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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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Elmali Hoard – Turkey and OKS Partners
In 1999, OKS Partners, a consortium comprised of, among others, the American businessman William Koch, returned to Turkey nearly 1700 ancient coins. The coins were part of the Elmali Hoard, a precious and rare collection of ancient coins, also called the “Hoard of the Century,” that had been illegally excavated and smuggled out of Turkey in 1984.
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Three Grosz Paintings – Grosz Heirs v. Museum of Modern Art
In April of 2009, after a decade-long search for artworks lost during Nazi persecution, George Grosz’s legal heirs brought action against the Museum of Modern Art, seeking declaration of title and replevin as to three of the artist’s paintings in the Museum’s possession, and requesting damages for their unlawful conversion. Holding that the action was time-barred by the statute of limitations, the District Court granted the museum’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York affirmed the order on appeal, and the United States Supreme Court denied the Heirs’ writ of certiorari.
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Chagall Gouache – Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Lubell
In 1993, the Guggenheim Foundation, Mrs. Rachel Lubell, and other interested parties reached a settlement regarding a Marc Chagall painting that had been stolen from the Museum and purchased by Mrs. Lubell almost thirty years prior. Though a trial court had originally held the Guggenheim’s suit seeking recovery was time-barred, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s decision and clarified New York’s “demand and refusal” rule. On remand, the parties settled just one day after the new trial began.
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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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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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Kennewick Man – Bonnichsen v. United States
The skeleton of a 9,000 year old man was discovered on Federal territory near the city of Kennewick, Washington. Authorities decided to grant the request of five American Indian tribes, and transferred the remains to those tribes for burial. Several scientists, including Robson Bonnichsen, opposed the return and filed suit in the District Court of Oregon. Finding that evidence was not sufficient to link the remains to any present-day American Indian tribe, the District Court vacated the authority’s decision and ordered further examination of the remains. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the order on appeal.
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14 Archaeological Objects – Italy and Cleveland Museum of Art
On 19 November 2008, the Italian Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities and the Cleveland Museum of Art signed an agreement concerning 14 archaeological objects in the museum’s collection. This agreement provides for the return to Italy of the artworks in exchange for loans of “a similar number of works of equal aesthetic and historical significance”.
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Portrait of a Young Peasant – Beyeler v. Italy
In its judgment of 5 January 2000, the European Court of Human Rights held that the Italian State violated Mr. Beyeler’s right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions while using its pre-emption right over the Van Gogh painting “Portrait of a Young Peasant”.
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Jardin à Auvers – Agent judiciare du Trésor c. Walter
Dans son arrêt du 20 février 1996, la Cour de Cassation de la France a condamné l’Etat français à indemniser le propriétaire d’un tableau dont l’exportation avait été refusée pour cause de classement d’office.
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