Art Law Report

Poland Renews Efforts to Extradite Art Dealer Alexander Khochinsky, Whose 2018 Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Poland’s Previous Retaliation for his WW II Restitution Claims

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 26, 2019 at 12:23 PM

Alexander Khochinsky, the son of a Polish Jew who fled her home just steps ahead of the German invasion in 1941, was detained at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport yesterday.  The current detention parallels Poland’s previous failed attempts to extradite Khochinsky from the United States in 2015, a request that was dismissed and which led to his pending lawsuit for that retaliatory extradition attempt.  Khochinsky, an art dealer, reached out to Poland about a painting, Girl with Dove, that he had inherited from his parents that looked similar to one that Poland was seeking, and asked to open a dialogue about what had happened to his mother’s home.  In response, Poland charged him with a crime and asked the United States to extradite him for prosecution.  The U.S. District Court in Manhattan dismissed the request for extradition in 2015, but by then Khochinsky had suffered months of detention and the destruction of his business.  Khochinsky—an American citizen—was detained just before boarding his flight to New York on Monday and informed that there was an Interpol or European request for his extradition made by Poland.

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Topics: Alexander Khochinsky, Red Army, "Girl with Dove", Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Poland, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Przemysl, Leningrad, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Hague Convention on the Service Abroad, Jean-Jacques Neuer, Polish Central Authority, USSR

Event: A Responsible Art Market in Practice, February 1, 2019 in Geneva

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 9, 2019 at 11:32 AM

Readers of the Art Law Report know that for several years running now, I have enjoyed events in Geneva organized by the Art Law Foundation and the Responsible Art Market Initiative in January/February.  I am happy to report that this year is no exception.  RAM is presenting its latest event “A Responsible Art Market in Practice,” to be held on Friday February 1, 2019 at the Palexpo in the venue of the artgenève fair.  After joining the RAM Taskforce and contributing to its Toolkit and country guide for the US, I am pleased to be presenting one of the case studies, in between a roster of distinguished speakers and experts.  I hope to see you there! 

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Topics: Art Law Foundation, The Art Newspaper, Geneva, artgenève, Sandrine Giroud, Lalive, Irina Tarsis, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Suzanne Gyorgy, Georgina Adam, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Law Centre, Mathilde Heaton, Jean-Bernard Schmid, Responsible Art Market initiative, Phillips, Financial Times, Palexpo, Justine Ferland, Carine Decroi, Artcurial, Philippe Davet, CitiBank, Aude Lemogne, Ochsner & associés, Roland Foord, Stephenson Harwood, Association Marché d’Art Suisse, Blondeau & Cie, Andreas Ritter

Event—Global Auction House Summit in London, February 4-6, 2019

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2018 at 12:16 PM

I am pleased to be speaking on a panel at the upcoming Global Auction House Summit presented by Invaluable, the leading technology partner for online auction services.  I will be presenting on the issues of Managing Reputation & Risk, and look forward to a lively discussion.  The conference schedule is reprinted below, and registration is available here

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Topics: Auctions, London, Melanie Gerlis, The Art Newspaper, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Events, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Art Loss Register, Real Estate Development, Affordable Housing, Institutional Shareholder Services, Proxy Voting Policies, John Albrecht, US Trust, ARTMYN, Cuseum, Andrea Danese, Athena Art Finance, Jakob Dupont, Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers of Fine Art, Lori Hotz, Lobus, Bas Kuiper, Sophie MacPherson, Julian Radcliffe, Global Auction House Summit, Leonard Joel, Martina Batovic, Dorotheum, Evan Beard, Anna Brady, Anthony Calnek, Brendan Ciecko, Pierre Fautrel, Obvious, Andy Foster, Phillips, Financial Times, Dr. Anna-Sophie Hollenders, Raue LLP, AMFAD, Christopher McKeogh, Gene Shapiro, Sarah Wendell Sherrill, Mary-Alice Stack, Creative United, Rob Weisberg, Invaluable, Georgina C. Winthrop, Grogan & Company, Shapiro Auctions

Event—The Future of Nazi-Looted Art Recovery in the US and Abroad

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 25, 2018 at 1:20 PM

I am pleased to be taking part in a symposium at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles on September 26, 2018, “The Future of Nazi Looted Art Recovery in the US and Abroad.”  Presented by Cypress LLP and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art/Claremont Graduate University, the program assembles an impressive group of presenters in whose company I’m grateful to be included.  Registration is available here, and the schedule is below:

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Topics: Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Nazi-looted art, Simon Frankel, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, Covington & Burling LLP, Anne Webber, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Daniel McClean, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, Isabel von Klitzing, The Orpheus Clock, Simon Goodman, Lucian Simmons, Eyal Dolev, Jonathan Petropolous, Claremont McKenna College, The Faustian Bargain, Laurence Eisenstein, Eisenstein Malanchuk LLP, Lothar Fremy, Rosbach & Fremy, Nixon Peabody LLP, Mark Labaton, Getty Institute, Bob Muller, René Gimpel, Cypress LLP, Jonathan Neil, Skirball Center, The Art World in Nazi Germany, Dr. Lynn Rother, Thaddeus Stauber, Stephen Clark

Court of Appeals Upholds Claims to Renowned Guelph Treasure Sold Under Duress to Nazi Agents

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 10, 2018 at 12:33 PM

(WASHINGTON-July 10, 2018) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has affirmed the right of the heirs to the so-called Guelph Treasure (known in German as the Welfenschatz) to seek restitution in U.S. courts for the value of the treasured art collection. The appellate court rejected Defendants’ arguments that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction, or that Germany’s treatment of its Jews in the 1930s should be immune from judicial scrutiny.  While the Federal Republic of Germany itself was dismissed as a defendant, the actual possessor and key party in interest (the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, or SPK) must now prove that a 1935 transfer of the collection by a consortium of Jewish art dealers to Hermann Goering’s minions was a legitimate transaction if they are to retain the collection. 

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Topics: Guelph Treasure, Gestapo, Z.M. Hackenbroch, Prussia, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Markus Stoetzel, Mel Urbach, SPK, Hermann Goering, FSIA, NS Raubkunst, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, J.S. Goldschmidt, Adolf Hitler, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Welfenschatz, I. Rosenbaum, D.C. Circuit, Consortium, Genocide Convention, Reichstag, flight taxes, Baltimore Sun, Luftwaffe

Alexander Khochinsky Files Suit Against Poland for Retaliation Related to WW II Property Claims

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 27, 2018 at 1:26 PM

(WASHINGTON, D.C.-June 27, 2018) Alexander Khochinsky, the son of a Polish Jew who fled her home just steps ahead of the German invasion in 1941, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Poland for that country’s efforts to extradite him after he sought restitution of his mother’s property.  Khochinsky, an art dealer, reached out to Poland about a painting, Girl with Dove by Antoine Pesne, that he had inherited from his parents and that looked similar to one that Poland was seeking, and asked to open a dialogue about what had happened to his mother’s home.  In retaliation, Poland charged him with a crime and asked the United States to extradite him for prosecution.  The U.S. District Court in Manhattan dismissed the request for extradition in 2015, but by then Khochinsky had suffered months of detention and the destruction of his business.

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Topics: Alexander Khochinsky, Nazi-looted art, Red Army, Holocaust, extradition, "Girl with Dove", Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Antoine Pesne, Poland, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Przemysl, Leningrad

Sullivan & Worcester LLP Assists in Relocation of "Digital DNA" from Palo Alto to Harvard

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 26, 2018 at 10:47 AM

I am pleased to report on the outcome of a matter we announced in February.  After a disagreement with the City of Palo Alto (California) about her sculpture Digital DNA, Sullivan & Worcester LLP client Adriana Varella has agreed to relocate the sculpture to the campus of Harvard Business School.  The agreement is a positive outcome that ultimately did not require litigation, and a reminder of the importance of artists’ rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA”).  I was honored to be able to work with this incredible artist to preserve her importance sculpture and begin an exciting new chapter for her art.

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Topics: Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, Harvard, Boston Globe, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, 5Pointz, Digital DNA, Adriana Varella, Right of integrity, City of Palo Alto, Right of attribution, Harvard Business School

Members of the Berkshire Museum Ask Supreme Judicial Court to Stop Berkshire Museum’s Deaccession Plan

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 26, 2018 at 5:36 PM

(Boston, MA, February 26, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg filed today a brief with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts asking the state’s highest court not to permit the sale of 40 works of art by the Berkshire Museum. The Berkshire Museum filed a petition on February 9, 2018 asking the SJC to permit deviation from the historical restrictions that would prevent such sale. Today the museum member filed a brief as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.”

Partner Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for the members, said, “My clients are optimistic that the SJC will see through the Berkshire Museum’s petition to deviate from its historical restrictions as unnecessary, and harmful. Such a petition must show that the current state of affairs is impossible or impracticable, and that the requested change is ‘as near as possible’ to the original purpose of the institution. This petition fails to meet either criterion.”

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Shuffleton’s Barbershop

Members of the Berkshire Museum Pledge to Continue Fight Against Liquidation of the Museum’s Art Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 13, 2018 at 2:45 PM

(Boston, MA, February 13, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP clients and Berkshire Museum members James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg sharply denounced today the agreement that was announced Friday evening between the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to permit the sale of every one of 40 works of art that the members—and AG Healey—sued last year to prevent.  Only two weeks after filing a 50-page brief in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that detailed numerous violations of the Trustees’ fiduciary duties and specific restrictions on the 40 works of art, the Attorney General’s office has filed its assent to the Museum’s request to modify its governing charter to permit the immediate sale of Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop to an unnamed buyer, and to allow the sale of the 39 remaining works thereafter without any further oversight of the governance of the Museum.

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Topics: Deaccessioning, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Berkshire Museum, Maura Healey

Members of the Berkshire Museum File Appeal Papers to Stop Museum's Planned Sale of 40 Works from its Collection

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 16, 2018 at 6:56 PM

 (Boston, MA, January 16, 2018) Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed its papers in the appeal by its clients, the members of the Berkshire Museum who sued to enjoin the museum’s sale of 40 works of art and sculpture.  The appeal was brought as a result of the Berkshire County Superior Court’s November 7, 2017 denial of their request for an injunction, and dismissal of the case.  That order denied not only the members’ request, but also a motion by another group that includes Norman Rockwell’s sons and the motion by Attorney General Maura Healey to pause the sale originally scheduled for November 13, 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York—a sale that would have included Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop and other masterpieces. 

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Topics: Norman Rockwell, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Sotheby's, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, Zenas Crane, Hudson River School, Frederic Edwin Church, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Maura Healey, Massachusetts Appeals Court

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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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