Oklahoma Art Restitution Lawyer

The Nazi era caused extreme tragedy and devastation to the world and the Jewish community. One form of this devastation was an unprecedented amount of stolen art in Europe. The consequences of the Nazi era on the art world are great and multifaceted, with hundreds of pieces of art coming to light – often in sales – that the Nazis stole. The law handles these cases via art restitution, or the process of returning stolen artworks and cultural property to rightful owners. You may be eligible for art restitution in cases involving theft from Nazis or Allied soldiers, modern-day conflicts, illegal removal of artifacts, or looting from archeological sites. The lawyers at Bryan & Terrill Law can help you recover what is rightfully yours.

Recent Art Restitution Case in Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma (OU) was involved in an art restitution controversy. It came to light that a painting hanging in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on campus, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep (1886) by Camille Pissarro, was a piece the Nazis stole from a wealthy Parisian family during World War II. The sole heir of the family that originally owned the piece, Léone Meyer, is a Holocaust survivor who has spent her adult life searching for the Shepherdess. She finally discovered it at the University of Oklahoma, only to find that the University refused to voluntarily give it up. She then sued the university and several other parties.

Meyer’s lawsuit named the OU’s Board of Regents, the University of Oklahoma Foundation, and University President David Boren as defendants in the case. After a yearlong delay in the lawsuit for a technicality, the case finally underwent mediation and negotiation. In February 2016, the parties came to a resolution over what to do with the painting. OU reached an agreement with Meyer that the Shepherdess will hang in a museum in France for five years. After that, it will go into a continuous rotation of three years at OU and three years at another museum in France. It will hereafter bear Meyer’s name in the title.

Legal Assistance for Art Restitution

Meyer’s case is just one example of thousands that exist all over the world. Experts estimate that at least 100,000 pieces of art the Nazis stole from 1933 to 1945 remain missing. Stolen art is a complex issue. It often takes a significant investigation to trace the line of owners, buyers, and sellers of a stolen piece of art back to the original owner. The facility that currently believes it owns the piece has paid for it, and may not want to give the artwork back to the original owner without a fight. It may require a lengthy lawsuit to get to the bottom of a stolen art claim and offer the original owner restitution for his or her troubles.

If you believe you are the rightful owner of a stolen piece of artwork, you may be eligible for restitution. “Restitution” can take many forms. It can look like the settlement agreement that Ms. Meyer came to with OU, or it can look very different. You may be able to become the legal owner of the piece, as well as receive payment for losses relating to the issue. Learn about your specific case by speaking to one of our attorneys. Call (918) 935-2777 or request a consultation online.