Art Law Report

Norton Simon Museum Prevails Against Von Saher Claim to Cranachs Looted by the Nazis

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 16, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Just as it appeared that the first trial in years would begin next month on a claim of Nazi-looted art, the much publicized Von Saher case has come to an end with a judgment that entered yesterday.  The U.S. District Court awarded the Norton Simon Museum summary judgment on the claims to ownership of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ending pending further appeal a nearly decade-old litigation.  Over the years, the Von Saher case has made new law about statutes of limitations, constitutional law, and the scope of U.S. foreign policy as it impacts the courts.  Like the Cassirer case last year, it is a bitter blow for the claimants who labored for years to recover the paintings and for whom it appeared their day in court had arrived.  This is all the more so because there was no dispute in the briefing that the paintings had been expropriated by Hermann Göring’s rapacious henchman.    

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Topics: Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Jacques Goudstikker, Nazi-looted art, Hermann Goering, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, World War II

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

Von Saher Claims for Cranach Paintings Survive Another Motion to Dismiss

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 3, 2015 at 6:45 AM

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has denied yet another motion by the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena to dismiss claims by Marei von Saher to ownership of the Lucas Cranach paintings Adam and Eve. Ruling on the most recent argument that the claim was brought too late, the court held that the case was within California’s often-revised statute of limitations. Remarkably, even though last year’s remand from the Ninth Circuit raised the question of the application of the Act of State Doctrine, that issue went mentioned but unresolved. That could mean yet another motion before the case can proceed to trial (or even discovery).

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Topics: Netherlands, Norton Simon Museum, Nazi Germany, Von Saher, Nazi-looted art, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 338, Pasadena, Adam, conflict preemption, Lucas Cranach, Cranach, Restitution, field preemption, Marei Von Saher, Statute of Limitations, Goudstikker, Los Angeles, World War II, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Museums, Eve, California Code of Civil Procedure 354.3

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

10, 9, 8…the Biggest Art Law Report Stories of 2014 and a Look Ahead

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

As the ball teeters above Times Square, and the Glühwein begins to mull on the Art Law Report stove (don’t forget the cinnamon!), a gimmicky but apropos act of reflection is to look back at the biggest stories of 2014, both in art law generally and for yours truly and Sullivan & Worcester LLP. In highly subjective, unverifiable, and immediately criticizeable order, here they are. Thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for in interesting, prosperous New Year. If you agree, disagree, or otherwise, please continue to stay in touch and carry the conversation forward.

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Topics: Comedy Central, Deaccession, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Charitable Foundations, National Gallery of Art, Knoedler, Cornelius Gurlitt, Blogs, authentication, authenticity, parody, William Corcoran, Moral Rights, Above the Law, Germany, George Washington University, Glühwein, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Norton Simon, Graffiti Art, Superior Court, Cy Pres, Washington DC, VARA, Detroit Institute of Arts, Bankruptcy, Corcoran College of Art + Design, Dumb Starbucks, Preemption, Asher Edelman, DIA, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Artmentum GmbH, Bavaria, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, World War II, Copyright, Times Square, Art Fairs, Kunstmuseum Bern, Corcoran Gallery, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Raubkunst, Detroit Bankruptcy, Fair Use, Münchner Kunstfund, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Graffiti, Civil Forfeiture, Art Law Report

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

Lauder Editorial on Stolen Art and Museums Fails the Glass House Test

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 30, 2014 at 11:11 AM

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial today by Ronald S. Lauder entitled “Time to Evict Nazi-Looted Art From Museums.” Lauder, the one-time U.S. Ambassador to Austria, current President of the World Jewish Congress, and Honorary Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is a frequent commentator on questions of stolen art. He was, for example, a reliably-available quote on the Gurlitt affair: on Germany’s steps to deal with it (or criticism for Germany’s action) and the question of stolen art in German museums. But a prominent case several years ago involving a museum with which Lauder himself is involved suggests that perhaps over-simplification is not the answer.

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Topics: Ronald S. Lauder, La bérgère, Norton Simon Museum, Gurlitt affair, Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Florence Kesselstatt, Judge Jed Rakoff, Julius Schoeps, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscat, Germany, University of Oklahoma, Monuments Men, David Findlay Jr. Gallery, MoMA, Adam, Museum of Modern Art, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, World Jewish Congress, Boy Leading a Horse, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Wally, Camille Pissarro, Le Moulin de la Galette, U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Pablo Picasso, Museums, New York Times, Eve, New York, Time to Evict Nazi-Looted Art From Museums

"Fight Over Paintings Looted by Nazis May Finally Get Trial Thanks to 9th Cir." Published by Bloomberg BNA

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 18, 2014 at 6:50 AM

I am quoted at length in an article about the recent Von Saher decision: "Fight Over Paintings Looted by Nazis May Finally Get Trial Thanks to 9th Cir." by Nicholas Datlowe, published by Bloomberg BNA’s United States Law Week. The article covers the overall background and importance of the decision, and has quotes from the plaintiffs’ attorneys who now can return to the trial court to try to press their claim (and respond to the likely forthcoming act of state defenses, as discussed here previously). It also analyzes the dissent in the June 6, 2014 opinion by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, who would have upheld the trial court dismissal under the foreign affairs doctrine.

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Topics: Bloomberg BNA, 82 U.S.L.W. 1944, 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, Howard N. Spiegler, Fred Anthony Rowley, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, United States Law Week, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Dorothy Wright Nelson, http://www.bna.com., The Bureau of National Affairs Inc., Kim McLane Wardlaw, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

Restitution Claims for Cranach Paintings in the Norton Simon Museum Revived by Ninth Circuit, Case Now Hinges on Act of State Doctrine

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 9, 2014 at 1:21 AM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit restored on June 6, 2014 the claims by Marei von Saher against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena for the paintings Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The appeals court followed its decision in Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain in December of last year, concerning the painting Rue Saint-Honoré, après-midi, effet de pluie by Camille Pissarro that was owned at one time by Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish collector who fled Germany in 1939. While the panel of judges vacated the Von Saher dismissal that was premised on the idea that California’s revised statute of limitations was unconstitutional (instead finding that the law and claims withstand that scrutiny), the divided 2-1 panel sent the case back to the district court to determine if the claims were nonetheless barred under the “act of state doctrine”. One dissenting judge would have upheld the dismissal on the grounds that the case would call into question Von Saher’s compensation from the Dutch government such that that would violate the foreign affairs doctrine. That split on the act of state doctrine partially answers the lingering question of why Von Saher, argued the same day as Cassirer concerning the same California law, had gone undecided six months after Cassirer was resolved.

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Topics: 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, Howard N. Spiegler, Fred Anthony Rowley, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Dorothy Wright Nelson, http://www.bna.com., Kim McLane Wardlaw, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

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