Friday Night Dialogues: Returning art stolen by Nazis

COURTESY PHOTO | ‘Portrait of Wally,’ a 1912 painting by Austrian artist Egon Schiele, was among the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. In July 2010, the Leopold Museum in Austria, which had obtained the painting in 1954, agreed to pay $19 million to the heirs of the work’s rightful owner after The New York Times published a story on the painting’s ownership history in the late 1990s while it was on loan to The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

COURTESY PHOTO | ‘Portrait of Wally,’ a 1912 painting by Austrian artist Egon Schiele, was among the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. In July 2010, the Leopold Museum in Austria, which had obtained the painting in 1954, agreed to pay $19 million to the heirs of the work’s rightful owner after The New York Times published a story on the painting’s ownership history in the late 1990s while it was on loan to The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

World War II ended over 70 years ago, yet attorney Raymond Dowd still fights for the return of stolen art on behalf of the families of Holocaust victims.

On Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m., Mr. Dowd, a partner in the law firm of Dunnington, Bartholow, and Miller in New York City, will appear at Friday Night Dialogues at the library to talk about how looted art bankrolled the Nazi war machine and share information on the legal efforts to return art to the rightful owners in spite of opposition from some of the world’s most prominent museums and art collectors. He will offer insight into the unique world of stolen art and his tenacity in returning these pieces — often after decades.

According to the National Archives, approximately 20 percent of the art in Europe was looted by the Nazis. Much of that art has yet to be discovered and the traditional statute of limitations laws do not take this into consideration. Recently, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (or HEAR Act) was passed unanimously by Congress and it gives heirs of Holocaust victims tools with which to recover art stolen from their families during the war.

COURTESY PHOTO | Raymond Dowd.

COURTESY PHOTO | Raymond Dowd.

The HEAR Act creates a statute of limitations for such claims that is six years from the time of actual discovery of the art’s whereabouts. It is in line with the spirit of two international proclamations stating that technicalities should not be employed to prevent stolen property from being returned to the rightful owners.

As a lawyer, Mr. Dowd has been involved in ground-breaking litigation to recover artworks lost during World War II and he is interested in pursing cases in which his client has been the victim of injustice. He combines an eclectic law practice with a variety of other activities involving the law and art, including writing and lecturing internationally.

A graduate of Westhampton Beach High School, Mr. Dowd attended Fordham Law School, graduating cum laude. He maintains a residence in Westhampton Beach and his interests include restoration of the wild oyster population.

Join us for this fascinating Friday Night Dialogue featuring stories that might have come from a book or a movie. You really don’t want to miss this one!

As a follow-up to Mr. Dowd’s talk, the library will screen the film “The Woman in Gold” starring Helen Mirren on Thursday, July 6 at 7 p.m.

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