OU seeks millions in legal fines, heiress of Nazi-looted Pissarro painting held in contempt of U.S. court in effort to alter 2016 settlement | News

OU is keen to collect millions in fines from its courtroom adversary in ongoing litigation in order to uphold a 2016 settlement that envisages the proposed rotation of a looted painting between France and the university for exhibition.

The university and the painting’s heiress, Léone Meyer – a Holocaust survivor who was accepted into the Jewish family who looted the painting from their home by Nazi forces – reached an agreement in 2016 stating that the Paintings intended to switch between the Fred Jones Jr. Museum the OU Art and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Meyer reopened the lawsuit in November 2020. According to a testimony from Meyer’s attorney Ron Soffer, Meyer was suing again for the Musée d’Orsay’s refusal to accept the painting as a gift, a condition of the original settlement, based on “French law that prohibits indefinite agreements” such as the one in the 2016 settlement agreed rotation of the painting between OU and France.

Article 1210 of the French Civil Code, which is translated here, states: “Perpetual obligations are prohibited” and either party to such an agreement may “terminate such an obligation under the conditions set out in the Code for contracts of unlimited duration. ”

On January 4, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ordered the university to impose recommended sanctions on Meyer for violating an injunction it issued and ordered her to bring her lawsuit to the French courts break up.

The university filed its recommended sanctions to despise Meyer in court on Jan. 15, including a one-time fine of $ 3.65 million for failing to cease litigation within three days of filing, and other fines between $ 25,000 and $ 100,000 if Meyer fails to end their litigation within three days of paying the original fine. More than a month later, the lawsuit is still ongoing.

The fines were calculated by estimating Meyer’s net worth from “publicly available sources”. This found a document by the Oklahoma West District Court that amounted to approximately $ 731 million, so the proposed one-time fee is “one-half percent of Von Meyer’s estimated wealth.

Any funds received from the fines in excess of the fees required to offset the university’s legal costs may be used if the court deems the use “reasonable” to provide “scholarships and other financial resources” in support of students studying the To set up “fine arts”, the French language and / or study abroad in France. “

Max Weitzenhoffer, a graduate of the OU, former regent and chairman of the Nimax Theater, gave the painting “Shepherdess Bringing Sheep”, completed in 1886 by Camille Pissarro, to the Fred Jones Jr. Art Museum in 2000. In an interview with The Daily, Weitzenhoffer said he has paid little attention to the painting or the original court battle that played out in 2014 since then.

“I didn’t like the whole tone of what was going on anyway. I just moved away from it, ”said Weitzenhoffer. “Let the university decide what to do with it.”

Weitzenhoffer said he believed the original settlement was a fair deal for each party.

“You have made an agreement about the painting that is completely satisfactory. I’m really not interested anymore, it’s been 22 years,” said Weitzenhoffer, noting how long it was no longer in his possession.

Meyer’s adoptive father, Raoul Meyer, attempted to recover the painting after discovering that it had been brought to Switzerland in 1951, according to subpoena documents from the Paris District Court. A 1953 decision by a Swiss judge rejected her father’s attempt to recover the art due to the “five-year statute of limitations” that had passed, according to subpoenas from the French court, even though Judge Raoul Meyer’s original ownership of the painting did not deny.

“After the decision of the Swiss court, Raoul Meyer lost sight of the painting again because the owner quickly disposed of it,” says the subpoena.

The painting was recreated in 1956 when it was exhibited at the David Findlay Gallery in New York. According to the summons document, the Weitzenhoffer family bought the painting from the gallery in 1957.

“It has not been secreted darkly at sources in the United States,” Weitzenhoffer said. “In all the years we’ve had the painting, it has not been an unknown painting.”

Weitzenhoffer said his mother would never have been interested in the painting if she had been aware of the piece’s past as the family is of Jewish descent.

Weitzenhoffer said he supported the original agreement to rotate the painting between Oklahoma and France to allow people who may not have the opportunity to travel to art centers like New York City or Paris to see valuable works.

“This painting that is here benefits many people. People in this state, people in this city, really enjoy seeing these things, if they don’t live in New York, they don’t live in France, ”Weitzenhoffer said. “(The Shepherdess’ play) is not a great pissarro – there are great pissarros in Paris … you will see paintings that tear the stains off this painting … it is a first class picture, but it is not a really great picture. ”

His father’s belief that family prosperity is a result of “the hard work of the Oklahoma people” is another reason he wants to give back in every possible way, including the fine arts, Weitzenhoffer said. After his grandfather immigrated from Austria and opened a salon in Lexington prior to Oklahoma statehood, Weitzenhofer’s father generated much of the family fortune through the oil industry, he said.

“When we give back, we give something back to them. That’s why these pictures are here, and that’s why I brought them here, ”said Weitzenhoffer. “You made it possible to give (the pictures). I would love to see it back and forth for you here (in Oklahoma). “

Soffer wrote in the statement that it was important for Meyer to exhibit the painting in his home country.

“For (Meyer) it is important that the painting is exhibited in one of the largest museums in the world so that millions of visitors can see it, read about its history and remember their parents,” the statement said.

On March 2, the Paris court will hold a hearing on the merits of the case, a hearing on whether to hold the painting by another party until the end of the litigation, and a recent injunction from Meyer’s attorney team against the filing the university that led to the injunction.

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