Prominent U.S. museums have evaded the restitution of Nazi-looted artworks to their rightful owners and heirs by refusing to resolve claims on their facts and merits and by asserting technical defenses, such as statutes of limitations, according to a new World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) report, authored with the pro-bono assistance of the American law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP. The report calls for three recommendations to promote merit-based resolutions of Holocaust-era claims against U.S. museums.
These recommendations include encouraging U.S. museums to live up to the spirit of the Washington Conference Principles, Terezin Declaration and the Guidelines of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM); having the AAM ensure compliance of its member museums by withholding accreditation; and enacting legislation to extend statutes of limitations for Holocaust-era restitution claims.
American museums named in the report as improperly defending against Nazi-looted art claims include the Toledo Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. “Museums are central to a civilized society,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations. “The American museum community, while understandably an advocate for artwork to remain in public hands, must follow through on its prior commitments not to taint collections with art stolen during the Holocaust.”
To read the report, click here.