Art Law Community Mourns Loss of Two Luminaries

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By Guest Blogger Steffanie Keim

[Editor’s Note: Steffanie Keim is a Candidate for Doctor of Juridical Science ‘2018 at Fordham University School of Law, as well as FALS’ SJD Liason. Her research focus is restitution of Nazi-looted art.]

This summer the art law community mourns the loss of two of its luminaries within one week: Charles Arthur Goldstein and John Henry Merryman.

Charles Arthur Goldstein

The eminent real estate lawyer Charles Arthur Goldstein (born November 20, 1936), counsel to the Commission on Art Recovery and tireless advocate for the recovery and restitution of looted art, passed away on July 30, 2015.

Mr. Goldstein graduated from Columbia College and Harvard Law School, and began his distinguished legal career as a clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  He was a well-connected real-estate specialist, structuring “major economic development projects – the Hotel Commodore, the South Street Seaport, the Portman hotel, the Archives Building and the St. George Hotel,” as well as being the personal attorney to New York Governor Hugh Carey.[1]

Reportedly introduced to Mr. Lauder on a Concorde flight in the early 1990s, Mr. Goldstein was hired by Mr. Lauder full time. [2] He was essential in the development and foundation of the Commission for Art Recovery[3] in 1997, for which he acted as president and counsel.

Mr. Goldstein embodied the mission of the Commission for Art Recovery and worked tirelessly for the restitution of art stolen, seized, confiscated, or otherwise displaced during the Nazi reign and Third Reich and its aftermath.

He assiduously persisted in tedious and drawn-out negotiations and litigation. He was also involved in high profile recoveries, such as Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,” which is the subject of a motion pictured released in April 2015 – “Woman in Gold.”

Mr. Goldstein lectured and wrote extensively on issues related to Holocaust looted art and was a sought-out adviser and expert on restitution matters. [4]

John Henry Merryman

Professor John Henry Merryman (born February 24, 1920), ending a long and illustrious academic career, passed away on August 3, 2015.

Merryman was a distinguished international scholar and expert on comparative law, as well as art and cultural property law.  He also was known as the creator of the art law field.

Professor Merryman obtained a B.S. and M.S. in chemistry prior to switching to a legal career. He received a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and an LLM, as well as JSD, from New York University School of Law.  Starting his teaching career at Santa Clara University, he was hired by Stanford Law School in 1953, where he taught a wide variety of courses throughout his for 62-year tenure – including teaching his recently developed course “Stolen Art” earlier this year.

He is the author of one of the classic texts on civil law, “The Civil Law Tradition,” and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Comparative Law and the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Cavaliere ufficiale), as well as being a Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Research Professor.

Merryman created and taught “Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts” in the early 1970s.  He collaborated with history professor Albert E. Elsen, with whom he co-taught the class covering “tax, copyright, contracts, regulation, cultural property and ethics.”[5] This partnership lead to the publication of a foundational text in the art law field, bearing the same title.

Leading a full life outside of academia as well, Merryman was a professional musician who financed part of his education as founder and piano player in the dance band John Merryman and His Merry Men,[6] as well as being an avid art collector.  He also chaired the design committee for the new Stanford campus in the 1970s and was instrumental in securing art works as loans.  Merryman was honored by Daniel Shapiro and Agnes Gund who donated  “The Sieve of Erathosthenes” by Mark di Suvero in his name – “the work of a great artist to celebrate a great teacher and friend of art.”[7]

Merryman’s publications and awards are too numerous to list and his acclaim and esteem in the eyes of colleagues, scholars, students, and friends is unanimous.

Please visit https://law.stanford.edu/directory/john-henry-merryman/#slsnav-key-works for an overview of his key works and to catch a further glimpse at this giant of art law and humanity.


[1] See Frank Lynn, Charles Goldstein: Real-Estate Attorney to the Powerful, N.Y. Times, Mar. 20, 1982, http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/20/nyregion/charles-goldstein-real-estate-attorney-to-the-powerful.html.

[2] See Sam Roberts, Charles Goldstein Lawyer Who Helped Find Looted Art, Dies at 78, N.Y. Times, Aug. 9, 2015, at A21, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/nyregion/charles-goldstein-dies-at-78-sought-return-of-art-looted-by-nazis.html?_r=0; see also Hannah Ghorashi, Charles Goldstein, Counsel Who Helped Recover $160 M. in Stolen Art, Dies at 78, ArtNews, Aug. 6, 2015,http://www.artnews.com/2015/08/06/charles-goldstein-counsel-behind-recovery-of-160-m-in-stolen-art-dies-at-78/.

[3] For more information about the Commission for Art Recovery, see About, Commission for Art Recovery, http://www.commartrecovery.org/about (last visited Sept. 7, 2015).

[4] See, e.g.,  Keynote Address, Charles A. Goldstein, Holocaust-Looted Art: An Overview, Commission for Art Recovery, http://www.commartrecovery.org/docs/COSMOS_CLUB_LECTURE_DEC2014.pdf.

[5] Sharon Driscoll, John Henry Merryman: Art Law Pioneer and Much-Loved Colleague, SLS News, Aug. 5, 2015,  https://blogs.law.stanford.edu/newsfeed/2015/08/05/john-henry-merryman-art-law-pioneer-and-much-loved-colleague/.

[6] See id.

[7] See id.

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