Report on some success of the Kiefer China Exhibition dispute

Dr. Xu Guojian

Senior Partner, Boss & Young

Anselm Kiefer is one of the most world-famous artists of Germany Neo-expressionism after World War II. In November 2016, China held the large-scale exhibition of “Kiefer in China“. However, before the inaugural ceremony of this exhibition, Kiefer stated through the media that, no one had negotiated or consulted with him about the planned exhibition “Kiefer in China“, and he was deeply disappointed that this exhibition took place without his consent. Although Kiefer’s statement has aroused extensive discussions in Western and Chinese media, the exhibition “Kiefer in China” was still held in Beijing, and his artworks have been exhibited afterwards in Chinese cities including Nanjing, Jinan and other places.

In November 2019, the German top media made a report titled “Das 300 Millionen-Euro-Versteckspiel”, which was then followed by some Chinese online media, claiming that artworks with a total value of RMB 2.4 billion, including the artworks of Anselm Kiefer, Markus Lüpertz and other artists, disappeared in China. Among them, a number of Kiefer’s artworks provided by the Ludwig Museum Koblenz were borrowed from other private collectors. Ludwig Museum Koblenz and these private collectors have concluded art lending contracts. In accordance of these art lending contracts, if these artworks are damaged or disappear in China, the museum shall compensate for the loss equivalent to these artworks’ market value.

To avoid possible huge losses, the municipal administration of Stadt Koblenz approached and hired two Chinese lawyers Dr. Xu Guojian and Dr. Hu Feng of the Boss & Young, Attorneys-at-Law, Shanghai, China to represent it in China to provide legal assistance to solve the problem in relation to finding out and transporting back the Kiefer’s artworks to the Ludwig Museum Koblenz. Upon the acceptance of the entrustment, Dr. Xu Guojian and Dr. Hu Feng quickly communicated with related parties, carried out investigation and co-ordination works, and found out the facts and circumstances of this case within a short time. Then, they fixed the real whereabouts of the artworks in Shenzhen and successfully helped the municipal administration of Koblenz to complete the unpacking, inspection and sealing procedures of the artworks lent by the Ludwig Museum Koblenz, confirming that all these artworks were well cared. However, due to the economic dispute of one of the curators involved with a company in Shenzhen, this Shenzhen company detained the artworks and refused to return them with the so-called reason that they were evidences of the curator’s economic crime case filed with the police in Shenzhen.

In order to urge the Shenzhen company to return the artworks, the Chinese lawyers repeatedly sent attorney letters to this company, constantly exerted pressure on it, and started the preparatory work of suing the Shenzhen company in China. Additionally, in order to look for a possible settlement as soon as possible, they made best efforts to communicate with the company through various ways, such as contacting the relevant police department. Following the mediation efforts of the Chinese lawyers and other related personnel, in early April 2020, the Shenzhen company finally agreed to return the Kiefer’s artworks lent by the Ludwig Museum Koblenz under certain conditions. After evaluation and negotiation by the Chinese lawyers and all related parties, the Ludwig Museum Koblenz and the Shenzhen company finally signed and performed the Agreement on Handing-over of Artworks.

At the end of August 2020, the aforesaid artworks arrived at the Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany and were in good condition as confirmed by artwork experts. In October 2020, two of the artworks were on display at the Ludwig Museum Koblenz.

The legal head of the municipal administration of Koblenz and the director of the Ludwig Museum Koblenz also sent mails to Dr. Xu Guojian, thanking for their professional and excellent legal services, praising their works with “quick and reliable answers”, and commending their outstanding performance in German communication skills and necessary translation works.