With reports that Russia is considering abandoning the nearly five year old embargo on loans of cultural artifacts into the United States, the cited connection between that willingness and the recent passage of the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (FCEJICA) bears closer scrutiny that it has received to date. If the unnecessary embargo were to come to an end it would be welcome news, but Russia’s claim that the new law is the reason is hard to square with the history of the issue. It cannot be stated emphatically enough that the new law makes Russian art loans no more or less safe from seizure than they were before, because the law governing seizure of cultural objects (the Immunity from Seizure Act, or IFSA) has not changed. Russia’s penchant for framing the question as something for which it needed protection is thus frustrating because it is simply incorrect. The Russian loan embargo has been political theater from the time in began in 2012 in retaliation after Russian defendants lost a key litigation in Washington, DC, and the new law was passed in response to events that had nothing to do with Russia.
Topics: Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, FSIA, IFSA, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), Immunity from Seizure Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2259, Chabad, Russia, Malevich v. City of Amsterdam, Welfenschatz, Alfred Flechtheim
Word came this week of two resolutions of claims to Nazi-looted art in museums in New York and Cologne, and a new Nazi-looted claim against Germany filed in Washington. Barely a month after the Neue Galerie (of Austrian and German art) in New York announced that it had discovered a “major work” in its collection had a clouded history, the museum announced an agreement concerning the Karl Schmitt-Rotloff painting Nude (1914). It is not known if the Schmitt-Rotloff is the same work to which the museum referred last month. Around the same time, the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Germany, announced that it had agreed to return a drawing by Adolf Menzel that had been sold to Hildebrand Gurlitt as its owners fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the rooves of Schandau) (1886) will be retuned to the heirs of Hamburg attorney Albert Martin Wolffson and his daughter Elsa Helene Cohen. These settlements are examples of constructive dialogue and enlightened treatment of the historical fact. The new litigation likely means the opposite approach from the German defendants.
Topics: Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Gurlitt Task Force, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), Germany, David Toren, Breslau, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Neue Galerie, New York, Alfred and Tekla Hess, Karl Schmitt-Rotloff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Streen Scene in Berlin, Strassenzene, Adolf Menzel
Perhaps lost in the coverage about Senate Bill 2212 (the Art Law Report no less than anyone else) to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to preclude claims against defendants whose “commercial activity” is limited to the loan of artwork whose ownership is in dispute, is the case made by the sponsors of the bill themselves, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) and Orrin Hatch (R, UT).
Topics: Nazi stolen art, Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam, Dianne Feinstein, Immunity from Seizure, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), FSIA, SB 2212, Restitution, 22 U.S.C. 2459, Orrin Hatch, Senate Bill 2212, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Immunity from Seizure Act, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity