Art Law Report

Léone Meyer and University of Oklahoma Settle Nazi-looted Pissarro Dispute

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 24, 2016 at 2:29 PM

In December it was announced that the University of Oklahoma and Leone Meyer had reached a tentative settlement in the litigation over Meyer’s claims to La Begère by Camille Pissarro, a painting stolen from her father Raoul during the Vichy regime.  Yesterday the final agreement was made public.  As reported by Graham Bowley at the New York Times, title to the painting will reportedly be confirmed as Meyer’s, and the work will be displayed on a rotating basis in France (where Meyer lives) and the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art (where it has been) until such time as Meyer donates it to a French museum (either during life or in her will).  It is a remarkable development in a case that the Oklahoma defendants defended vigorously, and a credit to the participants and lawyers involved on both sides that they were able to bridge the gap and reach an agreement.

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Topics: Léone Meyer’s, University of Oklahoma, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Restitution, World War II, Camille Pissarro

U.S. Museums and Looted Art—Is it Whether you Win or How you Play?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 9, 2015 at 7:26 AM

A recent report by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) has made strong criticisms of American museums with respect to their handling of Nazi-looted art claims. In particular, the report criticizes the assertion of timeliness defenses such as statutes of limitations. The report focuses in particular on cases involving the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma. There is no state control over the vast proportion of art in America the way there is in most European countries, and thus, no possibility of singular, nationalized approaches. In response to the report, some of the museums mentioned have defended their strategies, though in some cases the players are talking past each other. What is undeniable is that whether as a function of the nature of U.S. museums (largely private, rather than public), it is hard to say there is a coordinated approach to the issue, good or bad. The report is lengthy and detailed, and well worth a read in depth that space here does not permit. In some ways, the question it poses boils down to this: is determining the historical truth the obligation of everyone involved or is there some room to prevail without addressing the larger issues?

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Topics: Toledo Museum of Art, Street Scene in Tahiti, Léone Meyer’s, American Association of Museums, Two Nudes, La bérgère, AAMD Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during th, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, University of Oklahoma, Cassirer, Nazi-looted art, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Fred Jones Jr. Museum, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, World Jewish Restitution Organization, WJRO, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, American Alliance of Museums AAM, World War II, Paul Gaugin, Camille Pissarro, Oskar Kokoschka, Museums, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, AAMD, Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

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

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

Oklahoma Legislators Propose Resolution on Disputed Pissarro

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 12, 2015 at 9:29 AM

When the U.S. District Court in New York recently transferred Leone Meyer’s case seeking restitution of the Camille Pissarro painting La bergère rentrent des moutons (which it had earlier dismissed), we wondered whether the move closer to the painting might prove useful for Meyer. That is to say, would renewed attention prompt non-judicial activity? The Oklahoman has taken notice too, with an in-depth article recently (I am quoted in the print article).

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Topics: Fred Jones, University of Oklahoma, La bergère rentrent des moutons, Restitution, World War II, Leone Meyer, Camille Pissarro, Paul Wesselhöft, Museums, Jr. Museum, The Oklahoman

Léone Meyer’s Claims for Pissarro Transferred to Oklahoma

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 7, 2015 at 10:42 AM

A U.S. District Court judge has taken the recent invitation of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and transferred to Oklahoma a lawsuit by Léone Meyer over ownership of a Camille Pissarro painting at the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma. The case will now proceed in Oklahoma, where the museum seems likely to assert both sovereign immunity under Oklahoma law, as well as an argument that transfers in Switzerland conferred legal title to the museum as a successor to those transfers. However counterintuitive it seems, it may yet be that a court could agree with Meyer that the painting was stolen, but agree with Oklahoma that a Swiss litigation in the 1950s about whether it was sold to a good faith buyer means that Oklahoma holds full title and ownership.

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Topics: David Findlay Jr. Inc., due process, third party beneficiary, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Raoul Meyer, Nazi Occupation, American Alliance of Museums, University of Oklahoma, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhofer, Judge Colleen McMahon, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, AAM, Vichy, La bergère rentrent des moutons, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, David Findlay Galleries, World War II, CPLR 301, Switzerland, Leone Meyer, long art statute, Camille Pissarro, Museums, personal jurisdiction, AAMD, Christoph Bernoulli, Swiss judgment, Rep. Mike Reynolds

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Fourth Restitution Recommendation in 14 Months

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 6, 2015 at 7:55 AM

Shortly after reports that two of the objects found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s possession in 2012 would “be restituted “soon” to the families from which they were looted under Nazi auspices pursuant to the three recommendations of the Gurlitt Task Force to date, the Task Force has now issued a fourth recommendation. The newest work to be identified for restitution is a Camille Pissarro painting, The Seine seen from the Pont-Neuf, the Louvre in the background.

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Topics: Guelph Treasure, Cornelius Gurlitt, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Gurlitt Collection, Salzburg, Restitution, District Court of Munich, World War II, Camille Pissarro, The Seine seen from the Pont-Neuf the Louvre in th, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Museums, Monika Grütters, Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste, German Cultural Property Center, Minister of Culture

Claim for Pissarro Painting Could be Heading to Oklahoma

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 16, 2015 at 6:00 AM

An interesting development happened last week in the case seeking restitution of a Camille Pissarro painting held by the University of Oklahoma. The plaintiff Leone Meyer appealed the May 14, 2014 judgment that found that the courts of New York lacked jurisdiction over the Oklahoma-based defendants affiliated with the University of Oklahoma (the painting is in the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art). Without ruling on the jurisdictional basis for dismissal, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the matter back to the trial court for consideration of whether the case should be transferred to Oklahoma. It seems likely that it will be, or even if not, that she will file a new case there and the matter will continue. It’s splitting hairs, but many of the headlines suggesting that the Court of Appeals had revived Meyer’s claims are not quite right; Meyer’s claims have still never been addressed on the merits (so they were never dead) and, as discussed below, another forum remains available to her. The larger point is that a second round is likely coming in Oklahoma.

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Topics: David Findlay Jr. Inc., Raoul Meyer, Nazi Occupation, University of Oklahoma, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhofer, Judge Colleen McMahon, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Vichy, La bergère rentrent des moutons, Restitution, David Findlay Galleries, World War II, Switzerland, Leone Meyer, Camille Pissarro, Museums, personal jurisdiction, Christoph Bernoulli, Swiss judgment

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Norton Simon Intermediate Appeal, Von Saher Claim Returns to Trial Court

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 21, 2015 at 7:30 AM

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena’s efforts to bring an end to the claim by Marei von Saher to Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve failed yesterday, as the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the museum’s appeal from the decision last year by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that restored the claims. The Supreme Court denied what is called a writ of certiorari, which is a discretionary appeal from a lower court. The high Court can accept cases on appeal from final judgments (as would be the case had the museum prevailed) or, as here, what are called interlocutory appeals—appeals of matters still in process. The Ninth Circuit decision revived Von Saher’s case and sent them back to the District Court for litigation, and the Norton Simon’s petition asked the Supreme Court to intervene and put an end to it. The overwhelming proportion of certiorari petitions are denied, interlocutory appeals even more so (courts favor hearing appeals of final judgments to avoid piecemeal adjudications). This is the second certiorari petition in the case: in 2011, Von Saher was on the losing end of a petition when her case had been dismissed under an earlier version of California’s statute of limitations.

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Topics: Legislation, Dutch Secretary for Education Culture and Science, Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Lilly Cassirer, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

Lauder Wall Street Journal Nazi-Looted Art Editorial, Art Law Report Post, and the Response: Some Clarification and Context

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 18, 2014 at 5:32 AM

Two weeks ago, we posted an article entitled “Lauder Editorial on Stolen Art Fails the Glass House Test.” The metaphor was not intended to be complicated: it seemed inconsistent, to put it politely, for the honorary board chairman of a museum that has resisted restitution claims by asserting, for example, the statute of limitations and the laches defense, now to say that museums that do just that are “immoral.” Ultimately, we posited that restitution decisions are complicated and hard. It seemed an open question for example as to what, exactly, Ronald S. Lauder’s editorial "Time to Evict Nazi-Looted Art From Museums" was designed to draw attention. Right on cue, another article appeared calling for the return of the Camille Pissarro in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation museum in Madrid (Rue St. Honoré, effet de pluie) claimed by the heirs of Lilly Cassirer. It is clear that the June 30, 2014 Art Law Report raised more than a few hackles, but we welcome discussion and criticism. An exchange of ideas is what we are here to foster, after all. In the end, however, some clarification shows that there is not really a disagreement here, but rather that the response highlights frustration with civil law countries' treatment of stolen art.

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Topics: Cristoph Bernoulli, Ronald S. Lauder, La bérgère, Norton Simon Museum, Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Jr. Museum of Art, Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscat, American Alliance of Museums, Fred Jones, University of Oklahoma, David Findlay Jr. Gallery, Judge Colleen McMahon, MoMA, Plundered Art, specific jurisdiction, Madame Soler, N.Y. Civ. P. Law & Rules § 301, Adam, general jurisdiction, AAM, Museum of Modern Art, World Jewish Congress, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, David Findlay Galleries, N.Y. Civ. P. Law & Rules § 302, Free State of Bavaria, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Switzerland, Pinakothek der Moderne, Leone Meyer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Wally, Freistaat Bayern, Weitzenhoffer, Camille Pissarro, Pablo Picasso, AAMD, Association of Museum Directors, Eve, New York, Time to Evict Nazi-Looted Art From Museums

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