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Stealing Klimt – The Documentary – 12th July
This is the documentary of the dramatic story of the long struggle by Maria Altmann, an elegant elderly Viennese lady, to recover five Klimt paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938. The five Klimts were transferred to the Austrian National Gallery where they hung for decades after the War.
The paintings included the iconic “Woman in Gold”, the portrait of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, which became known as the “Mona Lisa of Austria”. This David and Goliath story chronicles Maria’s early life in glittering fin-de-siècle Vienna, her dramatic escape from Nazi terror and her courageous fight to recover the five Klimts against all the odds.
To fight her case, Maria chose Randy Schoenberg, a young and inexperienced Los Angeles lawyer with a strong Austrian heritage – his grandfather was the renowned composer Arnold Schoenberg. Maria and Randy were supported in their quest to reclaim the paintings by Hubertus Czernin, an Austrian journalist who had previously uncovered the Nazi background of Kurt Waldheim, former President of Austria and Secretary General of the United Nations.
Maria’s fight eventually takes her to the US Supreme Court and pits her not just against the State of Austria but also against the Bush Administration, with both governments vehemently opposing her attempt to reclaim what was rightfully hers. After Maria’s astonishing US Supreme Court victory and following another legal win in Austria, Maria and her family were finally reunited with the five Klimts.
Maria sold the “Woman in Gold” to Ronald Lauder for $135 million in 2006, the world’s most expensive painting ever sold at the time, on condition that it will always be on public display in his Neue Gallerie in New York. The other paintings were sold at auction at Christies in an atmosphere of feverish anticipation.
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