Debate has peaked in the last year or so about the treatment and possible restitution of so-called colonial artifacts in Western (i.e., European and North American) museums. The conversation is important for many reasons, but one interesting facet is the way in which the discussion moved from a peripheral topic to one consuming high-level government attention in a very short amount of time. In the process, institutions that have been devoted for well over a century to artistic, archeologic, and ethnographic displays have found themselves in a very public conversation about the future and even the validity of their mission. This discourse culminated last fall in a report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron, authored by Bénédicte Savoy of France and Felwine Sarr of Senegal, recommending (among other things, as discussed below), that objects sent to France should be returned if the country of origin requests it. Germany has now joined the conversation with the announcement of a collective declaration addressed to the collection of German federal and state museums.
Topics: Berlin, ICOM, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Germany, Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, SPK, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, International Council of Museums, 1970 UNESCO Convention, Monika Grütters, Art Law Report, Capital Requirements Regulation, Bénédicte Savoy, Felwine Sarr, Emmanuel Macron, Humboldt Forum, Unter den Linden, Stadtschloss, Frederick the Great, East Germany, Volkskammer, Collective Declaration, Dahlem, Nama, Namibia, Federal Ministry of Culture, Media, and Sport, Länder, German South West Africa, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturverluste, Ethnological Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Herero
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).
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
I won’t be in the neighborhood, but the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur (Switzerland) is putting on a conference for the second year in a row on August 31. 2015 wrestling with the issue of “flight goods” in particular. “Flight goods” refers to property that was not stolen outright, nor sold under duress, but left behind because of a flight in haste from persecution. Awareness has increased in recent years about this as a category of looted property to be addressed. As with other categories, issues of law, morality, and the rights of subsequent good faith owners/possessors make for interesting discussions. Notable presenters include Matthias Frehner, whose Kunstmuseum Bern is grappling with the Gurlitt bequest, and Anja Heuss, whose Staatsgalerie Stuttgart recently restituted a work to the heirs of I. Rosenbaum. All the speakers and topics look excellent.
Topics: Berlin, Dr. Peter Raue, Walter Feilchenfeldt, Esther Tisa Francini, Museum Rietberg, Olaf Ossmann, Cornelius Gurlitt, Marc Fehlmann, Art Dealers Association of Switzerland, Between Fairness and Justice for Successors and Po, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Anja Heuss, Kulturstiftung der Länder, Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Claudius Ochsner, Matthias Frehner, Alexander Jolles, Winterthur, Dr. Stephanie Tasch, Kunsthandelsverband der Schweiz, Karin Salm, Universität Salzburg, Thomas Buomberger, Restitution, Events, Johannes Nathan, Looted Art, World War II, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Switzerland, Kunstmuseum Bern, Andrea Baresel-Brand, flight goods, Zürich, Prof. Dr. Georg Graf, Radio SRF 2, I. Rosenbaum, Sibylle Ehringhaus
The German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property (Beratende Kommission) has issued its latest decision concerning allegedly Nazi-looted art in German museums. For the second case in a row after the widely (and wisely) derided opinion not to restitute the Welfenschatz or Guelph Treasure at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, the commission (known for its presiding member, former German Supreme Constitutional Court judge Jutta Limbach) has recommended against restitution, this time over the claim by heirs of Clara Levy to The Three Graces (Drei Grazien) by Lovis Corinth (1902/1904). The decision (available only in German) is riddled with poor logic and basic historical errors. In short, while it may be that the painting was indeed delivered to Clara Levy’s daughter in the United States at Clark’s express instruction, that is far less clear than the commission states, and its decision further makes a number of assumptions about the circumstances of Jews in occupied or about-to-be occupied territories that undermine its credibility considerably.
Topics: Berlin, Else Bergmann, Schleifmühle, Guelph Treasure, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Ludwig Levy, Fritz Levy, Rita Hubbard, Germany, Nazi-looted art, bill of lading, Especially Jewish Property, Buchholz Gallery, Madame Soler, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, San Francisco, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, FSIA, Curt Valentin, expropriation exception”, Gurlitt, Restitution, Max Huggler, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara Levy, Sigfried Rosengart, Luxembourg, Henry Zacharias, Compagnie Generale Transatlantique Hol Lesquette, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Jutta Limbach, Kunstmuseum Bern, Drei Grazien, Pablo Picasso, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Federal Republic of Germany, Paula Levy, Kurt Buchholz, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, New York, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed claims for ownership of Madame Soler by Pablo Picasso, currently at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Just as the relevance of Judge Jed Rakoff’s comments over another art restitution case brought by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy unexpectedly came to the fore recently, Judge Rakoff’s decision is now the most recent in a line of frustrations for the heirs of Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a victim of Nazi persecution in Berlin in the 1930s. The ramifications of this case may be fairly narrow, however, as the case was premised on allegations of specific transactions in New York rather than general allegations about the conduct of Germany. The claimants could appeal, or perhaps turn to the Limbach Commission if they could be heard (the Pinakothek is a subdivision of Germany for jurisdictional analysis, but it’s unclear at first blush if the Commission would view this claim as within its province).
Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Berlin, commercial activity exception, Cornelius Gurlitt, Florence Kesselstatt, Judge Jed Rakoff, Halldor Soehner, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Julius Schoeps, Upper East Side, Prussia, Max Liebermann, Night Café, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, France, State Paintings Collection, Madame Soler, Museum of Modern Art, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Van Gogh, Munich, Justin K. Thannhauser, FSIA, expropriation exception”, Nazi persecution, Boy Leading a Horse, Restitution, David Toren, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Free State of Bavaria, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kult, Bundesländer, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Le Moulin de la Galette, Kurt Martin, München, Pablo Picasso, Federal Republic of Germany, Limbach Commission, Wissenschaft und Kunst
As reported yesterday, the government of Bavaria has moved ahead with a proposal to amend the statute of limitations over art claims like those arising out of the Gurlitt find in Schwabing/Munich. The “Draft law for the exclusion of limitations on claims for misappropriated cultural property, particularly from the Nazi era (Cultural Property Restitution Law)” would bar the assertion of a statute of limitations where the current possessor does not hold the property in good faith. The draft is now publicly available, here (albeit in German). The proposal is not limited to Bavaria, rather, it is for consideration by Germany’s federal; parliament in Berlin (first the upper chamber, or Bundesrat, followed by the Bundestag).
Topics: Berlin, Ministerin für Justiz und Kultur, Cultural Property Restitution Law, veschollene Kunst, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, Fall Gurlitt, Gurlitt Collection, Kulturgut, Entartete Kunst, Declaration of the Federal Government the Länder a, Munich, Beutekunst, Schwabing, Bundestag, Bundesrat, Bavaria, Kulturgut-Rückgewähr-Gesetz, degenerate art, Freistaat Bayern, Justizminister, München, Raubkunst, Verjährung, Winfried Bausback
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
The Hans Sachs collection that the Bundesgerichtshof in Karlsruhe ordered in March be returned to the Sachs heirs will be put up for auction in New York. The collection had more than 12,000 posters by artist that included Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ludwig Hohlwein, Lucian Bernhard and Jules Cheret. The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, a museum of German history, held for several decades parts of a poster collection was seized from Sachs in 1938. After his arrest and incarceration, Sachs fled the country with his family.
Topics: Berlin, Jules Cheret, Lucian Bernhard, Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers, Catherine Hickley, Hans Sachs, Bloomberg, Bundesgerichtshof, Ludwig Hohlwein, Restitution, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Karlsruhe, World War II, Arlan Ettinger, Deutsches Historisches Museum, New York
I can’t let today’s news about the Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin go unremarked. A center for art and culture since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it has apparently ordered vacated, with occupants carried out by force. Ironically, it’s really about a story about art and the absence of a legal framework, a building in the hottest part of the hottest city in Europe that no one seemed to own.
Catherine Hickley of Bloomberg reports today from Berlin about a court-ordered return of more than 4,000 once owned by Hans Sachs, a Jewish dentist chased out of Nazi Germany. The Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) is Germany’s highest civil court, and handed down the decision.
Topics: Berlin, Jules Cheret, Josef Goebbels, Lucian Bernhard, Catherine Hickley, Hans Sachs, Bloomberg, Sachsenhausen, Bundesgerichtshof, Ludwig Hohlwein, Deutches Historisches Museum, Collections, Restitution, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, World War II, BGH, Kristallnacht