02 April 2011

Cardozo Law School follow-up—Lucian Simmons and two victims

I did take exception in my closing remarks to Lucian Simmons' characterization of the two victims theory in art restitution.  There is no way in the world in which you can equate a victim of the Holocaust with a person who acquires 'in good faith' a work of art or object that, unbeknownst to her, had been looted between 1933 and 1945 and not returned to its rightful owner prior to the sale to this innocent individual.

The so-called good faith purchaser is NOT a victim.  Period.

There is something called 'due diligence' which any self-respecting purchaser of art, especially of objects that are expensive, as in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros and up, must engage in prior to the acquisition.  In other words, the same principles that apply to the acquisition of a car or a house apply to the acquisition of art.  That's not very complicated to understand, except for the fact that, until recently, when all the hullaballoo about looted art entered into our conscious frame of mind since the late 1990s, no one seemed to truly understand that those works of art being considered for acquisition might have been involved in some kind of man-made catastrophe like genocide, mass slaughter, civil strife, or other human horrors perpetrated on other human beings, resulting in outright thefts of victims' property.

The inability and/or unwillingness to do one's due diligence is a continuing plague on the global art market writ large, including museums, galleries, art fairs, and individual collectors, brokers, and dealers.