Art Law Report

No Buried Nazi Gold Train After All?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 17, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Back in September, we voiced curious skepticism about breathless reports of a buried train near Wrocław, formerly Breslau, in Poland.  Rumors of this “Nazi gold train” supposedly concealed at the end of World War II and filled with either gold, art, or both, had an odd mixture of plausibility and absurdity.  Yet Polish officials went on record confirming…something.  On August 28, 2015, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski stated at a press conference that he is “99 percent sure” that the government had located the train allegedly loaded with gold, gems, and perhaps artwork that was buried as the Soviet Red Army encircled Breslau in the last months of World War II.  “The train is 100 meters long and is protected,” Zuchowski said.

Read More

Topics: Soviet, Breslau, Wrocław, Piotr Koper, Red Army, Nazi Gold Train, Walbrzych, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski, World War II, Poland, Washington Post, Janusz Madej, Andreas Richter, New York Times

Restitution of Constable Painting at the Tate Moves Ahead Again

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 16, 2015 at 10:02 AM

After putting on hold its prior recommendation back in March of this year, the United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel has recommended that the Tate Gallery in London should return Beaching a Boat, Brighton by John Constable to heirs of Budapest-based (and Jewish) Baron Ferenc Hatvany. The Art Newspaper reports that the Spoliation Panel concluded that the 1946 export license at issue in the springtime uncertainty (located from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts) was insufficient to overcome the conclusion that title to the looted painting had not passed lawfully.

Read More

Topics: John Constable, Soviet, Budapest, Worcestershire, Hungary, London, The Art Newspaper, Beaching a Boat Brighton, Nazi-looted art, Red Army, Mrs P.M. Rainsford, Broadway Art Gallery, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Restitution, World War II, Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Tate Gallery, Museums, United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel

What to Make of Nazi “Gold Train” Supposedly Buried in Poland

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 1, 2015 at 1:45 PM

I mostly ignored the initial twitterings about a supposedly secret train laden with gold and other Nazi-looted treasures that was buried somewhere near Wrocław, formerly Breslau, in Poland. My reasons were straightforward: just like supposed sightings of the Gardner Museum heist art, or the Amber Room, the story had all the hallmarks of a fable being peddled by someone who, perhaps not coincidentally, was suggesting that they be paid something for their trouble. Whether this is the next Gurlitt saga or just Al Capone’s vault, it’s too early to tell.

Read More

Topics: the Holy Roman Empire, Al Capone’s vault, Soviet, Gauleiter Karl Hanke, Königsberg, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Prussia, Max Liebermann, East Prussia, Red Army, Nazi Gold Train, Amber Room, Bernsteinzimmer, the Hanseatic League, Walbrzych, Restitution, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski, World War II, Markus Stötzel, Poland, the Duchy of Silesia, Bohemia, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, the Kingdom of Poland, Gardner Museum heist, the German Empire

Tate Backtracks on Restitution of Constable Painting

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 31, 2015 at 5:58 AM

As if there weren't enough controversy with national advisory commissions' recommendations about Nazi-looted art, the Tate Gallery in London is apparently reconsidering a recommendation last year by the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel that Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824) by John Constable should be restituted to heirs of Budapest-based Baron Ferenc Hatvany, who was Jewish.

Read More

Topics: John Constable, Soviet, Budapest, Worcestershire, London, The Art Newspaper, Beaching a Boat Brighton, Nazi-looted art, Red Army, Mrs P.M. Rainsford, Broadway Art Gallery, Restitution, World War II, Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Tate Gallery, Washington Principles, United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel

"Gurlitt Facts" Website Posted as Part of Public Relations Offensive, Arguments Strain Credulity

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 18, 2014 at 5:40 AM

Cornelius Gurlitt’s legal team has posted a new website called "Gurlitt Info" in similar (but not identical) German and English versions that is so contradicted by the repeated disclosures by the German government, that it is hard to imagine its intended purpose. As a public relations move, it is a disaster. The tactic may explain why the Augsburg prosecutor rejected the possibility of a deal with Gurlitt: he knows what he is dealing with. At the same time, the draft amendment to the statute of limitations, the Cultural Property Restitution Law (or "Lex Gurlitt," as it has somewhat misleadingly become known) is now formally before the Bundesrat for consideration as to whether to introduce the draft to the full Bundestag and possible enactment as the law of Germany. Bavarian Cultural Minister Winfried Bausbeck discusses the law here in a recent interview.

Read More

Topics: Cultural Property Restitution Law, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Bayern, Nazi stolen art, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Gurlitt Info, Führermuseum, Germany, Gurlitt Collection, Lex Gurlitt, Red Army, Entartete Kunst, Winfried Bausbeck, Gurlitt Facts, Beutekunst, Salzburg, Bundestag, Bundesrat, Gurlitt, Restitution, Statute of Limitations, Augusburg, Bavaria, Linz, Der Spiegel, World War II, Task Force, degenerate art, Cultural Minister, Austria, Justizminister, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Washington Principles, Raubkunst, Verjährung, Kulturgut-Rückwehr-Gesetz, Münchner Kunstfund

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.

Read More

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

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