September 1, 2014

Miami New Times' Michael E. Miller reports FBI delayed return of Stolen Matisse to Venezuela over 'hole in its history'

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

According to the FBI, the Henri Matisse painting “Odalisque in Red Pants" stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas (MACCSI)) in Venezuela in December 2002 was recovered in an undercover operation in Miami on July 16, 2012. Two men were arrested and later convicted (see USDOJ here and the ARCA post here). Four days ago, Michael E. Miller reported (Aug. 28) in The Miami New Times that the "FBI Delayed Returning Stolen Matisse Painting to Venezuela Over Concerns It Was Looted by Nazis":
"There was a concern that it may have been subject to Nazi looting," says Special Agent Robert Giczy, a member of the FBI's art crime unit and one of the agents involved in the odalisque investigation. "There was a hole in its history from 1931 to 1959," he said. "The Third Reich was 1933 to 1945. So we had a responsibility to ensure the status of the painting was [kosher]." "It was like trying to find the hole in a donut: something that just wasn't there," Giczy said. With assistance from the Getty Research Institute in California, the Art Loss Register in London, and the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) in New York, the FBI determined in April of 2014 that the painting had not been stolen by Nazis but had been privately owned in London and America during that period. "That freed the painting so that it was available for repatriation," Giczy said.
Miller wrote a longer article on the theft in "Chavez, Matisse, and the Heist that Shook the Americas" (August 27, 2014). 

August 16, 2014

Listen to 'Art Crime with Arthur Tompkins: Portrait of Wally' on Radio New Zealand

Judge Tompkins
ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins, a New Zealand District Court Judge and member of Interpol's DNA Monitoring Expert Group, discusses the theft of Portrait of Wally, the 1912 oil painting by Austrian painter Egon Schiele.



Andrew Shea's documentary film "Portrait of Wally" was reviewed in the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. More information on this film can be found here, here, and here.

Last month, Judge Tompkins spoke to Kim Hill about the theft of the 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, painted by Gustav Klimt on Radio New Zealand.

August 11, 2014

The Times Magazine: Alexi Mostrous writes about Julian Radcliffe and the Art Loss Register in "The murky world of the art detective"

In Britain's magazine for The Times, Alexi Mostrous discusses the controversy surrounding Art Loss Register's founder Julian Radcliffe and alleged payments to art thieves in "The murky world of the art detective" (August 9, 2014). Mostrous reports that the Art Loss Register 'claims to have returned more than £150 million worth of paintings, artefacts and sculptures to their rightful owners in the 22 years since business began' and has 'more than 400,000 objects currently listed' in its stolen art database:
Were the ALR a business built solely around this database, then Radcliffe would be a useful, if uncontroversial member of the art world, something like a particularly proactive lost property clerk. But Radcliffe is no clerk, and he and his company enjoy a far more glamorous sideline, earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year tracking down and recovering stolen art on behalf of insurers and victims of theft. It works like this: Radcliffe’s network of sources around the world tip him off about the locations of stolen paintings. For a substantial fee, they may provide “information” which somehow leads to the stolen artwork landing in Radcliffe’s hands. The ALR man has collected paintings left for him in the boot of a car and by a layby. It’s a system shrouded in mystery but then, Radcliffe claims, it gets results.
According to Mostrous, 'Thanks to a series of internal aides-memoire written by Radcliffe between 2004 to 2012, and leaked to The Times, it is possible to reveal for the first time just how far the ALR is willing to go to recover stolen masterpieces.'

Mostrous' article includes comments from two ARCA associates who previously worked for Scotland Yard: Dick Ellis (an ARCA lecturer) and Charley Hill (an ARCA advisor). You can read the article here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article4167385.ece.

Another article in May 2013 highlighted the work of Dick Ellis: Emma Jacobs writing for The Financial Times "Lessons from an old master" which you can read here: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b27c1392-c2cf-11e2-bbbd-00144feab7de.html#axzz3A5egUa3q.

August 10, 2014

Elmyr de Hory: Mark Forgy, the forger's "personal assistant", speaks to Snap Judgment in "The Grand Illusion"

Snap Judgment's Joe Rosenberg interviews Mark Forgy and his wife Alice outside of Minneapolis in "The Grand Illusion", the story of the man who owns a home with art in the style of Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne -- all works by the forger Elmyr de Hory. Forgy tells Rosenberg how he came about this art collection: he was 20 years old when he visited the Spanish island of Ibiza and met 'a kind hearted and generous person', a Hungarian artist, who invited Mark and a friend to stay with him at his "sumptuous villa" -- then hired Mark as his "personal live-in assistant". You can hear the interview here.

August 8, 2014

Cultural Heritage Protection: The Ġgantija Temples, Xhagra, Malta (Gozo)

Susan Douglas reports on the Ġgantija Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980

Fig. 1: The entrance to the museum at
 the Ġgantija Temples heritage site.
Possibly the oldest surviving freestanding structures in the world, the Ġgantija Temples in XaghraGozo, Malta were inscribed by UNESCO in 1980 with several other Megalithic Temple Sites on the Maltese archipelago. Dating from the Neolithic period onwards, perhaps as early as c.3600-3200 BC (Trump 1980; Renwick 2007), they predate both Stonehenge (c.2000 BC) and the pyramids at Giza (c.2500BC).

Fig. 2 – The clay figurines including
 the snail with the human head
 from the
 Xaghra Circle.
The architecture of temple site of Ġgantija is not a simple trefoil plan like the earliest structures seen at MnajdraSkorbaTarxien and Kordin, or a single cell such as found at Mgarr, but a rather more developed plan consisting of a passage with a pair of transepts branching off it to either side. The temples and related sites (such as the Hal Safleini Hypogeum) all share elements in common such as uprights and lintels and decorative spiral, dot, and line designs. These well-known features are present at Ġgantija, where the designs are carved into the standing stones or megaliths.

Interpretation Center and Museum
When I visited the Ġgantija Temples it was scorching hot. July is the worst time to tramp around the Mediterranean doing cultural tourism, but somehow I didn’t know this before I arrived on the island. Also, I had no car. Which is how, with help from the Hop-on-and-Off bus, Gozo, I spent a leisurely 45 minutes enjoying the heritage park, comprising a museum and the temples.

A short uphill walk took me from the car and coach park opposite to where the bus stops to the entrance of the complex. Happily, the museum area is air-conditioned during the summer months. I found out there is a dress code in effect when the woman ahead of me in line was politely asked to put on a T-shirt. Only after she’d done so was the party (which now include me) allowed to enter the museum. The museum / interpretation center, like the prehistoric site itself, is managed by Heritage Malta, the national agency responsible for the preservation and conservation of archeological sites, historic buildings and all Gozo museums.

As fig. 1 (above) illustrates, from outside the museum somewhat resembles a concrete bunker, but one articulated by perforated metal screens that allow the light in and is designed to protect what’s inside. The design of the museum and the entire architectural project carried out at the Ġgantija Temples heritage site won the 2014 Din l-ArtĦelwa Prix d’Honneur in recognition of its excellence. One of the project’s key features is that the museum is detached, physically and visually, from the temple site itself so that visitors may enjoy the monument in its natural context. [1]

Fig. 3 – Graffiti on the megalithic stones
 at the
 Ġgantija Temples, Gozo.
The interpretation center was inaugurated in 2013. It is given over to promoting conservation and educating the public as to the historical and aesthetic value of the temples as well as making learning about Gozo’s prehistory and our prehistoric ancestors an entertaining experience. The exhibits inside include narratives that relate the archeological remains found at Xaghra to the Maltese nation as well as displays encouraging the public to identify with the cultural past.

Sleeping Lady
I was fascinated to discover figurines similar to the “sleeping lady” on display at the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta, Malta, along with other material found in the Xaghra Circle (fig.2). It turns out that figurines and statues were found at several temple sites and the Hypogeum. They range in size from over-life size to miniature and may confirm that the temples were sites for the worship of deities. Some clay figurines and a clay representation of a snail with a human head caught my eye my along with stylized human heads and animal figurines carved in limestone.

According to Sarah Rich, interest in the sculptures is connected to the Earth mother/ Great goddess cult in New Age religions making them emblematic of the desire for an “imagined” heritage or myths. Some of the figures are evidently female in form while others are androgynous, abstract or anthropomorphic. Rich argues that worship by Neolithic people of the female body or the goddess mother in the Maltese islands has never been conclusively proved. [2]

Fig. 4 – The path leading around Ġgantija allows access to
 two  temples  that stand at the end of the Xagħra plateau.
This is a partial view of the façade.
But can we talk about tactile memory in this context? The little figures movingly symbolize for me an affective connection across time. They obviously communicate on a human level, that is to say intimately and expressively, by virtue of texture, color and shape. And, there are plenty of examples of rounded smooth surfaces inviting touch in art, from the Blarney Stones in Ireland to the right breast of the bronze statute of Juliet in Verona that brings luck in love to those who touch it. [3]

Destruction
Apart from the story of the relics, the museum has other tales to offer. In the modern period interest in archaeology led to a confusing situation. It is a fact that, by circulating illustrations of the temples from various points of view, European aristocrats and others succeeded in stimulating scientific interest in the temples and brought tourists into the area. I sat down to watch a video relating how watercolor paintings give an impression of what tourism looked like in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and to prove that the decorative elements of the temples existed and what they looked like. It is believed that decorative plaster may have once covered the irregular walls at Ġgantija. For a while it may have been accessible to the public. However, in 1827, “rubble” was systematically removed from the site in an effort to control access to the area and this material is now irretrievably lost.

Fig. 5 – Detail of the temple structure (niches) compared
 to earlier artistic renderings through photographs.
Figure 3 shows a different consequence of tourism as an unconsidered process. In the park, the names, initials, dates and emblems inscribed on the surfaces of the megaliths are an indication of the site’s growing popularity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The act of leaving one’s name on the prehistoric monument once confirmed that one had indeed been at the site. Any act of vandalism today would likely be caught by security cameras and dealt with immediately; the security guard I saw patrolling the grounds was alert, as he should be. [4]

The Temples, Gozo
There is plenty to look at in the heritage park: the rugged landscape, the bounded temple complex, architectural details ancient and modern. But today, instead of clambering over the ruins as the visiting public once did, a raised path leads down to the temples, offering panoramic vistas of the countryside in the process. The ground is high and slopes downwards. At one time these temples may have prominently marked territorial division or been the central feature of a settlement -- a place that Christians churches, usually Catholic, have taken up more recently. Here are some pictures:

Fig. 6 – Detail of a chamber in one of the
 clover-leaf shaped temples showing
 the site restored according to evidence
 found  during archeological digs
 in 1827 and subsequently.
The path winds around the outside protective wall until reaches the megalithic monuments where it leads up each of two transepts (fig. 4). 

Text and visual panels relay information as to the efforts being made to preserve the Ġgantija Temples and Gozian culture for future generations (fig. 5).

The overall outline of the ground plan has survived, and the upright megaliths. Walls, blocks of stone, niches, and the original stone paving are notably restored. Sadly, however, most of the stylized ornamentation on the megaliths is today very faded. This makes it difficult to imagine what the temples originally looked like or what they did, and therefore how past societies were integrated into the design, culturally and socially.

Mute Monuments
How did the Ġgantija Temples perform the sacred in their time? How does the museum complex perform cultural heritage today? We speak of architecture as active agent in shaping the world. We see the built environment as acting on the beholder and hence capable of transforming perceived reality. But usually, these rather abstract ideas aren’t grounded in a reality such as this one, grandiose yet mute.

References
[1] For more, see AndSeg, Communications Office at Ggantija Megalithic Temples, response to “horrendously ugly concrete walls surround the site,” published on http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g190314-d321111-r212534926-Ggantija_Megalithic_Temples-Ggantija_Island_of_Gozo.html. Accessed July 28, 2014.

[2] S. Rich, “Ggantija and ta’MarzienaPreservation and presentation of Gozo’s Neolithic Heritage,” 2007, Omertaa, Journal for Applied Anthropology,

[3] Interestingly, the curators in charge of exhibiting similar objects at the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta have put a replica on display near the sleeping lady so visitors may in fact touch it if they choose to.

[4] For more on world heritage site management in Malta, see Esther Renwick, “World Heritage Site Management: protecting a site in its landscape, a Maltese case-study” (Paper Presented at the Forum UNESCO University and Heritage 10th International Seminar) available at http://conferences.ncl.ac.uk/unescolandscapes/files/RENWICKEsther.pdf. Accessed August 5, 2014

Credits
Photo credits, all images: © Susan Douglas, 2014

Dr. Susan Douglas, professor at the University of Guelph (Canada) and the ARCA Writer-in-Residence in 2013, is a writer and curator in Toronto and the founding editor of the Glossary of Modern Latin American Art (Wordpress). Http://modernlatinamericanart.wordpress.com.

August 6, 2014

FORTE CESARE: perso, dimenticato, e forse ritrovato?

Forte Cesare, 2013
di Luca Antonini, diploma di specializzazione Arca e residente ad Amelia, Italia
Le foto sono di C. Sezgin

L’Italia è famosa nel mondo per il suo ricco e diversificato patrimonio culturale e ambientale, in parte ben conservato nei vari musei di cui è ricco il suo territorio, in parte ancora presente nei siti storici o archeologici di origine; ciò nonostante, una sua fetta consistente giace tristemente dimenticato o trascurato.

L’abbondanza di elementi di interesse storico, artistico e architettonico ha sempre sollevato questioni di  conservazione, spesso in relazione alla limitatezza delle risorse disponibili o alle capacità pubbliche di gestione e di governo. Anche a livello locale, la mancanza di chiarezza, risorse e linee guida ha spesso ingigantito i problemi, e le ambiguità hanno facilitato fenomeni criminali quali saccheggi, atti di vandalismo, oppure dinamiche distruttive avviate da eventi naturali, come inondazioni o terremoti.

Forte Cesare è il nome di un complesso di antichi edifici costruiti sulla cima di una collina in posizione strategica, dominante rispetto ad alcune vallate dell’Umbria centrale, nel cuore dell’Italia. Amministrativamente, ricade nel territorio comunale di Montecastrilli, in provincia di Terni: 30 km a ovest di Orvieto, 20 a sud di Todi, 12 a nord di Amelia e 85 a nord di Roma. Forte Cesare è sempre stato in mani private fino all’inizio del ventesimo secolo, quando entrò a far parte del patrimonio del Comune di Amelia. Recentemente, l’Amministrazione Comunale ha venduto Forte Cesare ad un operatore privato, intenzionato a restaurarlo e riutilizzarlo.

Il sito fu probabilmente abitato al tempo dei Romani, ma le fondamenta degli edifici oggi visibili risalgono al VI – VII secolo d.C., quando un forte era stato edificato lungo la via Amerina, un importante tratto del Corridoio Bizantino. Dopo la caduta dell’Impero Romano del 476, varie vicende e occupazioni si susseguirono nell’Italia centrale, fino al 584, quando Ravenna divenne la città di riferimento dell’Esarcato Bizantino, una sorta di provincia dell’Impero Romano d’Oriente la cui capitale era Costantinopoli. Il resto dell’Italia era stato invaso da varie popolazioni provenienti dal nord Europa. Il solo collegamento sicuro tra Roma e Ravenna era proprio questo corridoio che attraversava l’Italia centrale da poco occupata dai Longobardi, tra l’attuale Toscana a ovest e il Ducato di Spoleto a est: partiva dalla via Cassia, pochi chilometri a nord di Roma, e si riuniva alla via Flaminia pochi chilometri a sud di Ravenna. Il Corridoio Bizantino era una sorta di  passaggio garantito, e al suo interno il tratto indicato come Via Amerina toccava, tra le altre, le città di Orte, Amelia, Todi e Perugia. E Forte Cesare, guarnigione fortificata, aveva il compito di proteggere persone e beni in transito in entrambe le direzioni; probabilmente era anche un luogo di ristoro, di riposo per la notte, oltre che stazione di posta.

Successivamente, il complesso entrò a far parte delle Terre Arnolfe, sotto il controllo dell’Arcivescovo di Spoleto tra il X e l’XI secolo, ma nessun documento ufficiale precedente al XVI secolo sembra sopravvissuto fino ai nostri giorni. La prima testimonianza scritta riporta la cessione di Forte Cesare dalla famiglia Stefanucci agli Atti, una potente famiglia Guelfa originaria di Todi e dominante su Viterbo.

Tra il XVI e il XVII secolo, Forte Cesare fu radicalmente trasformato da sito militare a complesso residenziale. Solo la torre rimase nella sua originaria posizione dominante, mentre tutte le altre costruzioni vennero ricomprese in una nuova villa a tre piani.

Fino ad allora, troviamo il toponimo indicato come “Peroccolo”, in particolare in alcune mappe redatte nel Vaticano nel XIX secolo ma attestanti la situazione sei secoli prima. La prima volta che si incontra ufficialmente il lemma “Cesare” per indicare il sito, risale ad una carta datata 1629; il motivo può essere ricondotto al nome del condottiero che probabilmente sfruttò quel forte nelle sue campagne nel corso del XV secolo: Cesare Borgia, il cui casato sosteneva lo Stato Pontificio nello scontro tra famiglie Guelfe e Ghibelline. Questa è la ipotesi più accreditata, rispetto alla denominazione ancora oggi utilizzata.

Alla fine del XVIII secolo, Forte Cesare fu donato dal Vescovo Francesco Atti alla Propaganda Fide, un’organizzazione creata dallo Stato Pontificio per sostenere attività missionarie e altre iniziative correlate, inclusa la gestione di terreni e altri beni immobili. Propaganda Fide lo affittò immediatamente alla famiglia Verchiani, e pochi anni dopo lo vendette alla famiglia Ciatti, esattamente nel 1808. Angelo Ciatti, ultimo discendente di questo casato, donò l’intera proprietà alla sua morte (1922) al Comune di Amelia.

La gestione comunale risultò problematica fin dagli inizi. Col suo testamento, Angelo Ciatti intendeva indirizzarne le rendite al Collegio Convitto Boccarini di Amelia, sostenendo in tal modo – con un atto di carità - il sistema educativo locale. Il collegio, inizialmente gestito dall’ordine Francescano, passò nel 1932 ai Padri Salesiani; era la più importante scuola non solo in Amelia, ma nell’intero circondario di piccoli e grandi villaggi, nel raggio di parecchi chilometri. In accordo alle volontà di Angelo Ciatti, Amelia divenne il più importante centro scolastico dell’intero territorio rurale; altre istituzioni di pari livello erano localizzate solo a Todi, Orvieto e Terni.

Due problemi emersero dal lascito Ciatti: dapprima una forte opposizione legale da parte di alcuni famigliari, che tentarono di invalidare la volontà di trasferire la proprietà al Comune di Amelia. In secondo luogo, mentre Amelia era il Comune proprietario, terreni ed edifici rientravano nel territorio sotto il governo del Comune di Montecastrilli; i ruoli erano differenti, essendo il primo formale proprietario, mentre all’altro competeva l’indirizzo urbanistico e territoriale. In effetti tale dualismo non sembra abbia inizialmente creato serie questioni tra le parti, ma senza dubbio costituì la ragione di alcune incertezze, di mancanza di collaborazione e di alcuni scarichi di responsabilità che si verificarono nei decenni successivi. Alla fine della seconda guerra mondiale, terreni ed edifici vennero affittati a locali famiglie di agricoltori, e successivamente al Molino Cooperativo, che si occupava di alcune fasi di trasformazione dei raccolti di cereali prodotti nel comprensorio. E’ specialmente dopo il terremoto del 30 luglio 1978 che le condizioni di degrado iniziarono a far sentire i propri effetti su terre ed edifici, e probabilmente in questo stesso periodo iniziarono, o si accentuarono, furti e saccheggi. Ben prima della conclusione del ventesimo secolo, il bene si trasformò per Amelia da risorsa a problema.

Nel 1986, il Comune di Amelia chiese dei contributi pubblici per lo sviluppo economico dell’area, attraverso il programma P.I.M. gestito dal governo regionale dell’Umbria. Forte Cesare era formalmente compreso nel patrimonio oggetto di rilancio, in ben tre misure: la “A”, con 20 ettari di terreni assegnati all’allevamento di daini; la “D”, tra 120 e 150 ettari destinati all’allevamento di ovini; e infine la “E”, la proposta di restauro della villa: una scuola professionale per l’agronomia e l’ospitalità rurale, oltre a un ristorante e a una sezione espositiva per la promozione delle produzioni locali, erano compresi nel progetto, il cui valore (per la sola misura E) ammontava a 1,5 miliardi di Lire. Il programma P.I.M. non fu finanziato, e quindi mai realizzato. Si tratta del solo documento programmatico esistente, nel quale una vaga visione di soluzione integrata era stata delineata ed effettivamente tentata, mettendo insieme terra e immobili. In ogni caso, tali proposte contenevano un grande difetto: la negazione di una qualsiasi consapevolezza e valorizzazione culturale, storica e paesaggistica, sia nell’analisi che nelle conseguenti proposte presentate. Conseguentemente, vent’anni dopo la presentazione delle bozze di progetto in ambito P.I.M., questo susseguirsi di approcci muddling through, o “dell’improvvisazione”, porterà alla vendita di Forte Cesare ad un soggetto privato, in condizioni di ulteriore abbandono, danneggiamento e saccheggio.

Quando il passaggio di proprietà fu perfezionato nel 2005, nessun inventario fu annesso al contratto. Con riferimento al testamento olografo di Angelo Ciatti, originariamente Forte Cesare comprendeva:

BENI IMMOBILI – la villa, circondata da altri 4 edifici minori, le cisterne (elemento molto importante, in quanto quei territori sono generalmente considerati ricchi di risorse idriche, con l’eccezione della collina su cui è costruito proprio Forte Cesare), un grande giardino con vigna, delimitato da un muro perimetrale; la Cappella; le fonti di acqua; i terreni agricoli (per pastorizia e coltivazioni); i boschi e la macchia circostante la villa; il frutteto, che comprendeva ulivi, castagni, viti e altre cultivar

ALTRO – Arredi sacri, non meglio specificati; mobili, suppellettili e accessori domestici; dipinti (non specificati nel numero, nella posizione, nella datazione e nell’attribuzione); altri utensili rurali di uso individuale; bestiame e raccolti.

Questa elencazione sembra essere l’unica forma di inventario mai eseguita su Forte Cesare e sul suo patrimonio mobile e immobile. Una circostanza che lo rende particolarmente prezioso, nonostante la sua genericità. Gli attuali proprietari hanno nel frattempo lavorato ad un progetto che mira al recupero strutturale e funzionale degli edifici, oltre che all’utilizzo economico dell’intera area. Tali progetti non sono ancora stati approvati dalle competenti Autorità pubbliche. L’iter autorizzativo prevede il coinvolgimento del Comune di Montecastrilli, della Provincia di Terni, della Regione Umbria e della Soprintendenza Regionale ai Beni Ambientali, Architettonici, Artistici e Storici.

L’idea punta alla creazione di una struttura ricettiva di segmento superiore con annessi servizi sportivi e ricreativi, tra i quali un campo da golf da 18 buche e una sezione termale. Un progetto ambizioso e lungimirante, ma distante dalle radici di quel pezzo di storia chiamato “Forte Cesare”.

La tesi originale, da cui è stato estratto il testo sopra riportato, venne redatta in inglese da Luca Antonini nel novembre del 2012, con lo stesso titolo, a completamento del suo ciclo di studi con Arca. La professoressa Susan Douglas ha dato un significativo contributo alla revisione del testo al fine dell’adattamento, pubblicato il 24 luglio 2014 nel blog di Arca.

Luca Antonini è laureato in economia all’Università di Torino e ha conseguito il diploma di specializzazione in Criminologia dell’Arte con Arca nell’anno 2012/13. Dalla metà degli anni ’90 lavora in progetti di sviluppo locale e sostenibile co-finanziati dall’Unione Europea. Si è inoltre specializzato nella gestione delle Organizzazioni Non Governative.

For the English version, you may read this earlier post: http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2014/07/forte-cesare-lost-forgotten-and.html.

August 5, 2014

Anadolu Agency: "FBI returns smuggled Lydian artifacts to Turkey"

Kasım İleri reported August 5 for the Anadolu Agency that U.S. investigators returned 10 illegally traded artifacts from the Lydian Iron Age civilization (first and third centuries A.D.) back to Turkey:
... The return to the Turkish Embassy of the items - estimated to have originated in the Western Turkish province of Manisa and to date back to the first and third centuries A.D. - came during a joint presentation between officials from the FBI and Turkish mission in Washington on Tuesday. The artefacts included grave stones and sacrifice stelas - stone or wooden slabs on which Lydians would inscribe the sacrifices of animals or possessions that deceased people had made during their lives - used in funeral or commemorative services. The items were smuggled into the U.S. in 2006 and spotted by the Turkish Culture Ministry as they were being illegally traded, and were later seized in an operation involving Turkish security officials, the FBI and Washington D.C. police officers in May.... 

July 30, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Ancient Egyptian mask likely to stay at St. Louis Art Museum after feds give up legal fight"

Journalist Robert Patrick reported for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 28:
The Department of Justice is giving up its fight to reclaim for Egypt a 3,200-year-old mummy mask that disappeared from that country decades ago and later found its way into the collection of the St. Louis Art Museum. “The Department of Justice will take no further legal action with respect to the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer,” U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in response to questions from the Post-Dispatch on Monday, the deadline for the Department of Justice if it wished to prolong the court battle. Museum officials couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. According to court filings, both sides are still discussing payment of the museum’s legal fees.
Here's the background as previously covered on the ARCA Blog in "The Legal Case of the Mummy Mask of Lady Ka Nefer-Nefer ...".

July 29, 2014

ARCA '14 Art Crime Conference: Jordan Arnold on "Hello Dalí: Anatomy of a Modern Day Art Theft Investigation"

Jordan Arnold, formerly with New York County
District Attorney's Office
AMELIA -- At ARCA's Art Crime Conference on June 29, Jordan Arnold, formerly head of the Financial Intelligence Unit with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, spoke about the recent art theft investigation which involved artwork by Salvatore Dalí.
In the middle of the afternoon on June 19, 2012, inside an art gallery near Central Park, a man removed a 1949 Salvador Dali watercolor from the wall, placed it in a shopping bag and disappeared into the streets of Manhattan. The ensuing international investigation—led by NYPD Major Case Squad detectives and a Manhattan DA prosecutor—provides an illustrative case study of modern investigative techniques joined with time-tested law enforcement methods to recover a stolen work of art and convict the thief. 
The lead prosecutor in The People v. Phivos Istavrioglou, Arnold presented a concise narrative of the investigation into the theft by Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio, including: determining initial investigative steps; ruling out an inside job; recovering the piece; identifying the thief (a foreign national); placing him in Manhattan that day; using social media to track him to Europe (right down to his favorite café); seizing damning digital evidence of his guilt; luring him back to New York (through an elaborate undercover sting), and; securing his confession, indictment and conviction. The presentation included an explanation of the tools, techniques and approaches utilized, and the attendant legal considerations.
Jordan Arnold is with the New York office of K2 Intelligence, an investigative and risk consulting firm. Jordan previously served as a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, where he created and headed its Financial Intelligence Unit. Prior to that, Jordan served on the homicide chart and as lead prosecutor for the NYPD Major Case Squad. Twitter @jordarnold.

July 28, 2014

Police officer with Greece's antiquities protection department arrested in smuggling ring

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In "Million-euro Marble Statue Seized in Greece", Sotiria Nikolouli reported for the Associated Press on Jul 24, 2014 about the arrest of a police officer from Greece's antiquities protection department "accused of being part of a smuggling ring that was trying to sell an ancient marble statue worth an estimated 1 million euros ($1.35 million)":
Greek Police said on Thursday that the 49-year-old officer was arrested with eight other suspects, following raids and searches at 11 areas in greater Athens and two others in towns in central and northern Greece. The almost intact 1,900-year-old Greco-Roman era statue of a male figure measures 65 centimeters (25.5 inches) from head-to-knee, and is being kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Police did not say whether the statue had been stolen or illegally excavated but added that a “large number” of less valuable ancient artifacts had also been seized.
In "Greek policeman, 8 others charged with smuggling antiquities" (Tengri News relaying an AFP article) the 49-year-old police officer was arrested along with a 52-year-old Athens antique dealer:
A police statement said the more than 2,000-year-old statue, which measures 65 centimetres (two feet) was the work of renowned fourth-century BC sculptor Praxiteles. Six other suspects in the smuggling ring are still on the run.
This article in a Greek newspaper (http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=618124) said the arrests were the result of a two-month investigation; five of the six people not in custody have been identified as allegedly taking part in the smuggling ring (one Albanian and 8 Greeks are involved, including the 49-year-old policeman; a 50-year-old middleman; a 52-year-old antiquities dealer with a gallery in the center of Athens, who is represented as the mastermind of the team; and a 70-year-old collector, the former owner of a famous hotel in Syntagma Square in Athens). According to the article, the police office identified is the head of the service that conducted the raids (the Internal Affairs service of the Greek police). The article claims that the statue is by Praxiteles but it may also be just a later Roman copy. The article says that police confiscated many antiquities from the dealer's shop, some from the house of the dealer's daughter, along with two metal detectors, photographic films and photographs depicting antiquities, a computer hard drive and USB stick, and a special machine or digger capable of excavating antiquities.