Friday, 9 May 2014

The Pissarro Painting in the News (Daily Mail and ARIS)

There was an updated article on the Pissarro painting in today's Daily Mail. It offers a fairly detailed description of the painting's story, and explains how it arrived at the Fred Jones Museum, where it remains on display today. Here's a snippet of the article, followed by commentary by ARIS, a New York-based art title insurance company and experts in the field of art provenance:

January 19, 2014 - Daughter of former owner of a painting stolen by Nazis is suing the University of Oklahoma in hopes of getting it back

DAILY MAIL - The sole heir of Raoul Meyer, a Jewish businessman who lost his art collection including a Camille Pissarro painting during WWII, has sued the University of Oklahoma (OU) in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover the painting and damages. In 1953, Mr. Meyer was unsuccessful in a lawsuit against a Swiss art dealer to recover the painting because his claim was deemed untimely under Swiss law after the five-year statute of limitations had passed. The painting has been exhibited at OU’s museum since 2000 when it was donated as part of a larger donation of important French Impressionist paintings by Mr. and Mrs. Weitzenhoffer, good faith buyers who bought the painting from a New York gallery and were unaware of the prior Nazi theft.
[Read the rest of the article here]

ARIS Commentary: 
The Meyer-OU dispute highlights common financial, moral and legal issues surrounding allegedly Nazi-looted artworks in public museum or university collections including in particular the conflict and outcome determinative differences between the ownership laws of the United States and civil code jurisdictions such as Switzerland. OU and its trustees face a difficult quandary of either paying for litigation defense costs and relying upon the 1953 Swiss judicial ruling with uncertain legal outcome or restituting the painting and losing a significant, valuable artwork in the collection, possibly in breach of the 2000 donation. The art market legal title risk and unique public trust, fiduciary predicament facing the U.S. nonprofit museum community, its leadership and trustees is discussed in greater depth in an ARIS technical paper (see ARIS News, April 23, 2013).