Ninth Circuit Rules Against Heiress of Nazi-Looted Work, Which Will Remain in Possession of California's Norton Simon Museum
08/02/2018Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the latest—and likely final—ruling in Marei von Saher’s decades-long attempt to recover artwork looted by the Nazis from her late father-in-law. In ruling against von Saher, the Ninth Circuit has ensured that the Cranachs will remain in the museum, and accessible to the public, for the foreseeable future. This ruling will have significant implications for heirs of those who originally owned Nazi-looted artworks, especially where such heirs have already tried and failed to recover artwork through the official restitution channels instituted by European governments in the post-war years.
MoMA Files Trademark-Infringement Lawsuit Against Lower East Side Art Gallery and Café, MoMaCha
04/20/2018The Museum of Modern Art—universally known as MoMA—has filed a lawsuit against MoMaCha, a Lower East Side art gallery and café with a curiously similar name to the museum’s famous moniker.
Recent Developments Involving International Artifacts Serve As Reminder of Potential Pitfalls
04/05/2018Several stories in the news recently have turned a spotlight on the complex world of collecting art and historical artifacts across international borders—and serve as a reminder of the importance of diligence and legal advice in such transactions.
Federal Court Rules That Met Can Keep Picasso Sold As Owners Fled Pre-World War II Europe
02/09/2018In a lengthy opinion issued earlier this week, Judge Loretta A. Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the Metropolitan Museum of Art may keep a noteworthy Picasso artwork, even though its German-Jewish former owners sold it for a fraction of its actual value to finance their safe passage out of fascist Italy.
Recent News Stories Spark Conversations, Debates Over the Role of Museums
01/16/2018Current events are sparking a larger conversation about the role of museums and their responsibilities to the communities in which they reside and to the public at large.
Appeals Court Revives Case In Dispute Over Nazi-Looted Pissarro Work
07/25/2017In our ongoing coverage of case law involving Nazi-looted artworks, we have written before about the long-running lawsuit over a Pissarro painting, Rue St. Honore, après midi, effet de pluie. Back in 2015, we wrote about a district-court decision that dealt a possibly-fatal blow to the claimants, who were seeking to recover the work from a collection controlled by the Spanish government. Earlier in July, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, meaning the painting’s claimants can continue their fight in the federal courts.
Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Case Involving Seizure of Iranian Artifacts on Loan to U.S. Museums
07/07/2017The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, a case out of the Seventh Circuit regarding the ability to execute on a judgment by seizing Iranian artifacts held in American museums. The case will likely resolve a circuit split over whether victims of state-sponsored terrorism can collect on judgments by targeting assets of the foreign state held in the United States, even if those assets are otherwise protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).
Recently Enacted Federal Law Hopes to Facilitate Art Lending from Abroad
01/26/2017Under a recently enacted federal law, foreign states have been granted sovereign immunity in controversies over the temporary exhibition of artworks and cultural objects on loan to the United States, The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, signed at the end of last year by President Obama, grants immunity from federal or state-court jurisdiction to foreign governments, where an artwork or cultural object from that country has been imported for a temporary display at a U.S. cultural or educational institution.
Getty Museum Sued Over Negotiations Regarding Famed Italian Art Collection
01/25/2017A new lawsuit was filed in New York federal court in mid-January against the famed Getty Museum over a series of negotiations regarding an Italian collection of classical art. The plaintiffs are entities who claim they spent considerable time and effort preparing the collection for sale, laying the groundwork for a deal, and facilitating delicate communications between the Getty, Italian officials, and the collection’s owners; but were later frozen out of those other parties’ dealings, leaving the plaintiffs empty handed.
Fake Old Master Painting Uncovered in Europe Raises Fears of More Sophisticated Forgeries on the Market
11/02/2016The art world is watching with concern the unfolding story of a fake Frans Hals painting; facts are still developing as of this writing, but it’s possible that the work may not be an isolated forgery but rather the harbinger of a larger group of well-executed fakes that could shake up the Old Master market.
Appellate Court Sides with Defendants In Lawsuit Over "Confidential" Sale of Rothko Masterpiece
10/11/2016We have previously covered the litigation arising out of the 2007 sale of a Rothko masterpiece; the work’s seller sued the buyer and an intermediary dealer over alleged violations of a confidentiality provision in the sale contract, after the buyer and dealer resold the piece in a highly publicized 2009 auction. In late September, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of the defendants, in an opinion that serves as a reminder about the importance of clear contracting in art transactions.
The Met Faces Litigation Regarding Nazi-Era Art
10/05/2016Litigation involving art displaced during World War II—and with it the continued focus on the need for adequate pre-acquisition due diligence—is in the news again with the recent filing of complaint against the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding Pablo Picasso’s The Actor. See Estate of Leffman v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16-cv-7665 (S.D.N.Y.)
New Lawsuit Again Highlights the Need for Adequate Pre-Sale Diligence
09/09/2016The spotlight once again is focused on questions concerning the appropriate level of pre-sale diligence in art transactions, this time with allegations against the National Gallery in London. On Tuesday, the heirs of Margarete “Greta” Moll brought suit against The National Gallery of Art seeking to recover a painting by Henri Matisse, Portrait of Greta Moll, allegedly lost in the aftermath of World War II. Williams v. The National Gallery of Art, London, et al., Case No. 16-cv-06978.
Victory For the Norman Simon Museum In Latest Chapter of Dispute Over Nazi-Confiscated Cranach Diptych
08/24/2016We have written before about a long-running legal battle between the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and the heir to a Jewish Dutch art dealer who fled the Netherlands in 1940. The focus of the dispute is a diptych (two painted panels) titled Adam and Eve, painted around 1530 by German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. A recent district court decision dealt a possibly fatal blow to the claims by plaintiff Marei Von Saher, although she plans to appeal.
University of Oklahoma Reaches Settlement With Claimant Over Nazi-Confiscated Pissarro Painting
04/01/2016After a long legal battle in multiple federal courts, the University of Oklahoma has reached a settlement regarding a claimant’s attempts to recover a Nazi-looted artwork by celebrated Expressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
We have previously written about this case, which involves a claim by 75-year-old Leone Meyer, who says that the painting, La Bergère Rentrent des Moutons (“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep”), was stolen from her family by the Nazi regime during World War II.
District Court Rules Against Claimants To a Pissarro Work Looted By Nazis
07/06/2015This blog has covered many recent stories involving Nazi-looted artworks. In early June, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled on the choice of law to be applied to one such dispute, and in the process dealt a blow to the claimants who were seeking the return of a long-lost artwork. The case highlights the difficulty of litigating these disputes that not only span decades of time, but also cross borders, jurisdictions, and legal regimes.
Suit Over Nazi-Confiscated Pissarro Painting Heads from New York to Oklahoma, As Oklahoma Legislators Put Pressure on University
05/27/2015Recent months have seen interesting developments in a federal lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma to recover an allegedly Nazi-looted painting by famed Expressionist Camille Pissarro. 75-year-old Leone Meyer claims that Nazis stole the painting, Pissarro’s “La Bergère Rentrent des Moutons” (“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep”), from her family during World War II. The Jewish family owned a significant stake in Galeries Lafayette (a high-end Paris department store) and had an extensive art collection.
Gurlitt’s Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern Upheld; Ongoing Task of Handling Restitution Claims Remains
04/07/2015This blog, along with the rest of the art world, has followed the twists and turns in the strange story of the Gurlitt Collection, a staggering trove of well over 1,000 artworks amassed by German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt during the Nazi era. Our earlier posts review the matter in more detail, but in short, Gurlitt was one of only a few dealers authorized by Nazi leaders to trade in what the Nazis called “degenerate” works of art confiscated or looted by the Nazis; he likely handled works that were looted from persecuted individuals or purchased via duress sales, as well as “degenerate” works removed from German museums to be sold abroad.
Litigation Continues Over Nazi-Confiscated Cranach Diptych: Claims Remanded to District Court
01/26/2015Federal courts continue to grapple with claims involving a diptych—two painted panels titled Adam and Eve, painted by the famed German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder. The works are currently in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, but plaintiff Marei Von Saher claims she is their rightful owner. The case’s history is nearly as convoluted as the history of the artworks—the matter has already made two trips to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, plus two unsuccessful appeals to the Supreme Court—and the courts must grapple with complex threshold considerations before they can even reach the merits of Von Saher’s claims.
A New Chapter Begins for the Gurlitt Collection
12/09/2014This blog has previously covered the strange ongoing saga of the “Gurlitt Collection”—a spectacular trove of well over 1,000 artworks amassed by German art dealer, Hildebrand Gurlitt, during the Nazi era. Gurlitt was one of only a few dealers authorized by Nazi leaders to trade in “degenerate” works of art that had been confiscated or looted by the Nazis. After World War II, the Gurlitt family claimed that their artworks had been destroyed during the bombing of the German city of Dresden.
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