Allegedly consorting with “thieves trafficking in stolen artworks” more than 50 years ago has led to a lawsuit against the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by the purported rightful owners of three paintings by German painter George Gorsz. After mocking Hitler, Gorsz was exiled from Nazi Germany in 1933 and forced to leave behind the paintings of which the MoMA is currently in possession.
Gorsz’s son and daughter-in-law claim that MoMA negligently obtained the paintings, worth as much as $10 million, in 1952 from a dealer who specialized in art looted by the Nazis. In the lawsuit, Gorsz’s heirs say this violates the museum’s “self-imposed ethical standards not to hold in its collection artworks tainted by Nazi persecution.” MoMA has not yet commented on the lawsuit.
I’m wondering if the heirs are really after the paintings, or if they are just seeking compensation. No word on what they would do if they win the lawsuit, but it seems possible that they’d just turn around and sell the paintings to the highest-bidding dealer. What is the true value of an artist’s works to his or her heirs?