Stolen Polish artwork sold in Germany
A Polish painting stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw has been sold at a Berlin auction house despite Polish requests that be withdrawn from the sale.
Wassily Kandinsky's watercolour 'Ohne Titel – Lot 31’ went for EUR 310,000, the Polish embassy in the German capital confirmed.
Marcin Król, the Polish consul in Berlin, who was present at the auction, said earlier that the picture had been included in the Interpol database of stolen works of art.
The picture was stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw on June 14, 1984. It had been bought by the museum in 1982.
The provenance presented by the Grisebach auction house, the host of the sale, clearly showed that the painting had been part of the Polish public collection, and that it had a stamp testifying to the fact that it had come from the National Museum in Warsaw.
The Grisebach auction house had been asked by the Polish Culture Ministry to withdraw the picture from auction but it decided to proceed with the sale despite the fact that Poland had sent to Germany all documents confirming its provenance.
"In connection with the sale of Wassily Kandinsky's watercolour composition at the Grisebach auction house in Germany, which was stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw in 1984, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will take all possible legal steps to retrieve the picture," the ministry wrote in a statement.
The ministry also criticised the sale, which, in its opinion, had been consciously carried out by the auction house, and said that it was "highly unethical" and against all the standards that should be binding on the international art market.
Łukasz Gaweł, the director of the National Museum in Warsaw, said that it was extremely painful that "the stolen work of art was being sold, and that the sale was being carried out by a German auction house."
"Especially in the light of the losses suffered by Polish culture during WWII," he added.
"It is very sad that, at a time when Russia invaded Ukraine... we are unable in a civilised Europe to be guided by ethics when such situations occur," Gaweł said.
According to the director, "any renowned auction house, even if it was not sure, should withdraw from sale (a piece of art - PAP) until the entire matter has been cleared up."
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a Russian-born artist who was one of the first creators of pure abstraction in modern painting.
After successful avant-garde exhibitions, he founded the influential Munich group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). His forms evolved from fluid and organic to geometric and, finally, to pictographic.
Kandinsky has often been described as a respected leader of the abstract art movement in the early 20th century.