DIA ‘misguided’ in fight over stolen Van Gogh in Detroit, lawyer says

Detroit — A judge can order Detroit Institute of Arts officials to hand over an allegedly stolen painting by Vincent van Gogh despite a federal law granting the artwork immunity from being seized, a lawyer wrote Wednesday.

That is because Brazilian art collector Gustavo Soter, who says he is the undisputed owner of “Liseuse De Romans,” is demanding its return after searching for the painting for six years, his lawyer, Aaron Phelps, wrote in a court filing Wednesday.

“Our view is someone who stole a work of art can make no agreement for its exhibition under the statute,” Phelps wrote in an email to the DIA’s legal team.

The argument comes less than 24 hours before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh will consider ordering DIA officials to relinquish the painting, which was missing until Soter’s lawyers found it hanging on the walls of the Detroit museum as part of the ongoing “Van Gogh in America” exhibition. The artwork is also known as “The Novel Reader” or “The Reading Lady.”

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“Plaintiff paid $3.7 million for the painting and would like it back,” Phelps wrote.

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