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For Herrick Feinstein partners Lawrence Kaye and Howard Spiegler, practicing law has become something of a lost art. Or more specifically, lost art has become their practice. Over the past three decades, the two attorneys have built a reputation for replevin — the pursuit of claims by dispossessed owners of artwork that, either through loss or theft, have wound up in the hands of someone else. “In terms of replevin, they are tops,” said Constance Lowenthal, a New York-based art ownership consultant who formerly ran the Commission for Art Recovery for the World Jewish Congress. “Other people do good work, but some of the good work that others do is because of the groundwork that they have laid.” Just last month, Kaye and Spiegler helped Marei von Saher, the sole living heir of Dutch art collector Jacques Goudstikker, retrieve a painting by Flemish master Anthony van Dyck entitled “Maria Magdalena.” Goudstikker’s collection was looted by the Nazis shortly after they occupied the Netherlands in 1940. “It was a renowned collection in Holland at the time of the war,” said Kaye, who along with Spiegler has been retained by the von Saher family to help retrieve the rest of the missing paintings Goudstikker owned. “It was clearly one of the largest and most significant collections looted by the Nazis.” The two attorneys trace their roots as “raiders of the lost art” to a case that began in the early 1970s. Kaye, 57, was a summer associate at the now-defunct Botein Hayes & Sklar when he was asked to assist on Kunstsammlungen Zu Weimar v. Elicofon, a case in which the then-East Germany’s Weimar Museum was trying to recover two paintings by Albert D�rer that were stolen at the end of World War II, probably by American G.I.s, Kaye said. “They were bought by a New York lawyer in 1946 for $5,000 and they hung on his wall until about 1966 when a friend of his recognized them as the D�rers that were stolen,” said Kaye. Spiegler, 53, joined Botein Hayes a few years later and was also assigned to the case. In 1983, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the paintings should be returned to Germany. The case was instrumental in establishing the “demand and refusal” rule concerning the statute of limitations on lost or stolen items that were subsequently purchased by third parties in good faith. Under that rule, the statute of limitations begins to run when the dispossessed owner makes a demand on the present owner for the return of his or her goods, as opposed to when the goods were first stolen. “When we started doing this … there was not much of an art law field,” said Kaye. “The recovery of the D�rers was a seminal case in terms of the return of stolen art and as a result of that we became fairly well known.” After that victory, Kaye and Spiegler were retained by the Republic of Turkey to help recover the Lydian Hoard, a collection of gold, silver and glass from about 550 B.C. that was illegally excavated and sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1987, the attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art seeking the return of the Lydian Hoard. The suit was dropped six years later after the museum relented and agreed to the return. The Lydian Hoard is now on display in a museum at Usak, Turkey. The successful retrievals of lost or stolen artwork by the pair has also forced museums and other collectors to be more cautious about who they buy art from. “Because of their success in getting things back, people and institutions who acquire [artwork] have to meet a higher standard of due diligence,” said Lowenthal. “They have really raised the standard.” PUBLIC INTEREST With the aid of investigators, art historians, and in some cases U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials, Kaye and Spiegler have helped retrieve many works of art over the years. An effort to recover a painting by Austrian master Egon Schiele on behalf of a previous owner is in litigation. The recent surge in the recovery of artwork stolen during the Holocaust has led to more of an interest in the cases by the public. Sharon Flescher, executive director of the non-profit International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), gives Kaye and Spiegler credit for helping draw public attention to such cases. “Years ago IFAR was one of the only organizations to cover issues like Holocaust-era restitution and publish articles on it,” said Flescher, who is also the editor-in-chief of the IFAR Journal. “But now it’s front page news in daily newspapers around the country and the general public is aware of the importance of the subject.” Despite their influence in shaping art law, neither Kaye nor Spiegler had any particular affinity for the art world before they started working on lost art cases. “We learned our expertise in art purely from being lawyers,” said Spiegler. “Neither of us were art history majors and if anyone came to us at the beginning of our careers and told us we would be experts in art law we probably would have said, ‘What’s that?’ “ Having learned much about art history while pursuing their cases, however, both men feel their work provides them with rewards they would have otherwise missed had they pursued a different area of law. “In every case, we just take a moment to sit back and look at the subject of the action,” Spiegler said. “It’s a wonderful aspect of our practice.”

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