Checking in on Repatriated works

Rachel Donadio reports for the New York Times on a number of repatriated antiquities back in their nation of origin. The list includes la dea di Aidone in Sicily, the Weary Heracles in Turkey, the Lysi frescoes on Cyprus, and the Euphronios Krater in the Villa Giulia. Only the Lysi frescos, returned by the Menil […]

Read more
Alternative text

Klerman on ‘Choice of Law and Property’

Daniel Klerman, of the University of Southern California Law School, has a new paper titled “Jurisdiction, Choice of Law and Property” up on SSRN. The piece looks at international choice of law generally, but he argues that the situs rule produces bad outcomes with respect to stolen art disputes. Instead, he argues the lex originis […]

Read more
Alternative text

My article on Italian Forfeiture of the Getty Bronze

My article “Transnational forfeiture of the Getty Bronze” examining the Italian efforts to forfeit the Getty Bronze will be appearing in Volume 32 of Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal (forthcoming, 2014) soon. Later in May the Italian Court of Cassation is expected to perhaps give a final ruling. In the meantime here is my […]

Read more
Alternative text

Victoria Reed on Monuments Woman Ardelia Hall

Victoria Reed (Sadler Curator for Provenance at the MFA Boston) has a republished piece in the International Journal of Cultural Property titled: “Ardelia Hall: From Museum of Fine Arts to Monuments Woman“. From the abstract: Ardelia Ripley Hall (1899–1979) served from 1946 until 1962 as the Fine Arts and Monuments Adviser to the U.S. Department […]

Read more
Alternative text

The Getty will Return a 12th C. Manuscript to Greece

The Getty has announced the return of a 12th-century Byzantine illuminated New Testament. Details are scarce in the piece, other than a record in 1960 from the Monastary indicated the Manuscript was missing. The object was acquired in 1983 as part of a “large, well-documented” collection. From the Getty’s release: The manuscript was acquired by […]

Read more
Alternative text

60 minutes tackles the Gurlitt art hoard

The interesting story is how Gurlitt and his father were able to explain and justify the possession of these works for so many years, else keep it so well-hidden. The 30-year German statute of limitations on stolen art claims now also supports his current possession (though if there is any evidence Gurlitt knew these works […]

Read more
Alternative text
One of the Lysi frescoes on display in Houston at the Menil's Byzantine Chapel Museum

One of the Lysi frescoes on display in Houston at the Menil’s Byzantine Chapel Museum

Rachel Donadio reports for the New York Times on a number of repatriated antiquities back in their nation of origin. The list includes la dea di Aidone in Sicily, the Weary Heracles in Turkey, the Lysi frescoes on Cyprus, and the Euphronios Krater in the Villa Giulia.

Only the Lysi frescos, returned by the Menil to Cyprus after a 20 year loan agreement were acquired with permission of the creator communities:

In rare cases, a repatriation is arranged so that a collector knowingly buys works identified as stolen to protect them from being further damaged or broken up. That happened in 1985, when the art collector Dominique de Menil bought some 13th-century Byzantine frescoes from a Turkish art dealer after the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and government officials there identified them as having been stolen.

When she was first offered the works, depicting Christ Pantocrator and the Virgin Mary with the Christ child surrounded by the archangels Michael and Gabriel, Mrs. de Menil was skeptical about their provenance. She quietly approached the Church of Cyprus, which said the frescoes had been secreted out of the apse and the dome of the church of St. Euphemianos in Lyssi, in a part of Cyprus that had been annexed by Turkey in 1974.

Mrs. de Menil pledged to buy them — and return them to Cyprus in 20 years. The Menil Collection in Houston paid for the frescoes’ restoration, which took years. It built a bespoke minimalist space for them next to its Rothko Chapel and put them on display there in 1998. Themuseum had been hoping that Cyprus would extend the agreement and allow them to keep the works on view.

But in 2012, Cyprus asked for them back, in a climate in which the new government and leadership of the Church of Cyprus have been increasingly aggressive in their campaign to call attention to the deconsecrated Christian religious sites in the areas of Cyprus that Turkey still controls.

The Menil Collection made good on its promise. “Of course we were sad, but in the end we were very proud because ethically, from a moral point of view, this was exactly what needed to happen,” said Josef Helfenstein, the director of the Menil Collection.

The frescoes are now on view in the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation Byzantine Museum and Gallery in Nicosia, Cyprus’s second-most visited museum, “until the day they will be put back in the chapel,” said John Eliades, the director of the Byzantine Museum. That might not be so easy.

  1. Rachel Donadio, Repatriated Works Back in Their Countries of Origin, N.Y. Times, April 17, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/arts/design/repatriated-works-back-in-their-countries-of-origin.html.
One of the stolen Mosaics at issue in AUTOCEPHALOUS GREEK-ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS vs.GOLDBERG, 917 F. 2d 278 (7th Cir., 1990)

One of the stolen Mosaics at issue in AUTOCEPHALOUS GREEK-ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS vs.GOLDBERG, 917 F. 2d 278 (7th Cir., 1990)

Daniel Klerman, of the University of Southern California Law School, has a new paper titled “Jurisdiction, Choice of Law and Property” up on SSRN. The piece looks at international choice of law generally, but he argues that the situs rule produces bad outcomes with respect to stolen art disputes. Instead, he argues the lex originis rule produces better outcomes. From the abstract:

Jurisdiction and choice of law in property disputes has been remarkably stable. The situs rule, which requires adjudication where the property is located and application of that state’s law, remains the norm in most of the world. This article is the first to apply modern economic analysis to choice of law and jurisdiction in property disputes. It largely confirms the wisdom of the situs rule, but suggests some situations where other rules may be superior. For example, in disputes about stolen art, the state where the work was last undisputedly owned may be both the most efficient forum and the best source of applicable law.

 

 

My article “Transnational forfeiture of the Getty Bronze” examining the Italian efforts to forfeit the Getty Bronze will be appearing in Volume 32 of Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal (forthcoming, 2014) soon. Later in May the Italian Court of Cassation is expected to perhaps give a final ruling.

In the meantime here is my analysis of how Italy could successfully use its Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States to secure repatriation.

From the Introduction:

Italy has been engaged in an ongoing fifty-year struggle to recover an ancient Greek bronze. The “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth” has a remarkable story. It was lost at sea in the Adriatic in antiquity; found by chance in international waters; smuggled into the Italian seaside village of Fano; hidden first in a bathtub, then a cabbage field; smuggled and hidden in Brazil; later conserved in Germany and London; and ultimately purchased by the Getty Museum only months after the death of the Trust’s namesake, J. Paul Getty. Getty refused to allow his museum to purchase the statue during his lifetime without a thorough and diligent inquiry into the title history of the Bronze, a step the trustees of the Getty did not take prior to acquisition of the Bronze.

The question is not whether the Bronze was illicit when the Getty trustees made the decision to acquire it. It most certainly was, and still is. The question now is whether the Getty will be able to continue to retain possession. In the press and in cultural property circles, the Bronze is considered nearly un-repatriatable given this convoluted history. But an Italian forfeiture action in Pesaro has quietly set in motion a means by which Italy might repatriate the Bronze through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. This transnational forfeiture marks the creation of a useful new tool in the struggle to repatriate looted and stolen cultural objects. And perhaps more importantly, the dispute signals a continuing trend reflecting the importance of domestic law in source nations in cultural heritage law.

Ardelia Ripley Hall at a ceremony returning a Rubens to Germany

Ardelia Ripley Hall at a ceremony returning a Rubens to Germany

Victoria Reed (Sadler Curator for Provenance at the MFA Boston) has a republished piece in the International Journal of Cultural Property titled: “Ardelia Hall: From Museum of Fine Arts to Monuments Woman“. From the abstract:

Ardelia Ripley Hall (1899–1979) served from 1946 until 1962 as the Fine Arts and Monuments Adviser to the U.S. Department of State. In this role she oversaw the recovery and restitution of movable cultural property that had been displaced during the Second World War. In spite of her vast accomplishments, almost nothing has been written on Ardelia Hall, and little is known about her life. She began her career at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, but personal circumstances led to her resignation in 1941. During the war, she was employed by the Office of Strategic Services. The expertise she established as an art historian working with the Roberts Commission at this time led to her appointment at the State Department in 1946. This essay traces for the first time Hall’s remarkable journey from curatorial researcher to adviser on international art restitution.

 

  1. Victoria Reed, Ardelia Hall: From Museum of Fine Arts to Monuments Woman, FirstView International Journal of Cultural Property 1–15 (2014).
An image from the illuminated Manuscript

An image from the illuminated Manuscript

The Getty has announced the return of a 12th-century Byzantine illuminated New Testament. Details are scarce in the piece, other than a record in 1960 from the Monastary indicated the Manuscript was missing. The object was acquired in 1983 as part of a “large, well-documented” collection.

From the Getty’s release:

The manuscript was acquired by the Getty Museum in 1983 as part of a large, well-documented collection. Recent research on the object by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, which was conducted in close collaboration with the Getty, suggested that the New Testament had not been legally transferred from the Monastery of Dionysiou. This was confirmed by a recently obtained 1960 monastery record indicating that the book had been illegally removed. The report of its disappearance had never been made public, nor had information about the theft been made available to the Getty, to law enforcement, or to any databases of stolen art.

The Getty is right to point out in the release that this is a voluntary return which came about as a result of the agreements entered into by the Museum as a result of other returns of illicit material. But one wonders about this other collection, if there are other objects in that collection which may be suspect, and how exactly the facts surrounding this return came to light.

 

Press Release, The J. Paul Getty Museum Announces the Return of A Byzantine Illuminated New Testament to Greece, http://news.getty.edu/press-materials/press-releases/byzantine-manu-to-greece.htm (April 7, 2014).

The interesting story is how Gurlitt and his father were able to explain and justify the possession of these works for so many years, else keep it so well-hidden. The 30-year German statute of limitations on stolen art claims now also supports his current possession (though if there is any evidence Gurlitt knew these works were stolen would surely be grounds for challenging his possession).

 

His lawyers claim that with “clear evidence” Mr. Gurlitt will return works to claimants. Gathering that evidence is of course extremely difficult. And how clear is clear:

Continue Reading…

Last week it was revealed that Hungary has purchased seven works out of the “Sevso Hoard” a notorious collection of Roman-era silver whose beauty was matched only by the number of investors and nations of origin scrambling to decide on its disposition. At the time it seemed a bit curious that only a portion of the treasure was purchased. Now Margit Feher reports on Hungary’s Central Bank. It has some funds set aside buy Hungarian art with a 100m Euro fund. Rather than use diplomacy or the courts, it is the market itself which is the vehicle for returning works:

Hungary’s central bank said in January that it plans to spend 100 million euros ($136.8 million) by the end of 2018 on buying Hungarian works of art that have ended up in foreign hands during the country’s eventful history.

Visual art as well as literature plays a core role to define Hungarian identity. The cultivation of a sense of national togetherness is among the main goals of the current government, in which central bank Governor György Matolcsy, a close ally of the prime minister, served as economy minister between 2010 and March 2013.

“Hungarians have survived throughout the ages because they have been feeding on the 1,000-year-old cultural heritage of the Hungarian Kingdom, the statehood, only morsels of which have survived,” said Mária Prokopp, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Art at the Eötvös Lóránd University in Budapest.

The goal of the central bank’s art program “is to repatriate the highest possible number of major works of art” to protect and treasure the nation’s cultural legacy, the National Bank of Hungary said. It didn’t say how it intended to finance the program that roughly equals three times its operating expenses in 2012.

  1. Margit Feher, Hungary Central Bank to Buy Art, Emerging Europe Real Time (2014).

20625578Design and proportion are the things that stand out in any Wes Anderson film. But in his new film it is Art with a capital ‘A’ that stands out. Art is the looming plot engine in Anderson’s excellent new film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. The film travels back in time through a series of flashbacks, starting first in 1985 at the grave of a writer who had visited the hotel, then to 1968 when that author dined with the Hotel’s owner, Zero Mustafa. And then finally the film flashes all the way back to the 1930s when Zero was a protégé of Mr. Gustave H. (played by Ralph Fiennes). Many critics have pointed out the whimsical nature of much of the film, how it carries us to a simpler time before the horrors of the Second World War and the holocaust. A prison scene with Fiennes and his jailmates using a “throatslitter” to divide sweets made me laugh out loud, and also a little queasy.

Continue Reading…

The 900-year-old dancing Shiva statue was removed from display

The 900-year-old dancing Shiva statue was removed from display

The case of the looted Dancing Shiva statue has evolved very quickly. Andrew Sayers, the director of the National Gallery of Australia has resigned. And now the Indian government wants the looted material returned:

The Indian government formally requested the return of a 900-year-old Dancing Shiva statue from the National Gallery of Australia and a stone sculpture of the god Ardhanarishvara from the Art Gallery of NSW last week.

The Attorney-General’s Department issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the Art Gallery of NSW had “voluntarily removed” its sculpture from public display – one day after it was announced the National Gallery would remove its allegedly looted statue from exhibition.

Both artefacts were bought from antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is on trial in India for looting and wanted in the United States for allegedly masterminding a large-scale antiquities smuggling operation.

A first secretary of India’s High Commission, Tarun Kumar, said it was “our expectation” both statues would be returned to India. “We expect a decision in that regard will be taken within the next month,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Department said on Wednesday that there was no time limit in the legislation for responding to the Indian government’s request.

The Canberra-based National Gallery paid $US5 million for the Dancing Shiva statue in February 2008. The statue was one of 22 items it bought from Mr Kapoor’s Art of the Past gallery for a total of $11 million between 2002 and 2011.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/india-wants-looting-scandal-statues-including-dancing-shiva-returned-in-30-days-20140327-35lhn.html#ixzz2xHHhXu4p

downloadI have had five wonderful years serving ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art), but in any professional endeavor, there comes a time to leave. For me that time is now. I have made the decision to resign due to differences regarding the management of the organization. Though I respect much of the work ARCA has done; share its passion for exposing heritage crime; and understand the struggles of small non-profits; as an advocate who urges transparency on the part of museums and auction houses, I must part ways when my concerns have not been addressed.