|“Hermann-Neisse with Cognac”|
Last Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Federal District Court ruling denying the attempts by the late painter George Grosz to seek the return of three works currently held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The estate argued Grosz was forced to leave the works with his art dealer when the artist fled Nazi persecution in 1938.
In New York, the limitations period does not begin to run until a claimant demands, and is refused, a disputed work. So after that first request the claimant has three years to bring suit. In this case, the latest time in which that occurred was in 2005, while suit was not brought until April 10, 2010.
The Grosz estate argued that settlement negotiations were ongoing in 2005, and that under principles of fairness and equity (what the law calls equitable estoppel) the suit should not be time barred. So, an unsuccessful repatriation suit. The Met had declined to borrow at least one of the works in 2006 due to concerns about its provenance.
The disputed works were, Hermann-Neisse with Cognac, Self-Portrait with Model, and Republican Automatons.
Grosz v. Museum of Modern Art, (2nd Cir., 2010)