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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
  • UCC security filings
  • Artist consignment protection statutes
  • 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.
  • Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, 05-cv-03459 JFW (Ex): Counsel to the world-renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation; successfully refuted challenge to Foundation’s ownership and possession of important artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Drafted petition for a writ of certiorari on client’s behalf challenging jurisdiction under the FSIA. After the Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General, met with the Deputy Solicitor General and members of the U.S. Departments of State and Justice. Following the meeting, the Office of the Solicitor General recommended that the Kingdom of Spain be dismissed. On remand to the district court, prevailed on a motion to dismiss on the ground that a newly-enacted California statute, which expanded the statute of limited to permit plaintiffs’ claims, was preempted by the federal government’s foreign affairs power. On remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, prevailed on Motion for Summary Judgment.
  • 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 dealmaker behind the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fisher Family partnership
    Art Daily | May 16, 2016
    This article features Nixon Peabody’s role as deal counsel and advisor to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Fisher Family to create a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a museum and a collection. Los Angeles partner and Arts & Cultural Institutions leader Thad Stauber led the NP team in this unprecedented agreement with support from Washington, DC, partner Mike Cooney and Los Angeles partner Matt Grazier. SFMOMA opened to the public on May 14, featuring an expansive new addition displaying hundreds of pieces of postwar and contemporary art work from the Fisher Family.
  • Judge Rejects Claim for a Pissarro by Heirs in Nazi Art Case
    The New York Times | June 10, 2015
    This feature article focuses on a recent U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain in an artwork dispute that spanned a decade. Los Angeles commercial litigation partners Thad Stauber and Sarah André represented the Foundation in this dispute.
  • Will There be Life After Death for New Private Museums?
    The Art Newspaper | January 7, 2015
    Los Angeles Commercial Litigation partner and head of the firm’s Art & Cultural Institutions team Thad Stauber is quoted in this column discussing the futures of the single-donor museum following the passing of the founder. The coverage notes Thad arranged San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 100-year loan of the world renowned Don and Doris Fisher Collection.


Arts & Cultural Institutions