A lawsuit between the heirs of master Expressionist painter George Grosz and New York's Museum of Modern Art has implications for international law, the New York Times reports.
Martin and Lilian Grosz, the painter's son and daughter-in-law, initially sued the museum in 2003, requesting the return of three paintings they allege were stolen by the Nazis before coming into MOMA's possession.
After consulting with experts, the museum rejected the claim, arguing there is no evidence the artworks were looted by the Nazis. Pointing to a 1953 letter in which Grosz said MOMA was displaying his stolen paintings, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The museum is now arguing this appeal was made after the statute of limitations ruling the case expired, according to the Times.
International law experts have criticized MOMA's defense, saying the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the 2009 Terezin Declaration urge courts to rule on the merits of these cases rather than on technicalities, the Times reports.
Lawyers involved in the case told the newspaper they would be surprised if the Supreme Court agrees to rule on the dispute, given its record of passing on similar cases.
At a 2009 conference in Prague, delegates from 50 countries agreed that governments are not adhering to the legal principles laid out at the Washington Conference, leading many rightful owners to give up on recovery efforts. One Hungarian family has been working unsuccessfully for decades to recover works by El Greco, Renoir and Manet, Bloomberg reported.