The Legal Landscape of the International Art Market after Republic of Austria v. Altmann

Choi, Sue | January 1, 2005

In this note, I will show how Republic of Austria v. Altmann, while seemingly advancing the reparation of Nazi-looted art claims, undermines the stability of the international art market and the ultimate ability of future claimants to successfully recover their artwork due to inconsistent application of state and federal statutes. Part I will summarize the recent Supreme Court decision of Republic of Austria v. Altmann and its claim against a foreign country for the return of Nazi-looted art. Part II will examine what current legal protections exist to buffer the threat of litigation over Nazi-looted artwork that is on loan to museums. Part III will then focus on how these laws are applied in recent cases that have arisen after Republic of Austria v. Altmann and analyze their implications for potential claimants and future defendants. Lastly, Part IV will advocate for a uniform and transparent set of rules that will encourage resolution of art title claims between the original owners, its heirs or assigns, and the good faith purchaser without fear of being subject to outcome determinative jurisdictions, inconsistent judicial processes, and undesired seizures of artworks.