Gurlitt Case Impacts the Swiss Confederation:
The Swiss Confederation
is revving up its provenance support! The strong focus on providing financial assistance was probably influenced by the infamous Gurlitt
art trove discovery, where Germany is facing criticism for its scarce results and findings despite a two-year, nearly $2 million provenance investigation by the special task force was created to determine the origins of an art collection amassed by the nazi-era dealer, Hildebrand Gurlitt. The rightful owners of only five works have been identified!
Looking back at 2015:
What a year! One international conference
, three post-graduates, five legal interns, seven art law mixers, dozens of articles, and thousands of readers! Thanks to all active contributors and active participants in our work last year! The best is yet to come -- just think the first civil Knoedler trial is ON!
MoMA Makes Rightful Return:
After a ten-year long provenance investigation, the painting Sand Hills in Engadine
(1917-18) by German Expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner will be returned to the heirs of Max Fischer. The painting's return was made possible by new evidence paired with the rectification of inaccurate provenance information
. The fascinating details of these historical inaccuracies and the painting's return can be found here
Missing Matisse Restitution Refusal:
Descendants of the subject in Henri Matisse’s 1908 painting Portrait of Greta Moll
threatened London's National Gallery with legal action, claiming the work was stolen during WWII. Greta and Oskar Moll, who had original possession of the piece, were condemned by the Nazis during the war as “degenerate” artists and were forced to send their collection to Switzerland for safekeeping. This Matisse portrait went missing, and then in 1949 the now discredited and defunct Knoedler Gallery acquired it for its stock. After changing hands several more times in the following decades, Matisse was purchased by the National Gallery in 1979. The National Gallery has rejected the family’s claim
, adding that even if the work had been stolen, they would be under no obligation to return it. Nevertheless, the question remains as to why the National Gallery did not conduct a full provenance survey at the time of the paintings acquisition.
Modigliani Masterpiece Requests Remittance:
After many go arounds in a family's attempt to reclaim
a Modigliani portrait they assert was taken by the Nazis and is now in the possession of the Helly Nahmad Gallery, a new claim
has been filed in the New York State Supreme Court. The painting's owner at the time of dispossession was Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish Art dealer, who sought return of this work as early as 1946. Complicating the matter are allegations of a shell business holding the painting in a Swiss freeport
, a claim which the defense finds preposterous. The dispute was first initiated in 2011.
Spies Spies Solution:
A French court has overturned
the 2013 decision that would have seen art historian Werner Spies paying (literally) for the misplaced authentication of a work thought to be by Max Ernst. Spies and dealer Jacques de la Béraudière were ordered to pay the purchase price of the painting in 2013 when it was discovered to be a fake, but the newest ruling states that “the author of a catalogue raisonné who expresses an opinion outside of a determined transaction cannot be charged with a responsibility equivalent to that of an expert consulted in the context of a sale.”
Trafficker Transfers Tainted Antiquities:
Despite numerous convictions and all evidence stacked against him, pre-Colombia antiquities dealer Leonardo Patterson
maintains that he does not traffic illicit works of art. Patterson's most recent conviction
came last week from a German court which found him guilty of selling fakes and possessing looted objects. Patterson has been investigated by numerous countries and agencies since first being charged with attempting to sell fakes in 1984. The most recent case seems to indicate that Patterson's lucrative career as an art smuggler may be coming to a quick end.
Dutch Hostages in Ukraine: Twenty four paintings
from the Dutch Golden Age Era have been discovered in Ukraine, a decade after their theft from the Westfries Museum
. The paintings are thought to be in the hands of an "ultra-nationalist militia" who most recently attempted to collect a $5 million euro ransom for them. Some worry the paintings are now being sold, or have been sold already. Some fear the effect this will have on already strained diplomatic relations in Europe.
Italy's Cultural Patrimony:
Auction houses are lobbying for a change to Italy's cultural heritage rules, which currently prohibits the sale of works of art older than fifty years without first being reviewed by the government. Such regulations are in place to keep important items that reflect Italy's cultural heritage in the country, but has recently caused a bit of uproar when the sale of a Dalì
--who was not Italian--painting was blocked. The lobbyists are advocating for a one hundred year rule, but it looks like the issue might be settled somewhere in the middle at seventy years. The proposal also excludes any work valued under 150,000 euros, which critics find extremely problematic since the market, rather than significance, is used in the valuation of cultural heritage.