February 1, 2020
In the late 1930’s, as it became clear that his life in Germany was about to become extremely precarious, Paul Leffman sold a Picasso painting that he owned so that he could finance an escape to Switzerland and then, ultimately, to Brazil.
The painting, “The Actor,” now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is valued at over $100 million.
And Leffman’s descendants want it back.
They sued the museum in federal court pursuant to the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act of 2016, a law enacted by Congress meant to ease statute-of-limitations restrictions specifically for the recovery of artworks stolen during World War II. The district court dismissed the action on the grounds that the museum is not the party who caused the distress leading to the initial sale of the painting and that, in any event, “a general state of fear rising from political circumstances is not sufficient to allege duress.” The U.S.Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that Leffman’s heirs waited too long to bring the claim.
Leffman’s heirs have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to decide whether to accept the case before the current term ends in June.
I have a question: How does a painting get valued at $100 million?