Prince of Liechtenstein withdraws loans from Germany in dispute over leaked bank details

The Neue Pinakothek in Munich has been forced to cancel a major exhibition scheduled to open next month


Liechtenstein is recalling art loans from exhibitions in Germany as a retaliatory measure over the leak of details of secret bank accounts held in the princely state. Last month it emerged that the German authorities had paid an informer E5m for supplying data on accounts held in the LGT Bank in Vaduz, which may have been used by tax evaders. The bank is owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein.

On 11 March it was announced that Prince Hans-Adam II is taking action against what he perceives as German aggression. Art is his weapon, since he probably owns the most important private collection in Europe, after that of Queen Elizabeth II. Many of the highlights are displayed at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna and the prince is a generous lender to exhibitions.

In an official announcement from Vaduz, his office stated: “The Princely Collections will abstain from making loans available to Germany as long as the application of fundamental principles of the role of law by the Federal Republic seems questionable as far as Liechtenstein is concerned.”

This means the cancellation of the show “Viennese Biedermeier Paintings from the Liechtenstein Collection” which was due to open at Munich’s Neue Pinakothek on 28 May. It would have comprised 60 paintings (including major works by Ferdinand Waldmüller and Friedrich von Amerling) and 100 watercolours. The museum will now keep up pictures from its permanent collection and hopes to reschedule the Biedermeier show for early next year.

Loans of individual works to at least five museums will also be withdrawn. Two had been promised to the Jewish Museum in Berlin: a porcelain figure for a show on “Clichés” (which open­ed on 20 March) and an important Frans Hals portrait of a man, once in the Rothschild collection, for an exhibition on “Looting and Rest­itution” (opening in September). Other loans had been arranged for the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, the Stadt­residenz in Landshut, the Landesmuseum in Münster and Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. Loaned objects already on view in German exhibitions are not affected.

Of the 1,400 LGT clients on the leaked list of bank accounts, 600 are German, the rest are from European countries and the United States. If other governments initiate action against citizens who have accounts with LGT, then this could raise the prospect of the further withdrawal of art loans. Until the crisis is resolved, German museums may also be reluctant to offer new loans to the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 190 April 2008