Thursday, October 26, 2017

Art World :Headlines in Brief

    The Art News presented in this, Sukonik Fine Art, October 2017 ongoing Art News Blog comes courtesy of  Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Resources including ARCA i.e., Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, New York Times and Legal Research including case law from the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York.  The blurbs below can be researched at your pleasure.  Today’s entries are notes are current events, ongoing news, and legal reporting. 

Saving Cultural Heritage: 

    Counterfeit Detecting:

    A growing prevalence of fakes and forgeries in the art marketplace has prompted the founding of a laboratory in Italy, which will help detect fakes and forgeries, and  teach and conduct scientific research related to cultural heritage. The laboratory, a “Laboratorio del Falso” is decided to be organized by Italy’s Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturael and Rome’s Roma Tre University.  The goal of the laboratory will be to help enhance scholarly insight, and thereby work to alleviate the proliferation of inauthentic works in the art market.

    So far this year the Carabinieri has seized 783 fake objects.  As elaborate forgeries continue to hit the art world marketplace, more research is necessary to guide authorities and art experts in techniques and research that will contribute to tasks of differentiating what is genuine from what is counterfeit.  The laboratory’s work will help enhance scholarly insight and in doing so it will energize work directed to alleviate proliferation of inauthentic works in the art market.

    Studies on the artists, i.e., con artists, who prey on collectors and are most prone to counterfeiting will examine and develop techniques, procedures, and systems which will then guide experts to better identify what is genuine and focus a spotlight on what is genuine, rather than what is a deception. 

    Scientific Approaches / Radiocarbon Dating:

    ETH Zurich and University of Geniva, with a support of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Commission for UNESCO, Berne have organized meetings and workshops for November of this year which in which problems surrounding antiquities and illicit art trade will be examined. 

    Representatives of AMS laboratories will talk about their experiences and practice in dating antiquities.  And, other professionals will explore discoveries in the marketplace for conflict antiquities and fake conflict antiquities while examining scientific and criminologist approaches to combating illicit trade in antiques.

    Illicit Passage of Marble Antiquities:

    Voluntary forfeiture of “Marble Head of Bull” (ca 500-460 BCE) has paved the way for a formal ceremony of repatriation.  At the ceremony, this month, the New York New York District Attorney’s office will hand over the Bull’s head to a representative, to be designated by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture.

    Collectors William and Lyndia Beierwaltes released a formal statement consenting to the Supreme Court of New York County’s release of the Bull’s Head to the Lebanese Republic pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 450.10 on the disposal of stolen Property and the N.Y. Procedure Law § 690.55 on search warrants and the disposition fo seized property. The “Marble Head of a Bull”, was seized while on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    While on loan for exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum, suspicions that the antiquity had been pillaged from Lebanon during that country’s civil war were raised.  The state of New York’s “Application for Turnover” went into painstaking detail on how this plundered antiquity made its way illicitly to the United States.  The bull’s head sculpture was acquired by the Beiewaltes couple on November 1996 for US $1.2mm from one of the (now) most notorious dealers in the antiquities world, Robin Symes.

    The Beierwaltes statement, released by their attorney, read: “After having been presented with incontrovertible evidence that the bull’s head was stolen from Lebanon, the Beierwaltes believed it was in everyone’s best interest to withdraw their claim to the bull’s head and allow its repatriation to Lebanon.” 

    According to a New York Times article, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos and researchers which have supported this case spotted another potentially looted antiquity, also from Lebanon.  This object, a marble torso of a calf bearer, was identified in a photograph taken inside the Beiewalteses’ home for the June 1998 special issue of House & Gardens magazine.  This object too may have been plundered from Lebanon prior to it being acquired by William and Lynda Beierwaltes.  The article goes on to specify that the Beierwalteses, in 2015, sold this object to another New York collector, Michael H. Steinhardt.

Friday, April 15, 2016

                    Art World : Headlines in Brief   

    The Art Law News presented in this,  Sukonik Fine Art, Ides of March ongoing Art News Blog comes courtesy of the Center for Art Law in New York City, USA and ARCA Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Resources.  The blurbs below can be researched at your pleasure.  Today’s entries are notes fascinating current events, ongoing news, and legal reporting.

    Restitution Case in California USA:

    California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, has urged the federal appeals court to reverse a lower court decision and reinstate a case brought by San Diego heirs of a Jewish art collector who was forced to give up a Camille Pissarro painting currently valued at $20 million in exchange for a visa to escape Nazi Germany shortly before World War II.  The painting is currently at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid, Spain.  In June, 2015, a judge ruled that the museum is the rightful owner of the painting, not the heirs of Holocaust survivor Lilly Cassirer, triggering the most recent Appeal.

    Cultural Destruction Case in Timbuktu Trial:

    The first case of its kind has begun at The Hague, where former teacher Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is charged with destroying nine mausoleums and the 15th century Sidi Yah mosque in Timbuktu in northern Mali.  This is the first time the court is dealing with the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime.  

    Restitution Claim against Norton Simon Museum:

    The trial to determine the rightful owner of a pair of paintings, ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ by 16th century painter Lucas Cranach the Elder is currently underway.  The dispute, began with a 2007 lawsuit filed by Marei Von Saher, the heir of Holocaust victim Jacques Goustikker,.  Von Saher claims the paintings were never properly restituted to the family after German Nazi Hermann Goering took the paintings in a forced sale of Goudstikker’s collection in 1940.  The Norton Simon museum purchased the paintings in 1971 following a period in which the paintings had two separate owners.  The suit calls for the return of the works as stolen property.  The pair of paintings were appraised at $24 million.

    University of Oklahoma Agrees to Return Pissarro Painting:

    Camille Pissarro’s 1886 ‘Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep’ will be transferred to Leone Meyer, a French Holocaust survivor whose father owned the painting when it was stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  The painting bearing a label that explains the painting’s history, including its seizure by the Nazis and restitution in Court. will be displayed in a Museum in France for a period of five years after which it will rotate between museums in Oklahoma and France.  

    Extradition from Spain to New York, USA for Forgery Scam leaders: 

    Spain’s National Court ruled that Jesus Angel Bergantinos Dias could be extradited to face charges in NYC for being part of the 15 year long forgery scam that shook the art world.  Diaz and his brother Jose (still at large) are accused of commissioning and selling fake art works attributed to several abstract expressionist masters to Knoedler Gallery of New York . New York art dealer Glafira Rosales has pleaded guilty. Pei Shen Qian, the Chinese artist who created the forgeries has fled to China.  

    Destruction of Cultural Heritage:

    Mankind’s cultural heritage, the Fakhr-al-Din al Ma’ani Castle thought to have been built by the Mamluks and occupied by Lebanese Maanite Emir in 1590, is destroyed.  The castle, once a magnificent structure, overlooks the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palmyra in Syria. Sustained armed groups fighting against one another or the current Syrian governing authority have exploited the site claiming it as militarily strategic to their opposing forces.  Issues of international law and Hague Convention provisions and protocol relating to the safeguarding of and ‘respect’ for cultural property have been ignored.  This heritage site has become a causality of war.  Whether or not, the damage was ‘imperative military necessity’ is a matter which will be debated for years to come.

     The General of Antiquities and Museums at the Syrian Ministry of Culture is currently assessing the damage inflicted on the ancient city along with its museum in order to be able to set plans and visions for emergency and urgent intervention through adopting a clear and scientific method for stabilizing the castle of Palmyra the gate of the Temple of Bel, the structure of the museum and damaged statues.  Architectural  plans for restoration work within definite deadlines are already in the works; this is because a large part of the architectural elements of the damaged monuments can be reused in restorations so as to retain the city’s originality and identity.  Further, plans and visions will be devised and designed in cooperation with national and international partners taking into account international standards and convention.

    When reflecting on calls to restore Palmyra to its former glory, some authorities in the international community, argue that it may be to early to begin thinking about heritage while conflicts in the area are sadly far from concluding.  Others believe that rebuilding helps a people find normalcy where it is sorely amiss.  They ask why should people wait to begin recreating normalcy based on a time -stamped date at which time the world agrees that peace has been achieved?  Heritage damage in wartime is symbolic of what has been lost.  The yearning restore emblematic monuments to their former glory can be symbolic of a citizenry’s own desire to pick-up the pieces of their own lives and put them back together.

    The Director General of Antiquities of and Museums of the Syrian Ministry of Culturei n Damascus Syria, Prof. Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim has thanked UNESCO and all interested countries, organizations, experts and financiers who support resurrecting Palmyra, with the view that cultural heritage and identity are global  responsibility.  Prof. Dr. Maamoun emphasis that plans  and  visions  will  be devised  and designed  in  cooperation with national and international partners taking into account international standards  and conventions applicable worldwide. 

    Plundered Art Returned:

     The largest recorded haul of plundered antiquities , 5,362 ancient artifacts are returned to Rome, Italy.  Initially stolen by Italian and Swiss criminal these treasures are returned following a 14 year criminal investigation. The returned treasures were displayed are currently on view for the public, in the Colosseum.

    The precious haul, contains objects dating from the eighth century BC to the third century AD. “It is the largest recovery in history in terms of quantity and quality,” said General Mariano Mossa, the head of the Carabinieri cultural heritage protection division, the Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC).  General Mossa said the stolen antiquities, were recovered from warehouses in Switzerland, were they were being held in storage awaiting restoration there before being sold  to Germany, Britain, the US, Japan and Australia where their sales would have been negotiated with forged ownership documents. 

    The victory of the recovery is bittersweet; archaeological sites have been plundered and orphan objects have lost their context.  Unfortunately, we can only guess where and in what context these objects belong.  Many of the recovered vases, jewels, frescoes and bronze statues, displayed at the National Roman Museum, are thought to have been removed from illegal digs in the southern regions of Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria.  It will be a tremendous task for archaeologists to research the cultural heritage of these thousands of precious artifacts. 

    Other works are lost, and have been sold abroad.  Photographs and documentation were discovered during the recovery of plundered treasures from the raids in Switzerland ,and these may hat these might aid the recovery of those artifacts. Some may even have been purchased in good faith by reputable museums.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sukonik Fine Art Inc.    
Profile and Discussion     
Philadelphia PA   

     Arts professional Patricia Sukonik, director and president of Sukonik Fine Art Inc. is an art historian and lawyer.  A skilled educator, and business person, she has been advising new and established, private and corporate, artists and art collectors for more than 30 years.  Advisor services range from artists rights and copyright matters, to authentication, curatorial purchase, exhibition, maintenance of collections, and public speaking.  Topics focus on fine art and cultural property, and their relationship to world history and economy.

    Art World : Recognizing Cultural Heritage in our 21st Century

    The annual meeting of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield took place September 19, 2014 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC USA.  Recognizing the 60th anniversary of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and the United States fifth ratification of the Hague Convention, professional art advocates celebrated with of a meeting of great minds and the recognition of great efforts.

     The keynote speaker was Harry Ettlinger, World War II veteran and former Monuments Man who recounted stories of his life and time as a Monuments Man.  Major Thomas (Tommy) Livoti spoke on behalf of Brigadier General Hugh Van Roosen about the beginnings of the formation of the 21st century “Monuments Men.”  This new group, in its infancy, is recruiting cultural heritage professionals “under the guise of a military initiative” to protect the world’s heritage that is threatened by armed conflict.”  Dr. Laurie Rush, who works as a US Army civilian for Cultural Resources at Fort Drum NY USA, spoke about the annual meeting of the Combatant Command Heritage Action Group and their work . (See: 

    The cultural destruction that we currently witness in the world and the efforts being made to bring them to a halt are serious issues needing world support.  University of Pennsylvania Heritage Center representative Hanson and AAAS representative Dr. Susan Wolfinbarger spoke at the meeting about ongoing turmoil throughout the world such as that in Syria, Iraq, and the Thai/Cambodian border, as well as the documented satellite imagery that follows the turmoil.  University of Alabama representative Parack spoke about “Protecting the Past from Space”, and how cultural heritage experts can better track the motions of looting of archaeological sites using satellite imagery and technology. 

    Other sobering reports from presenters talked about multiple projects in the process of formation which are geared to document as well as build systematic programs to prevent further destruction of cultural heritage.  Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO spoke aggressively about giving concrete reactions to extremist actions which are in fact attacks against people, their identity and their history, and their future.  Optimistically, she noted, that while the art market is in dire need of more education on the challenges facing preservation of cultural heritage during this time, a new consciousness is emerging that can help in the efforts to curb the wanton destruction we witness at this time. University of Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center representative Daniels discussed his work in educating locals in conflict area about emergency preservation methods and studies of heritage in conflict situations which will be launching it’s new website later this year. (

    Celebration awards honored Brigadier General Erik C. Peterson, Commanding General, US Army Special Operations Aviation Command for his work at Fort Drum and Dr. Laurie Rush board member of Blue Shield for  actions taken to protect and preserve world cultural heritage.  The signing of A Memorandum of Understanding by Dr. Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution and Dr, Nancy Wilkie, President, US Committee of the Blue Shield, created a bond between the corporate entities and memorialized the promise of future efforts to support education of cultural heritage professionals and locals in conflict areas, and to provide the means for accomplishing these ends. 

    In addition to reminding us of the tragedy that befalls cultural heritage, as objects in areas of armed conflict face destruction, this meeting also celebrated hope.  We learn about ongoing and grass roots initiatives that individuals and organizations are taking to protect cultural sites and cultural objects.  As we learn we can educate others; the job needs more action and support.  And lastly, we are reminded that cultural heritage represents our history.  It is our identity.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sukonik Fine Art Inc.                                            
Profile and Discussion     
Philadelphia PA   

  Arts professional Patricia Sukonik, director and president of Sukonik Fine Art Inc. is an art historian and lawyer.  A skilled educator, and business person, she has been advising new and established, private and corporate, artists and art collectors for more than 30 years.  Advisor services range from artists rights and copyright matters, to authentication, curatorial purchase, exhibition, maintenance of collections, and public speaking.  Topics focus on fine art and cultural property, and their relationship to world history and economy.

Artistic Treasures Define Civilization / Heroes Rescue Cultural Heritage: 
  A film planned for release in the U.S., February 2014, will honor WWII special forces.  Plans are underway for the construction of a Permanent Art Exhibition 
to honor the legacy of these same special forces. Ground breaking for the first permanent exhibit to honor these forces is planned for 2014/2015 at the National World War II Museum, Liberation Pavilion, in New Orleans, USA.  
The film and permanent exhibit celebrate WWII corps made up of men and women who literally saved the world's finest art masterpieces from destruction destruction at the hands of Nazi fanatics. These special forces became known as The Monuments Men.

  Unlikely heroes of WWII, these forces were comprised of men and woman who were professors, artists, art historians, and middle aged family men.  They fought on the front lines preserving our world's finest artworks and our cultural heritage, with courageous spirit that enabled “the best of humanity to defeat the worst”.

 History of this extraordinary spirit began in 1943, when United States President Roosevelt founded a commission –  the ‘American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas’ widely known as ‘The Roberts Commission’.  This commission, its members, and the Allied Forces they empowered are heroes who are the subject of this article. 

  The Roberts Commission, was headed by vice chairman Dr. Francis Henry Taylor.  Famed art historians, artists, and scholars joined as the commission began its work with a proposal that the “U.S. government support a corps of specialists to deal with the matter of protecting monuments and works of art”. – Under the auspices of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied Armies, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFFA) section of our fighting forces was founded.  The corps,
would work along side and within the ranks of the Allied Forces.
  It was on the eve of the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, that American General Dwight Eisenhower empowered these new soldiers to protect the worlds historic riches.  They were a group of approximately 345 men and women from thirteen nations
museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects and educators. They didn’t carry machine guns or drive tanks. 

  They were men and women who led the greatest treasure hunt in world history.  Their hunt was to locate and preserve human records of western civilization’s cultural heritage, "customs and practices of traditional and indigenous culture".  These artists and scholars were to track billions of dollars of stolen art, including works by Michelangelo,
DaVinci, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Durer, Van Dyck, Murillo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso and others.  The history of this treasure hunt and its outcome, is chilling.

  Western European key cities played an important role in this hunt.
In Berchtesgaden, Hamburg, Siegen Grasleben, Merkers, Nuremberg, Fussen (Neuschwanstein Castle), to name some locations, Monuments men found more than a thousand Nazi repositories/ hiding places of art.  Here, in mines, caves and castles were repositories filled with precious art, sculpture, furniture, and religious artifacts, stolen by the Nazis from churches, synagogues, museums, and individuals throughout Europe.  Also, hidden in the repositories were German and Austrian museum collections which Hitler and his thieves evacuated during the fighting, with the thought to preserve and protect them during the ensuing war, for themselves.

   The Monuments Men were spurred onward by these findings, realizing
the magnitude of the discoveries particularly what these treasures mean to western world historic legacy.  The heroes broadened their focus to locating and safeguarding movable works of art –  removing what they could from respective museums and transporting them to Allied repositories for safe keeping.  Western Allied Forces established Collection Points in Offenbach, Milan, Munich, Frankfurt, Moscow and Leningrad to name some.  These Collection Points served as central storage facilities for the safety of the movable objects and recovered works.   Imagine the evacuation of these works.  For example, think of the treasures of the Louvre in Paris, such as the Greek 'Winged Victory of Samothrace'.  This marble statue, 10' 9" tall, created in 190 BCE, was "rocked onto an inclined wooden ramp, held by two groups of men."  It was rolled slowly down a long staircase, "stone wings trembling slightly", making its way to being crated for shipment.  Ofttimes works were moved and subsequently relocated.  For example, Da Vinci’s painting of the 'Mona Lisa’ was on the move for several years as the French were fearful of the painting's likely appeal to Hitler.  It was moved by museum officials six times, before its return to Paris in 1945. 

  The Allies declared invalid, all Nazi transfers and takings of property –  looting by the Nazis through plunder or forced sales.  After the war millions of objects were sorted through to determine ownership and begin the process of restitution, i.e., returning works to original owners.  As discussed in one of our earlier blogs, while many of the recovered artworks and artifacts were subsequently returned to rightful owners and/or their heirs; much art is still missing and some found art remains the subject of ongoing debates, even today.

  After the war, legends of the Monuments Men continued.  These men and woman have been responsible for building some of the greatest cultural and educational institutions throughout the world.  They became directors and curators of world renowned museums including, in America, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and others.  Renowned institutions
including the New York City Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts owe their founding to the ideas of the Monuments Men.  

  In June 2007, the United States Congress honored the service of the Monuments Men, as heroes of civilization.  Four Monuments Men officers were present for this occasion.  The  Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, was founded that same year, as an organization dedicated to preserve the historic legacy of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives section of the armies during World War II.  In December 2012, the American Jewish Historical Society presented the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award to the Monuments Men. This award is the highest honor presented to an individual or group which has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the American Jewish community.  Honoring these heroes, additionally, is the Foundation’s receipt of the National Humanities Medal, America’s highest honor for work in the field of humanities. 

  History, art, travel, and adventure lovers will enjoy books written about these world events and their heroes. Two books are reviewed in brief videos, posted with this blog.  (See the column to the side of this article.)  Further, recommendations include the film, ‘The Rape of Europa’, which is a stunning account of the fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War, based on the book of the same name. – The December 2013 George Clooney and Grant Heslov film entitled, ‘The Monuments Men’, is another.

  We, as world citizens, owe incredible debt to The Monuments Men and Women.  They tracked, found, hid, and protected billions of dollars of looted artworks, artifacts, public and privately owned treasures, and historic collections.  They began the project of the treasures' restitution.  These World War II heroes saved thousands of messages for western civilization.  Precious and irreplaceable cultural treasures were preserved for World History, and Cultural Heritage was saved from destruction.

Patricia Sukonik

Note: Comments gleaned from Monuments Men Foundation writings and ‘The Monuments Men’ and ‘Rescuing Da Vinci’ .

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sukonik Fine Art Inc. 
Profile and Discussion     
Philadelphia PA   

  Arts professional Patricia Sukonik, director and president of Sukonik Fine Art Inc. is an art historian and lawyer.  A skilled educator, and business person, she has been advising new and established, private and corporate, artists and art collectors for more than 30 years.  Advisor services range from artists rights and copyright matters, to authentication, curatorial purchase, exhibition, maintenance of collections, and public speaking.  Topics focus on fine art and cultural property, and their relationship to world history and economy.

 Art World USA : Shipping and Screening

    Deliveries of air cargo may be subject to new inspections and buyers and sellers may required to comply with increased notice requirements about the contents of shipments on cargo flights bound for the U.S.  New and tighter regulations are being considered which are expected to bolster our security systems. 

    Screening requirements in operation today, put into effect August 1, 2010, require that all items shipped as cargo on passenger airplanes must be screened.  Current notice requirement is four hours before the flight is scheduled to leave.  As a result of these requirements, many large museums and art shippers have realized concerns for securing the art they ship.  They are anticipating the possibility that airline employees might open carefully packaged crates and search them without understanding the nature of fragile paper, art objects and other artworks.  Previously safe packaging may not secure the artwork’s arriving in the conditions shipped. 

    Transactions involving anonymous parties, such as the situation in which an owner of an artwork wants to remain unknown and his dealer finds an overseas buyer, are difficult and will become more difficult.  Shipments from anonymous third parties are subject to special handling and potential delays.  Therefore, handling such transactions involve added cost and time.

    In consideration of inspection requirements art shippers using air carriers, or other U.S. common carriers involved in importing goods into the U.S. including ocean vessels, railroads and trucks are offered enrollment in a federal shipping program that allows them to create and work with separate screening facilities.  The program is a voluntary business initiative with stringent security verification guidelines.  Useful  for larger museums, which typically plan exhibitions years in advance and have sufficient time to avoid shipping via passenger planes, the program is costly for small museums, galleries and private dealers.  In such situations smaller shippers will likely rely on art-shipping companies that are certified screeners, having themselves enrolled in the federal shipping program.  Such an alternative will be less expensive.

    The US shipping program initiative requires art packers who enroll to be responsible for certified inspection, crating, and a mark identifying the shipment as artwork with special seals, locks and tape – all to minimize the chances of the artwork being re-screened.  Benefits include reduced border delay times and priority processing for customs and border protection.  Assuredly with these more stringent requirements art will ship with more safety and will arrive at its destination with more guarantee of conditions.  Our treasures ensured to meet us in the same as when they left theie shipper.
Patricia Sukonik

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sukonik Fine Art Inc. 
Profile and Discussion     
Philadelphia PA   

  Arts professional Patricia Sukonik, director and president of Sukonik Fine Art Inc. is an art historian and lawyer.  A skilled educator, and business person, she has been advising new and established, private and corporate, artists and art collectors for more than 30 years.  Advisor services range from artists rights and copyright matters, to authentication, curatorial purchase, exhibition, maintenance of collections, and public speaking.  Topics focus on fine art and cultural property, and their relationship to world history and economy.

Restitution of Looted Art: 

    Areas of our special interest include art fraud and the restitution of stolen and looted art and cultural property. – About 20% of all Western art was looted during WWII.  Although tremendous efforts have been made since the war, initially by Allied forces and more recently by governments, art law attorneys, and private interest groups, work is unfinished. – Tens of thousands of items remain displaced more than sixty years later.  One international art registry identifies more than 25,000 looted artworks from over 12 countries.  One international claims registry processing office lists 4,800 individuals from 45 states and 37 countries.  –  Courts and committees see unresolved decade long legal proceedings.

    Efforts to address these matters are valiant, making inroads albeit by measured steps.  They include: The Commission for Art Recovery founded in 1997, a US non-profit group which works world wide with art professionals, lawyers, and other appropriate groups, to advise and institute international government policy exchanges. – A Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague June 2009, is another.  Representatives from 46 governments attended.  The outcome of the Conference was the Terezin Declaration, searchable on line.  And, in March 2010 The American Society of International Law hosted an inaugural panel interest group, Art and Cultural Heritage, which reviewed international positions of property return.

    Goodwill  is generated by these commissions, societies, world conferences, and individuals.  And, declarations signed by 44 plus nations call for effective resolutions of art claims.  Nevertheless, goodwill and well intentioned resolutions do not always translate to success.  Governments and countries have been resistant to comply with programs and policies.  Museums and governments have sequestered materials and effectively claimed them for their own.  And, Individuals with legitimate claims, are deterred from making them because of litigation costs.

    Lastly, significant numbers of art and cultural property unlawfully appropriated through theft, confiscation, coercive transfer or other methods do need to go home to countries of origin and to original owners.  Research to identify these materials and find them, whether in the custody of a museum, community or a private collection must gain momentum.  As career long advocates and newly committed champions for the cause concur, we must continue to dedicate energy into building forums for focused searches and prudent action to ensure ethical stewardship and eventual restitution. We must continue to provide guidance and resources for claimants - for museums, communities, and particularly for surviving individuals and their families.    
Patricia Sukonik