Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2003
Lawsuit seeks to block LACMA's Pushkin show
The grandson of a Russian aristocrat contends that the exhibition includes
25 works that the Bolsheviks took from his family.
By Christopher Reynolds, Times Staff Writer
In a legal challenge that aims to block an upcoming show at the Los
County Museum of Art, the grandson of a Russian aristocrat is arguing that
25 of the artworks including paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Matisse, Picasso
and Van Gogh are stolen goods, looted from his family by Lenin's Bolshevik
government in 1918 and later passed to Moscow's State Pushkin Museum.
The suit, filed Tuesday on behalf of Andre Marc Delocque-Fourcaud in
District Court in Los Angeles, argues that the works should be removed from
the LACMA exhibition "Old Masters, Impressionists, and Moderns: French
Masterworks From the State Pushkin Museum, Moscow," which is scheduled to
open July 27. The suit also contends that the museum owes compensation for
"If they take out the 25 works, I guess they can do the rest of the
said Edward E. Klein, New York-based attorney for Delocque-Fourcaud.
The lawsuit doesn't specify how much compensation they are seeking.
Klein said the action is part of a larger campaign to recover ownership
the works which have been shown in 2002 and 2003 in Houston and Atlanta as
part of the traveling Pushkin masterworks show and win "recognition of the
illegal seizure of the works by the Bolsheviks and Lenin 85 years ago."
But with this particular court action, Klein said, "we're not seeking
seizure of the works. We're seeking blockage of the show" or compensation.
Officials at LACMA had no comment Tuesday.
Greg Guroff, president of the Foundation for International Arts and
Education, a co-sponsor of the traveling exhibition, said that "everyone
connected with this has behaved absolutely correctly" and that the suit is
effectively an effort to sort out the consequences of the Russian Revolution
in a California courthouse.
Klein said he has had two inconclusive conversations about the works
the Los Angeles museum's general counsel, Thaddeus J. Stauber, and hopes the
filing of the suit will prompt more talks.
The show includes 76 paintings from the Pushkin, most never shown in
U.S., including works from the 17th to 20th centuries. The show is to run
through Oct. 13 at LACMA, its only West Coast stop. The show was
co-organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Pushkin Museum; and
the Foundation for International Arts and Education. Because of time
constraints and other issues, Klein said, LACMA is the only institution
named in the suit.
Delocque-Fourcaud, a French citizen who is a grandson and heir of Russian
art patron Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin, is represented by attorneys Klein of
New York and E. Randol Schoenberg of Los Angeles. Klein said
Delocque-Fourcaud's family has been trying to recover the works for five
decades and has gone to court in Europe three times without success. (He
said the family did receive an unspecified settlement payment in 2000 after
taking legal action against a museum in Germany.)
This action is the case's first appearance in a U.S. court, Klein said,
adding that he expected much to depend on the court's view of an agreement
last August between the exhibition's Houston organizers and the U.S. State
Department. Under that agreement, the State Department gave museum officials
immunity from seizure of the artworks, but Klein suggested that the immunity
may have been improperly granted, because his client's claim on the works
may have been understated.
At bottom, Klein said, the argument is that "it should not be permissible
for American institutions to traffic in stolen property."
In their promotional materials for the exhibition, LACMA officials have
that the Pushkin Museum's inventory includes "works from two outstanding
collections formed before the Russian Revolution by Moscow merchants Ivan
Morozov and Sergei Shchukin."
Among the most notable of the 25 works Shchukin collected are several
Picassos, including "Harlequin and His Companion (The Saltimbanques)" from
1901; "Spanish Woman From Mallorca" from 1905; and the Cubist work "The
Violin" from 1912.
Ownership controversies have flared repeatedly in the art world in recent
years, including several cases involving World War II.
Early last year, LACMA officials returned a late medieval Persian or
textile canopy to the Princes Czartoryski Foundation Museum in Krakow,
Poland. The piece had been in LACMA's collection since 1971, but provenance
research showed it had been seized by the Nazis in 1941.
JULY 16, 2003 | LITIGATION
Heir Sues to Halt LACMA Exhibit
By Susan McRae
Daily Journal Staff Writer LOS ANGELES - The heir to a renowned
Russian art patron, who claims his grandfather's paintings were looted by
Lenin during the 1917 Communist Revolution, filed suit Tuesday in Los
Angeles federal court in an effort to bar the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art from presenting a special exhibit of the work.
In his complaint, Paris resident Andre Marc Delocque-Fourcaud
alleges that American museums are enriching themselves by exhibiting his
family's French impressionist paintings. Delocque-Fourcaud v. The Los
Angeles County Museum of Art, CV03-5027 (C.D. Cal., filed July 15, 2003).
The traveling exhibit, titled, "Old Masters, Impressionists and
Moderns," has been shown in Houston and Atlanta and is scheduled to open in
Los Angeles on July 27, where, according to the complaint, a separate
admission of up to $20 is charged for public viewings.
"If you speak to the museum, ask them why they are trafficking in
stolen art," said Delocque-Fourcaud's lawyer, Edward P. Klein of New York's
Klein & Solomon.
Thaddeus Stauber, the Los Angeles museum's general counsel, said
that he has not yet been served with the complaint, so he can't comment on
However, Stauber said that before accepting the exhibit, the museum
was assured by Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, which co-organized the
exhibit, that all the works could travel freely in the United States.
The Houston museum also said, according to Stauber, that the State
Department had approved its application for federal immunity from seizure,
under a program to encourage and facilitate the lending of art works to
institutions in the United States for public exhibition and educational
The approval means that the art is protected from seizure while on
tour in the United States.
But Klein, who began representing Delocque-Fourcaud in April,
contends that the art should not be exhibited for profit while the ownership
is in dispute.
According to the complaint, the Houston museum allegedly failed to
disclose to the State Department, as required by federal law, that
Delocque-Fourcaud had claimed ownership to art in the exhibit inherited from
his grandfather, Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin.
Among the disputed artworks are "Portrait of Doctor Rey" by Vincent van
Gogh, "The Pipe Smoker" by Paul Cezanne and "Goldfish" by Henri Matisse.
Klein said that he repeatedly asked the State Department and the
Houston museum to provide him with documentation that they had made the
requisite disclosure, while the exhibit was shown in Houston and Atlanta. He
also filed two Freedom of Information requests without result, Klein said.
As a last resort, Klein said, he decided to seek an injunction
before the show opened in Los Angeles.
"There is ample evidence that the museums that are exhibiting these
works had knowledge of [Delocque-Fourcaud's] ownership claims but did not
accurately represent them to the U.S. Department of State when requesting
permission for these paintings to be brought to the United States for this
exhibit," Klein said.
Thus, Klein contended, the immunity from seizure was improperly
granted and should be nullified.
Klein said that, beginning in 1954, Shchukin's heirs have attempted
several unsuccessful legal actions in France and Germany for return of the
art seized by the Soviet government from Shchukin's home. Another claim is
pending in Italy, he said.
The Shchukin collection later was broken up and sent to the Pushkin
Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the
No one was available at either the Houston Museum of Fine Arts or
the State Department for comment.
However, Greg Guroff, president of the Bethesda, Md.-based
Foundation for International Arts and Education, who co-organized the
exhibit, said that the State Department was fully aware of the issues of
provenance regarding all 76 paintings on exhibit, which came from a number
"The issue is in some ways is pretty simple," Guroff said.
"These paintings were nationalized by the Soviet government, and the
State Department is fully aware of their history," Guroff said, comparing
the nationalization process to the U.S. law of eminent domain.
Guroff added that this is not the first time that the paintings have
been shown in the United States.
Guroff, who spent years with the State Department and served in
Russia, said he is very familiar with the U.S. law that grants immunity to
temporary art exhibits shown in this country from the former Soviet Union as
part of national and cultural interests.
"If the heirs have a grievance against the Russian state, they are
free to file wherever they want, but it's hard to imagine how viewing art
could be damaging [to Delocque-Fourcaud's claim]," Guroff said.
"This is something to be resolved with the Russian government, not
with the art exhibit in Los Angeles," he added.
Moreover, Guroff said, he talked to the State Department's legal
section earlier and was told that Klein had been provided with the
information he requested.
But Klein said the only thing he ever received from the State
Department was a list of the paintings on exhibit.
Shchukin, a Russian merchant, assembled one of the world's finest
collections of French impressionist art, according to the complaint,
totaling more than 130 paintings, including works by Picasso, van Gogh and
During the Russian Revolution, Lenin nationalized most of Shchukin's
personal property without compensation, making his home and art collection
the property of the new Communist government.
The collection's works alone are collectively estimated to be worth
$3 billion in today's market, Klein said.
Klein said that his client is driven by a passion to see his
grandfather's collection reunited and his contributions to the art world
"The museums showing my grandfather's pieces have received
substantial income from receipts for admission," Delocque-Fourcaud said in a
statement. "That income has been derived from the exploitation of pieces of
property that belong to my family. That's quite simply not the kind of
behavior one expects from institutions of this stature and standing."
© 2003 Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved.
Wall Street Journal
July 16, 2003 12:11 a.m. EDT
U.S. BUSINESS NEWS
Heir of Russian Collector
Sues Los Angeles Museum
By BROOKS BARNES
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
In a legal case that experts say could chill loans of foreign art to U.S. museums, the heir of a Russian art collector is suing a California museum for part of the revenue it will earn exhibiting works confiscated during the Russian Revolution.
The heir, Andre Marc Delocque-Fourcaud, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, saying a blockbuster exhibition opening July 27, "Old Masters, Impressionists and Moderns: French Masterworks from the State Pushkin Museum, Moscow," includes "stolen property."
The suit says 26 paintings appropriated by the Bolsheviks in 1918 from Mr. Delocque-Fourcaud's grandfather are featured in the show. The Paris resident is seeking an undisclosed portion of the revenue from the exhibit, including gift-shop sales.
The suit is notable on two counts, art dealers and attorneys said. It seeks revenue from the exhibition, rather than restitution of the art, and, unlike a spate of similar, and largely successful, suits in recent years, it doesn't hinge upon Nazi looting during World War II. Ronald Spencer, an art-industry attorney at the New York firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, said the case is likely to make top foreign institutions shy away even more from lending out high-profile artworks with disputed ownership. There is reason to be concerned, he said, that this suit could "put the kibosh on foreign loans."
According to the suit, the museum "has been, and will continue to be, unjustly enriched to the detriment" of Mr. Delocque-Fourcaud and is engaging in a "fraudulent business act or practice" by receiving shipments of "stolen property." Thaddeus Stauber, general counsel for the museum, said, "We've been assured that all of the objects are covered" under an immunity agreement the U.S. State Department granted in 2002 for all of the art in the exhibition; such governmental immunity is routine in the exchange of major artworks between nations. "We have no plans to change anything with the show," he said.
The suit comes after the paintings have crisscrossed the U.S. for nearly
a year as part of an exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
One of the lawyers representing Mr. Delocque-Fourcaud, E. Randol Schoenberg
of Burris & Schoenberg LLP in Los Angeles, said the suit was filed
on the third leg of the tour because California jurisdictions have been
"a little bit friendlier" to plaintiffs regarding art-restitution matters.