"Historical Perspectives on Looting and Recovery", the third panel at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia, will feature Maria Elena Versari, Annika Kuhn, Elena Franchi and Charlotte Woodhead.
Maria Elena Versari, the Assistant Professor of Modern European Art and Architecture at the University of North Florida, will discuss "Iconoclasm by (Legal) Proxy: Restoration, Legislation and the Ideological Decay of Fascist Ruins":
"This paper addresses the ways in which the architectural and artistic production created under Fascism has been perceived, legally defined and handled by subsequent governments and authorities and how the status of iconoclastic actions against these works has changed over time. It focuses specifically on the way in which Fascist architecture offers a significant example of how the fate of politically tainted works challenges the conceptual boundaries that define the distance between legal and illegal, approved and criminal actions in the art world."
After graduating with her PhD from Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Dr. Versari has taught in both Italy and the United States and published many scholarly works, including Constantin Brancusi (Florence: Scala Group/Rome: L’Espresso, 2005) and Wassily Kandinsky e l’astrattismo (Florence: Scala Group, 2007). In addition to teaching, she is currently a member of the Advisory Board for the online journal Art in Translation.
Annika Kuhn, is a Fellow of the Mercator Kolleg on International Affairs (German Academic Foundation/Federal Foreign Office), conducting research on the illicit trafficking and repatriation of antiquities. Dr. Kuhn holds a DPhil in Ancient History from the University of Oxford. She will present “The Looting of Cultural Property: A View from Classical Antiquity”:
"The destruction and pillage of cultural property in times of war and peace reach far back in history, to the Greek and Roman periods – be it the excessive looting of Greek temples during the Persian Wars or Nero’s large-scale thefts of statues. This paper will examine ancient approaches to and discourses on the plundering of works of art and investigate early concepts of the protection of cultural objects as media of a collective memory and identity. By discussing selected historical examples, I will particularly focus on the different forms of ancient responses to the loss of significant religious and cultural artifacts, which range from the diplomatic negotiation of returns, the repatriation of looted property as symbolic political acts, the restoration of the religious and cultural order by the use of replicas as well as early antecedents of the ‘codification’ of norms to respect the inviolability of religious and cultural sites and prohibit the illicit appropriation of art. The parallels and differences which the ancient paradigms reveal with regard to modern concerns about cultural heritage will shed some new light on the complex nexus of political, religious, cultural and moral issues involved in debates over the protection of cultural property."
Elena Franchi is the author of two books on the protection of Italian cultural heritage during the Second World War: I viaggi dell’assunta: La protezione del patrimonio artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali (Pisa, Edizioni PLUS, 2010), and Arte in assetto di guerra: Protezione e distruzione del patrimonio artistico a Pisa durante la seconda guerra mondiale (Pisa, ETS, 2006). She has been involved in a project on the study of “Kunstschutz”, a German military unit created for the protection of cultural heritage during the war. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award - “Research” for the American documentary The Rape of Europa, 2006, filmmakers Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen e Nicole Newnham, on the spoils of works of art in Europe during the Second World War. Ms. Franchi will present “Under the Protection of the Holy See: The Florentine Works of Art and Their Moving to Alto Adige in 1944”.
Charlotte Woodhead, an Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick will present “Assessing the Moral Strength of Holocaust Art Restitution Claims”:
"This paper will analyze recent recommendations of the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel, which hears claims relating to World War II spoliation of cultural objects, and in particular the different aspects of the moral considerations. It will focus on the two primary considerations of the Panel: the circumstances in which the pre-war owner lost possession of the object (the immorality of deprivation) and any moral obligation of the institution in terms of the circumstances in which they acquired the object (the immorality of acquisition). However, other matters appear to influence the moral strength of the claimants’ claims or the remedy, which they receive. In cases where the claimants or their forbears received post-war compensation the Panel also analyses any potential unjust enrichment of claimants were the object to be returned or monetary recompense awarded. The public interest in the cultural object is also a consideration when determining whether or not to return the object rather than to make a financial award. This paper will analyze how far the Panel’s decisions differ from those which would be based on purely legal considerations (assuming the absence of statutes of limitation) and will make some comparisons with similar panels set up abroad to deal with the restitution of spoliated cultural objects."
Charlotte Woodhead's research focuses on cultural heritage law and in particular the recognition and enforcement of property rights in respect of objects of cultural heritage. She has written articles on the restitution and repatriation of objects from museum collections including the work of the Spoliation Advisory Panel and the repatriation of human remains. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in cultural heritage at the University of Leicester.