Art Law & Art Recovery: How Stolen Art Became Stalin's Art

Dec 15, 2015

Holocaust art recovery cases are the most compelling cases in fine art law. We cheer for the families who have spent generations trying to recover their priceless treasures systematically stolen by the Nazi regime before and during World War II. On Oct 2015, United States Court Appeals affirmed in favor of Yale University in a case brought against them by a man whose grandfather's Van Gogh was seized by the Bolsheviks as “state property" in 1918. So, apparently not all tyrant art seizures are considered equal. For sure, a potential can of worms exists if we second guess a foreign state’s government conduct towards its citizens. Do we really want to question a government seizure from its criminals to satisfy taxes, pay debts, compensate for wrongful acts, recover the fruits of criminal enterprises, etc? But we know that the actions of some tyrannical states were simply so evil so as to be incapable of justification. Germany of the 1930’s is a prime example. We have no issue reversing seizures by the Nazis...