April 17, 2009

German painter’s heirs suing MoMA

George Grosz's relatives are suing New York's Museum of Modern Art over three works the late painter left behind in Germany shortly before World War II.

Grosz was an expressionist and Dadist painter who caricatured German society of the 1920s and 30s in harsh ink and watercolor paintings, satirizing war profiteers, politicians and the rising Nazi Party and its leader Adolf Hitler. Arrested several times, he fled to New York in 1932, where he lived until he died on a visit to Berlin in 1959 at age 65.

His heirs have filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court, accusing MoMA of obtaining the three paintings -- now estimated to be collectively worth as much as $10 million -- through art dealers who specialized in works looted by the Nazis, the New York Daily News said.

We've tried to discuss this with MoMA, we've tried to mediate the dispute, and they've refused everything, David Rowland, an attorney for the artist's son Martin Grosz and Lilian Grosz, the wife of George Grosz's late son, Peter.

MoMA's possession of the paintings violates its self-imposed ethical standards not to hold in its collection artworks tainted by Nazi persecution, the lawsuit said.

The Daily News said a museum spokesman couldn't be reached for comment on its story.