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).
In the latest development in one of this year’s farthest-reaching art law issues, the Metropolitian Museum of Art announced in August that it will no longer lend its works of art within the Russian Federation so long as the Russian embargo on U.S. loans persists. The Met had planned to loan works by French designer Paul Poiret to the exhibition “Paul Poiret – King of Fashion” at the Kremlin Museum.