Detroit judge dismisses lawsuit over control of van Gogh art

Streaming HUBJanuary 24, 2023

DETROIT (AP) – A judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit over control of an 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh, saying federal law prevents him from stepping in in a dispute between a Brazilian collector and a Detroit museum.

US District Judge George Carm Steeh said a painting of a woman with a book titled “The Novel Reader” is protected from seizure, and the Detroit Institute of Arts cannot be ordered to leave it.

The painting has been part of a month-long van Gogh exhibition that ends on Sunday. Dozens of paintings by the Dutch master are on loan to the museum.

Lawyers for Brazilian collector Gustavo Soter filed a lawsuit last week, saying he bought the art in 2017 for $3.7 million but was not able to find it after giving it away to a third party.

Brokerart Capital Partners LLC and Souter, its sole owner, had asked the judge to order the museum to hand over the painting.

The museum has not publicly disclosed how it obtained the painting for the show, saying only that it came from Brazil. However, Steeh maintained that the museum is “innocent”.

The museum stated that the painting was not listed as stolen by the FBI or the International Art Loss Register.

The judge noted that federal law protects the temporary sharing of works of international art or cultural significance, a defense raised by the museum.

“An entity ultimately needs to bear the burden of proof in court that a foreign lender had a legal right to loan an object before it can claim that the object is immune from seizure, further (the law k) would not advance the stated objective and would likely have a chilling effect on cultural exchange,” Steeh said.

An email was sent to attorneys for Brokerage Capital and Soter seeking comment.

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