May 31, 2011

Update on German Forgery Scandal and Its Hollywood Reach

In November the ARCA Blog covered a Germany forgery scandal which has been accused of falsifying provenance and paintings. Today, two other online news sources, Spiegel Online (German Art Forgery Scandal Reaches Hollywood), and Art Info (A Wild and Crazy Art Scame) updated readers on the scandal which has now reached Hollywood in the collection of comedian and author Steve Martin. No mention of a movie deal, though, yet.

ARCA 2011 Student Angela Kumar Returns to Amelia to Study History of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Angela: At Florida Atlantic University, I earned a Bachelor of Art History degree with a minor in French and interned for the University Galleries, as well as a local art gallery for which I continued working after graduating. After taking time off to start a family, I intended to return to pursue a master's degree in Liberal Studies followed by a PhD in Comparative Studies only to find that both programs had been eliminated due to budget cuts. Unsure what my next step should be, I remembered reading The Art Thief, by ARCA founder Noah Charney, and recalled there being a website for more information (artcrime.info). I was thrilled to learn about ARCA and the new Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies that was being offered. This part of the history of art was not something that was ever covered in my undergraduate courses. The interdisciplinary approach, the intensive summer-long format and the beautiful, historic location in Umbria all made for an opportunity that I (and my young family) could not pass up.
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?
Angela: Because it was so lacking in my undergraduate coursework, I would love to develop a survey course in the History of Art Crime for our local university. Certainly, creating an awareness for those already passionate about studying art and its history would contribute to the future prevention of these crimes. Aside from that, I have always been interested in aesthetics and would love to explore how some of these principles might apply to the study of art crime, especially where art institutions, collectors and the art market are concerned. However, I am keeping an open mind. I know very little about criminology, cultural heritage protection laws or security and may decide on a new direction as the course progresses.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Angela: Having studied Art History, I have a great appreciation for all periods of art and the contributions made by the respective artists to our understanding of past cultures and to artistic development. That said, I am very interested in where art is headed and what new developments might be made. Therefore, I am particularly excited about Contemporary Art.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Angela: I have previously visited Rome, Florence and Venice and had the opportunity to visit Amelia briefly last year. I am looking forward to sharing these great cities with my children and to exploring as many new places as we are able.

May 30, 2011

Turkish Journalist Özgen Acar Forwards Petition to Restore Funding to American Overseas Research Centers

Steep Hellenistic amphitheatre at Pergamun sat 10,000 people/Photo credit: Catherine Schofield Sezgin

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last summer I met with Özgen Acar, a journalist based in Ankara, who has been covering the looting of archaeological sites and the sale of illicit antiquities from Turkey for decades (See "Troubled Waters" by Acar in Archaeology and "Chasing the Lydian Hoard" by Sharon Waxman at Smithsonian.com). He's incredibly busy but made time to hear about the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). A few minutes into our meeting, he answered the telephone and after a few moments, told that caller that he would be available to talk in about an hour. "That was Peg Goldberg," he told us. "I haven't spoken to her in years and I'm wondering why she is calling now."

He thought it might have to do with a book she was writing, but I never did find out why the defendant in AUTOCEPHALOUS GREEK-ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS and THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, Plaintiffs-Appellees, vs.GOLDBERG AND FELDMAN FINE ARTS, INC., and PEG GOLDBERG, Defendants-Appellants contacted Acar, but occasionally Acar sends out emails and this one is a request to sign the petition to restore AORC funding:
Hi folks: As you may have heard, the U.S. Department of Education has
cut many programs that support international research and study,
including the grant that supports ARIT operations in Turkey. This is a
serious situation for our programs and financial status. The Council of
American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) has put together a petition
to restore funding to the Department of Education Title VI AORC Program.
We are trying to gather as many signatures as possible to help show the
impact AORCs have had on the American and global academic community when
we fight to restore funding for FY2012. Please share this link with your
and your Centers' contacts. Please also encourage people to include
comments on their experience and connection with AORCs.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/984/379/072/.
You may also be interested in reading about these programs at the American Research Institute in Turkey.

May 29, 2011

ARCA Blog Interviews Jason Felch, co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite"

Getty Goddess now home/
Chasing Aphrodite
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

ARCA Blog: How did you feel, being so close to this story, seeing "Aphrodite" being returned to her homeland? Did you understand more about the statute by visiting the area she came from?
Jason: We were thrilled to be able to attend the inauguration of the Getty goddess in her new home in Aidone, Sicily. For both Ralph and me, the trip -- which coincided with the release of Chasing Aphrodite -- really brought a feeling of closure to our own "chase," which began more than six years ago. Seeing the goddess -- can't really call her Aphrodite anymore -- in Sicily brought up some bittersweet feelings. The archaeological museum there sees about 17,000 visitors a year, far fewer than the 400,000 than visit the Getty Villa. Sicilian officials are hoping the goddess' return will change that, but certainly fewer people will see her now, and LA has lost an important masterpiece. That said, it was VERY powerful to see the statue in her new context, a stone's throw from Morgantina, the Greek ruins from where she was looted in the late 1970s. Surrounded by eerily similar figures depicting the fertility goddesses Persephone and Demeter, the statue takes on a startling new meaning.
ARCA Blog: What do you think we can expect from the Getty's new chief, James Cuno, author of "Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage?" What do you think the Getty is saying here with the appointment of Cuno?
Jason: The Getty made a very curious choice with Jim Cuno. On the one hand, he's an obvious candidate and a widely respected figure in the museum world. But on the issue he is most passionate and outspoken about, he is on the opposite end of the reformed Getty, which really has been leading reform efforts on the antiquities issue. In recent years, particularly after Phillip de Montebello stepped down at the Met, Cuno has been the leading voice for a position that has fewer and fewer supporters. Why would the progressive Getty chose such a regressive leader? From speaking with Cuno and several board members involved in the decision, it sounds like he was selected for everything except his views on antiquities collecting. Neil Rudenstein, who as President of Harvard was Cuno's boss for a time, said he personally disagrees with Cuno on that issue but thinks he'll nevertheless make a good chief executive of the Trust. Cuno himself has said he'll honor (and keep) the Getty's acquisition policy, which bars acquisitions of antiquities unless they have clear provenance dating to 1970. So we'll have to wait and see. Will the Italians curb the generosity of their loans? Will the Getty find ways to wiggle around its strict policy? Or by hiring Cuno, has the Getty cleverly "co-opted" one of the biggest opponents to to reform in this area? Time will tell. Meantime, I'd watch closely to see who Cuno chooses as the Getty's new museum director...and who that person chooses as the museum's antiquities curator.
ARCA Blog: Since I remember her even at the old Getty Villa in Malibu, I was a bit sorry to see "Aphrodite" leave Southern California. Did you become attached to her while you were researching your book?
Jason: Frankly, I never found the goddess to be the most beautiful of the objects at the Getty. In my view, she is far more important than she is beautiful, and that importance was largely squandered during her 22 years at the Getty -- she was almost entirely ignored by the scholarly community, thanks in large part to her scandalous past. Now that she's back in Sicily, I hope to see a new wave of scholarship that tries to restore her context and meaning. I feel more wistful about some of the other masterpieces the Getty returned -- the amazing griffons that adorn the cover of our book, the golden funerary wreath that may have rested on the head of a relative of Alexander the Great. Those are objects I'll miss seeing regularly. 
Reception in Aidone, Italy 
ARCA Blog: When you were in Italy, did you wonder if anyone in the crowd had made money from selling "Aphrodite" to the Getty? How well were you able to explain this transaction in your book?
Jason: Yes, there is plenty of irony here. In effect, the goddess has been returned to those who looted her, broke her into pieces and smuggled her out of the country for profit. Aidone is a very small town, and I was told that several of the locals who attended the ceremonies used to be clandestini -- the Sicilian term for looters. In reporting the book, we were able to recreate some of the illicit journey the goddess took from Morgantina to the Getty -- where it was found; how it was broken and smuggled out of the country to Chiasso, Switzerland; how it was shopped around (for a far lower price!) before the Getty bought it for $18 million in 1988. But much of that account is based on whispers and confidential law enforcement sources. There are conflicting aspects of the account, and the full story remains to be told. I'm hoping more details will emerge now that the statue is back home and the statute of limitations has expired on any criminal charges. In particular, it would be very important to know the precise find spot, which could then be formally excavated. But secrets have a way of staying secret in Sicily. We may never know the full truth.
Jason Felch will be signing the non-fiction book he co-authored with Ralph Frammolino, "Chasing Aphrodite, The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum", at 7 p.m. on May 31 at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

You may read more about the trip home for the Getty goddess here on the website of Chasing Aphrodite.

May 28, 2011

Profile: ARCA Staff Member Monica Di Stefano

Monica Di Stefano
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Monica Di Stefano, a native of Amelia, teaches Italian language courses to ARCA students and conducts historical tours of Amelia, Narni and other adjacent Umbrian towns. She is a graduate in Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Perugia. She is the President of the Association 'I Poligonali', the group that manages the important archaeological site of the Roman Cisterns and works to present the historical and cultural riches of Amelia to visitors. Her family also owns a terrific clothing boutique in Amelia, BEPI 1976, on Via Rimembranze Nr. 49, that offers current Italian fashion.

ARCA Blog: Will you be teaching an Italian language course this summer to the ARCA students?

Monica: I will be teaching Italian again this summer with a book called 'Percorso Italia'.

ARCA BLOG: Monica, you have lived most of your life in Amelia so I must ask you, what is your favorite pizza from La Misticanza and Porcelli's? Or do you have a favorite pizza from another place in Amelia?

Monica: When I go to Johnny's La Misticanza I usually prefer tasting something else than pizza. His pizza is great but I know he feels offended if you don't choose one of his innovative food creations! If I want pizza I go to Porcelli or to Parco degli Ulivi, an other nice place which is just outside the city. We went there for the farewell dinner last summer.

ARCA Blog: You give historical tours of Amelia. What place do you find most interesting?

Monica: The historical place that I prefer in Amelia is The Roman Cistern: an amazing piece of engineering made by the Romans around the second century BC for the collection of water. It is incredible how this building is still here and could still work while many things that engineers do now just last for a short time!

ARCA blog: How would you describe the relationship between ARCA students and the people of Amelia? Do they watch us as much as we watch them?

Monica: The presence of ARCA students is very much appreciated and enjoyed by people of Amelia. The town is small and we know each other so when some new faces appear around we cannot avoid watching them and be happy to see someone else! So probably we watch you more! Also because Amelia, and probably Italy in general, is quite different from the States: people and habits here are much more relaxed and 'slow'. I believe this is why everyone falls in love with the peace and quiet of Amelia.

May 27, 2011

Part Two: Alain Lacoursière's Biographer Sylvain Larocque Writes about the Unsolved 1972 Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Museum image of Courbet landscape stolen
 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the sixth chapter entitled “Le vol du musée des beaux-arts” (“The theft of the Museum Fine Arts”) in his biography of retired art police officer, Alain Lacoursière: Le Colombo de l’art, journalist Sylvain Larocque speculates about the fate of the 17 stolen paintings from the 1972 theft in Montreal.

Larocque echoes what Lacoursière told me in November 2009, that some people believe that the thieves were unable to sell the works and afraid of being caught, destroyed the evidence by throwing the paintings into the St. Lawrence River. However, Larocque writes, that is hard to image as the paintings could be worth $50 million today and few instances of thieves destroying the art has been known to have happened. Larocque writes that most experts expect that the paintings will reappear some day. Lacoursière has said to both Larocque and I that he believes that the paintings are still in the hands of the people who planned or sponsored the theft and that they are aware that due to the notoriety of the theft cannot sell the paintings in the legitimate market. Possibly, Larocque writes, the heirs to those paintings will donate the works back to the museum.

Larocque writes that governments could help solve the crime by granting immunity to anyone who would be able to recover one or more of the paintings stolen in 1972. While such an offer would preclude punishment of the perpetrators of the burglar, Larocque writes, is that really a concern almost four decades later? Even if the criminals were convicted, there is no guarantee that the paintings would be returned, Larocque writes.

According to Larocque, the Civil Code in Quebec says that after three years a buyer who acquired a painting in good faith may keep the stolen work. Only works from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec, the Museum of Civilization and the Musé d’art contemporain de Montréal are exempt since those are national museums.

In 1989, when Alain Lacoursière was finishing his degree in art history, according to his biographer, he proposed to that the Government of Quebec duplicate the policies of France and Italy that would require anyone who acquired an artwork, whether in good faith or bad, would be forced to return the object to its rightful owner, regardless of how long it has been. ‘Aprés tout, personne ne peut contester que ces oeuvres appartiennent au patrimoine’/’After ll, no one can deny that these works belong to the collective heritage,’ Larocque writes.

Yet, Lacoursière’s proposal was not well received and he abandoned the idea in 2002.

Larocque retells the story of the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, then tells readers that some stolen artworks have been recovered 50 to 80 years after their disappearance.

Then Larocque tells the story of the May 2, 1965 theft of what is now the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham. Around 9 p.m. two guards on duty settled in the boiler room to watch an episode of the television series Perry Mason. A bell rang at the door. One guard went to see what was happening and saw a hand holding out a card on which he could read the name of a museum curator. He opened the door and saw a masked man who pushed him back inside. Two other assailants burst in and the trio tied up the two guards, evening though one of them had been a professional wrestler. The thieves escaped with 28 paintings worth $800,000, including works by Pierre-August Renoir, Krieghoff, Suzor-Coté, Horatio Walker and Frederick Simpson Coburn. Most of the paintings had been in the collection of the former Premier of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis, who had been in office in the 1930s and from 1944 to 1959. Four years later, the wife of Eric Kierans, a native of Montreal and a member of Canada’s House of Commons, contacted the police because a stranger had tried to sell to the couple a few of the paintings that had belonged to Duplessis.

According to Larocque, the theft of the paintings from the Duplessis collection had been committed to finance the Christian Nationalist Party that advocated “the sovereignty of the French-Canadian Catholics” and demanded the departure of Jews from Quebec. The 28 stolen paintings were found in a large bin at the home of one of the thieves, Leo Tremblay, who was found guilty of receiving stolen goods, a verdict that would be appealed two yeas later.

You may read more about Canada's largest art theft on the blog "Unsolved '72 Theft of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts."

May 26, 2011

Part One: Alain Lacoursière's biographer Sylvain Larocque Dedicates Sixth Chapter to The Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Alain Lacoursière, Photo by Robert Skinner, Archives La Presse
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Sylvain Larocque, an economic journalist with La Presse Canadienne, wrote a book about my favorite retired Quebec art cop: Alain Lacoursière: “le Columbo de l’art” (Flammarion Quebec, 2010). His sixth chapter is titled “Le vol du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal” (The theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts).

With patience, I used Google Translate to read the chapter as I have written on the 1972 unsolved theft (to be published in the upcoming Journal of Art Crime).

Three burglars entered through the unsecured skylight of the Montreal museum on Labor Day in 1972 and selected 35 paintings to steal. However, when one of the thieves inadvertently tripped a security alarm in the garage housing the museum's van that they planned to use as their getaway car, the three men grabbed only 18 of the paintings and ran down out of the museum and down Sherbrooke Street in the early morning hours. Sherbrooke Street is a main east-west thoroughfare that stretches through metropolitan Montreal in some of the most exclusive real estate so I have always found this an amazing sight to picture as three thieves carry $2 million worth of paintings by Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Peter Paul Rubens, Honoré Daumier, Jan Davidszoon de Heem, Jean Bruegel the Elder, Eugene Delacroix, Thomas Gainsborough, and Jean-François Millet.

According to Larocque, the fleeing thieves fled on foot presumably to join a car parked nearby although no witnesses, according to journalists reporting at the time, commented on any such reports. It does not make that assumption incorrect, only that it could be speculation. The newspapers at the time did not write about how the thieves might have left the scene. The police records are not available to the public.

A few weeks after the theft, the museum received a request for $500,000 and a polaroid of all the stolen art before lowering the ransom to $250,000. Subsequently, one painting was returned and another negotiated ransom failed, ending all contact with the thieves. The insurance companies paid almost $2 million in restitution to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. With those proceeds, in 1975 the museum purchased what they hoped would be the largest Rubens to be held in a Canadian collection, The Leopards. However, in the 1990s, Marie-Claude Corbeil of the Canadian Conservation Institute established that The Leopards was a copy. According to Larocque, Corbeil's analysis revealed that the red pigments found in the painting were invented in 1687, almost four decades after the death of Rubens. The museum now attributes this work to the Studio of Peter Paul Rubens.

In subsequent years, Larocque writes, a $10,000 paid reward in 1973 failed to produce the paintings; an FBI tip that the works were possibly in South America resulted in no recoveries; and in 1982 an offered reward of $250,000 was also unsuccessful.

Lacoursière, then a police officer in Montreal, decided in 1984 to review the file on the museum theft which he requested from the department's archives where the file had languished for years. "In fact," Larocque writes and I translate, "the documents were not far from the shredder./En fait, les documents n'étaient pas loin de la deechiqueteuse."

Five years later, Larocque writes, Lacoursière was contacted by an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who told him that a drug addict said that the paintings were buried in the backyard of the residence of a lawyer but the lead was useless as the would-be informant could not say precisely where the lawyer lived.

In 2002, Larocque writes, Lacoursière attended an opening at the Maison de la culture Frontenac in Montreal East and met an art collector and manufacturer of wooden boxes from a community located about one-hour's drive by automobile outside of Montreal. Larocque does name the man, the community and the municipality, however, when I was writing my article on the museum theft, Alain Lacoursière asked that I not reveal the man's identity.  I do not know about the agreement between Larocque and Lacoursière for the book, however, I shall honor the original agreement with Lacoursière until he notifies me otherwise.  In addition, the man has not to my knowledge been arrested or officially questioned in connection with the museum theft.  In the biography, Larocque writes:
L'homme aborda de son propre gré le vol de 1972 en racontant qu'il fréquentait l'UQAM au même moment et que les étudiants d l'institution se faisaient régulièrement expulser du Musée des beaux-arts./The man brought up the subject of the 1972 theft on his own and said that he had frequented the UQAM (the Université du Québec à Montréal) at the same time and the students of the institution were regularly expelled from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Lacoursière told me in November 2009 that the reason the art students were regularly expelled from the art gallery was that the staff kicked them out to enjoy their afternoon tea.

According to Larocque (and what Lacoursière told me two years ago), Lacoursière was intrigued by his encounter with "Smith" because he knew that after the theft that the police had followed and photographed student from UQAM (I was given the institutional name of École des beaux-arts) in connection with its investigation. He then led "Smith" to believe that approaching the 30th anniversary of the theft that there might be a million dollar reward to anyone who could provide information to retrieve the stolen paintings.

In 2003, Larocque writes, Lacoursière, a Detective Sergeant with the Montreal police, went to visit "Smith" at his home. Although "Smith" gave him a tour of his studio and his property, he did not say anything more about the museum theft.

Over the years, Larocque writes, Lacoursière kept in contact with "Smith" 'juste au cas' (just in case) and in 2007, while filming a documentary, le Colombo de l'art, Lacoursière filmed a visit to "Smith's" home and this time offered a "two million dollar" check as a reward for information leading to the recovery of the paintings but with the camera filming, "Smith" remained silent and did not react. "Smith" denied that he had even been watched or questioned by the police investigating the museum theft in 1972. Larocque writes:

À l'été 2010, au cours d'un entretien téléphonique, [Smith] a toutefois réfuté avoir joué quelque rôle que ce soit dans l'affaire du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Selon lui, le vol a été perpétré par des employés de l'UQAM, possiblement des professeurs et des appariteurs qui avaient été soupçonnés d'avoir effectué un important cambriolage à l'université, quelques semaines auparavant./In the summer of 2010, during a telephone interview, [Smith], however denied having played any role whatsoever in the case of the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal. He said the theft was perpetrated by employees of UQAM, possibly professors and porters who were suspected of having carried out a major robbery at the university, a few weeks previously.

You may read about this book here and more about the 1972 unsolved theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on my blog here.


May 25, 2011

Chasing Aphrodite Reviewed

 "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 375 pp).

Jason Felch &
Ralph Frammolino

Disputes over works of art and antiquities take many forms. Nations and individuals with claims to cultural objects pursue their claims in a number of areas; only seldom are these battles seen in courts of law. As a consequence many of the precedents set for party’s actions are seen outside the public view. This underscores the terrific resource which Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino have created with their new book, officially released this week.

Their terrific series of investigative reports for the Los Angeles Times served as the jumping off point for the work. That series of articles was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize and helped me crystallize much of my thinking about the antiquities trade and the role of art museums. Those reports, though terrific, were limited by the length of a newspaper article, and the authors continued their reporting in the form of this work to allow the space to explore these issues. In so doing they have created what will stand as the definitive account of the troubled times at the Getty from its creation in the 1970s through 2007. The book takes the form of a straightforward and rigorous account of the events which led to first the creation of the wealthiest art-acquiring institution in the world, its unfortunate choices, and its painful public shaming.

The authors maintain their reporters tone, which serves the material well. I think partisans on both sides of the heritage debates will find much to admire in the consistent and accurate depiction of characters and events. One point for which the authors deserve high marks is their description of the laws at issue—they swiftly and accurately describe the complex network of U.S., Italian and International laws without letting it overwhelm the story they are telling. There are also references and notes for further readings. The book maintains a lively and direct style throughout. I was provided an electronic copy of the work, which had no page numbers, so I am unable to reference the quotations below.


May 24, 2011

Public-Private Partnership Created Between Egyptian Government and International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (representing the Egyptian side and acting as coordinator between parties) and the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (the Coalition) today announced they have reached mutual agreement to cooperate on a comprehensive plan to protect Egypt's archaeological and cultural heritage sites and artifacts, which will be a cornerstone in the basis for tourism revenue as Egypt builds a successful economy.

Press Release from the Capitol Archaeological Institute, George Washington University

WASHINGTON AND CAIRO – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (representing the Egyptian side and acting as coordinator between parties) and the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (the Coalition) today announced they have reached mutual agreement to cooperate on a comprehensive plan to protect Egypt's archaeological and cultural heritage sites and artifacts, which will be a cornerstone in the basis for tourism revenue as Egypt builds a successful economy.

The Coalition, led by the George Washington University Capitol Archaeological Institute, the Archaeological Institute of America, the American Schools of Oriental Research, and the National Geographic Society, was in Cairo May 16-18 at the invitation of the Egyptian government for a series of meetings with senior Egyptian government officials, private sector and archaeological experts.

The Ministry and the Coalition formed a Public-Private Partnership, agreeing to develop a framework that commits resources to site protection, including protective walls at archaeological sites and increased training of law enforcement personnel; a nationwide satellite imagery analysis initiative; a complete database of Egypt's antiquities based on inventories of Egypt's museums and storage facilities; an education and awareness campaign; and longer term small business and green archaeological site programs.

"Egyptian antiquities and sites are among the most historically significant and important in the world. In times of political transition, ancient sites and artifacts are often targets of international crime and illicit activity," said Deborah Lehr, Capitol Archaeological Institute Chairman. "We commend the Government of Egypt for its efforts and are delighted to be working together to develop and implement short and long term solutions to ensure protection of Egypt's invaluable cultural heritage."

“The protection of monuments and sites by the Egyptian authorities during and after the revolution differs completely from other such situations like for example what took place in Iraq. We would like to develop and increase our capacity to protect those sites and monuments,” said Egyptian Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Sherif Elkholi.

Ambassador Iman el Farr, Egyptian Deputy Assistant Minister for Cultural Agreement and Protocol Affairs, stressed the importance of finalizing the framework agreement to be signed by the two parties in order to begin delivering on agreed upon initiatives and raising the funds needed for implementation.

"This is a landmark agreement and establishes a new system for all of us to work on our mutual goal of protecting Egypt’s archaeological sites," said Peter Herdrich, Chief Executive Officer of the Archaeological Institute of America. "It's a great day for archaeology in Egypt."

Further information may be obtained by contacting Claire Buchan at claire@clairebuchan.com.

May 23, 2011

Images of the Paintings Stolen in 2010 from Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Found in Museum Catalogue

Possibly how the thief entered the museum
 from the balcony overlooking the Seine
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last March when I visited the Musée de'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, I found a copy of the museum catalogue in the gift shop and with my iPhone photographed the images of the stolen paintings. This book can also be found in libraries around the world, such as the copy I found in the Getty Center's library. If the paintings were selected by someone who hired the thief, and of course this is pure speculation as the police have released no current information about the theft, a visit to the museum is not mandatory.

Again, in the event you may come across one of these paintings, here's the list of the five stolen artworks and their full-page images as shown in the museum catalogue:


Amdedeo Modigliani, La Femme à l'éventail
(Lunia Czechowska)
,  1919,
 oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm

Pablo Picasso, Le Pigeon aux petits pois,
1911,  oil on canvas, 64 x 53 cm


Georges Braque, L'Olivier près de l'Estaque,
1906, oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm


Fernand Léger, Nature morte au chandelier,
 1922, oil on canvas, 116 x 80 cm.

Henri Matisse, Le Pastorale, 1905,
 oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm.

May 22, 2011

ARCA 2011 Students Met In Washington DC Prior to Commencement of Summer Program

by Rez Hamilton, ARCA Class '11

Right on the heels of the NYC-ers’ meet-up at the MOMA, five individuals from the DC region got together at Jaleo, a tapas restaurant in Arlington, VA just outside of our Nation’s Capital. On that rainy afternoon, three new students, Kaitlin, Katherine (Kaitlin and Katherine have already been highlighted earlier in the ARCA Blog), Tanya, a returning student (yours truly) and Marc Masurovsky (last year’s ARCA conference presenter and mentor from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) had lunch and covered a lot of ground.

Everyone was quite animated in the discussions with question and answers, and the sharing of thoughts or observations. Discussions ranged from certain postings on this year’s Google Groups to antidote’s of Marc’s and my own time in Amelia to the latest art-related seminar held in DC earlier this month in which Katherine attended and Marc presented.  The topic of the seminar was on World War II Provenance Research. As a direct result from Katherine’s and Marc’s impression of the conference, the hot topic at lunch was about Provenance -- how it was being taught and how sometimes people thought it was being blatantly obscured by museums. Prime examples included some of the visiting exhibits in DC to some of the art installed in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art.

From our meeting, it seems like these new students for the ARCA Class of 2011 have an insatiable curiosity and a distinct love for the arts -- so do not be surprised to find that their future papers are published soon after Amelia! Don’t get left behind this summer as traveling is another love that these three share so I can assure you that they will be the first to travel outside of Amelia to bask in the wonders of art that can only be found in Italy.

City of Paris Spends 8 million Euros to Revamp Museum Security One Year After the Theft at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The walls to the left held the stolen paintings  from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris./Photo by CR Sezgin.
This morning the Museum Security Network sent an email alert about the 8 million euro revamping of the security for the 14 museums under the jurisdiction of the city of Paris.  The article in le Parisian is in French but with my new language crutch, Google Translate, I learned that since the theft from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, when a thief, or thieves, cut the lock and opened a not so secure window to steal five paintings valued at about 100 million euros, that the city has undertaken to reexamine the security at its museums.  The three security guards on duty at the time of the break-in apparently hadn't heard any alarms because the warning system had been offline, waiting many weeks for an apparently crucial part.  On my three visits to the museum I never considered the building so vast that this explanation made sense to me and as now no one has published an account that explains clearly how someone entered the building without any guard on patrol seeing them.  I have a nice photo here showing that if you stand on the stairs you have a clear view of the access to the walls that had supported the stolen paintings.

Le Parisien reports that the city of Paris began a reorganization program this year to strengthen supervision of security staff and to continue improvements in securing the museums through next year, including better communication about malfunctioning alarm systems.  It appears that the museum theft did strengthen the will to fund better security at the museums.

Fixed barred windows at Petit Palais
This past March, before I revisited the 'scene of the crime,' I did visit the Petit Palais, another city museum, where I found beautiful paintings by Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, and even a lower floor of vases from antiquity.  On a Sunday morning the museum was quiet with few visible security guards.  However, I noted that the permanent barred windows likely discouraged theft.  The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has accordion wrought iron shutters securing its long windows.  In addition, the Petit Palais, instead of backing up against the Seine, is around the corner from a police station.

We'll follow this week with more information about the stolen paintings.  Meanwhile, you can read my fanciful guess about how the theft was committed here on the ARCA Blog.

May 21, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Ariel Lavia Kern Attracted to ARCA's Interdisciplinary approach

Ariel Kern at the Egyptian Temple of Dendur at The Met
ARCA Blog: Ariel, what is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
ALK: I recently graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where I developed a major in Art and Social History, Law, and Literature. Through college I interned and worked in various fields, including a small museum, a library, an archeological dig, a law firm, and an auction house. 
A professor of mine told me about ARCA when I was starting to consider what I wanted to do after graduation. I soon realized that the ARCA Postgraduate program was perfect for me. I am comfortable with the interdisciplinary approach to learning I used as an undergraduate, and this program is the only way I could truly combine all of my interests to find the right career path for me.
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?
ALK: I am interested in researching the social motivations behind those who are involved with art crime. While there are obvious financial reasons, the social reasons are more obscure and not easily quantifiable. It is really an exploration of social perceptions and how those involved with the illicit end of the art world can use that to justify their actions. By understanding that we can begin to figure out ways of changing the ideas the wider public holds and cut down the justifications criminals use.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
ALK: It’s difficult to pick a specific artist or period, but I have always been interested in the decorative or practical arts like architecture, clothing and furniture. I originally realized I wanted to work in the art world when I first saw the medieval armor wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was very young at the time, but my interests have not changed drastically since then.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
ALK: I have not been to Italy before, so I am very excited to see all of the cities and sites that I have been reading about for years. With all of the running around, I would also like to immerse myself in the slower Italian lifestyle, so balancing my travel-bug with my wish to experience the culture will be interesting, to say the least.

May 20, 2011

Part Two: Alain Lacoursière, the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Video, and Madonna and the Yarnwinder

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Recently Alain Lacoursière’s favorite suspect for the unsolved 1972 theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts sent the retired police officer a link to a Mercedes-Benz commercial video that fictionalizes the theft of a brief case from a bank vault. At the end of a high speed chase involving a very sleek German sedan, the brief case is delivered to a third party who later open to show that the contents of the brief case is a painting. The newscaster in the video reports under the headline: “Stolen Da Vinci Re-Emerges”:
The Paris National Art Collection was handed over a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci today. The Da Vinci piece was being hidden for years by backers of the mafia in a safe deposit box. The FBI estimates the value of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder at approximately 70 million euros.
“The Madonna of the Yarnwinder is the subject of several oil paintings after a lost original by Leonardo da Vinci “(Wikipedia.org).

The Lansdowne Madonna
A copy of this painting, known as The Lansdowne Madonna, by the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci is in a private collection in New York. It was likely completed by another artist in da Vinci’s studio after another painting of the same subject. (Universal Leonardo)

Another version of this painting, The Madonna of the Yarnwinder (Duke of Buccleuch), and considered to have been painted under Leonardo, was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home in Scotland in 2003. Two men posing as tourists during a public tour of Drumlanrig Castle overpowered a female staff member and carried the painting out the window. The painting was valued at 30 million pounds.

Madonna with Yarnwinder
 (Duke of Buccleuch)
The painting was recovered four years later – but a month after the death of the 84-year-old Duke -- when police raided a meeting at a respectable law office in Glasgow who claimed to be an innocent third-party. The solicitors were eventually cleared of extortion. The painting is reportedly on display at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh however the website for the institution does not show the painting in either its permanent collection or as a loan.

The original is lost, but how do the experts describe these two ‘copies’? I found an interesting source here. Martin Kemp wrote about the paintings in 1992 (Leonardo da Vinci and the Mystery of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder (exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland):
How much of the Buccleuch copy was painted by Leonardo was a matter of scholarly debate until recently. Scientific studies indicate that in addition to the work's underdrawing (with its pentimenti or small changes), the genius was most likely responsible for its overall design, the figures and the skillfully rendered rocky foreground. The landscape is uncharacteristic of Leonardo; it was probably painted a bit later by another artist, perhaps a workshop assistant. The flesh tones of Mary's face were executed using Leonardo's typical sfumato or smoky technique. A second brighter copy of The Madonna of the Yarnwinder belongs to a private collector.

May 19, 2011

Part One: Suspected art thief uses the Internet to tease retired art crime investigator Alain Lacoursière about the location of the paintings stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972

Rembrandt's Evening Landscape stolen
 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Alain Lacoursière, retired art crime police officer in Montreal, recently received a link to a video from a suspect involved in the 1972 theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that Lacoursière has perused for more than a decade./Alain Lacoursière, sergent détective responsable des crimes relatifs aux oeuvres d’art à Montréal, a récemment reçu un lien vers une vidéo produite par Mercedes Benz qui semble fermer les yeux sur un vol de banque. La vidéo a été envoyée par un suspect du vol de1972 au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal que Lacoursière a pourchassé pendant plus d'un décennie.


The video, an advertisement for Mercedes Benz that appears to condone bank robbery, contains gorgeous scenes of Hong Kong but I won't spoil the ending today.  Tomorrow I'll add my comments and more information about Canada's largest art theft.


You can read more about the 1972 theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts here.

May 18, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Riley Meghan Kraft on Her Passions for Archaeology and Conservation -- and Her Hopes for Traveling Throughout Italy This Summer

ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?

Riley Meghan Kraft
August 2008, I came to Texas A&M University to study my passion for archaeology. May 2011, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and minors in Classical Studies and Geology. Many of my interests, academics, and career goals have always been geared towards the field of archaeology, and during this past year at school I have discovered my increasing interest in conservation. While researching my options for what to do after my undergraduate career I came across the ARCA website and decided that an education in art crime studies would be beneficial for a future career in recovering and preserving ancient art and artifacts. Since the ARCA program is held only once a year in the summer, and my other choices require a much longer time commitment, I decided that going to ARCA now was the best move. Also, I figured some time abroad would give me the recharge I need to tackle what comes next in life.

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?
Riley Meghan Kraft: While I do love learning about art history and criminology, my greatest interest from the ARCA program is learning about investigation, security, and the art and antiquities trade. Since I know so little about these subjects, I believe I will spend most of my efforts trying to understand them through research.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Riley Meghan Kraft: In June 2008, I spent a week in Rome and visited Pompeii. As an aspiring archaeologist it was a dream come true! However, after these past few years studying Roman history, language, literature, and culture I realized how much I missed when I was there. When I’m not attending lectures in Amelia, I’d like to travel through as much of Italy as I can; seeing the art and architecture, learning the history, meeting the people, exploring the land, and experiencing the life.

Journalist Jason Felch, co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite", reports for the Los Angeles Times from Sicily about the Unveiling of the Venus of Morgantina at its New Smaller Museum in Sicily ... and information about the Venus Italy Returned to Libya Years Ago

Aphrodite (Venus of Morgantina)/AP
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

LA Times reporter Jason Felch, co-author of Chasing Aphrodite, write's in today's newspaper ("Getty officials on hand for Aphrodite statue's unveiling in Sicily") about the opening reception for the 5th century BC Venus from Morgantina to a room with a capacity of 150 people at the Aidone Archaeological Museum in Sicily.

Francesco Rutelli
In addition to two officials from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the ceremony was attended by Francesco Rutelli, Italy's former culture minister and former mayor of Rome (who spoke eloquently at ARCA's art crime conference in 2009); Italy's new culture minister, Giancarlo Galan; and possibly some of the very people who sold some of the various objects that the Getty had to return. Felch writes:
Among the citizens who turned out were several former "clandestini," the Sicilian term for looters, local officials said. For decades, looting has been a source of income for residents in one of the most impoverished corners of Italy's poorest region.
Aphrodite will join a collection of "Morgantina" silver previously returned to the museum.

The Getty Museum has paid more than $18 million for Aphrodite more than 20 years ago and agreed to return the statue in exchange for "long-loans" or Italian objects, Sharon Waxman wrote in her 2008 book, Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World.

You may find other examples of objects returned to countries of origin at the UNESCO website ("Recent examples of successful operations of cultural property restitutions in the world"), including the return in 2007 of a Venus statue from Italy to Libya (also see "Italy to Return Ancient Statue to Libya"). Of course this leads to another question about the safety of archaeology in Libya during the civil unrest and subsequent violent conflict but this morning I did not find any status report earlier than March ("Libya's 'extraordinary' archaeology under threat").  For now you may view the website of the National Museum in Tripoli here.

May 17, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Kaitlin Murphy on Venice, Italian culture, gelato and people-watching

Kaitlin Murphy
ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Kaitlin Murphy: My undergraduate degree is in Art and Art History from Colgate University. During my junior year, I spent a semester abroad studying in Venice, Italy. It was here that I developed a passion for not only the subject matter, but for the Italian culture as a whole. Being surrounded by “floating buildings,” I chose to focus my attention on architectural history for my thesis and continued my education after working for a couple of years to begin a masters program in Architecture at Boston Architectural College. After taking a direct hit from the housing and economy collapse, I took a teaching position at a high school where I taught art and art history. I was able to write my own curriculum and followed my curiosities in art crimes as part of the art history survey course. One of my students came across ARCA and as I checked it out, discovered the postgraduate program. The combination of art history, culture, art crimes, and Italy made committing to a summer in Umbria a no brainer for me.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Kaitlin Murphy: Currently, I love Renaissance art as a time period in world history for the architecture and paintings and in many cases, the combination of the two. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of art in situ because it connects visually with architecture like a conversation. I appreciate the balance and architecture specifically of Andrea Palladio and laugh when I see his influence in American civic and residential architecture. As a bookend to renaissance art, I like to study ancient art as a source or foundation for the evolution of what we have become. It is amazing to see true originality and the “aha!” moment of the discovery of new techniques and materials frozen in the art like a photo.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Kaitlin Murphy: I lived in Venice (right by Piazza San Marco) in the fall of 2003 as part of my undergrad art history curriculum and have been back two more times since then as a tourist. I have been an amateur tour guide in Rome for my family and friends and a beach goer along the coast. My favorite thing to do in Italy is to sit, enjoy some gelato or local wine, and people-watch. While on the subject of food, I would like to learn a few tricks of the trade and expand my pallet to include some new recipes with fresh and local ingredients. To be able to explore a few towns off the beaten tourist path is also a very attractive use of my down time. My husband (Ryan) will be joining me later in the program and this will be his first visit to Italy so the pressure will be on to know the good places to eat, see, and travel.
ARCA Blog: Amelia has many venues for playing live music. Are you a musician?
Kaitlin Murphy: I am not a musician, but I thoroughly enjoy live music and look forward to these opportunities!

May 16, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Margaret Wade on Sculpture, The Third Reich and Art, and the 'Unregulated Aspect of the Art World'

Plaster cast self-portrait by Margaret Wade
 from her first art show
ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Margaret Wade: I began studying the theory and psychology of Art (specifically Sculpture) at a small, liberal arts school in Amherst, MA. This is how I came across my second major- The Third Reich. Hitler, an artist, understood that to truly destroy a culture, among other things, he must eliminate the very threads that unite a society- its expression. At my second school, Mount Holyoke, I dove into Art History in the Third Reich and Art Studio. It was here I realized that I cannot fix the past, but I can contribute to the future. All the Nazi looted art work deserves to be to returned to its rightful owner. Plus, when I grow up, I want to be Indiana Jones. 
I am also interested in the idea of containment and preservation. How do you encapsulate the moment, memory and effect of art? Databasing and cataloguing art will help with my second path- I am creating a "museum" out of the house I grew up in. Located in Birmingham, AL, I plan to share with my community a purple house with snakes and chairs on the ceiling, and its contemporary art.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Margaret Wade: Any piece of art with a pulse will strike my interest. Historically, I enjoy Dadaism and Surrealism because of the boundaries Duchamp pushed the art world. As of right this moment in time, Street art gets my heart racing. I love the unregulated aspect of the art world. As an artist, I am constantly seeking out new areas of expression. Who owns art anyway?
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Margaret Wade: In 2007, I had the pleasure of working with the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice for three months. I got to experience the art world in ways an artist or art historian is not privy to. I believe to be truly passionate about an area of work, you must experience it all. Working in a museum, you come to understand the affect art has on its visitors- vandalism, utter amazement, disgust, indifference. It is this reason I plan to pursue, Why in the world would you steal an piece of art work? It is just an object -- an object that causes people to react in so many different way that I just want to know WHY. If I ever stop questioning and searching for answers, consider me dead!
ARCA Blog: Amelia has many venues for playing live music. Are you a musician?
Margaret Wade: HA! Absolutely not, I cannot carry a tune, but I can dance for hours HOURS on end. In fact, Karaoke is one of my biggest fears. That said, I appreciate all aspects of art- even the ones that highlight my flaws! I enjoy experiencing new sensations and getting lost in music. Life is a priviledge but art is a right!

May 15, 2011

"Introduction to Bella Amelia": A Post from the First Student of the ARCA Class 2011 to Settle in Umbria

South east side of Amelia's wall
Editor's Note: James Alex Bond, ARCA Class of 2011, arrived a month before the commencement of the program in Amelia. ARCA Blog asked him to contribute a post about his impressions.

by James Alex Bond, Amelia Correspondent

Amelia’s geography is just stunning. It sits on the northern end of a ridge that runs north and south with the north end of the ridge approximately 1,000 feet higher than the southern end. Every direction except south is a 60-80 degree slope downhill to the valley floor below where the Rio Grande River flows on the north and east side. I would guess that less than 3,000 people live within the walls of Amelia with the other 9,000 living in the surrounding hillsides.

Amelia is shaped like a big egg with its small end at the south where virtually all traffic enters and exits through Porta Romana which is faced by Piazza XXI Setembre directly outside the wall. There are three other Portas, two on the east side and one in the north west corner but Porta Romana is the commercial Porta to the city. During the day there is always a traffic jam at Porta Romana because it is barely the width of a car. Entering and exiting vehicular traffic alternate while intrepid pedestrians turn sideways and slip in and out, or wait for a break in the traffic flow when there is confusion as to who has the right of way. It is all very civilized and I have yet to hear anyone honk their horn. It is a small city where everyone knows everyone. The one show stopper is a Mother with a perambulator going through the Porta. Talk about tiger Moms, Italian Moms can stop a car with just a stare!

From the small end of the egg at Porta Romana, via della Republica heads north uphill into the city until it reaches the highest point in town where the Torre Civica (tower) is located in Piazza Lojali. Near the Piazza (open square) there is a small grassy area with a walkway around the edge for the magnificent views to the north, east, and south. From there you can see the other mountain ranges that rise up behind the cultivated hills surrounding Amelia.

There are eight Piazza’s in Amelia. They contain statuary, fountains, and space for parking. The balance of the town is roads, pathways, or buildings. The wall surrounding the town is fairly intact and still has guard towers built into it. I have tried to do a walk around the city just outside the wall but found that, at least on the east and north side, it was impossible because of the steepness and lack of a trail. The other day I did find a trail on the south east side that I followed out to a rocky promontory where I could watch the sunset. The picture I have included is of the wall on the south east side. I did not follow the trail past the promontory but suspect it connects to the road I had followed previously around the east and north side. That is my adventure for next week, to circumnavigate the city below the wall.

Visually the city is a blend of gray and brown, with red tile roofs and copper gutters. The piazza’s are a blend of greens, reds, and yellows depending on the plantings. Many people have gardens where you can see trellises with climbing vines and flowers. Outside the walls on the surrounding hillsides it is completely different with olive and wine orchards and cultivated fields interspersed with copses of woods and green pasture land.

One of my favorite things to do here is sit in my garden, close my eyes, and focus on what I hear. Birds singing predominate, with soft wind sounds in the trees as a background. Then hourly and on the quarter hour the domo bells ring. Three times this morning a unique two bell melody was played for about a minute from the domo, calling the faithful. I think this melodic bell ringing happens every Sunday. It is such a beautiful change from the perfect recorded bells played from the campanile and carillon bell towers in the US. The first two times the melody was the same. The third time it was different and the bell pullers got off rhythm. In my mind I could almost see them as they realized their rhythm was off and communicated either visually or verbally about what to do to correct it. Soon they did and in the end it seemed to me they improvised, and, like good jazz musicians, finished winners. The talent it takes to take two bells and play a unique melody reminds me of the Blue Man Group with their ability to percuss about anything and make it sound pleasing. Eighty feet below my wall I can hear the sounds of traffic on the road to Tearny.

Favala, my contact for the school, said she had slowly come to see the different areas of the world as either masculine or feminine after taking a trip to Israel and Palestine. The desert is masculine she said. “You have to be tough to survive. You just don’t go out for a walk in the desert. You make a plan, take supplies, and prepare yourself for hardships.” Italy she said is different “because it is feminine.” And so I have found it to be; soft, graceful, forgiving, fecund, and welcoming. You do not have to make a plan in Amelia you just have to be present.

May 14, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Katherine Luer on Art History, Museum Security, Matisse, and Traveling in Italy

Katherine Luer inside one of the towers
of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Katherine Luer: I am just about to graduate from Georgetown University with my BA in Art History and minors in both Italian and Spanish. I've been interested in entering the field of art crime for several years now, and when I heard about the ARCA program about a year ago I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated.
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?
Katherine Luer: I've worked as a security guard at a museum here in Washington and thus am highly interested in museum security. That being said, I someday hope to work with the FBI's Art Crime Team and so the history of such groups inside law enforcement (Scotland Yard, the carabinieri, etc) interests me as well.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Katherine Luer: My great love has always been Matisse, but lately I've been enjoying the work of Modigliani, Munch and Klee as well. Any early modern work fascinates me.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Katherine Luer: I've traveled extensively all around the country and lived in the small town of Fiesole for several months. Regardless, I'd like to travel more, particularly in the south, and look forward to showing the other students some of my favorite towns!

May 13, 2011

ARCA 2011 Student Perri Osattin on Art History and Her Passion for Turkish Architecture and Art

Perri Osattin at Ephesus, Turkey
ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
"I graduated last June from Williams College with a BA in art history, as well as a concentration in Middle East studies and a certificate in Spanish language and culture. I first became fascinated by art history during high school when I took a required art appreciation course and studied art in Spain for a month, both under the tutelage of enormously enthusiastic teachers. After ultimately scrapping my plan to study journalism, I arrived at Williams knowing that I wanted to pursue art history, in addition to my life-long passions for Spain and the sea (as a sophomore, I participated in a semester-long maritime studies program in Mystic, Ct.; unusual programs are clearly my forte). Precisely because it was not the most obvious place to continue my particular course of study, Turkey intrigued me from the start, but of course its art and architecture also reflect its unique position as the meeting point of 'East' and 'West' and of various religious and ethnic cultures.
"While studying abroad at Bogazici University in Istanbul, I discovered modern Turkish art and researched the architecture of the former capital's old Jewish quarters, and I was lucky enough to explore archaeological and religious sites throughout the country, including Cappodoccia, the eastern borders with Iran/Armenia/Georgia, the Black Sea region, and the Aegean coast.  
"As may be the case for many of the program's New York participants, the NY Times article about ARCA from a few years ago caught my eye immediately. I have worked at an art gallery, an art museum, a few history museums, and a historic site, but my mother was a criminal prosecutor and my father was an investigator of various kinds, so fighting crime is in my blood!"
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?
"I'm not positive yet, but I am very interested in the subtleties of modern museum security and how, at some institutions, it now takes its cues from sophisticated airport security models and uses other techniques which are commonplace in traditional law enforcement. I am also curious about the legal and political status of cultural patrimony in Turkey, particularly after visiting the ruins of Pergamum and learning that the site has experienced an Elgin-marbles type of situation with Germany."
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
I'm always most interested in whatever I'm learning about at the moment, but since graduating (and fortuitously learning that a suite-mate of mine from Turkey shares my passion) my love for the work of Vladimir Kush has resurfaced. His paintings combine surreal and often ironic or humorous subjects with hyper-realistic technique, as well as some of the most richly saturated and iridescent hues I've ever seen.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
"Strangely enough for an art history student, I have never been to Italy. I definitely plan to travel and see Italy's cultural heritage, in its various forms, and to sample some amazing food and wine. I am especially looking forward to perhaps attending my first real opera with some of the other program participants, and getting to know the people of Italy."
ARCA Blog: Amelia has many venues for playing live music. Are you a musician?
"I studied music for most of my life, but have not touched an instrument in several years. However, I still really enjoy the social, yet intimate vibe of local music joints and really love to dance, so hopefully my evenings in Amelia will be full of music!"

May 12, 2011

Canadian Company Specializes in Secure Art Hanging Systems Which Might Be Able to Deter Art Theft According to Hangit Systems Spokesman

After reading Ben Kaplan's article about art theft which had solicited a comment from ARCA in the January 29th edition of the National Post, Canadian security company Hangit Up Systems contacted us to talk about their product and their experience in speaking with the businesses in Toronto that had been robbed of art in the last year. Doug McCamley, a product specialist for the 6-year-old Brampton, Ontario company wrote:
Security set
"Our company specializes in Art Hanging Systems including security fasteners & security options for our systems. Please feel free to click on: www.hangit-up.com. I followed up with the parties mentioned in the article who had their art stolen, and neither restaurant was using any form of security fasteners, nor did they seem to know they existed."
I was curious about their product and sent him a list of questions which he answered this week:
"There are 2 types of Security Systems which we sell. The J-rail XL System provides security to the art on display, while still allowing the display to be adjusted laterally & vertically. The systems utilize steel rods & Allen head machine screws to prevent removal of art. The Security Set option provides security for art that is mounted permanently in a location. A special tool is required to rotate the fastener to release the work from the wall."
Hangit Systems sells both types of systems to schools, museums, retirement residences, art galleries, and public facilities. "Anywhere that facility owners do not want art to be removed from the wall by unauthorized persons can benefit from the systems," Mr. McCamley wrote.

The price range for their J-rail XL adjustable system is from $15.00/lineal ft. up to $80.00/lineal ft (Canadian funds) depending upon site specific requirements. The price of Security set is $15.00/set for hardware and $15.00 for the locking tool (Canadian funds).

"As you can see, the two options are reasonably priced and most individuals would likely spend the money to prevent their art from 'grab & run' thieves if they were aware of what we have available," Mr. McCamley wrote.