Edvard Munch painting hidden from Nazis in a barn sells at auction for nearly £17million

Edvard Munch’s Dance on the Beach (AP)
Edvard Munch’s Dance on the Beach (AP)

More than £170 million was spent as London’s auction season got into full swing with a series of major works going under the hammer at Sotheby’s, including two paintings restituted to their original owners after they were lost during the Nazis’ rise to power.

The first of the two masterpieces, Wassily Kandinsky’s 1910 Murnau mit Kirche II, sold for a record £37.2 million.

It was originally owned by a German Jewish family forced to flee their home and had been on show in a Dutch museum since 1951, but was returned to their heirs after it was correctly identified about a decade ago.

The second work, Edvard Munch’s Dance on the Beach, was first owned by German art historian Curt Glaser but he was forced to flee Nazi-controlled Germany and his vast collection was split up and sold off. It was bought by Norwegian shipowner Thomas Olsen, a friend of Munch, who famously painted The Scream.

Olsen’s heirs came to an agreement with the remaining Glaser family before it was sold last night for £16.9 million.

Wassily Kandinsky’s Murnau mit Kirche II (Getty Images for Sotheby's)
Wassily Kandinsky’s Murnau mit Kirche II (Getty Images for Sotheby's)

Lucian Simmons, vice-chairman and Sotheby’s worldwide head of restitution, said: “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the conference, held in Washington DC, that first established the ground rules for the restitution of art works looted by the Nazis during the Second World War.

“Since then, Sotheby’s Restitution Department has worked with many heirs and families to reunite them with their stolen property and, at the same time, to help re-tell their stories and celebrate their lives.”

Other works sold on the night included a painting by abstract artist František Kupka which was previously owned by James Bond star Sir Sean Connery.

It sold for £4.7 million with some of the money going to the Connery Foundation which supports projects in his native Scotland and the Bahamas where he lived for many years.

A portrait by Pablo Picasso of his daughter Maya sold for more than £18 million at the auction.

The sale was the piece’s first appearance at auction since 1999, when it was sold for £3.7 million as part of Gianni Versace’s collection of 25 works by the Spanish artist.