The Leopold Museum has potential as one of the world’s premier collections of Austrian early twentieth-century art. Instead, the museum has been hounded since its inception by high profile claims questioning the dubious origin of many of its most prized paintings. In 1998, New York’s district attorney issued a subpoena on two works by Egon Schiele, “Portrait of Wally” and “Dead City III,” following allegations that these works had been looted from their rightful owners during the Holocaust. The Leopold Museum’s persistent refusal to return Nazi-era artworks finally prompted the Austrian government to step in and install its own provenance researchers in early 2008.
Comprising some 5,500 objects, the collection was built over the course of some decades by ophthalmologist Rudolf Leopold and his wife Elisabeth. It was sold to the Austrian state in the mid-1990s for 160 million euros, and opened to the public in 2001.
Located in the heart of the Museumsquartier, the museum owns an unrivalled number of works by Egon Schiele, including iconic masterpieces such as “Cardinal and Nun” and “Reclining Woman." The museum’s permanent collection was recently regrouped around works by Austrian modernists Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Richard Gerstl, to give new insights into Vienna’s art scene at the turn of the century.