Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Art recovery: another can of worms prised open

It seems it is not only UK dealer Michael Marks who has crossed swords with the Art Loss Register recently.

Now the Los Angeles Times reports that the rightful owner of Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps (left), a work by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro looted during the Holocaust, has had a "falling out" with the ALR.

In fact, the LA Times story is a catch-up on a case that has been studiously investigated by Elise Viebeck at the Claremont Independent, and also followed up by Derek Fincham's Illicit Cultural Property blog.

I won't comb over territory already explored with great diligence by Ms Viebeck and Mr Fincham, but suffice to say that this looks to me like yet another instance in which Machiavellian manoeuvres by academic researchers and art databases to skim off a percentage of the value of recovered stolen or Holocaust looted art potentially militates against a satisfactory ethical outcome to such cases. Everyone, it seems, from academics to dealers, to stolen art databases, is scheming to benefit from what in many instances, particularly Holocaust matters like the Fischer case referred to above, was originally a heinous crime.

Surely there is a more ethical way to recover stolen and Holocaust looted art?