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Culture

Judge Tells Detroit Museum: Don’t Move van Gogh Painting

January 12, 2023

DETROIT — A judge on Wednesday ordered a Detroit museum to hold onto an 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh in response to a lawsuit by its owner, who claims it has been missing for nearly six years.

The painting, titled “The Novel Reader” or “The Reading Lady,” is part of a rare van Gogh exhibit, which ends Jan. 22 at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC and its sole proprietor, Gustavo Soter of Brazil, acquired the painting in 2017 for $3.7 million, but a “third party” took possession of the art, according to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiff has not known the location of the painting,” the lawsuit states. “Recently, however, plaintiff learned that the painting is in the DIA’s possession, on display as part of the museum’s ‘Van Gogh in America’ exhibition.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the painting turned over to the owner. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh barred the museum from moving it, a temporary step before a court hearing on Jan. 19.

The painting is worth more than $5 million, according to the lawsuit.

The museum declined to comment on the dispute but said “no allegation of misconduct by the DIA has been alleged.”

The oil-on-canvas painting indicates that it’s on loan from a collection in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is one of 80 van Gogh works in the exhibition and remained on display Wednesday.

“The loan was accepted in accordance with best museum practices and is subject to the protections of applicable federal law through registration with the U.S. Department of State,” the museum said.

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