Category: Norton Simon

San Francisco museum opens exhibition from Norton Simon Museum's foe in 'Adam and Eve' dispute

October 28, 2010 |  4:00 pm

CranachAdamEve Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum doesn’t bring in touring exhibitions, but if it did, you can be fairly sure it wouldn’t be tempted to offer the one opening Friday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

The show, “Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker,” offers more than 40 highlights from the collection that now belongs to Marei von Saher, daughter-in-law of Goudstikker, the prominent Dutch-Jewish art dealer who lost his trove of 1,400 works to the Nazis when they invaded Holland in 1940. The show highlights Von Saher’s successful struggle, starting in 1997 and culminating in 2006, to secure the return of 200 paintings from the Dutch government.

The ones that got away –- in von Saher’s view –- are Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Adam and Eve” diptych, which has hung in Pasadena since 1977, a highlight of the Norton Simon’s collection with an appraised value of $25 million. Von Saher and the Norton Simon are embroiled in a legal struggle over its ownership; the preliminary court battles have focused on statute of limitations issues. Rulings by the trial judge in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have gone against Von Saher, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently indicated it may be interested in taking up her appeal, having asked the United States solicitor general to provide an advisory brief on the federal government’s view of the issues.

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Norton Simon's disputed 'Adam and Eve' getting closer look from Supreme Court

October 4, 2010 |  6:10 pm

CranachAdamEve The U.S. Supreme Court wants a top federal lawyer to weigh in on the question of whether Holocaust victims and their heirs should be bound by a statute of limitations deadline when suing California museums for the return of Nazi-looted artworks.

The high court on Monday denied, as it usually does, the vast majority of the requests it receives to take up appeals. But Marei Von Saher’s bid to reverse a pretrial decision that damaged her attempt to wrest Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 480-year-old “Adam and Eve” diptych from Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum is still alive. The court neither accepted nor declined to hear the case, but asked the U.S. Solicitor General, who represents the federal government in Supreme Court cases, to submit a brief on the government’s view of the matter.

Elena Kagan recently left the Solicitor General's post when she was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice; her former deputy, Neal Katyal, is the acting Solicitor General.

At stake is a masterpiece appraised at $24 million, and a voided state law aimed at ensuring that claims against museums and art dealers who own disputed works once looted by the Nazis are decided on the merits of the case, rather than whether a suit was filed in time.

A trial judge in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles dismissed Von Saher’s case in 2007. He ruled that the 2002 state law under which she sued the Norton Simon was an unconstitutional infringement of the federal government's prerogative to set foreign and war policy. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the state did not have a right to suspend its statute of limitations on Holocaust-related grounds; it said Von Saher could still try to argue that when she first claimed the painting in 2001 she was within the ordinary three-year statute of limitations.

The museum already has said in court pleadings that Von Saher waited too long.

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Schwarzenegger decision could have an impact on looted-art claim against Norton Simon Museum

September 30, 2010 | 10:41 pm

CranachAdamEve A stroke of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pen could influence a high-stakes art saga: Marei Von Saher’s claim that two of the Norton Simon Museum’s prized paintings are  rightfully hers.

The governor, facing a deadline of midnight Thursday, signed into law a bill concerning stolen artworks that could help the Connecticut woman's chances of securing a trial in her bid to recover the nearly 500-year-old pair of “Adam and Eve” paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which were valued at $24 million when the Pasadena museum had them appraised in 2006.

The bill, AB2765, was passed last month by the Assembly and Senate. It would extend from three to six years the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against a museum, gallery or art dealer in order to recover stolen art or other items of “historical, interpretive, scientific [or] cultural importance” that were taken during the past 100 years. It applies both to future lawsuits, and to those already pending.

Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) said the bill rose from a ruling last year by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a California law that had relaxed the statute of limitations for lawsuits by owners or heirs trying to recover artworks stolen during the Holocaust. The appeals court, which was reviewing a federal judge’s dismissal of Von Saher’s suit, ruled that the looted-art law was an unconstitutional intrusion by the state on foreign policy matters that are strictly under the federal government’s jurisdiction. But the 9th Circuit judges said that Von Saher could proceed with her suit, if she could establish that the regular statute of limitations had not run out.

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Celebrated Raphael Madonna to go on show at Norton Simon Museum in time for holidays

August 16, 2010 |  9:00 am


When the media-savvy, sales-record-shattering British art dealer Joseph Duveen sold Raphael’s "Small Cowper Madonna" to an American collector in 1914 for an amount over $500,000, and possibly as much as $700,000, the New York Herald called it "the most important single art transaction ever undertaken."

Now that painting of a golden-haired Madonna and Child, which belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, is getting ready for a vacation in California. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena will be exhibiting the work (above right) for a three-month period starting in November as part of an exchange program it established in 2007 with the Frick Collection and the National Gallery. 

For other museums, borrowing an Old Masters painting -- or several -- is business as usual. At the Norton Simon, which makes a mission of showcasing its own collection and very rarely borrows or loans artworks, a loan like this is celebrated as an event. In the fall of 2008, when the museum showed Vermeer’s “A Lady Writing,” also from the National Gallery, attendance spiked by 39%.

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Jerry Brown asks Supreme Court to take up appeal in Norton Simon Museum case

May 19, 2010 | 10:37 pm


Jerry Brown, California Atty. Gen. and gubernatorial candidate, has filed a legal brief with the United States Supreme Court that sets him against Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum in its effort to hold onto a nearly 500-year-old pair of paintings of Adam and Eve looted during the Holocaust.

But the issue in the friend-of-the-court brief that Brown filed on behalf of Marei Von Saher isn’t whether the courts should ultimately award her custody of the two paintings that the invading Nazis seized from her father-in-law, a Dutch-Jewish art dealer. It’s the constitutionality of a 2002 California law that would save her from having her case thrown out on the grounds that she failed to file her stolen property claim within the usual three-year statute of limitations.

Last August, the museum won a potentially decisive round in the custody battle when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the state law, which gives special legal status to art works looted by the Nazis during World War II. When such works are held by a museum or art dealer in California, the law gives former owners or their heirs until the end of 2010 to file a claim -- regardless of whether there are statute-of-limitations issues. The Norton Simon has argued that, since the paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder have been well-publicized highlights of its collection since 1976, the regular three-year limitation clock had long expired by the time Von Saher first came forward in 2001.

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Canada geese tour the Norton Simon Museum

May 12, 2010 | 11:47 am

Norton-Simon They didn't have memberships, but when a gaggle of Canada geese came knocking at the front door of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena the other day, staff let them in.

It was pretty clear that the two migrating families with their young goslings in tow were trying to get to the pond in the museum's lovely garden, just across the lobby, and didn't have designs on the Raphael Madonna, any of the Indian bronze Shivas or the numerous Van Gogh paintings in the galleries. And since the museum wasn't yet open, the short journey could be accomplished with considerable ease.

According to a museum spokesman, the geese were first spotted crossing Colorado Boulevard during a harrowing rush-hour escapade Thursday morning. How they knew a pond was on the other side of the street behind the Simon's south wing is a question I'll leave others to answer. But once safely across the busy boulevard, attempts to gently herd them around the building to the pond didn't work. So a mad dash across the lobby, past the Ellsworth Kelly painting and the Henry Moore bronze, was the only solution.

Norton-Simon2 Several staff members recorded the unusual little journey with cameras, and the results were posted the next day on the museum's Facebook page. Since then, museum visitors have begun to show up in search of the fine feathered guests.

That's causing reasonable concern at the museum. Migrating geese are determined birds, especially when protecting their offspring. (Goslings often stay with their mothers for a full year.) So for the safety of all, the museum is cautioning that the geese should be left undisturbed. And because an art museum isn't really set up to care for wildlife, steps are being taken to relocate them to a more suitable way station on their voyage north for the summer -- or, given the goslings' youth, until they're grown up. The museum hopes to have that accomplished soon.

Somewhere in here there's a place for Barnett Newman's famous quip: "Aesthetics is for the artist like ornithology is for the birds." Whatever the case, good for the Norton Simon Museum for taking such care.

--Christopher Knight (

Photos: Norton Simon Museum Facebook page

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Woman trying to win Nazi-looted paintings from Norton Simon Museum loses appeal

January 14, 2010 |  5:48 pm

CranachAdamEve In a setback for a Connecticut woman trying to recover two prized paintings from the Norton Simon Museum looted during the Holocaust, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused today to rehear an appeal it had denied in August.

The nearly 500-year-old paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder are on separate wooden panels and depict Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, moments before the Fall.

Marei Von Saher had asked that the full appeals court revisit the case, which had been decided last August by a three-judge panel.

A California law enacted in 2002 had given special treatment to suits to recoup Nazi-looted art.  Instead of having to sue within the usual three-year statute of limitations, victims and their heirs were given through the end of 2010 to bring claims, even if the statute of limitations had run out. But in a 2-1 ruling, appellate judges decided that the state law was an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government’s prerogative to wage war and set foreign policy. Now, with the appeal's final rejection, it also has likely sounded the death knell for two other state laws that gave Holocaust survivors and heirs extra time to make legal claims for restitution for slave labor and unpaid insurance policies.

Von Saher still has legal options to pursue, her lawyer says, including a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Cranach paintings turned into history's pingpong balls nearly 100 years ago, changing hands first because of the Russian Revolution, then during lean times in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin, and again during the Holocaust, when Von Saher's father-in-law, a leading Dutch-Jewish art dealer, fled the invading Germans in 1940 and his firm sold the paintings to the Nazis under duress.

Read more about it here.

-- Mike Boehm


Appeals court overturns Holocaust looted-art law, but Norton Simon suit continues

The Norton Simon Museum is battling to keep `Adam' and `Eve'

Photo: Lucas Cranac, Adam and Eve. Credit: Norton Simon Museum

Pacific Asia Museum is accredited by American Assn. of Museums, joining 15 others in L.A. County

December 22, 2009 |  6:59 am

Pacificasia1LAT The Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena has announced that it’s been accredited by the American Assn. of Museums — which means it completed an application process, including a site visit from evaluators, and was found to meet standards set by the Washington, D.C.-based association that advocates for museums and sets voluntary guidelines for governance and best practices.

With the November decision, the Pacific Asia Museum became one of 778 museums, public gardens and zoos accredited by the AAM — from an estimated 17,500 nationwide.

According to the AAM’s website, 96% of the museums that apply for accreditation are confirmed. But the AAM says that the success rate is high because the process isn’t designed to slam the door on applicants; instead it provides “many steps” in which museums get “feedback and counsel” on where they need to improve to be accredited.

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Jennifer Jones, Oscar-winning actress and Norton Simon widow, dies at 90

December 17, 2009 | 11:35 am

Jones Jennifer Jones, who won a 1943 lead actress Oscar for "The Song of Bernadette," passed away at her home in Malibu today at age 90.

Although she was known primarily for her Hollywood career, Jones was also the widow of Norton Simon, an industrialist and art collector who created the noted art museum in Pasadena that bears his name.

Following her husband's death in 1993, Jones served as chairwoman of the Norton Simon Foundation Board and oversaw a $3-million renovation of the museum's interior, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry, as well as the gardens.

Jones met Simon in 1971 at a reception in Los Angeles for a New York magazine editor, according to a Times obituary. At the time, Simon was 64 and Jones was 52.

Upon his death, Simon left behind one of the most important art museums in Southern California. Today, the Norton Simon Museum houses work from all over the world, dating from antiquity to the contemporary. It is particularly known for its works from south and southeast Asia.

Times arts reporter Suzanne Muchnic wrote a biography of Norton Simon titled "Odd Man In," which was published in 1998. Muchnic was the only person to whom he granted an interview in the last years of his life, according to the book's publisher.

Jones was previously married to producer David O. Selznick and Robert Walker. Her other notable films include "Duel in the Sun," "Since You Went Away" and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing." Her last motion picture was "The Towering Inferno" in 1974.

Read the full Times obituary here.

-- David Ng

Photo: Jennifer Jones, in a file photo dating from 1997. Credit: Associated Press

Related stories

Sam Francis reunion at Norton Simon Museum

Critic's notebook: Ingres' 'Comtesse d'Haussonville' @ Norton Simon Museum

One more battle for Norton Simon's 'Adam' and 'Eve'

Appeals court overturns Holocaust looted-art law, but Norton Simon suit continues

Sam Francis reunion at the Norton Simon Museum

November 24, 2009 |  4:30 pm

Basel Mural “Basel Mural I,” an abstract celebration of light, color and space painted by Sam Francis, has long been a highlight of the Norton Simon Museum’s contemporary art collection.

Stretching nearly 13 feet high and 20 feet wide, the free-spirited, dripped and splashed canvas commands a full wall at the Pasadena institution. But it’s only one of three panels made in 1956-58 for a stairwell at the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland.

The triptych will never again be whole. But two substantial sections of a panel damaged more than 40 years ago and salvaged by the artist have been reunited with the Simon’s painting. A gift of the Sam Francis Foundation, they will go on view Wednesday on a wall adjacent to “Basel Mural I.”

“That’s where they belong,” said Donna Stein, a foundation board member who has played a leading role in placing artworks from the artist’s estate in museums.

To read the full Wednesday Calendar story about the painting's history and find out what happened to the rest of the mural, click here.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Curator Leah Lehmbeck oversees an installation reuniting "Basel Mural I" with two fragments of a damaged companion panel at the Norton Simon Museum. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times


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