MINNEAPOLIS.- The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) and the Association En mémoire dAlponse Kann today announced the restitution of Smoke Over Rooftops (1911), a painting by Fernand Léger, to the Kann Association. The decision to return the work of art was made after careful research into the paintings provenance proved it had been looted by the Nazis at the home of Alphonse Kann during the German occupation of France.
Alphonse Kann resided in Paris and was one of the leading private collectors in pre-war France. Early in 1940 Kann moved to London, where he died in 1948 at the age of 78. The Kann Association was formed in 1997 to promote the memory of Alphonse Kann as one of the greatest collectors and discoverers of talent of the century. Its mission is to reconstruct and memorialize the history of the collection, to establish its unique quality and size and, when possible, to recover works that were looted in 1940.
The MIA acquired Smoke Over Rooftops in 1961, as a bequest of Putnam Dana McMillan who acquired it in good faith in 1951 from the Buchholz Gallery in New York. The painting has been on view almost continuously since it was bequeathed by McMillan to the MIA. In 1997 the Kann Association contacted the museum with a claim that the painting had been looted by the Nazis and subsequently sold illegally.
After receiving the claim, the MIA and the Kann Association immediately shared an extensive provenance research effort that enlisted research assistants in France. After several years of conducting research the Museum and the Kann Association reached an agreement to return the painting to the Kann Association, which represents the Kann heirs.
Kaywin Feldman, Director and President of the MIA, said, We are glad that we were able to work with the Kann Association to research and uncover the true ownership history of this important painting. While we and the Minneapolis community will miss having this masterwork in our city, we believe it is important to return the painting to the descendants of its rightful owner.