It Doesn’t Matter Where You Bought the Renoir. It’s Still a Renoir!

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on March 6, 2014

Real estate law encompasses theoretical logic of property law, too, and this story is a particularly good one. It’s an excellent example of how someone’s creative property – no matter where it was purchased – ultimately belongs to the actual legal owner. Before your head spins too much, know this: when we’re talking about creative works from the likes Renoirof, say, Renoir, and legal ownership belongs to, say, the Baltimore Museum of Art, we’ve successfully presented a problem here.

The problem is simply that no one can buy an authentic piece of art that legally belongs in a museum – in this case, the Baltimore Museum of Art. Here we present the case of one Marcia Fuqua and how she went to a flea market and bought a particular Renoir painting for only seven bucks. That’s a pretty good deal.

However, the Baltimore Museum of Art received word of this, presenting the issue to a U.S. district court for deliberation, as apparently this museum had the legal right to “own” such works for display in the establishment. Some may have a certain point of view on this; others will differ. It’s an interesting question.

Apparently, though, the U.S. district judge presiding over the case granted the judgment in favor of the museum, stating that it didn’t matter how Fuqua acquired the painting. The fact was the painting was stolen way back in 1951, somehow ending up in the flea market. Of course, Fuqua can still file an appeal for the painting, a painting valued anywhere between $22K to $75K. You can obviously see why this was such a huge property issue.

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