Art Around the World

Missing Art

By Tom Gross, May 16, 2000

After a 17-year silence, Austria’s National Gallery of Art has finally admitted that it has “lost” paintings worth millions of dollars, including 14 works by Expressionist painter Egon Schiele. The missing collection comprises 52 watercolors and drawings and was bequeathed to the museum in 1912 by Paul Poiret, one of the most famous Parisian fashion designers of his day.

No one has seen the works of art since 1983. Since then, the gallery, in the Austrian capital Vienna, has come up with an incredible range of excuses to account for their absence. These include claims that it had loaned them to another museum but officials couldn’t remember which one, and even the preposterous suggestion that the gallery had never acquired the works in the first place.

But the gallery authorities have now decided to come clean, and admit, to their great embarrassment, that the paintings are nowhere to be found. Several of them are thought to be worth in excess of $1 million, and the police have now been called in.

Elsewhere in Austria, Jorg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party continues to make waves. The threatened clampdown on artistic freedom, first reported by in February, is underway. Local writers and artists say that since Haider stepped down as party leader in March, the climate of “fascist-style” repression has worsened. Haider has appointed himself as Chief Cultural Watchdog in the Austrian Province of Carinthia, of which he is Governor, and set up a network of informers there.

Article copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.