Meyer v. the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma et al.
The daughter and heir of Raoul Meyer, a well-known French businessman and collector of impressionist paintings prior to WWII, has filed suit in Federal Court in New York to recover La Bergère by Camille Pissarro, one of the most prominent artworks in the permanent collection of the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Museum. Raoul Meyer’s art collection, including La Bergère, was seized by Nazi Occupation forces in France and the Vichy Regime, a war-time ally of Nazi Germany. In 1956, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer purchased the painting from the David Findley Gallery in New York and in 2000 the Weitzenhoffer estate made a significant bequest to the Fred Jones Museum, which included La Bergère. The claimant, Léone Meyer, argues that both the David Findley Gallery and the Fred Jones Museum failed to investigate La Bergère’s prior title and its provenance which was readily available using only minimal due diligence. The list of defendants was then extended in the amended complaint filed on 10 January 2014 to include both the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which raised interesting questions surrounding the liability of cultural property crediting and membership organizations. Meyer claims that the AAM violated certain terms of the accreditation agreement with the Fred Jones Museum contained in the “AAM Standards Regarding the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era” upon obtaining La Bergère. The Museum’s membership agreement with AAMD violated the AAMD Code of Ethics (please visit our ethics page). In the motion to dismiss the action dated 7 February 2014, the defendants counter-argue that privately drafted guidelines “do not create enforceable law from which a party may bring a course of action”. If the Court is inclined to hear oral argument, as the defendants believe may be helpful to the Court, a hearing date will be set. In the press, Léone Meyer wrote an open letter to the People of Oklahoma on 11 February 2014, followed the next day by a statement in The Oklahoma Daily from the University of Oklahoma President, David Boren: “[The return of the painting would] set a bad precedent for the university and would not be fair to the painting’s donors, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer”.
Court Rulings & Decisions
- 2nd Circuit Decision, March 12, 2015
- Notice of Motion for Judicial Notice of Documents, February 7, 2015
- Notice of Appeal, June 5, 2014
- Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, May 23, 2014
- Notice of Voluntary Dismissal Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i), May 22, 2014
- AAM Waiver of Service Returned Executed, May 9, 2014
- Order - Denied Petition for Rehearing En Banc, February 11, 2014
- Notice of Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint, February 7, 2014
- Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint, February 7, 2014
- Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Judicial Notice of Documents, February 7, 2014
- Declaration of Guy L. Patton, February 7, 2014
- Declaration of Laurie A. Stein, February 7, 2014
- Declaration of Chris A. Purcell, February 7, 2014
- Notice of Motion for Judicial Notice of Documents, February 7, 2014
- Ammended Complaint, January 10, 2014
Press & Scholarly
Press & Scholarly
- Lawmaker builds pressure on OU to give up painting, Janelle Stecklein, The Norman Transcript, July 17, 2015
Lawmakers led by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft are increasing pressure on the University of Oklahoma to give up a Camille Pissarro painting that was looted by the Nazis. A southern Baptist minister, Wesselhoft is an unlikely champion of the cause of Nazi-looted art, but he says he became interested in the matter a few years ago, after watching the documentary The Rape of Europa. Wesselhoft says he has warned OU President David Boren of his intent to launch a �campaign� to �bring as much pressure as I can to bear upon the university to do the right and moral thing."
- The Oklahoma Daily: Oklahoma state representative publicizes letter by owner of Nazi-stolen painting
- Tulsa World: Editorial: OU should return art stolen by Nazis
- Oklahoma Lawmakers Push for Return of �Looted� Art, JTA, May 11, 2015
Twenty-six members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives introduced a resolution yesterday that asks the University of Oklahoma and its Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to determine whether any of its artwork was �unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era.� The specific painting behind the resolution is Pissarro�s Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep, a Nazi-looted work currently at the center of a lawsuit between the university and Leone Meyer.
See more from The Oklahoman.
- Oklahoma House resolution seeks OU's return of Nazi-looted painting, Tulsa World, May 11, 2015
- House Introduces Resolution Directing University Of Oklahoma To Return Controversial Painting, Brian Hardzinski, KGOU, May 11, 2105
- Suit Against Oklahoma Museum Raises New Questions About Nazi-Era Works, IFAR Journal, May 2014
- Lawmaker questions background of several paintings in University of Oklahoma's collection, Silas Allen, The Oklahoman, March 19, 2014
- Holocaust survivor fights for Nazi-looted painting displayed in Oklahoma, Associated Press, March 1, 2014
- Lawmakers call on University of Oklahoma officials to return Nazi-looted painting, Silas Allen, The Oklahoman, February 19, 2014
- Two Court Battles Raise Questions of Liability for AAM, AAMD, and Other Cultural Property Organizations, Rick St. Hilaire, February 5, 2014