Art Law Report

Herzog Heirs Win Again in Appeals Court on Jurisdiction Over Hungarian Museums

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 26, 2017 at 10:48 AM

A federal appeals court has upheld the growing consensus that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) confers jurisdiction over foreign state actors in possession of art allegedly looted by and/or overseen by the Nazis.  Upholding last year’s District Court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the ruling in De Csepel v. Republic of Hungary that denied several Budapest museums’ motion to dismiss, while allowing the Republic of Hungary itself out of the case.  This is the heirs second successful trip to the appellate court, where their claims were upheld in 2013.  The case is the subject of a chapter in my newly-released book A Tragic Fate--Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art (ABA Publishing). 

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Topics: Berlin, David de Csepel, Angela Maria Herzog, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Baron Herzog, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungarian National Gallery, SPK, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Federal Republic of Germany, András Herzog, Welfenschatz, genocide

U.S. Museums and Looted Art—Is it Whether you Win or How you Play?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 9, 2015 at 7:26 AM

A recent report by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) has made strong criticisms of American museums with respect to their handling of Nazi-looted art claims. In particular, the report criticizes the assertion of timeliness defenses such as statutes of limitations. The report focuses in particular on cases involving the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma. There is no state control over the vast proportion of art in America the way there is in most European countries, and thus, no possibility of singular, nationalized approaches. In response to the report, some of the museums mentioned have defended their strategies, though in some cases the players are talking past each other. What is undeniable is that whether as a function of the nature of U.S. museums (largely private, rather than public), it is hard to say there is a coordinated approach to the issue, good or bad. The report is lengthy and detailed, and well worth a read in depth that space here does not permit. In some ways, the question it poses boils down to this: is determining the historical truth the obligation of everyone involved or is there some room to prevail without addressing the larger issues?

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Topics: Toledo Museum of Art, Street Scene in Tahiti, Léone Meyer’s, American Association of Museums, Two Nudes, La bérgère, AAMD Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during th, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, University of Oklahoma, Cassirer, Nazi-looted art, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Fred Jones Jr. Museum, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, World Jewish Restitution Organization, WJRO, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, American Alliance of Museums AAM, World War II, Paul Gaugin, Camille Pissarro, Oskar Kokoschka, Museums, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, AAMD, Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act and the Immunity from Seizure Act—Status Quo Is Often Misunderstood

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 15, 2015 at 6:04 AM

There has been additional commentary in the last week on the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act, including this piece at Hyperallergic in which I’m quoted. The piece reminds me to revisit a confusing subject latent in the whole discussion: immunity from suit versus immunity from seizure. Despite what one frequently reads, the current bill would have no effect at all on immunity from seizure, which seems to be most people’s concern. It would affect only a small category of exceptions for immunity from suit, that is, who can be sued, not what can be loaned into the United States.

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Topics: Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarifica, Amsterdam, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, U.S. Federal Republic of Germany, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, FSIA, Restitution, Kingdom of Spain, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Immunity from Seizure Act, Museums, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, State Department

Cassirer and the State of Restitution—Takeaways and Next Steps

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 11, 2015 at 7:10 AM

I’ve been talking quite a bit to friends, colleagues and clients about the impact of last week’s decision in the Cassirer v. Thyssen Bornemisza case. The New York Times had a follow up article yesterday which was an interesting treatment of the various themes at work in the case and in restitution cases in the United States generally these days. In fact, I think the effect is mostly limited, except to the extent that the decision assumes and treats as uncontroversial important principles about sales under duress and is a case that resolved title under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). As we predicted, the Times article makes clear that the museum has absolutely no intention of giving the painting back, but did float the idea of some recognition of the historical circumstances, which is progress (certainly compared to other instances in which obvious circumstances of duress are denied).

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Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, Bakalar v. Vavra, Fritz Grünbaum, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Egon Schiele, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605

District Court Dismisses Cassirer Claim for Pissarro against Thyssen Bornemisza Collection by Applying Spanish Law of Adverse Possession

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 8, 2015 at 8:05 AM

One of the longest running art restitution litigations in the United States has been dismissed for a second time, with another appeal likely to follow. The heirs of Lilly Cassirer Neubauer have been pursuing the return of Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid for more than ten years, but on June 4, 2015 the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that the Spanish museum has acquired full title to the painting by adverse possession. The key aspect of the decision is the court’s resolution of the choice of law question, namely, should California law or Spanish law apply to the question of who owns the painting? After a lengthy analysis the court determined that Spanish law applies, and that the museum has possessed the painting long enough to have become the owner regardless of the fact that it was sold under duress. So now a case that has already been to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice will almost certainly head back a third time. The court concluded its decision by appealing to the parties to “pause, reflect, and consider whether it would be appropriate to work towards a mutually-agreeable resolution of this action, in light of Spain’s acceptance of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration, and, specifically, its commitment to achieve “just and fair solutions” for victims of Nazi persecution.” But it is hard to see why that would happen. Notwithstanding the dictates of the Washington Principles, the Collection has been quite content to resist the claim. Now that it has won, it is hard to imagine it suddenly taking a different view.

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Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Passes House of Representatives Overwhelmingly

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 7, 2014 at 2:57 AM

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (HR 4292) passed the House of Representatives yesterday, 388 to 4. Voting against were Reid Ribble (R, WI), Mark Sanford (R, SC), Marlin Stuzman (R, IN), and Justin Amash (R, MI). As discussed here previously, the bill would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (FSIA) to clarify when a cultural object loaned with immunity from seizure pursuant to the Immunity from Seizure Act (IFSA) can also constitute the “commercial activity” element necessary to overcome sovereign immunity and bring a suit in U.S. federal court. Invocation of the FSIA has, since Altmann v. Republic of Austria up through the cases pending against Hungary and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection pending today, become the go-to strategy to seek federal jurisdiction over World War II/Nazi-looted art restitution cases in particular.

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Topics: Reid Ribble, Mark Sanford, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee of the A, Marlin Stuzman, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Malevicz v. City of Amsterdam, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Justin Amash, FSIA, Restitution, HR 4292, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Immunity from Seizure Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Cassirer Heirs' Claims to Pissarro Work Revived by Appeals Court, the Year 2013 Shows that the Tide for Restitution May be Shifting Again

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 16, 2013 at 12:36 PM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit restored last week claims by heirs of Lilly Cassirer against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection for the return of the Camille Pissarro painting Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie.

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Topics: Nuremberg laws, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Lilly Cassirer, California Code of Civil Procedure § 338(c), Dorothy Nelson, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Julius Schoeps, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Claude Cassirer, Von Saher v. Norton Simon, de Csepel, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Hans Sachs, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasaden, Madame Soler, Bundesgerichtshof, Hildebrand Gurlit, Entartete Kunst, Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Hungarian National Gallery, Nazis, Munich, Deutches Historisches Museum, FSIA, Preemption, Gurlitt, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, field preemption, Marei Von Saher, Herzog collection, Bavaria, Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, Looted Art, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, degenerate art, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, 578 F.3d 1016, Freistaat Bayern, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Camille Pissarro, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Nürnberger Gesetze, Raubkunst, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, verschollene Kunst, Kunstfund München

Von Saher claim against Norton Simon Museum dismissed as preempted under foreign affairs doctrine.

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Raising another hurdle to restitution claims, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the Norton Simon Museum to the remnants of the famed Jacques Goudstikker collection, on the grounds that her case is preempted by the United States’ foreign affairs doctrine. In an unusually apologetic decision, the court ruled that regardless of the merits of her claims, the law of foreign affairs makes the dispute inappropriate for resolution by civil litigation.

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Topics: Terezin Declaration, Culture, Norton Simon Museum, Hungary, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Jacques Goudstikker, Cassirer, Hungarian National Gallery, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, and Science, effet de pluie, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Rue St. Honoré, Camille Pissarro, Dutch Secretary for Education, Göring, Soviet Union, Washington Principles, American Ins. Ass’n v. Garamendi, Dunbar v. Seger-Thomschitz, Adam and Eve, California Code of Civil Procedure 354.3

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