German Cathedral Surrenders Nazi-Looted Artwork To Heirs of Jewish Owners; Meanwhile, A Separate Art Recovery Suit Ends in Defeat, Illustrating Continuing Challenges in Nazi-Era Restitution Litigation
03/28/2019Last week, a cathedral in Germany agreed to turn over a valuable painting to the heirs of the family from whom it was stolen during World War II. The case marks another example of the type of negotiated restitution that has become an important factor in art disputes in recent years, but stands in stark contrast to another dispute that ended in defeat a few months ago for the heirs of a Jewish art dealer who fled Germany in the years leading up to World War II.
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.
Dealer Looks to Christie’s For Reimbursement After Learning That Work Sold in 2008 Auction Was Nazi Loot
06/08/2018We continue to follow the ongoing conversation in the art world about how best to handle disputes over artwork that was looted or displaced during the chaos and persecution of World War II. As one recent story demonstrates, sometimes a current possessor demonstrates willingness to return a work to rightful claimants but looks to a third party for compensation for the loss.
Claims Over Long-Lost Modigliani Will Proceed
05/18/2018We’ve written before about a high-profile case involving a Modigliani work, Seated Man with a Cane, which was allegedly taken from Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish art dealer who fled Paris in 1939 as the Nazis took over the city. Last week, a New York state court judge permitted a representative of his estate to proceed with claims against the work’s current possessors.
Descendants of Holocaust Victim Prevail In Suit to Recover Two Schiele Artworks
04/13/2018The descendants of Austrian-Jewish cabaret performer Fritz Grunbaum have been working for years to recover some of the art that Grunbaum owned in the years before the Nazis rose to power. Now, the Grunbaum heirs have achieved a new victory.
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.
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.
Trend Toward Voluntary Restitution of Allegedly Looted Artworks Continues
03/09/2017While we often write about high-profile litigation over Nazi-looted artworks, it’s worth noting that in recent months, there have been a number of important examples of voluntary restitution, as parties increasingly seek to resolve such disputes outside the courtroom. In January, a German food company, Dr. Oetker, took steps to return four artworks from its corporate art collection whose provenances had been traced to victims of the Nazi regime.
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.
New Lawsuit Filed Against Bavarian State Over Allegedly Nazi-Looted Artworks
12/16/2016The heirs of a prominent Jewish art dealer have sued the Bavarian state over a group of eight valuable paintings that were allegedly looted when the dealer fled Nazi Germany. See Docket No. 16-09360 (S.D.N.Y.). The filing likely marks the start of another complex litigation against a sovereign state over artwork clouded by actions taken during the Nazi era.
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.
The Struggle Continues: Recent Developments in Nazi-Era Art Restitution
07/25/2016This summer has brought several stories about the continuing and complex efforts to address the painful impact of Nazi Germany and World War II on the world’s cultural heritage and the global art market.
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.
In New Lawsuit, Heirs of Dachau Victim Seek Return of Two Schiele Works
12/09/2015Around this time last year, our blog wrote about the history of two works by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. Both were once owned by Fritz Grünbaum, a Jewish Austrian cabaret performer and art collector who was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1938 and died in Dachau in 1941; it’s unclear what happened to his art during and immediately after World War II, but a handful of the works have surfaced over the years since, sometimes leading to competing claims of ownership.
Controversy Over Jewish Archives Continues, As Court Enters $43.7 Million Interim Judgment Against Russia
09/28/2015Back in 2013, this blog discussed the ongoing litigation—and resulting international controversy—over a famous collection of religious books and manuscripts related to the heritage of Chabad-Lubovitch, a Hasidic Jewish organization founded in Russia and now based in New York. The Russian government, who has control of the collection, has refused to participate in the litigation. This month, the matter took on new weight as a federal court granted the Chabad-Lubovitch claimants’ request for an interim judgment against the Russian government—to the tune of over $40 million.
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.
One of the First Restituted Works from Gurlitt Collection to be Sold
05/29/2015This blog has previously covered the twisting tale of the Gurlitt Collection, a cache of hundreds of artworks discovered in Germany and Austria a few years ago in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer authorized by the Nazis to deal in art confiscated, looted, or deemed “degenerate art” by Hitler’s regime. The art world has fiercely debated the best way to handle the collection, a daunting task that was further complicated when Gurlitt himself died last May and bequeathed his entire estate to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.
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.
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