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Ask Lola's Lawyer
by Adam Bobker
by Adam Bobker
Dear Lola,Fine art isn't really my speed. I'm 16 and to me a bag of Doritos and an afternoon of soap operas is my kind of entertainment. The other day I was surfing the net and stumbled on to this Nazi art loot site. There was an image of a big oil painting, just like the one my grandparents had in their house in Berlin, before they had to leave to escape Hitler. We have a picture of the painting in our family album so I'm positive it is the same painting. I want that family heirloom back, but how can I prove it belongs to our family? Confiscated Kid
Dear Kid,Possession is only nine-tenths of the law. Just because the Nazis took your grammy's painting doesn't mean they owned it. A government cannot confiscate property without compensating the citizens they are taking from. So even if a person thought they were buying the painting from the Nazis, they weren't. They were buying hot property from looters. You're right, further evidence is needed to prove you are the rightful heir. On the plus side, the Nazis were excellent record keepers. After taking your family painting, they likely recorded the fact. That record would provide evidence that the painting was owned by someone immediately before it was taken. If you can establish that your family photo was taken before the painting was confiscated you'll have excellent evidence. There are other loot victims just like you out there. You can register your losses online at the Art Loss Register
For a list of forty-six art works in the Art Gallery of Ontario's collection that may be Nazi art loot, see Lola's small text, beginning on page 62.
RODIN'S BIG KISS-OFF
Dear Lola,My husband Basil and I vacation each summer in France. We have a lovely pied-a-terre in Aix en Provence from which we motor into the countryside each afternoon. Last year one of our charming acquaintances, Henri, a dapper man of uncertain age, invited us to dinner near his gallery in Lyons. The fois gras was incroyable, but that is another story. After dinner Henri offered us a tour of his gallery and we bought what he assured us was a real Rodin bronze. It was pricey, but we loved the piece and when we got it home to Rosedale we were the envy of everyone in our circle. That was until this phony New York bitch, pardon my French, came to town with a sculpture just like ours. She says she bought her Rodin from a dealer in Manhattan. Plus, she gives better parties. Can they both be real? Was Henri lying? Can we sue? Miffed Matron
Dear Miffed,While an original oil painting is touched by the artist's hand, the same is not necessarily true of an authentic Rodin bronze. A bronze is made by making a plaster cast of a clay model. Rodin was a prolific artist and rarely oversaw the finishing of his sculptures. Even while he was alive he made more than one bronze from each cast. Many were made in accordance with his standards but they were not physically touched by him. Rodin felt that his originality lay in his concepts not in his processes. His authorized bronzes, reproduced by others, are considered authentic because they are his concepts carried out to his standards. When Rodin died in 1917, he left the rights to his works to the French government. Now the Musee Rodin in Paris claims to have the final word on whether a Rodin is authentic or not, and they consider any Rodin not approved by their institution to be either fake or of inferior quality. I'm sure, Miffed, you've been following the news that the lofty Parisian museum has recently declared the seventy-plus Rodin sculptures at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Ont., purchased for $40 mill, as being inferior. The thing is that since the French copyright of Rodin's work expired in 1989 many copies of his bronzes have been made by many people. All faithful copies are "real" in the sense they are sculptures embodying Rodin's concepts. By telling you that your Rodin was "real," Henri may have been saying that what he sold you is an accurate copy. He may have taken advantage of a gullible social climber, but hasn't misrepresented what he sold you. But to be sure, ask a French lawyer, because if you decide to sue you'll have to do it in France.
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Disclaimer: THIS COLUMN IS WRITTEN FOR ENTERTAINMENT ONLY. These situations are fictitious. Any similarity to any one you know of is a coincidence. Every case is different. These are NOT legal opinions. YOU rely on the ADVICE contained in the answers at YOUR OWN PERIL. IF YOU HAVE A REAL LEGAL PROBLEM, CALL A LAWYER. Bobker really is a lawyer.
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