Art Law Report

The Responsible Art Market Initiative is Coming to New York on May 23, 2019

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 18, 2019 at 1:00 PM

After another well-attended and well-received event in Geneva in January, the Responsible Art Market Initiative is coming to New York!  In coordination with the Professional Advisors to the International Art Market (PAIAM), we will be holding an afternoon seminar at Columbia University on May 23, 2019.  The program and registration will be available shortly, but panels moderated by RAM Advisory Board members Justine Ferland (University of Geneva) and I will boast a stellar lineup of experts that will address questions concerning compliance and legislative developments affecting the art market, and best practices in art transaction risk management.

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Topics: Columbia University, University of Geneva, Responsible Art Market, Justine Ferland, PAIAM

Germany and its Federal States Announce Collective Declaration with Respect to Colonial Artifacts and Human Remains

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 22, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Debate has peaked in the last year or so about the treatment and possible restitution of so-called colonial artifacts in Western (i.e., European and North American) museums.  The conversation is important for many reasons, but one interesting facet is the way in which the discussion moved from a peripheral topic to one consuming high-level government attention in a very short amount of time.  In the process, institutions that have been devoted for well over a century to artistic, archeologic, and ethnographic displays have found themselves in a very public conversation about the future and even the validity of their mission.  This discourse culminated last fall in a report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron, authored by Bénédicte Savoy of France and Felwine Sarr of Senegal, recommending (among other things, as discussed below), that objects sent to France should be returned if the country of origin requests it.  Germany has now joined the conversation with the announcement of a collective declaration addressed to the collection of German federal and state museums.  

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Topics: Berlin, ICOM, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Germany, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, SPK, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, International Council of Museums, 1970 UNESCO Convention, Monika Grütters, Art Law Report, Capital Requirements Regulation, Bénédicte Savoy, Felwine Sarr, Emmanuel Macron, Humboldt Forum, Unter den Linden, Stadtschloss, Frederick the Great, East Germany, Volkskammer, Collective Declaration, Dahlem, Nama, Namibia, Federal Ministry of Culture, Media, and Sport, Länder, German South West Africa, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturverluste, Ethnological Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Herero

Poland Renews Efforts to Extradite Art Dealer Alexander Khochinsky, Whose 2018 Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Poland’s Previous Retaliation for his WW II Restitution Claims

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 26, 2019 at 12:23 PM

Alexander Khochinsky, the son of a Polish Jew who fled her home just steps ahead of the German invasion in 1941, was detained at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport yesterday.  The current detention parallels Poland’s previous failed attempts to extradite Khochinsky from the United States in 2015, a request that was dismissed and which led to his pending lawsuit for that retaliatory extradition attempt.  Khochinsky, an art dealer, reached out to Poland about a painting, Girl with Dove, that he had inherited from his parents that looked similar to one that Poland was seeking, and asked to open a dialogue about what had happened to his mother’s home.  In response, Poland charged him with a crime and asked the United States to extradite him for prosecution.  The U.S. District Court in Manhattan dismissed the request for extradition in 2015, but by then Khochinsky had suffered months of detention and the destruction of his business.  Khochinsky—an American citizen—was detained just before boarding his flight to New York on Monday and informed that there was an Interpol or European request for his extradition made by Poland.

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Topics: Alexander Khochinsky, Red Army, "Girl with Dove", Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Poland, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Przemysl, Leningrad, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Hague Convention on the Service Abroad, Jean-Jacques Neuer, Polish Central Authority, USSR

Event: A Responsible Art Market in Practice, February 1, 2019 in Geneva

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 9, 2019 at 11:32 AM

Readers of the Art Law Report know that for several years running now, I have enjoyed events in Geneva organized by the Art Law Foundation and the Responsible Art Market Initiative in January/February.  I am happy to report that this year is no exception.  RAM is presenting its latest event “A Responsible Art Market in Practice,” to be held on Friday February 1, 2019 at the Palexpo in the venue of the artgenève fair.  After joining the RAM Taskforce and contributing to its Toolkit and country guide for the US, I am pleased to be presenting one of the case studies, in between a roster of distinguished speakers and experts.  I hope to see you there! 

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Topics: Art Law Foundation, The Art Newspaper, Geneva, artgenève, Sandrine Giroud, Lalive, Irina Tarsis, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Suzanne Gyorgy, Georgina Adam, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Law Centre, Mathilde Heaton, Jean-Bernard Schmid, Responsible Art Market initiative, Phillips, Financial Times, Palexpo, Justine Ferland, Carine Decroi, Artcurial, Philippe Davet, CitiBank, Aude Lemogne, Ochsner & associés, Roland Foord, Stephenson Harwood, Association Marché d’Art Suisse, Blondeau & Cie, Andreas Ritter

Planned gifts can lead to hard feelings without careful planning and managed expectations

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 2, 2019 at 4:09 PM

The following is an article that appears in the January issue of Apollo magazine.

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Topics: Christie's, Edward Hopper, Apollo Magazine, Chop Suey, Barney A. Ebsworth, Planned gifts, Seattle Art Museum, promissory estoppel, detrimental reliance

Event—Global Auction House Summit in London, February 4-6, 2019

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2018 at 12:16 PM

I am pleased to be speaking on a panel at the upcoming Global Auction House Summit presented by Invaluable, the leading technology partner for online auction services.  I will be presenting on the issues of Managing Reputation & Risk, and look forward to a lively discussion.  The conference schedule is reprinted below, and registration is available here

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Topics: Auctions, London, Melanie Gerlis, The Art Newspaper, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Events, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Loss Register, Real Estate Development, Affordable Housing, Institutional Shareholder Services, Proxy Voting Policies, John Albrecht, US Trust, ARTMYN, Cuseum, Andrea Danese, Athena Art Finance, Jakob Dupont, Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers of Fine Art, Lori Hotz, Lobus, Bas Kuiper, Sophie MacPherson, Julian Radcliffe, Global Auction House Summit, Leonard Joel, Martina Batovic, Dorotheum, Evan Beard, Anna Brady, Anthony Calnek, Brendan Ciecko, Pierre Fautrel, Obvious, Andy Foster, Phillips, Financial Times, Dr. Anna-Sophie Hollenders, Raue LLP, AMFAD, Christopher McKeogh, Gene Shapiro, Sarah Wendell Sherrill, Mary-Alice Stack, Creative United, Rob Weisberg, Invaluable, Georgina C. Winthrop, Grogan & Company, Shapiro Auctions

Zum Geburtstag Viel Glück? The Washington Principles Turn 20

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 30, 2018 at 10:21 AM

This fall marks the 20th anniversary of the Washington Conference on Nazi-Era Assets and the corollary Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated Art that have driven much of the conversation since then.  Apollo magazine published my thoughts on the impact of the Washington Principles, which I reproduce below (British spelling, thank you), as well as a thoughtful piece by Martin P. Levy (a member of the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, one of the commissions created in response to the Washington Principles).

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Topics: Nazi-looted art, SPK, Advisory Commission, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Washington Principles, HEAR Act, UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, Apollo Magazine, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016, Washington Conference on Nazi-Era Assets, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, National Gallery in London, Claims Conference, JUST Act

RESCHEDULED Event: "Looted Art for Sale" at Brandeis University November 6, 2018

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 16, 2018 at 2:51 PM

I am honored to be one of the presenters at an upcoming symposium at Brandeis University entitled "Looted Art for Sale" that was postponed last winter. 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, Kim Oosterlink, Victoria Reed, and Inge Reist.

"Looted Art for Sale" will be sponsored by the Brandeis Center for German and European Studies, the Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance at Brandeis International Business School, the Mandel Center for the Humanities and the Department of Fine Arts.

My presentation will be entitled “Who Makes the Rules? The High-Stakes Legal Conflicts Over Looted Art.” I can scarcely claim to belong among such excellent company, so if for their perspectives if not for mine, I encourage anyone interested to attend.  Registration is available here.  

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Topics: Monuments Men, Nazi-looted art, A Tragic Fate, Inge Reist, Stuart Eizenstat, US-Iran Relations, Kim Oosterlink, Carol Clark, Nancy Scott

Deletion of Grünbaum Works from Lost Art Database Shows Again How German Government Has Lost Its Way on Nazi-Looted Art

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 27, 2018 at 1:03 PM

The New York Times reported yesterday that the German Lost Art Foundation had removed several paintings once owned by the Viennese cabaret actor Fritz Grünbaum from the Lost Art database.  While the history of these objects is hotly contested, it was a particularly strange choice given that Grünbaum’s heirs just won a judgment earlier this year that the works by Schiele must be returned to them—by reason of Nazi duress.  For a database that has never been suggested as an adjudication of rights but rather as a repository of notice to the world of possible title issues, it was a perplexing choice.  Against the backdrop of the party that the German government and the foundation are throwing themselves in November for which few outsiders have been able to register, the explanation appears much less benign particularly against the backdrop of the government’s historical revisionism in U.S. federal court litigation.

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Topics: Guelph Treasure, laches, Cornelius Gurlitt, Germany, Nazi-looted art, res judicata, Die Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Holocaust, Magdeburg, Fritz Grünbaum, NS Raubkunst, Bavaria, Egon Schiele, Mathilde Lukacs, Task Force, New York Times, National Gallery, A Tragic Fate, German Lost Art Foundation, Kieslinger, Woman in a Black Pinafore, Woman Hiding her Face, Charles E. Ramos, Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (Torso)

Berkshire Museum Tries to End-Run Pending Appeal but Member Plaintiffs Decline to be Bullied

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 16, 2018 at 4:58 PM

After four months of silence, the Berkshire Museum suddenly demanded last week that my clients dismiss their still-pending lawsuit over the governance of the museum by claiming that the April decision by the Single Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court that lifted the binding restrictions that the sales of its art collection would have violated somehow put an end to my clients’ case (which has been scheduled for oral argument on September 4, 2018 in Boston).  By letter on Tuesday, I explained that the museum was quite mistaken indeed.  Yesterday, the museum escalated and filed a request that Appeals Court simply dismiss the appeal, and actually accused my clients of acting in bad faith.  The museum also saw fit to put the text of the letter into a press release that it circulated widely through its public relations team. 

This afternoon we filed our response, the text of which is reproduced below.  Put simply, while the lawsuit quite explicitly sought to stop the sale of the museum’s art collection, the fact that some of the works have already been sold does not begin to answer the questions that the lawsuit raised. 

My clients look forward to the argument after Labor Day.

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Topics: Deaccession, Supreme Judicial Court, Berkshire Museum, Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, Single justice

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About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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