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

September 8, 2019

Restitution: Painting of Ivan the Terrible by artist Mikhail Panin

"Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina"
by artist Mikhail N. Panin
Image Credit: US Justice Department
An oil painting, titled Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina by artist Mikhail N. Panin, painted in 1911 will finally be going home almost 80 years after it went missing. The artwork had been stolen from the Ekaterinoslav City Art Museum during World War II and was only identified when it was consigned for sale in Alexandria, Virginia.

The artwork depicts the 16th-century Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan IV Vasilyevich, the first Russian monarch to adopt the term "Tsar of All Russia" as his title.  In the painting  he is seen exiting the walls of a city, looking solemn on a white horse.  Known throughout Russian history as Ivan the Terrible, Ivan IV brutishly divided Russia into two separate territories in 1565.

During this period he ruled the first landholding, known as the Oprichnina, with an iron, and oftentimes terrorizing, fist from 1565 until 1572.  The land under his jurisdiction included the wealthier regions of Muscovy, the former Novgorod Republic in the north,  Dvina, Kargopol, Velikii Ustyug, Vologda and important regions for salt extraction such as Staraya Russa and Soligalich, which in practice meant that he had a monopoly of trade in this important commodity. The second territory, the Zemshchina was ruled by the remaining boyar duma, whose seat of influence and power included the more weakened Moscow. 

The stolen painting was one of 63 artworks known to have disappeared in or around 1941 from the Dnipropetrovsk State Art Museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk now known as Dnipro, taken ostensibly by Nazi German troops.  The artwork eventually made its way overseas to a house in far away Ridgefield, Connecticut where the home and the massive artwork were both purchased by David Tracy and his wife Gabby, a Holocaust survivor in 1987. The Tracy's purchased the home themselves from a previous couple who likewise purchased the home along with the painting in 1962, this time from a former Swiss soldier who emigrated to the United States in 1946 but whom had died in 1986.  The artwork had remained in the Ridgefield residence all that time, until the Tracy family, downsizing their home for a smaller condominium, and assuming the canvas was of modest value, consigned the painting to Potomack Company Auctions & Appraisals in Alexandria.

Painting as it appeared in Dnepropetrovsk State Art Museum, circa 1929
Image Credit:  US Justice Department
In preparation for its eventual sale, the painting's history was then researched by Anne Norton Craner, a fine arts specialist with the Potomack Company whose provenance research led her to documentation which identified the 1911 work as being by the Ukrainian artist Mikhail Panin.  As part of her due diligence, Craner contacted the museum in Ukraine, whose curators then supplied her with photos of the painting taken in 1929 when the painting was still part of the collection.  The museum also supplied related inventory documentation which included a notation recording that the artwork was stolen from a city museum and listing it as "taken to Germany by the Hitlerites."

With this information, Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, owner and CEO of The Potomack Company informed the consignor and contacted the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office, who in turn worked with the State Department and Ukrainian diplomats.  Subsequently thereafter the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia issued a Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem on December 20, 2018 against the defendant property in accordance with Rule G(2) of the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions on the basis that the painting represented the proceeds of the interstate transportation of stolen property and possession of stolen goods.  Appreciating the need for returning the lost painting to its rightful home, the Tracy family agreed to waive any and all claims to the painting.  Once no other claims were filed, the US Government began making plans to return the artwork to the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, D.C. 

When speaking about the restitution process U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu stated “The recovery of this art, looted during World War II, reflects the commitment of this office to pursue justice for victims of crime here and abroad. The looting of cultural heritage during World War II was tragic, and we are happy to be able to assist in the efforts to return such items to their rightful owners.”

The Potomack Company, pleased with their pivotal role in the painting's restitution, will host a handover ceremony on Monday, September 9th at their gallery in Old Town Alexandria located at 1120 N. Fairfax Street.

Invitees to the event include:

Valeriy Chaly, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States
FBI officers from the Washington Field Office who were involved in this case
Representatives from the US Department of State
Representatives from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
The Tracy family

By:  Lynda Albertson

June 28, 2019

Interview with Shaaban Abdel-Gawad - Head of the Egyptian Department of Repatriation

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad
By Edgar Tijhuis 

When a civil war starts in a country, everyone and everything pays a price, including heritage.  In response to this ARCA initiated its Minerva Scholarship in 2015 in order to allow heritage professionals from the conflict countries of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen to train with us as a means of analysing criminal behavior which affect the security of movable cultural heritage during times of conflict.  This ARCA scholarship has allowed participants from Middle East source countries to come to Amelia for ten weeks and to learn from ARCA instructors as well as share their experiences with other heritage peers.  Minerva scholar's time in Italy also serves to build capacity between source and market country experts as they also on hand to share their own very valuable insight and experience in protecting their country's heritage, oftentimes under extremely difficult conditions.  

This year, in 2019, with funding obtained through a successful crowdfunding campaign, ARCA has been able to extend its Minerva scholarship initiative to an important post-conflict country, Egypt. During our 11th year of producing training programs we are pleased to have welcomed Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, as our first Minerva scholar from Cairo. To hear more about him, and his plans during his time in Italy, I sat down with him at one of the local coffee bars in Amelia, right in front of the old Medieval gate, which overlooks some of the city's Neolithic walls which circle the old town in order to ask him a few questions about his work and career.


Can you tell me something about your work in Egypt?

In Egypt, I am the head of the antiquities repatriation department. The department was founded in 2002 and I have been the department's head for the last four years. Since the start in 2002 over 10.000 pieces have been repatriated, most of them in the last four years. We work in different ways to achieve these results and to protect our heritage as best as possible. First of all, we collaborate with the authorities in market countries, for example through bilateral agreements like the 2010 agreement with Switzerland concerning the illicit import and transit of antiquities.  Also through the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States, the first of its kind for the US with a Middle Eastern country. Under these agreements and other bilateral and formal agreements we have also collaborated with Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, and the UAE, and when objects are seized abroad, we check all documents and decide what can and should be done.


Images of the sarcophagus recovered from Kuwait in 2018
Furthermore, we have several officers who systematically scan all planned sales of all major auction houses, online platforms like Ebay, Facebook and other channels that can be used to sell antiquities these days.  Online we find many fakes, but between all the fakes, there are also real antiquities that are sold illegally. An example of this is the case of the relic that was recently offered for sale at a London auction. The relic — a tablet carved with the cartouche of King Amenhotep I — has been recovered by Egypt, after the websites of international auction halls were scoured.


Can you tell me more about the rules concerning antiquities from Egypt?

Tablet from Saqqara recovered from Switzerland
Well, one needs to go back in time a bit to at least 1911. * In that year the first Egyptian law on antiquities was adopted. It said, among other things, that foreign excavation missions could take half of the excavated objects out of Egypt. In 1951, a new law was adopted. ** Under this law export licences were required for every single object leaving Egypt and unique objects were never allowed to leave the country. Finally, in 1983 the current antiquities law was introduced. Under this law, antiquities cannot be exported anymore from Egypt.***

The coffin of Nedjemankh is a gilded ancient Egyptian coffin
from the late Ptolemaic Period (First Century B.C.E) .
Are there any recent examples of repatriation of antiquities to Egypt? 

There are many and I will mention a few. After the relic in London in January of this year, we had the case of the gold-sheathed coffin from the 1st century BC. It was recovered in the United States where it had become part of the collection of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. According to a statement by the museum which purchased the coffin, inscribed with the name Nedjemankh, a priest of the ram-god Heryshef, in July 2017. Per the investigative work of the Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, the museum learned that it had received a false ownership history, fraudulent statements, and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. The museum handed the coffin over to the authorities after evidence showed that it was looted from Egypt in 2011.

In February of this year, another case was handled by Shaaban. Egypt’s embassy in Amsterdam received a 2500-2000 B.C.E Pharaonic limestone statue of a standing man with hieroglyphic marks on the right arm.  The object had been consigned to an auction house in the Netherlands and was scheduled to be sold at the European Fine Art Fair in Amsterdam.  The Ministry of Antiquities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, succeeded in proving Egypt’s ownership of the archaeological piece and its illegal removal from the Saqqara area of Egypt sometime in the 1990s.

This month, in an important case which is still developing, the Egyptian authorities are working to stop the auction of a quartzite sculpture of Tutankhamun through Christie’s auction house in London.  This important piece is scheduled to go up for bidding in early July and the Egyptian authorities have raised concerns that the object may have been stolen, possibly from Karnak, an extraordinary complex developed over more than 1,000 years ago made up of sanctuaries, temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor. 

While it remains uncertain whether the Egyptian authorities will be able to successfully claim the object back, Shaaban and his team are diligently pursuing leads and have pointedly asked the auction house to provide the Egyptian authorities with all of the documentation they were given by the consignor in furtherance of the sale.

So far Christie's has continued to state the object is legitimate but has withheld the requested documentation.

Tablet recovered from Australia
How did you hear about ARCA and the Minerva Scholarship? 

When I was in Sudan for an UNESCO workshop Effective implementation of the 1970 Convention for the prevention of illicit traffic of cultural property and of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation on museums and collections in the Cluster countries I met Samer Abdel Ghafour. Samer completed the ARCA program in 2015 as a Minerva scholar from Syria before moving on to consult with the UNESCO Secretariat within the Section for Movable Heritage and Museums, at the Unit for the 1970 Convention. So I applied and in the end was chosen to come to Italy.

From Cairo to Amelia, that must be a big change….

Yes, it surely is. Cairo is a city with around 20 million inhabitants and Amelia a little town. But actually, I grew up in a village in Egypt and worked a lot at archaeological sites outside the cities. Italian life is Mediterranean, and in many ways similar to our culture in Egypt. The people in Amelia are very friendly and welcoming, and they ‘talk with their hands’ like we do in Egypt. There is even an Egyptian shop in Amelia! Furthermore, I enjoy the company of the ARCA staff and my fellow participants in the program, who come from all over the world. I think it’s great that this special town was chosen to host the program.

Do you see any similarities between Italy and Egypt? 

Yes, there are some interesting parallels between our countries. While we are both source countries of antiquities, we also play a role in educating other countries. We have helped countries like Libya, Uzbekistan, China, Yemen and Iraq to deal with the problem of antiquities looting. And we have seized objects from Italy in Egypt, as well as objects from several other countries that went through Egypt as a transit country.

What do you expect to learn during the program? 

I expect to learn how other countries work in this field, learn more about the laws regulating the antiquities trade and establish an international network for the future.

Ancient model of a boat, 2000 BC, recovered from Italy
More about Minerva Scholarships….

ARCA's Minerva scholarship is set aside to equip source country professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to build or improve heritage protection capacity at their home institutions and to advance the education of future generations. Scholarships are awarded through an open, merit-based competition, subject to available funding.

Accepted candidates must be able to speak and write, in English, at a university level proficiency. Those who do not, cannot be considered as all courses are taught in English. Beneficiaries of the Minerva will be granted a full tuition waiver to ARCA’s intensive professional development postgraduate program which runs annually in Amelia, Italy.

For further information about this multidisciplinary program and/or to request a prospectus/Minerva application form please if you are from a conflict or post conflict country, please write to us in English at education @ artcrimeresearch.org.

* Finalized on 12/6/1912 Law nr. 14 established that all antiquities found in Egypt belonged to the State, and forbade the selling of them, unless they were already part of a collection or coming from legal excavations, recognised by the State.  This law prohibited the export of antiquities from Egypt to other countries, except through a special license which only the Antiquities Department was entitled to grant or withhold.  This article further stipulated that any antiquity, illicitly removed from the territory was subject to seizure and confiscation. 

**Finalized on 31/10/51 Law nr. 215 amended by laws nr. 529 of 1953 and nr. 24 of 1965 enacted provisions which made penalties harsher for the theft and smuggling of antiquities. The law prohibited taking antiquities out of Egypt unless there were multiple items similar to them, and then solely with the approval of the Department of Antiquities, who meeting by a committee formed of museum personnel in the presence of a representative of the department of customs, could issued a license approving an object's exportation.  Failure to have obtained such a license implies that the antiquity in question was stolen or smuggled from Egypt.

***Enacted 06/08/1983 Law nr. 117 of 1983, emended in 2003 abolished completely all export of antiquities outside of Egypt.


Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.


Location: 
University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

Dates:  
March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

November 12, 2016

Art Restitution: Tate Completes Restitution Process of Looted Constable Painting

Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' (1824) will be returned to
its heirs on the recommendation of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel
London’s Tate Museum has, at long last, restituted John Constable’s painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton to its rightful owners. The Tate returned the painting to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany, a Hungarian Jewish painter and art collector, after it emerged that the work had been looted during the second World War.  The painting was once part of  Baron Hatvany’s larger collection, one of the finest, if not the largest (a distinction belonging to the Herzog’s) art collections in Budapest.  By the early 1940s, his collection comprised of some 750-900 works of art.  

Hatvany was forced to store this, and several other artworks, in a Budapest bank vault against the threat of possible Allied bombing, before ultimately being forced to flee the city when the Nazis arrived. The Russian Army then entered Budapest in 1945 and seized the Hatvany collection, leading to long-standing legal disputes over the property rights of many of the pieces of artwork it contained.

The heirs of Baron Hatvany filed a claim with Britain's eight-member Spoliation Advisory Panel — a panel created by the British government to mediate looting claims on art works in public institutions in 2013—after someone recognized the Constable painting as having been looted whilst visiting the Tate's London collection in 2012. 


In May 2014, at the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three of Hatvany’s heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland.  Then, alarmingly, the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

SAP met again in September 2015 to reexamine the original facts in the case, along with the added Hungarian Museum documentation, and in a lengthy 81-page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.” SAP then once again urged the return of the painting to the Baron’s heirs.

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery and represents the three Hatvany heirs, has said that the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is unfortunately often the case when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale. The heirs of WWII looted art are often numerous or often, not necessarily wealthy.  Sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artworks is to witness its sale.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s Constable painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th.  It is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

By: Summer Clowers










At the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland in May 2014.  Then alarmingly the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel met again in September 2015 and reexamined the facts in the case along with the added documentation and in a length 81 page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.”

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery, who represents the three Hatvany heirs since 2012 has said the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is often the case, when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale.  The painting will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th and is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

Because the heirs of the looted art are numerous or not necessarily wealthy, sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artwork is to witness its sale. 





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.

May 9, 2015

Art Restitution: Van Dyck’s Triple Portrait of King Charles I stolen from Castle Kronberg during World War II by American servicemen to be returned to Frankfurt

From The New York Times: Brandon Thibodeaux's photo of
King Charles I in Three Positions
by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The New York Times’ Tom Mashberg is reporting the return of five artworks, originally brought by US servicemen back to the United States after World War II, to the Anhaltische Gemäldegaleriem, in Dessau. Included in the five works is one described as “an unattributed copy of a triple portrait of King Charles I of England, originally painted by Anthony van Dyck in 1636 to help Bernini create a sculpture of the king”. Mashberg reports that this work was stolen from Castle Kronberg outside Frankfurt, and was being returned by:
“Michael R. Holland, a retired house builder from Montana, who said he found them in the safe deposit box of his aunt, Margaret I. Reeb, after her death. A note in the box from Mrs. Reeb, a member of the Women’s Army Corps who had served in Germany, said she bought them there just after the war. Family lore, Mr. Holland said, has it that Mrs. Reeb, who died in 2005 and was a wartime acquaintance of Eleanor Roosevelt, bought the works from American soldiers who approached her in a Nuremberg hotel for some quick cash.”
The story caught my eye because the original painting, which is now in the UK’s Royal Collection  has a fascinating story all of its own:

Sir Athony van Dyck (1599-1641) - Charles I (1600-1649)
The Royal Art Collection, oil on canvas
Queen's Drawing Room, Windsor Castle
In the early 1630s, King Charles I was busy cementing his place as omnipotent English monarch. He had been crowned King of England in a sumptuous ceremony, and in June 1633 he was likewise crowned King of Scotland. His queen -- a quiet but persistently devout Catholic -- Henrietta Maria, so memorably portrayed by Van Dyck in such overtly political family portraits as The Great Place and in intimately affectionate portraits such as his Charles I and Henrietta Maria, was carefully trying to strengthen ties between England and Rome, and to prepare the ground for the arrival in London of the first Papal envoy since Henry VIII’s time.

As so often happened during Charles’s reign, the delicate diplomatic dance was executed, in part, by artistic means. In mid 1635, Charles and his queen commissioned Van Eyck, now firmly ensconced as Charles’ favourite painter, to prepare a portrait that they would send to Pope Urban VIII in Rome. Thus would then able the Pope to commission his own favourite sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini (memorably labelled by Robert Hughes as the “marble megaphone of the Renaissance”), to carve a life-size bust of Charles, which the Pope would then give as a gift to Queen Henrietta Maria, symbolizing (so the Pontiff hoped) closer ties and perhaps heralding the ultimate submission of the English Crown to the throne of St Peters.

Drawing inspiration from Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Man in Three Positions, then in the Royal Collection (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Van Eyck executed the sublime triple portrait of King Charles, both embodying his character and pensive but unshakeable hope for the future, and giving Bernini everything he needed to create his marble bust.

The Portrait was sent to Rome. Bernini wove his sculptural magic. The result arrived back in England in the summer of 1637, but not without significant travails and perils: the bust was packed into a wooden case, and one Thomas Chambers spent three remarkable months bringing it across Europe on boats, horses and mules, besting pirates, robbers and corrupt border guards en route.

It received a rapturous welcome when it was unpacked, and drew a promise from Queen Henrietta Maria that a fabulous diamond ring would immediately be sent to the Pope’s nephew, and which would end up being given to Bernini himself. Suspicious and opportunistic Puritans encouraged a forlorn and probably spurious rumor that the bust was stained, and would only become pure when Charles converted to Catholicism. Much later, an opportunistic broker who had profited as Charles acquired his magnificent collection, but who was then keen to rewrite history and curry favour with the Puritans, invented a fantastical prediction of the coming execution, by the bust being stained with miraculous blood:
“ … his own statue graved in Marble, which was newly brought from Rome … being set forth three drops of blood fell on the face of it … though the stains of the same could never be gotten off since.”
In the meantime, and despite any such divine imperfections or portents, Charles was delighted with the bust, especially given that it was created by the Pope’s favoured sculptor, who would otherwise have been inaccessible to the increasingly artistically astute and sophisticated but still resolutely Protestant, Charles.

And then it all came crashing down.

On a chilly January morning in 1649, and wearing two shirts so that any shivers brought on by the cold would not be mistaken for fearful trembling, Charles was executed, under authority of a Death warrant signed by the 59 men who would become known to history as the Regicides. It is unclear whether the irony of the execution taking place outside The Banqueting House in London, whose ceiling was (and is) adorned by magnificent, and politically powerful, paintings by Rubens commissioned by Charles over a decade earlier, was noted at the time.

Following his death, the Commonwealth set about valuing and selling off “the Late King’s goods” to raise funds for a severely cash-strapped Treasury. And amongst the art works sold during a chaotic, corrupt and ultimately largely unsuccessful asset sale process, was Bernini’s bust. By 1651 it was in a slightly down-at-the-heel and crowded impromptu dealership owned by one Emmanuel de Critz, one of many that sprung up all over London as the King’s art flooded onto the newly created, and never before seen, open art market. “The King’s head in white marble done by Bernino at Rome” was on display in a cramped house in Austin Friars, with a price tag of £400.

That asking price must have been too high. In May 1660, following the unforeseeable (in 1651) lurch of history that saw Charles II restored to the English Throne following years spent wandering Europe in beggarly exile after his defeat in battle by Oliver Cromwell in September 1651, Charles II set about swiftly and ruthlessly reclaiming his father’s art. In a staggeringly audacious lie, de Critz petitioned the new King for back pay of £4000 and, amazingly, £1200 for costs incurred in acquiring and looking after the late King’s art, including the Bernini bust. History does not record what response this petition triggered. De Critz himself died of the plague in 1665.

On 5 January 1698, the novelist and diarist John Evelyn noted in his diary: “Whitehall burnt! Nothing but walls and ruins left.”

That day the bulk of what had been the largest palace in Europe, exceeding both Versailles and the Vatican in size, and at its zenith, comprising 1500 rooms, was destroyed. Only the Banqueting Hall remains more or less intact, but Bernini’s Bust of Charles 1 disappeared.

As for the portrait? Bernini kept hold of it, but eventually it ended up back in the Royal Collection, returning to the fold in 1822. The Royal collection’s Provenance Statement records:
Painted for Bernini about 1637 from which he was to execute a bust and sent to Rome. Collections: Bernini family; Mr Irvine: Walsh Porter; Mr Wells. Purchased by George IV in 1822 from Mr Wells for 1000 guineas. 
Judge Arthur Tompkins of New Zealand will return to Amelia this summer to teach "Art in War" for ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

November 24, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection & Provenance Research: A Perspective from Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Training Research Program

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

I sought out the perspective of Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Research Training Program which will have a new session in Rome next month, on the Kunstmuseum Bern announcement regarding acceptance of the Gurlitt art bequest and its willingness to conduct research to determine if some works had been stolen during the Nazi-era (commonly accepted as 1933-1945).

Q: Today and agreement was reached that the Kunstmuseum Bern would conduct provenance research on the Gurlitt collection before moving the artworks from Germany to Switzerland. What is the process as you understand and what do you anticipate as the strengths and weaknesses?
MM: I thought Germany would handle the provenance. That's how I interpret most press reports from this morning. 
If this is correct, the research is being conducted by individuals hired by the German government under the auspices of the Gurlitt Task Force. 
Frankly, no one is certain about how the research is being conducted. If it were left to us, you'd have to make three distinct piles: auction acquisitions in the Reich, works de-accessioned from German State museums, and works acquired in occupied territories. Those piles lead you to different archives.  The most complex are the French records for works acquired in German-occupied France.  The fundamental weakness behind this process is its opacity and the refusal of the Germans to expand the scope of the research and reach out to those who know a thing or two about these types of losses.  From what we hear, there are only a handful of individuals covering the French archives.
Last but not least, the most complex items to research are the works on paper and especially prints and lithographs.  Who knows where those came from?  To ascertain whether or not they were looted, one would have to go through all files representing losses suffered by victims in France.  The task is staggeringly tedious and complex.

Gurlitt Art Collection and the Kunstmuseum Bern: Acceptance of Bequest comes with agreement to conduct provenance research

The press conference in Berlin today generated a great deal of media interest as to if and how the Kunstmuseum in Bern would accept the bequest of Cornelius Gurlitt -- a long-hidden collection of artwork mired in accusations of Nazi-looting.  The collection consists of around 1,300 works of art on canvas and paper including paintings and sketches by Chagall, Picasso, and Claude Monet.  The bulk of the cache was discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment following a routine tax investigation.

Image credit: Hannibal Hanschke
Christoph Schäublin, the director and president of the Kunstmuseum Bern's board of trustees, said that after extensive deliberation Germany, Bavaria and the Kunstmuseum Bern had reached a formal written agreement viewable in German here to formally accept the Gurlitt collection.  Schäublin emphasized that artworks directly looted from Jewish owners during the Nazi era would not enter into the collection of the Kunstmuseum Bern and would be returned to their rightful heirs.  Works suspected of having been stolen, with no claimants currently identified would remain in Germany for the immediate future to allow for further investigation by the special task already established, with an emphasis on determining the provenance of each of the pieces.  An update on the status of the task force's research is expected sometime in 2015.

Melissa Eddy reporting from Berlin for The New York Times writes in "Kunstmuseum Bern Obtains Trove from Gurlitt Collection" that Schäublin described that a 'privately funded team of experts [would] comb the history of each piece before it came into the museum's possession' .... and that a public list would be made available soon.

German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters stated that she believed that the signing of the accord by all parties represented "a milestone in coming to terms with our history" referring to Germany’s responsibilities for losses under the Nazi regime.

Cornelius Gurlitt's 86-year-old cousin Uta Werner, applied Friday to the Munich Probate Court for a certificate of inheritance in connection with her deceased cousin's estate. Speaking tothe press on Friday through legal counsel she indicated they would be contesting Gurlitt’s fitness of mind at the time he wrote the will naming the Bern museum as his sole heir meaning any resolution in this restitution case could prove lengthy. 

Gurlitt Art Collection: Kunstmuseum Bern accepts bequest from Cornelius Gurlitt

The Kunstmuseum Bern announced today in Berlin that it will accept the art collection from Cornelius Gurlitt. Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO, live tweeted (Ergo Sum @sauterne) during the conference: 
The Kunstmuseum Bern accepts the Gurlitt collection. This was decided by the Board of Trustees of the Art Museum.... Regarding the Gurlitt collection Schäublin says their own research centre at the Kunstmuseum Bern must be considered....  Schäublin on Gurlitt Collection: "On the threshold of the art museum is not stolen art".... Kunstmuseum pledges to fully investigate artwork restitution claims fully.... Central point of the agreement to accept Gurlitt's art collection.... Works of art looted or suspicious do not tread Swiss soil.... Berlin, Munich and Kunstmuseum Bern have signed an agreement on the management of Gurlitt's estate.... Schäublin agreement in accepting Gurlitt collection: Objects with suspicion of being Nazi-looted art will initially remain in Germany....  Bavarian Minister of Justice on the joint Gurlitt accord: "The agreement with the Kunstmuseum Bern is an important step in German history."...  Gurlitt case: The German Minister of Justice says Switzerland is the "right place" for the disputed collection....  Gurlitt press release concludes. Many questions being raised by attendees on state of task force investigation and limbo nazi loot objects.
Here are also two Swiss news outlets that covered the conference (held in German):

http://www.srf.ch/news/panorama/live-aus-berlin-kunstmuseum-bern-nimmt-gurlitt-erbe-an

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/bern-museum-accepts-controversial-art-hoard/41129776

The artworks will remain in Germany while provenance experts study the collecting history of the paintings suspected to have been looted during the Nazi-era.

Here's the latest news from BBC on the Gurlitt art collection and the conference.

Here's a chronology from the German-English news source DW.

Here's a link to the Kunstmuseum's media release (in German).




Gurlitt Art Collection: An Interview with Art Recovery's Christopher Marinello on the eve of the Kunstmuseum's announcement on acceptance or rejection of the bequest by Cornelius Gurlitt

Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Sunday I spoke to Christopher Marinello -- who has presented on several occasions at ARCA's annual art crime conference -- and who is the founder of Art Recovery International.  I interviewed him on the eve of the anticipated decision of whether or not the Kunstmuseum in Bern will accept the art collection bequethed to them by Cornelius Gurlitt. The federal government of Germany, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, and the Kunstmuseum are scheduled to hold a joint press conference on Monday, November 24, 2014 at 11:00 am CET in Berlin regarding the further handling of Cornelius Gurlitt estate.  Marinello represents the Rosenberg heirs seeking restitution of a Matisse painting from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, an action suspended when Gurlitt died and bequeathed the art in his possession to a Swiss museum.

Q: Monday morning the Kunstmuseum Bern will announce their decision to accept or reject the controversial Gurlitt collection. What do you think are some of the main issues they have had to consider and what will they try to address at the conference?

CM: I’m certain the Museum Board has considered the possible legal issues they may be facing as well as the cost involved in researching the group of paintings. Not to mention the publicity and potential reputational damage in being known as the Museum that houses the Gurlitt hoard.

Q: What is the position of your clients, the Rosenberg heirs, who have proved that Matisse was looted by the Nazis and yet are still waiting for the painting to be restituted?

CM: We are patiently waiting for the Museum to accept the Gurlitt bequest and honour their pledge to restitute any and all works deemed to have been looted by the Nazis.

Q: Could you speculate for a moment on why Cornelius Gurlitt picked the Bern museum? Did he have a relationship with them or was he just looking for an institution outside of Germany?

CM: There has been a lot of speculation on Gurlitt’s motives but it is clear, in my view, that he was looking to punish the German State for the treatment he received after his “collection” was seized.

Q: When Gurlitt was disposing of the art -- whom did he trust and do you anticipate further revelations about the collection?

CM: There will be a lot more revealed in the future on this topic. I don’t wish to comment further, if you don’t mind.

Q: What is the Gurlitt family's position regarding the collection -- is there a chance they can succeed in getting a part of the collection?

CM: The Gurlitt family has pledged privately to me, and publicly, to return the looted works to their rightful owners.

Q: How long of a process has this been for your clients and has it been caution that has slowed the restitution process?

CM: My clients have been waiting almost 75 years for the return of this picture and others. It has been over two years since this hoard was discovered by German authorities. I would say that this is a textbook example of how not to handle Nazi restitution cases. Caution or inane bureaucracy?

Q: Does the museum board have the authority to make binding restitution decisions once they take possession of the collection?

CM: Yes.

Q: What role do you anticipate that the Bavarian task force will have, if any, once the Gurlitt collection is accepted by the Bern museum?

CM: They may offer their assistance to the Kunstmuseum. We should hear more about this tomorrow.

Q: What kind of burden is placed on museums today in regard to Nazi-looted art in their collections?

CM: The Washington Principles and the ICOM code of ethics made it pretty clear what is expected of museums today. Review your collections. Conduct proper provenance research. Transparency has never been more important.

Q: What kind of assistance is available to museums regarding provenance research through organizations such as Art Recovery International or the Looted Art Commission?

CM: We offer our services at no cost to cultural institutions that are in need of assistance. Other organisations offer this type of service as well. Help is often available, all they need to do is ask.

Q: Is there a standard report accepted by ICOM to help clarify what is due diligence or satisfactory provenance on artworks in museums?

CM: There are standards set by ICOM and other organisations that museums can follow.

Q: As a lawyer and an art recovery specialist, what would you propose to expedite restitution?

CM: Generally speaking? The opening of archives, more transparency from museums in publishing their collections and their provenance, and more due diligence from every aspect of the art market. Genuine due diligence, not “optical” due diligence.

Q: What have been the lessons learned in the last year in regards to questions of Nazi-looted art in collections such as Gurlitt?

CM: 75 years later we are still facing the issue of Nazi looted art. Largely because the problem was never properly dealt with. Today, banking has become more regulated, the real estate industry is more transparent, yet the art world remains this one big secret. I have no doubt that there are more Cornelius Gurlitts out there. Public and Private collections must be more transparent and due diligence should be an absolute requirement as opposed to a 'best practice' suggestion for the well informed.

November 21, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Swissinfo.ch anticipates Bern museum will accept collection

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Michèle Laird for Swissinfo.ch in "The Gurlitt art collection no one -- and everyone -- wants" reported November 20:
Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts had planned to announce on November 26 whether it will accept the collection. It has now said the announcement will happen two days earlier - and in Berlin. The development supports the rumour that the museum will accept the collection, but leave it in Germany to allow for provenance research to be completed and potential claims to be addressed.
ARCA conference presenter Nicholas O'Donnell is quoted by Laird:
US litigation lawyer, Nicholas O’Donnell, who specialises in wartime restitution claims and produces Art Law Report, has been following the case closely. He believes that the Bern museum will accept the gift, but would likely request some kind of indemnification from Germany to face either the expense of receiving the collection, or restitution costs. “Germany must be considering the possibility just to get rid of the problem,” he told swissinfo.ch.
Laird quotes another ARCA conference presenter, Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, on what 'masterpieces' may be restituted:
One such piece is the Matisse painting, considered to be one of the finest of the collection. Counsel to the Rosenberg heirs, the founder and director of Art Recovery International, Christopher Marinello and his team immediately set the wheels in motion to recover the painting when its existence became known. 
He joins the chorus of criticism against the “insensitive” task force, but praises the individual provenance researchers. In his opinion, they are excellent, but overwhelmed. “You can put together the best football team in the world, but without appropriate coaching and management support, it’s going to be difficult to win a match." 
Provenance research, Matthias Henkel of the German task force reminded swissinfo.ch during an initial exchange, is tremendously difficult and takes more time than anyone can imagine. It is now fairly certain that the one-year deadline to clarify the Gurlitt estate will not be met. 
According to Marinello, the Gurlitt bequest is a great opportunity for a Swiss institution to take the lead and make up for Germany’s deficiencies in this case. “I would urge the Museum of Fine Arts to accept the Gurlitt bequest and resolve the issues over the Nazi-looted works of art in accordance with the Washington Principles,” he stated.   

July 17, 2014

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Paying for The Heist

Picasso's 1971 Harlequin
by Liza Weber, ARCA '14 Student

Lawyers of convicted art thieves of the Kunsthal Rotterdam Heist appeal court’s ruling on grounds that the “responsibility for the theft rested solely with the museum”.

Rapsinews reported that the defense for Radu Dogaru, his mother Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop are appealing the Romanian courts ruling of €18.1 million to be paid to the paintings’ insurers, since the museum had not taken “proper security measures”. The thieves’ lawyers consider “no night guards on the premises” and security “monitored offsite by a private company” as supposedly improper measures.

Dick Drent, Corporate Security Manager for the Van Gogh Museum, contends “to have guards on site is a risk” however. Recalling the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist, where thieves posing as Boston police officers duped the guard on duty, Drent explicated that security personnel “can be used for blackmail, or even taken hostage”.

When I questioned Drent whether the lawyers appeal is as though a last reserve to get their ‘crooks off the hook’, he responded: “It is very easy to lay the problem on the other party—the security was not ok, the paintings were not originals—but we are still dealing with a theft…if the paintings are not real, why were they stolen?”

And why did the thieves go to such tale-spinning lengths to account for their disappearance? The seven still missing paintings suffered an “ignominious” fate; smuggled to Romania in pillowcases, the story goes that the mother of the alleged heist ringleader, Olga, claimed she to have buried the artworks in Caracliu’s village cemetery only to unearth them so as to cook them in her oven, as if “burning a pair of slippers,” art critic Pavel Susara told the Guardian.

It’s a twisted tale with possible substance, however. In July 2013, the director of Romania's National History Museum, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, told the Associated Press that fragments of paint, painting primer, canvas, and copper nails—some of which pre-dated the 20th century—were recovered from Olga’s oven by museum forensic specialists.

When I related the story of the paintings’ destruction to Drent, he intercepted, “no, I don’t believe that story”. He rather predicts, as is the case for the “two missing Van Gogh paintings of the 2002 robbery,” that they will “resurface in due time”. 

But resurfacing where we might question? Identifiable artworks, once stolen, are near impossible to sell on the open market at anything like their auction value. Making an example of Van Gogh’s 1889 Sunflowers “estimated at unthinkable millions,” Drent rhetorically questioned: “Since it will never be on the market, why do we ever try to affix a price?”

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers is priceless. As is Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin Head and Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge, to name but two of the masterpieces stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2012 whilst temporarily on display. Which is not to say that nobody is responsible for reimbursement of the damage done to the paintings…

Rather, where the thieves’ lawyers appeal is for Dick Drent but “a diversion,” and subsequently “a non-issue,” Radu Dogaru, mother Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop will surely pay the price.

Ms. Weber is a freelance journalist.

July 15, 2014

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Romanian court instructs convicted art thieves to repay insurers $26 million for paintings

Lucian Freud's "Woman with
Eyes Closed" (2002)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The AFP reported in "Art thieves ordered to pay millions over missing Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Freud masterpieces" that the four convicted thieves who robbed the Kunsthal Rotterdam in October 2012 must pay 18 million euros ($26 million) to the paintings' insurers (unnamed):
Seven paintings that were temporarily on display at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam were stolen in 2012 in a raid that lasted only three minutes, in what the Dutch media called "the theft of the century". A court in the Romanian capital ordered the heist's mastermind, Radu Dogaru, his mother Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop to reimburse the paintings' insurers. Prosecutors put the total value of the haul at over 18 million euros, while art experts at the time of the heist had claimed the paintings were worth up to 100 million euros. Olga Dogaru had previously told investigators that she burned the paintings in her stove in the village of Carcaliu in eastern Romania in a bid to protect her son when he could not sell them. She later retracted the statement, but a separate investigation is under way to determine if the masterpieces did end up in ashes.
In September 2013, Andrew Higgins for The New York Times reported that the Triton Foundation received $24 million from the underwriter (Lloyd's of London) that insured the stolen paintings in exchange for relinquishing title to the artworks.

Paul Gaugin, "La Fiancée"
Here's a look at the paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation.

The Kunsthal Rotterdam reopened Feb. 1, 2014 after an extensive renovation.

Art theft 'ringleader' convicted in November 2013 and given 6 1/2 year prison sentence; ringleader claims inside help. Three defendants pled guilty in October 2013.

Earlier, in August 2013, a defendants' lawyer claimed that five paintings could be returned if the trial was moved from Romania to The Netherlands.

In July 2013 Andrew Higgins for The New York Times wrote about Facebook's role during the sting operation and how the content from the social media site was used to identify suspects involved in the art theft. The New Yorker blogs that mother of suspect burned paintings. Said mother denies destruction of art; Budapest trial announced; and journalists try to figure out if paintings were actually incinerated.

May 21, 2014

LA Times' Mike Boehm on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia

Mike Boehm, an arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times, publishes today on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia (see here for the museum's announcements earlier this month).

Boehm quoted the museum's legal status in avoiding a lawsuit:
The Norton Simon took a different approach, based on past cordial relations with Cambodia's cultural authorities. Without a suit having been filed, museum representatives went to Phnom Penh for discussions earlier this year. Despite what the museum characterized as "a good-faith difference of views" with Cambodia over whether the Norton Simon was legally obliged to send the statue back, its leaders concluded that there were special reasons to send it home. "While there are extremely strong legal arguments for why we could defeat a claim, and while the Cambodian law is ambiguous at best, in this circumstance it seems appropriate and in keeping with the positive relationship the Norton Simon has had with Cambodia over the years to gift the statue to them," said Luis Li, an attorney for the museum. "They have a very specific archaeological context they want to create, and I think the Norton Simon was moved by that."
And on other Cambodian art at the Norton Simon Museum, Boehm writes:
The Norton Simon Museum will still own 40 ancient Cambodian objects, including a gigantic standing figure of Buddha that serves as a greeter in its lobby, and a lion that crouches on guard near the entrance to the gallery where Bhima will soon no longer preside. It's uncertain whether a dozen other pieces are from Cambodia or from Thailand. "We have not been approached by Cambodian or U.S. officials about other works in the collection and have no indication of future requests," museum spokeswoman Leslie Denk said this week.