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Great Zimbabwe Bird – Zimbabwe and Prussia Cultural Heritage Foundation, Germany
The lower half of a stone bird discovered in Zimbabwe under dubious circumstances was bought by the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin around 1907. During the Second World War, the stone was removed by the Russian Army. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was returned to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin. In 2000, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation – which managed the collection of this museum – under the pressure of the German federal government finally returned the fragment of the stone bird to Zimbabwe under the terms of a permanent loan.
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Khmer Statue – Cambodia and Sotheby’s and the United States
In March 2011, Sotheby’s offered at auction in New York a Khmer statue. The statue was pulled out of the sale as a result of Cambodia’s request for its restitution. Cambodia claimed that it was illegally removed from the site Koh Ker during the 1970s and should be returned to them.
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Liberation of Saint Peter from Prison – Feldmann Heirs and Private Person
In 2002, an American professor spontaneously contacted the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) as she suspected that the drawing she had inherited, “The Liberation of Saint Peter from Prison”, was looted from Arthur Feldmann during WWII. IFAR established evidence which confirmed her suspicions and acted as a facilitator, together with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, in the negotiations between the professor and the Feldmann heirs. In 2004, the professor agreed on the unconditional restitution of the drawing to the Feldmann heirs.
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Machu Picchu Collection – Peru and Yale University
Between 1912 and 1916, Hiram Bingham, a history professor at Yale University, shipped to the United States several artefacts that had been excavated at the Machu Picchu site with the authorization of the Peruvian Government. Peru formally requested restitution in 1918 and 1920, but to no avail. In 2001, negotiations between Peru and Yale University resumed. However, the resulting accord discontented the Peruvian Government. As a result, Peru filed suit in the United States against Yale University seeking the return of the collection and damages.
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Masque Makondé – Tanzanie et Musée Barbier-Mueller
En 2010, le Musée Barbier-Mueller fait don du Masque Makondé à la Tanzanie, et met ainsi fin à un litige qui aura duré plus de 20 ans. Le litige fut porté devant le Comité intergouvernemental de l’UNESCO. L’Office fédéral suisse de la culture (OFC) est aussi intervenu.
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Quatre momies – Chili et Personne privée
Le 20 janvier 2011, un particulier restitue quatre momies vieilles de 4000 à 6000 ans au Chili. Des représentants du Chili, des responsables du Musée d’Ethnographie de la Ville de Genève et le Service spécialisé de l’Office fédéral de la culture ont joué un rôle déterminant dans cette affaire.
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Sammlung 101 - City of Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen and Russia
In the 1990s, Russia and the City of Bremen began to negotiate for the return of “Sammlung 101”, a collection of 101 drawings. The drawings were transferred from the Kunsthalle Bremen (Bremen Art Museum) to Russia in the aftermath of the Second World War by a Soviet soldier.
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Two Bronze Animal Heads – China and Pierre Bergé
In February of 2009, Christie’s offered at auction two 18th-century bronze fountainheads – a rabbit and a rat – owned by the estate of Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime-partner Pierre Bergé. Stolen from the Old Summer Palace by British and French forces during the Second Opium War in 1860, the two heads’ sale provoked controversial international debate, inspiring a Chinese national to bid upon the bronzes at auction and refuse payment. In June of 2013, François-Henri Pinault, owner of Christie’s, returned to China the fountainheads in an effort to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations between France and China.
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Two Souza paintings – Kurtha v. Marks
In 1982, Dr Aziz Kurtha purchased two paintings from the Indian artist Francis Souza. They were stolen years later and their ownership changed a number of times, before Michael Marks purchased them on 10 January 2006.
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Vallée de la Stour – Héritiers Jaffé et La Chaux-de-Fonds
En 2006, la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds reçoit une demande de restitution pour le tableau « La Vallée de la Stour » de John Constable exposé au Musée des beaux-arts de La Chaux-de-Fonds. Le requérant représente les ayants droit héritiers de John et Anna Jaffé, dont les biens, y compris ce tableau, ont été spoliés par les Nazis durant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Après avoir d’abord refusé, la Ville accepte de restituer le tableau à l’automne 2017 suite à une procédure de conciliation judiciaire. Le Tableau est restitué aux héritiers le 12 mars 2018.
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