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 renowned attorney, trusted advisor and skilled negotiator for the art world’s leading players wherever they, the dispute or deal may reside.

From representing the estates and families of legendary artists such as Pablo Picasso, to working with established art foundations such as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, to next generation artists like Sterling Ruby, Thaddeus understands the ins-and-outs of 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?

Major 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 property 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. Most recently, we have argued and won highly contested cases in state and federal courts ranging from New York to California, Ohio to Louisiana and Washington DC to Chicago.

Creative legal strategies, practical first-hand industry knowledge and extensive personal experience with both trials and appeals allow me and my team to develop winning case strategies. Notable cases include representing Hungary in an international action challenging the country’s historical ownership of more than 40 artworks in their national collection and successfully winning 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.

Major Art Transactions and Art Industry

I also work with foreign countries, museums, artists, major collectors and dealers in significant art and cultural property 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 other groundbreaking contemporary art commissions along with site specific installation and international exhibition agreements.

Working with my colleagues, I provide outside general counsel guidance to the world’s leading cultural institutions, foreign sovereigns, heads and curators of important museums, international art collectors and dealers, and parties involved in the art industry. My personal relationships worldwide with some of the most respected professionals in this network allow my team to call on these resources to help get the most difficult of deals done.

As a former general counsel to two major U.S. museums and advisor to Nixon Peabody’s Public Finance practice, I’ve helped clients gain approval for and raise nearly $1 billion for major museum projects across the country.  We also coordinate with tax counsel on 1031 exchanges and cross-border sales.

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 tirelessly 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 and four of its leading museums and cultural institutions in current federal court litigation in Washington DC over the Herzog Collection. The New York Times reported the case to be the largest unresolved art restitution case in the world.
  • Cassirer v. the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain—Won the challenge to the world-renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation’s ownership of important artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Served as lead counsel on rare en banc oral argument, addressing issues of first impression regarding Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act of 1976 (FSIA). Filed petition for a writ of certiorari on client’s behalf challenging jurisdiction under the FSIA. After the Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General, met with the Deputy Solicitor General and members of the U.S. Departments of State and Justice. Following the meeting, the Office of the Solicitor General recommended that the Kingdom of Spain be dismissed. On remand to the district court, won the case on the merits confirming the Foundation’s rightful ownership.
  • The University of Oklahoma—Led the team that 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 OU 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Reif v. Nagy—Defending London art dealer Richard Nagy in New York state court in adverse ownership claim to two Egon Schiele artworks. This is the first case involving art title insurance.
  • JFK Terminal One—Engaged to represent Terminal One’s ownership on unique art installation’s contested relocation under the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”). After arbitration hearing brokered resolution that 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.

Special Art-Related Projects

  • 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. Created a unique Fair Use Policy for the Foundation. This first-of-its-kind policy for an artist-endowed foundation leads the way with regard to copyright fair use in the arts as it makes images of Robert Rauschenberg’s artwork more accessible to museums, scholars, artists and the public.
  • Art collection management, provenance authencity 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 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.
  • Artist and gallery commission, consignment and sales agreements and auction house deals—Artist exhibition, copyright, trademark and licensing agreements, along with general counsel advice.

Reported Copyright & Contract Disputes in the Central District of California

  • Goodness Films, LLC, et al. v. TV One, LLC, et al.—Lead counsel for TV One in a copyright dispute before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Won contested motion for preliminary injunction allowing for on-schedule premiere and airing of a new TV One series.
  • TV One LLC v. BET Networks, et al.—TV One’s counsel in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case centered upon the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2010 ESSENCE Musical Festival. The lawsuit against BET Networks, Northstar Media LLC, Music World Music LLC, Matthew Knowles and Pat McDonald over TV One’s exclusive broadcast rights to the 2010 Festival.
  • HACLA v. HUD—Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles’ special lead litigation counsel against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development obtaining a federal court injunction over the objection of the U.S. Department of Justice stopping HUD from terminating HACLA’s $284 million annual federal contract. Successfully negotiated HUD’s award of the contract back to HACLA. The win saved over 200 full-time jobs in Los Angeles and netted HACLA millions of dollars in revenue that is utilized to support vital social and community services to the residents of Los Angeles’ public and affordable housing community.

Speaking Engagements

  • “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
  • “A Fiduciary’s Nightmare in the Disposition of Personal Property,” Hawaii Tax Institute
  • “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
  • American Association of Museums Annual Conference, Tax-Exempt Financing for Museum Projects
  • ALI-ABA Legal Problems in Museum Administration

London's National Gallery prevails in 'stolen' Matisse lawsuit: New York judge

Reuters | September 21, 2017

Nixon Peabody’s Arts and Cultural Institutions team, led by Los Angeles partners Thad Stauber and Sarah André secured a legal victory on behalf of The National Gallery in London in a lawsuit regarding the Gallery's Henri Matisse painting "Portrait of Greta Moll” (1908).  Sarah is quoted in this article about the case.

Legal battle over Schiele works owned by Jewish entertainer who died in Dachau

The Art Newspaper | April 06, 2017

This article focuses on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act and its potential impact on art restitution cases. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team Thad Stauber is noted in this article as representing art collector Richard Nagy.

$30 Million Nazi-looted Camille Pissarro comes to a head in appeals court

ArtNews Net | December 06, 2016

The following articles highlight yesterday’s oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the ownership of a Camille Pissarro painting. Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team Thaddeus Stauber, commercial litigation partner Sarah André and associate Jessica Walker are counsel for The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation.

Quest for Nazi-plundered art returns to 9th Circ.

Law360 | December 06, 2016

The following articles highlight yesterday’s oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the ownership of a Camille Pissarro painting.  Los Angeles commercial litigation partner and head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team Thaddeus Stauber, commercial litigation partner Sarah André and associate Jessica Walker are counsel for The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation.

The dealmaker behind the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fisher Family partnership

Art Daily | May 16, 2016

This article features Nixon Peabody’s role as deal counsel and advisor to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Fisher Family to create a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a museum and a collection. Los Angeles partner and Arts & Cultural Institutions leader Thad Stauber led the NP team in this unprecedented agreement with support from Washington, DC, partner Mike Cooney and Los Angeles partner Matt Grazier. SFMOMA opened to the public on May 14, featuring an expansive new addition displaying hundreds of pieces of postwar and contemporary art work from the Fisher Family.

Why two American museums are fighting to keep art stolen by the Nazis

The Washington Post | June 30, 2015

Nixon Peabody partner and head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team Thaddeus Stauber is quoted in this article discussing recent art restitution cases. The article calls Thaddeus one of the leaders in defending museums in such cases.

Judge Rejects Claim for a Pissarro by Heirs in Nazi Art Case

The New York Times | June 10, 2015

This feature article focuses on a recent U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain in an artwork dispute that spanned a decade. Los Angeles commercial litigation partners Thad Stauber and Sarah André represented the Foundation in this dispute.


Thaddeus J. Stauber


Los Angeles

Phone: 213-629-6053

New York

Phone: 212-940-3000

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, Sixth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

Thad was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018 in the field of Art Law, and was the 2018 Art Law “Lawyer of the Year” for Los Angeles. Thad has been listed in Best Lawyers since 2016. He was also recommended by the Legal 500 2013, 2014 and 2015 for litigation in the areas of Supreme Court and appellate work.

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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