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Museum wants lawsuit over van Gogh painting to be dismissed

Italy Van Gogh Exhibition
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jan 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 20:11:36-05

An 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh and a dispute over which entity now legally owns it has the Detroit Institute of Arts claiming federal law gives it immunity from involvement after a Brazilian collector filed a lawsuit claiming to be the rightful owner of the work, which is said to have been missing.

The Detroit Institute of Arts currently displays the piece of art known as "The Novel Reader."

The museum does not want to be involved in the dispute and responded to the lawsuit less than a week before a U.S. exhibition including the work ends.

The Associated Press reported that the museum has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the suit, and has not identified the collector who put the painting up on loan for the exhibition. It did reveal that the painting came from a collection situated in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The lawsuit says Gustavo Soter of Brazil purchased the work in 2017 for $3.7 million, but a "third party" took the work, and it was considered missing for six years.

The Art Loss Register did not list the painting as missing and the FBI did not list the work in its stolen art file.

The Detroit museum says it is the first public museum in the United States to buy a painting by Vincent van Gogh when it acquired the artist's 1887 paining titled "Self-Portrait."

The museum has displayed 74 authenticated works by van Gogh along with essays from van Gogh scholars to promote and educate the public about early modernism and the artist's life.