Showing posts with label restitution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restitution. Show all posts

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, 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:


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.

December 25, 2014

Paolo Giorgio Ferri publishes "Outline of the Benefits coming from a National Prosecution Service in Cultural Heritage Protection" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art CrimePaolo Giorgio Ferri publishes "Outline of the Benefits coming from a National Prosecution Service in Cultural Heritage Protection". Here's the abstract:
Investigations in the cultural sector are very peculiar and often connected to larger criminal issues. In fact, art crimes are specific in term of legislations, the expedient used to remove or obscure the illegal provenance of a cultural good, and because the persons involved are much the same. Trafficking in cultural goods is also a phenomenon which often involves transnational organized groups, and these sort of offences seems forcing—at least in the most complex cases—a quite new concept of co-management of investigation and prosecution: the so-called prolonged coordination of law enforcements, the only ones able to entirely dismantle a criminal organization.
Paolo Giorgio Ferri is a former Italian State Prosecutor and recipient of the ARCA Award for Art Policing and Recovery.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

June 6, 2014

Tess "Indiana Jane" Davis credited with helping return looted Hindu statues to Cambodia in the case of the Looted Temples of Koh ker

In a June 6th article in The Diplomat, journalist Luke Hunt points to the "critical" efforts of American researcher Tess Davis in the successful restitution of three looted Hindu statues returned to Cambodia this week:
Critical to their return was Tess Davis, a U.S. art lawyer and affiliate researcher at the University of Glasgow, who stressed Cambodia had only won the first in a series of battles, in what could prove to be a protracted war over the return of looted art. “The kingdom has taken on the art market, an entire industry, and a powerful one at that,” Davis told The Diplomat. “Collectors, dealers, museums, auction houses, they have deep pockets and top lawyers on their side. But Cambodia has something even more important: the truth and the law. And that’s something no amount of money can buy.”
Davis, dubbed by some as ‘Indiana Jane,’ said the looting and trafficking of antiquities was a crime that would no longer be tolerated, “not by governments, not by law enforcement, and not by the leaders in the art world itself.” The thefts have also been seen as a symbol of Cambodia’s perennial problems, ranging from corruption to a culture of impunity among the country’s well-heeled and politically connected. Davis said Cambodia had given the art world a simple choice, “to do the right thing or not.” She said the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Christie’s had stepped up and fulfilled their obligations, but others like the Cleveland Museum of Art and Sotheby’s have been more reluctant. “They are fighting with everything they have to stay in the past, a past where they could do whatever they wanted. They act like antiquated colonial relics, while their competitors have entered the 21st-century, and are thriving in it,” Davis said.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt [and you can follow Tess Davis @Terressa_davis.

Ms. Davis taught the course, Cultural Property Law, at ARCA's postgraduate certificate program in art crime in 2009.

June 4, 2014

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - ,, No comments

Cambodia celebrates the reunion of three Hindu statues after four decades

Photo credit to Tess Davis (Facebook)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Tess Davis, former ARCA lecturer in Cultural Property Law for our program in 2009 and 2010, is in Cambodia celebrating the return of three ancient statues and posting links on Facebook to news headlines.

"Statues 40 year reunion":  Laignee Barron & Vong Sukheng reported for The Phneom Penh Post:
Three of Cambodia’s ancient sandstone warriors were welcomed back to their birthplace yesterday, greeted by lotus wreathes and a troupe of traditional dancers adorned in gold. The ceremony marked the end of a 40-year absence for the Duryodhana, Bhima and Balarama statues. The mammoth, 10th-century characters all belong to the same tableau of mythological Hindu figures once locked in battle at Prasat Chen, a remote jungle temple in Preah Vihear. Over the past year, Cambodia has regained five of the nine statues pillaged from the temple’s Eastern entrance, haphazardly hacked from their pedestals and sold on to international art markets during the Khmer Rouge era. “Surviving civil wars, looting, smuggling and travelling the world, these three have now regained their freedom and returned home,” Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said during yesterday’s repatriation ceremony.
Here's a link to a video of the ceremony.

"Cambodia welcomes back looted 10th-century statues": Kate Bartlett, Anadolu Agency, reported:
With the help of the U.S. government and UNESCO,Cambodia first got the ball rolling in 2012 when it filed a suit against the New York-based auction house Sotheby's after the institution put a statue known as "The Duryodhana" -- valued at about $3 million -- up for sale. Earlier this year, with the case still ongoing, Sotheby's agreed to return the statue. The mighty "Duryodhana" was one of the impressive pieces unveiled at Tuesday's ceremony, alongside statues known as the Bhima and Balarama, returned by the Norton Simon Museum of California and Christie's auction house, respectively. While legal action was originally taken against Sotheby's in the case of the "Duryodhana," Christie's returned its statue voluntarily after discovering it was looted. The Norton Simon Museum did the same. 
Tess Davis, an affiliate researcher at the University of Glasgow who specializes in cultural heritage law, said Tuesday, "It's a very exciting day, not just for Cambodia, but for all countries that have been plundered." "Cambodia's on the right side of history here," she added. 
Anne Lemaistre, head of Cambodia's UNESCO office, called the statues' return "a big coup" for Cambodia and said that it might act as an incentive for other museums and private collectors to return looted antiquities. "Now let's see what Cleveland would say," Lemaistre said, referring to the museum’s recent denial that the Angkor statue in its possession was looted. 
Buddhist majority Cambodia, which has a rich cultural heritage influenced by Indian traditions and Hindu legends, is famed for its temples, and the intricate engravings of graceful traditional dancers and mythological characters adorning their walls. Representatives from Christie's and the Norton Simon who attended the ceremony said they were delighted to have been able to help Cambodia recover some of its valuable cultural heritage. "These statues... were callously hacked... and trafficked on the international art market," Jeff Daigle, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, said in a speech, expressing the U.S.’s commitment to stopping the illegal arts trade. "We must not forget that the commercial trade in illicit art remains," he added.
 In 2011, Ms. Davis wrote about the lack of provenance in auction catalogue for objects from Cambodia.

January 4, 2014

Saturday, January 04, 2014 - ,, No comments

East African vigangos: Difficulties American Museums Encounter in returning these sacred items (Tom Mashberg for The New York Times)

From the Denver Museum of Nature
& Science via The New York Times:
three totem poles (vigangos)
Tom Mashberg for The New York Times in "Sending Artworks Home but to Whom? Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum" (January 3, 2014) points out the difficulty American museums have in returning the East African memorial totems known as vigango:
Now, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science says it has devised a way to return the 30 vigango it received as donations in 1990 from two Hollywood collectors, the actor Gene Hackman and the film producer Art Linson. The approach, museum officials say, balances the institution’s need to safeguard its collection and meet its fiduciary duties to benefactors and the public with the growing imperative to give sanctified objects back to tribal people. 
“The process is often complicated, expensive and never straightforward,” said Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the museum’s curator of anthropology. “But just because a museum is not legally required to return cultural property does not mean it lacks an ethical obligation to do so.” 
The museum this month will deliver its 30 vigango (pronounced vee-GON-go; the singular form is kigango) to the National Museums of Kenya. Officials there will choose whether to display the objects, hunt through the nation’s hinterlands for their true owners and original sites, or allow them to decay slowly and ceremoniously, as was intended by their consecrators. Whatever they opt to do, Kenyan officials say, sovereignty over the objects should be theirs and not in the hands of foreign museums. (The details of the transfer are still being negotiated.) 
Some 20 institutions in the United States own about 400 of the totems, according to Monica L. Udvardy, a professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky and an expert on Kenyan culture who has studied and tracked vigango for 30 years. She said that Kenyans believe that vigango are invested with divine powers and should never have been removed from their sites and treated as global art commodities. Kenyan officials have made constant pleas to have the objects sent back.
But repatriating them takes far more than addressing a parcel. No federal or international laws prevent Americans from owning the totems, while Kenyan law does not forbid their sale. And the Kenyan government says that finding which village or family consecrated a specific kigango is arduous, given that many were taken more than 30 years ago and that agricultural smallholders in Kenya are often nomadic. 
A result is that museum trustees seeking legally to relinquish, or deaccession, their vigango have no rightful owners to hand them to.

August 6, 2013

Restitution: Mosaic of Orpheus Returned to Turkey on Display at Istanbul's Archaeological Museum

The Mosaic of Orpheus on display in a
 room at the Istanbul Arcaeological Museum.
(Photo by C. Sezgin)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The Mosaic of Orpheus, returned to Turkey by the Dallas Museum of Art in 2012, has a room of its own at  the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to celebrate the Roman artwork's return to "the lands where it belongs to".

Information at the Istanbul museum introducing the piece to visitors omits any mention of the collecting history of this object. The mosaic is described as showing the poet Orpheus taming wild beasts with his lyre. To the left of his head, an inscription in Assyrian identifies the artist as Bărsaged, a mosaic master. At the bottom next to his feet, a second inscription in Assyrian is from 'Păpa, the son of Păpa,' who in April 505 (according to the Selevkos calendar used in Edessa in 194 AD) ‘made this resting room for me and for my children and for my successors. Let him be blessed who sees it and preys’, according to the printed sign on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The ‘signature’ of the mosaic master Bărsaged is the only example found amongst the group of mosaics found in Edessa (Şanliurfa in southeastern Turkey).

Side view of the Mosaic of Orpheus
The marble mosaic from the Eastern Roman Empire was purchased by the Dallas Museum of Art from Christie's in New York on December 9, 1999. The Dallas Art Museum has a long explanation on its website for the deaccessioning of "Orpheus Taming Wild Animals"
CRITERIA FOR DEACCESSIONING: A request from the Turkish government for restitution, with compelling evidence, including photographs of the mosaic in situ, that the object was looted and/or illegally exported 
A. Two newly recovered in situ photos of the mosaic showing it being removed by the smugglers. The photographs also show the full work with its decorative borders intact, prior to it being removed from the ground. The photographs were printed by a local photo shop in Sanliurfa and are currently evidence in a criminal investigation being carried out by the Sanliurfa Head Prosecutor in order to identify everyone involved in the crime.
B. Expertise reports prepared by various scientists, art historians, and archaeologists offering comparisons to other mosaics from Edessa (modern city of Sanliurfa) and arguing that various stylistic and iconographic similarities prove it was smuggled from the region.
a. Assistant Professor Dr. Baris Salman, Ahi Evran University, Faculty of Art and Science, Department of Archaeology:
Mosaic close-up: Orpheus with his lyre

i. Stylistically and iconographically similar to other Edessa mosaics. Specifically, the inscription is similar both in style and content to other Edessa mosaics. The Syriac script used originated in Edessa. Other features typical of the area include the absence of depth, the light colors, and the expression and facial features. The date indicated in the inscription falls within the period of mosaic construction in Edessa.
b. Hakki Alhan, Archaeologist, and Taner Atalay, Analyst, Gaziantep Museum, Turkey:
i. Concluded that the composition style, animal figures, and especially the Syriac inscription have features of the Assyrian Kingdom, appearing in Sanliurfa precincts in the 3rd century A.D., and was smuggled from the region.
c. Eyüp Bucak, Archaeologist, and Hamza Güllüce, Archaeologist from the Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Was not one of the documented mosaics in the area, but concluded that the composition, the figures, and the tesserae’s dark lines reflect features of Assyrian mosaics appearing in the region during the 3rd century A.D.
d. L. Zoroglu, Selcuk University, Faculty of Science and Art, Department of Archaeology, Konya:
i. Compared it to another Edessa mosaic and concluded it was smuggled from the region because they both include Chaldean inscriptions indicating the date of the artifact, showing that they were created around the same time. It also has a common subject of the region.
e. Müslüm Ercan, Archaeologist, and Bülent Üçdag, Art Historian, Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Cites the Syriac inscription, the figure and his clothing, and the in situ photographs as evidence of being from Edessa. It was made by the same artist as another Edessa mosaic (name is included in the inscription) and have identified it as belonging to a rock tomb located in Kalkan District in Sanliurfa.
f. Assistant Professor Dr. Mehmet TOP, Yusuneu Yil University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Art History:
i. Concluded that the mosaic is an artifact from Sanliurfa based on the early Assyrian inscription and its similarity with the other Orpheus mosaic from Edessa.
Photo from Dallas Museum of Art
Orpheus mosaic in situ. This photograph was provided by the Sanliurfa Prosecutor's Office. It is evidence in a criminal prosecution within Turkey against looters. The mosaic's border is visible in this photograph; it was missing when the DMA purchased the mosaic, presumably removed by looters because it was incomplete. The canister visible in the lower right contains a Turkish brand of glue, which looters--not archaeologists--would have used to make repairs.

August 3, 2013

Anna A. Perl on "Poland's Restitution Efforts in the United States" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Anna A. Perl writes on "Poland's Restitution Efforts in the United States":
During the Second World War Polish public and private art collections suffered tremendous losses due to theft, confiscation, coercive transfer and looting by the Germans and Soviets. The recent restitution efforts undertaken by Poland's government in the United States are presented against a historical background. The article recognizes the difficulties encountered throughout the restitution process, resulting inter alia from large-scale destruction of records, lapse of time, complexities of provenance research, and intersection of international and national legal systems. The analysis examines legal remedies, which are available to original owners pursuing their restitution claims in the United States. The article recognizes the commitment of the US museum community to addressing the issues of unlawfully appropriated art. Examples of recent restitutions from American collections, both public and private, are illustrative of different means, by which resolution of cultural property disputes has proven successful in the last decade.
Anna A. Perl is First Secretary at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, DC. Prior to assuming her current position, she was Deputy Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage at the Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. From 2001 to 2006, she served as a political officer at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. Anna Perl received her master's degrees in law and applied linguistics from the University of Warsaw, Poland. She holds a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree from the Colombus School of Law of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and is a member of the New York Bar.

Ms. Perl writes in her article:
Any analysis of the efforts to recover works of art lost or displaced during and in the aftermath of World War II should be seen against a historical background. Few countries suffered cultural losses on a scale comparable to that of Poland. The agreement signed in August of 1939 between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and their joint invasion of Poland brought defeat to the county and plunder of its cultural property on a massive and unprecedented scale. The once splendid art collections were destroyed or dispersed due to theft, confiscation, coercive transfer and looting by the Germans and Soviets. The fate of the Warsaw University Library is a case in point. Home to the oldest and most valuable graphics collection in pre-WWII Poland, the Library lost in the years 1939 through 1945 more than 60,000 prints and drawings. Three magnificent pen and ink drawings by Dürer that were housed in this prestigious institution never returned to Warsaw. 
The confiscation of works of art was meticulously planned and implemented with a ruthless precision by the German authorities in the weeks and months following the occupation of Poland. In the early days of October 1939, the German Confiscating Commission arrived in Warsaw to carry out its mission of "safeguarding" Polish culture property. It was responsible for much of the looting carried out on behalf of the Reich. A formal decree of December 16, 1939, issued by Hans Frank, Nazi General Governor of Generalgouvernement, institutionalized the looting and provided a basis for Nazi pillage. The most valuable artworks seized by the Nazis were included into a catalogue known as Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, which governor Frank presented to Hitler in 1940. This "catalogue of plunder" contained descriptions and photographs of 521 masterpieces. Post-war restitution efforts resulted in several returns, yet some of the most treasured artifacts, such as Portrait of a young man by Rafael, or the three pen and ink drawings by Dürer stolen from the Warsaw University Library are still missing.
Ms. Perl's article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, and available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

November 8, 2010

Revisiting the Cultural Plunder Database

Biche more, Gustave Courbet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Revisiting the “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The database of stolen art from Jewish French and Belgian collectors processed through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944 has received more than 11,000 visits from 97 countries since its public release three weeks ago.

The database, which can be accessed at, is a Joint Project of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives), France Diplomatie: Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The website for the database also includes a photo gallery of the Nazi’s “Special Task Force”, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), processing art works through the center of Paris and another section of works of art considered objectionable (“Degenerate”) by the Nazis – works by artists such as Max Ernst, Salvardor Dalí, and Kees van Dongen.

Users can browse by art owners, by collection, or by artist. Information about the art includes measurements, a title in German, and the name of the owner and the collection and in many cases, whether or not the painting or artwork was restituted to its wartime owner.

An 1857 painting by Gustave Courbet (titled in German Totes Re him Walde or in French Biche morte) entered the Jeu de Paume between September and October of 1942. It was considered for a possible exchange, but was returned to France in 1949. In 1951, the French national museum collection placed it into into the Louvre until 1954 when it was sent to the Musée National Ahmed Zabana in Oran. The painting stayed in Algeria for 31 years until it was stolen in October of 1985.

A painting “considered for exchange” indicates that the ERR staff wanted to trade the painting with art dealers as “payment-in-kind” for works of art desired by Hermann Goering and other Nazi dignitaries for their collections or for the Reich.

Sixteen years later, a reproduction of the same painting, now under the new title of Chevreuil Mort/Dead Deer, appeared in an auction catalogue for a sale scheduled at the George V Hotel in Paris on December 19, 2001. Recognizing the stolen the painting, the French museums rquested that the painting be withdrawn from the sale. It was seized by the police, then transferred to the musée d’Orsay on October 29, 2002.

The ERR Collection Name was “MA-B” or “Möbel-Aktion Bilder”, a category of more than 1,300 matches. "Möbel Aktion" means that it was ‘Operation Furniture’ that the work was removed from a Jewish home. “Bilder” means it was a picture. However, the original owner was not identified by the Nazis and the painting has not been returned to that family.

Could the family who owned that painting make a claim for the return of their painting today? We asked this question to Marc Masurovsky, the project’s director and a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“If it is the same painting and was not recovered by a legitimate owner and there is someone who can attest to be the rightful owner of the work, that person can make a claim for the unrecovered object,” Masurovsky wrote in an email. “As you know, the database is a work in progress and much information still needs to be added, especially with respect to the postwar fate of many of the works and objects described in the database.”