O'keeffe v. Snyder

416 A.2d 862 (1980)


P contend the paintings were stolen in 1946 from a gallery, An American Place. The gallery was operated by her late husband, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In 1946, Stieglitz arranged an exhibit which included a P painting, identified as Cliffs. One day in March 1946, she and Stieglitz discovered Cliffs was missing from the wall of the exhibit. P estimates the value of the painting at the time of the alleged theft to have been about $150. Two weeks later, P noticed that two other paintings, Seaweed, and Fragments, were missing from a storage room at An American Place. She did not tell anyone since she did not want to upset her husband. Neither Stieglitz nor P reported them missing to the New York Police Department or any other law enforcement agency. They did discuss the paintings with associates in the art world, and later P mentioned the loss to the director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Finally, in 1972, P authorized Bry to report the theft to the Art Dealers Association of America, Inc., which maintains for its members a registry of stolen paintings. The record does not indicate whether such a registry existed at the time the paintings disappeared. In September 1975, P learned that the paintings were in the Andrew Crispo Gallery in New York on consignment from Bernard Danenberg Galleries. P discovered to D. She demanded their return and, following D's refusal, instituted this action for replevin. D moved for summary judgment on the theory that P's action was barred by the statute of limitations and title had vested by adverse possession. The Appellate Division accepted P's contention that the paintings had been stolen. D appealed.