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City rejects court ruling over lost Klimt and Schiele

An Austrian council has vowed to challenge a legal ruling to pay compensation after a museum it ran 'lost' three valuable paintings by Gustav Klimt und Egon Schiele.

The council for the southern city of Linz admitted that it had borrowed the paintings in 1951 from the then owner to put them on display at its Neuen Galerie (New Gallery) - which later became the Lentos Art Museum.

It included the Schiele watercolour painting "young boy" and the oil painting "Dead City", and the Klimt flooring entitled "Two people laying down".

When the owner asked for the paintings back - the only thing the museum could find was the contract confirming that it had borrowed them – but of the paintings the was no longer any trace to be found.

A court ordered that the council is responsible for the loss and should pay compensation but the council has now said it plans to challenge the decision.

Linz deputy Mayor Erich Watzl (ÖVP), responsible for cultural matters, confirmed that councillors have voted to fight the ruling.

The heirs however believe they have a cast iron case in a copy of the contract for the paintings that was signed by the Neuen Galerie director at the time Walter Kasten, and they were provided by the art collector Wolfgang Gurlitt.

His heirs are demanding compensation of 6.25 million euros.

The city council is also claiming that the paintings are not worth as much as the heirs want and in addition say that one of the three paintings may not have been an original.

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