Art Law Report

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

Gurlitt Collection Information Finally On View, Provenance Details Still Needed

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 1, 2014 at 9:15 AM

As the world adjusts to the announcement last week that the Kunstmuseum Bern has decided to accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s bequest (amid the continuing uncertainty about the validity of the will itself), the most significant development has been the museum’s posting of an inventory of the objects themselves. The museum issued a press release that states:

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Münchner Kunstfund

Kunstmuseum Bern Accepts Appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt's Heir, Agreement with Germany

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 24, 2014 at 1:50 AM

As expected, the press conference today in Berlin held by the Kunstmuseum Bern along with German officials announced that the museum has decided to accept the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt's heir. As we surmised, the decision was accompanied by an agreement concerning the Nazi-looting suspicions that have followed the one time collection of his father Hildebrand Gurlitt. Hildebrand was one of a select few art dealers authorized during the Nazi regime to sell what the authorities deemed "degenerate art" (see link above for more background).

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt Relatives Formally Challenge Will that Named Kunstmuseum Bern as Heir

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 21, 2014 at 5:46 AM

When we wrote yesterday that everything had been said before seeing how the press conference plays out on Monday at which the Kunstmuseum Bern and Germany will make an announcement, it was somewhat tongue in cheek. Today provides an example why: relatives of Cornelius Gurlitt, who would be his heirs at law in the absence of the will that named the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, formally announced a challenge to that will today in a Munich court.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Dietrich Werner, Entartete Kunst, Munich, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, Helmut Hausner, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt and Kunstmuseum Bern Press Conference in Berlin Monday November 24, 2014

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 20, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The federal government of Germany, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, and the Kunstmuseum Bern announced today that they will hold a joint press conference on Monday November 24, 2014 concerning the bequest by Cornelius Gurlitt to the Swiss museum when he died. It seems hard to imagine that such an event would announce anything other than acceptance by the museum and perhaps some sort of side agreement with Germany and/or Bavaria.

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Topics: Swiss Info, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

Expert Opinion Casts Doubt on Gurlitt’s Testamentary Capacity to Make the Will that Names the Kunstmuseum Bern as Heir

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM

While we have tried to read the tea leaves and predict what the Kunstmuseum Bern will do on or before November 26 (the deadline to accept or reject the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt’s heir)—and what others might do if the museum turns it down, less prominent has been the validity of the will in question itself. It is far from a forgone conclusion, however, that his last-minute will would hold up under scrutiny. The circumstances alone—an elderly person, under enormous international scrutiny, placed under a guardianship—beg the question.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Restitution, testamentary capacity, World War II, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

If the Kunstmuseum Bern Says No: Gurlitt Heirs Discuss Plans if They Inherit Schwabing Trove

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 14, 2014 at 7:12 AM

As the November 26, 2014 deadline approaches by which the Kunstmuseum Bern must accept or reject the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt’s heir and the bequest of the paintings seized by the Bavarian government on suspicions of Nazi-looting concerns (as well as those in other countries that were not seized), most observers expect the museum to accept the appointment, albeit perhaps with some side agreement with the German government. But what if the museum says no? Reports floated this week of what Gurlitt’s heirs-at-law might do in that event.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Monopol, SZ, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Willbald Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Münchner Kunstfund

Reports that Gurlitt Task Force May Not Meet Deadline—What Happens Then?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 10, 2014 at 9:47 AM

There were reports over the weekend that the Gurlitt Task Force, currently reviewing the provenance of more than 900 of the 1,280 works of art seized from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment, may not complete that review within the year reportedly set out in the agreement between Bavaria and Gurlitt before he died. There is still confusion about whether the Task Force was indeed foreshadowing a missed deadline (the agreement was in April, so the notion that the review would continue “into 2015” is not necessarily inconsistent with completing its task within one year), but assuming it was, what happens then?

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Entartete Kunst, Anne Webber, Restitution, Der Spiegel, World War II, degenerate art, Kunstmuseum Bern, verschollene Kunst, Münchner Kunstfund

One Year After Gurlitt Revelation, No One is Pleased

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 5, 2014 at 8:59 AM

It has now been one year since Focus magazine in Germany broke the Cornelius Gurlitt story on November 3, 2013. Looking back at the history of the case as it has unfolded since then, the overriding theme has been difficulty in obtaining accurate information about the current state of affairs. The appointed Task Force has made only two recommendations, and the status of the bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern is still up in the air. And nobody seems remotely pleased.

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Drefsden, Gurlitt Task Force, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Lex Gurlitt, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Bundesrat, Restitution, Der Spiegel, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Switzerland, degenerate art, Kunstmuseum Bern, verschollene Kunst, Münchner Kunstfund, Ronald Lauder

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

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