Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Art Litigation: Boston Museum of Fine Arts Extorts Westfeld Heirs in Nazi Art Scandal
Rather than freely returning artworks stolen from victims of Nazi persecution, U.S. museums offer heirs less than fair market value, usually under secretive circumstances. This type of systematic extortion has been condemned in many other countries, such as Austria, which engaged in similar practices folllowing World War II.
Below, Walter Westfeld's heir describes how the Museum of Fine Arts Boston insisted on a confidential settlement, rather than returning a stolen artwork in its possession. Check the MFA's website here, there is no information on this transaction.
I tried to find some information on the provenance on Eglon van der Neer Portrait of a Man and a Woman In an Interior (1666). My access to that portion of the MFA's website was blocked.
A puff piece on the MFA's purported provenance research here. The MFA claims that it prepares reports by a woman named Victoria Reed, but none of these reports appear to be made public. Ms. Reed is a "curator of provenance" - which appears to be a synonym for a launderer of stolen artworks.
At issue is the role of U.S. museums in buying stolen art on an industrial level before, during and after World War II, profiting from the misery of murdered European Jews. The role of U.S. museums in acquiring stolen art has largely been ignored by academics, with U.S. museums cloaking their actions in secrecy. Although U.S. museums claim to engage in provenance research, little or none of this research is published, few original documents are made available, and no research is available on how much of a burden this traffic in stolen art has placed on U.S. taxpayers.
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Labels: art litigation, confidential information, museum of fine arts boston, nazi art looting, replevin, stolen art, stolen art in museums, walter westfeld
Partner in Manhattan law firm Dunnington Bartholow & Miller LLP in New York City litigating in federal and state courts and arbitrations. Experienced trial and appellate practitioner. Author: Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters 2015-2016). The New York Law Journal called it "an indispensable guide". Serve on the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association, served as Chair of the Circuit Vice Presidents, Vice President for the Second Circuit and General Counsel. Member Board of Governors, National Arts Club. President, Network of Bar Leaders (2013-2014). Attorney advertising disclaimer - prior results do not guarantee success. The statements and opinions voiced here are my own and not of my law firm.