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