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Judicial decision/décision judiciaire

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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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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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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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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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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Collection Varenne – Héritiers Varenne et Ville de Genève

Collection Varenne –  Héritiers Varenne et Ville de Genève

En 2008, un accord est conclu entre la Ville de Genève et les héritiers Varenne portant sur la collection « Varenne ». La Ville de Genève renonce à la donation « Varenne » initiale en échange notamment de CHF 30.000.000.

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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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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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Five Italian Paintings – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Musée du Louvre and France

Five Italian Paintings – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Musée du Louvre and France

In 1998, the heirs of the renowned Jewish art collector Federico Gentili di Giuseppe sued the Louvre Museum seeking the restitution of five paintings. These paintings, which were part of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe’s collection, were bought at auction by Herman Göring in 1941 and transferred to the Musée du Louvre at the end of the Second World War.

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Fresques de Casenoves – Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de la Ville de Genève et la France

Fresques de Casenoves – Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de la Ville de Genève et la France

Le 1er juillet 1997, le Musée d’art et d’histoire de la Ville de Genève et l'Etat français, representé par son Ministère de la culture, ont signé un accord portant sur le prêt de deux fragments des fresques de Casenoves (Christ en Majesté et Adoration des Mages). Le 19 mars 2003, le Conseil administratif de la Ville de Genève a décidé de transformer ce prêt en donation.

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Gravures Dja Dja Wurrung – Musée de Melbourne c. Dja Dja Wurrung

Gravures Dja Dja Wurrung – Musée de Melbourne c. Dja Dja Wurrung

Au printemps 2004, le Musée de Melbourne organise une exposition d’œuvres sur écorces aborigènes. Parmi les biens présentés figurent deux anciennes gravures sur écorces prêtées par le British Museum et les Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. La tribu australienne Dja Dja Wurrung bloque le retour de ces objets en Angleterre. Après des négociations et une médiation infructueuses avec les représentants Dja Dja Wurrung, le Musée de Melbourne intente une action judiciaire.

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Herzog Collection – De Csepel et al. v. Republic of Hungary et al.

The “Herzog Collection” was originally an assembly of over two thousand works of art, collected by Baron Mór Lipót Herzog in the early 1900s. During World War II, the collection was seized by the Hungarian government, under Nazi orders. For the last seven decades, the Herzog Heirs have attempted to reclaim the Collection from the Republic of Hungary, without success. Now, the Herzog Heirs are taking their claim to the United States Supreme Court.

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Hopi Masks – Hopi Tribe v. Néret-Minet and Estimations & Ventes aux Enchères

Hopi Masks – Hopi Tribe v. Néret-Minet and Estimations & Ventes aux Enchères

Between 2013 and 2014, dozens of Hopi’s sacred objects were sold at auctions in Paris despite strong protests and legal actions launched by the Hopi tribe. These actions were unsuccessful because French judicial authorities denied legal standing to the Hopis and considered that the sales did not violate French law.

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Jardin à Auvers – Agent judiciare du Trésor c. Walter

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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Jiroft Collection – Iran v. Barakat Galleries

Jiroft Collection – Iran v. Barakat Galleries

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran sued the London-based Barakat Galleries seeking the restitution of a collection of eighteen carved jars, bowls and cups which had been illicitly excavated in the Jiroft region, in Southeast Iran, and subsequently exported abroad. The Court of Appeal, overruling the trial court decision, held that the relevant laws of Iran were sufficiently clear to vest ownership title and an immediate right of possession of the relics in the Iranian State.

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Ka Nefer Nefer Mask – United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer

Ka Nefer Nefer Mask – United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer

On July 28, 2014, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request of the United States Government to take further legal action regarding the St. Louis Art Museum’s ownership of the 3200 year old Egyptian Ka Nefer Nefer funerary mask.

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