Kandinsky painting discovered by heirs of Holocaust victims sets auction record at nearly $45 million

Written Hafsa Khalil, CNNLondon

Painting by Russian modernist Wassily Kandinsky, once owned by the victims Nazi Holocaustwas sold for £37.2 million ($44.55 million). Sotheby’s V London.
Part of the Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction on Wednesday, “Murnau with Church II” (“Murnau with the Church II”; 1910), became the most expensive sale of the evening, as well as a new auction record for the artist.

The previous world record for a Kandinsky work was set in 2017 when his painting Bild mit weissen Linien sold for £33m ($39.7m), the auction house told CNN.

“Kandinsky’s Murnau period defined abstract art for generations to come,” Helena Newman, Sotheby’s European Chair and Head of Impressionism and Contemporary Art, said in a statement.

“The appearance of such an important painting – one of the last of this period and scale to remain in private hands – is an important moment for the market and for collectors,” she said.

Kandinsky was living with his lover Gabriele Münter and artist friends in Murnau, Bavaria when he painted Murnau with Kirche II.

inspired by the local scenery while cycling. Munter herself wrote the inscription on the stretcher of the picture.

He was inspired to create the painting by a bike ride in Bavaria.

He was inspired to create the painting by a bike ride in Bavaria. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The painting has a long history. It was sold at auction as property from the collection of well-known Berlin collectors, husband and wife Joanna Margarethe and Siegbert Stern, after the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, was finally returned to its surviving heirs last year.

The Stern family photographs show the Kandinskys hanging in the dining room of their family home, Villa Stern in Potsdam. But after the rise of the Nazis in 1933 and the death of her husband two years later, Johanna Margaret fled to the Netherlands and was declared stateless.

According to family documents, the Kandinsky painting, among other works, was taken to the Netherlands and allegedly passed on to a dealer who looted Jewish property in the occupied country prior to Johanna Margaret’s deportation and death in Auschwitz in 1944, Sotheby’s catalog says. . It was later sold to the Van Abbe Museum by another dealer in 1951.

Speaking about his story, Newman said that the restitution of the painting finally allowed people to “rediscover the place of the Sterns and their collection in the glittering cultural milieu of 1920s Berlin.”

Proceeds from the sale will be divided among 13 of Stern’s surviving descendants and will also fund further research to trace their family’s extensive art collection, the statement said.

Another big sale that evening was Edvard Munch’s “Dans på stranden (Reinhardt-frisen)” or “Dance on the Beach (The Reinhardt Frieze)” which sold for £16.94 million ($20.3 million) .