OU still won’t give painting that was stolen by Nazis back to its rightful owner…
9:33 AM EST on December 3, 2020
Back in November, when I was in the middle of dealing with a two-week power outage and pre-election anxiety, the NY Times dropped an update on the battle between OU and a holocaust survivor over the ownership of a French painting that was stolen by Nazi looters way back in the 1940s.
In case you forgot, the 1886 painting – La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons – was bequeathed to OU as part of a dead Oil Overlord's art collection in 2000. In 2012, Léone Meyer – the granddaughter of the original owner and heiress to the Galeries Lafayette fortune – discovered that OU had the piece and, rightfully, asked for the University to return it to her family.
Since the painting is worth millions of dollars, and OU – like most universities – values money over ethics and principles, they refused and the matter went to the courts. Eventually, the sides agreed to some sort of weird shared custody agreement, where Meyer could have ownership of the painting and display it in France every couple of years, and then OU could have it and display it in a football suite or whatever every couple of years.
I guess that agreement hasn't worked out too well and now Meyer wants to keep it in France forever. Despite the fact that the artwork was stolen by Nazis, OU still isn't ready to give up. Here's a statement they gave to the paper:
Ms. Meyer “now inexplicably seeks to break” a settlement that “was heralded as a first-of-its-kind U.S.-France international art sharing agreement,” the university’s president, Joseph Harroz, Jr., and the University of Oklahoma Foundation president and chief executive, Guy Patton, said in a statement on Thursday.
The university has acknowledged that the painting was stolen by the Nazis from Ms. Meyer’s father, but said in the previous court proceedings that it did not want to return the work because of procedural rules and the statute of limitations. It also produced evidence that the previous owners, the Weitzenhoffer family, who bequeathed it to the university in 2000, having bought it at a New York gallery, had acted in good faith...
“For all the good faith that the OU Foundation and the University of Oklahoma have extended to Ms. Meyer, it is disappointing that she is actively working to renege on the agreement,” the statement said. “We are ready to challenge this unwarranted threat in U.S. and French courts.”
Know what else is disappointing? The University of Oklahoma won't just give up, do the right thing, and give this lady the painting that Nazis stole from her dad back in the 1940s!
Seriously, what is going on here?? I know OU's mascot is named after a group of people who not only stole land from Native Americans, but also law-abiding white people who were legally waiting to steal the land, but that doesn't mean the school has to hang onto everything they own that was stolen!
Plus, it's not like OU forked over a lot of money for the painting. It was given to them by an old rich lady. They might as well make this come full circle and give it back to another old rich lady.
The University's decision to fight for ownership of the painting is so puzzling that they're even making a couple of old wackos from the Oklahoma legislature look like sane, reasonable, compassionate people from the woke brigade.
Via the OU Daily:
Former Oklahoma state Reps. Mike Reynolds and Paul Wesselhöft issued a press release urging OU to allow Meyer to take full ownership of the painting and keep the piece on display in France for perpetuity.
“The University acknowledged that the painting was stolen by the Nazis from the Meyer estate, but they contend that ‘the statute of limitations’ has run out,” Wesselhöft wrote in the release...
“Other universities and museums have voluntarily given back their Nazi-plundered paintings to rightful Holocaust survivors.” Wesselhöft wrote. “OU should do the right and ethical thing and stand as a moral model to their students by volunteering to surrender their poisoned art.”
“If OU wins in the court it will be a hollow victory,” Reynolds wrote in the release. “Just imagine the painting back in the university museum as people see it and say ‘Oh … that’s the painting that OU refuses to give back to the Holocaust lady.’ What kind of model is the university setting for their students?”
I can't believe I'm writing this, but Reynolds and Wesselhöft actually make good points. That being said, and considering the lack of knowledge and awareness most Millenials and Gen Z kids have about the Holocaust, I doubt the students will really care.
Anyway, the French courts are going to take a look at the matter in January. Hopefully, they do the right thing and let the woman keep the painting. Au revoir.
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