Art Law Report

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Fifth Recommendation for Restitution

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 15, 2015 at 4:51 AM

Sophisticated Analysis of Adolph von Menzel Drawing Distinguishes Itself from Recent Revisionism Elsewhere

As the original term of the Gurlitt Task Force (Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund) winds down, the panel has issued a report on a work that it deems appropriate for restitution: Interior of a Gothic Church (Inneres einer gottischen Kirche) by Adolph von Menzel (pencil drawing, signed/dated 1874). The drawing has been called Church in Hofgastein in some English language articles.

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Topics: Interior of a Gothic Church, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi Germany, Inneres einer gottischen Kirche, Dresden, Gurlitt Task Force, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Ernst Julius Wolffson, Washington Principles on Nazi-Looted Art, Advisory Commission, Munich, Albert Martin Wolffson, Salzburg, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, World War II, Switzerland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, Elsa Helene Cohen, Limbach Commission, Jörg Häntzschel

$43.7 Million Interim Judgment Entered Against Russia for Refusal to Restitute Chabad Library

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 15, 2015 at 6:05 AM

It has been quite some time since there was occasion to update the dispute between the Chabad Lubavitch movement and Russia over Chabad’s efforts to obtain the return of the library of the movement’s late rabbi Menachem Schneerson and his predecessors (each known in his respective era as the “Rebbe”). There is now a major development. The court has granted the Chabad plaintiffs’ request to turn the daily sanctions that began to accrue in 2013 into an interim judgment, that is, to tally the $50,000 daily fines to date. The U.S. District Court in Washington, DC has done so, and entered a judgment against the Russian Federation, the Russian State Military Archive, the Russian State Library, and the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, for a total of $43.7 million. Notably, the judgment will increase automatically by $4.5 million every 90 days if not satisfied; the plaintiffs will not have to return to the court and ask for an amended judgment. Plaintiffs have already begun efforts to identify assets from which that judgment could be collected.

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Topics: Latvia, Sberbank, Nazi Germany, Russian State Military Archive, Menachem Schneerson, Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Rebbe, 28 U.S.C. § 1603, Russian Federation, FSIA, Restitution, Russian State Library, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Poland, Chabad Lubavitch, Soviet Union, Museums

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

Does The Art World Have a Russia Problem?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Several overlapping issues in recent months have turned what was an awkward elephant in the room into a major issue facing the art world today. Namely: the increasing role that Russia is playing in restitution, loans and exhibition controversies has aggregated to Vladimir Putin an extraordinary amount of influence over these major international legal issues. Combined with the Edward Snowden controversy (and the bizarre story of Putin’s theft of Robert Kraft’s New England Patriots Super Bowl ring), it seems quite clear that Putin enjoys that spotlight. That has not proven to be good news for the art world.

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Topics: Nazi Germany, Russia, Germany, WWII, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Red Army, Edward Snowden, FSIA, Restitution, New England Patriots, Super Bowl, Vladimir Putin, Robert Kraft, Soviet Union

DC Circuit Reinstates All Claims that Were Dismissed in Herzog Case Against Hungary-UPDATED

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the entire set of claims brought by the Herzog heirs against the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Applied Arts, and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. The appellate decision focuses on the claim that an agreement was reached after WWII to hold the paintings for their owners, not the claims relating to their wartime fate. In so doing, the court pushed to the side a whole range of defenses for sovereign defendants that have been increasingly successful. The court also reinstated claims to ownership of 11 works whose title was previously litigated, in an opinion that sets a low bar for collateral attacks on foreign judgments.

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Topics: commercial exception, David de Csepel, Nazi Germany, Angela Maria Herzog, Hungary, WWII, Viktor Orban, res judicata, Julia Alice Herzog, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, Hungarian National Gallery, Jori Finkel, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Adolf Eichmann, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Restitution, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Alison Frankel, András Herzog, Janos Lazar, Museum of Applied Arts

The Other Von Saher Shoe Drops: Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain Dismissed Under Foreign Affairs Preemption

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 4, 2012 at 12:50 PM

An emerging new defense to wartime art restitution claims has claimed another case. Although still confined to one district in California, the trend of dismissing such claims as better suited to resolution through the foreign affairs operations of the federal government simply cannot be ignored; wartime claims already struggling to overcome statutes of limitations could be in real trouble. The procedural history is complex, but the effect could be sweeping.

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Topics: Legislation, Nazi Germany, Lilly Cassirer, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 338, Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, conflict preemption, FSIA, Preemption, Restitution, field preemption, Goudstikker, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, California Code of Civil Procedure 354.3

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