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.
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.
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.
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.
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
U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
University of Dayton, B.S., Finance, with honors
University of Wisconsin Law School, J.D., cum laude
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. He is also a founding member of Summaeverythang Community Center, Inc., a charitable organization based in South Central Los Angeles which donates and delivers organic produce from Southern California farms to South Central L.A.
Thaddeus was selected, through a peer-review survey, for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2023 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.
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.
In a case that has been ongoing for more than 15 years, Thaddeus Stauber and alumna Sarah Andre secured a precedent-setting bench trial decision for our client in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2019. They won the case in the lower court after a full trial on the merits by demonstrating to the judge (who wrote a lengthy decision in our favor) that there was no evidence to support the plaintiffs’ allegations of wrongdoing by the Foundation. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit, which considered the case for the fourth time. Following a Zoom oral argument in August 2020, the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision. The plaintiffs’ filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which raised the discrete question of whether courts should apply the federal common law or forum choice-of-law test to determine the applicable substantive law when an action involves a foreign sovereign. Back in 2015, the district court determined that, under both tests, Spanish law must apply and that the Foundation is the lawful owner of an artwork under Spanish law. In 2017, the Ninth Circuit affirmed, but examined only the district court’s federal common law analysis. In September 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the plaintiffs’ petition, which led to the in-person oral argument on the proper choice-of-law test to apply in an action involving a foreign sovereign defendant. The audio link of the oral argument before the high court in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation can be found here.
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.
Subscribe to stay informed of the latest legal news, alerts, and business trends.Subscribe