News — 24 Apr 2008

The City of Amsterdam and the Heirs of Kazimir Malevich reach an amicable settlement regarding the Malevich collection in Amsterdam

Longstanding dispute between the City of Amsterdam and the Heirs of Malevich concerning the Malevich collection that has been in the Stedelijk Museum since 1958 has been finally resolved

When the Stedelijk Museum exhibited fourteen works of Malevich in the United States of America in 2003-2004, the Heirs of Malevich claimed ownership of them before a United States Court.  The amicable settlement that has been reached concerns not only the fourteen works that were the subject of the US action, but covers the entire group of Malevich works in the City’s collection.  Pursuant to the settlement, the artist’s descendants will receive five important paintings from the City’s collection, the remaining works in the collection will remain with the City, and the Heirs’ U.S. action will be permanently withdrawn.  

This will end the longstanding dispute between the City and the Heirs that began in the 1990’s after the fall of the Iron Curtain.  The City has always held the view that it acquired the collection properly and honorably in 1958.  The Heirs contest this; in their view the selling party, Dr. H. Häring, had no right and was not entitled to sell the artist’s works.

In reaching this historic settlement, the City and the Heirs strived for a resolution that honors the selection by Malevich himself of the artworks, preserves the collection as his remaining legacy, acknowledges the historical developments and circumstances that prevented Malevich from returning to Berlin and to his artworks after he was called back to the Soviet Union in 1927, and respects and acknowledges the legacy of the Heirs.  

The City and the Heirs agree that the amicable settlement achieves these objectives and settles all questions as to the title to the collection.  The City acknowledges that the Heirs have title to the five paintings being transferred to them, and the Heirs acknowledge that the City has title to the works in the collection remaining with the City.  The City has given these works on a long term loan to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said of the settlement:  “The Museum works remaining with the City will continue to be open to the general public and available for research as an ensemble through its presence in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.  The role of Malevich as a pioneer of modern and contemporary art is optimally visible in the context of the collection of modern art of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Therefore, as of December 2009, the artworks of Malevich will be given a place of honour in the reopened Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.”

The Heirs, commenting on the settlement through a spokesperson, said:  “It is a tribute to all of the parties that we were able to find a fair solution to such a complicated problem.  The Malevich family is gratified that this matter has been resolved in a way that acknowledges Malevich’s legacy and his contributions to the history of 20th century art, keeps a representative portion of the collection together on public display for all to see and cherish, and provides us with a representative group of five noteworthy works by our noted ancestor.”