August 31, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy looks at the First Amendment Rights of Photographers

In his regular column for The Journal of Art Crime, art law specialist Donn Zaretsky looks at the First Amendment rights of photographers in the Spring 2011 issue.

Mr. Zaretsky, an attorney with the firm John Silberman Associates and publisher of the Art Law Blog, asks the question "Can a state declare an entire subject matter off limits to photographers?" He questions the constitutionality of a proposed law recently introduced in Florida that would restrict digital or video recording of images taken by photographers without the written consent of the owner. "Clearly, what the legislature wants to do here is the one thing they cannot do: criminalize the PETA-style undercover farm videos," Zaretsky writes. "They can strengthen their trespassing laws, if they wish. But they cannot restrict speech "because of its messages, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content."

The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA founder and president Noah Charney, is the first peer-reviewed academic journal on the interdisciplinary study of art crime. You may subscription to the Journal through ARCA's website (where you can also read guidelines for submissions) or   purchase individual subscriptions through Amazon.com.

August 28, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: "The Skylight Caper: The Unsolved 1972 Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts"

Catherine Schofield Sezgin's article "The Skylight Caper: The Unsolved 1972 Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts" has been published in the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2011).

Rembrandt Stolen from MMFA in 1972
This article examines previously published articles on Canada's largest art theft, the 1972 unsolved theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and compares the information with two principals involved with the museum and the investigation. It explores the ideas proposed in the last four decades as to who may have committed the theft and the alleged whereabouts of 39 pieces of jewelry and silver and the 17 missing paintings, including art by Rembrandt, Corot, Rubens and Courbet. This article describes the history of museum thefts in Canada, how the crime was committed, and some characteristics that may have made this museum and those paintings a target for theft.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin, a graduate from ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies in 2009, worked closely with Bill Bantey, retired journalist and director of public relations for the museum at the time of the theft, and Alain Lacoursière, retired Montreal police officer specializing in art crime.

You may read updates about the case on her blog, The Unsolved 1972 Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The Journal of Art Crime is available via subscription through ARCA's website and from Amazon.com.

August 26, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Ludo Block on "European Police Cooperation on Art Crime: A Comparative Overview

Retired Dutch police officer Ludo Block writes on "European Police Cooperation on Art Crime: A Comparative Overview" in the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2011). This is Mr. Block's abstract:
The academic literature in the field of cross-border policing tends to concentrate exclusively on the high-level crimes -- drug trafficking, terrorism, and human trafficking -- that are so often the focus of transnational police cooperation in criminal investigations. There are, however, many other types of transnational crime, including the often neglected art crime, which may represent the third most profitable criminal enterprise in the world, outranked only by drug and arms trafficking. Drawing on existing literature and interviews with practitioners, this study provides a comparative overview of the policing efforts on art crime in a number of European Union (EU) member states and examines the relevant policy initiatives of the Council of the EU, Europol, and the European Police College. It also addresses existing practices of and obstacles to police cooperation in the field of art crime in the EU. The study reveals that EU police cooperation in this field occurs among a relatively small group of specialists and that -- particularly given the general lack of political and public attention -- the personal dedication of these specialists is an indispensable driver in this cooperation.
Ludo Block is a senior investigator at Grant Thornton Forensic & Investigation Services in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). Previously he served over 17 years with the Netherlands' police and held senior positions in the Amsterdam police. Between 1999 and 2004 he was stationed in Moscow as the Netherlands' police liaison officer for the Russian Federation and surrounding countries. Ludo holds a Masters in Social Sciences from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where he currently is finalizing his PhD (Public Administration) on European Police Cooperation.

You may purchase this issue through subscription through ARCA's website or through Amazon.com.

August 24, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis on "Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market"

"Bonhams withdraws Roman sculptures with 'Medici link' from auction"
Polaroid from the Medici Dossier and Bonhams Copyright [for the composition] David Gill.

David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis have written on "Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market" for the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2011) which can be purchased through subscription through ARCA's website or individually through Amazon.com. This is the abstract for the article:
The series of returned antiquities to Italy have been a reminder of the role of Giacomo Medici in the movement of antiquities to North American public and private collections. A dossier of images was seized during a series of raids on premises in the Geneva Freeport linked to Medici. Such images have made it possible for the Italian authorities to make identifications with recently surfaced antiquities. In spite of the publicity some involved with the trade of antiquities continue to offer recently-surfaced objects that can be traced back to Medici and his consignments to the London market.
David Gill is Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome and was a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He is currently completing a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.

Christos Tsirogiannis is a postgraduate research student at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. His PhD research, supervised by Christopher Chippindale and David Gill, is on the international implications of the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides photographic archive. He has excavated in Attica, the Cyclades and on Ithaka. He was seconded by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Justice to research illicit antiquities. He was involved with the return of antiquities from the J. Paul Getty Museum to Greece.

August 23, 2011

Part One: An Interview with Sandy Nairne on his book, "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners"

Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners
Sandy Nairne
Reaktion Press/ University of Chicago 2011

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

An exceptional book on art theft has been published by a museum director who has received permission from his art institution to openly discuss the eight year quest to obtain the return of two stolen paintings. Sandy Nairne, now director of the National Portrait Gallery, has written "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners" and risked considerable criticism for his transparency. The ARCA blog will spend this week on a series of posts discussing the book in-depth.

In 1994, London's Tate Gallery loaned two paintings by J. M. W. Turner to a Frankfurt public gallery, the Schirn Kunsthalle to be included in an exhibition on "Goethe and the Visual Arts". The 1843 paintings, "Shade and Darkness - The Evening of the Deluge" and "Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - The Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis", had been stolen on July 29 with a third painting, Caspar David Friedrich's "Waft of Mist" (1819, on loan from the Hamburg Kunsthalle).
Turner's "Shade and Darkness"

Mr. Nairne, the Tate's director of programs and a trusted associate of Nicholas Serota, the Director of the Tate, oversaw the expenditure of almost 3.5 million pounds to recover the insured paintings. Martin Bailey of The Art Newspaper provided an excellent synopsis of the events in his online article dated August 9, 2011 ("My life as an undercover negotiator").

Turner's "Light and Colour"
ARCA Blog: You have publicly discussed how the Tate negotiated the return of the two Turner paintings even though it has generated criticism about whether or not museums are encouraging art theft by paying money to recovery stolen art. The irony here, of course, according to Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper, is that it was also a savvy financial deal -- the Tate received the insurance proceeds from the stolen paintings, repurchased the paintings from the insurance company at a lower amount, reinvested the money, and then recovered the paintings values of which have dramatically increased. The museum is more transparent than most about talking about art theft and you may be the first senior museum official to write about the long negotiations involved in recovering paintings. How did you come to break so many taboos? What would you say motivated you and the Tate to go to such lengths? What was it about these paintings that made them so important to the Tate's collection?
Sandy Nairne: These two paintings are part of what is known as the Turner Bequest, and had been selected by the artist as ones that should be specially valued by the nation. It felt like a clear duty for us at the Tate to do everything we could – as long as it was legal and approved by the right authorities – to get them back. 
The insurance payments worked out successfully after the paintings had been recovered, but that might not have happened. It is only possible, of course, with hindsight to see it as a success. 
In writing the book, I was not thinking of ‘breaking taboos’ but simply trying to set out the facts. The narrative from my perspective needed to set right quite a few things that had been mis-recorded in the newspapers in Britain. It became an additional matter to then analyse the wider questions around high value art theft.
ARCA Blog: Three thieves had remained in the gallery after closing time (this kind of theft is known as a 'stay-behind'); attacked and "held the guard, tied up, in a cleaning cupboard"; then used the guard's keys to unlock the back door and take the paintings (then worth 24 million Sterling pounds) out through the loading dock. You write:
This might have been fairly straightforward, but crucially, it was possible only with knowledge of the security system and the internal layout to execute the operation swiftly. While removing the paintings, the three men (two thieves and the waiting driver as it later emerged) would have been listening to the guard's radio, connected to Eufinger's headquarters [private security firm].
An alert was received at the security office 41 minutes after the city museum's front doors were locked. When you arrived in Frankfurt within hours of the theft, how puzzled were you and the rest of the security staff that only three paintings had been taken? Did you wonder why these three particular paintings had been chosen? And from the very beginning did you suspect that the paintings had been taken because the thieves knew they had been insured for the exhibit and that they had a possibility of receiving a ransom for the paintings return?

The Frankfurt police officer initially assigned to the case, Herr Bernd Paul, was a specialist in blackmail and ransom work and immediately began making inquiries in the "Frankfurt underworld" to find out who planned this. Herr Paul began his investigation with the idea that the pictures had been taken "hostage." Do you think this outlook from the beginning set up for a successful recovery of the art? At the same time, you were very concerned that everyone should understand that the paintings were irreplaceable and that not enough resources could be applied.
Sandy Nairne: I think the thieves may have been interrupted and that they had intended to take more than the three paintings. There was a very valuable Raphael painting nearby, though it was large and very heavy, while these three were relatively portable. I am not certain that these three were ‘targeted’ although later I did hear some talk of the police having recovered a list of works from one of the suspect thieves. 
I had no idea initially why the Turners had been stolen. It seemed that it could have been a political matter or a protest of some kind, as much as an act organised by gangsters of some kind. It was only later when I learned much more about art theft that I began to understand how dominant is the financial motive. 
Herr Paul’s reaction was logical, but there was never any ransom note from the thieves or those who had organised the theft. There was never any ghastly ‘pay or the paintings burn’ type of threat. Mostly it was other people trying to cash in on the theft. Criminality breeds criminality.
ARCA Blog: An image of one of the stolen paintings had been used to publicize the exhibition. This indicates that the thieves may have known nothing about the quality of the work and just took what they thought was important and valuable to the museum?
Sandy Nairne: This is possible – the poster may have been an additional point in the thieves mind as to which paintings they went for first.
ARCA Blog: You write that Mark Dalrymple, employed by the insurers to track the operation, is one of the most experienced of specialist loss adjusters in the insurance field. What do you think he did differently in handling this case that maybe someone with less training would have missed?
Sandy Nairne: Mark was always careful to remain very close to the police and ensure that they were informed appropriately, while also seeking independent information and contacts. There had to be trust on both sides. He is very experienced, and that experience counted a lot at the time, later on, when the Tate Trustees’ sub-committee was having to decide what was or was not appropriate by way of any ‘payment for information, leading to the recovery of the paintings’.
ARCA Blog: You alerted Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Squad three days after the theft when someone called the Tate looking for "someone in charge" about the stolen paintings. Detective Inspector Jill McTigue and then another senior officer, Dick Ellis, arrived with cameras and recording devices as they were being filmed for a documentary about the Art and Antiquities Squad for the BBC. You had two discussions with a man representing himself as the holder of the paintings which were now allegedly in London and would be 'auctioned' by the thieves unless he was paid 30,000 pounds for information leading to the pictures whereabouts. How nervous were you and how did you manage all of this commotion?
Sandy Nairne: I was very nervous, and it was confusing as I wanted this man ‘Rothstein’ to be real. But of course it emerged fairly soon that he was a confidence trickster only trying to make money by pretending that he had access to the stolen paintings. He was certainly very clever at spinning a yarn. I was relieved when he and his accomplice were both caught – but saddened that it took us no nearer to the actual paintings.
ARCA Blog: In addition, you were assigned an undercover plainclothes specialist to join you as your 'curator.' One of the first things done was to train him as how to pick up and examine a painting. At the beginning, you must have had hope that the paintings would be recovered shortly and not in eight years. Is your book in any way a cautionary tale for other museum staff? After all, you had a job and a family that needed your attention just as much as these paintings did.
Sandy Nairne: I hope it is not a cautionary tale, but encouraging to everyone that it is possible to get important works back into the public domain. I did not stop and analyse – in the sense of a broad view - what I was doing, as I was more concerned to make sure that I was doing it in the most effective way.
ARCA Blog: Your first contact was apprehended and arrested in a police operation that had pretended to pay a reward for the return of the paintings. The suspect and his accomplice did not have the paintings -- which the police had suspected - but a record in deception and petty crime. The entire first week of the investigation in London turned out to be a 'diversion'. However, a year later, on the anniversary of the suspect's arrest, you received a middle-of-the night phone call instructing you to meet in Moscow Square although this was not a part of any ongoing investigation. You cover all of this in the first 50 pages of your book. How did you manage to write your manuscript while working in a high-profile job?
Sandy Nairne: My writing was spread out over many years. I had kept notes and journals from when I was travelling to and from Frankfurt. It was only much later, in 2007, when I had a visiting Fellowship at the Clark Art Institute that I could really do most of the work to sort out the narrative and also do the reading on the existing literature relating to high value thefts of this kind. I have always done some writing very early in the morning, and used parts of weekends.
Additional posts will continue the discussion of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners."

August 22, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: John Daab on "The Case of the Questionable Jeffersonian Lafites: Forensic Applications in Detecting Wine Fraud"

In the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2011), John Daab, a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research, has written on "The Case of the Questionable Jeffersonian Lafites: Forensic Applications in Detecting Wine Fraud". Mr. Daab writes in the article’s abstract:
Keys noted that the earliest manufacture of wine took place around 8000 BC. Robinson (2006) said that Pliny the Elder remarked that wine adulteration had reached a point in 1st century Rome that wine was no longer worth drinking. Although the tinkering with the grape has been with us since early Rome, wine fraud cases have seen an upsurge due to increases in demand not only for wine for the family table wine, but for historic collectibles found in the cellars of the wine connoisseur (Robinson, 2006). Wine fakers cost consumers, suppliers, and collectible connoisseurs millions of dollars a year. They use humidification; blending and stretching; substitution of low quality for expensive quality; and many other forms of fakery. This fakery is not only costly to the consumer but has led to cases of serious injury and death (Henry, 1986). This article addresses the fakes, how they are processed, and forensic applications used to detect and indentify the bogus mix.
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 100 articles and recently authored, "The Art Fraud Protection Handbook" (Kindle Edition). He has a credential from New York University in Fine and Decorative Arts Appraisal. He completed the docent program at Princeton. His second book is "Forensic Application in Detecting Fine, Decorative, and Collectible Art Fakes" (Kindle Edition). He is developing a third book on the "Business of Art."

August 21, 2011

"The thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting" by Noah Charney

One the 100th anniversary of the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, ARCA and Noah Charney have published a new book, "The thefts of the Mona Lisa: on stealing the world's most famous painting". You may find more information about the theft and the book on ARTCOM.info "100th Anniversary of the Mona Lisa Theft" and in a piece written by Noah in The Los Angeles Times.

Update: Marking the 50th anniversary of the theft of Goya's "The Duke of Wellington", you may find Noah Charney's article on the front page of ARTINFO.com here.  Mark Durney, author of the blog Art Theft Central, provides a historical review of thefts from the Louvre, some of which you may not have heard about!

August 20, 2011

Anthony Amore, co-Author of "Stealing Rembrandts", on interviewing art thieves and whether or not James "Whitey" Bulger knows the whereabouts of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in 1990

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

Anthony Amore, head of security of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is one the Board of Trustees of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and taught a course in Museum Security for the ARCA program in International Art Crime Studies in 2009. He co-authored "Stealing Rembrandts" with Tom Mashberg, an award-winning investigative reporter and the former Sunday Editor for the Boston Herald.

Thirteen works of art, including three Rembrandts, were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990. Both Amore and Mashberg spent years studying all aspects of the world's largest unsolved art theft.

Anthony writes in his foreword to the book:
 "One of the more intriguing characteristics of the Gardner heist is that two of the stolen paintings, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" (1633) and "A Lady and Gentleman in Black" (1633), both by Rembrandt, were cut from their frames."
Amore puts forth the question as to why the two thieves, who spent a leisurely 81 minutes in the museum, risked damaging the paintings by slicing the two Rembrandt canvases from their stretchers:
"Were they so unschooled as to imagine they could manhandle the canvases without wreaking destruction on the paintings? That alone is a key insight into the culprits. Thieves schooled in art would have done no such thing. Moreover, the robbers anticipated that they were going to cut some paintings from their frames. Why else would they have brought along an instrument that was sharp and sturdy enough to slice through stiff, varnished paint and linen canvas? Two other major art thefts in Massachusetts (both involving Rembrandts, as the following chapters will show) were pulled off more than 15 years before the Gardner crime without anyone resorting to cutting canvases. Why do so now? Had these thieves learned their lessons in theft outside Massachusetts? Was this their first art crime?"
Anthony Amore's obsession with studying the ISGM theft and finding the paintings led him and co-author Mashberg to write about comparable thefts in this 245-page manuscript just perfect for summer reading in the hammock, on the beach, or in an airport. The language is accessible and the narrative strong, even when describing when and why Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) painted the artworks that are the subject of these thefts. The authors answer the question as to why anyone would care that these paintings have been stolen, remain missing, or how they were recovered.

ARCA Blog: The book tells of a heist at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts in 1972, orchestrated by Florian "Al" Monday, a man now in his seventies who was involved in art theft more than four decades ago.  Anthony, how did you contact Florian "Al" Monday and what was your experience interviewing him? Does he speculate about the whereabouts of the ISGM paintings?
Anthony Amore: I reached out to Al years ago to have a conversation about art theft. He still lives in Massachusetts and we know many of the same people so it was an interesting conversation. Al has been on the hunt for the stolen Gardner art for many years and can speak more knowledgably about the crime figures who do not have the art than he can about who does. Despite his criminal history and proclivity towards taking paintings that don’t belong to him, we’re friends and I quite enjoy talking to him.
ARCA Blog: Myles J. Connor Jr., an art thief, has authored a book about his adventures, including the theft of a Rembrandt painting on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. What characteristics do you think Connor and Monday share as art thieves?
Anthony Amore: Myles and Al share a unique characteristic that sets them apart from virtually all other art thieves, and that is that both of them appreciate fine art and are knowledgeable on the subject. While this sounds admirable, in many respects it makes their crimes all the more worse, since they have a better understanding of the cost to society than a common criminal. And make no mistake: though they art aficionados, they stole art strictly for profit, not to enjoy it.
ARCA Blog: Carl Earnest Horsley agreed to speak with you about a 1973 theft in Cincinnati. He was under surveillance when he collected the ransom and left two stolen art works. Anthony, why do you think he finally agreed to speak about his role in the theft? What do you think he had in common with Monday and Connor?
Anthony Amore: I believe that Carl saw an opportunity to get his story out but also to let the world know that he has turned his life around and is now a legitimate businessman. I see Carl as an exception to the rule that people never change. He seems to have made an earnest attempt to go straight.
ARCA Blog: After looking at all these thefts, do you feel any closer to creating a profile of the thieves who robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990?
Amore: Absolutely. I’ve felt that I have a clear picture of the sort of criminal who pulled off the Gardner heist.
ARCA Blog: Recently you were interviewed by John Wilson for BBC's "Front Row." On his blog, he speculates about the arrest of James "Whitey" Bulger and whether or not Boston's former crime boss has knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings. Do you share Charley Hill's opinion (according to John Wilson) that the paintings have been in Ireland with some faction of the IRA?
Anthony Amore: I have the utmost respect for Charley Hill. His career is amazing, and, aside from being a wonderful guy, he is among the greatest art recovery agents in history. However (and Charley knows I feel this way), I do not share his belief regarding the IRA. I share the opinion of the Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly that Bulger was not involved in the theft and has no information about it to share. We’re fortunate at the Gardner to have AUSA Kelly as the lead prosecutor for our case, as he is also the lead prosecutor in the Bulger case. He has put away all of Bulger’s cohorts, all of whom admitted to dozens of murders and other heinous crimes and have described all of Bulger’s exploits for juries and book readers alike. One would have to suspend an enormous amount of disbelief to think they wouldn’t admit to even the slightest knowledge about the Gardner theft. Add that to the fact that there’s not even the slightest bit of evidence pointing to an Irish connection, and I put that possibility very low on the list of likelihoods. Of course, all that being said, the paintings are still missing, so we cannot rule anything out. And if a person from Ireland shows up at our door with the art this afternoon, I’ll be very glad to admit that I was wrong!

August 19, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: This issue is now available for sale

Illustration by Urska Charney
The fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney, founder and President of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, is now available.

"The Journal of Art Crime has undergone some changes, as we are now publishing the print edition in collaboration with Amazon, making the acquisition of back-issues easier, and speeding up the process," Mr. Charney writes in his Letter from the Editor in the Spring 2011 issue. "The next issue, Fall/Winter 2011 will come out earlier this year, as we reconfigure our publication dates. Fall/Winter issues will come out in November, and the Spring/Summer issues will come out April."

This issue includes four academic articles: "The Case of the Questionable Jeffersonian Lafites: Forensic Applications in Detecting Wine Fraud" by John Daab; "European Police Cooperation on Art Crime: A Comparative Overview" by Ludo Block; "Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market" by David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis; and "The Skylight Caper: The Unsolved 1972 Theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts" by Catherine Schofield Sezgin.

The regular columns feature Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy; Noah Charney's Lessons from the History of Art Crime on "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the Valfierno Con"; and David Gill's Context Matters on "The Unresolved Case of the Minneapolis Krater."

Editorial essays include Danelle Augustin on "A Different View of Art Crime: An interview with the Sculptor Nicolas Lobo"; Noah Charney on "Freeze of BBC License Fee Continues Dream of Art Thief Who Stole Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington" from the National Gallery in 1961"; Christopher A. Marinello, Esq., Executive Director and General Counsel for the Art Loss Register, on The Art Loss Register's Recovery Update; Diane Joy Charney on "Another Look at the 210 ARCA Conference on the Study of Art Crime: Something for Everyone"; and Elena Franchi on "I viaggi dell'Assunta. La protezione del patrimonia artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali".

Reviews by Noah Charney on "Exhibition Review: Jan Gossaert at the National Gallery, London 23 February-30 May 2011" and "Exhibition Review at the Mostra Palazzo Farnese"; Douglas L. Yearwood on "Henry Walters and Bernard Berenson: Collector and Connoisseur Stanley Mazaroff" and "Giuseppe Panza: Memories of a Collector".

Other contributions include Noah Charney's "Q&A" with Peter Watson and Alan Hirsch; Catherine Schofield Sezgin's "Q&A" with the LAPD Art Theft Detail and the Québec Art Crime Team; and Noah Charney on "The Art We Must Protect: Top Ten Must-See Artworks in New York City".

August 16, 2011

Washington Post: "Museums' fine art of protecting masterpieces" include Art Guard monitors

Journalist Emily Wax reports for the Washington Post about the ways museums try to protect their displayed works from vandalism, including the use of palm-size monitors from Bill Anderson's company, Art Guard, an ARCA supporter. You may read more about these devices online.

Anthony Amore Comments on the Alleged Rembrandt Drawing "The Judgement" found in Encino

The stolen 'Rembrandt' (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Anthony Amore posted on Facebook on August 16 that "The Judgement", the alleged drawing by Rembrandt stolen from a hotel in Marino del Rey on Saturday night, was found last night.  You may read more information here at this NBC link: "Rembrandt Lost and Found." Where was it found? Encino.

Update: The Los Angeles Times reports that the drawing was found in a church parking lot in Encino.

Another update on September 12, 2011: The Los Angeles County Sherriff's department is holding the alleged $250,000 Rembrandt drawing until the owners can prove that they have title to it, according to John Rogers reporting for the Associated Press "Case of LA's stolen Rembrandt intrigues art world".  If the owners cannot prove authenticity and title to the legal authorities in order to recover the artwork, how did they expect to sell it for one-quarter of a million dollars? Anthony Amore, security director for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and author of "Stealing Rembrandts" tries to put some perspective on the case.

August 15, 2011

ALR's Chris Marinello and ISGM's Anthony Amore Quoted About A Stolen Rembrandt Drawing from a California Hotel

Rembrandt's drawing "The Judgement"
 (The Linearis Institute)
Christopher Marinello, General Counsel for the Art Loss Register and a speaker at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference for two years, and ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Security Director for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are quoted in a few articles about the theft of a Rembrandt Drawing from a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles.

The 1655 drawing, titled "The Judgement" and measuring 11 by 6 inches, is owned by the Linearis Institute of San Francisco. It was stolen Saturday evening with a diversion tactic: the curator was distracted by a potential sale while another person grabbed the quill ink-and-pencil drawing.

You may read a few of the articles here:




The latter article by Chris Reynolds for The Los Angeles Times describes more lucrative hotel robberies.

August 14, 2011

Codex Calixtinus is missing (English Translation)

Codex Calixtino
by Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez. Ph.D, Complutense University of Madrid.

[Translated from Spanish to English by Marc Balcells Magrans, ARCA Class 2011

The Codex Calixtinus, dating from the twelfth century, and considered a jewel of the Galician documentary and bibliographical heritage, disappeared mysteriously on the fifth of July from the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. This work, compiling the tradition of the peregrinations and the Jacobean route, was guarded in the Cathedral's archive.

The manuscript was part of a collection of sermons and liturgical texts, and served as a sort of guide for the worldwide famous Camino de Santiago, dating back to the middle ages.

The first inquiries point to the fact that there were no signs of any kind of violence (forced entry, maybe?), despite the Codex was located in a restricted, private area, with access limited both to the public and to researchers (only three persons had acces to the room where the manuscript custodiate: the dean, acting also as an archivist, and his two collaborators, each one working morning and afternoon shifts).

It is worth noting that the book was rarely exhibited. In fact, researchers work with a facsimile edition created years ago. The actual Codex could only be accessed under very punctual circumstances, and always in the presence of an archivist. The Codex had not been exhibited for 18 years.

Initially, one of the possible MO is related to vengeance, or the fact that the theft would reveal the lax security measures in archives and libraries in Spain.

A lack of security measures in Santiago

The first inquiries show big gaps in security: the key was on the lock of the door of the room where the codex was located; and CCTVs are only placed in the Cathedral's cloister, but not where the bibliographical treasures are located.

Facing these facts, the theory that this case should be treated as an insider theft is considered more strongly than others. At the moment, the cathedral has approximatedly a staff of seventy persons working there. The rule of thumb is that between sixty and seventy percent of disappearances of books in libraries and archives are caused by insiders or at least they may be involved.

The return of the stolen material was expected during the first week, all under secret of confession, if taken into account an anonymous phone call promising the devolution of the codex. However, this lead looses its credibility as days go by.

Social alarm usually lasts from ten to twenty days. In this period, security measures are revised, some insurances are bought or revised... After this period, everything goes back to normal, unluckily. Until the next disappearance.

Spanish legislation does not establish the particular security measures that should be in place in order to custody this line of cultural heritage. Taking into account that religious art is in high demand in the market, and that the bibliographical heritage is very easy to smuggle, international police cooperation is usually the preferred method.

Spain is one of the most victimized countries in the last years, when it refers to thefts from libraries. In 2007, the theft of more than 100 historical documents was discovered in the Library of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. One year later, César Gomez Rivero was arrested, as the author of the theft from the National Spanish Library. In summer 2009, Zslot Vamos is arrested, possessing 67 documents, while still 53 are missing.

Hence, and related to this sad incident, one must ask: When will security measures be taken seriously in spaces devoted to the custody of bibliographical and documentary heritage? When will librarians and archivists receive proper training? Will both national and international cooperation amongst different police forces bring any results?

August 13, 2011

ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore Interviewed in PRI's The World: "Stealing Rembrandts: Why the Dutch Master is so popular with thieves"

Rembrandt's Jacob de Gheyn III, sometimes referred to as "the Takeaway"
PRI's The World, a one-hour weekday radio news show on the BBC, features ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore discussing the book he co-authored with journalist Tom Mashberg, "Stealing Rembrandts", on the date of publication release in the UK. You can hear the show here on their website.

August 12, 2011

ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore Featured on BBC Radio 4's Front Row Program with John Wilson: Mona Lisa, Turner, Goya, Rembrandt

You can listen to John Wilson of BBC Radio 4's program, Front Row, discuss art thefts of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and works by Goya, Turner, and Rembrandt here on BBC's website. ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore, security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are featured on the show. You may read more about this program and the books by the featured speakers on at Noah Charney's column, The Secret History of Art.

Anthony Amore, ARCA Board of Trustee and Security Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Will Be Discussing "Stealing Rembrandts" on BBC's "The World" Programme on August 12

Rembrandt's Jeremiah (1630)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's security director, Anthony Amore, an ARCA Board of Trustee, will be discussing his book, "Stealing Rembrandts" (co-authored with Tom Mashberg), on BBC's "The World" program on August 12 when the book is released in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Amore, who taught museum security at ARCA's International Art Crime program in Amelia in 2009, has written about the thefts of works by the 16th century Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn. The 245-page volume published by Palgrave MacMillan in New York in July, features heists in Worcester in 1972; Cincinnati in 1973; and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1975.

Many other thefts of Rembrandt paintings are covered in the book, including that of a 1933 robbery of the residence of a Stockholm art collector, of which included Rembrandt's Jeremiah Mourning for the Destruction of Jerusalem (1630).  The painting had been "kept from view for years while in the possession of Russian count S. A. Stroganoff in St. Petersburg before the First World War."  The day after the theft, Amore and Mashberg recount, a workman at the residence "led investigators to the masterpiece, then valued at $100,000, which he had stashed in the woods near Stockholm.  Today it resides safely in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is valued at $100 million." 

You may find more information about the program here on the website of PRI's The World.

August 11, 2011

Codex Calixtinus is missing

El Códice Calixtino
Editor's note: The ARCA blog received this submitted post in Spanish and decided to publish it as we're an international blog.

by Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez. Ph.D, Complutense University of Madrid.

El Códice Calixtino del siglo XII, considerado una de las joyas del Patrimonio Bibliográfico y Documental gallego, desapareció misteriosamente el pasado 5 de julio de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. La obra, que recoge la tradición de las peregrinaciones y la Ruta Jacobea, estaba custodiada en el Archivo catedralicio.

El manuscrito forma parte de una colección de sermones y textos litúrgicos y sirvió como una especie de guía para el mundialmente conocido Camino de Santiago, el cual se remonta a la Edad Media.

Las primeras investigaciones relatan que no existen "signos de violencia", pese a que el Códice se encontraba en unas dependencias privadas de acceso restringido y vetadas tanto a los investigadores como al público general (sólo tres personas tenían acceso directo a la sala donde se custodiaba el manuscrito; el propio deán y archivero y sus dos colaboradores, uno que trabaja por la mañana y otro durante la tarde.

Cabe destacar, que el libro se enseñaba en muy contadas ocasiones, de hecho, los investigadores trabajaban con la edición facsímil que se realizó hace unos años. Solo se podía ver en circunstancias muy concretas, y siempre en presencia de un responsable del archivo. Hace 18 años que no se exhibe fuera del archivo.

Por lo que en un principio se barajado la posibilidad de “venganza” o el hecho de dar a conocer a la sociedad los bajos índices de seguridad que rodean a los archivos y bibliotecas en España.

Falta de seguridad en Santiago: Las primeras investigaciones realizadas generan enormes fallos de seguridad:
1. La llave de la cámara de seguridad donde se custodiaba el libro estaba habitualmente puesta.
2. Las cámaras de seguridad solamente están instaladas en el claustro de la catedral, no en la zona donde se encuentran las joyas bibliográficas.
Ante estos hechos, cada vez se inclina más la balanza de que el robo se haya producido por personal del centro, de la propia Catedral de Santiago, la cual suma cerca de 70 personas. La regla general es que entre el 60% y 70% de las desapariciones en bibliotecas y archivos son producidas por personal de la casa o están involucrados.

Durante las primeras semanas se esperaba la devolución del material bajo secreto de confesión. Teniendo en cuenta una llamada anónima que habló expresamente de devolver el manuscrito. Pero este hecho pierde credibilidad día a día.

Realidad: La alarma social suele durar de 10 a 20 días. Se revisan las medidas de seguridad, se hacen algunos seguros, o se revisan las pólizas... y después, todo vuelve a ser como antes, por desgracia, hasta el siguiente suceso.

Las legislaciones españolas no inciden en los planes de seguridad concretos que se deben poner en marcha con el fin de custodiar Patrimonio de estas características.
Teniendo en cuenta que el arte religioso es "muy demandado en el mercado mundial de coleccionistas" y que el patrimonio bibliográfico es fácil transportarlo sin levantar sospechas, se confía a la colaboración policial internacional para localizar el manuscrito.

España es de los países mas azotados por los robos en bibliotecas en los últimos años, en el año 2007 se descubrió la desaparición de más de 100 documentos históricos en la Biblioteca del Ministerio de Exteriores, en 2008 se detiene a Cesar Gómez Rivero, autor del robo de la Biblioteca Nacional Española, en verano de 2009 se detiene Zslot Vamos con 67 documentos, faltando por recuperar 53.

Y ante este desgraciado hecho, volvemos a preguntarnos:
1. ¿Cuando se van a tomar en serio las medidas de seguridad en los espacios donde se custodia Patrimonio bibliográfico y documental?
2. ¿Cuando se va a instruir adecuadamente a bibliotecarios y archiveros?
3. ¿La cooperación nacional e internacional dará sus frutos?, etc.

August 9, 2011

Noah Charney Will Discuss the Goya "Duke of Wellington" Theft on BBC Radio's "Front Row" on Thursday, August 11

Noah Charney (Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

This Thursday Noah Charney, founder and President of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, will discuss the theft of Francisco de Goya's "The Duke of Wellington" from London's National Gallery, just 50 years to the day after the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre on August 21, 1911.

"It should be a good show," Noah Charney told the ARCA blog, "because they also have Sandy Nairne on from the National Portrait Gallery (who has a new book out on the Tate Turner thefts)."

Mr. Nairne has published "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners" (Reaktion Books 2011) about his involvement in the search and recovery of two Joseph Mallord William Turner oil paintings stolen from the Tate Gallery’s collection while they were at an exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, on July 28, 1994.  

Noah Charney, author of the fictional "The Art Thief" and the nonfiction book, "Stealing the Mystic Lamb," has also released an ARCA podcast on the 1961 theft of Goya's "Duke of Wellington." You may find it on iTunes.

August 8, 2011

Amelia's Bronze Germanicus Travels to Rome for Portrait Exhibit at Capitoline Museum; Curators Reveal New Information about the First Century Bronze Statue

Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In mid-July, I traveled to Amelia for an art crime conference and to visit the archaeological museum to see the bronze statue of Germanicus. However, Germanicus, found outside the gates of Amelia in 1963, was not in town. Germanicus had been disassembled and boxed, then shipped to Rome for a six-month exhibit at the Musei Capitolini at the Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michalangelo (1475-1564) and commissioned by Alessandro Farnese (Pope Paul III from 1534 to 1549) to impress Charles V (1500-1558), the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Palazzo Farnese
In Rome, I mistakenly walked to Campo di Fiori looking for the Musei Capitolini as directed by Google Maps. If it hadn't been so hot and humid, I would have recalled that I was looking for some very large steps to climb up to the museum and that it was behind not Piazza Navona but the Victor Emmanuelle II's monument. Instead I found Palazzo Farnese, now the French Embassy, around Campo di Fiori before following directions from an Italian couple to walk further and further down the road.

By the time I'd walked up the cordonata, Michelangelo's staircase wide enough for riders and their horses in the day, and turned right into the first building, the Palazzo Nuovo, a security guard stopped me. The ticket box was closed and although the museum would be open another 50 minutes, I could not go in without a ticket. I begged, he pointed to the surveillance camera above us, and I stepped back out onto the Piazza. After asking two people -- one woman had lost her husband who had their tickets and she couldn't go into the building to find him -- I obtained a used ticket and returned to the building's entrance. The security guard said that I couldn't go in because I had not purchased the ticket. But I begged, saying he'd only told me that I had to have a ticket. He finally sought advice from another staff member, a woman who seemed to have more authority with her walkie-talkie, and I was let into the building.

"Germanicus, Germanicus, Germanicus," I called softly walking through hallways and passed many portraits and monuments. It had been a long day, it was 44 degrees Celcius outside, and obviously the heat had gotten to me. "Germanicus, I can't find you!"

Germanicus amongst other Roman portraits, Capitoline Museums
In the very last room, at the far end of the floor, Germanicus stood in the rear. The rope usually around him at the archaeological museum in Amelia was gone and visitors could walk directly up to his base. He was marvelously old and delicate as up close it was obvious that he was depending upon a steel and wood structure to remain upright.

Then there was a display sign that read:
“The bronze statue found at Amelia, in Umbria, was not made as a portrait of Germanicus. The original head was eventually replaced with that of the young Germancius, whom his uncle Tiberius had designated as his heir, but who died in 19 AD. What probably happened is that the person (Perhaps Germanicus’s son Caligula) who had originally been honored with this statue was later condemned to damnatio memoriae [by the Senate], the removal of his public images to erase all memory of him, and that the costly statue was then reused to honor another member of the dynasty. 
“The ornamentation is very complex. On the upper part of the breastplate is the menacing image of the monstrous Scylla. On the lower part is a scene from Homer: Achilles ambushing the young Trojan prince Troilus. The scene is completed by the two Victories who converge from the sides toward the Greek hero, bringing him arms as a reward for his feat. The decoration extends to the back of the armor, where we see a religious scene in which two women dance in front of a candelabrum, symbol of the eternity of the imperial power. The pteryges, metal plates protecting the groin, are formed in the first row by lions’ heads and adorned in the second by heads of satyrs alternating with heads of gorgons. As a whole, the decorative plan was meant to epitomize control of the seas (Scylla) and to compare the honored man to Achilles, the most valiant of all the Achaean heroes.”
The bronze statue of Germanicus was dated 25-50 AD. It made sense that it had not been commissioned at the time of his death in 19 AD as his uncle, the second Roman emperor Tiberius, did not even attend the placement of his ashes into the Mausoleum of Augustus. So this statue could have been made for his son Caligula and when the Senate voted to erase the assassinated emperor's image from history, it was the head of Germanicus that replaced the original.

Surprised that only the head had been made for Germanicus, I retreated back to Piazza Navona, stopping to purchase a few DVDs of my favorite Italian television series about Salvo Montalbano in Sicily; ate a dinner of friend zucchini blossoms and artichokes at the always-welcoming family restaurant of Ristorante Archimede San Eustachio (Piazza dei Caprettari, 63); and fought my way to the counter at the cafe of Sant 'Eustachio for not one, but two cappucini.

Germanicus will be on display in Rome through September 25 at the Capitoline Museum.

August 7, 2011

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Features Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Register

Paolo Ferri and Chris Marinello
By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Chris Marinello, Executive Director & General Counsel of the Art Loss Register, delivered a lecture on the role of private and public stolen art databases in the recovery of lost art. In March 2011, Marinello along with ARCA’s Catherine Sezgin attended the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris France.

As of 2011, the ALR’s database contained over 300,000 stolen works of art. The ALR offers its registration services on a pro bono basis to countries that are currently engaged in armed conflict or that have endured through natural disasters. For example, upon hearing news of the looting and theft of objects from sites and institutions across Egypt, the ALR reached out to Zahi Hawass to assist in the swift recovery of its missing objects.

Marinello continued with a discussion of a number of the more intriguing recoveries the ALR had made in recent years. For example, in cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ALR returned a portrait of a young girl by famous Belgian artist Antoine (Anto) Carte to its owner 69 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. During the World War II, the work’s original owners fled their Brussels home and the Nazis eventually confiscated their art. In November 2008, the ALR notified ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office that a Long Island art gallery had possession of the work. Fortunately, in this case owner forfeited the painting upon hearing that it had been stolen during the war. However, as Marinello alluded to, few cases are resolved as quickly. As illustrated in the Carte case, the ALR frequently works closely with domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Scotland Yard, the Carabinieri, and Interpol.

Upon conclusion of Marinello’s lecture, former Italian state prosecutor Paolo Ferri, provided a few insights into the Carabinieri’s lost art database, which now contains over a million registered objects.

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention

Catherine Schofield Sezgin reports on her participation at the 40th anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO convention at the at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy July 10

by Jessica Nielsen, ARCA Intern

November 14, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. ARCA blog editor-in-chief, Catherine Sezgin, reported on her participation in a celebration of the 40th anniversary held in Paris last March from her notes on the event. She mentioned that she had seen Annika Kuhn and Prosecutor Paolo Ferri at the event and invited them and many of her other fellow presenters at the ARCA conference (who she deferred to as having greater knowledge of the history and successes of the treaty), to engage in a lively discussion following her presentation.

"The Fight against the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property: The 1970 Convention: Past and Future" The conference was an opportunity for UNESCO to look at the history of the Convention, evaluate its accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses and examine its main challenges. Sezgin noted that there was a speaker who brought up the similarities in the implementation of the 1970 Convention of UNESCO on illicit traffic to the experiences of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna 1973 (CITES). She also sat in on a public debate covering various issues among representatives from “source and destination” countries, the art market, museums and international organizations. Sezgin was most impressed by the Mexican representative, Dr. Jorge A. Sánchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; who spoke about Mexico’s active participation in the forming of the treaty and that it was the eighth country to ratify it. Mr. Cordero said:
We are in a situation that we cannot tolerate. Many countries are being plundered through clandestine excavations. Despite all our efforts, criminals operate on sites and in the trafficking of cultural and archeological objects.
Dr. Sanchez-Codero also talked about the ‘international community experiencing a rise of a new consciousness regarding the need of protecting cultural heritage, which is not linked to cultural nationalism, but rather to the need of safeguarding universal knowledge.’ Sezgin reported that he urged UNESCO to ‘play a prominent role in the new cultural order' and said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list,’ this was a perfect introduction to the next speaker at the ARCA conference, Chris Marinello, from the Art Loss Registry, who described his company’s database.

More from Sezgin’s report on the event can be read on the ARCA blog here and here.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate certificate in ARCA’s International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in The Journal of Art Crime. She has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog since 2010.

August 6, 2011

Mark Durney, Founder of the website “Art Theft Central” and moderator of Museum Security Network, on “Collection Inventories”

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

Collection Inventories account for works in the event of disaster, transition or conservation treatment and are a proactive effort to protect and secure art collections, Mark Durney, ARCA’s Business and Admissions Director, told the audience at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on July 10.

Accurate and well-audited inventories may increase the likelihood of recovering missing items. In 2008, an inventory of Russian museums discovered 242,000 pieces missing of which only 24,500 were officially registered as stolen.

In 1980, the Dutch Institute for Social Policy Research’s Condition Survey reported a backlog of 70,000 “men years” to inventory 16 national museums.

Many collections in Egypt don’t have inventories, Durney told the audience. And when 56 objects were reported missing from Egypt as published by the Supreme Council, the description of such items as a ‘wooden model vase’ were incomplete as to claim or recognize the object.

In France, 2002 legislation required all museums to create inventories of their collections and calls for them to be reviewed every ten years. The Joconde: catalogue des Collections des Musees de France” is an online inventory from 328 museums.

“More information, better results,” Mark Durney said. “Collection inventories hold institutions accountable for objects in the public trust; motivates more accurate theft reporting; and increases likelihood of recovery.”

“Law enforcement claims a recovery rate of 5-10 percent,” Mark Durney said. “But looking at the numbers over a ten year period, only 1.9% of objects registered stolen were recovered. The confidence interval is 95% and you can quote me on that.”

August 5, 2011

Katharyn Hanson on “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study”

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Katharyn Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, concentrating her studies in Mesopotamian Archaeology. Her archaeological experience has helped her to examine the dangers that archaeological sites face and what can be done to prevent the looting and destruction of these sites. In her presentation, “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study,” Hanson examined the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq and stressed the tools with which these sites can be protected in the future.

Opening her talk with the devastation of the Iraqi National Museum, Hanson highlighted the difficulties entailed in even knowing how much has been stolen from a museum—let alone from an archaeological site. In addition, the lack of recoveries made is even more depressing than not knowing how much was lost in the first place. After opening with this sad tale, Hanson used the same basis to talk about two archaeological sites in Iraq that have been devastated by looters: Umma and Umm al Aqarib. As she stated in her presentation, “By far, the majority of artifacts stolen from Iraq come from archaeological sites.” Using aerial and satellite photos, she was able to show the extreme addition of looter’s holes to archaeological sites from 2003 to 2008. The result was depressing and mind-numbing, with an increase of nearly 5,000 or more looter’s holes at each site over the course of five years.

Hanson also stressed that certain artifacts had been recovered after being found in the presence of weapons, such as AK-47s—marking a tie between the arms market and the black antiquities market. In a really somber moment, she stated that we do not really know where these works go after they have been dug up: “We don’t have a great answer. I don’t know.” Hanson then stated what measures are out there, legally, for protecting sites, such as CIPA, Customs Enforcement, and the Hague Convention which calls for sites to be protected during wartime. However, it was pointed out that sadly, these are more measures for protecting what is looted from sites in the hopes of recovering them. Hanson brought a very somber topic to the conference, but it was certainly one worth hearing and will, hopefully, advocate more work towards protecting archaeological sites in Iraq and around the world.

August 4, 2011

Art Crime Roundup: Riopelle Statues Recovered

Damaged Riopelle sculptures recovered (Photo by The Canadian Press)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Editor-in-Chief

VANCOUVER, CANADA - The August 3 edition of Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, delivered to most hotels, homes and newsstands in "The World's Most Livable City", lead off its Globe Index on the front page highlighting an article on Page 3:
'Those guys were imbeciles' Art gallery owner Simon Blais on the metal thieves who tried to make off with a 1,000-pound bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle in Montreal. The artwork was recovered hours later, broken but salvageable.
On Page 3, under the headline "'Dumb thieves' botch Riopelle heist", journalist Ingrid Peritz reported from Montreal:
A trio of hapless thieves who tried to abscond with a $1-million sculpture by famed Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle ended up ditching their treasure instead in the Quebec woods. It was retrieved - broken but salvageable.
You can also read more on art theft in Canada in Jon Hembrey's article, "Global art theft: From Rembrandt to Riopelle", on CBC News online.

Today I will be visiting The Museum of Anthropology, the site of a May 2008 theft where 12 pieces of gold artworks by Bill Reid were stolen and later recovered. You can see Noah Charney's piece on the theft published in 2008 in The National Post here. Since the robbery, the museum has undergone a renovation and expansion.

August 3, 2011

Larry Rothfield on What Museums and Archaeological Sites can to do protect themselves during times of upheaval and lessons learned from Cairo

by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Larry Rothfield, a writer-in-residence during the ARCA postgraduate program in Art and Crime Studies this year, presented his thoughts on the recent looting during the revolution in Cairo at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

"The recent revolution in Egypt provided a natural experiment or stress test of the security system that normally protects antiquities, whether in museums, or on sites or remote storerooms. What can we learn from the looting of the Cairo Museum (and from storerooms and archaeological sites around the country) about how other heritage professionals could and should be planning ahead to cope with similar situations of political instability that might strike their country?"

Rothfield described the failings of security during the recent revolution in Cairo that “allow us to see important things about the structure of heritage protection.” The lack of foresight to establish a contingency plan in the wake of the Tunisian revolution essentially left the Cairo museum unguarded and allowed a mob of one thousand people to break in to the gift shop of the museum, a very few of whom were able to then penetrate the galleries and steal a small number of artifacts. Some of these looters were apprehended by citizens who formed a human chain around the museum to protect it from further thefts.

Rothfield questioned why the “Pharoah of Antiquities,” Zahi Hawass, was not better prepared for the eventuality of the looting, the timeline involving his resignation and subsequent re-instatement after Mubarak’s toppling, the inaccurate reporting on the series of events surrounding the looting, and due to some strange coincidences, whether the thefts could have possibly been an inside job. He went on to list six lessons learned:
1. Contingency plans are needed to assure the safety of museums and cultural heritage sites during times of normal security breakdown.
2. Antiquities ministries are interested in scholarship and excavations and aren’t particularly interested in site security.
3. Well-conserved sites that are not armed are not protected.
4. Sites and museums can be protected by a mobilized public and dedicated civil servants.
5. There is no substitution for police, or militarized police, in general lawlessness.
6. Tourism revenue alone will not provide locals with enough incentive to protect heritage if doing so become too dangerous.
In response to questions regarding the arming of guards he said that he did not believe in simply handing out guns and that a contingency plan, training and an “all hands on deck” approach would have prevented the little looting that did occur. He also stressed that the situation in Cairo was very different than the issues that Donny George at the Baghdad Museum faced during wartime. An article in the Guardian published during the conference discussed Mr. Rothfield’s views in more detail.

Larry Rothfield is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, where he co-founded and directed the Cultural Policy Center from 1999-2008. He has published on a wide array of subjects in cultural policy. His last book, The Rape of Mesopotamia (University of Chicago Press, 2009) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the causes for the failure of US forces to secure the Iraq National Museum and the country's archaeological sites from looters in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

August 2, 2011

Courtney McWhorter on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art”

by Jessica Graham Nielsen

ARCA welcomed one of the newest scholars to the field, Courtney McWhorter, as she presented her paper on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art” in the “Fresh Perspectives” panel at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

McWhorter described the different and changing ways we have valued art over time: from placing a high value on the aesthetic experience; to subsequently valuing its specific place in history; to the current trend of appreciating it more in economic terms. She proposed that as the perceptions of the value of art have changed, so has our acceptance and tolerance for copies and forgeries:
"I will show how art is valued today according to its historicity, rather than its aesthetic capabilities. Such a claim explains why forgeries could have once been acceptable, but now are not because they falsify history."
McWhorter explained that in the Renaissance, art was valued for the aesthetic experience it could impart. Scholars looked to the Ancients for inspiration on how to think about art and embraced Plato and Aristotle’s theories. The Greek philosophers considered art to be a mere copy of the ideal, and that its primary objective should be to evoke a feeling. Thus, when the Duke of Mantua was told that the “Raphael” he had coveted and that had been (reluctantly) given to him by Ottavio de Medici was in reality a copy by Andrea del Sarto, he reportedly said that he “valued it no less than if it were by the hand of Raphael.” In his mind the genius was in Sarto’s perfect copy – an improvement on the original. The copy had artistic merit in its own right.

McWhorter then discussed the 20th century and used Van Meegeren’s “Vermeers” as an example of how the value of art has shifted to one of historicity. Originally esteemed as some of Vermeer’s greatest masterpieces when they were “discovered,” they were disparaged by critics as worthless fakes once Van Meegeren was forced to admit (and prove) that he had actually painted them. The career of the connoisseur who had enthusiastically welcomed them as the long hoped for missing link between Vermeer’s earliest religious work and the small domestic scenes he became associated with later, was ruined. It was the great value placed on art’s historical relevance that Van Meegeren had exploited for the conception and acceptance of his Vermeer pastiches.

Lastly McWhorter turned to the current obsession of valuing art as an economic asset. She showed several images of editorial headlines proclaiming the monetary losses various collectors, including the actor Steve Martin, had suffered by being duped by fakes and forgers such as the “German Ring.” She blamed the auction houses for the current commodification of art and although she did not expand on it, she alluded to a developing phenomenon of fakes becoming just as economically valuable as some of the works they imitate.

Courtney McWhorter is currently completing her final year as an Honors student at Brigham Young University, working towards a Bachelors in Art History.