Ronald Lauder, the heir to a namesake cosmetics fortune and the founder of Manhattan’s Neue Galerie, has reached a restitution agreement over a Gustav Klimt painting he has owned for five decades.
As part of the deal, Lauder agreed to reacquire the work The Black Feather Hat (1910), giving him legal title to it, after returning it to the descendants of its original Jewish owner, Irene Beran. Exact details of the settlement and the amount paid to the Beran heirs have not been disclosed.
The resolution was reached after research into the painting’s ownership record that began in 2018.
Lauder, who serves a head of the World Jewish Congress, has supported restitution efforts in the past. In a statement, he said that the research efforts “arduously” aimed to trace the work’s ownership but still has left “gaps remaining.”
Lauder first acquired the 1910 painting, a portrait of a red-haired woman, in 1973. At various times, the collector has displayed it at the Neue Galerie, the private Upper East Side museum he established in 2001. Its collection is considered separate from that of Lauder’s private art holdings. The work was last on view at the museum in 2020 as part of an exhibition dedicated to Austrian art, the institution’s area of focus.
Until 1934, the work had been in the collection of Beran, who lived in the city of Brno, in what is now the Czech Republic. Eventually, she fled Europe to avoid Nazi persecution, landing in New York in 1947. Beran was found to have owned the work as far back at 1928.
The painting’s location was undocumented between 1934 and 1957, and it finally resurfacing in an exhibit in Stuttgart, Germany, that was organized an Austrian dealer and known Nazi party member, Friedrich Welz.