DETROIT – A Brazilian art collector is suing the Detroit Institute of Arts in an attempt to recover a Vincent van Gogh painting he claims belongs to him.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Jan. 11, against the Detroit art museum, plaintiff Gustavo Soter claims that he is the rightful owner of Van Gogh’s 1888 painting “Liseuse De Romans.” The painting is one of dozens of original Van Gogh pieces on display at the DIA as part of its Van Gogh in America exhibit.
According to Soter’s attorneys, the Brazilian collector’s company — Brokerarte Capital Partners — purchased the artwork for $3.7 million in 2017 and “immediately transferred possession,” but not the title, of the painting to a third party. The third party is then accused of withholding the painting, keeping Soter unaware of its whereabouts since.
The plaintiff has been seeking legal avenues to recover the original Van Gogh artwork, and found an opportunity with the painting on display in Detroit, the complaint reads. The painting was reportedly loaned, temporarily, from a private collection to the DIA for its exhibit.
The Van Gogh in America exhibit has been running since Oct. 2, 2022, but the plaintiff only “recently” learned of its position in Detroit, the lawsuit alleges. Soter is requesting the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to require the DIA to overturn possession of the painting back to him, and in a timely fashion: The exhibit ends on Jan. 22, and the painting will then reportedly return to the collection it came from.
“If the DIA moves the painting or surrenders possession to a third-party, plaintiff will lose the chance to recover the painting, for which it has been searching for years,” the lawsuit reads.
Because the artwork was “unlawfully” taken from Soter after he purchased it, the lawsuit claims that the painting is “currently being unlawfully detained by the DIA.” Soter estimates the the painting is now worth more than $5 million.
The DIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Van Gogh in America exhibit features 74 original Van Gogh works, in addition to other collections meant to represent the “defining moments, people, and circumstances that catapulted Van Gogh’s work to widespread acclaim” in the U.S. Learn more about the exhibit on the DIA’s website here.
You can read the entire federal complaint filed Tuesday below.
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