Art Law Report

Looted Art Legislation—HEAR Act and Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act Set to Become Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 12, 2016 at 2:40 PM

Congress has passed and President Obama is expected to sign two bills related to looted art and the availability of U.S. courts to hear disputes over them.  The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act of 2016 and the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act (FCEJCA, for lack of a handy acronym) were both passed without objection both the House of Representatives on December 10, 2016, and are expected to be signed by President Obama shortly.  The HEAR Act is a major shift in the law of Nazi-looted art claims specifically, while the FCEJCA is controversial but unlikely to have a broad impact one way or another.  It is perhaps most remarkable that in an era of unique partisanship and political polarization, members of Congress from both parties and the President agreed on anything, let alone unanimously (sponsors include such unusual allies as Ted Cruz, Richard Blumenthal, John Cornyn, and Charles Schumer).

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Topics: Legislation, Guelph Treasure, Alfred Flechtheim, Russia, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, FSIA, expropriation exception”, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, World War II, State Hermitage Museum, Charles Schumer, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, John Cornyn, Welfenschatz, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Richard Blumenthal, Ted Cruz, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Politico, Anita Difanis

Museum Denied Exhibition Loan of Byzantine Ivory from British Museum That Should Have Been Permitted

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 8, 2015 at 8:08 AM

The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts, has apparently been told by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that it will not be receiving the anticipated loan of a Byzantine ivory relief of the Death of the Virgin for the exhibition “Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia.” This no doubt springs from the new U.S. policy on ivory, but even under that stringent approach, the temporary import for a cultural exhibition should have been permitted. The museum may have recourse, but it has apparently made a backup plan for another object to round out the show. The case still serves as a useful framework to consider the new legal reality. This is also a real shame, because it is the second time in the last few years that the museum (which is an absolute gem, founded privately in 2006 by art collector and industrialist Gordon B. Lankton) has been affected by international contretemps (the first relating to the Russian exhibition loan embargo arising out of the Chabad case).

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Topics: CITES, relief, Massachusetts, Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia, Byzantine, Death of the Virgin, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ivory, Gordon B. Lankton, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Museum of Russian Icons, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Sp, Clinton, commercial trade, National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficki, Immunity from Seizure Act, Customs, Chabad

Immunity from Seizure in Focus—Loans from Cuba for Exhibitions on Hold

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 5, 2015 at 6:39 AM

A recent story in The Art Newspaper spotlights a number of lingering issues related to stolen art, the power of U.S. courts to seize property to satisfy liability, and the role of the Immunity from Seizure Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459 (IFSA). As we discussed recently, the prospect of a material change in U.S.-Cuba relations, which as a commercial matter haven’t existed for more than 50 years, has broad implications for the art market. Just as importantly, there are many, many unanswered questions about the fate of property in Cuba that changed hands or was nationalized as part of the Cuban Revolution in the late 1950s and onward. Simply put, there are thousands of claims worth billions of dollars for all sorts of property that exiles left behind or had taken from them. While it is still a long way off, one impact of potentially normalized relations is the prospect of sorting through those claims.

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Topics: Legislation, Malevich, Atlanta, Boston College Law School, The Art Newspaper, Immunity from Seizure, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, City of Amsterdam, High Museum, McMullen Museum at Boston College, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Portrait of Wally, Immunity from Seizure Act, Museums, Chabad, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, State Department, Cuba

With New Congress, Resale Royalties Bill and Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Are Dead (Again)

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 5, 2015 at 9:49 AM

A quirk of parliamentary procedure is that any bill in Congress exists only for so long as that particular Congress is in session. This week, the 114th Congress took its seats, meaning that any bill not passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed by the President, is a dead letter. This is the fate of many, many bills—indeed most.

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Topics: Legislation, Resale Royalties, Chuck Close, Moral Rights, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S. § 1605, Art Law Day, 114th Congress, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, City of Amsterdam, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), FSIA, expropriation exception”, droit de suite, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Senate, House of Representatives, Immunity from Seizure Act, President, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Passes House of Representatives Overwhelmingly

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 7, 2014 at 2:57 AM

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (HR 4292) passed the House of Representatives yesterday, 388 to 4. Voting against were Reid Ribble (R, WI), Mark Sanford (R, SC), Marlin Stuzman (R, IN), and Justin Amash (R, MI). As discussed here previously, the bill would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (FSIA) to clarify when a cultural object loaned with immunity from seizure pursuant to the Immunity from Seizure Act (IFSA) can also constitute the “commercial activity” element necessary to overcome sovereign immunity and bring a suit in U.S. federal court. Invocation of the FSIA has, since Altmann v. Republic of Austria up through the cases pending against Hungary and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection pending today, become the go-to strategy to seek federal jurisdiction over World War II/Nazi-looted art restitution cases in particular.

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Topics: Reid Ribble, Mark Sanford, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee of the A, Marlin Stuzman, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Malevicz v. City of Amsterdam, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Justin Amash, FSIA, Restitution, HR 4292, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Immunity from Seizure Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Reintroduced in House of Representatives, Would Ban Use of Exhibition Loan as Basis for Federal Court Jurisdiction

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 31, 2014 at 4:04 AM

Steve Chabot (R-OH) has reintroduced the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (H.R. 4292), after a previous attempt to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act with regard to the loan of cultural objects failed to become law in 2012. The text of the March 25, 2014 bill is identical to the version that passed in the House in 2012. Its co-sponsors are John Conyers (D-MI) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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Topics: Bob Goodlatte, Cornelius Gurlitt, Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam, Girolamo Romano, Gurlitt Collection, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue, 517 F.Supp.2d 322, FSIA, Restitution, David Toren, 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, Steve Chabot, Orrin Hatch, House Judiciary Committee, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), Senate Bill 2212, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Portrait of Wally, John Conyers, Immunity from Seizure Act, Dianne Feinstein Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Federal Republic of Germany, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, H.R. 4292, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Revival of the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 30, 2013 at 5:03 AM

The Holocaust Art Restitution Project reports today that a new version of Senate Bill 2212, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act that would have amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to preclude claims against defendants whose “commercial activity” is limited to the loan of artwork whose ownership is in dispute, but which are immunized from seizure pursuant to the Immunity from Seizure Act (22 U.S.C. § 2459). The Art Law Report covered the bill extensively last year. Although the bill as previously passed would have exempted Holocaust claims from the exception, the bill in broad terms was designed to prevent another Malevich v. City of Amsterdam situation, in which the very loan of a painting immunized from seizure was itself held to satisfy the commercial activity jurisdictional requirements of the FSIA.

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Topics: Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Association of Art Museum Directors, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Immunity from Seizure Act, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Russia Threatens Lawsuit Against U.S. Library of Congress in Further Retaliation for Chabad Sanctions Order

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 12, 2013 at 8:44 AM

In a story that gets more unusual with every new development, the Russian Foreign Ministry has reportedly recommended filing a lawsuit, in Russia, against the United States Library of Congress in response to last month’s contempt sanctions order by the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia arising out of Russia’s refusal to obey a judgment to return the Chabad Lubavitch library of Menachem Schneerson.

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Topics: Russian Times, Russian Foreign Ministry, sanctions, The Art Newspaper, Library of Congress, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Litigation, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, Sergey Lavrov

Combining the Nazi Theft Exception in Senate Bill 2212 with Immunity from Seizure: Good Policy or Inconsistent Law?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 15, 2012 at 6:46 AM

Opposition to Senate Bill 2212, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (a bill the Art Law Report favors in its frequent commentaries) has been renewed recently. Senate Bill 2212 (already passed by the House of Representatives) would remove the mere display of a work of art in the United States as a satisfactory basis to satisfy the commercial activity requirement of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act necessary to sue a foreign sovereign here in the United States.

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Topics: Germany, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Plundered Art, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Restitution, Senate Bill 2212, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Nikki Georgopulos, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Immunity from Seizure Act, Nazi theft, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Malevich v. City of Amsterdam, Art Law Report

Despite Criticism of S.B. 2212’s Proposed Amendment to the FSIA, New Law Would Not Enable Stolen Art

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 24, 2012 at 6:04 AM

Doreen Carvajal of the New York Times this week addressed Senate Bill 2212, (the “Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act”) this week, a bill approved in March by the House of Representatives.

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Topics: Legislation, Russian art embargo, Nazi stolen art, Russia, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue, Collections, FSIA, SB 2212, Restitution, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Portrait of Wally, Doreen Carvajal, Immunity from Seizure Act, New York Times, Chabad, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

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