July 31, 2018 Practice Points

Art Stolen by Nazis Allowed to Be Kept by Museum Rather Than Owner

The Ninth Circuit has held that a California museum may retain possession of two Renaissance masterworks that had been taken by the Nazis from their owner by a forced sale during World War II.

By Sanford Hausler

The Ninth Circuit has held that a California museum may retain possession of two Renaissance masterworks that had been taken by the Nazis from their owner by a forced sale during World War II. After the war, the works were returned to the Netherlands, which had set up a system for claims to be made for Nazi-looted property. On the advice of counsel, the heirs of the original owner of the works did not make a claim. The Netherlands sold the paintings to an individual who later sold them to the museum. The Ninth Circuit held that the sale by the Netherlands was a sovereign act and, accordingly, any attempt to recoup the works of art were barred by the act-of-state doctrine.

Sanford Hausler is of counsel with Cox Padmore Skolnik & Shakarchy LLP in New York, New York.


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