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June 2015

Hopi Tribe Restitution Since 2012, the Hopi tribe has attempted to stop French auction houses from selling items that belong to the tribe. Recently, the Hopi Tribal Council partnered with the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, which generally focuses on Nazi looted artifacts, in a legal dispute against the Conseil des Ventes, the regulatory body that oversees French auctions. The Hopi tribe has requested sacred artifacts belonging to the tribe be taken off the market, but the auction house claims that the Hopi Tribe does not have legal standing to assert this demand. According to Hopi tradition, the items sold in France are owned by the entire community, and therefore cannot be owned by private collectors or institutions. Tribal state and federal law only allows for sacred objects to be passed within the tribe and sales in the market of the Hopi artifacts constitutes selling stolen property.The Hopi tribe has prohibited sales of communal objects since they were first in contact with non-Natives, but continue to struggle to reclaim their sacred artifacts. The most recent sale of the sacred objects claimed by the Hopi tribe to have taken place in France was June 10, 2015.

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act was reintroduced by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-OH, on February 11, 2015. It was passed in the House of Representatives on June 9, 2015. The original bill proposed in 2014 was designed to secure art loans and protect the loaners from litigation in American courts. The current bill, H.R. 889, seeks to ensure immunity to foreign governments that agree to display artifacts or other culturally significant items in the U.S. It intends to create the super immunity by categorizing exhibition or display agreements as non-commercial transactions, thereby establishing immunity to litigation. Under the proposed bill, the Executive Branch would continue to decide whether a work considered for an international loan into the United States has cultural significance, however the new bill explicitly excepts works seized by Nazis or their allies from attaining immunity. The amendment is meant to reassure foreign countries that works brought into U.S. museums will be returned, and lenders would not be subjected to personal jurisdiction in American courts (see for example the Malevich case). The proposed bill comes in the aftermath of the Russian Federation enforcing an exhibition loan boycott following the Chabad case, and the State Department discouraging the McMullen Museum at Boston College from applying for immunity for the Havana Museum, which is handling outstanding claims made by U.S. citizens for property seized in Cuba after Castro came to power. Meanwhile, the Association of Art Museum Directors has remained noticeably silent without any mention of the Clarification Bill in their recent commentaries about legislation that affects art museums.