Picasso owner's descendants sue museum for $200 million

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 Picasso's descendants sue museum for $200 million

The Jewish heirs of the owner of a $200 million Picasso painting, who sold it before fleeing Nazi Germany, filed a lawsuit against the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York demanding the painting be returned to its rightful owners. According to Art Forum magazine, the painting in question “Woman Ironing” A 1904 Pablo Picasso has been hanging at the Guggenheim since 1978.

The canvas was acquired by the German Jew Karl Adler in 1916 from an art gallery in Munich. In 1938, fearing Nazi persecution, Adler sold the painting back to the gallery for about one-ninth of its value and fled his homeland with the proceeds. Now, several of his descendants, including great-grandson Thomas Bennigson, are seeking justice, claiming that the sale was made. only as part of a “desperate attempt to raise the money needed to escape,” according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month in New York County Supreme Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Adler was under intense pressure to sell the painting because of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and the “flight tax” that would have dispossessed him upon leaving the country. The sale netted Adler $1,552 (approximately $32,000). today), which the plaintiffs say is evidence that the transaction was made under duress.

Adler's descendants eventually moved to Buenos Aires and only became aware of the painting in 2014. By then, the painting was moving from museum to museum and eventually ended up at the Guggenheim Museum in 1978. The family first contacted the museum in 2017, and in 2021 demanded the painting be returned under the Holocaust Expropriated Art Restoration Act. 2016.

“Adler would not have gotten rid of the painting at the price he received if it weren't for the Nazi persecution he and his family have been and will be subjected to”, – the lawsuit says.

The museum claims it tried to contact Adler's son, Eric Adler, as well as other family members in the 1970s, but none expressed concern or interest in the painting's ownership.

&ldquo It is not clear on what basis the plaintiffs, more than 80 years after Adler's sale of the painting, came to an opinion about the fairness of the transaction, which neither Karl Adler nor his immediate descendants ever expressed, even when Guggenheim contacted the family directly to ask about it. , – said museum spokeswoman Sarah Fox.

“Woman ironing” Picasso “is a famous demonstration of the sensitivity, skill and emotion with which the artist portrayed the working poor”, – according to the description of the painting on the website of the Guggenheim Museum. “The painting's melancholy, superficial palette of white and grey-blue evokes sympathy for the hard, laborious daily life.”

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