A thorny ownership dispute is playing out between two major institutions that could very well end up becoming one of the defining legal battles of our time: The San Diego Zoo is locked in a bitter lawsuit with the Louvre over who gets to keep a monkey holding a van Gogh painting.
Wow, this sounds seriously intense!
On one hand, the zoo has asserted its claim to the monkey holding the painting, insisting that it is first and foremost an animal. But the Louvre contends that the intrinsic artistic value of the van Gogh must be given precedence, and therefore the monkey holding the painting belongs in the impressionist wing of its museum. The zoo pointed out that the way the monkey waves the painting around over its head makes the painting hard to see, legally rendering it mostly an animal, but the Louvre responded that the movement only increases the dynamism of the piece, further proving its value as a work of art.
The respective parties initially tried to settle the case out of court, with the Louvre offering the zoo a very big painting of a cow in exchange for letting the museum keep the monkey holding the van Gogh, and the zoo offering the Louvre some tropical birds with beautiful plumage instead, but so far no offers have been successful in swaying the other side.
Both institutions have already shelled out millions to keep litigators working around the clock on the suit, and it seems like things are only going to get more heated. But no matter who comes out on top in the end, this is sure to be a case they’ll be teaching in law schools for generations to come.