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Brazilian Art Collector Claims DIA is in Possession of His Stolen Van Gogh

Photo: Sarahbeth Maney / USA TODAY

DETROIT, January 12, 2023 ~ A Brazilian art collector has filed a lawsuit in Detroit federal court, claiming the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is displaying his stolen painting in their “Van Gogh in America” exhibit.

The lawsuit claims that collector Gustavo Soter purchased Van Gogh’s “Une Liseuse De Romans” — also known as “The Novel Reader” — in 2017 for $3.7 million, which according to Soter, is now worth more than $5 million.

Plaintiff purchased the painting in 2017 and immediately transferred possession — but not title — to a third party,” reads the lawsuit. “This party absconded with the painting, and Plaintiff has been unaware of its whereabouts for years. Recently, however, Plaintiff learned that the painting was in the possession of the DIA, apparently on loan from a private collection. Because Plaintiff retains good title to the painting and all true ownership interests in the painting, it now brings this diversity action to recover possession of its property.”


January 12, 2023 ~ 760 WJR Senior News Analyst Marie Osborne tells Paul W. about the lawsuit against the DIA regarding one of their Van Gogh paintings. Photo: Mandi Wright / USA Today

(CONTINUED) Additionally, the lawsuit states that “immediate action is urgently needed” and demands that the painting be returned to Soter before the end of the exhibition, and not back to the party who supposedly loaned the painting to the museum.

Wednesday, US District Judge George Caram Steeh ordered DIA officials “to refrain from damaging, destroying, concealing, disposing, moving, or using as to substantially impair its value,” pending a January 19 court hearing.