Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum doesn’t bring in touring exhibitions, but if it did, you can be fairly sure it wouldn’t be tempted to offer the one opening Friday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
The show, “Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker,” offers more than 40 highlights from the collection that now belongs to Marei von Saher, daughter-in-law of Goudstikker, the prominent Dutch-Jewish art dealer who lost his trove of 1,400 works to the Nazis when they invaded Holland in 1940. The show highlights Von Saher’s successful struggle, starting in 1997 and culminating in 2006, to secure the return of 200 paintings from the Dutch government.
The ones that got away –- in von Saher’s view –- are Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Adam and Eve” diptych, which has hung in Pasadena since 1977, a highlight of the Norton Simon’s collection with an appraised value of $25 million. Von Saher and the Norton Simon are embroiled in a legal struggle over its ownership; the preliminary court battles have focused on statute of limitations issues. Rulings by the trial judge in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have gone against Von Saher, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently indicated it may be interested in taking up her appeal, having asked the United States solicitor general to provide an advisory brief on the federal government’s view of the issues.