Art Recovery

Art Recovery

Rowland & Petroff is one of the leading law firms in the field of art restitution. The firm has recoverved approximately 70 million Dollars worth of Nazi era art.

During the Nazi period in Germany, art was looted by the Nazis, lost in forced sales and sold under duress. In 1998 the Washington Conference on Holocaust Looted Assets was held. As a result of that conference the participating governments agreed to establish principles and proceedures for the purpose of returning Nazi era looted art to rightful owners or their heirs from public museums. Public museums also agreed to cooperate in this effort by posting artworks with a Nazi era provenance on their websites and disclosing the provenance. In addition, several countries including Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain set up art commissions to review the provenance of artworks held in public museums and to return artworks which had been lost due to Nazi persecution.

Artworks Recovered

Rowland & Petroff has been spearheading the fight for art restitution. In 2004, together with local counsel, Rowland & Petroff recovered the important painting “Der Watzmann” by Casper David Friedrich. The painting had been sold to the Berlin National Galerie in 1937 by a Jewish family who had been forced to leave Germany. After restitution of the painting, it was sold back to a sponsor who put it on permanent loan to the Berlin National Galerie. In recognition of the restitution and sale back of the painting Gerhard Schroeder the Chancellor of Germany gave a speech commending the restitution and sale back of the painting.

In 2006, together with local counsel, Rowland & Petroff obtained the spectacular recovery of the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting “Berlin Street Scene.” This painting was also lost in 1936/1937 by the Hess family due to a forced sale in Germany. The Hess family was one of the leading collectors of expressionistic art. However, with the rise of Hitler in 1933, the family was persecuted by the Nazi policies. Eventually their fantastic collection was for the most part lost in the mid 1930’s due to confiscation, looting, and forced sales. Eventually the family was forced to flee Germany after several members of the family were initially placed in concentration camps. After WWII, Hans Hess, the owner of the collection and heir to Alfred Hess, filed claims for the loss of the collection and received a small compensation and decision that the collection had been lost due to Nazi persecution. In 2006, one of the most spectacular of the Hess paintings was recovered from the City of Berlin, Bruecke museum after several years of negotiation. After repayment of the 1980 purchase price to the City of Berlin, the painting was sold later in 2006 at auction and was acquired by the Neue Galerie in New York (a museum dedicating to displaying the best of German and Austrian impressionistic and expressionistic art) . The painting went on public display in the summer of 2007 and attracted thousands of visitors.

In addition to the above recoveries, Rowland & Petroff has either recovered or been involved in the recovery of hundreds of artworks by such artists as Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann, Paul Baum, Anselm Feuerbach, Max Klinger, Kathe Kollwitz, Adolph Menzel and many other impressionist and expressionist artists. At present the firm represents over 25 major collections which were lost during the Nazi era.

The Ongoing Fight for Art Restitution

In addition to its completed recoveries Rowland & Petroff is pursuing restitution matters on a worldwide basis. It currently has ongoing claims in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you or your family has lost artworks due to Nazi persecution contact us for a free consultation.