Art once looted by Nazis must own up to its sordid provenance when displayed in N.Y. museums
Lawrence Kaye, partner at Herrick, was quoted in Newsday in an article discussing Gov. Holchul’s new legislation requiring museums to post a notice with the display of any art that changed hands because of Nazi persecution. The article notes that the law was part of a package of bills that also mandates an audit of Holocaust education across New York State.
According to the article, “art in Europe that changed hands during the Holocaust era requires a museum to do detective work to figure out the provenance --- starting from the creation of the work, through the labyrinth of buyer, seller, owner, gallery.” Kaye notes that if a museum is dealing with art from that era, “[t]hat puts the museum on notice that there could be a problem, and they should do a full-fledged provenance workup on the piece.” Kaye further added that: “In many of these cases, there is no provenance for that period of time. It just disappears. You’ll see ‘1935’ and then again in ‘1953’ — so that’s where the hard work comes. They have to find out, fill those gaps, about what happened.” Kaye further states that there are researchers who specialize in provenance work, “tracing it back as best they can through each sale and each transfer — and maybe each theft. ” Furthermore, “[p]rovenance researchers spend a lot of time in archives and libraries, they interview members of the family, in order to do their best to trace the history of the painting” Kaye said.
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