Art Law Report

What About Margarethe Mauthner? Van Gogh Once Owned by Elizabeth Taylor Heads to Auction Again with Scant Mention of its Persecuted Former Owner

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Since the passage in 2016 of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, many commenters (here included) have grappled with what the implications of the law will be on the scope and frequency of future claims.  Even as litigants are faced with policy arguments about whether individual claims belong in U.S. courts—arguments that the HEAR Act should have put to rest—it is occasionally worthwhile to consider how prior cases would have been affected.  Such analysis can draw into relief why the law was such a significant step forward.  This week, news that a painting by Vincent Van Gogh once owned by Elizabeth Taylor will go to auction again provides one such example.  A beautiful painting in the collection of the biggest movie star in the world makes for a great sales pitch, but missing in the coverage is any mention of Margarethe Mauthner, a German Jew who owned the painting before fleeing the Nazi regime.  The exact circumstances under which she lost possession of the painting are unclear, but those circumstances might have had the chance to be determined had the HEAR Act been passed earlier.  The importance of that opportunity is worth considering as the law is assessed going forward. 

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Topics: Margarethe Mauthner, Nazi-looted art, Van Gogh, Christie's, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Sotheby's, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, A Tragic Fate, Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, Alfred Wolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Cassirer

A Signpost for Artists’ Rights or the Beginning of the End? 5Pointz Damages Award May be A Fork in the Road

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 19, 2018 at 8:50 AM

Last week Apollo magazine published my comments about the recent 5Pointz decision.  The article can be found here, and the text is reprinted below:

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Topics: Graffiti Art, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, Jerry Wolkoff, Copyright, 5Pointz, Street Art

Event: "Looted Art for Sale" at Brandeis University March 21, 2018

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 5, 2018 at 10:33 AM

I am honored to be one of the presenters at an upcoming symposium at Brandeis University entitled "Looted Art for Sale."  This interdisciplinary conference will provide an international perspective on the last twenty years of art recovery. Speakers include former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a primary leader in the creation of U. S. restitution policies, Hector Feliciano, Professor Meike Hoffmann, Victoria Reed, Inge Reist, and Lucian Simmons. The filmmaker, John Friedman, will screen excerpts from his forthcoming documentary on Tuesday evening, March 20th (6:30pm), in Edie & Lew Wasserman Cinematheque, “Restitution: Art and Memory.”

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Topics: Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Victoria Reed, Brandeis University, Lucian Simmons, Hector Feliciano, Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance, Brandeis International Business School, Inge Reist, Stuart Eizenstat, Looted Art for Sale, Brandeis Center for German and European Studies

Members of the Berkshire Museum Ask Supreme Judicial Court to Stop Berkshire Museum’s Deaccession Plan

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 26, 2018 at 5:36 PM

(Boston, MA, February 26, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg filed today a brief with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts asking the state’s highest court not to permit the sale of 40 works of art by the Berkshire Museum. The Berkshire Museum filed a petition on February 9, 2018 asking the SJC to permit deviation from the historical restrictions that would prevent such sale. Today the museum member filed a brief as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.”

Partner Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for the members, said, “My clients are optimistic that the SJC will see through the Berkshire Museum’s petition to deviate from its historical restrictions as unnecessary, and harmful. Such a petition must show that the current state of affairs is impossible or impracticable, and that the requested change is ‘as near as possible’ to the original purpose of the institution. This petition fails to meet either criterion.”

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Shuffleton’s Barbershop

Members of the Berkshire Museum Pledge to Continue Fight Against Liquidation of the Museum’s Art Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 13, 2018 at 2:45 PM

(Boston, MA, February 13, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg sharply denounced today the agreement that was announced Friday evening between the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to permit the sale of every one of 40 works of art that the members—and AG Healey—sued last year to prevent.  Only two weeks after filing a 50-page brief in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that detailed numerous violations of the Trustees’ fiduciary duties and specific restrictions on the 40 works of art, the Attorney General’s office has filed its assent to the Museum’s request to modify its governing charter to permit the immediate sale of Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop to an unnamed buyer, and to allow the sale of the 39 remaining works thereafter without any further oversight of the governance of the Museum.

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Berkshire Museum, Maura Healey

"A Tragic Fate" Lecture at DePaul Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law February 26, 2018

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 8, 2018 at 10:32 AM

I am very pleased to be in Chicago on February 26, 2018 at the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law to discuss my bookA Tragic Fate—Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art.  DePaul's cultural heritage law program is at the pinnacle of art, museum, and cultural property study, and it is a great honor to be invited.  

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Topics: DePaul University of Law, A Tragic Fate, Wayland Public Library

Artist Adriana Varella Demands that the City of Palo Alto Halt its Plans to Remove Her Renowned Work "Digital DNA"

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 1, 2018 at 4:03 AM

Sullivan & Worcester LLP has taken action on behalf of its client, artist Adriana Varella, to protect her sculpture Digital DNA from removal and destruction by the City of Palo Alto, California.  Digital DNA has stood in the heart of Palo Alto for nearly 15 years, and is widely beloved by the community.  In that time it has been recognized for its compelling message about the effect of technology on society.

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Topics: Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, Digital DNA, Adriana Varella, Palo Alto

Members of the Berkshire Museum File Appeal Papers to Stop Museum's Planned Sale of 40 Works from its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 16, 2018 at 6:56 PM

 (Boston, MA, January 16, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed its papers in the appeal by its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal was brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case.  That order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that includes Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Maura Healey, Massachusetts Appeals Court

“Building an Art Market 2.0”—Responsible Art Market Initiative Event February 2, 2018 in Geneva

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 8, 2018 at 4:41 PM

Readers of the Art Law Report will know that we have regularly touted the collaborative efforts of the Art Law Centre of the University of Geneva, the Fondation pour le Droit d’Art (Art Law Foundation), and now the Responsible Art Market Initiative to develop a center of gravity in Geneva around practical, real-world solutions in the commercial art market.  This has resulted in a number of terrific and informative events about which we have written before.

The new year brings another exciting event.  Later this month, I will be in Geneva for the next Responsible Art Market event: “Building an Art Market 2.0.”  Scheduled as in the past to coincide with the artgenève fair at the Palexpo, it will be an interesting and informative session.  I was honored to be part of the taskforce for the “Art Due Diligence” toolkit project that will be finalized before the event later this month and look forward to sharing it with commentators and participants.  If you can make it (register here), I hope you will join us there!  From the program:

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Topics: AXA Art Insurance Corporation, Art Law Foundation, artgenève, Johannes Nathan, Art Law Centre, University of Geneva,  Heidi Amrein,  Alexandre Catsicas, The Fine Art Group, Deloitte AG,  Thomas Belohlavek,  Laura Gowen,  Marco Grossi,  Emilie Mermillod, Seydoux & Associés Fine Art SA,  Freya Stewart, Artmyn SA

"A Tragic Fate" named to Kirkus Reviews 100 Best of 2017

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 18, 2017 at 2:39 PM

I am pleased to report that A Tragic Fate—Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art (Ankerwycke) has been named one of Kirkus Reviews’ 100 Best Indie books of 2017.

A Tragic Fate received a star review from Kirkus in June, one of only 10% of reviews to receive that designation.  Now, A Tragic Fate has been honored as a selected “Best of 2017” from among those small number of starred review.

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Topics: Nicholas M. O'Donnell, A Tragic Fate, Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art, Kirkus Reviews

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