Debates over Control of $5 M. Van Gogh Painting Heads to Federal Appeals Court

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Vincent van Gogh, Une Liseuse de romans, 1888.

A federal appeals court has agreed to hear a dispute over control of a Vincent van Gogh painting. The painting was recently exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). The court ordered the museum to continue to keep the 1888 painting Une Liseuse de Romans while the case was pending.

The painting, which depicts a woman reading a book, was part of the DIA exhibition Van Gogh in America, which featured 74 Vincent van Gogh paintings.

Last month, as the exhibition drew to a close, Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC filed a claim for ownership of Van Gogh’s painting.

Brokerarte said it acquired Une Liseuse de Romans for $3.7 million in 2017, transferring temporary ownership to a third party. They spent years trying to track its whereabouts before they learned the Van Gogh painting was part of a DIA exhibit. Now the cost of this canvas is estimated at $ 5 million.

The museum stated in its exhibition materials that the Van Gogh Brokerarte is owned by Brazilian collector Gustavo Soter. The company wants the museum to return the Van Gogh painting was on loan from a private collection in Brazil. They were not charged with wrongdoing.

But last month, the judge agreed with the DIA. The court said the museum had made every effort to ensure the work had not been stolen. The museum has invoked the Withdrawal Act, a federal law governing the international exchange of works of art. The DIA argued that compliance with it was critical to ensure that foreign owners continue to provide important work to American institutions.

The Association of Art Museum Directors also called on the appeals court to dismiss the case.

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