Franz Marc Painting Expected to Fetch $47 M. at Auction After Contentious Restitution

A painting by German Expressionist Franz Marc that was recently restituted from a German museum to the heirs of its original Jewish owners will be sold at Christie’s next month.

Marc’s 1913 painting Die Füchse (Foxes) will hit the block on March 1 during a modern and contemporary art sale spanning the house’s London and Shanghai headquarters, where the house recently opened a new exhibition and salesroom. The work is being offered with a third party guarantee. It is estimated to fetch around £35 million ($46.8 million)—nearly double the artist’s current auction record of $24.2 million, paid for Weidende Pferde III (1910) at Sotheby’s London in 2008.

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Die Füchse was for years displayed at the Kunstpalast museum in Düsseldorf, which had received it as a gift from a private German collector. Before coming to the museum, the work’s original owner was German-Jewish banker Kurt Grawi, who acquired the painting in 1928 in a private deal. Grawi later survived imprisonment at a German concentration camp, eventually fleeing to Chile. He was forced to sell Foxes to fund the emigration expenses.

For several years, the painting was at the center of a restitution dispute closely watched by international experts. It was eventually returned last year following a claim made by Grawi’s heirs in 2015. The city initially rejected the legal claim, arguing that the sale was not conducted under duress because the work was sold by Grawi in New York, outside the Nazi regime’s occupation. In March 2021, after an investigation conducted by a German state commission charged with overseeing restitution cases, the agency recommended that the work be returned.

In the March sale, the work will be sold alongside Lucian Freud’s painting Girl with Closed Eyes (1986–87), which is expected to fetch an estimated £10 million ($13.5 million). Die Füchse will be exhibited at Christie’s Hong Kong and New York outposts in February, before returning to its final destination in London ahead of the auction.


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