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Beyeler Foundation sued for return of art treasure

Kandinsky's work "Improvisation 10" is on display at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel (picture: Beyeler Foundation)

A Russian living in the United States is suing Basel's Beyeler Foundation for the return of an important work of art stolen by the Nazis. Jen Lissitzky said on Friday he had filed a suit with a court in Basel over ownership of the Wassily Kandinsky picture.

Lissitzky claims the work was one of a collection of 13 pictures belonging to his mother and loaned to a museum in Hannover before she emigrated to Russia in the 1920s. He says the Nazis confiscated the picture in 1939, denouncing it as "degenerate", and later sold it.

The Beyeler Foundation said it had no knowledge of a lawsuit being filed, but had been expecting the move. It said the gallery was the legitimate owner of the Kandinsky, which art collector Ernst Beyeler had bought from a dealer in 1951.

"The picture belongs to the Foundation and will not be handed over," a spokesman for the gallery, Bernd Dütting, said.

The disputed picture was painted by Kandinsky in 1910 and is considered one of the key works of the 20th century. The Beyeler Foundation estimates its value at SFr20-25 million ($11-14 million).

swissinfo with agencies


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