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14 Artworks – Malewicz Heirs and City of Amsterdam
In 2003, 14 artworks by the Russian artist Kazimir Malewicz were exported to the United States by the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam to be part of a temporary exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Menil Collection in Houston. Shortly before the end of the loans, the heirs of Malewicz brought an action against the City of Amsterdam seeking to recover the value of the artworks or, in the alternative, the artworks themselves.
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17 Tasmanian Human Remains – Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and Natural History Museum London
Since the 1980s, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre has made several requests to the Londoner Natural History Museum for the return of 17 Aboriginal human remains held in the collection of the Museum. When their dispute was brought to the Londoner High Court, the court’s judge suggested proceeding by mediation. The dispute was ultimately settled by a mediated agreement, which provided for the dismissal of the legal proceedings and for the repatriation of the remains to Tasmania.
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25 Objets d’art précolombien – Lempertz c. Etat de Rhénanie-du-Nord-Westphalie
La maison de vente aux enchères Lempertz met en vente des objets d’art précolombien. A la demande du Mexique, qui estime que 25 de ces biens appartiennent à son patrimoine culturel, l’Etat de Rhénanie-du-Nord Westphalie rend une ordonnance de saisie conservatoire en vue du retour de 25 biens au Mexique. Saisis par Lempertz, les tribunaux allemands jugent que faute d’effet rétroactif de la Convention UNESCO de 1970 et de sa loi allemande d’application, les conditions pour un retour ne sont pas réunies. Les objets sont transférés à leurs acquéreurs.
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89 Moche Archaeological Objects – Peru v. Johnson
After the discovery of the Moche site of Sipán (Peru) in the mid-eighties, many archaeological objects were looted and smuggled out of the country. In 1987, a smuggler who had been involved in the exportation of these objects to the United States contacted United States Customs agents and led to the eventual seizure of 89 Moche artifacts from Benjamin Johnson, a private collector. The government of Peru sued to retrieve the artifacts from Johnson. Peru’s claim was unsuccessful and the 89 archaeological objects remained in Johnson’s possession.
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200 Paintings – Goudstikker Heirs and the Netherlands
The art collection of Jacques Goudstikker was acquired by the Nazi commander Hermann Göring under suspicious circumstances during the Second World War. A large part of the collection was recovered by the Allied Forces after the war and it was subsequently returned to the Netherlands where it was labelled “Dutch national property”. The first part of these items was bought back by Goudstikker’s wife under a settlement agreement of 1952. The Dutch Government returned the second part – 200 paintings – to Marei Von Saher (the only surviving heir of Jacques Goudstikker) in 2006 based on a recommendation of the Dutch Restitution Committee.
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3000 Archeological Objects – China and Two British Dealers
On 10 February 1998, the Chinese government and two British dealers signed an out-of-court agreement that resolved the question of ownership of over 3000 archaeological objects. Most probably these were transferred to the United Kingdom through illegal excavation and trafficking.
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Aidonia Treasure – Greece and Ward Gallery
A collection of golden Mycenaean jewellery (the Aidonia Treasure) was acquired by the Ward Gallery of New York in early 1993. Before proceeding with the purchase the Gallery made enquiries in various Mediterranean States, including Greece, to find out whether the treasure was stolen. Greece responded in the negative, but it later sued the Gallery seeking restitution.
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Ancient Coins – Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. United States
In an attempt to challenge import regulations in force in the United States (US), the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) imported into the US 23 ancient coins, which were seized by customs officials. The case was litigated from 2007 to 2019, with courts consistently deciding in favour of the US Government and the import restrictions remaining in place.
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Auschwitz Suitcase – Pierre Lévi Heirs and Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Oswiecim and Shoah Memorial Museum Paris
After an initial unsuccessful attempt to negotiate the dispute regarding a suitcase between the heirs of the Holocaust victim Pierre Lévi and the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, the heirs decided to file a restitution claim against the Museum. The parties eventually settled with the help of the Shoah Memorial Museum in Paris and agreed to a long-term loan of the suitcase at the Shoah Memorial Museum.
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Banksy Mural – Bioresource, Inc. and 555 Nonprofit Studio/Gallery
Artists from the 555 Nonprofit Studio/Gallery removed an endangered mural painting by the graffiti artist Banksy from a derelict site in Detroit. The owner of the site, Bioresource, Inc. subsequently filed suit with the Wayne County Circuit Court requesting the wall art’s restitution. The parties finally settled their dispute as the Company agreed to donate the mural to the Gallery, who paid the Company a symbolic amount.
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