Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"Will a Looted Pissarro End Up in Oklahoma, or France?"

From the New York Times, December 17:

PARIS — For more than 70 years, Léone Meyer’s family has fought to reclaim a looted painting, and yet she cannot bear the thought of displaying it in her Left Bank home, across from the River Seine. 
The small work, by Camille Pissarro, shows a shepherdess tending her flock, and hangs not far away at the Musée d’Orsay, with other precious French Impressionist paintings. But the peaceful countryside scene from 1886 is fraught with a back story of plunder, family tragedy and legal battles that stretch from Paris to Oklahoma.

Dr. Meyer’s mother, grandmother, uncle and brother died in Auschwitz. Her father hid the painting in a French bank that was looted in 1941 by the Nazis, and the work vanished in the murky universe of art market collaborators and middlemen. Decades later, in 2012, she discovered the whereabouts of “La Bergère,” or “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, at the University of Oklahoma. In 2016, she brokered a compromise to rotate it between the university and a French museum.

The legal tug-of-war started anew after Dr. Meyer sought to change the agreement and permanently keep the painting in France, provoking courtroom clashes about its future this month in Paris and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

“When something is stolen, I expect it to be returned,” Dr. Meyer, a former pediatrician, said in an interview. “I have no other interest than to recover this painting in the memory of my family.” 
She felt pressure to sign the agreement in 2016 after four years of protracted negotiations, she said. The document, she added, contained a translation error from English to French in a section relating to the painting’s ownership, but she had overlooked it at the time. 

“I thought it was better to see the portrait that I had never seen in my life,” she said. “It was better that it came back to France. I accepted the deal with the idea to renegotiate it.”
On Tuesday, a judicial tribunal in Paris weighing whether to block the work from being shipped out of France ordered Dr. Meyer and the university to meet with mediators. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Oklahoma threatened to hold Dr. Meyer in contempt if she continued to pursue litigation in France.
A trial is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Paris to hear Dr. Meyer’s arguments for keeping the work in France, and a second hearing is set for March on whether to prohibit transport abroad....

....MUCH MORE. hell of a story, all these years later.

We have been waiting for a final inventory of paintings looted by the Nazis but the lists keep expanding and expanding. For example, the first inventory of the stolen merch that ended up in Göring's hands was 1736 items valued at $200 million in 1945 (multiply by 100 to 1000 to get current valuations). The current count of the artworks that ended up in Fat Hermann's "collection" is up to 4000 pieces.

And that's just one of the gangsters.