[For my analysis of the settlement, go here.]
Lawyers, prosecutors and a Bondi family member did all the talking at Thursday’s commemorative ceremony celebrating the $19-million settlement of the Bondi family’s claims against the Leopold Museum, Vienna, in connection with Schiele‘s “Portrait of Wally,” expropriated by the Nazis from Lea Bondi Jaray in 1939 and later acquired by Austrian mega-collector Rudolf Leopold.
But there were some key players, acknowledged with gratitude during the speeches, who stayed out of the spotlight. Chief among them was my ArtsJournal blogging colleague, Judith Dobrzynski, whose 1997 article in the NY Times set the investigative and legal wheels in motion. While the farflung Bondis bonded in the lobby of the Museum of Jewish Heritage before the ceremony, Judith was greeted like an honorary member of the mishpocheh (Yiddish for “family):
As we learned from the speakers, one of Judith’s articles caught the attention of the husband of U.S. Customs Special Agent Bonnie Goldblatt, who told his wife that the case might be something to delve into. The rest is history.
Bonnie was repeatedly acknowledged by the speakers and was seated in the audience. When I accosted her afterwards to take her photograph, I found out why she wasn’t onstage. She allowed me to take a shot of her beaming face, but when she realized that it was for publication, she warned that I must use only this shot:
After all, the lady’s still going undercover!
Also singled out for praise was another member of the audience, Jane Kallir,
the New York dealer in German and Austrian Expressionists at Galerie St. Etienne, who provided investigators with letters from her archives that
documented Lea’s ongoing quest to have the Schiele returned—a
crucial piece of evidence in building the prosecutors’ case.
But the praise that, for me, was totally unexpected was the lengthy tribute to my editor at the Wall Street Journal, Eric Gibson, for his eloquent analysis of why Nazi-loot restitutions are still important, even 70 years after the fact. At Thursday’s ceremony, Howard Spiegler, the Bondis’ lawyer, read this lengthy quote from Eric’s past commentary: