Appeals court will hear dispute over control of van Gogh art

February 9, 2023 GMT
FILE - Visitors file past the Van Gogh painting "Une Liseuse De Romans", also known as "The Novel Reader", during the Van Gogh in America exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, on Jan. 11, 2023, in Detroit. A federal appeals court on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, ordered a Detroit museum to hold onto the 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh amid a Brazilian collector's dispute with the museum over the painting. (Andy Morrison/Detroit News via AP, File)
FILE - Visitors file past the Van Gogh painting "Une Liseuse De Romans", also known as "The Novel Reader", during the Van Gogh in America exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, on Jan. 11, 2023, in Detroit. A federal appeals court on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, ordered a Detroit museum to hold onto the 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh amid a Brazilian collector's dispute with the museum over the painting. (Andy Morrison/Detroit News via AP, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court has agreed to hear a dispute over control of an 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh that was recently displayed for months at a Detroit museum.

The court granted an injunction Monday and ordered the Detroit Institute of Arts to continue to hold onto the painting while the case is pending.

A painting of a woman with a book, titled “The Novel Reader,” was part of a rare U.S. exhibition of dozens of van Gogh’s works lent by collectors around the world.

As the show was nearing an end in January, Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC filed a lawsuit claiming to be the owner of the painting. It said it acquired it in 2017 for $3.7 million, gave temporary possession to a third party and hasn’t seen the art since.

The museum is not accused of wrongdoing. It has not publicly explained how it got the painting on loan, saying only that it came from a collection in Brazil. Brokerarte Capital’s sole proprietor is Gustavo Soter, a Brazilian.

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Brokerarte Capital wants the museum to turn over the painting. It appealed after a judge in Detroit dismissed a lawsuit, saying federal law governing the international sharing of art prevented him from stepping in.

The art world is watching. The Association of Art Museum Directors had urged the appeals court to dismiss the case. It said art collectors outside the U.S. would be reluctant to share in the future if they might somehow get tied up in litigation.

“The entire U.S. museum community, with its reputation for mounting groundbreaking loan exhibitions, will suffer. So will the museum-going public, which will lose the opportunities to experience otherwise inaccessible works,” association attorney Dennis Rose said.

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