Press Releases

Feinstein Introduces Bill to Encourage Art Lending to American Museums

Will offer legal protection to artwork while in the United States

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced bipartisan legislation to fix a conflict that has made foreign museums increasingly reluctant to lend art for temporary exhibition in American museums. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is the lead co-sponsor.

A federal District Court decision (Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam) created an unnecessary conflict between a section of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the Immunity from Seizure Act, which for decades protected art on temporary loan to American museums. 

Feinstein’s Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 2212) will repair the conflict, encouraging more foreign lending of art to American cultural institutions without the fear of lawsuits. 

“Cultural exchange with foreign nations enables the sharing of ideas and history across the globe. When foreign works are shown at American museums, they expose our citizens to the richness of world history and culture,” said Feinstein.  These exhibitions also draw countless visitors each year, helping museums—which are vital to the preservation of our own culture and heritage—survive and thrive in difficult economic times.”

Examples of recent exhibitions that may have been endangered without this protection:

  • In 2011, the San Diego Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of 64 works of famous Spanish artists, such as El Greco, Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya, and Salvador Dalí;
  • Also in 2011, the De Young Museum in San Francisco hosted an exhibition of more than 100 Picasso masterpieces from Paris, as well as more than 100 objects from the Olmec civilization in Mexico; 
  • In 2009, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted an exhibit containing artifacts from the Ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried by a volcanic eruption and rediscovered in the 18th Century;
  • In 2007, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted an exhibit with approximately 250 works of art created in more than seven different Latin American countries between 1492 and 1820.

“Without these exhibitions, many Americans simply would not have the chance to see these important cultural and historical works in person.”  Feinstein said.  “This bill will resolve an unsettled issue that is making it difficult for museums and universities to obtain works of art for temporary exhibition from foreign countries.”

The legislation does not affect the ability of those whose artwork was taken by the Nazi government (or any Nazi ally, Nazi occupied country, or government that cooperated with the Nazis) to seek redress in U.S. Courts.

The bill is supported by numerous museums in California including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.