In New Orleans, an Oskar Kokoschka painting has been the subject of a restitution lawsuit. The portrait of a sick boy found its way two New Orleans through a Massachusetts family that had bought the work from a dealer named Otto Kallir. Sarah Dunbar was the woman who inherited the Kokoschka. The Reichel family had commissioned the work:
Dunbar’s lawyers, Thaddeus Stauber and Jennifer Borum Bechet, argued that although the Reichel family had long ago sought reparations for property that was stolen by the Nazis, they never sought the return of the Hans portrait, or questioned their dealings with Kallir, who was also Jewish. The painting, Dunbar’s lawyers said, has appeared in public exhibits and books for decades, so there was no effort to keep it under wraps.
In August 2009, the federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana judged in favor of Dunbar. On Aug. 20, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. Under Louisiana law, the court ruled, Dunbar is the clear owner of the Kokoschka by “acquisitive prescription,” because she openly held the painting for 10 years. The period of time during which anyone could have contested her ownership had lapsed. There was no cause to apply “federal common law authority” over Louisiana law and the “extraordinary circumstances” necessary to reconsider the case had not been met.
New Orleans Woman Wins Legal Fight to Keep Painting (Times-Picayune)