Lawyer Charles Goldstein, Who Fought to Restore Nazi-Looted Art, Dies at 78

Charles Goldstein.
Photo courtesy Herrick, Feinstein.

Real estate attorney turned art lawyer Charles Goldstein died July 30 in Manhattan. He was 78 years old.

“Charles Goldstein was the unsung hero of art restitution,” art collector and cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder told the New York Times. The art lawyer reportedly died from complications resulting from an infection. He was an attorney with the New York firm Herrick, Feinstein.

At Lauder’s invitation, Goldstein developed and led the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR), which was established in 1997 to assist in the restitution of Nazi-looted art to the families of its original owners.

CAR maintains that it has recovered or assisted in the recovery of art worth over $160 million.

CAR’s highest-profile recovery was that of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a landmark case. That painting now resides in New York at the Neue Galerie, founded by Lauder, who paid $135 million for the painting in 2006.

The Commission also supported the return of Gustave Courbet’s painting Femme nue couchée, which a Soviet soldier looted in Budapest in 1944 from Hungarian Jewish collector Baron Ferenc Havatny, after a four-year process of negotiations. The painting later went on view in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Goldstein spoke regularly at seminars on the subject of art restitution throughout Europe and the U.S., and penned many articles on the subject.

Goldstein attended New York’s Columbia College and earned a JD cum laude from Harvard in 1961. In 1982, he was profiled in the New York Times, where he was described as “real-estate attorney to the powerful.”

Related stories:

Ronald Lauder Hires Washington Lobbyists to Hunt Down Nazi-Looted Art

Nazi-Looted Gustav Klimt Portrait Debuts at MoMA

Why Ronald Lauder Is Right About Nazi-Looted Art in Museums

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