Showing posts with label Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Show all posts

December 5, 2016

Editorial: Is the U.S. State Department's provenance research on immunity from seizure applications from foreign museums adequate?

HARP Editorial: 

For further information contact:

In Washington DC: Marc Masurovsky, 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric, 212 260 6090, pciric@ciriclawfirm.com

HOLOCAUST ART RESTITUTION PROJECT STUDY: THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT IS STRUCTURALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM APPROPRIATE PROVENANCE RESEARCH ON IMMUNITY FROM SEIZURE APPLICATIONS SUBMITTED BY FOREIGN MUSEUMS

Washington, DC, & New York, NY USA – December 05, 2016

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (“HARP”), announced the publication of a study jointly issued by HARP and the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, which concludes that the U.S. State Department is structurally unable and ill-equipped to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure applications submitted by foreign museums.

The study (available at http://plundered-art.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-us-department-of-state-is.html), concludes research initiated in In 2014 by HARP, which investigated the U.S. State Department’s ability to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure requests submitted by foreign museums in accordance with the Immunity from Judicial Seizure statute, 22 U.S. § 2459 (IFSA). To accomplish this research, HARP submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department. Following the State Department’s response, HARP analyzed the State Department’s provenance research process and its procedures for determining the soundness of the borrowing institutions’ applications to immunize objects coming from foreign lenders’ collections.

Based on the FOIA response, the study concludes that the immunization from judicial seizure process relies almost exclusively on attestations made by the lenders, the country desk officers, and the unit of the State Department which certifies cultural significance.  Furthermore, HARP concludes that the State Department is unable to challenge the certifications made by the borrowers.

If the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 3155) becomes law, the systemic inability of the State Department to ensure that the applicant certification is properly supported or documented would create a significant risk for stolen artworks to come into the country through temporary exhibits.

“The State Department’s structural inability to perform appropriate due diligence on incoming exhibits should sound as a warning to everyone, especially to the Senate, which is currently considering S. 3155, that the inadequate administrative process managed by the State Department, combined with a terrible bill which purpose is to completely immunize incoming art exhibits from any claim in the U.S. will create a safe haven for looted cultural property in this country, and will trample the rights of untold numbers of victims of looting by totalitarian regimes, such as Russia or Cuba,” said Soltes.

HARP is a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks requiring detailed research and analysis of public and private archives in North America. HARP has worked for 18 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime.

October 31, 2016

What is the Gyeongju Declaration?

The Gyeongju Declaration, was drafted, revised, discussed and ratified, paragraph by paragraph, by all participants at the 6th International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property which took place in Gyeongju, the Republic of Korea, from October 17-19, 2016.

Hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea and organized by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Cultural Property Return Campaign Center, with sponsorship from the Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Government, the City of Gyeongju, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO the conference set about to make recommendations that they believe will work to deter the illicit trafficking of cultural property and build capacity and cooperation between countries, restitution experts and civil society.

The recommendations have been printed below in their entirety.

As Mark Masurovsky, an expert presenter attending the meeting and co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) said, recommendations 3 and 4 should be duly noted. 


We, the participants of the “6th International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property," held in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, from 17 to 19 October 2016,

Expressing our sincere gratitude to our hosts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea, to our organizers, the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Cultural Property Return Campaign Center, and last but not least to our sponsors, Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Government, the City of Gyeongju, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, for their outstanding efforts and dedication,

Recognizing that the International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, which was first proposed by the Republic of Korea in 2011 and whose first session was held in Seoul in the same year, with the second session in Seoul in 2012, third session in Ancient Olympia, Greece in 2013, fourth session in Dunhuang, China in 2014, fifth session in Nevsehir, Turkey in 2015, and sixth session here in Gyeongju, the Republic of Korea this year, has provided precious opportunities for the international community to share its experiences and knowledge on the return of cultural property and join the fight against the illicit trade in cultural property,

Welcoming the U.N. Resolution A/70/76, unanimously adopted in its December 9, 2015 General Assembly meeting and especially the operative paragraph 7 of this Resolution, where for the first time the recent institution of International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property as well as their concluding documents were recognized,

Recalling the Seoul Declaration (2011), the Seoul Recommendation (2012), the Ancient Olympia Recommendation (2013), the Dunhuang Recommendation (2014), and the Cappadocia Recommendation (2015) adopted by the previous International Conferences of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property.

Noting that international legal instruments, including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and its two protocols (1954 and 1999), the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illicitly Exported Cultural Objects (1995), as well as the devoted efforts and subsequently-adopted resolutions of the United Nations (UN) and legal instruments of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have contributed to the prevention of the illicit trade in cultural property and its return to countries of origin,

Acknowledging that not only international non-governmental organizations, such as the International Council of Museums (ICOM), but also public and private institutions, including museums, libraries, and religious organizations, as well as the general public and local communities, have ever-increasing roles to play in the struggle against the illicit trade in cultural property,

Commending, in particular, that the amicable efforts by Korean civil society and religious organizations to recover illicitly exported cultural property by means of dialogue and mutual exchange cooperating with other foreign institutions in possession thereof have set a positive precedent that can be emulated by numerous states which have similarly suffered from the illicit export of their cultural property,

Observing greater need for administrative and judicial mutual assistance between countries and closer cooperation from auction houses, museums, and libraries in each country to prevent new means of illicit trade in cultural property in the art market, including online sales,

Condemning any uncivilized acts of vandalism directed against cultural property, including the recent destruction and illegal removal of cultural property in the conflict-ridden Middle East and the rest of the world,

Recommend that:

1. Each State should closely cooperate with other States for the return or restitution of illegally exported cultural property and the prevention of the illicit export of cultural property, and reinforce existing networks among public and private organizations, as well as individuals to share and exchange information concerning stolen or illicitly exported cultural property and its restitution;

2. Each State should continue to update the existing inventory of state owned and privately owned cultural property, as well as the databases of stolen or illicitly exported cultural property, and share actively such information with governments, relevant institutions, and non-governmental organizations of other States aiming to establish a common publicly available international platform;

3. Each State should continuously monitor the art market, including online markets, to control the illicit trade in cultural property, raise awareness of the legal and ethical duties of due diligence for participants of such markets, and impose administrative and judicial sanctions, when appropriate;

4. Each State should allocate resources to encourage provenance research, to facilitate licit trade in cultural property, and develop and implement educational programs to share and disseminate the outcomes of such research, thereby improving the capacity of those who work in the area.

5. Museums, libraries, and other public and private organizations that hold cultural property and collections are encouraged to: a) Take appropriate action to facilitate the rapid return of human remains and sacred cultural property when they receive a request for the return of such property, taking into account the wishes of the departed, the interests and beliefs of the members of the community, ethnic group or religious society from whom the property was taken; b) Make every effort before acquisition, in compliance with Article 4.4 of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, to ensure that any cultural property offered for purchase, donation, or any other transfer thereof, has clear title, c) Provide their directors, personnel, and volunteers with periodic training and educational sessions to raise awareness of illicit trade in cultural property and endeavor to ensure that the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums is fully complied with;

And also,

6. Auction houses, museums and art dealers should accept for consignment, acquire or trade in cultural property only when they are satisfied that a valid title is held and should make public all available provenance-related information on cultural property;

7. Governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, the general public and local communities, private research institutes, museums, libraries, international academic institutions etc. should continue their efforts to further promote the purpose and spirit of this Conference which has been held annually in the Republic of Korea, Greece, China, and Turkey since 2011, respectively, for prohibiting and preventing illicit trade in cultural property and promoting return or restitution of illicitly exported or stolen cultural property.

ARCA would like to thank all of the participants for their participation and contribution to this process.


September 14, 2016

Should there be immunity for stolen art? Info Call on Bill S.3155 - the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Tomorrow, September 15, 2016 the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will vote, or not, on S.3155, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act.

This bill on looted cultural artifacts in the US was first introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch [R-Utah] and subsequently cosponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX], Sen. Christopher Coons [D-DE], Sen. Mike Lee [R-UT], Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY], Sen. Thom Tillis [R-NC], Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT], Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], Sen. Al Franken [D-MN], Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC], Sen. Tom Udall [D-NM], and Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D-MN]. 

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act would amend the federal judicial code with respect to denial of a foreign state's sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. or state courts in commercial activity cases where rights in property taken in violation of international law are an issue and that property, or any property exchanged for it, is: 

(1) present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on by the foreign state in the United States, 

or (2) owned by an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state and that agency or instrumentality is engaged in a commercial activity in the United States.

This bill would grant a foreign state or certain carriers immunity from federal or state court jurisdiction for any activity in the United States associated with a temporary exhibition or display of a work of art or other object of cultural significance if the work of art or other object of cultural significance is imported into the United States from any foreign country pursuant to an agreement for its temporary exhibition or display between a foreign state that is its owner or custodian and the United States or U.S. cultural or educational institutions; and
the President has determined that such work is culturally significant and its temporary exhibition or display is in the national interest.

If passed, this bill would grant many authoritarian regimes around the world the right to keep stolen art. Additionally the exception within the law for art stolen seized during World War II by the Nazi regime, has been narrowly interpreted, and if passed the bill would grant many of these looted works of art immunity from seizure. 

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( “HARP”), expressed, through counsel, strong opposition to this bill via Lootedart.com, the central registry of information on looted cultural property from the period of 1933 to 1945. 

For those who would like to know more about the impact of this proposed legislation, please consider dialing in to the following teleforum event today:

SEPTEMBER 14 AT 3:30PM EST

CALL-IN: 1-888-585-9008

CONFERENCE PIN: 881-121-039

The forum will be moderated by Marion Smith, a civil-society leader, expert in international affairs, and Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

On hand for the call will be:

Pierre Ciric, an attorney and founder of the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, a firm which specializes in art law and cultural property advice.

Eric Sundby, President of the Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation, Inc., a foundation which fights to return stolen antiquities while also working to combat trade in illegal antiquities, advocate for and provide education on the crimes of Nazi and Communist regimes, and end anti-Semitism and prejudice around the world.

Marc Masurovsky co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and an expert on the question of assets looted during the Holocaust and World War II.

February 25, 2015

Provenance Research Training Program To Be Held in New York This Spring


In Washington, DC: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric (00) 1 212 260 6090, pciric@ciriclawfirm.com


The Holocaust Art Restitution Project, (“HARP”), based in Washington, DC, chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, and the Ciric LawFirm, PLLC, a law firm based in New York City, has announced the first art-related provenance research training program to be held in the New York area between April 16, 2015 and May 01, 2015 at New York Law School.  This unique professional training program, a collaboration effort between HARP and the Center for International Law at New York Law School will be held on:

     April 16-17 2015
     April 23-24, 2015
     April 30-May 1, 2015

The training program, taught by Ori Z. Soltes and Marc Masurovsky, has been designed to assist the legal community and art market professionals who are currently affected by the presence of artistic, cultural, and ritual objects which have been displaced through acts of war and genocide between 1933 and 1945, with an emphasis on those items misappropriated during the Third Reich, the Holocaust, and the Second World War. Led by experts in the fields of historical and provenance research, this training program will assist participants in assessing the lawful or illicit ownership of these objects. 

A detailed program flier of the three, 2-day workshops can be found below. The cost of the program is $3500. 

Applications can be submitted here.

November 6, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: BBC Newshour Interviews Marc Masurovsky of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and Clarence Epstein of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project

Marc Masurovsky of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and Clarence Epstein of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project were interviewed http://soundcloud.com/dina-newman/looted yesterday by BBC Newshour as to his reaction to the headlines out of Germany about the exclusive released by Focus magazine that Bavarian customs officials had discovered a hoard of suspected Nazi-era looted art belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt. Here's an excerpt:
Interviewer: How significant do you think it is? 
Marc Masurovsky: Well, it's always significant in terms of the numbers, but it's also one of those I told you so moments where everybody loves to believe that everything was destroyed so that we don't have to deal with it, but unfortunately there were enough dealers and collectors who profited from the Holocaust and Nazi plunder that they basically stashed the works away. What I'm curious about is how many did Mr. Cornelius Gurlitt sell before he was nabbed? So that's another question that doesn't seem to get asked.
Here's a link to "Plundered Cultures, Stolen Heritage", the conference at Concordia University in Montreal opening tomorrow that will gather "leading experts on the experiences of cultural destruction and mass atrocities suffered by the First Nations, Armenian and Jewish peoples are assembling to discuss the motives of the perpetrators of these assaults, their impact, and the significance these attacks pose for restitution and reconciliation today." Mr. Masurovsky will be one of the speakers.

September 12, 2013

HARP (The Holocaust Art Restitution Project) and HARP-Europe Sign A Collaboration Agreement Involving Research in Artworks Looted by the Nazis

Press Contacts:
For HARP Europe: Elizabeth Royer, 06 13 17 44 70 , elizabeth.royer@wanadoo.fr
For HARP: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com

Paris, France - Washington, DC, USA - September 12, 2013 - The Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( HARP), based in Washington, DC, chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, and HARP-Europe, founded by Elizabeth Royer, both nonprofit organizations, announced today the signature of an exclusive collaboration agreement involving  research in artworks looted by the Nazi Regime.

For twelve years, Hitler’s Third Reich orchestrated a campaign of persecution, plunder and annihilation of millions of people, resulting in the seizure and expropriation of countless assets, including works of art. Due to the inertia from governments and the art market since 1945, and as Holocaust victims or their heirs continue to seek their stolen property, these artworks move freely around the world with impunity, and continue to be exhibited, exchanged or sold.

This is why HARP, based in Washington, DC, and chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, announced the signature of an exclusive collaboration agreement involving historical research of looted artworks, with HARP-Europe, a French association incorporated under French no-for-profit laws, and founded by Elizabeth Royer.  In fact, the identification and restitution of looted artworks require detailed research and analysis of public and private archives, either in Europe or North America.

HARP-Europe is a not-for-profit entity created and led by Elizabeth Royer, and headquartered in Paris. HARP is a US not-for-profit entity founded in 1997, which has worked for 16 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime. HARP was notably involved in the "Portrait of Wally" case, where a Schiele painting was seized by the U.S. Government, as well as in the restitution of an “Odalisque”, a painting by Henri Matisse, to the Rosenberg family. The purpose of both entities is to conduct archival research on artworks looted by the Nazi regime, to assist claimants in obtaining their restitution, to seek improvement of the legislative and political framework in favor of restitution of looted artworks, to develop and promote educational programs designed to facilitate historical research in property losses resulting from the Nazi regime.

HARP is advised and represented by the Ciric Law Firm Firm, PLLC in New York, USA, and Europe 

HARP is advised and represented by law firms Dauzier & Associés and Antoine Comte in Paris, France.

Elizabeth Royer, President                                                           
HARP-Europe, Paris, France

Ori Z. Soltes, President

HARP, Washington, DC, USA