Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hungary Sued!

The New York Times' Carol Vogel reports today that a lawsuit has been filed by the heirs of Hungarian banker and art collector Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, calling for the return of a collection of artwork valued at more than $100 million. The lawsuit is against the Hungarian government, along with several museums administered by the government.

The lawsuit follows two decades of failed attempts by the heirs to convince the government to repatriate the collection, which includes works by Velázquez, Monet, El Greco, and Zurbarán. The Herzog collection was dispersed during World War II; some pieces were left in museums for protection, while others were stolen by the Nazis and later recovered and returned to Hungary. In 2008, a Hungarian court decided that the government did not need to return the artwork to the Herzog family.

The lawsuit calls for the return of 40 known works in Hungarian museums and asks for an inventory by the Hungarian government of all artwork from the Herzog collection in its possession.

The New York Times quotes the Herzog family's attorney described Hungary as “one of the countries that has been the most recalcitrant” when it comes to returning looted and stolen artwork. The family has engaged in legal claims with Poland, Russia, and Germany over the return of artwork. In the case of Russia, there is a 1999 lawsuit that is still pending.

According to Vogel, experts describe the Herzog case as "the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim."

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