German crisis meeting called on Nazi art sales

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The German government has called a crisis meeting about how it deals with art sold by or confiscated from Jews under the Nazis after controversy over paintings restored to their original families only to be auctioned for vast sums abroad.

Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has summoned culture ministers and museum directors from Germany's 16 federal states next week to discuss an overhaul of the "restitution" law, which critics say is stripping the country's museums of important works.

Under the law, paintings and sculptures that were parted with under duress must be returned to their owners or their heirs. But a heated debate over the way the law is operating was fuelled last week by two dramatic developments on the international art market: the sale of an important Expressionist work for a record price in New York, and an attempt through the courts to block the auction of a Picasso, owned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation.

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