Art Law Report

Corcoran Merger Approved, Cy Prés Ruling Treats Deaccession as Non-Starter in Concluding that Status Quo is Untenable

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM

As reported initially, Judge Robert Okun of the District of Columbia Superior Court allowed yesterday the cy prés petition by the trustees of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The full opinion can be read here. The petition asked to reform the trust of William Corcoran to permit a merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, a merger that will now proceed. The ruling addresses the financial condition of the Corcoran at length, but what is perhaps most interesting is the court’s acceptance of a central argument made by the Corcoran that selling its artwork to shore up its finances was an unacceptable way to proceed. This adopts the view, espoused most prominently by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), that deaccessioning for anything other than the purchase or care of art is anathema. Right or wrong, that acceptance in this opinion should have long lasting effects. Framing the question in this way was a work of skilled lawyering by the Corcoran’s attorneys, and kudos must go as well to the interveners and their counsel, without whom the other side of the story would have had no advocates at the trial. Those interveners have stated that they do not intend to appeal, meaning the case is over. Jayme McLellan, founder of Save the Corcoran, issued a statement after the ruling that “The Corcoran as we know it is gone. We fought the good fight." Incidentally, in response to our earlier reporting of McLellan’s role, I received an e-mail yesterday from Mimi Carter, the Corcoran’s Vice President, Marketing & Communication. Ms. Carter stated “Jayme McLellan was not fired from the Corcoran. She resigned in 2012, as mentioned on the first day of court hearings, citing differences with leadership. While there was a miscommunication with Ms. McLellan because of a lack of internal systems, due to a diminished staff and finances, she was not offered a contract to teach this coming Fall. Statements of retaliation are simply false.”

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Topics: Donn Zaretsky, Middles States Commission on Higher Education, Harry Hopper III, Anne Smith, Deaccession, Kathy Raffa, National Gallery of Art, Chiara Trabucchi, Industrial Economics, Jayme McLellan, William Corcoran, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, sanctions, Corcoran Merger, University of Maryland, Deaccessioning, Cy Pres, Judge Robert Okun, Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, District of Columbia Superior Court, AAM Code of Ethics, Corcoran College of Art + Design, Lauren Stack, Alexander Haas, Paul Johnson, Trusts, Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Steven Knapp, Corcoran Gallery, Museums, New York Times, Sean O’Connor, Caroline Lacey, MSCHE, Dr. Wallach Loh, Deaccessioning Blog, Art Law Report, Mimi Carter, National Public Radio

Limbach Advisory Commission Recommends Against German Restitution of “Guelph Treasure,” Focuses on Terms of 1929 Agreement for Intended Sale

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2014 at 11:54 AM

One of the issues exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing Gurlitt collection stalemate is the question of Germany’s restitution procedures with respect to art. As the Bavarian legislative proposal to abolish the statute of limitations for claims against bad-faith acquirers is considered by the Bundestag, the “German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property” has issued a decision over what has become known as the “Guelph Treasure” (Welfenschatz) in the collection of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The March 20, 2014 opinion (available, so far as I know, only in German at this point at www.lostart.de) underscores the issues around claims of sales under duress, and the appropriate present-day procedural remedy. Readers should also brush up on their medieval German history to keep up.

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Topics: Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, German Supreme Commercial Court, Holy Roman Empire, Guelph Treasure, Bundeshandelsgericht, German Supreme Constitutional Court, Z.M. Hackenbroch, Karl Blechen, Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Niedersachsen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Act of State, Kingdom of Hanover. Königreich Hannover, Dr Alexander Lewin, Prussia, Lower Saxony, Anselm Feuerbach, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Hessen, Fogg Art Museum, Congress of Vienna, Julius and Clara Freund, Kurhannover, Dresdner Bank, Hermann Goring, Austrian Supreme Court, Johann J. August von der Embde, House of Welf, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Wilhelm Leibl, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Harvard, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Gurlitt, Restitution, George I, J.S. Goldschmidt, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Queen Victoria, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Kurfürsten, Jutta Limbach, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Gustav Klimt, Bundesverfassungsgericht, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, I. Rosenbaum, Electors

REMINDER Restitution and Repatriation: the Return of Cultural Objects at DePaul University November 14, 2013

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 12, 2013 at 4:13 AM

A reminder of this Thursday's event, all the more timely as the Gurlitt collection fallout continues:

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Topics: cultural property, Center for Art, Field Museum of Natural History, Jane Levine, Stanford University, Thomas R. Kline, Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Susan Taylor, Penn Museum, David Franklin, Frank Lord, University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropol, Simon Frankel, Covington & Burling LLP, Lori Breslauer, Charles Brian Rose, Morag Kersel, Christopher Rollston, DePaul University, Steve Nash, Restitution, Rebecca Tsosie, Events, Richard Leventhal, Gary Johnson, World War II, Julie Getzels, Herrick Feinstein LLP, WilmerHale, Peter Neiman, University of Pennsylvania, Art Institute of Chicago, New Orleans Museum of Art, Andrews Kurth LLP, Toyozo Nakarai Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and Cultural Heritage Law, Arizona State University, Sotheby's, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Chicago Historical Society, Victoria Reed, Patty Gerstenblith

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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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