Art Law Report

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?

Read More

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 Heirs' Claims to Pissarro Work Revived by Appeals Court, the Year 2013 Shows that the Tide for Restitution May be Shifting Again

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 16, 2013 at 12:36 PM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit restored last week claims by heirs of Lilly Cassirer against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection for the return of the Camille Pissarro painting Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie.

Read More

Topics: Nuremberg laws, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Lilly Cassirer, California Code of Civil Procedure § 338(c), Dorothy Nelson, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Julius Schoeps, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Claude Cassirer, Von Saher v. Norton Simon, de Csepel, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Hans Sachs, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasaden, Madame Soler, Bundesgerichtshof, Hildebrand Gurlit, Entartete Kunst, Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Hungarian National Gallery, Nazis, Munich, Deutches Historisches Museum, FSIA, Preemption, Gurlitt, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, field preemption, Marei Von Saher, Herzog collection, Bavaria, Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, Looted Art, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, degenerate art, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, 578 F.3d 1016, Freistaat Bayern, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Camille Pissarro, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Nürnberger Gesetze, Raubkunst, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, verschollene Kunst, Kunstfund München

REMINDER Restitution and Repatriation: the Return of Cultural Objects at DePaul University November 14, 2013

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 12, 2013 at 4:13 AM

A reminder of this Thursday's event, all the more timely as the Gurlitt collection fallout continues:

Read More

Topics: cultural property, Center for Art, Field Museum of Natural History, Jane Levine, Stanford University, Thomas R. Kline, Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Susan Taylor, Penn Museum, David Franklin, Frank Lord, University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropol, Simon Frankel, Covington & Burling LLP, Lori Breslauer, Charles Brian Rose, Morag Kersel, Christopher Rollston, DePaul University, Steve Nash, Restitution, Rebecca Tsosie, Events, Richard Leventhal, Gary Johnson, World War II, Julie Getzels, Herrick Feinstein LLP, WilmerHale, Peter Neiman, University of Pennsylvania, Art Institute of Chicago, New Orleans Museum of Art, Andrews Kurth LLP, Toyozo Nakarai Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and Cultural Heritage Law, Arizona State University, Sotheby's, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Chicago Historical Society, Victoria Reed, Patty Gerstenblith

MFA and Harvard To Keep Iranian Antiquities, FSIA/Seizure Questions for Museums Left Unanswered

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a win for the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Harvard University concerning possession of a number of Iranian antiquities. The ruling left open, however, some interesting questions about the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). In particular, the First Circuit did not have to rule on whether antiquities in a museum are “property” of a source country that could be used to satisfy an unrelated judgment, or whether a museum displaying an object from a foreign country makes the object “used in commercial activity” such that it is no longer immune from seizure under the FSIA.

Read More

Topics: cultural property, Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, 28 U.S.C. § 1610, 22 U.S.C. § 2259, Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 116 Stat. 2322, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, § 201 (a), Harvard University, Restitution, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Antiquities, Immunity from Seizure Act, Museums, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Pub. L. No. 107-297

About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

Meet the Editor

Learn more about our Art & Museum Law practice

Subscribe to Blog

Posts by Topic

see all