Art Law Report

Cassirer and the State of Restitution—Takeaways and Next Steps

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 11, 2015 at 7:10 AM

I’ve been talking quite a bit to friends, colleagues and clients about the impact of last week’s decision in the Cassirer v. Thyssen Bornemisza case. The New York Times had a follow up article yesterday which was an interesting treatment of the various themes at work in the case and in restitution cases in the United States generally these days. In fact, I think the effect is mostly limited, except to the extent that the decision assumes and treats as uncontroversial important principles about sales under duress and is a case that resolved title under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). As we predicted, the Times article makes clear that the museum has absolutely no intention of giving the painting back, but did float the idea of some recognition of the historical circumstances, which is progress (certainly compared to other instances in which obvious circumstances of duress are denied).

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Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, Bakalar v. Vavra, Fritz Grünbaum, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Egon Schiele, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act Returns

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 10, 2015 at 12:47 PM

The U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday H.R. 889, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act for the third time in four years. Identical bills passed the house in early 2012 and again last year but failed to win passage in the Senate and signature by the President, thus expiring without becoming a law (and remaining just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill). Will it become law? Probably not, and after a little reflection and evolution, that’s probably for the best.

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Topics: U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarifica, Second Hickenlooper Amendment, Russia, Herrick Feinstein, Nazi-looted art, Konowaloff, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, act of state doctrine, Senate, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Capitol Hill, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, Federal Republic of Germany, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Cuba

District Court Dismisses Cassirer Claim for Pissarro against Thyssen Bornemisza Collection by Applying Spanish Law of Adverse Possession

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 8, 2015 at 8:05 AM

One of the longest running art restitution litigations in the United States has been dismissed for a second time, with another appeal likely to follow. The heirs of Lilly Cassirer Neubauer have been pursuing the return of Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid for more than ten years, but on June 4, 2015 the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that the Spanish museum has acquired full title to the painting by adverse possession. The key aspect of the decision is the court’s resolution of the choice of law question, namely, should California law or Spanish law apply to the question of who owns the painting? After a lengthy analysis the court determined that Spanish law applies, and that the museum has possessed the painting long enough to have become the owner regardless of the fact that it was sold under duress. So now a case that has already been to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice will almost certainly head back a third time. The court concluded its decision by appealing to the parties to “pause, reflect, and consider whether it would be appropriate to work towards a mutually-agreeable resolution of this action, in light of Spain’s acceptance of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration, and, specifically, its commitment to achieve “just and fair solutions” for victims of Nazi persecution.” But it is hard to see why that would happen. Notwithstanding the dictates of the Washington Principles, the Collection has been quite content to resist the claim. Now that it has won, it is hard to imagine it suddenly taking a different view.

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Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz

Toren Amends Complaint Against Bavaria Over Liebermann Seized from Gurlitt, Spotlights Task Force Recommendation of Restitution in Support of Bailment Theory

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 27, 2014 at 6:31 AM

Two weeks ago, the Federal Republic of Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the restitution claims brought by David Toren over ownership of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand) by the German painter Max Liebermann. Toren’s uncle David Friedmann owned the painting in Breslau before he was targeted for his collection and it was stolen. Toren had not seen it since adolescence. The painting is further notable for two (related) reasons: it is among the 1,280 works of art found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012, and it is one of only two that the Gurlitt Task Force has recommended be restituted (to Toren). As we noted at the time of the motion, Germany’s tactics seemed odd; Bavaria has committed to complying with the Task Force’s recommendations, and contesting this case seems to make little sense. The likeliest reason, in our view, is to try to make some jurisdictional law that will weaken other potential claimants to the Gurlitt trove.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Strand, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund

Bavaria and Germany Move to Dismiss Gurlitt Litigation, But Raise Questions About Why They Are Resisting a Lawsuit Over Painting that Task Force Recommended They Restitute to David Toren

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM

To date, only one lawsuit has been filed in the United States related to the seizure from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment of some 1,280 works of art, a story that broke a year ago with the concern about the objects’ Nazi-looting connections via his father Hildebrand Gurlitt (the view here last winter was that the longer Germany failed to address the situation comprehensively, the more likely such U.S. litigation became). That lawsuit, brought by David Toren, seeks the return of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand), by Max Liebermann. Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the case yesterday, which is particularly puzzling given that among the very few determinations made by the Gurlitt Task Force (in August), it is that the Liebermann should be returned. The cynical view is that they are looking to forestall future claims, but it is past time for the painting to be returned.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Second Public Recommendation, Urges Restitution of Liebermann painting to David Toren—Lawsuit Not Over Yet

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 15, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Eileen Kinsella at ArtNet news reported today that the Gurlitt Taskforce has recommended the restitution of the Max Liebermann painting Riders on the Beach (Reiter am Strand) to David Toren, a New York man who left Germany at age 14 in 1939. His great uncle David Friedmann lived in Breslau, the capital of Silesia (now part of Poland, known as Wrocław). The Nazis catalogued and seized Friedmann’s art collection in 1939-40, and the Liebermann painting appears on those records. It was later found among those 1,280 objects seized from Gurlitt a little over two years ago when he aroused suspicion returning from Switzerland with a large amount of cash.

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Topics: Breslau, Eileen Kinsella, Wrocław, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Silesia, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Reiter am Strand, August Matteis, Restitution, David Toren, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), World War II, Switzerland, degenerate art, Poland, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Berner Zeitung, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, ArtNet news

Claims by Mendelssohn Bartholdy Heirs over Picasso "Madame Soler" Dismissed, Court Finds No FSIA Jurisdiction After Evidentiary Hearings

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 1, 2014 at 10:49 AM

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed claims for ownership of Madame Soler by Pablo Picasso, currently at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Just as the relevance of Judge Jed Rakoff’s comments over another art restitution case brought by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy unexpectedly came to the fore recently, Judge Rakoff’s decision is now the most recent in a line of frustrations for the heirs of Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a victim of Nazi persecution in Berlin in the 1930s. The ramifications of this case may be fairly narrow, however, as the case was premised on allegations of specific transactions in New York rather than general allegations about the conduct of Germany. The claimants could appeal, or perhaps turn to the Limbach Commission if they could be heard (the Pinakothek is a subdivision of Germany for jurisdictional analysis, but it’s unclear at first blush if the Commission would view this claim as within its province).

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Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Berlin, commercial activity exception, Cornelius Gurlitt, Florence Kesselstatt, Judge Jed Rakoff, Halldor Soehner, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Julius Schoeps, Upper East Side, Prussia, Max Liebermann, Night Café, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, France, State Paintings Collection, Madame Soler, Museum of Modern Art, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Van Gogh, Munich, Justin K. Thannhauser, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Nazi persecution, Boy Leading a Horse, Restitution, David Toren, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Free State of Bavaria, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kult, Bundesländer, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Le Moulin de la Galette, Kurt Martin, München, Pablo Picasso, Federal Republic of Germany, Limbach Commission, Wissenschaft und Kunst

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

New York Man Sues Germany For Liebermann Found With Gurlitt, but Allegations Face Real FSIA and Pleading Challenges

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 6, 2014 at 1:53 AM

When I spoke in Heidelberg in January at the Institute for Jewish Studies conference “Appropriated Art—the Gurlitt Case,” one of the points I stressed in discussing U.S. restitution litigation was that the longer the Gurlitt case went unresolved (and do not be distracted by the “Voice of Russia” article that is being circulated as “Holocaust victims’ heirs to reclaim Nazi-looted artwork if Gurlitt bill passsed”­—it is not remotely a simple or likely as that), the more certain it would be that litigation would follow in the U.S. Gurlitt himself and his legal team have done their part recently to make any meaningful agreement impossible, and in the absence of unilateral action by Germany (which would probably be illegal), it has now come to pass. The first civil claim related to paintings seized from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment has now been filed by David Toren in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Voice of Russia, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Hungary, de Csepel, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Appropriated Art the Gurlitt Case, Hans Sachs, Baron Herzog, bailment, Madame Soler, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, conversion, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Ersessene Kunst¬—der Fall Gurlitt, Picasso, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Institute for Jewish Studies, Münchner Kunstfund, Heidelberg

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