Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Art Litigation: US Executive Policy, Nazi Looted Art and Flechtheim's Nose

Rudolph Belling's Portrait of Alfred Flechtheim at Harvard

Professor Jennifer Kreder attacks the subject of US Executive policy on Nazi-looted art on the Prawfsblawg here.  The Executive Branch started an exception to the Act of State Doctrine known as the "Bernstein Exception".   In the Bernstein case, the State Department indicated to the Southern District of New York that it was free to unwind any act of the Nazis because the US did not consider the Nazis a legitimate government and the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's power to review and invalidate Nazi acts.

Very few people know about the Bernstein case and its continuing application to Nazi-looted art cases.  U.S. museums have taken the position that Hitler's acts of stripping German museums of Jewish and "degenerate" artworks should be considered legitimate governmental acts in a bid to hold onto artworks stolen from German museums.

This is problematic on many levels.  Today, the American Association of Museum Directors is desperately trying to keep these stolen artworks by falsifying and concealing the provenance of artworks in its collections and by trying to have Hitler's acts rubber-stamped by the federal courts.

The stolen loot should be returned and American museums should start acknowledging their debts to Germany's Jewish community and the German avant-garde of the 1920's and 30's.

A look at MoMA's website today shows that the MoMA still can't find a picture of Alfred Flechtheim's nose (above) which according to Boston Modern author Judith Bookbinder was the very first modern German sculpture collected by Harvard and what became the Busch-Reisinger Museum.  My posts on Alfred Flechtheim and his tragic story, which has never been recounted by any of the members of the American Association of Museums or American Association of Museum Directors, and MoMA's inability to find Flechtheim's nose here.

MoMA's Portrait of Alfred Flechtheim was gifted to it by Nazi agent Curt Valentin, more on Valentin here.

Maybe MoMA could ask Judith Bookbinder to find Alfred Flechtheim's nose?

Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook from West here  

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