Art dealership Koch

NK 2943: Landscape with Farmhouse on the Water by E.J. Ligtelijn (photo: RCE)

Recommendation regarding Koch

Recommendation number: 
RC 1.98
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
3 June 2013
Period loss of possession: 
unknown
Private owner/art dealer: 
Art dealership
Location of loss: 
The Netherlands

On 17 October 2008 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (hereinafter referred to as the Minister) asked the Restitutions Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) for advice about the application for restitution of  15 August 2007 from AA (hereinafter referred to as the Applicant), also known as the BB Foundation, for the restitution of the painting Landscape with Farmhouse on the Water by E.J. Ligtelijn. According to the Applicant it had been in the possession of the Koch gallery in Amsterdam (hereinafter referred to as the Koch gallery). The work is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection of the Dutch state (hereinafter referred to as the NK collection). Its inventory number is NK 2943.

The procedure

The claim was prompted by a letter from the Origins Unknown Agency (BHG) of 21 May 2007, in which the Applicant was told of the presence of the painting in the NK collection and the possibility of submitting a claim.
Subsequent to the request for advice from the Minister, the Committee wrote a letter to the Applicant on 5 February 2009 in which a few questions were asked. Despite repeatedly sending reminders, the Committee got no response for a long time. In February 2011 the Committee learned that the Applicant had gone bankrupt and was no longer living at the address known to the Committee. The Committee thereupon contacted the Applicant’s receiver. The receiver stated in a letter dated 29 July 2011 that the bankruptcy would be discharged, and that from then on the Committee could approach the Applicant directly.

On 24 October 2011 the Committee once again asked the Applicant some questions in a letter, and a response was received on 8 November 2011. In a letter of 12 March 2012 the Committee put some further questions to the Applicant with regard to entitlement to the former assets of the art gallery, to which the Applicant responded in a letter dated 21 May 2012.

The Committee instigated an investigation into the facts and described the results in a draft investigation report. It was sent for comment with a letter dated 25 July 2012 to the Applicant, who replied in a letter of 7 August 2012. Together with a letter of 25 July 2012, the draft report was also sent to the Minister for additional information. On 21 August 2012 the Minister advised that there was no additional information. The report was finalized on 3 June 2013.

Op 25 July 2012 the Committee invited the Applicant for a discussion with a delegation from the Committee because of ambiguity about the Applicant’s entitlement to the assets of the Koch gallery. During this discussion, which took place on 12 November 2012, the Committee pointed out to the Applicant the importance to the investigation of the wills of the former owner of the Koch gallery, CC, and his widow, DD. In the context of this investigation, on 21 January 2013 the Committee sent the Applicant an authorization for requesting the said wills. The Applicant responded in a letter dated 28 February 2013 without returning the authorization. In a letter of 12 March 2013 the Committee once again offered the opportunity to send the authorization, to which the Applicant replied in a letter dated 29 March 2013, but once again without complying with the Committee’s request to sign the authorization.

Considerations

  1. The Applicant requests the restitution of the painting NK 2943 from the Dutch National Art Collection. According to information from the research organization BHG, this work was in the possession of the Koch Gallery and came into German hands during the occupation of the Netherlands.

    Information from the commercial register in Amsterdam (dossier 6866) shows that this gallery was run as a one-man business from 1930 to 1959 by the great uncle of the Applicant, CC (1887-1959). The commercial register’s dossier furthermore reveals that after the death of CC on 30 May 1959, the operation of the Koch gallery was continued by his widow DD. She was consequently the last owner of the art gallery. The Koch gallery went out of business after her death on 25 September 1963. The Applicant is not related by blood to DD.

  2. The Applicant considers himself to be the legal successor of the Koch gallery and as the ‘last living heir and blood relative’ of his great uncle CC. The Applicant also states that he is acting on behalf of the BB Foundation, which he formed in 1974. One of the aims of this trust is ‘to assure the continued existence of the Koch Brothers gallery anno 1850’. The Applicant is the chairman of this trust and wants to put the painting in it.

  3. The Committee considers that the Applicant could possibly derive rights in regard to a work of art that was part of the trading stock of the Koch gallery from the stipulations in the wills of DD or CC. In that context the Committee therefore asked for information about these wills and, as described above under ‘The procedure’, it proposed that the Applicant should give the Committee authorization to request the wills. The Applicant has not provided this information or given authorization.

  4. The information that is currently available provides insufficient basis for assuming that the Applicant belongs to the circle of people who are entitled to the assets of the Koch gallery run by the late CC as owner (and thus to the painting concerned). The Committee therefore declares the Applicant’s application to be inadmissible.

Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject the present application.

Adopted at the meeting of 3 June 2013 by W.J.M. Davids (chairman), J.T.M. Bank, R. Herrmann, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart and I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), signed by the chairman and the director.

(W.J.M. Davids, chairman)                                                   (E. Campfens, director)