The Search for Lost Art
Sometimes an estate trustee may get more than she bargained for.
A case in point may arise when an estate has entitlement to various pieces of artwork in an assortment of jurisdictions. How does the estate trustee locate the artwork? What constitute sufficient efforts to locate such assets? How is it valued?
All of these questions raise significant issues for the estate trustee. The advent of the internet has provided new tools to anyone making a global search for artwork. The Lost Art Internet Database is such an example. This website is a project of the German government’s central office for the recovery of lost art. Not surprisingly, a large share of such art was seized from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
In all likelihood, the estate trustee of the estate of the late Max Stern has had recourse to this website in an effort to locate lost assets to which the estate is entitled. As recently reported in the Toronto Star, the late Max Stern was the owner of an art gallery in Germany from 1913 until 1934 when he was forced to sell his holdings by the Third Reich. He escaped to Montreal in 1937 where he set up an art gallery. Upon his death in 1987, Stern named Concordia University, McGill University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as the beneficiaries of his estate. The estate trustee, operating as the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, has since located many pieces originally stolen from Stern’s German gallery.