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Crime & Litigation



Crimean museums launch legal bid in Holland to recover treasures

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Written by AFP Wire Service   
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 14:37

Old building of the Nederlandsche Bank, now Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Copyrighted image used with permission of Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA)

MOSCOW (AFP) - Four Crimean museums on Wednesday announced a joint legal bid to force a Dutch museum to hand back priceless treasures loaned to the institution shortly before Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"On November 19, four Crimean museums filed a complaint before an Amsterdam court demanding that the Allard Pierson (museum) return their collection," said the director of one of the four, Andrei Malgin of the Tavrida museum in Simferopol.

Amsterdam's Allard Pierson museum in August decided not to return a historic collection of archeological artefacts on loan from the museums for an exhibition titled "The Crimea: Gold and Secrets from the Black Sea."

With the museums, now under Russian authority, and Ukraine demanding the return of the works, The Allard Pierson feared a legal tussle.

Crimea was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and the rich collection of items spanning the 2nd century BC to the late medieval era was loaned to the Amsterdam museum less than a month before Russia annexed Crimea in March, splitting it off from Ukraine.

Malgin told AFP that under international law "the objects on display must be returned to where they were discovered and where they were preserved ... and that is the museums of Crimea."

In a joint statement the four Crimea establishments said there could be no question of choosing between Kiev or Moscow.

"The museums of Crimea are the legal owners of the objects," which have become "hostage of the political situation."

The Netherlands, like its other allies in the West, does not recognize Russia's March annexation.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Old building of the Nederlandsche Bank, now Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Copyrighted image used with permission of Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 14:50
 

Judge rules that Marilyn Monroe letter belongs to auction buyer

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:27
Marilyn Monroe poses for U.S. soldiers in Korea after a USO performance in 1954. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Los Angeles judge has ruled that a letter by Marilyn Monroe in which she described the difficulties of performing belongs to a buyer who purchased it at auction for $130,000.

City News Service reports the ruling last week is in favor of the auction house Profiles in History and against 75-year-old Anna Strasberg, the widow of Lee Strasberg, who was Monroe's acting mentor.

Anna Strasberg once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and collects the actress' memorabilia.

She sued the auction house, saying the letter was missing from her collection. She alleged it was stolen.

Profiles in History maintained the letter was actually a draft version that was found by a housekeeper at the Hotel Bel-Air and it was never sent to Lee Strasberg.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-21-14 0129GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Marilyn Monroe poses for U.S. soldiers in Korea after a USO performance in 1954. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:41
 

Swiss museum accepts Nazi-era art hoard bequest

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Written by DEBORAH COLE   
Monday, 24 November 2014 10:49
A German government-appointed task force has already established that 'Two Riders on the Beach' painted by Max Liebermann should be returned to the rightful owners' heirs. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. BERLIN (AFP) – A Swiss museum said Monday it would accept aGerman recluse's bequest of a spectacular trove of more than 1,000 artworks hoarded during the Nazi era.

The decision, announced at a press conference in Berlin, covers priceless paintings and sketches by Picasso, Monet, Chagall and other masters that were discovered by chance in 2012 in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt.

Christoph Schaeublin, president of the Board of Trustees at the the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, pledged to work with German authorities to ensure that "all looted art in the collection is returned" to its rightful owners.

Around 500 works of dubious provenance will remain in Germany so a government-appointed task force can continue its research in identifying the heirs.

Gurlitt, who died last May aged 81, was the son of an art dealer tasked by Adolf Hitler to help plunder great works from museums and Jewish collectors, many of whom perished in the gas chambers.

In the course of a routine tax inquiry, 1,280 works were unearthed in Gurlitt's cluttered Munich home.

More than 300 other works were discovered in a ramshackle house Gurlitt owned in Salzburg.

Although he was never charged with a crime, the German authorities confiscated all of the Munich pieces and stored them in a secret location.

Gurlitt struck an accord with the German government shortly before his death to help track down the paintings' rightful owners.

But his anger over his treatment reportedly led him to stipulate in his will that the collection should go not to a German museum but to the Swiss institution.

After six months of negotiations, German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters called the accord reached with the Bern museum "a milestone in coming to terms with our history" under the Third Reich.

She said the German government was committed to returning the looted works to Jewish descendants "as soon as possible, with no ifs, ands or buts."

But "we're at the beginning, not the end, of a long road," she admitted.

Gruetters said that some of the around 500 works staying in Germany with doubtful provenance would be displayed in exhibitions to encourage heirs to come forward and stake claims.

And under the terms of the agreement, nearly 480 avant-garde works deemed by the Nazis to be "degenerate art" not befitting the ideals of the Third Reich would be loaned by Bern primarily to institutions from which they were taken in the 1930s.

 

'Avalanche of lawsuits'

 

Had the Swiss museum unexpectedly turned down the offer, the pieces would have been divided up among relatives of Gurlitt, who never married and had no children.

Ronald Lauder, the head of the World Jewish Congress, declined to comment ahead of Monday's press conference.

But he told German news weekly Der Spiegel this month that the Swiss museum should not accept the inheritance, saying it "would open a Pandora's Box and

cause an avalanche of lawsuits."

Indeed one of Gurlitt's cousins, 86-year-old Uta Werner, said Friday she was contesting Gurlitt's fitness of mind when he wrote the will naming the Bern museum as his sole heir.

This could return the case to legal limbo, with ageing Jewish descendants left to fight for their claims in German courts for years to come.

After the discovery of the Gurlitt trove came to light in a magazine article last year, Jewish groups and the U.S. and Israeli governments put pressure on Germany to establish a task force to investigate the works' provenance.

In the case of a Matisse painting found in the stash, called Seated Woman and believed to be worth around $20 million, the panel determined in June that the work was "Nazi loot" stolen from Paris art collector Paul Rosenberg.

Gruetters said that three such works including the Matisse would be returned "without delay" to the heirs.

Rosenberg's descendants include French journalist Anne Sinclair, former wife of ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

"My clients have been extremely patient with German authorities throughout the process and enough is enough," Christopher Marinello, a London lawyer representing the Rosenberg family, told AFP ahead of the news conference.

Meanwhile the acquisition of the Gurlitt hoard would dramatically increase the prestige of the Bern institution, Switzerland's oldest art museum.

Stephan Klingen of Munich's Institute for Art History said the public interest in the collection was "enormous."

"I think this is a chance to show people right before their very eyes how problematic the handling of art and artworks after the war was," he told German news agency DPA.



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A German government-appointed task force has already established that 'Two Riders on the Beach' painted by Max Liebermann should be returned to the rightful owners' heirs. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 11:36
 

Russian tourist arrested for vandalizing Colosseum

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 24 November 2014 09:37
A view of the Colosseum from  from the Oppian Hill in Rome. This image is licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. ROME (AP) – Italian authorities say a Russian tourist has been fined 20,000 euros ($25,000) for engraving a big letter ‘K’ on a wall of the Colosseum, the latest act of vandalism by tourists at the ancient structure.

The news agency ANSA reported that the 42-year-old tourist was given a summary judgment Saturday of a fine and a suspended four-year jail sentence. He was spotted by a guard as he used a pointed stone to carve the 10-inch-tall letter.

Union leaders, citing recent acts of vandalism, have complained about the lack of personnel to properly monitor Rome's archaeological treasures – with increasing numbers of visitors seeking to leave their trace on antiquity, causing incalculable damage.

It was the fifth incidence of vandalism by foreign tourists at the Colosseum this year.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-22-14 2059GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A view of the Colosseum from  from the Oppian Hill in Rome. This image is licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 09:45
 

Gurlitt relative files lawsuit over Nazi-era art hoard

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Written by AFP wire service   
Friday, 21 November 2014 13:44
A self-portrait by Otto Dix was apparently passed on by Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son Connelius. Fair use rationale: This copyrighted image of a historically significant artwork is being used for informational and educational purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.org. BERLIN (AFP) – A relative of late German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lodged a claim Friday for his inheritance, a Nazi-era art hoard which he has bequested to a Swiss museum, a spokesman said.

The surprise move came just days before the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern is expected to reveal whether it accepts the inheritance of the spectacular trove of more than 1,000 pieces amassed during the Nazi era.

Uta Werner, 86, a cousin, appealed to a court in Munich to be recognized as Gurlitt's heir, with the backing of her children and some other family members, the spokesman said in a statement.

A report by a psychiatrist that "seriously questioned" Gurlitt's mental fitness to make a will had prompted the family to now act, it said.

Gurlitt, who died in May aged 81, had hoarded more than 1,000 paintings, drawings and sketches, including masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Chagall, in his Munich flat for decades.

Hundreds more works were unearthed at his Salzburg home.

He was the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was tasked with selling works taken or bought under duress from Jewish families, and avant-garde art seized from German museums that the Hitler regime deemed "degenerate."

Before he died, Cornelius Gurlitt struck a deal with the German government to help track down the rightful owners of the artwork.

A day after his death, the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern said it had been astonished to learn that it was named as the recipient of his collection in his will.

It is to announce Monday at a news conference in Berlin whether it will accept the bequest.

The spokesman for Uta Werner said the family had set out plans last week that foresaw the "unconditional" return of any looted artworks and transparent provenance work, if the court backed their motion.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A self-portrait by Otto Dix was apparently passed on by Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son Cornelius. Fair use rationale: This copyrighted image of a historically significant artwork is being used for informational and educational purposes. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.org.
Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 14:41
 
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