Thaddeus J. Stauber - Complex Commercial Disputes - Nixon Peabody LLP

Thaddeus J. Stauber

Thaddeus Stauber advises the world’s leading cultural institutions, foreign sovereigns, international art collectors, dealers, artists, universities, foundations, estates and individuals. With a deep passion and appreciation for the arts and practice of law, Thaddeus has earned a reputation as a trusted advisor and skilled negotiator for the art world’s leading players.

From representing the estates and families of legendary artists such as Pablo Picasso, to leading high-profile courtroom wins and groundbreaking crossover deals, to advising next generation artists like Sterling Ruby and international contemporary art galleries, Thaddeus understands the art industry and international marketplace. His ability to identify and bring in the right experts across the globe and team with a client’s existing counsel and advisors is invaluable to our clients.

What do you focus on?

International Art Litigation

Thanks to our courtroom skills, judgment and international experience, my team and I have secured precedent setting wins for our clients. We have an unmatched proven track record of prevailing in high-stakes matters involving priceless artwork, cultural property and contractual and intellectual rights while vigorously defending our clients’ personal and professional reputations.

My team and I have successfully represented our clients’ interests in courtroom trials and proceedings throughout the U.S. and in arbitral bodies worldwide, including controversies spanning Europe, Asia and Latin America. I have now personally argued cases in six different federal circuits (D.C., 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th), along with numerous state courts.

Notable cases include representing Hungary in an international action challenging the country’s historical ownership of more than 40 artworks and defending a challenge to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation’s ownership of important artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro in federal court. Most recently, my team and I led the courtroom defense and negotiations to resolve competing claims in European and U.S. courts for Pablo Picasso’s daughter in an international dispute over a $115 million sculpture. We also led the defense and negotiations in a highly publicized adverse ownership claim against the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art that resulted in a first-of-its-kind U.S.-French international art sharing agreement.

Art Crossover Deals and International Art Industry

I also work with galleries, museums, artists, major collectors and dealers in significant art and cultural property transactions, consignments and commissions. We work on the forefront of the global explosion of contemporary art and the merging of art, fashion, media and finance, including our groundbreaking negotiation and deal structuring for Sterling Ruby and Raf Simons/Calvin Klein along with helping our artist and gallery clients as they expand and enter global markets with cross-border transactions.

Under my direction, my team served as deal counsel on the unprecedented San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fisher Family agreement. The agreement brought the world-renowned Fisher Collection, an 1,100-piece private collection of modern and contemporary artwork, to SFMOMA, and included a complex development agreement as the roadmap for the recently completed SFMOMA’s museum expansion. I’m particularly proud of The Art Institute of Chicago’s acquisition of Edvard Munch’s Girl Looking out the Window (1893) and the important European sculpture Sampson with Lion, and had the privilege of putting together agreements for the Venice Biennale, Lucian Freud’s first U.S. museum commission, and numerous contemporary art commissions along with site-specific installation and international exhibition agreements.

Media Management and Crisis Intervention

Print, broadcast and social media add a layer of complexity to an already tenuous situation when you are facing litigation. Intervening quickly, and with the right message, can make a positive difference when it comes to protecting your reputation. I have considerable experience guiding institutions and public figures through these emergent situations to restore not only public trust, but the confidence of board leadership, donors and the marketplace as well.

Law Enforcement and Regulatory Defense

Strategic advisor and lead negotiator to foreign sovereigns, universities and art owners in governmental affairs, investigations and law enforcement actions involving U.S. Department of State, U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and New York District Attorney’s Office

Reported International Art Disputes

  • Maya Widmaier-Picasso—Led defense and negotiations for a high-profile, international case representing the daughter of late artist Pablo Picasso in a $115 million dispute over Picasso’s 1931 sculpture titled Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse). Worked across the globe with French and Swiss colleagues to resolve proceedings in France, Switzerland and New York to establish the sculpture’s owner and maintain a record-setting sale as reported in the international press.
  • David de Csepel v. Republic of Hungary—Lead counsel to Hungary in current federal court litigation in Washington, D.C., over the Herzog Collection. The New York Times reported the case to be the largest unresolved art restitution case in the world. Obtained dismissal of Hungary.
  • Cassirer v. the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain—Lead counsel to the world-renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation’s ownership of important artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Obtained dismissal of Spain and recognition of Spanish law to establish the Foundation’s ownership.
  • The National Gallery, London—Representing The National Gallery in a recently filed lawsuit regarding the gallery’s Matisse painting The Portrait of Greta Moll (1908). Obtained dismissal of case.
  • The University of Oklahoma—Represented the University of Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma Foundation when their ownership of Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep (1886), a historic painting by Camille Pissarro, was challenged. The team achieved a successful resolution for the University and all parties. The settlement agreement acknowledges the good faith of the University, the UO Foundation and the Meyer family, as well as that of the donor Weitzenhoffer family. The agreement results in the painting continuing to be on permanent public display and available for educational purposes, with display evenly rotating between the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and a museum in France.
  • Dunbar v. Seger-Thomschitz—Lead counsel winning art restitution claims for a Louisiana family in a high-stakes dispute over a valuable Oskar Kokoschka painting. Upon winning, we successfully sold the artwork for a record-setting price.
  • Reif v. Nagy—Lead counsel to London art dealer Richard Nagy in New York state court in adverse ownership claim to two Egon Schiele artworks.
  • JFK Terminal One—Represented Terminal One on unique art installation’s contested relocation under the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”). An arbitration hearing brokered resolution allowed for the relocation of artwork within the terminal while providing for modernization of terminal facilities.
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago v. Art Institutes—Successful federal court tradename lawsuit establishing SAIC’s exclusive common law tradename rights.
  • DIA & TMA v. Nathan—Plaintiffs’ counsel leading the international provenance investigation and victory for the Detroit Institute of Arts and Toledo Museum of Art in companion federal court cases brought in the Sixth Circuit establishing the museums’ rightful ownership to priceless van Gogh and Gauguin paintings over that of U.S. and foreign claimants. These were the first U.S. museums to file and win declaratory actions in federal court lawsuits arising from post–World War II Holocaust-related art restitution claims.

Special Art-Related Projects

  • Steven Bochco Estate / David Hockney Sale—Represented the estate of Steven Bochco with regards to the sale of a large-scale painting by David Hockney entitled Montcalm Interior with 2 Dogs, valued at a presale estimate of $9-12 million. The painting sold on November 14 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York for $12,718,000.
  • Sterling Ruby/Calvin Klein—Representing the artist Sterling Ruby in his groundbreaking collaboration with fashion house Calvin Klein where Sterling, working with Calvin Klein’s Chief Creative Officer, Raf Simons, is undertaking an innovative effort to distinguish the Calvin Klein brand by incorporating an artist’s vision into the DNA of the world-renowned fashion house.
  • The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation—Helped implement the foundation’s art gift/bargain sale initiative leading to the placement of Rauschenberg’s seminal 1970s Cardboard series works in major U.S. museums.
  • Art collection management, provenance authenticity and exhibition projects—Dealings with significant artworks and donor agreements for major institutions including among others: Yale University Art Gallery, LACMA, The Met, MoMA, Whitney museums and universities including Harvard and SMU.
  • Art Institute of Chicago and School of the Art Institute of Chicago—Special counsel on major art transactions, donor agreements and museum expansion projects and school faculty and MFA student matters.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art—Formerly general counsel establishing developmental rights, financing for LACMA’s expansion and negotiating major donor agreements.

Reported Copyright & Contract Disputes in the Central District of California

  • Goodness Films, LLC, et al. v. TV One, LLC, et al.—Winning counsel for TV One in a copyright dispute before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
  • TV One LLC v. BET Networks, et al.—TV One’s lead counsel in successful U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case centered upon the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2010 ESSENCE Musical Festival. 
  • HACLA v. HUD—Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles’ special lead trial counsel against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development obtaining a federal court injunction stopping HUD from terminating HACLA’s $284 million annual federal contract. The win saved over 200 full-time jobs in Los Angeles and netted HACLA millions of dollars in revenue that is utilized to support social and community services to the residents of Los Angeles’ affordable housing community.

Speaking Engagements

  • “Creating the Change: The Art of Art Advocacy,” The Armory Show
  • “An Evening Behind The Curtain of International Art Ownership Claims,” Museum of the City of New York
  • “A Vanity Fair Story of Art Intrigue & An Insider’s Peek Into the LA Contemporary Art Market,” Family Office Association Conference
  • “Bringing Claims,” The Future of Nazi Looted Art Recovery in the US and Abroad, Skirball Cultural Center
  • “Focus: Provenance Research from the Legal Perspective,” Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP), The Getty Research Institute
  • IBA Vienna—Art and Entertainment Committee—International art trade and disputes with International Criminal Court special prosecutor
  • “Title Disputes in Art Transactions and Their Effect on Estate Plans,” Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning
  • “WWII Art Repatriation Claims & What Role for the U.S. Courts,” Federal Bar Council
  • International Bar Association, Wealth Transfer Practice
  • College Art Association Annual Conference, Art Claims
  • ALI-ABA Legal Problems in Museum Administration

Listen - Houston Matters

Houston Public Media | May 31, 2022

Los Angeles Privacy & Technology partner Thaddeus Stauber, Arts & Cultural Institutions team leader, discussed the recent successful dismissal of a case challenging the ownership of a painting by Bernardo Bellotto, “The Marketplace at Pirna,” which has been part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s collection since 1961.

Leaders of Influence-Litigators and Trial Attorneys

Los Angeles Business Journal | July 12, 2021

Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner and Arts and Cultural Institutions team leader Thad Stauber is featured in this article for being selected as one of the publication’s “Leaders of Influence: Litigators & Trial Attorneys,” recognizing the most influential litigation leaders in the greater Los Angeles area.

Looted Pissarro heiress Léone Meyer OU attorney Thaddeus Stauber speak on court clash over painting

OU Daily | April 19, 2021

Arts and Cultural Institutions practice leader and Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner Thaddeus Stauber is quoted extensively in this article on an internationally lauded settlement, reached between The University of Oklahoma and the OU Foundation and Ms. Léone Meyer, that established an art-sharing agreement in 2016 for the Camille Pissarro painting, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep (1866).

After 75 Years and 15 Claims, a Bid to Regain Lost Art Inches Forward

The New York Times | October 16, 2020

This article, examining the latest developments in a lawsuit involving valuable artworks owned by Hungary and displayed at three museums and a university in Budapest, quotes Arts & Cultural Institutions team leader and Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner Thaddeus Stauber on the Hungarian government’s ownership of the artworks.

Prized Camille Pissarro painting can stay at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, U.S. Court of Appeals rules

ARTnews | August 19, 2020

This article discusses a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that unanimously affirms that NP’s Spanish client, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, is the rightful owner of a prominent artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. The article quotes Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner and Arts & Cultural Institutions team leader Thaddeus Stauber on the decision. The NP team also includes Complex Commercial Disputes partner Sarah Andre, Intellectual Property counsel Aaron Brian, and Labor & Employment associate Irene Scholl-Tatevosyan, all of Los Angeles.

A Spanish Museum Can Keep a Looted Camille Pissarro Painting, an Appeals Court Rules

Artnet News | August 18, 2020

This article discusses a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that unanimously affirms that NP’s Spanish client, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, is the rightful owner of a prominent artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. The article quotes Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner and Arts & Cultural Institutions team leader Thaddeus Stauber on the decision. The NP team also includes Complex Commercial Disputes partner Sarah Andre, Intellectual Property counsel Aaron Brian, and Labor & Employment associate Irene Scholl-Tatevosyan, all of Los Angeles. Click here to read the article.

Experts fear California's gig economy law may hit culture workers

The Art Newspaper | September 23, 2019

Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner Thad Stauber, head of Nixon Peabody’s arts and cultural institutions team, analyzes how the art world could be affected by California legislation restricting employers’ ability to classify employees as independent contractors.

Fight over prized artwork set for Rochester court

Democrat & Chronicle | September 20, 2019

Los Angeles Complex Commercial Disputes partner Thad Stauber discusses his representation of a Pittsford, NY, art collector whose valuable Egon Schiele drawing is the subject of an ownership dispute. Two heirs of art collectors say the drawing was stolen from their families several decades ago.


Thaddeus J. Stauber


Los Angeles

Phone: 213-629-6053

New York

Phone: 212-224-7351

Fax: 866-877-2293

University of Wisconsin Law School, J.D., cum laude

University of Dayton, B.S., Finance, with honors


New York

U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

Thaddeus was selected, through a peer-review survey, for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2022 in the field of Art Law. Thaddeus has been listed in Best Lawyers since 2016, and was the 2018 Art Law “Lawyer of the Year” for Los Angeles. He was also recommended by the Legal 500 2013, 2014 and 2015 for litigation in the areas of Supreme Court and appellate work.

Thaddeus Stauber is a member of Collections, an elite forum of independent senior lawyers to collectors, institutions, the trade, and to artists and their estate.

Defense trial counsel on cases ranging from attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, sexual assault, defamation, 1st Amendment, and death penalty post-trial conviction appeal. Obtained numerous jury trial acquittals.

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