Jumping further into what appears to be growing international efforts by Jewish heirs to reclaim artwork looted by Nazis during World War II, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday an international conference, to be held in May during the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, that he said will seek to help victims of Nazi-era crimes recover stolen property.
The conference will aim to bring more “common understanding” among the international community to “abstract phrases such as Nazi confiscated art, forced sale and sale under duress,” according to a state webpage describing the upcoming event. Those terms and others like them often underlie what can be protracted and difficult litigation over the provenance and rightful ownership of valuable art that changed hands during and in the run-up to World War II as the Nazis stormed different parts of Europe.
In the last two decades, art restitution lawsuits and other efforts focused on alleged Nazi-stolen art have proliferated across numerous countries, according to legal experts in the field. It amounts to a movement, according to attorneys and experts, that some say former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau helped fuel with his bold 1998 seizure of the MOMA’s “Dead City III” painting and his related, unsuccessful litigation aimed at keeping the painting from being shipped back to Austria.
The upcoming conference, announced on Monday because it is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, will include presentations and panel-led discussions between claimant representatives, lawyers, members of the art trade, professionals from cultural institutions, provenance researchers, historians and art historians, according to a news release from Cuomo’s office.
Hosted in New York City by the state Department of Financial Services’ Holocaust Claims Processing Office, the two-day event, to be held May 7 and 8, “will be aimed at improving the State’s ability to help recover works of art and other property lost due to Nazi persecution,” the news release said.