He Wants His Money Back: Returning Works Once Confiscated By Nazis

Under what circumstances should an art buyer be able to return a piece of art? What kind of history must be disclosed at the point of purchase? Christie’s auction house is being sued by an art dealer who believes he is entitled to a refund on a painting that was purchased nearly ten years ago.

A few years ago, the art dealer, Dreyfus, was approached about a work he owned called Premier Jour De Printemps a Moret by Alfred Sisley. Dreyfus purchased the piece for three hundred and thirty eight thousand and five hundred dollars with expenses at a Christie’s auction years ago. He was notified that the piece was an artwork stolen by Nazi’s around the year 1940. They even informed him of the family who it rightfully belonged to. They pulled out the inventory of art that was confiscated around 1940 by Hitlers special task force.

The art dealer is left with few options with this piece. Since the piece is part of history, he is allowed to keep it and store it but he can never sell it. He could also return the artwork to a member of the family to whom it originally belonged. Although, he welcomes returning the piece, he still wants a reimbursement from Christie’s for the purchase of the painting. He invoiced the auction house for seven hundred thousand dollars and is following up on the unpaid bill in court.

A representative of Christie’s auction house has stated that they did not have this information at the point of sale and are not responsible for reimbursing the art dealer. They claimed that they are working to help all parties come to a favourable decision about the piece by bringing together the art dealer, auction representative and family member who is the rightful owner.