The collector who trusted his own taste

On the founder and the collection of the now ten-year-old Leopold Museum in Vienna

MúzeumCafé 25.

The anniversary, coinciding with that of the establishment ten years ago of the museum quarter in the area of the former imperial stables, is being marked by a series of events throughout the year. Following the Jugendstil jewelry exhibition and the Magic of the Object photographic display, two exhibitions opened on 23 September – Melancholy and Provocation presents the works of Egon Schiele from new perspectives, while The Excitement Continues offers a selection of contemporary works from the Leopold’s so-called second collection, formed after the museum’s foundation. The collection continues to grow, although the founder, who spent more than 50 years collecting, died over a year ago. The name of Rudolf Leopold, however, is inseparable from the art, and from the environment defined by the works. No wonder most photographs show the tall, bearded gently smiling man in front of one of his favourite paintings as if he had been born and grew up with them. In recent years attention has been drawn to the collection by various disputes. The latest came to a head in May when the museum paid five million dollars to the granddaughter of Jenny Steiner for Schiele’s 1914 Houses by the Sea. After its owner emigrated in 1938, the Nazis confiscated the painting and later auctioned it. Rudolf Leopold purchased it in 1955. In connection with other matters, too, an investigation commissioned by a group of Austrian Jews was undertaken in 2008 about the origins of artworks held by the Leopold Museum, which revealed that at least 11 had been owned by victims of the Nazis. In the interest of finding a saatisfactory solution to such issues, the Leopold Museum had already in 2001 posted information on the internet.