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ARTS & CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS

We employ industry insider experience with creative litigation and transactional solutions to guide our clients to success in the international arts and cultural community.

Our approach

We are the leading international attorneys with reported precedent-setting cases involving masterpieces that have shaped the state of the law today.

When priceless artworks and cultural property are at stake, clients in the domestic and international arts and cultural community need lawyers who can successfully resolve high-profile and high-stakes matters. Our international experience and art industry savvy provide our clients with a distinctive advantage and industry insight proven to drive the client’s desired result. Where others have had to settle, we have an unmatched courthouse record when prosecuting or defending clients’ art-related rights, earning groundbreaking resolutions and acquisitions.

Our team is equally regarded for its deal-making experience.

We assist clients with the unique issues around owning, collecting and operating in today’s international art world such as:

  • Major gift and development agreements
  • Masterpiece acquisitions, sales and financing
  • Authenticity
  • Copyright and licensing
  • Auction house consignments
  • Visual Arts Rights Act (VARA) claims

The team serves as counsel on major art transactions, projects and financing, enabling the acquisition or loans of major international artworks and artifacts for institutions, foundations, foreign sovereigns and high net worth collectors.

Who we work with

  • Foreign sovereigns
  • Collectors
  • Museums and cultural institutions
  • Dealers
  • Art professionals
  • Colleges and universities

Recent experience

  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)-Fisher Collection Agreement allows display of renowned private collection Served as lead counsel and advisor on the agreement between SFMOMA and the family of Doris and the late Donald Fisher, co-founders of the Gap Inc., to showcase the Fishers’ renowned 1,100-piece private collection of modern and contemporary artwork as part of the museum’s expansion. The firm also supported SFMOMA’s efforts to raise landmark contributions of $250 million, used to expand the museum and grow its endowment. SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra said Nixon Peabody was “critical to helping us realize our collective goal of bringing the Fisher Collection to SFMOMA and defining the museum’s future expansion.” Charles R. Schwab, SFMOMA’s Board Chairman, also said Nixon Peabody’s “negotiating skills, sense of urgency[] and advice were essential in guiding our board to a successful and long lasting agreement with the Fisher Trust.”
  • The Republic of Hungary International Peace Treaties and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA) Representing the Republic of Hungary and four Hungarian cultural institutions in an action challenging Hungary’s possession of more than 40 works of art. The issue of first impression in this case is whether the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, 1973 Hungary-U.S. Bilateral Agreement and FSIA allow a U.S. court to take jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign in an internationally watched art restitution claim referred to in the New York Times as “the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim.” On September 1, 2011, the district court dismissed certain of the plaintiffs’ claims and confirmed Hungary’s rightful ownership to 11 important paintings. On December 16, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia certified the September 1, 2011, decision for interlocutory appeal on the key issues raised by Nixon Peabody’s team regarding the remaining claim and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted Hungary’s petition for permission to review these issues.
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation of Madrid, Spain Federal preemption of California law Won a decisive ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which determined that the internationally renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation (“Foundation”) of Madrid, Spain, is the rightful owner of the oil painting by Camille Pissarro, Rue Saint-Honore, après-midi, effet de pluie (1897). In doing so, the court declared California’s World War II claim-revival statute preempted by the federal government’s power, as argued by the Nixon Peabody team. In dismissing the California plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice and without leave to amend, the court referenced the 1958 Settlement Agreement with the German government that fully and completely resolved the plaintiff’s claim to the painting. Nixon Peabody’s team discovered the 1958 Agreement’s full history through on-the-ground research in Europe.
  • Dunbar v. Seger-Thomschitz Louisiana law trumps Terezin Declaration Won a landmark decision at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed that a New Orleans family is the rightful owner of a prized early painting by noted German Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka. The ruling shows that the Terezin Declaration, which many have argued requires reopening art restitution claims arising from World War II, does not trump state law in such claims. The courts rejected the claimant’s argument that Louisiana prescription laws should in this case give way to “federal common law,” and recognized that the family’s ownership of the painting had been open and continuous for well over 10 years, fulfilling the requirements to establish ownership by acquisitive prescription under Louisiana law.
  • Detroit Institute of Arts and the Toledo Museum of Art Ownership rights, World War II-related claims Successfully represented the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Toledo Museum of Art in landmark cases involving paintings by van Gogh (“The Diggers”—1889) and Gauguin (Street Scene in Tahiti—1891). We coordinated the museums’ international provenance research, advised the museum leadership and boards and, in compliance with American Association of Museum (AMA) and Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) Guidelines on World War II-related art claims, succeeded in defending the museums’ ownership rights in reported federal court cases.
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago v. Art Institutes International Plaintiff’s lead counsel in successful federal common law trade name infringement case in 7th Circuit district court against international trade school.
  • Fourcaud v. LACMA Led successful defense and dismissal of adverse ownership claims to world famous Pushkin Museum French Impressionist paintings while on exhibition in the U.S. from Russia. Claims arose from Russian Revolution and nationalization of famous art collections by Stalin and were brought in the 9th Circuit Federal Court by a French citizen.

Media Clips

  • The Restitution Struggle
    ARTnews | September 1, 2013

    This feature story reports on an in-depth investigation into the state of restitution policies and practices related to Holocaust artworks and objects. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions practice Thad Stauber provides commentary.

  • End of an Era
    Thomson Reuters | January 25, 2013

    This news brief recaps a federal court appellate court hearing to consider who is the rightful owner of paintings seized during World War II. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions practice Thad Stauber, counsel to the Hungarian government, argued that the paintings should remain at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

  • U.S. Court Considers Claim on Art Stolen during World War II
    Los Angeles Times | January 23, 2013

    This article focuses on a federal appellate court hearing in which judges are considering who is the rightful owner of artwork seized during World War II. The artwork includes paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions practice Thad Stauber serves as counsel to the Hungarian government. During the January 23 hearing, he argued that the paintings rightfully belong to his client. For the complete article, please click here:
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-court-claim-art-stolen-world-war-ii-20130123,0,798333.story

  • . . . View all . . .
  • Southland Man Carries on Quest to Recover Art Taken in Holocaust
    Los Angeles Times | January 22, 2013

    This feature story notes the efforts by ancestors of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog to try to recover artwork who claim it was seized during World War II, including paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions practice Thad Stauber, counsel to the Hungarian government, is quoted discussing his client’s expectation to be declared the rightful owner of the artwork.

  • U.S. District Court confirms Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation of Spain as owner of artwork
    ArtDaily | July 4, 2012

    Los Angeles Commercial Litigation partner and leader of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions practice Thad Stauber and Los Angeles Commercial Litigation associate Sarah Andre are featured in this piece highlighting the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s ruling for the firm’s client, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation of Madrid, Spain, in the matter involving a Camille Pissarro painting.

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