ONE of the biggest art auctions in history, taking place in New York, has been marred by controversy.
A 1903 Picasso painting, which was to have been auctioned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, has been withdrawn at the last minute du
e to its Nazi-era history.
A descendant of a previous owner claims his ancestors were forced by the Nazis to sell the painting in the 1930s.
The piece, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, was predicted to fetch up to US$60 million.
Julius Schoeps, an heir to Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, says his ancestor had to sell the Picasso at a low price after he was forced to flee his mansion during the 1930s.
But it is not the only painting in the sale with a Nazi connection. All eyes are on four paintings by Gustav Klimt, the Austrian artist, which were at the centre of a Nazi restitution case earlier this year.
That case was resolved to the satisfaction of the owners, who have now put these masterworks up for auction. They are predicted to go for more than US$100 million.
Another Klimt from the same group fetched the highest price ever paid for a painting when it was sold in June. New York’s Neue Galerie is reported to have paid US$135 million for Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. — BBC News.