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
Congress has passed and President Obama is expected to sign two bills related to looted art and the availability of U.S. courts to hear disputes over them. The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act of 2016 and the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act (FCEJCA, for lack of a handy acronym) were both passed without objection both the House of Representatives on December 10, 2016, and are expected to be signed by President Obama shortly. The HEAR Act is a major shift in the law of Nazi-looted art claims specifically, while the FCEJCA is controversial but unlikely to have a broad impact one way or another. It is perhaps most remarkable that in an era of unique partisanship and political polarization, members of Congress from both parties and the President agreed on anything, let alone unanimously (sponsors include such unusual allies as Ted Cruz, Richard Blumenthal, John Cornyn, and Charles Schumer).
Topics: Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Immunity from Seizure Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Russia, Chabad, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, expropriation exception”, FSIA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Welfenschatz, Alfred Flechtheim, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional, Guelph Treasure, World War II, Restitution, Nazi-looted art, NS Raubkunst, Legislation, Ted Cruz, Charles Schumer, John Cornyn, Richard Blumenthal, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Politico, State Hermitage Museum, Anita Difanis
The U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday H.R. 889, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act for the third time in four years. Identical bills passed the house in early 2012 and again last year but failed to win passage in the Senate and signature by the President, thus expiring without becoming a law (and remaining just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill). Will it become law? Probably not, and after a little reflection and evolution, that’s probably for the best.
Topics: U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarifica, Second Hickenlooper Amendment, Russia, Herrick Feinstein, Nazi-looted art, Konowaloff, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, act of state doctrine, Senate, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Capitol Hill, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, Federal Republic of Germany, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Cuba
The British Museum has announced that it has loaned to Russia one of the sculptures from the Parthenon that widely known as the “Elgin Marbles” after Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin who oversaw their removal from then-Ottoman occupied Greece in 1811-12. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is the recipient of the loan, specifically, the sculpture of the river god Ilissos from the west pediment of the Parthenon.
Topics: cultural property, Pandora’s box, the 7th Earl of Elgin, Temple of Zeus at Olympia, George Clooney, Russia, Thomas Bruce, Amal Alamuddin-Clooney, Elgin Marbles, river god Ilissos, Museum of Modern Art, Greece, The British Museum, Restitution, Pausanias, Parthenon Sculpture, Portrait of Wally, Austria, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Ottoman Empire, Museums, Attica, New York
The New York Court of Appeals has decisively rejected the argument that a nation may acquire good title to a work of art by virtue of that work’s status as the “spoils of war,” an important holding that will affect future restitution claims brought under New York law.
Topics: Berlin, Riven Flamenbaum, Russia, Germany, Ishtar, Assyria, Vorderasiatisches Museum, Restitution, In re Flamenbaum, World War II, gold tablets, Dr. Beate Salje, King Tukulti-Ninurta, Hannah K. Flamenbaum
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.
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
Doreen Carvajal of the New York Times this week addressed Senate Bill 2212, (the “Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act”) this week, a bill approved in March by the House of Representatives.
Topics: Legislation, Russian art embargo, Nazi stolen art, Russia, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue, Collections, FSIA, SB 2212, Restitution, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Portrait of Wally, Doreen Carvajal, Immunity from Seizure Act, New York Times, Chabad, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity
For the second time since October, the Chabad Lubavitch plaintiffs seeking the return of the movement’s library from Russia have asked the D.C. District Court to hold off on issuing any of the sanctions those plaintiffs requested earlier. More specifically this time, the plaintiffs reference ongoing discussions and ask for more time to try to bring those to fruition.
In a story that did not seem like it could get any more unusual, the long-running Chabad library dispute in Washington, DC that has resulted in a Russian fine art loan embargo for nearly a year took a maritime turn in San Francisco this weekend. At the last minute, a sailing ship named the Nadezhda that was headed to San Francisco on a goodwill tour stopped short of entering the port. It anchored just outside the Golden Gate and awaited a pilot to guide it in. When the pilot headed out, a message was received that the Russian ship would not be docking, and it headed for Mexico.
The Chabad Lubavitch plaintiffs who have been trying for more than six years to obtain the return of the library of Menachem Schneerson—a case which has resulted in an embargo of Russian art loans to the United States for nearly a year—took the unexpected step this week of asking the court to refrain from ruling on a pending motion to find the Russian defendants in contempt. The Russian defendants—who have not appeared or filed anything since refusing to participate further last year, resulting in the default judgment against them—had until October 18 to contest the contempt allegations related to their failure to obey the judgment against them (to return the library).