25th Anniversary of the Art Restitution Act
The Austrian Art Restitution Act entered into force on 5 December 1998. To mark its 25th anniversary, the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport hosted a event on 5 December 2023 at which the anthology Restituiert (“Restituted”), edited by Birgit Kirchmayr and Pia Schölnberger, was presented.
This ninth volume of the Schriftenreihe der Kommission für Provenienzforschung (“Series of the Commission for Provenance Research”) combines a collection of current essays with a catalogue containing an exemplary selection of restituted objects. It highlights the broad range of objects that were looted and sheds light on the fates and life stories of the people associated with them.
The volume also includes an essay contributed by the National Fund: Restitution und Verwertung (“Restitution and the Use of its Proceeds”) by Hannah Lessing, Secretary General of the National Fund, and Maria-Luise Lanzrath describes aspects of the National Fund’s work in the field of art restitution.
In 1998/99, the National Fund was mandated by the Art Restitution Law to monetise “heirless” publicly-owned art objects and use the proceeds to benefit the victims of National Socialism. Objects held in the museums and collections of the Federal Government and the City of Vienna that had been unlawfully acquired in conjunction with the Nazi regime and for which no restitution claimants can be found are subject to this process. The proceeds raised from the sale of these objects are used for schemes benefitting the victims of National Socialism.
The presentation was also attended by Dr Peter Brandl, who personally took the initiative to restitute a landscape painting by Karl Wagner (1839-1923) in his possession. Dr Brandl came across the oil painting while researching his family history and, through the National Fund, successfully sought contact with the heirs of the original owners, Viktor and Rosa Koref, who had fled Nazi persecution in Austria.
He returned the painting to the descendants of the original owners in the form of a donation carried out via the Austrian Embassy Canberra in December 2021. They, in turn, donated the painting to the Sydney Jewish Museum to commemorate the lives of their ancestors.
Initiatives such as these are also an aspect of the (art) restitution of objects seized under the Nazi regime. It is to be hoped that they will serve as an example and encourage further private restitutions.
About the publication
Birgit Kirchmayr. Pia Schölnberger (Ed.), Restituiert. 25 Jahre Kunstrückgabegesetz in Österreich, Vienna 2023.
Format: 17 x 24 cm
Price: Euro 40,00 Buy book