New York, NY. Nixon Peabody’s Arts and Cultural Institutions team, led by partners Thaddeus Stauber, Sarah Erickson André and Kristin Jamberdino, secured a dismissal in a lawsuit regarding the Gallery’s Henri Matisse painting Portrait of Greta Moll (1908). The National Gallery had purchased the painting in 1979 from an art gallery in London. The National Gallery’s ownership of the painting was not questioned or challenged prior to 2012, when the plaintiffs’ counsel demanded the painting. In 2016, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York asserting ownership.
On Thursday, September 21, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni issued a decision dismissing the case with prejudice and without leave to amend closing the case. The court recognized that no exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) applied to permit the court to take jurisdiction over the Gallery or the United Kingdom, especially as the painting was not stolen from the family during World War II. Because the family knew that the painting was at the National Gallery as far back as the 1980s, yet chose not to pursue a claim, the court also found that the opportunity to pursue a claim had passed. The Matisse painting remains on public display in London.
“Being appointed to represent the honor and good standing of the National Gallery in such a public case is one that counsel does not take lightly,” said attorneys Thaddeus Stauber and Sarah Erickson André. ”We are very pleased with the court’s thorough and detailed analysis, which recognizes that the claims against the National Gallery cannot go forward and that the plaintiffs’ entire complaint must be dismissed.”