Pass judgement on facets with DIA; Van Gogh portray cannot be seized

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Detroit — A Detroit federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit to seize an allegedly stolen Vincent van Gogh painting from the Detroit Institute of Arts and give the artwork to its purported owner in Brazil.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled that the DIA did not have to hand over “Liseuse De Romans,” also known as “The Novel Reader” or “The Reading Lady,” which is temporarily displaying in an exhibition that ends Sunday. The judge ruled the artwork is protected by a federal law granting immunity to foreign artwork on display in the United States.

The DIA lawyers argued that the artwork could not be touched because it is protected by a federal law called the Immunity from Seizure Act granting immunity to foreign artwork on display in the United States.

“The painting is immune from seizure pursuant to the act, which prohibits the court from issuing an injunction or entering any other order that would deprive the defendant of custody or control of the painting,” Steeh wrote in an 11-page decision. “Because the court cannot grant the ultimate relief sought by plaintiff, the lawsuit will be dismissed.”

The purported owner, Brazilian art collector Gustavo Soter and his art brokerage company, Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC, said the painting was stolen and had been missing for nearly six years until it was discovered recently on display at the DIA as part of the museum’s “Van Gogh in America” exhibition.

Steeh had nine days earlier ordered that the painting not be removed or hidden, and the DIA posted a security guard near the Van Gogh artwork in recent days.

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