Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Contested Pre-Columbian Artefacts in Pittsburg Museum

Where does this lot come from?
Scott B. Leff of Point Breeze claims that nearly 300  pieces of Pre-Columbian art on display in the University of Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art were stolen in 1996 from his father, Jay C. Leff, a retired bank president and renowned collector of pre-Columbian art (who died in 2000). Leff is seeking a court order for the art's return or damages equal to its current value.
The lawsuit says his son learned in 2015 that the museum had bought the art a decade earlier but that Notre Dame refused to acknowledge his ownership. Although the museum bought the art from a legitimate dealer, the dealer apparently bought it from the thief, the lawsuit says.  [...]  Scott Leff reported the theft to Pittsburgh police in 1996, according to a copy of the police report included in the lawsuit. He valued the collection at $575,000. In a letter to Scott Leff included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, the university notes that there's no evidence that anything came of the police report and neither of the Leffs ever took any action to recover the art from the person the son believes stole it. “We do not believe a true owner of this valuable art would do nothing for 20 years about the theft of art allegedly worth ($500,000),” the letter said. The university said that without “compelling proof” of Leff's ownership, it would reject his demands for return of the art or a negotiated sale.

Brian Bowling, 'Fight between Pittsburgh man, Notre Dame over half million dollars of early American art moves to federal court', June 14, 2016.

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