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Camera as Witness Presents documentary PORTRAIT OF WALLY
October 31, 2019 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Anderson Collection at Stanford University - Map Link
Camera as Witness/Stanford Arts and Anderson Collection Museum present
ART AND SOCIAL JUSTICE series
co-presented with Stanford Film Society
Portrait of Wally
(90 min) Austria/USA
Director: Andrew Shea
Producer: Andrew Shea, David D’Arcy
Portrait of Wally, Egon Schiele’s tender picture of his mistress, Walburga (“Wally”) Neuzil, is the pride of the Leopold Museum in Vienna. But for thirteen years the painting was locked up in New York, caught in a legal battle between the Austrian museum and the Jewish family from whom the Nazis seized the painting in 1939. The film traces the history of this iconic image–from Schiele’s gesture of affection toward his young lover, to the theft of the painting from Lea Bondi, a Jewish art dealer fleeing Vienna for her life, to the post-war confusion and subterfuge that evoke The Third Man, to the surprise resurfacing of “Wally” on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. In 1997, when the heirs of art dealer Lea Bondi asked MoMA to hold the painting in New York, MoMA and the Leopold Museum dug in their heels and refused. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a subpoena and launched a criminal investigation. A thirteen-year battle in court followed, tracking the course of a Holocaust property crime and reopening the wounds of one of the century’s worst tragedies—all at a time when the prices of Egon Schiele’s works rose faster than those of any painter on the art market. Schiele collector Ronald Lauder found himself caught between several loyalties—he was chairman of MoMA and the founder of the Commission for Art Recovery, an organization committed to returning looted art to the Jews who lost it to the Nazis. Lauder sided with the Museum, and against the Jewish family. So did all the museums in New York—even the Jewish Museum. The “Wally” case brought the story of Nazi art loot into the open, eventually forcing museums in Europe and the US to return art to Jewish families.