In late June, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York reached a legal settlement with the descendents of Kasimir Malevich. The heirs have received a painting, “Suprematist composition”, from 1923-25, believed to be valued at $10 million. The family has also been paid a sum believed to be in excess of $5 million in exchange for the purchase of fifteen works which MoMA have held for safekeeping since the Thirties. Fearing that the paintings would befall the same fate as other works of “degenerate art” under the Nazi regime, Alexander Dorner, the director of the Provinzialmuseum ( now called Landesmuseum ) in Hanover in the Thirties, had given the paintings to former MoMA director Alfred Barr. Barr smuggled one batch from Germany in his umbrella and suitcase; the other batch was shipped under an assumed name a few years later. In the Sixties, after the Malevichs at MoMA had gone unclaimed for three decades, the museum began to display the works as part of their permanent collection, until they were approached by the Malevich descendents after the fall of the Soviet Union. The heirs are also in the process of reaching similar settlements with the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Malevich heirs paid'