Painter Malevich's heirs settle row with Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The heirs of Russian painter Kazimir Malevich have settled a longstanding dispute with the city of Amsterdam over a collection of his paintings in one of its museums, the two parties said in a statement on Thursday.

Visitor looks at a painting entitled "Peasants" by Kazimir Malevich at an exhibition "Kazimir Malevich in Russian Museum" in St.Petersburg November 30, 2000. REUTERS/AS/WS

Under the deal, the artist’s descendents will receive five paintings from the Stedelijk Museum’s collection while the remaining works will stay with the city, and legal action by the heirs in the United States will be withdrawn.

“It is a tribute to all of the parties that we were able to find a fair solution to such a complicated problem,” the heirs said in the statement.

“The Malevich family is gratified that this matter has been resolved in a way that acknowledges Malevich’s legacy and his contributions to the history of 20th century art.”

A U.S. court had ruled last year that the heirs could sue the city of Amsterdam to recover 14 artworks worth tens of million of dollars.

The painter had taken his artworks to Berlin during the 1920s but left them behind when he returned to the Soviet Union, fearing hostile officials might destroy them. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, his German contacts entrusted some of the art to Hugo Haring, an acquaintance of the painter.

The city said it had acquired the paintings in 1958 and felt it had done so in an honorable way. But the heirs had contested this, arguing Haring was not entitled to sell the artist’s works.

Malevich, a painter of geometric abstract art, died in 1935. After World War Two, most of his family was trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

In 2003, the Amsterdam museum lent the 14 paintings to New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Houston’s Menil Collection, which prompted the heirs to file suit in the United States.

The city and the heirs said the deal settles all questions as to the title to the collection. It covers not only the 14 works that were subject to the U.S. action, but the entire group of Malevich works in the city’s collection.

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said the remaining artworks would be given a place of honor when the museum reopens in December 2009.

Reporting by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Janet Lawrence