Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Second Circuit, Nazi Looted Art, and Why Museums Are Letting ISIS Flourish

Camille Pissaro - La Bergere Rentrant des Moutons

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has remanded a case against the University of Oklahoma brought by a Jewish woman seeking the return of a painting by Camille Pissaro that had been stolen by the Nazis from her father.

This case is one of a wave in the United States where museums have asserted statutes of limitations to hold artwork that the museums know to be stolen from Jewish families.  This violates an international agreement that the United States signed in 1998 known as the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.

I discuss why museum directors who launder stolen art, rather than return it to the families from whom it was stolen should be prosecuted and jailed in a law review article Nazi Looted Art and Cocaine:  When Museum Directors Take It, Call The Cops.

If you are interested in the topic, please check out this 2014 report by the Jewish Claims Conference:  Art and Judaica Looted by Nazis from Jews Still Largely Unidentified; Review of 50 Countries Shows Little Progress Despite International Pacts   It blasts museums for failing to follow their own ethics codes.

U.S. museums are the ultimate repository for billions in stolen art, meaning that the U.S. taxpayer finances looting operations, past and present.  To understand how ISIS finances its operations through looted antiquities, I recommend Col Matthew Bogdanos' lectures and his book The Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine's Passion For Ancient Civilizations and the Journey To Recover The World's Greatest Stolen Treasures.   The Colonel and I recently spoke at the National Arts Club where he described the role of museums and auction houses in laundering antiquities.

When will prosecutors have the courage to take on The American Alliance of Museums?  The National Stolen Property Act has long forbid the transport, possession and concealment of stolen property (as does the law of every state), but prosecutors don't have the gumption to take on rich, powerful and popular museums.  The result is that tax breaks are given out for donations of stolen property.  The U.S. taxpayer is the victim, our museums have been transformed into laundering institutions, and we wonder why organizations like ISIS continue to flourish,.  Prosecutors too dumb to follow the money or too interested in taking easy cases that won't offend anyone wealthy.
 Copyright law, fine art and navigating the courts. All practice, no theory.Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters Westlaw 2014-2015) by Raymond J. Dowd
 Copyright Litigation Handbook on Westlaw

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