Jewish Heirs Sue Guggenheim Over Ownership of a Prized Picasso

The New York Times
January 29, 2023

Nicholas O'Donnell was quoted in the article "Jewish Heirs Sue Guggenheim Over Ownership of a Prized Picasso," published by The New York Times [sub. req'd] on January 29, 2023.

The article explores the legal dispute over the Pablo Picasso painting "Woman Ironing" (1904), which is now viewed as a masterpiece. Relatives of Karl Adler, a German Jew who purchased the painting in 1916, claim the painting was forcedly sold back to the gallery for a pittance 22 years later when Adler and his family fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution. Conversely, the Guggenheim asserts that the facts demonstrate that Karl Adler's sale of the painting to Justin Thannhauser, from whom the Guggenheim received it in 1978, was a fair transaction between parties with a longstanding and continuing relationship.

On the dispute, Nick comments that history and law have recognized that a Jewish person did not have the power to make a fair deal within territory controlled by the Nazis, but added that it was less clear how much duress the court would assign to a sale executed from outside that territory.

Nick also emphasized that Thannhauser is a controversial figure. “He just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to take a lot off the hands of Jews desperately fleeing Europe ... Those who defend him say, ‘He was the one who helped them get something.’ Those who criticize him say, ‘It’s funny how he always seemed to end up with this depressed-value art.’”

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