Artists in Austria start effort to buy back famous Klimt paintings

A group of Austrian painters, musicians and cultural figures appealed Monday for an effort to buy back a pair of famous Gustav Klimt paintings looted by the Nazis and destined to be returned to a woman in California .

The artists took out a full-page advertisement in a leading newspaper, "Die Presse," and suggested the establishment of a foundation to buy back the gold-flecked "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," which has an estimated value of 100 million euros ($120 million), as well as another, lesser-known Bloch-Bauer portrait.

Earlier this year, an arbitration court ruled that five Klimt paintings, including the two portraits, must be returned to Maria Altmann of Beverly Hills . Austria had hoped to find a way to buy back the paintings, but officials conceded that with a price tag of $300 million (252 million euros) they could not afford to.

"They are very much a part of the Austrian cultural heritage," said gallery owner John Sailer, one of the project's backers.

The advertisement, under the headline "Klimt for Austria ," asks the public to send a fax or email to indicate their interest. Sailer hopes banks and insurance companies will step in, throwing their muscle into the project.

"We're asking people to sign if they think something should be done," Sailer said. "Do the people really want them ... is this is an issue that moves people?"

The artists include painters Arnulf Rainer, Arik Brauer and Christian Ludwig Attersee as well as pianist Rudolf Buchbinder and Karl von Schwarzenberg, an adviser to former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

Altmann, 89, was one of the heirs of the Jewish family that owned the paintings before the Nazis took over Austria in 1938. She waged a seven-year legal battle to recover them, but made clear that she preferred the works to remain on display rather than disappear into a private collection, reports the AP.

D.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team