Art Lawsuit vs. Kingdom of Netherlands Thrown Out

August 10 2020

Image of Art Lawsuit vs. Kingdom of Netherlands Thrown Out


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A lawsuit levelled against the Kingdom of the Netherlands was thrown out of court in the US District of South Carolina Charleston Division last week. The lawsuit revolves around the claim made by descendants of the Dutch art gallery Firma D. Katz (pictured) for 144 pictures sold to the Nazis and now owned by the Dutch State. Bruce Berg, grandson and nephew of the two gentlemen in the photograph above, asserts that the paintings were sold under duress in an effort to save the lives of 25 relatives.

As the article linked above points out:

The Dutch government argued that the art was sold fairly and that it now is part of the country’s national treasure trove and of terrific value to the Dutch people. Berg, in his suit, argued that fairness did not exist in Nazi Germany, that any transaction with Nazis, no matter its appearance on paper, must have been made under duress, and that the art rightfully belongs to his family.

The court determined the Netherlands and its state-run institutions are “entitled to sovereign immunity.”

It seems that the case has a long history. The RKD lists this Rembrandt portrait as having been returned to Katz by the Dutch State in 1946 after being purchased for the Fuhrer Museum in Linz.

Update - I just spotted that one of the paintings in the background of the above photograph is this Frans Hals that was offered for sale by the Portland Museum of Art at Sotheby's in 2019. The provenance makes clear that the picture was sold before WWII.

Update 2 - My attention has been drawn to this interesting report made by the Dutch Restitution Agency in 2017. A lot seems to hang on finding firm evidence that proves that works were sold under duress or not. The report highlights the many complexities involved in reviewing such cases.

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