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Judicial claim/action en justice

14 Artworks – Malewicz Heirs and City of Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Buste d’un jeune garçon – Héritiers Gentili di Giuseppe et Art Institute de Chicago

Buste d’un jeune garçon – Héritiers Gentili di Giuseppe et Art Institute de Chicago

En 1999, les héritiers de l’important collectionneur d’art de confession juive Federico Gentili di Giuseppe ont contacté l’Art Institute de Chicago afin d’obtenir la restitution d’un buste de Francesco Mochi (« Buste d’un jeune garçon »). Ce buste avait été vendu en France lors d’une vente par la suite annulée par les juges français car constitutive de spoliation.

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Canon Tables – Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America and J. Paul Getty Museum

Canon Tables – Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America and J. Paul Getty Museum

The Canon Tables of the Zeyt’un Gospels were illegally separated from the manuscript sometime between 1915-1923. Having discovered that the Tables had been stolen and were held at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church engaged in a legal battle with the Getty regarding the restitution of the Tables. After five years, the two sides reached a settlement in 2015.

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Chagall Gouache – Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Lubell

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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Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Italy

Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Italy

In 1941, the painting “Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal” by Girolamo Romanino was confiscated by Nazi-controlled French authorities from Federico Gentili di Giuseppe – an Italian of Jewish descent living in Paris – and then sold at auction.

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Collection japonaise de Netsuke – Winkworth c. Christie’s

Collection japonaise de Netsuke – Winkworth c. Christie’s

Une collection de Netsuke est dérobée en Angleterre, vendue à un collectionneur de bonne foi en Italie et finalement proposée aux enchères en Angleterre. William Winkworth, le propriétaire originaire, reconnaît les objets sur le catalogue de la maison de vente aux enchères Christie’s et agit en justice à Londres afin de voir reconnaître sa propriété sur les biens.

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Cranach Diptych – Goudstikker Heirs and Norton Simon Museum

Cranach Diptych – Goudstikker Heirs and Norton Simon Museum

The Cranach diptych “Adam and Eve” was presumably part of Jacques Goudstikker’s collection looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. For several years, Goudstikker’s sole heir, Marei von Saher, and the Norton Simon Museum have led unsuccessful negotiations regarding the heir’s restitution claim. Notwithstanding the support received by the State of California and by several organizations, Marei von Saher’s claims in replevin were dismissed by both the District Court for the Central District of California and by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The heir’s battle is still ongoing.

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Deux cavaliers sur la plage – Héritiers Friedmann, Kunstmuseum de Berne, République fédérale d’Allemagne et Etat libre de Bavière

Deux cavaliers sur la plage – Héritiers Friedmann, Kunstmuseum de Berne, République fédérale d’Allemagne et Etat libre de Bavière

En 1942, le marchand d’art Hildebrand Gurlitt reçoit le tableau Deux cavaliers sur la plage de Max Liebermann qui a été spolié au collectionneur juif David Friedmann. Il meurt en 1956 et son fils Cornelius hérite de sa riche collection d’œuvres. La collection est découverte par hasard en 2012 et conservée secrètement par les autorités allemandes afin de déterminer l’origine des objets.

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Die Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee – X. v. Switzerland

Die Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee – X. v. Switzerland

The painting “Die Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee” was bought in 1948 by François de Diesbach. After de Diesbach’s death, the painting was forgotten within the Swiss embassy. When the Swiss embassy decided to donate the painting to the Liebermann Villa, a distant relative of de Diesbach seized a Swiss court and claimed ownership over the painting. The High Court of the Canton of Bern ultimately held that the Swiss Confederation had acquired ownership over the painting.

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Egyptian Archaeological Objects – United States v. Frederick Schultz

Egyptian Archaeological Objects – United States v. Frederick Schultz

On 16 July 2001, Frederick Schultz, a New York antiquities dealer, was indicted on one count of conspiring to receive stolen Egyptian antiquities in violation of the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA). Under the NSPA, it is a crime to deal in property that has been “stolen, unlawfully converted or taken, knowing the same to be stolen”.

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Elmali Hoard – Turkey and OKS Partners

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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