Austrian artist Egon Schiele’s bold paintings were labelled as pornography by his contemporaries. Now firmly established in the art canon, his salacious paintings became more controversial than ever when his tender Portrait of Wally ignited an art-world war.
Originally owned by Jewish Viennese gallery owner Lea Bondi, Portrait of Wally was stolen from her private collection by the Nazis. This documentary follows Portrait of Wally’s path, and Bondi’s ensuing fight to be recognised as its owner. Raising issues of racism, restitution law and the questionable ethics of art institutions, Andrew Shea’s film presents an exhaustive case through archival evidence, interviews with key players and footage of events surrounding the fiasco.
The acronym shared between Portrait of Wally and Prisoner of War is an omnipresent theme throughout the film, while the score by Gary Lionelli provides dissonant accompaniment to the uncomfortable questions raised. 'Portrait of Wally' moves at a steady pace, raising awareness and providing inside knowledge on one of the most heated debates the art world has ever seen.