Art Law Report

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death

After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection.  Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum.  Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland.  While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.

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Topics: Bayern, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art in Munich, SZ, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Oberlandesgericht, Munich, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Catrin Lorch, Free State of Bavaria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Jörg Häntzschel, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)

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

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

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

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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