January 31, 2011

Reports of Looting and Theft throughout Egypt

An Egyptian Soldier guarding the Cairo Museum
Like many of you I am following the reports from Egypt with great interest. There is a flood of information on the revolution generally, and also a lot of specific information about the destruction over the weekend at the Cairo Museum.

The situation at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo seems to have stabilized, with soldiers arresting fifty men who have attempted to break in to the museum Monday. Yesterday Zahi Hawass faxed a report, which was posted on his blog.

 Now reports are emerging about damage and thefts at sites elsewhere in the country. Much of it, I am sorry to say, is disheartening. These reports are very early, and should be taken with a healthy dash of skepticism. Yet we all know that there are places where many of these objects will be bought and sold. The antiquities trade does not distinguish the licit from the illicit. Vast storehouses and sites are at risk. The United States will soon have to consider emergency import restrictions, and monitor the trade as best we can. Yet one can't help but feel frustrated at the destruction which may be taking place.

The Egyptian newsblog Bikyamasr is reporting widespread looting of museums and antiquities thefts all over the country:


According to antiquities official Mohamed Megahed, “immense damages to Abusir and Saqqara” were reported. Looters allegedly have gone into tombs that had been sealed and destroyed much of the tombs and took artifacts.
“Only the Imhotep Museum and adjacent central areas were protected by the military. In Abusir, all tombs were opened; large gangs digging day and night,” he said.
According to Megahed, storage facilities in South Saqqara, just south of Cairo has also been looted. He did mention it was hard to ascertain what, and how much, was taken.
He said Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) officials “are only today [Sunday] able to check on the museums storage, but early reports suggest major looting.”
He called on the international archaeology community to issue a “high alert” statement on Old Kingdom remains and Egyptian antiquities in general, “and please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide.”
Looters of museums, “who may be encouraged by outside Egypt entities, may try to use general confusion to get things out of the country.”
His statement comes as Al Jazeera and other news networks reported extensively on the small looting at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in the past two days as police guarding the museum left their posts. Others allege that the police themselves are responsible for the looting.
The Egyptian Museum is home to some 120,000 items and thousands more in storage in the basement.
 What a sad development if museum security really were involved in the looting. Already it is worth asking the difficult question: what could be done to prevent this in the future, and also thinking about answers. One answer might lie with how the guards were treated. Hyperallergic has translated an interview with the former director of the Egyptian Museum Wafaa el-Saddik, published in the German publication Zeit Online, reporting that the Museum in Memphis has been robbed. The thieves may have been Egyptian security guards, who earn as little as 35 Euros per month.

Good sources of information include:



After the jump, a collection of videos of the situation in Cairo (via)

January 30, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on Plundering Libraries in World War II

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted wrote “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Riechsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records” in the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Art Crime. In her abstract, Dr. Grimsted wrote:
“Alfred Rosenberg was one of Nazi Germany’s most successful “looters.” The Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), organized specifically for plunder under his direction, seized cultural property across Nazi-occupied territories. This article traces what happened to the ERR’s hoard of books and archival materials that ended up at war’s end in the ERR evacuation center headquartered in Ratibor (now Polish Racibórz) in Upper Silesia. In contrast to the treasures found in the Western occupation zones of Germany and Austria, a large part of the property in Silesia fell into Soviet hands. Thus plundered a second time, it was held in secret for decades. Only recently has it been possible to find and identify the displaced books and archives, and to raise the issue of restitution. The author also addresses the issue of where and why the ERR’s own records were scattered, as well as current efforts to identify them and make them more accessible to researchers electronically on the Internet.”
Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted is a Senior Research Associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute and an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and an Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam). She received her Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964 and has taught at several universities, including American University and the University of Maryland. Among many fellowships and awards, she was a Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2000-2001), and in 2002 she received the Distinguished Contribution to Slavic Studies Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Dr. Grimsted is the West’s leading authority on archives of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the other Soviet successor states. She is the author of several historical monographs, documentary publications, and a series of directories and many other studies on Soviet-area archives, including the comprehensive Archives of Russia: A Directory and bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Russian edition, 1997; English edition, 2000). She currently directs the Internet version of ArcheoBiblioBase, a collaborative electronic directory project with data from the Federal Archival Service of Russia, maintained by the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam).

She has also written widely on World War II displaced cultural treasures (see below). In 1990 she was responsible for revealing information about the archives from all over Europe that were captured by Soviet authorities after the war and long hidden in Moscow. With Dutch colleagues she edited the volume Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues (Institute of Art and Law, UK, 2007), soon to be released in an updated paper edition. Most recently, she edited and was a major contributor to the collection Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage: The Russian Cultural Property Law in Historical Context, published as International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2 (2010). She is currently consulting for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and has just completed the guide Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), soon to be released on the Internet, which is already serving as the basis for virtual display of many dispersed fragments, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives).

ARCA blog: You write about meeting a retired Belarusan professor of French philology, Vladimir Makarov, who had found in Minsk books with autographs of French writers such as André Gide, André Malraux, and Paul Valéry. He told you in 2003 that he had not found anyone else so concerned about the provenance and fate of these books. More than six decades after World War II, what is it about these stolen and misplaced libraries that is so compelling for you? And are you surprised that these volumes have not been destroyed?
Dr. Grimsted: Over the past decade and a half there has been a renewed interest in the fate of cultural valuables looted during the war. I find it tragic that many of these books were looted from Holocaust victims and other prominent individuals in Western Europe, and that unlike countries in Western Europe, the Soviet Union never made any effort to return them to their owners. Only since the 1990s have we learned about the fate of the art, archives, and libraries books looted a second time by the Soviets after the war.

Some of the volumes from Western Europe the Soviets captured were destroyed, but close to half a million survived. The rare books that were hidden away for half a century in Belarus, many with famous autographs, are finally being catalogued. However, Belarus librarians have no interest in returning them to their owners, and prefer to consider them “compensation” for their own war losses..
ARCA blog: You write that owners of half a million plundered books from Western Europe and the Balkans that went to Minsk (and another half million plundered from Soviet libraries) never knew that their books had survived and been “saved” by the Red Army. The information was classified or secret for half a century. You think that even today the Rothschild family or the heirs of Léon Blum, Georges Mandel, or Louise Weiss may not know that some of the treasures from their family libraries traveled to Minsk. Are people making inquiries now that ERR records of plunder are being gathered, digitized and made available on the internet?
Dr. Grimsted: Some of those people have learned about the books that went to Minsk after my articles revealed the story of their fate, and there have been a number of inquiries about them since. There is considerable interest, especially among the families and heirs of Holocaust victims in learning more details, and even the suggestion of setting up a database about the looted collections.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

January 27, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor John Daab on Art Fraud

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Journal of Art Crime’s fourth issue dated Fall 2010 includes an academic article, “Art Fraud: Deflecting Prosecutorial Intervention Away from the Defective Art Product,” by John Daab, a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research. Mr. Daab writes in the article’s abstract:
“Historically, art crime consisted of looting, stealing, and burglarizing museums and creating art forgeries, to name a few. Scholars have recently broken down the category into street and white-collar art crime types. For example, the common museum burglaries fall under the street type while art forgery and art fraud are found in the white-collar realm. The notoriety of the break in is hyped by the mass media in their various presentations. Art crimes of this sort are definite, often leaving a trail. Ultimately, the culprits are captured by tips or forensic examination such as fingerprints, burglar tool matching, and so on. In the case of art fraud or forgery, which Starnes has characterized as the “invisible crime,” such definitiveness or clarity of criminal act is often missing (2002). Such indivisibility combined with factors hindering prosecution allows the art criminal to push the envelope to the point that this form of white-collar crime becomes a non-crime. The study below offers an identification of the factors and the consequences surrounding white-collar art crime, leading to a suggestion that art fraud is a gold mine for the white-collar criminal.”
Dr. John Daab is a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research with Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a Certified Forensics Consultant, Accredited Forensic Counselor and a Registered Investigator with the American College of Forensic Examiners International. John holds Diplomate status (DABFE) with the American Board of Forensic Examiners and holds Certified Homeland Security I (CHS-1) and Certified Intelligence Analyst (IAC) member status with the American Board of Certification in Homeland Security.

An academic with various undergraduate and graduate degrees from philosophy to business with a focus on art authentication, John is a sculptor who works can be seen on the Fine Art Registry (his works can be seen in his FAR online portfolio). He has published more than 80 articles and recently authored, "The Art Fraud Protection Handbook" (Kindle Edition). He is currently completing studies in Art Appraisal at New York University, completing a docent program at Princeton, and has completed a second book, "Forensic Application in Detecting Fine, Decorative, and Collectible Art Fakes" (Kindle Edition). He is developing a third book on the "Business of Art."

ARCA blog: John, in your article, you study the way Ely Sakhai processed his frauds and comment: “Over the 13-year period it is alleged that 12 million dollars in forgeries were sold with many still in the hands of the unwary.” He was charged in federal court with wire and mail fraud and received four years in jail. Were you surprised?
Dr. Daab: I was surprised that Sakai was prosecuted. White collar crime is rarely prosecuted. I was not surprised how the prosecution was processed. Most art fraud prosecution usually ends up under the wire and mail fraud statutes. Fraud statute violations are difficult to prosecute because of the conditions of intentionality, gain to the fraudster, and loss to the victim usually found as the requirements in the statute. Intentionality is difficult to prove since there are many levels to the processing of the crime. Sifting through all the parties involved takes time and may lead to a total dead end. Prosecuting via the wire and mail fraud statutes is a more efficient method of prosecuting resulting in a higher probability of conviction.
ARCA blog: In your second case study, you describe the art fraud paradigm of selling art of questionable authenticity and value at galleries selling art at sea. No government intervention has taken place according to your article. What do you think it will take to close these dubious practices?
Dr. Daab: I think that selling at sea represents a significant problem for US prosecutorial and probably international agencies since there is an undefined area where the crime takes place, and a difficulty in establishing the conditions for the violation. Lacking this defined area prevents pulling in that prosecutorial agency responsible to charge the alleged criminal, and since consumer protection laws are not operable at sea the conditions supporting the violation are ineffective. Some even argue that the consumers purchasing the art should know better. Supposedly the US policing agencies have cooperative undertakings with foreign governments for crimes at sea, but based on the fact that very few prosecutions have taken place for murder, rape, theft and assaults on board it would be unlikely that any activity will close down the selling of fake art. If the US policing agencies do not go after violent criminals at sea they will certainly not go after art fraudsters.
ARCA blog: Is the term “defective product manufacturer” sufficient to describe what is going on in the art market? How can a buyer feel safe?
Dr. Daab: The art market is an unregulated, uncontrolled and non-transparent market. There is more control over selling used cars than art costing millions of dollars. While there are some organizations like Fine Art Registry focused on vetting fakes, most art is turned over with the assumption that it is genuine. Scholarly investigations have found that art found in some prestigious museums is only 60% authentic. Given that 40% of museum art is of questionable authenticity and surrounded by the foremost art historians and curators, it would be difficult to argue that the art market selling the works of collectible artists lacking this pedigree would hold works of a higher probability of authenticity. I would argue that buyers of art have no safety net in the present art market except to assume that there is a 40% chance that the collectible art one is considering is bogus, and as such maybe one should just walk away from the purchase.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Lauren Cattey on Photomacrography


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

ARCA Class 2009 graduate Lauren wrote “Revolutionizing Security in the Art World One Photograph at a Time: Photomacrography and its Application to Protecting Cultural Property” for the Fall 2010 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Ms. Cattey writes in her abstract:
“Photomacrography, high resolution close-up photography, is an important tool within the art world. The goal of photographing works in very close detail is to illustrate clearly the distinguishing features found on every single object. These photographic results can be used not only for analysis of the work of art, but as a protective layer of security. By demonstrating how photomacrography is used within the art world today and discussing how it should be used in the art world tomorrow, this known photographic process transforms itself from a tool for observation, documentation and analysis to a much needed security service to identify and protect cultural property for future generations.”
Ms. Cattey received her Bachelor of Arts from St. Louis University in May 2008 with a major in Criminal Justice, a minor in Psychology and a certificate in Forensic Science. While attending St. Louis University, she interned with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in their Sex Crimes section. As an intern, she set up accounts on MySpace and Facebook for the Sex Crimes section after solving a case using these social networking sites. Later she interned at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in the museum’s Protection Services department where she helped to review, edit, and organize security policies and procedures into a convenient security manual. In 2009, she graduated with honors from ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and was the Investigative Assistant to the Security Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

ARCA blog: Welcome to the ARCA blog, Lauren. Your article outlines how photomacrography can be used to document and authenticate artworks. Although conservators and art historians use this method to analyze art, you are proposing that photomacrography be used to protect artwork. Would this be expensive for museums and private collectors?
Ms. Cattey: The most expensive part of investing in photomacrographs for works of art would be the purchasing the photographic equipment (digital SLR camera, macro lens, tripod, computer). However, since most museums have the equipment already, it would be a matter of labor costs.
ARCA blog: You write that photomacrography simply refers to a technique used to photograph a subject at life-size or larger – actually up to forty times its actual size. Is special equipment involved? And how would these images be stored?
Ms. Cattey: Special equipment is needed. As mentioned previously, a digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, macro lens, tripod, wireless shutter release and a computer with plenty of storage space. I would recommend backing up your images on an external hard drive or burning them to CDs for safe keeping.
ARCA blog: In your article, you discuss the work done at the J. Paul Getty Museum, could you elaborate here for our readers?
Ms. Cattey: In the summer of 2007, the J. Paul Getty Museum launched a new feature on their website in conjunction with the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Royal Collection. Developed by a paintings conservator and a paintings curator, Yvonne Szafran and Anne Woollett respectively, “Cranach Magnified” is a project that allows visitors of the site “to compare macroscopic details” of paintings by sixteenth century German Renaissance painter Cranach the Elder. The concept originated upon analysis of the Getty’s own Cranach painting, Faun and his Family with a Slain Lion. Szafran and Woollett observed in the painting’s background, a man running down hill, whose actual size is one-third of a centimeter.

This type of in-depth analysis provides many benefits for the art world and its enthusiasts. The access “Cranach Magnified” creates is unrivaled. Using photomacrography, the Getty Museum produced a new way to interact with works of art. It also allows side-by-side comparison of works that are in separate collections, which is the main objective of “Cranach Magnified.”
ARCA blog: In your article, you discuss a company, Art Access and Research, that uses photomacrography as an alternative security method, using cracks and brushstrokes of a painting as an ‘internal barcode’. You are suggesting that this can prevent a forgery from being passed off as an original. Could this be applied to all paintings?
Ms. Cattey: Yes, but it shouldn’t be limited to just paintings. It can be applied to prints, sketches, sculptures, etc. High resolution imaging captures features of the work of art that do not change, without damaging the original work. By having magnified images of the craquelure pattern, brushstrokes, signature or any unique identifier of that work of art not only deters forgery, but also helps in identification and proof of ownership disputes.
ARCA blog: How do you suggest that the art world begin using photomacrography to its fullest potential?
Ms. Cattey: To start, whether you are a museum, private institution, or private collector, having photographic records as an inventory list is essential. That way, if any misfortune does occur, the photographs will not only prove what you own, but will also help the insurance company, appraiser, restorer or police department do their jobs. It also adds to provenance, encouraging owners to take an interest in keeping track of the history for that work of art and their entire collections.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

January 26, 2011

Glasgow Police Recover A Corot and Two Other Paintings Stolen from Glasgow Museums but not Reported to Interpol's Stolen Art Database



by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Herald in Scotland reported today that police have recovered a painting by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and two other works (a landscape by the Scottish Post-Impressionist painter Samuel Peploe and another work by the Italian Renaissance painter Federico Barocci) that were "linked" to thefts of art from museums in Scotland in the 1990s.

A curator recognized Wooded Landscape with Figures by Corot in an auction catalogue last November, The Herald reported in "Exclusive: Police recover stolen art".

This Corot painting was not listed on Interpol's Stolen Art Database as one of the 16 Corot paintings reported stolen between 1972 and 2008 from Canada, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovenia. The retrieved Corot landscape was once part of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which features French Impressionists and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Paintings. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow was closed for renovation from 2003 to 2006.

The article speculates that a member of the Glasgow City Council may have been involved in selling art from the Glasgow Museums due to the poor inventory controls. The investigation continues.

In addition to theft, Corot's art is one of the "most faked," according to Freemanart Consultancy which advertises itself as an expert in the fine art of authentication. Corot himself signed many faked and copied works by either his pupils or those of his artistic friends who needed money, according to Freemanart Consultancy.

Photos: Young Girl Leaning on Left Elbow (top) and Girl Musing by a Fountain (bottom), as titled in Interpol's Stolen Art Database, were two paintings by Corot taken from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 and remain missing.

Profile: ARCA Lecturer Valerie Higgins to Teach "Archaeology and Antiquities" in Amelia This Summer


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Valerie Higgins of the American University of Rome will teach “Archaeology and Antiquities” this summer as part of ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies in Amelia this summer.

Ms. Higgins is Associate Professor and Chair of Archaeology and Classics at The American University of Rome. She gained her Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Sheffield, Great Britain. She currently researches the impact of war on heritage and communal memory and changing attitudes to the excavation of human remains in contemporary society.

At the International Art Crime Conference held last July, Ms. Higgins delivered a presentation: “Archaeology and War: the Importance of Protecting Identity.” She wrote in her abstract:
“Trafficking in art and cultural heritage can be seen primarily as an activity undertaken for profit and governed by short-term objectives. However, underpinning trafficking is the notion that these objects have an intrinsic value that can ultimately be realized in financial terms, and in this regard, the illegal trafficker is equally as concerned as the most fastidious museum curator in the authenticity of the object. Yet these objects can only have value if society decides that they do, if there is a widely held belief in the importance of preserving objects from the past. The last two decades have seen an exponential growth in heritage, in both practitioners and consumers - indeed heritage has become literally an “industry”. What is it about our contemporary society that makes heritage so important to a current sense of identity? This paper will explore this issue with particular reference to recent areas of conflict and the impact on the trafficking market.”
ARCA blog: Welcome to the program, Dr. Higgins. For those of our readers who didn’t attend the conference in July, how would you explain to them here what it is about our society that makes heritage so important to a current sense of identity?
Dr. Higgins: The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in the past from the general public. Archaeology and history used to be something largely confined to academics but now many different types of people engage in investigating the past and they often have different priorities from academics. Overall, the past has become incredibly important to many people’s sense of identity. Some social scientists have linked this to the way we live today. People move around a lot, they often don’t have much contact with their family and, unlike in previous eras, their environment is changing all the time. We are the first generation where the lifespan of the average person is longer than the lifespan of the average building. Locating yourself within a historical context can be a way of gaining a personal sense of identity. You only have to think of the massive number of people who research their own ancestors to realize how important this has become. This great expansion of interest in the past also impacts on the trafficking of antiquities because it changes the market for illegal antiquities. I am currently preparing an article on this for submission to the Journal of Art Crime, where I will go into this in more detail.
ARCA blog: What areas will you focus on in your course “Archaeology and Antiquities”?
Dr. Higgins: In my course I will look at the changing attitudes to antiquities. What we define now as trafficking was seen in previous eras as legitimate, even philanthropic. I will attempt to put our current attitudes in a historical context. That will be the easy bit! The more difficult part is to address the ethical issues of collections acquired in the past by means that today would be illegal. What do we do about those and what would be the consequences of dismantling those collections? We will hold some debates over particular case studies and hope that everyone will join in and make it a lively discussion!
ARCA blog: What do you mean in saying “the illegal trafficker is equally concerned as the most fastidious museum curator in the authenticity of the object”?
Dr. Higgins: ‘Authenticity’ is a major preoccupation of our society. We need to know we have the “real thing”, even if we wouldn’t personally be able to tell the difference between the genuine article and a good fake. Obviously a museum curator is bound by professional integrity to ensure the veracity of the museum collection. Illegal traffickers know that whilst a genuine 5th century BC Attic vase will be worth millions, a fake will be worth only a few dollars, so they are equally concerned with authenticity. Unless, of course, they are the ones making the fakes!
ARCA blog: How would you explain your current research of war, communal memory and excavation of human remains to someone who is unfamiliar with the field?
Dr. Higgins: The expansion of interest in the past from different sectors of the public has thrown up some very heated debates. My research looks at the impact of this both on how we interpret the past and how our perceptions of our own history affect our attitudes today. Rome, where I live and work, is an excellent place to study these trends. The centre of Rome looks like it has stayed the same since antiquity but, in fact, it has been changed a lot by different regimes to support their political programs. I recently gave a conference paper (available on www.academia.edu/ ) on how Rome’s ancient past was drawn on by both Fascists and Rome’s Jewish population in very different ways. Wars highlight these disparities because, of course, the conflict will be seen differently depending on what side you were on. Another area of intense debate at the moment is how to deal with human remains. Many people find the way graves are dug up by archaeologists and the skeletons examined disrespectful. Archaeologists have had to fundamentally change their practice over the last decade to address public concerns.

The Journal of Art Crime: Fall 2010, the Fourth Volume


Cover Design and Illustration: Urska Charney

As Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime, I'm pleased to introduce a series of posts on articles in the Fall 2010 issue of our journal. The Journal of Art Crime is the first peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal on issues in art crime. Its goal is to promote the study and understanding of art crime, as well as the collaboration of professionals and scholars in the disparate fields affected by art crime. From lawyers to police, from investigators to security directors, from criminologists to archaeologists, from art historians to conservators, art crime is an inherently interdisciplinary field of study which, heretofore, has not received the scholarly and professional attention that its severity warrants. We hope that you will join us for this series of posts and consider subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime, which serves as the perfect way to keep current about contemporary issues in art crime and cultural property protection, and to read the very best and newest scholarship in the field.

Thank you for your support of ARCA and The Journal of Art Crime.

Noah Charney
Founder and President, ARCA
Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Art Crime

January 25, 2011

Artist Profile: Edvard Munch, Part Three, The Thefts

By Therese Veier

Munch is one of a few Norwegian artists that have a global market of buyers and collectors. The value and prices for his art have increased, coinciding with an increase in thefts.

On February 23, 1988, in the middle of the night, the Munch painting “Vampyr” was stolen. The thief climbed into the Munch Museum through an open window. With no alarms attached, it was easy to steal the world-famous painting. This was not a planned theft, rather an act of impulse triggered by the open window. Iconic art such as “Vampyr” is impossible to sell, and not knowing what to do with the painting, the thief decided to return it. In August, he walked straight into the police station, carrying “Vampyr” under his arm, hoping this would lead to a milder sentence for a big jewellery theft he had committed in June. The thieves were convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

Unfortunately, the National Museum in Oslo was not that lucky in 1993 when Munch’s "Portrett studie" a portrait of his sister, was taken from the walls during the museum’s opening hours. The painting has never been recovered. The experience of art crime investigators is often that if stolen art is not found shortly after the theft, it can disappear into the black market for years.

A year after this, in 1994, a few hours before the grand opening ceremony for the Lillehammer-Olympic Games, the National Museum in Oslo was again victim of a Munch theft. This time the museum’s version of "Skrik" (The Scream) was stolen. Knowing that most of the police force would be occupied with security at the Olympics, the confidant thieves planned and executed a theft they knew would take all media attention away from the Olympics and ridicule Norway. The thieves entered the museum using a ladder, smashed a window, climbed inside and stole “Skrik”. They pinned an art postcard on the empty museum wall with the words, “Thanks for the poor security”. The theft took 50 seconds. An inexperienced guard did not react correctly to the museum alarm, and camera images were poor. The theft created headlines worldwide. How could this happen? Was it really that easy to steal a national treasure? With the professional aid of Scotland Yard and Charley Hill, who managed to convince the thieves that the Getty Museum wanted to buy the work back, “Skrik” was recovered. It turned out that the brains behind this brazen theft was Pål Enger, who previously stole “Vampyr” from the Munch Museum. Enger was sentenced to six years in prison for this theft and other petty crimes, his companion, got three years. Museum security was declared a national issue that should be taken serious.

After a few quiet years the Munch Museum experienced Norway’s most brutal art theft so far. On the 22nd of August 2004, both “Skrik” and “Madonna” were stolen by armed robbers during the museum’s opening hours. Shortly after the theft a student at the art academy in Oslo, Malo (Hammaya Rashid), solicited a stunt claiming the thieves had burnt the artworks in fear of getting caught, and given him the ashes from which he had created a new work, “Munch masks”. Lars Fr. Svendsen, a philosophy professor, called the idea brilliant. If the masks really contained the ashes from “Skrik” and “Madonna” this would make Malo’s work one of the most important artworks in the 21 century, and even if they don’t it is still a very interesting and provocative work. Criminality as an art form has never really been explored, but will probably increase in the future, Svendsen stated to the press. Hopefully the majority do not share his views, and tests showed that Malo’s “Munch masks” did not stem from the stolen works.

Later investigation revealed that the theft was a diversion to get the police occupied searching for the paintings while the thieves could execute the largest money theft in Norway (57,4 million Norwegian kroner), the NOKAS robbery. When the NOKAS case came on hearing David Toska, the leader, offered to return the stolen Munch works if certain demands were met, like more frequent visits from his girlfriend. His demands where never granted. Toska and his gang were sentenced for the NOKAS robbery, but Toska was never tried for the museum theft. In May 2006, three men were convicted and sentenced for the Munch robbery, but the artworks remained lost. Two years and nine days after “Skrik” and “Madonna” were stolen from the museum the police found the artworks in Oslo. They were damaged, but could be restored. No reward was paid for the recovery of the works, and no new convictions issued.

To summarize, my impression is that thieves view art thefts as easy, a prank to get media attention, to brag about or as a cover up for their “real” theft. The thieves are tough criminals. Of course museums cannot always prevent art from being stolen, but research and knowledge about art crime, correct security measures and special art crime investigators is necessary.

Databases to register stolen art is an important tool; unfortunately, Norway does not yet have a national database for stolen art.

January 23, 2011

Artist Profile: Edvard Munch, Part Two, The Munch Museum

By Therese Veier

The Oslo Council inherited Munch’s works and property in 1946 and opened a museum in 1963. The museum expanded and renovated in 1994, the 50th anniversary of Munch’s death; the project was largely financed by the Japanese company Idemitsu Kosan co. Ltd.

Apart from a fascination and admiration for Munch’s art in Japan, why did a Japanese company have to finance this? Norway is a rich country by most comparisons, largely earned by oil findings. Isn’t it the obligation of Norway and the Oslo council to take care of our cultural inheritance?

In 2004, the museum experienced a violent theft, and was burglarized in broad daylight by two armed robbers who stole The Scream and Madonna. After this incident, the museum received money from the council to update security.

Immediately after the theft in 2004, the company Det norske Veritas was hired to perform a security analysis to minimize future risks regarding fire, water and humidity damage, and theft and armed robbery, according to Sture Portvik, information and marketing director at the Munch Museum.

Det Norske Veritas report recommended the installation of "a lockable gate for the general public at some distance from the entrance door"; a labyrinth in front of the gate; and metal detectors. The DNV report also recommended that the museum protect the valuable icons with glass and bolt all pieces onto the walls; upgrade burglary protection; and "further fire sectioning of the rooms where the art works are stored.”

“The only possible action towards armed robbers is to create enough time delay so that the police can get there in time,” says Monica Solem, project manager in DNV Consulting. She adds: “At the time of the robbery, there were hardly any barriers to overcome in the museum.”

The Munch museum also contacted other museums to enquire about security measures, and the company ABM-utvikling, that specializes in active and strategic development to strengthen archives, libraries and museums role as cultural and social institutions, according to Sture Portvik.

The museum radically altered their security. Visitors today are reminded of airport security checks when entering the museum, a long wall of bulletproof glass is in front of several art works and guards are placed throughout. Museums face a difficult task in how to best maximize security, be cost-efficient, care for the art works, and still keep the art available for the public.

In the fall of 2010, the Munch Museum hired a new director, Stein Olav Henrichsen. He told the press that the museum still faces big challenges that will have to be solved before the museum is scheduled to move in 2014 into a new building (nicknamed Lambda) by architect Juan Herreros. However opinion is split about whether a new museum should be built by the sea where it might be humid and no room for expansion, or if it is better to keep the present location and renovate the old building at Tøyen. On 17th of January 2011 the council issued a final hearing for the three cultural institutions, the Munch Museum, Stenersen Museum, and Deichmanske Main Library, that are planned to relocate to Bjørvika. The deadline for a final decision is set to the 28th of February.

The museum employees have asked for financial aid because 200-300 paintings badly need technical conservation before they can be moved. Several of the paintings suffer from discoloration and peeling, and they are especially fragile because of Munch’s experiments with technique and material, and his often rough way of handling his art. He would sometimes expose artworks to the elements of nature and let the result be part of his artistic expression.

In September 2010, the council decided to give the museum 26 million Norwegian kroner for conservation.

“The Department is facing a new major challenge: preparing all the works of art to be moved to the new museum building in Bjørvika in Oslo. The emergency conservation project started in the end of September. Project leader is P.hd painting conservator Biljana Topalova Casadiego. Emergency conservation of the Stenersen Collection is soon completed.”

Just before Christmas in December 2010, during a cold period in Oslo (minus 18-20 degrees Celsius), the museum had to close several exhibition rooms, including the main exhibition room. Water ran down the inside of the museum walls, other walls where extremely humid, and the air-conditioner and heating system malfunctioned. The director informed the press that the museum had been struggling for a long time with the task of trying to provide a safe environment for the art in an inadequate building with a bad infrastructure. Several problems are due to lack of maintenance and technical insufficiencies. It is very hard to maintain stable temperatures inside the building, especially when the weather outside is cold, and condensation increases in rooms with outer walls. He compares the climate inside to a sauna, it is humid and lacks oxygen. To prevent permanent damage several artworks were put in storage, and employees took turns wiping the walls with cloths to try and keep them dry.

These problems have now been repaired. On Friday 7th of January the rehabilitation of the main exhibition room was finished, the outer walls of the museum had been isolated, and the damaged surfaces inside fixed and painted, according to Sture Portvik.

On January 21st, 2011, a new exhibition with the title “eMunch.no Text and image” opened. The exhibition is accompanied by an online publication of Munch’s texts and is intended to be used as a digital search archive. The museum also plans to make all correspondence to Munch available online as well. In 2008, a catalogue raisonné was published, and senior curator Gerd Woll at the Munch Museum is currently working on a catalogue about Munch’s prints that will be released in both Norwegian and English, according to Sture Portvik.

The museum is currently working on a strategy to make Munch’s art more available and to increase the number of visitors as well as encourage more research, with longer opening hours, lectures, concerts, new digitalized material, English translations and a new museum shop, Stein Olav Henrichsen told the press.

It seems that the museum is on the right track with a new director that has the ambition and will to care properly for Munch’s inheritance. I hope he will have the means. He is dependent on financial support from the council, because there is little private art sponsoring in Norway.

Artist Profile: Edvard Munch, Part One, An Artist's Life


In honor of the Norweigan artist Edvard Munch who died 67 years ago this week, the ARCA blog is posting a three-part series about the life and legacy of the artist associated with two famous art thefts. The author, Therese Veier, attended ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July 2010. Ms. Veier has majored in art history and is now completing a final examination in law at the University in Oslo.

By Therese Veier, ARCA blog guest writer

Today, January 23, is the 67th anniversary of the death of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch who lived to the age of 80. People from all over the world travel to Oslo to visit the Munch Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Oslo. His paintings Skrik (The Scream) and Madonna are iconic. The Scream is one of the most reproduced art images, almost equal to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Munch painted several versions of The Scream, as he did with many other motifs. Frequently used themes in his art were love, fear, death and melancholy. Munch did not like to sell his art, which he often referred to as his children. He usually sold works once a year and lived the remaining year on the income from the sales.

According to Munch’s will, the Oslo council inherited approximately 1,100 paintings; 15,500 prints; 4,700 drawings; 6 sculptures; and almost 500 print plates, tools, documents, photographs, note books and furniture which went to the Munch Museum collection. The value today is hard to estimate precisely, but a rough estimate of the collection’s value was set at 20 to 40 billion Norwegian kroner (NOK) some years ago. Inger, Munch’s sister, inherited his collection of letters, 100 prints of her own choosing, and a considerable sum of money. Upon her death, Inger left the museum Munch’s letters as well as several art works. With additional gifts, the museum today owns over half of his paintings and all of his print motifs, which places it in a unique position internationally, and provides the basis for special exhibitions within the museum, worldwide exhibitions, and research. The museum exhibits approximately 70-80 paintings and 70-80 prints at all times. The remaining part of the inheritance remains in storage, except from a small selection of works on loan to exhibitions abroad. In addition, the National Gallery of Art in Oslo and Stenersenmuseet also have important works by Edvard Munch in their collections. The businessman and art collector Rolf E. Stenersen supported and bought Munch’s art early on, and upon his death, the Oslo council inherited his art collection as well. Stenersen and Munch became close friends and Stenersen wrote a biography about the artist.

Because Munch’s will did not specify anything about his large private house at Ekely, his studios and the furniture, all this was given to his heirs, and then bought by the Oslo council in 1946. The idea of building the Munch Museum on Ekely was proposed early on; however, the council tore down the main house in 1960 and built a parking lot, then decided to build the museum in Tøyen, as a result of a political decision to spread the cultural institutions in Oslo. Ekely is behind the Vigeland Park in the west part of Oslo. Tøyen is east in Oslo, and the museum is situated next to the Tøyen Botanical Garden. Luckily, Munch’s studio on Ekely was saved and is used today as residency for artists. The Munch Museum opened in 1963, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The expenses for the new museum building were financed with profits from Oslo Cinematography, a state-owned company that owned the cinemas in Oslo. The Munch Museum’s website in Oslo is mainly written in Norwegian, but some information is translated to English.

How has Oslo council treated the inheritance left them by Edvard Munch, the most important Norwegian artist, in terms of conservation, priority, adequate funding, study and research?

The following two stories will first address the state of the Munch Museum, followed by a selection of Munch thefts from museums in Norway.

January 21, 2011

Profile: ARCA lecturer Dorit Straus on insuring art


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Dorit Straus, Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Company, will again teach the course, Investigation, Insurance and the Art Trade, in Amelia at ARCA’s 2011 Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies program. Straus’ course discusses fine art insurance; the role of the insurance company, the agent and the broker; the insurance contract; risk analysis and selection; losses and claims; theft losses; and interaction with police and law enforcement.

Ms. Straus published an article, “Implications of Art Theft in the Fine Art Insurance Industry”, in Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Edited by Noah Charney) that explains the relationship between insurance and art theft. She has also written a chapter on insuring art in a book by Diane McManus Jensen, Valerie Ann Leeds, and Ralph Toporoff, The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections with Advice on Starting Your Own (Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd, 2010).

Ms. Straus, the Worldwide Fine Art Specialty manager for Chubb Personal Insurance, joined Chubb in 1982. Prior to Chubb, she studied archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, lectured on Biblical Archeology and worked at several museums (The Jewish Museum, The Peabody Museum of Ethnography at Harvard University, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York, now known as the Museum of Art and Design). She has underwriting experience in Property, Casualty, and Entertainment as well as fine art. She was a key member of OBJECT ID of the Getty Institute, which established universal criteria for describing works of art. She speaks on art and insurance at international venues including seminars on risk management for museums and cultural institutions at Shanghai University. She was the keynote speaker at a fine art risk management seminar sponsored by the government of Taiwan; a featured speaker at a conference at Dresden, Germany; and a panelist at a seminar on art theft at Cambridge University, United Kingdom, where she met Noah Charney, ARCA’s founder.

ARCA blog: You’ve been quoted in the press that the most common art insurance claim stems not from theft, but from damage done while the art work is in transit.
Ms. Straus: Actually, its damage from a variety of causes not just damage in transit. In severe winter weather, it is not uncommon to see a lot of water damage claims to fine art. For example, excess weight of snow resulting in roof collapses and seepage of water from various sources including below grade seepage. During the summer we see water damage to fine art as a result of severe rains or air conditioners that leak and saturate walls along with the art that hangs on that wall.

Fire, smoke and soot also are major perils that we see on a regular basis. Improper packing or crating and poor installation are also common causes of loss.

I do not mean to minimize theft as an important cause of loss, but as I have written in various articles, there are ways to prevent theft through central station alarms, and through inspections by the insurance company of the premises to point out the weak spots in the security system.

What is much harder to predict is when a dealer who has been in business for many years, goes rogue and starts selling art on consignment in violation of his consignment agreements and or selling the works and not remitting the proceeds to the owners. This can become more prevalent during bad economic times.
ARCA blog: You’ve also said that when a museum purchases insurance to protect its collection, the insurance companies follow up with security inspections and risk management recommendations such as how to protect the art against damage from fire.
Ms. Straus: This statement needs to be qualified. Not every insurance company has staff on hand that can go out and inspect the museum facilities. So it should be a very important consideration by the people responsible for purchasing the museum insurance policy to ascertain if the company has such capabilities. They should also be looking at the caliber of the people who are doing the inspection. The risk management assessment should include not just the security system and its components, but also the fire protection and procedures, including the adequacy of the fire suppression capabilities of the museum and the local fire department. They should be looking at protective devices as well as the human element. Are employees vetted? Do they undergo periodic background checks? Is there dual accountability? There are lots of other considerations that should be taken into account to address and prevent insider theft.
ARCA blog: It’s too expensive for museums to insure their entire art collection. Do they select a blanket limit up to a certain amount that would cover any paintings stolen from the collection? And do insurance companies get nervous when there’s a rare painting by van Gogh, Vermeer, Rembrandt or any other artist that seems to attract thieves?
Ms. Straus: The way museums purchase insurance varies and each museum, unless it is a governmental entity, makes those decisions based on their own assessment of risk taking. In the US, most museums are private not-for-profit organizations with a board of directors who make those decisions. Also, those decisions are made based on the size of the collection, the type of collection, and by the finances of the institutions. Major art museums are going to take a different approach than historical societies, or a natural history museum.

Many museums in Europe are state owned and therefore the decision making on risk transfer is not their own, but is directed through a governmental entity. There are also government indemnity programs that are similar to purchasing private insurance. However, generally when museums borrow from one another or from private collectors the risk transfer then is typically insured for the value of the loan amount.

When underwriting a museum, one considers the total collection and evaluates the exposures as a whole; one does not look at individual works by certain artists and decide that those are more attractive to a thief.
ARCA blog: You once said that stolen works of art are only recovered 10 percent of the time and, on average, take 20 years to be recovered. Are you surprised when objects are noticed in pre-sale catalogues by large auction houses? Do you expect that they should have done more due diligence or examined the painting’s provenance before listing the work for sale? Is provenance research too time consuming for many of these art houses?
Ms. Straus: I am not surprised that items are flagged as stolen in pre-sale catalogues. The sheer volume that goes through the auction houses is so enormous and rapid. Very often these works have already passed through several owners before they reach the auction house, and these owners may indeed be “innocent purchasers”. I do expect, however, that the auction houses conduct due diligence investigations when they sense that there may be something wrong with the consigners or the work itself, whether it’s a question of illegal ownership or authenticity.
ARCA blog: What kind of art insurance issues have kept you up at night, metaphorically speaking, in the past six months? What do you see as the riskiest areas in insuring art?
Ms. Straus: We have been going through terrible economic times, so I am concerned about moral hazard either by fraudulent insurance claims or from dealers who are stealing from their clients.

I am also particularly concerned about the trend of art as investment and regarding art as an asset class. I don’t want to generalize, but when you start thinking about art as a commodity rather than as an object that expresses our humanity and our culture, it loses its importance and it becomes interchangeable solely as a money exchange. Maybe I am naïve, but when you value something for more than its monetary value you have a personal stake in it along with making sure that you invest in protecting it properly.
The application deadline is today, January 21, for ARCA's 2011 Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

January 20, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Pasticceria Massimo's Appearance in Daniel Silva's Novel 'The Defector'


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

While studying in Amelia at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime Studies in 2009, I looked forward to July 21, the release date for another book in Daniel Silva's series on Gabriel Allon, art restorer, spy and assassin. Downloading the book from Audible.com would allow me to listen to The Defector on my iPhone although I was in a medieval town in the middle of Umbria. And although I had been looking forward to this book since Silva had signed my copy of Moscow Rules in 2008, I would not be able to listen to the book until midnight.

That day, a Tuesday, Monica Di Stefano, Italian teacher extraordinaire and gracious Umbrian host, guided a group of students and attending family members through Narni, visiting a church, the duomo, and a stage theatre. We lunched on curried chicken, pesto trofilo, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes at a cucina off a side street. Desserts, baked there, included a flourless chocolate torte, a fruit crumble, and a crème brulee.

We explored Narni underground, an area discovered by some children in 1979 when they climbed into the vegetable garden of an old man who asked them to explore an area from where he could feel fresh air. Inside the opening, they discovered an old church used by the Dominicans from the 12th century and beyond that Inquisition torture chambers. A prisoner in 1759 had left carvings on his cell wall explaining his name, his military rank of corporeal, and signs related to Christianity and masonry. The man was likely a leader of the guards for the Inquisition chambers and had been put in prison for 13 years because he had tried to save another guard from torture. Another prisoner of the Inquisition was accused of having two wives -- something awful in Italy because two wives meant two mother-in-laws -- and when he killed a guard and escaped, he ended up in L'Aquila, outside the protected walls of the papal empire. The hidden chamber also revealed two skeletons, including one of a tall woman with a full set of teeth and clothing tied by ribbons at the sleeves, not sown, putting her in the 19th century.

After this field trip, we returned to Amelia, prepared for the next day's lecture and not until midnight did I insert earphones to listen to The Defector. Minutes later I heard: "Chapter Four, Amelia, Umbria."

Silva's Gabriel Allon describes the town:
"Amelia, the oldest of the Umbria's cities, had seen the last outbreak of Black Death and, in all likelihood, every one before it. Founded by Umbrian tribesmen long before the dawn of the Common Era, it had been conquered by Etruscans, Romans, Goths, and Lombards before finally being placed under the dominion of the popes. Its dun-colored walls were more than ten feet thick, and many of its ancient streets were navigable only on foot... It's main street, Via Rimembranze, was the place where most Amelians passed their ample amounts of free time. In late afternoon, they strolled the pavements and congregated on street corners, trading in gossip and watching the traffic heading down the valley toward Orvieto."
Allon enters Pasticceria Massimo and orders a cappuccino and a selection of pastries.

So the next day, after waking at 9 a.m., breakfasting at 10, ironing at 11 and getting dressed at noon, my family and I followed Gabriel Allon's path into Pasticceria Massimo to try the cappuccino and cream puffs. Massimo, the owner, and a woman wearing eyeglasses behind the counter -- possibly the model for the girl who had served Gabriel Allon in the book -- did not know of Daniel Silva or his books but were pleased to learn of the connection.

The Illy espresso was delicious, the foam smooth, and the service gracious. We later learned of Massimo's great tiramisu cakes and added Pasticceria Massimo to our daily routine. We were able to share our story with Daniel Silva and his wife Jamie Gangel who sent a signed bookplate to "the girl who presided over the gleaming glass counter of Pasticceria Massimo" as Daniel Silva wrote in his book. In exchange, the woman in the eyeglass at Massimo's, of course her name was Daniela, sent a memento of Amelia to Daniel Silva and is waiting for The Defector to be translated into Italian.

My first visit to Massimo's was followed by a two-hour Italian class with Monica Di Stefano and then a lecturer by Diane Charney, a French Literature Professor at Yale University, on the heroic work of Rose Valland who copied the negatives of looted art works processed through the Jeu du Paume in Paris during World War II.

That evening, after a trip to the fromaggerie for fresh yogurt and cardinale cheese in the afternoon, a group of us dined on pizza at Porcelli's Taverne and then two of us walked Diane Charney to her guest apartment on Via della Repubblica until Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art Crime and Antiquities Squad, joined us on the street. When I introduced myself, he said that he had already met my husband and children earlier that day. The four of us chatted long enough for his wife to call and wonder what had happened to him when he went to park the car.

Without the aid of my journal, I would not have remembered that finding Amelia mentioned in Daniel Silva's 2009 novel was sandwiched in between Narni underground's Inquisition torture chambers and meeting Scotland Yard's Richard Ellis. But I have recalled those two days here for those potential candidates considering the program who wonder about the consequences of enrolling in ARCA's Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. It was not a summer of lectures and assigned readings I had anticipated -- the rest of the summer could fill another novel!

Photo: Daniela Grillini, Pasticceria Massimo, possibly the model for Daniel Silva's character who "presided over the gleaming glass counter."

Pasticceria Massimo
Via delle Rimembranze, 8
Amelia (Tr)
Chiuso il lunedi/Closed on Monday

January 19, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Zachariah Mattheus on Going to Amelia

Zachariah Mattheus will be part of ARCA's 2011 summer program in art crime studies and cultural heritage protection. He is an independent art director and graphic designer working in branding, print and web design. HIs professional collaborations over the past ten years with Warner Music Group, Rhino Records, Kerouac Films, Bloomberg, Conde Nast, Envirosell, Vox Guitars, The New York City Ballet and Jordache exhibit his penchant for the telling of great stories. His work can be seen at www.zachmattheus.com.

ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
I received my degree in Graphic Design from The School of Visual Arts. I came across the ARCA program in a NY Times article about 1.5 years ago. I already had a fascination with art crime, especially forgery, from reading every book I could get my hands on about the subject, both non-fiction and fiction (Fake!, The Forger, The Rescue Artist, The Lost Van Gogh, The Art Thief, etc). The ARCA program was the logical next step for me in immersing myself further into the world of art crime.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
I have lived in Italy twice before, once as a student in 1999 and once as a teacher in 2002-03 in Florence at Studio Art Centers International. It was there that I met my wife-to-be Jess Hayden who will be joining us in Amelia this summer. We are both very excited to return to Italy, especially to an area that we do not know and are eager to explore. We love a good dinner party, although she is definitely the chef, and intend to eat and drink our way through the summer. While we are there we intend to spend some time with old friends and explore the areas along the Adriatic and in the south. And of course get back to Florence and one of our favorite restaurants, Garga.
ARCA Blog: The program culminates in the writing of a publishable article. What area of art crime or cultural protection would you like to research?
At this point I would say I would like to further explore the world of forgery, but after seeing the ARCA prospectus who know what direction I will be pushed in once classes begin.

January 18, 2011

Profile: ARCA Lecturer Richard Ellis speaks about "Art Policing and Investigation:


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Former Detective Sergeant Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad, will be returning to Amelia next summer to teach “Art Policing and Investigation” from August 1 through August 12 at ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

Mr. Ellis ran the Art & Antiquities Squad for New Scotland Yard from 1989 until his retirement from the police in 1999. After working for Christie’s fine Art Security Services and Trace recovery services, in 2005 he joined with security and conservation specialists to form the Art Management Group. He is also director of Art Resolve and Art Retrieval International Ltd.

As a specialist art crime investigator both in the police and in the private sector, Mr. Ellis has been involved in many notable recoveries such as ‘The Scream’ stolen from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994, Audobon’s ‘Birds of America’ stolen from the State Library in St. Petersburg, antiquities looted from China and Egypt as well as the recovery of numerous items of art and antiquities stolen from private residences throughout the United Kingdom and abroad including in 2005 silver stolen Stanton Harcourt and in 2006 paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard and Duffy stolen in London.

ARCA blog: Mr. Ellis, how would you describe the scope of your course? And how can students best prepare for your class?
Mr. Ellis: In scope, I have tried to ensure that my course gives the students a clear understanding of the breadth of cultural property crime, the responsibilities of the police/law enforcement nationally and internationally and the legal basis upon which investigations are built. The art market is global and cultural property crime mirrors this in every way, from theft and the disposal of the stolen objects, to fraud and the faking and forging of cultural objects. For a criminal investigation to be successful it is essential that the investigator understands how to project the investigation in to other jurisdictions, how evidence is legally obtained and then presented in courts foreign jurisdiction.
ARCA blog: In your course, you speak about working closely with former smuggler and Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn. Does he still help the authorities and are you still in contact with him?
Mr. Ellis: I use Michel van Rijn to illustrate not only the importance of "informants" to the criminal investigator, but also the problems that "informants" can create for an investigator and hence the care that must be used when dealing with such individuals. I play an interview that I recorded with Michel in 2004 at the request of the Dutch Government, which was played to an EU conference to illustrate how criminals fabricate provenance and the difficulties that this presents for all those involved in cultural property. I am still in contact with Michel, which provides me with a constant insight in to the darker side of the art market. Michel will of course help the authorities if it is in his interest to do so and this is another reason why I introduce him to the students. Understanding why people become informants is essential to being able to use them and the information that they provide safely and legally and this is another part of the scope of my course. Understanding why people become involved in cultural property crimes, their motives and expectations will assist the investigator in reaching a successful outcome to a case.
ARCA blog: In the past three decades, do you think police agencies are more or less interested in investigating stolen art and antiquities? Do you think there are more resources out there today? What role does the Internet play in investigations today?
Mr. Ellis: The past three decades has been interesting in respect of the response to cultural property crime by the police in many countries. At the start of the 1980's there was little interest in this area of crime with the exception of Italy, who throughout this time have devoted considerable resources to protecting their cultural property and investigating those responsible for the theft of it. In 1984 the art squad at Scotland Yard was actually closed and its 14 detectives were dispersed on to other crime squads. In the USA the FBI had no dedicated team and only in the police departments in New York and Los Angeles was there any recognition that art and antique crime posed a problem. It was largely due to the restructuring of the art market during the 1980's and the rapid increase in prices that this generated that criminals recognised the potential in art crime. The resulting increase in crime forced law enforcement to adjust and review the situation.

By the end of the 1980's I had reformed the art squad at New Scotland Yard, the FBI in New York were handling an increasing number of international requests through one dedicated office and in Los Angeles an art detail was put in place run by a detective Bill Martin who was later appointed to the President's advisory panel on cultural property crime. During the 1990's more countries recognised cultural property crime as a problem and with the end of the cold war and the opening of international borders the trafficking of cultural property crime grew rapidly becoming a major concern.

The introduction of computer systems during this period, which recorded and made accessible information on stolen objects was a major step forward and Interpol has been able to provide a central record of at least the most important stolen cultural property. France, Italy, the USA and a handful of other countries developed their own databases of stolen cultural property supported by dedicated investigators. UNESCO developed a programme of workshops through which it was able to raise awareness of cultural property crime and by utilising the help of specialist police officers such as myself, it delivered a programme designed to assist countries in protecting their cultural heritage.

There followed a number of high profile cases which illustrated how with the cooperation of these dedicated national squads successful prosecutions could be achieved such as the recovery of the Scream and the prosecution of Tokeley Parry and Fred Schultz to name but two of my own cases. However, as we entered the new millennium, other international crimes overtook cultural property crime in importance for law enforcement. Drug trafficking, people trafficking and terrorism now occupy the top three positions and with the global economic crisis financial fraud has also moved above cultural property crime in importance and I fear that we shall see a gradual reduction in the number of specialist officers dedicated to cultural property crimes. This makes the work of ARCA all the more important as the private sector will now be required to handle the many crimes and disputes left untouched by law enforcement and only through some serious academic research to demonstrate the true scale of the problem that cultural property posses will governments and law enforcement agencies be persuaded to direct more of their limited resources to it. The internet offers a fantastic tool for the investigator in terms of information about objects and where they are appearing on the market for sale. It does not however replace the need to actually talk to victims of crime or to interview those in possession of disputed items in order to reach some kind of resolution to a dispute. These are skills that you can only gain by actually doing the job and no amount of internet research will give you those skills.

Finally and in answer to the last part of your first question, "How can students best prepare for your class?" I would suggest that they cover as many art thefts and investigations as they can find in books and on the internet. To keep an open mind on who has committed the crime and not to be influenced by the often ill-informed opinions of the journalists. To read "The Irish Game" by Mathew Hart, which sets out probably the most thoroughly investigated art thefts of a single collection and gives a good insight in to who commits such crimes and how the criminal has arrived at the routes to market available to them for iconic works of art. A topic to be covered in my class.
ARCA blog: Thank you, Mr. Ellis.

The application for the postgraduate program in Art Crime Studies and Cultural Heritage Protection is this Friday on January 21.

January 16, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Revisiting Porcelli's pizza


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Buon giorno. This photo shows Porcelli's thin crust pizza topped with gorganzola cheese, sliced
pears, and diced almonds. If you've been to Porcelli's, do you have a favorite pizza?

January 13, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: A view from the Historic Center


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

This view from inside the historic center of Amelia is of Via della Repubblica looking down to the Porta Romana, the main gate of the town. The street is lined with shops. A coiffeur salon just inside the Porta Roma extends like a well-lit cavern alongside the medieval walls. Continuing up the street are clothing and jewelry stores, a fabric store, a pharmacy with the town's longest lines in the morning and evening; a hat shop; and Giampiero's shoe store where he can be found most mornings greeting his friends and clients with a smile and "Ciao, Ciao!" When Giampiero is not too busy at the shoe store, he walks up two doors to help his brother-in-law Luciano Rossi serve lunch at Punto Divino. A deconsecrated church, San Giovanni Decollato, once the Ospedaletto, a hostel for pilgrims traveling to or from Rome, opens sporadically to display and sell art and crafts for charity.

January 12, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Porcelli's Beats Out Napoli Pizza



by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

One of the reasons for our fondness for the restaurants in Amelia is certainly due to the ubiquitous owners who have to close their eating establishments to get any time away from their businesses. Valda, as she is known by her customers, the smiling and gregarious owner of Porcelli's, arguably serves the best pizza in Amelia. Personally, I favor the gargonzola cheese with sliced pears and crushed almonds. My children love the nutella pizza that Valda often presents to regular customers at the end of a late meal. Then there's a salad that's only on the Italian menu that has greens, kiwi fruit, and walnuts dressed with a vinaigrette.

Many people prefer pizza from Napoli. However, when my family and I tried the pizza in Napoli, I had to agree with my husband -- even as I enjoyed a seven cheese pie -- when he said, "This pizza is not as good as our pizza." I understood he wasn't talking about pizza from Pasadena. Because after living in Amelia for a month, 'our pizza' had become pizza from La Misticanza or Porcelli's. The pizza in Amelia typically has a thin crust, with cheese topped with thin slices of toppings such as zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, prosciutto, or even truffles. Oil does not drip through the pizza boxes or congeal on the plate as in California. With whole pies selling from three to eight euros, we ate pizza daily.

Valda, with her trademark dark eyeliner and long eyelashes, opens her taverne in the evening and keeps it open for as long as her customers and musicians play. It's not unusual for someone to arrive at midnight. Porcelli's is carved into the hillside and has spacious dining rooms stretching into caverns whose walls are decorated with art by Valda's deceased husband. The space is perfect for musicians to perform long into the night without disturbing the neighbors. However, the customers smoking outside Porcelli's doors on Via Farratini may not be so accommodating if the party is particularly good. And the party, like the pizza, is always good.

Amelia, Umbria: La Misticanza




by Catherine Schofield Segin

Two of my classmates, Lauren Cattey, a criminologist, and Katie Ogden, an art historian, and I were sitting at one of the many shiny metal bistro tables on the patio of Bar Leonardi overlooking the Piazza 21 Settembre, the large open space outside of the walls of historic Amelia. As students of ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in Art Crime Studies, we had by then survived three weeks of lectures, five days a week, five to six hours a day. Our course time had cut into prime grocery shopping time that on Thursdays in Amelia meant from about 8 a.m. to about 1 or 2 p.m. when the stores closed for the afternoon and the evening. Drinking espresso drinks and prosecco, nibbling on potato chips and nuts, we watched the Italians around us, smartly dressed in various hues of purple, the men with their man-bags which held their cell phones and cigarettes, the women who that summer flagrantly displaced purple or leopard bra straps. We considered our options for dinner – inexpensive pizza from the shop across the park – and then we ran out of ideas. We’d eaten lunch at Punto di Vino, as usual, and could return since it was the one place that always remained open.

Our counting of purple outfits – we often reached double digits – was interrupted by a tall man who exited from a car in a parking space in front of us and ambled over with a piece of paper. In either Italian or English, likely the latter as that is why he chose us, he asked how he could find La Misticanza. We were baffled. We'd lived in Amelia for more than three weeks and although it was a small town and we were always discovering a new food market or shop -- and sharing the information as to when they were open -- Porcelli's was closed on Tuesdays, Cansacchi was closed on Wednesdays and Le Colonne was closed on Thursdays -- we hadn’t heard about this Misticanza. The fair haired man, now we were guessing he was German, claimed that he was meeting friends so in helpful desperation I recalled a pretty sign with a floral motif outside a bar door across the road from Bar Leonardi and directed him around the corner to the left.

This bar we had sent the newcomer to seemed to be deserted during the day and yet attracted a boisterous crowd in the evening but we'd never been inside the open doors nor had we seen a menu. So, as soon as it grew dark, we crossed the piazza, stepped into the sit down area of a brewery and walked up to the cashier and then peered into a side door to find a crowded dining room overlooking the Porta Romana. Using our rudimentary Italian, we ordered what we thought was one plate of salami and cheese only to receive three large platters of antipasto. We were laughing by the time the pizza arrived but didn’t turn down what would become one of our favorite pizzas, the caprese, a puffy crust covered in slices of tomato and mozzarella with basil and drizzled with olive oil.

We would return a few more times, very careful to order just pizza, as the gregarious and talented chef could be creative with the menu and the bill. Many long evenings were spent in the place we came to know as “Crazy Johnny’s” where nothing is predictable except the excellent quality of the food.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight Porcelli’s, a pizza tavern inside the historic center.

Top Photo: View of the Porta Romana from La Misticanza
Middle photo: The dining room of La Misticanza
Bottom photo: Caprese pizza