A federal appeals court has upheld the growing consensus that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) confers jurisdiction over foreign state actors in possession of art allegedly looted by and/or overseen by the Nazis. Upholding last year’s District Court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the ruling in De Csepel v. Republic of Hungary that denied several Budapest museums’ motion to dismiss, while allowing the Republic of Hungary itself out of the case. This is the heirs second successful trip to the appellate court, where their claims were upheld in 2013. The case is the subject of a chapter in my newly-released book A Tragic Fate--Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art (ABA Publishing).
Topics: Berlin, David de Csepel, Angela Maria Herzog, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Baron Herzog, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungarian National Gallery, SPK, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Federal Republic of Germany, András Herzog, Welfenschatz, genocide
The often murky role of advisors and clients in the art market is a subject that continues to generate headlines, from the ongoing Bouvier saga to this year’s judgment against Lisa Jacobs. For those trying to draw useful lines and gain practical guidance, a new Kindle book Managing Relationships in the Art Market by art advisor and Tang Art Advisory Principal Annelien Bruins will be a useful reference.
Readers of the blog will recall our view of Master Thieves: the Boston Gangesters Who Pulled off the World's Greatest Art Heist by Stephen Kurkjian. Kurkjian's book is the definitive work on the 1990 robbery of several masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and explores--and dispels--numerous aspects of the infamous case.
The following is from the Kirkus Reviews starred review of A Tragic Fate--Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art (emphasis added)
A comprehensive review of United States court cases involving art that was plundered by Nazis.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime was always keenly attuned to the power of cultural symbolism and eager to find new ways to disenfranchise Jewish people. These two preoccupations converged in their looting of privately owned art between 1933 and 1945. Some treasures were brazenly confiscated, while others were purchased at steep, coerced discounts. In the last few decades, there’s been growing interest in this large-scale larceny, and yet much of the stolen art will likely never be returned to its original owners. Debut author O’Donnell, an attorney, calls this the “central paradox posed by disputes in the last twenty years.” In this book, he diligently catalogs the many moral and judicial reasons for this absurdity, as well as the evolution of laws regarding claims. His study specifically focuses on cases that resulted in litigation in America, providing an exhaustive account of each and arguing that such litigation can be an effective legal strategy, despite complaints to the contrary. O’Donnell also includes discussions of landmark moments in art-restitution law, such as the London Declaration in 1943, the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets in 1998, and the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The United States emerges in O’Donnell’s account as an early, forceful leader in international art restitution, despite the fact that some of its own laws, and even the Fifth Amendment, can complicate victims’ options. His mastery of the relevant law is nothing short of stunning, and his meticulous parsing of legal detail leaves no stones unturned.
New book explores the historical, ethical, and legal consequences of stolen art
I am pleased to announce that my book A Tragic Fate—Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art (Ankerwycke/ABA Publishing ) is available for purchase and delivery. I am proud to have composed the first comprehensive overview of looted art disputes in the United States, grounded in the historical and ethical perspectives that have shaped the debate over time. This has been a fascinating project that am very excited to share. As I hope readers of the blog will agree, my effort is always to provide a resource that those of general interest will find engaging but not hypertechincal, and which practioners will find useful as a resource.
Topics: Catherine Hickley, Nazi-looted art, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Books, Georgina Adam, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Law Report, ABA Publishing, Ankerwycke, A Tragic Fate, Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art
News Accompanied by Deafening Silence About Ongoing Restitution Policy Failures
The German government announced recently that it had returned an additional work of art found in the Salzburg home of Cornelius Gurlitt in connection with the 2013 revelation of Gurlitt’s trove of art originally in the possession of his late father Hildebrand. La Seine, vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre by Camille Pissarro (1902) has been returned to the heirs of Max Heilbronn, from whom it was taken in 1942 in France. The accompanying announcement was of a piece with the ongoing fiasco of the Gurlitt affair: a press release touting the personal involvement of Germany’s Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, a self-serving but vague statement about commitments to restitution, and absolutely no explanation or update about what is happening to the hundreds of additional paintings and objects under investigation. The press release was also sure to mention an upcoming exhibition of Gurlitt collection works later this year. In sum, the announcement confirms precisely the opposite of its intended effect.
Topics: Guelph Treasure, Cornelius Gurlitt, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Washington Conference Principles, Hildebrand Gurlit, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Welfenschatz, Minister of Culture, Gurlitt Taskforce
A controversial painting removed from display at the U.S. Capitol will not be returning to display after the U.S. District Court denied a request for an injunction before the exhibition in question came to an end. While the court acknowledged that St. Louis teenager David Pulphus’s Untitled #1 had been removed based on its viewpoint, it ultimately held that Pulphus was not the one “speaking,” the government was. As such, it was free to do as it wished. The court’s opinion carefully considered the factors that determine whether the speaker is the government or a private citizen, but as it acknowledged, the line can be hard to draw. The opinion has implicationsfor other cases where art in public spaces stirs controversy.
I will not be able to attend, but there is an event in the United Kingdom on June 9, 2017 in Canterbury well worth attending for anyone interested. Entitled “Cultural Heritage in Danger: Illicit Trafficking, Armed Conflicts and Cultural Diplomacy,” the conference organizers describe it as follows. Registration is available here.
Topics: UNESCO, University of Kent, Brexit, Canterbury, Janet Ulph, University of Leicester, Kathryn Walker Tubb, David Gill, University of Suffolk, Karl Goodwin, London School of Economics and Political Science, Maria Dimitriou, Kristin Hausler, Tasoula Hadjitofi, 1954 Hague Convention, Artemis Papathanassiou, Dr Sophia Labadi, Dr Tatiana Flessas, Mark Harrison, Sophie Hayes, Dr Sophie Vigneron, Kent Law School, Dr. Carla Figueira
I am looking forward to being in Vienna next week for the start of the conference to be held at the University of Vienna Library beginning Tuesday evening, May 2, 2017. The conference goes until May 4. Entitled “Accepting and Holding Objects in Trust—an International and Interdisciplinary Perspective,” the conference will explore a variety of restitution-related topics. From the program, the schedule is below (papers will be given in part in English, but it appears mostly in German). Registration is available until April 30, hope to see you there.
Topics: Russian State Library, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria, Jewish Museum Prague, University of Vienna, Dr. Regina Hitzenberger, Hannah M. Lessing, Victims of National Socialism, Olivia Kaiser, Christina Köstner - Pemsel, Markus Stumpf, Oliver Rathkolb, Institut für Rechts-und Verfassungsgeschichte, Leonhard Weidinger, Michael Wladika, Anneliese Schallmeiner, Alexandra Caruso, Bundesdenkmalamt (BDA), Thomas Rudert, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Jana Kocourek, SLUB Dresden, Petra Winter, Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Reinhard Buchberger, Michal Bušek, Tomáš Foltýn, Marcela Strouhalova, Czech National Library, Prague, Michael Nosek, Johana Prouzová, Bertrand Perz, Monika Mayer, Monika Löscher, Christian Mertens, Philipp Mettauer, Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, INJOEST, Pia Schölnberger, Johannes Gramlich, Stephan Kellner, Murray Hall, Institut für Germanistik, Kamil Zeidler, Julia Stepnowska, Nawojka Cieslinska-Lobkowicz, Lara Lempertienė, Ekaterina Oleshkevich, Anna Kawałko, Hebrew University, Jörn Kreuzer, National Fund, Dr. James Bindenagel, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Sebastian Spitra, Christian George, UB Mainz, Sammlung Pollák in Prager Museen, Kommission für Provenienzforschung, Albertina Wien, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München, Judaica Center National Library, Vilnius, Institut Geschichte der Juden
McDonald’s recently prevailed on personal jurisdiction grounds in a closely-watched case in California about the use of street art as décor for restaurants in the United Kingdom, but the issue has quickly arisen again. As part of what the fast-food giant has clearly decided is a winning branding strategy, the chain’s use of graffiti from New York has now brought the threat of litigation from the so-called Bushwick Collective. Where any such lawsuit gets filed will have a great deal to do with what happens next.
Topics: Joseph Tierney, Netherlands, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Rime, California, specific jurisdiction, 17 U.S.C. § 1202, general jurisdiction, Moschino, personal jurisdiction, Graffiti, New York, Dashiell Snow, McDonald's, Street Art, Daimler AG v. Bauman, Virus, NDA, Don Rimx, Beau Stanton, Himbad, United Kingdom, Atomik, Bushwick Collective