the earlier owner, Gisela Bermann-Fischer, insisted on the payment of €160,000 in addition to the €40,000 already received.

Efforts by the senate of the OLG to achieve a compromise settlement between the two parties, who had been friends for decades, failed due to the refusal of Kückelmann to accept €60,000.


The Pissarro painting belonged to Gottfried Bermann, son in law of the publisher and art collector Samuel Fischer. The Gestapo confiscated it in 1938 in his house in Vienna; Bermann was able to escape. The painting was searched for for decades, before it was found in Switzerland, returned to the heir in 2007 and sold at auction in New York for $1.85m.

Kückelmann had entered into an agreement with Bermann-Fischer in January 2007 that guaranteed him a minimum fee of €200,000.. However, Gunnar Schnable, lawyer of Bermann-Fischer, says he can find no evidence of such a sum being guaranteed.  It was believed at the time that the painting had a value of €8m but Schnabel says “ This was a figment of the imagination”. Following the financial crises, the market value was only $1.85million.  After  paying her co-heirs and her legal costs, his client “went away practically empty handed, that’s the tragedy about the story”.

Kückelmann’s wife, a witness in the case, stated that at least €200,000 were under consideration in the fee agreed at her husband’s law office.  But she was not in the room itself but in an adjoining room. “One gets the impression that you are making this up”, admonished the judge. A ruling will be given on  29 February.

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