October 31, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Journalist Colin Gleadell on "overvaluation" of the seven stolen paintings

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

So much has been written about the October 16 theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam that it takes a long time to sift through so much of the published material to find original information on the internet.  However, Colin Gleadell writing for Britain's Telegraph grabbed my attention with the headline "Stone Dutch works wildly overvalued".

Last week ARCA's CEO Lynda Albertson wrote about the Triton Foundation here on this blog, finding that the collection assembled in the last two decades had been infrequently exhibited, had no website and had its first big show of 150 of the works this month at the Kunsthal Rotterdam ("Avant-Gardes").

This December, Yale University Press is publishing "Avant-Gardes, 1870-1970, The Triton Collection" ($125, cloth) , a 568-page book by Sjraar van Heugten, an independent art historian and a former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (about 60 kilometers north of Rotterdam).  The Triton Foundation's collection contains approximately 250 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from more than 170 Western artists dating from 1870 to 1970  including George Braques, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning, Lucien Freud, Roy Lichtenstein, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol ("Avante-Gardes").

The statement attributed to the director of the Kunsthal Rotterdam Emily Ansenk posted on the art gallery's website identifies the stolen paintings adding that the investigation will be handled by the police.  As to the seven stolen paintings, Ansenk states: "Perhaps we should add that all stolen works have been internationally registered and described and are therefore unsaleable.  We are not prepared to comment on the value of the works."

Historically, published accounts of art thefts have attached a value to the paintings which thieves have used as a basis for a ransom demand.

However, Gleadell, who has written extensively on the art market, assesses the value of the seven stolen paintings between "£12.5 million and £16 million" based on experts familiar with the collection who wished to remain anonymous:  
Some pictures that were thought to be oil paintings were in fact much less valuable pastels or drawings on paper, and none of the stolen pictures measured more than 13in by 16in – handy enough for the thieves to tuck under their arms. Monet’s oil paintings of the Thames, made when he stayed at the Savoy Hotel in 1901, have fetched as much as £18 million at auction. But the two stolen Monets were small pastels the likes of which have never sold for more than £250,000 at auction.
The Picasso, a late work, was also a small coloured drawing on paper, not an oil painting.
Picasso’s large, late oil paintings have made £10 million at auction, hence a guesstimate by Forbes of £9.7 million. But late drawings of this size have never sold for over a million pounds, though the quality of this one may lift it to seven figures.
The International Herald Tribune came up with a punchy $130 million figure for the Picasso and Matisse alone, and while the Matisse was indeed an oil painting – larger, more sumptuous interiors of seated or reclining women have made £10 million or more – the small scale of this work and less seductive pose of the sitter led our experts to place a value of between £3 million and £4 million on it. 
Similarly, the Gauguin is an early painting from 1888, so is of historical interest, but would not command anything like the sums generated by his sought-after Tahitian pictures. Our experts granted it a £3 million to £4 million estimate. 
The self-portrait by the lesser-known Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan is more difficult because so few of his works have been sold at auction and none for more than £600,000. A friend of Gauguin’s, he painted this when the two were in Brittany in the late 1880s. And while it is stylistically related to the Frenchman’s work of the time, it is a small masterpiece by de Haan; thus a figure of £2 million has been suggested. 
The only contemporary work to be stolen was a portrait of the young journalist Emily Bearn by Lucian Freud, painted in 2002. Although Freud’s late work tends to be less sought after, this is a remarkably tender portrait and has been included in several museum exhibitions. Our experts estimate that it should be worth about £3 million. 

October 29, 2012

Bill Reid Theft 2008: Postmedia News obtains RCMP and university campus security records to answer outstanding questions about the heist of UBC's Museum of Anthropology and the investigation that followed

Haida artist Bill Reid's art safely back on display
 at UBC's Museum of Anthropology (Photo Sezgin)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

More than four years after robbery at University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver Canada, journalist Douglas Quan has been persistent in obtaining information about the theft and the investigation that led to the recovery of the stolen Bill Reid jewelry:
Newly released RCMP and university campus security records obtained by Postmedia News through federal and provincial access-to-information laws, plus court documents, offer a fuller picture of the mysterious theft and its bizarre fallout.
At about 4:40 a.m. on May 24, 2008, thieves removed "a glass panel" from the back of the museum, "unleashed a cloud of bear spray, presumably to repel any guards who might try to intervene" and smashed a glass showcase to steal $2 million of jewelry designed by Haida artist Bill Reid (Quan, quoting campus security report).  The heist was estimated to have taken less than 3 minutes (compared to the more than 2-minute Kunsthal Rotterdam heist on October 16).  According to Quan's review of the report, "security cameras stopped recording before the break-in".  UBC's Museum of Anthropology has since been renovated and expanded.

Quan points out that in 2008 the security guard at the Museum of Anthropology had been widely reported to be on a smoking break at the time of the robbery:
Contrary to media reports that suggested he had been on a smoke break and apparently oblivious to trouble, the guard alerted dispatch when the alarms started wailing, the former security officer said.
Protocol at the time dictated that the guard stay put and that dispatch send another officer to walk through the museum.  But the walk-through never happened, the former security officer said.
An alarm falsely attributed to "invalid"and a "false sense of security" (Quan) were problematic.

According to Quan, the investigation, led by the RCMP major crimes section, involved an anonymous tip within days of the theft; police surveillance of the suspect; background checks on construction workers involved in the renovation of the museum, a fired security guard, and "disgruntled" artists who had worked with Reid.  A search of a home connected to a man with "at least 11 convictions for property crimes" led to the recovery of "all but two of the stolen items" on June 8 (just a little more than two weeks after the theft).  By August the other items were recovered: "The last piece, the argillite pipe, was dropped off anonymously. (Quan)"

Then in January 2009, CBC reported the RCMP had paid $20,000 to a criminal informant for "help with the investigation."  According to Quan, the RCMP "would not say this week who received the money or how much was paid" and the case is "unresolved" and that "two years after charges were recommended in the museum heist, Crown counsel notified RCMP there wasn't enough evidence to lay charges."

October 26, 2012

Theft Anniversary: Two artifacts (Assyrian and Roman) stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art last year


by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Last year on October 26, someone stole two ancient sculptures from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  Three months later, the Montreal Gazette and AXA Art, the insurance company which insured the pieces, released a video on YouTube from the surveillance camera inside the museum showing a suspect wanted for questioning in the investigation.

AXA Art Insurance issued a press release dated February 13, 2012: "AXA Art Offering Substantial Reward for Safe Recovery of Rare Artifacts".  The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts issued no press release in 2011 or 2012 regarding the theft, a reward, or an ongoing investigation -- at least it's not listed on the museum's website.

The Sûreté du Québec's Art Alerte publicized the stolen works  and the poster in English and French offering the "Substantial Reward" also on February 14 (Alain Dumouchel responded in an email at that time that the Montreal police were in charge of the investigation).  The Art Alerte for Case File: 11-98 also included a picture of the suspect captured by the museum's surveillance cameras.

Reward Poster

The "Head of a guard" (fragment of a low relief) is estimated to as old as 5th century BCE from Persepolis (Persia), the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 BC).

Assyrian low relief Sandstone, 21 x 20.5 x 3 cm
A marble head dating from the Roman
 Empire 20,2 x 13,3 x 8,5 cm
The second object, Head of a Man (Egypto-archaizing style) of yellow Numidian marble, is dated from the Roman Empire around 1st century A.D.

Neither of these objects was highlighted in the MMFA's museum guide.

In 1972, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was the site of Canada's largest art theft when three thieves stole 18 paintings, including a painting attributed to Rembrandt.  The theft remains unsolved after an aborted ransom attempt and 17 of the paintings are still missing.

October 25, 2012

ARCA Lecturer Dorit Straus' on how a stolen violin inspired "Orchestra of Exiles"

Bronislaw Huberman with Albert Einstein
 who was instrumental in raising funds to
 start the orchestra./Orchestra of the Exiles
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The documentary opening tomorrow in New York City, “Orchestra of Exiles”, tells the story of cultural preservation of people and music, and also features the family history of one of ARCA’s Lecturers, Dorit Straus, who returns each summer to Amelia to teach “Investigation, Insurance and the Art Trade”. Before Ms. Straus studied archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, her father was one of many musicians who escaped Jewish persecution from the Third Reich.

The film's writer, director, and producer Josh Aronson spent two years filming in Germany, Poland, Israel and New York.  The film centers on the story of polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman’s struggle to bring Jewish classical musicians to British Palestine in 1936 to found what would later become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

One of those musicians, David Grunschlag, was Dorit Straus’ father. We asked Ms. Straus via email about the film -- and discovered her story also involved an anecdote about a stolen -- and recovered -- Stradivarius violin once owned by Bronislaw Huberman.

ARCA Blog: According to Mr. Aronson, it was your dedication to honor Huberman’s memory that was the initial driving force behind this film.   Could you elaborate for us?
Ms. Straus: In 1995 I set down with my father to do an oral history about his life as a musical prodigy and what it was like to live in Vienna during the the 20s.  I was particularly interested to know if there was any intersection between the musical life and the visual arts, since it was such an interesting time in the arts. I also knew that he was Bronsilaw Huberman's protege and I wanted to know more about what it was like to be a "Wunderkind" and what exactly his interactions were with Huberman. My father told me about growing up poor but rich in talent which opened all kinds of doors for him.  He played in some of the most opulent homes in Vienna. There was indeed a direct link to the visual arts as both my father and his sisters would often play in the homes of the wealthiest Viennese families including the Bloch-Bauer family.  My father told me how Bronislaw Huberman was one of the most famous violinists of his time and very hands-on in my father's education -- sending him to Berlin at age 14 to study at the most famous music academies such as "Hochshule fur music" so that he would have a very rounded education.  At the same time, Huberman took care of finding my father a patron in Berlin to live with and arranged to pay for all the expenses through his personal banker.
The following year, my father passed away so it was very lucky for me to have this material to keep for future generations of my family.  In 2004, I was attending a conference in Dresden and decided to make a trip to Berlin to see if I could find any materials relating to my father's studies in Berlin.  I was so surprised to find so much material in the archives of the conservatory including letters from Huberman's banker as well as letters from my grandfather relating to my father's stay there. I connected with my father's younger sisters who were duo pianists, and for the first time I heard how Huberman had personally arranged for them to leave Vienna in 1939 when they had no hope of getting out.  I had never heard that story before and that was a real awakening for me. A few years later, I was visiting family in Israel and noticed that in the hall where the IPO plays there was no mention of Huberman at all or of the founding members so I went to the orchestra management.  In 2006, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the orchestra, we dedicated a plaque to Huberman and all the founding musicians at a wonderful ceremony with Zubin Mehta and descendants of the original players.
Around the same time, I met by chance Joshua Bell who was riding on the NY subway carrying with him the Stradivarius that used to belong to Huberman.  The violin was stolen in 1936 when Huberman was playing at Carnegie Hall raising money for his orchestra.  The violin did not surface for 50 years when in 1986 the thief on his death bed confessed to his wife that he had stolen it. She reported it to the police and got a reward. The police turned the violin over to the insurance company who sold it through a well known violin dealer to Norbert Brainin the violinist of the Amadeus String Quartet, and eventually in 2004 Joshua Bell purchased it from Norbert.  I felt that this was a sign from heaven, and that it was up to me to remind the world who Huberman was and what he did to save so many musicians from certain death. First I produced a concert in Vienna with Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk to commemorate Huberman and that led to the film.
ARCA Blog: What was your role in the development of the film?
Ms. Straus: First, I pitched the idea to Josh Aronson.  Then I helped in the research and made introductions in Israel to the General Manager of the Israel Philharmonic and many of the people who are featured in the film -- like the violin maker Amnon Weinstein; the composer Tzvi Avni who complied the Huberman archives with Huberman's secretary Ida Ibbeken after Huberman died in 1947;  Leon Botstein who told me that everything about Huberman interested him and he would be happy to help. Leon did a marvelous job in providing historical context and more, and last but not least my aunt Rosi Grunschlag who died  earlier this year who has an incredibly moving interview sort of in the "golden section" of the movie telling how Huberman helped them.
I helped in translations from Hebrew as well as giving advise about images and identifying people.  I found a not-for-profit entity with a mission compatible with the subject of the film who were able to offer tax deductible charitable deductions for contributions.  I contributed financially, as well as raised money from others, wrote letters asking for support, and spoke to anyone who would listen about the film.  For the last three years in addition to my "day" job, I was totally absorbed in the project.  This was a large project with a budget of over $1 million.  We started the film just when the (Bernie) Madoff scandal came out -- so raising money was incredibly difficult when so many Jewish foundations and funders who would have naturally supported such a project were not in a position to do so. So it is incredible that we were able to complete the film without going into a deficit.
ARCA Blog: The website for “Orchestra of Exiles” says that the movie sets out to answer two questions: “How did living through WWI and the Depression change Huberman from a self-absorbed eccentric genius into an altruistic statesman dedicated to egalitarian politics and humanism? How did Nazism and its cultural policies ignite Huberman and inspire him to bring music to Palestine, to save Jews and to fight anti-Semitism?” What is your personal response?
Ms. Straus:  Josh Aronson the filmmaker, did a fabulous job in answering these questions.  When I started out to make this film it was going to be a small personal story, but Josh -- through his research and his creative mind -- saw the bigger picture and asked these questions and answered them very dramatically in the film.
ARCA Blog:  What does Huberman have to teach us today about being heroic and living productive lives that make a difference to others?
Ms. Straus:  In Huberman’s case, the producers of the movie estimate he saved more than 1,000 lives. What made him different from the others who felt so powerless against a repressive government? I think that is the question that is most difficult to answer - why would someone at the height of his career dedicate himself totally to the plight of others when he could have gone to Switzerland and then to the US and continued with his career -- unlike ordinary people, there would have been little difficulty for him to relocate  particularly as early as 1933 -- but that is what makes him and Arturo Toscanini and Pablo Casals unique -- they had a broader world view and a conscious and they acted upon it!
"Orchestra of Exiles" opened October 26th at New York City's Quad Theater at 13th Street between 5th and 6th. NOTE:  The Quad Cinema at 34 W 13th Street is back up and running post hurricane Sandy and the documentary will be running from Friday November 16th for another week.  Josh Aronson will be at the 7:30 showing on Sunday, November 18th for Q & A.

Simultaneously, the film will be shown in LA at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 and will open soon at the Laemmle Monica - both on a limited schedule.  Please consult the Laemmle Theaters website for schedule.  The film will also be screened in the Hudson Valley at Upstate Films November 16th.

In Europe, the documentary will premiere at the Berlin Jewish Museum on November 22 with a 2nd Berlin screening on November 23rd and in Paris on December 11th and on January 15th.

Here’s a link to the film’s trailer and more information about the film: www.orchestraofexiles.com.

Here's a link to an interview with Josh Aronson and his meeting with Ms. Straus and her story about Joshua Bell and the stolen violin.  And here on Joshua Bell's website is the "Story of His Violin".

October 24, 2012

Former FBI Agent Virginia Curry on Cultural Security, Fire and Safety, and “Utility” of stolen art

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Virginia Curry, a licensed security consultant, was the FBI Agent responsible for the facilities security and personnel security for 35 locations in greater Los Angeles subsequent to the events of 9-11.  Ms. Curry provided perspective on the trade-off between protecting buildings against theft and protecting people in the event of an emergency. Prior to becoming an FBI Special Agent, Ms. Curry surveyed and approved casino security measures in Atlantic City as a New Jersey state investigator.  I followed up via email with Ms. Curry recently to ask her professional opinion regarding the thieves breaking into the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16:
This is about safety and risk management.  Fire and safety codes always ensure that, in the event of an emergency, all doors must release from the inside to allow someone inside during an emergency to exit to safety. The preservation of human life is more important than goods or money (even in a casino).
Without going into further detail, what they did was actually more of a takeoff on the scheme of "How to Steal a Million" [the 1966 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole] where the thieves took advantage of the weakness of a security system and the human element.  In this Rotterdam case, the human element was again the sanctity of life over the value of property. The perpetrator did not necessarily have to include a member of museum staff, but rather someone who had access to the building prior to this event.
You cannot change the default setting on the inside door releases in an emergency. As pointed out earlier by Ton Cremers, institutions need to make it harder for someone to get to what they are trying to protect. Building in physical delays such as walls and doors is like building a maze around a high value item "the cheese".
Security professionals assessing risk always determine how long it takes to breach the security measures, resolve the maze and return to safely exit the facility in a direct comparison to the primary responders. If the protocol calls for an alarm to be verified prior to the notification of the police, this delays the police response time, which is also predicated on their own law enforcement priorities.
I very much concur with Dr. Tom Flynn’s recent assessment that stolen art has “utility”. The power of “utility” in economic theory is not necessarily always measured in a cash value.

October 23, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Challenging the blame on the fire alarm automatically opening the back doors for the thieves?

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Dutch Journalist Niels Rutger questions the Kunsthal Rotterdam's statement yesterday that the gallery's doors automatically unlock in the event a fire alarm is triggered. Rutger asks why should the doors unlock at night when the gallery is closed and no visitors are at risk? Security consultant Ton Cremers, founder of Museum Security Network, tells Rutger that the art gallery's emergency door can be pushed open from inside the building and that disarming the locks would make it easy for the thief to pry open the doors.

Thomas Escritt writing for Reuters from Rotterdam on the unbolted doors: The apparent ease with which the thieves entered and escaped has raised questions about the Kunsthal's security system and whether an insider was involved. The Kunsthal said in a statement on Monday that the electronic locks on its doors were in working order, but were designed to automatically unbolt shortly after the burglar alarm was set off. After that, only mechanical door locks stood between the intruders and the Kunsthal's treasures. "The theft on Monday night suggests the intruders forced the lock after the unbolting, presumably quickly," the statement said. The thieves forced the mechanical lock on an emergency exit at the rear of the ground floor gallery. Police arrived at the scene within five minutes, but the intruders had already gone.

Bruce Waterfield for Britian's telegraph.com also writes that "the gang broke a physical lock on an emergency door". Niels Rutger reported last week that a piece of plastic had been used to disengaged the deadbolt (Mr. Rutger confirmed via email to the ARCA Blog that his information was from discussions with security personnel).

According to Bloomberg News' Catherine Hickly in Berlin, the Kunsthal has made "adjustments to its locking system" and its "alarm, camera, and entrance control systems were all inspected in the past few months and a new fire alarm and smoke detectors were installed earlier this year."

Kunstahl's Surveillance video captures thieves in action

The surveillance video from the Kunsthal released on Oct. 20, four days after the theft, shows how two or three individuals entered a rear door of the gallery and removed the paintings in about 2 minutes and 13 seconds. My best guess at viewing the portion of the video released on NOS.nl is that at 3:22:23 a.m. (22 minutes later than initially reported last Tuesday after the theft), someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt is followed by a shorter hooded person into the gallery. I cannot tell if a third person is left outside holding open the door. At 3:24:00, the taller person exits through the door with paintings sticking out of a back on his back. Two seconds later, the second person leaves in the same way. At 3:24:08, someone runs back inside and leaves with supposedly more paintings 16 seconds later. At 3:24:36, the door of the gallery is shut. I asked Mr. Cremers for his professional opinion and this is what he emailed back:
The director stated in a press release that security of the Kunsthal is state of the art, but this unique theft took just two minutes. The CCTV coverage is absolutely below standard. There was no fire alarm, so this press release about fire alarms opening doors - which is absurd during closing hours - is very irrelevant. I have been on Dutch national TV calling for this director to resign because she neglected security, and shows to be fully incompetent.
Here on Ad.NL (Algemeen Dagblad, a major Dutch newspaper) a visitor to the Kunsthal Rotterdam last summer tells of how he and a friend were mistakenly locked inside the same exhibition space that was robbed last week until the security alarm went off and the doors opened to let them out -- and stood around talking about the incident for ten minutes (the Kunsthal denies the timing of this).  Reuters also reported that the motion detector had been repaired in August.

Art historian (and ARCA lecturer) Tom Flynn on his blog "artknows" writes on Kunsthal's security and CCTV footage:
Instead all we have on the Rotterdam heist are a few seconds of grainy CCTV camera footage that might have been shot by Eisenstein on a bad day. So will someone please tell me the purpose of what Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk herself described as a “multi-million-euro high-tech...state-of-the-art security system” if all it can do is mimic out-takes from early Expressionist cinema? And the Oscar goes to....the CCTV camera companies! (for pulling off the greatest multi-million-dollar heist of all).
As for the value of the stolen paintings taken from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last week, Caleb Molby writing for Forbes.com estimates the value of the seven paintings from $36 million to $100 million (Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin" last auctioned in 2007 for $15.16 million).

October 22, 2012

The Art Theft of Cellini's Saliera: Security Scrutiny in a high profile theft

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The Kunstahl Rotterdam is not alone.  Almost a decade ago, another famous art heist in Europe captured headlines and museum officials faced charges of inadequate security.  Jeffrey Fleishman and Sonya Yee reported for The Los Angeles Times that on May 11, 2003, Benvenuto Cellini's saliera (saltcellar), a rare gold-plated sculpture, was stolen from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum.


The Cellini Saliera heist set off a three-year "nightmare" for the museum as the Austrian press accused it of "lax security", Richard Bernstein reported for The New York Times ("For Stolen Saltcellar, a Cell Phone is Golden").


In January 2006, Robert Mang, a 50-year-old "specialist in security alarms" lead police to "a wooded area 50 miles outside of Vienna where he had buried the legendary 10 inch-high sculpture inside a lead box" (Bernstein):

In September 2006, the BBC reported that Mang was "jailed for four years" for the theft of the Cellini Saliera which Mang called a "prank".

A few days ago, Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art investigator and now a private investigator, had this to say about the thief:
Robert Mang was almost a teetotaler who lived in Zwettel, 50 miles north of Vienna.  He was a security alarm engineer who, from another source, at his trial was so attractive (like some latter day Rudolph Valentino) to the women of Vienna that some of them sent him their knickers and house keys. He served a short sentence. The guard who turned off the alarm system when it was activated had recently married a Serbian lady. I thought her relatives might be interesting for the police to look at. The cops did a good job catching Mang.

"Lady in Gold" author Anne-Marie O'Connor spoke of "an age of restitution" in Nazi-looted art disputes at Rutgers University


by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Correspondent

In the eventful weekend of the annual CHAPS Conference at Rutgers University, I could not help but be interested in the multitude of flyers posted in Voorhees Hall announcing upcoming talks and events.  Of particular interest was an announcement for a talk given by Anne-Marie O’Connor on her book The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.”  So after enjoying a weekend long conference, I made my way back to New Brunswick to hear O’Connor speak about her recounting of the history of Klimt’s painting.

Standing in a small classroom, Anne-Marie O’Connor gave a brief account of the history of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the restitution case concluded only a few years ago.  In an almost disarmingly candid manner, O’Connor told the tale that was “not just a restitution of art but a restitution of history,” sparking discussions of the issues surrounding restitution during the following question period.  The case of this particular painting opened the door on restitution of Nazi-era looted art, ushering in, as O’Connor dubbed it, “an age of restitution.”  An appropriate name since the Hague will be hosting an international symposium on “Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes, status quo and new developments” on November 27, 2012.  As more restitution cases come to light, more undiscovered histories, like those recounted in The Lady in Gold, are laid out for the world to discover.

If you have not read O’Connor’s book, please see Catherine Schofield Sezgin’s review of the book (in three parts) and hunt down a copy of the book to enjoy the complex and extraordinary tale of this painting.

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Anne-Marie O'Connor's "The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Anne-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings (Knopf, 2012):
In 1907, Gustav Klimt finished the portrait of 24-year-old Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a wealthy art patron who lived across the square from Vienna's Fine Art Academy.  In the same year, that same art school would reject Adolf Hitler's application for admission because he failed the drawing exam.  More than three decades later, these two events collided when a Nazi stole this portrait from the home of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jew who had fled Europe's great cultural center when Austria united with Hitler's fascist regime.
In Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings, journalist Anne-Marie O'Connor tells the story of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which would sell for $135 million to an American in 2007.  O'Connor first describes the relationship between Klimt, his Jewish art patrons, and the cultural environment in pre-Nazi Austria.  From the point of view of the Bloch-Bauer family we are told of the collaboration between Austria and the German Nazis to loot Jewish art collections.  The book concludes with the legal struggles of American attorney Randy Schoenberg to navigate the U. S. legal system and help Maria Altmann and the other surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family to recovery four stolen Klimt paintings.  It's a story of how a legitimate government corrupted legislation to steal from, and murder, its own citizens.
Against the backdrop of the murder of 6 million Jews, restitution of stolen art may seem unimportant, especially as newspapers today sport headlines of Jewish families recovering and then selling artworks for millions of dollars.  Why is it so important that these paintings are returned to the families now? Weren't these issues of restitution settled decades ago when Allied forces discovered stolen art in the salt mines of Germany after the war? And why does the American legal system have to get involved in these cases, almost seven decades after armistice? Isn't this a metter for the government of Austria to decide? Lady in Gold answers these questions.
You may read this review by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

The CHAPS Conference: A Personal Perspective on Preservation of Cultural Landscapes


by Kaitlin King Murphy, ARCA Alum 2011

The CHAPS conference ("Cultural Landscapes: Preservation Challenges in the 21st Century, October 12-14, 2011, Rutger's University) allowed me to see a new dimension of cultural heritage preservation and protection.  Landscapes themselves are tangible but as we heard from the presenters, there is a spiritual dimension that is lost to a Westernized mindset.  In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO, I was pleased to learn about other cultures and what they have been doing behind the scenes for years in terms of preserving and protecting their lands.  These voices truly provided important perspectives on what we can do both locally and internationally to move forward in sharing the natural landscape.

In the news, we hear about war torn countries and their cultural losses within their landscapes which include geographical territories, sacred burial grounds, statues and other art works. Closer to home in the US, we have our own deep cultural history that has been firmly rooted in our terrain that is lost to development, environmental forces, and general lack of understanding.  From Pueblos to Olmsted planned gardens, we have our own struggles in how to preserve, re-discover, and protect our heritage.  We are fortunate because there are public and non-profit organizations dedicated to these sites as money is allotted and raised for such endeavors.  The challenge is in how to work together to establish and reach goals to continue with our combined traditions.

The conference was a great platform for the collaboration of efforts and helped me understand the importance of cultural landscapes through a non-Westernized perspective.  Thinking in this way was a bit of a deviation from my usual, show up at a world class museum and apply a Western interpretation to the history to the art works.  The landscapes are the museums, living museums.  While I don't practice the traditions of the other cultural groups, I can appreciate their pride, thankfulness, and dedication to their cultural preservation. 

The way in how we use and interpret our land is an art form across the world.

October 20, 2012

Police Release Surveillance Video for Kunsthal Art Theft

The Rotterdam-Rijnmond police in The Netherlands posted this surveillance feed of the break in at the Kunsthal on October 16 at around 3:15 am.


The police are asking any Kunsthal visitors who have footage of their visit to the exhibition to please come forward so that investigators can look for any similarities between the thieves pictured in this footage and possible visitors to the Kunsthal in the days leading up to the event.

The police also ask viewers of this footage to take a close look at the bags the thieves are carrying in this footage and to notify authorities if they have seen anyone carrying anything similar.

If you have, or if you have footage of your visit, please contact the Dutch police by calling  011 + 31 0800-6070 or contact the Criminal Intelligence Unit at 011 + 31 079-3458999.

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Dutch News Show Reports Theft

This Dutch news show on the Kunsthal Rotterdam art theft is the one that generated tips that were turned over to the police.

Images include the robbed art gallery inside and out, the surrounding museum park area, and those of the Rotterdam Police spokesman.

Associated Press video shows excerpt from Kunsthal Rotterdam press conference after theft of seven paintings


This video posted on YouTube, mostly in Dutch with the exception of security consultant Ton Cremers speaking in English, shows the Kunsthal Rotterdam's director announcing the theft of seven paintings at  a press conference.

October 19, 2012

Dutch Journalist Reports Kunsthal Rotterdam thieves used plastic to bypass the deadbolt on a back door

Journalist Niels Rigter for Metronieuws.nl reported here online that the guards have said that thieves employed the flipper method ("flippermethode") to open the back door of the Kunthal Rotterdam to steal seven paintings on October 16.

According to Rigter, the "flipper theory" suggests someone placed a flexible piece of plastic between the door jamb and the deadbolt in order to unlock the door.  It would be why police found no traces of a break-in.  It would indicate that someone inside the art gallery was an accomplice to the theft.

Rigter reported that the Dutch police have not yet commented on the "flipper" theory and that the Kunsthal was not available for comment on Thursday.

We've reproduced Rigter's text in Dutch for clarification:
De plegers van de miljoenenroof uit de Kunsthal in Rotterdam zijn het museum binnengekomen door de achterdeur met de zogeheten flippermethode te openen. Dat zeggen beveiligers van de Kunsthal. Het zou betekenen dat de deur van de Kunsthal in de nacht van maandag op dinsdag niet op het nachtslot heeft gestaan. Bij de flippermethode wordt een hard, buigzaam stuk plastic tussen deurpost en deur gestoken om de slotschoot weg te duwen. De deur gaat dan eenvoudig open. 
De ‘flippertheorie’ verklaart waarom aan of rond de Kunsthal geen braaksporen zijn aangetroffen. Dat de deur niet op het nachtslot stond, maakt hulp van binnenuit waarschijnlijk. 
In de nacht van maandag op dinsdag vond in de Kunsthal  een van de grootste kunstroven uit de Nederlandse geschiedenis plaats. Om kwart over drie kwamen de dieven binnen via de deur aan de achterkant. Ze konden zo doorlopen; een nachtwaker was er niet en rond de duurste werken was geen extra compartiment gebouwd. Een paar minuten later stonden de kunstrovers buiten hun buit in hun busje   te laden: zeven zeer waardevolle schilderijen van Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Gauguin, Meyer de Haan en Lucien Freud. De politie wil vooralsnog niet ingaan op de ‘flippertheorie’. De Kunsthal was donderdagavond onbereikbaar voor commentaar.
In 1972, a plastic tarp placed over a broken skylight disengaged the security alarm the night the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was robbed (see Canada's largest art theft).

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" announced by Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police

Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police in The Netherlands released a press release on their website regarding progress in the investigation of the October 16 burglary at the Kunsthal (Dutch for art gallery) Rotterdam in English, reflecting the international attentional received by the theft of seven stolen paintings by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Monet.

Here's a link to the press release titled "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" provided by the Dutch police.  We've copied and pasted the text here for your convenience (the likely date is October 17th):
Investigation following the art theft at the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam has shown that the suspects entered through a door at the back of the building. They seized and made off with the paintings in a very short space of time. The collection and examination of camera footage is now in full swing, as is the rest of the criminal investigation. So far no images have been found which are suitable for publication.
Burglars stole seven art works from the Kunsthal at Westzeedijk in the course of the night between Monday and Tuesday. They forced their way into the building at about quarter past three in the morning and were outside again very soon after.
The alarm went off at the security company, whereupon police and security personnel launched an investigation. There were no visible signs of forced entry outside the premises. Nor was anyone present inside the building.
Security personnel only discovered the paintings were gone after they went inside the building.
Forensic detectives made a thorough investigation, carefully securing any clues and evidence both inside the Kunsthal and in the immediate vicinity. They were able to establish how the perpetrators gained access to the building without leaving any sign of forced entry.
The Kunsthal contacted the owner of the works in question. On Tuesday morning the Kunsthal submitted an official report to the police as soon as it was ascertained for certain which paintings were involved. The publication of images attracted world-wide attention to the robbery and the stolen paintings. An international alert was also issued for the pictures.
Apart from images from inside the Kunsthal itself, camera images of the immediate vicinity were also secured. All images are being studied carefully by the detectives. So far no camera images suitable for publication have been found.
The Dutch television programme 'Opsporing Verzocht' also drew attention to the case on Tuesday evening. Images of the stolen paintings were shown during the programme.
Thanks to all the media attention, dozens of tips were received and are being investigated for their usability.
The team spoke to various witnesses. All information is still welcome. The investigators are making a particular appeal to the visitors to the Kunsthal. Did you visit the Kunsthal last week and did you see or hear anything unusual while you were there? Did you take any photos or video pictures? If so you should contact the police on 0900-8844. If you would prefer to speak to the Criminal Information Unit call 079-3458999. We would also like to speak to you if you saw any suspicious vehicles or persons in the vicinity of the Kunsthal in the period immediately leading up to the art theft.

October 18, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Ton Cremers, Dutch security consultant

Ton Cremers
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

When Tuesday's news broke about the theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, bloggers and journalists rushed to the telephones and internet to piece together the news.  Museum Security Network's Ton Cremers was quiet on the internet because he was at the crime scene.

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed Mr. Cremers, former director of security for the Rijksmuseum (the website includes a video by the Associated Press that interviews Mr. Cremers outside of the Kunsthal Rotterdam):
"The size of the theft -- seven paintings -- is remarkable, says Ton Cremers, a consultant on museum security (though not for Kunsthal Rotterdam) who spent all day at the crime scene.  Mr. Cremers, who founded Museum Security Network, a website on "cultural property protection," points out that the paintings were easily seen from outside through the windows -- maybe too easily.  "You want works of such value in the heart of your building, in a separate space," Cremers said.
What will this do to Kunsthal Rotterdam's reputation? "Oh, this is not good", said Cremers.  "This case will have a lot of international attention."  He expects the next time Kunsthal Rotterdam is organizing an exhibition, art owners will be "very critical" toward the museum before entrusting them with their expensive works." 
Mr. Cremers told the Christian Science Monitor that recovering the art is difficult.
"For paintings, that chance is around 30 to 40 percent.  On average it takes about seven years," he says.  But he notes that there is no guarantee of recovery, pointing to two works by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in December 2002.  Two thieves were sentenced for that crime in 2005, but the stolen paintings have need been recovered.
In Britain's Guardian, Mr. Cremers was quoted as saying 'that it had become easier than ever for thieves to steal paintings from even well-protected galleries like the Kunsthal.  He said some of the fault lay with its design.'
Calling the Kunsthal a wonderful museum, it was a nightmare FROM [Ton's emphasis here] a security point of view: "As a gallery it is a gem.  But it is an awful building to have to protect.  If you hold your face up to the window at the back you have a good view of the paintings, which makes it all too easy for thieves to plot taking them from the walls," he told DeVolkskrant.' (Kate Connolly, Guardian, 10/16/12, Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist
In this article on De Volksrant, Mr. Cremers says that the artworks should be placed far away from the outer shell of the building (loosely translated by Google) and that the Kunsthal Rotterdam robbery may be the biggest in the last 20 years in The Netherlands.

In this article by Anna van den Breemer in Volkskrantl.nl, Ton Cremers, from the grounds of the Kunsthal, says that once the thieves were through the door, they could easily walk throughout the entire museum with no barriers or walls around the more expensive pieces.

ARCA Blog: Mr. Cremers, could you comment on the size of the works or location within the gallery of the paintings stolen from the Triton Collection at the Kunsthal Rotterdam? Were these the most expensive paintings on display or just the easiest to locate and carry out? Had any of images of the stolen paintings been included in promotional material on the "Avante-Garde" exhibit which would have made the paintings more recognizable to thieves?
Ton Cremers: It looks as if the size of the paintings motivated the thieves to steal them, because larger, and more valuable paintings remained untouched. These really were not the paintings one would use for promotional material.
ARCA Blog: Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and Gauguin -- stolen artwork by these artists often make the headlines.  Are paintings by these artists taken because the thieves just recognize the artists names from the headlines associated with expensive paintings or possibly are these works by such prestigious artists a good sale on the black market? Do you even believe that there are buyers in South America, Europe or the Middle East willing to purchase these works even knowing that they have been stolen?
Ton Cremers: Too often art thieves are considered well educated experts on art. This is by no means reality. Art theft as a specialty hardly exists. One does not need to be an expert to know names as the ones mentioned above. The most stolen artis is Picasso, most likely because of the fame of his name. The is no market for these paintings, and there are no secret buyers for stolen art. In general famous art is collected to raise one's status, and as an investment. Both of these are not possible with stolen art. Besides: when the thieves return to the buyer of stolen art, and rob him of the looted painting. What can he do? Report this to the police? Stolen art remains for a long time in the crime scene, is used as a collateral for negotiations with insurance companies, or - the worst scenario - is destroyed because the criminals do not know what to do with it.
ARCA Blog:  If you were to compare this theft to another, what would that be? The Irish gangs who stole paintings in Britain? The Serbs who were found with the two Turners stolen from The Tate Gallery?
Ton Cremers: As long as we do not know anything about the motives of the thieves or their origin it is impossible to make any comparisons. What I can say, is that this is the largest art heis in The Netherlands since some 25 years. One really must be very cautious with speculations about organized crime, or east European gangs. When the Benvenuto Celline saliera (salt cellar) was stolen Charles Hill - former Scotland Yard - stated in the press that police were close to solving this crime, and that Serbs were involved. Later on it appeared to be a drunk local who did not prepare the burglary, and theft at all, but just climbed scaffold, broke a window, smashed a display case, and grabbed the $30 million object. This burglary, and theft took less than one minute! No preparations, no organized crime, no Serbs...just a drunk local. This too, like the Kunsthal, was an example of very poor structural security.
ARCA Blog: Some headlines have suggested that inside information must have been given to the thieves about the gallery's security.  What kind of information would this be? Are we talking about something like the fictional account in the Swedish film "Headlong" where a man working for the security firm was an accomplice in art theft?
Ton Cremers: These are just speculations, that I really do not want to participate in.
ARCA Blog: You were at the Kunsthal Rotterdam the day the theft was discovered.  How did you find out about the theft and what role, if any, did you play in the investigation?  Are the Rotterdam Police in charge of the investigation? How many officers would be assigned and how many departments would be involved?
Ton Cremers: I found out about the crime via a journalist who called me (too) early in the morning. I was at the crime scene because several TV companies wanted to interview me at the scene. I am in no way involved in the investigations. Important to know: I was not, nor am I involved in the security of the Kunsthal. Let that be quite clear. If I would be, I would not talk to journalists, or answer your questions. At the moment 25 policemen are involved in the investigations.
ARCA Blog: In this case we've read that a forensic team has searched for physical evidence such as fingerprints and that police have reviewed security videotapes and asked for information from potential witnesses.  Can you tell us if any information regarding the evidence of this crime has been made public? Will police want to share this information or will the investigation be conducted quietly?  Often it seems that the only news we get from an art heist is that paintings have been taken or recovered and that someone may or may not have been arrested (with or without the paintings).  What do you think we can expect as far as news from the Kunsthal Rotterdam art heist?
Ton Cremers: The Police are very secretive in this matter. However, there some minor information was broadcasted, asking for witnesses. This far police have received some 30 tips. It is not clear if any of these tips are valuable.
ARCA Blog: What role will any international law enforcement agencies have in this investigation?
Ton Cremers: The usual role: hardly any, other than that this theft will be in the databases of Interpol, Dutch police, the carabinieri (they still have the largest database, and gave some twenty people almost full time dedicated to maintaining this database), and of course the Art Loss Register.
ARCA Blog: Were the paintings insured and did you see anyone representing the insurance company in Rotterdam after the theft? Will the insurance company be part of the investigation?
Ton Cremers: The paintings were insured, as loans always are. It goes without saying that the insurance company - I have seen a representative insurance broker - at some point will be involved. What fascinates me is that this broker accepted this risk to have it insured, for the conditions under which these paintings were, and the remainder of the show is, displayed really are below standard.
There is one more, unpopular, statement I need to make. The director of the Kunsthal stated during a press conference that the security of the Kunsthal is 'state of the art'. A very weird statement to make after this burglary, and theft of 7 paintings valued between € 50 and 100 million (some $130,000,000). Either she still is convinced the security of her kunsthal to be 'state of the art', or she is just trying to escape her responsibility. I am very much convinced that this statement - no matter her motives - disqualifies her as a museum director. It is my strong conviction that she should make room for a manager who is qualified to do this job.
Ton, thank you so much for taking the time to 'speak' with the ARCA Blog.

October 17, 2012

Rotterdam Art Heist: ARCA in the Media

Here's a few links to ARCA associates recently published in the media:

In Noah Charney's "Secret History of Art" column for artinfo.com, the founder of ARCA writes on "Rotterdam Art Heist Likely for Ransom".

In The New York Times, ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Security Director for The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, writes as an Op-Ed Contributor about "Debunking the Myth of Glamorous Art Thieves" in "No 'Thomas Crown Affair'".

Niels Rigter of Metro published an article online here (in Dutch, loosely translated into English) quotes ARCA's CEO Lynda Albertson (also pictured) about the difficultly of selling stolen art.

Bloomberg's Catherine Hickley article, "Art Thieves Struggle to Convert Monet, Picasso Into Cash", includes an interview with ARCA CEO Lynda Albertson.

ARCA Instructor Tom Flynn's blog "artknows" in "Will we never learn from art theft? Value is in the eye of the beholder" points out that  stealing art is done for all sorts of reasons -- especially if the paintings are displayed in buildings that are "woefully deficient in security"as pointed out by Dutch security consultant Ton Cremers.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective and undercover agent

By Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective (who helped to recover "The Scream") and private investigator, shared his expertise and opinion with the ARCA Blog on the Rotterdam art heist at the Kunsthal art gallery on October 16, 2012.

ARCA Blog: The space at the 20-year-old Kunsthal Rotterdam shows temporary exhibitions and has no permanent collection. Rotterdam Police have said that the Kunsthal had a very good technological security system but no on-site guards. Did this make the Triton Foundation's collection vulnerable to theft? After all, the exhibit featured paintings by artists known to fetch high prices at highly publicized auctions.
Mr. Hill: If a museum is to show works of great art, it cannot be Fort Knox, nor a high security prison. So whatever the security at a museum, and the state of its alarm system, it will be vulnerable to attack. The best system is a combination of locks, bolts, strengthened glass, CCTV (seeing someone walking around with a balaclava on should be a clue that all is not well, if anyone is watching the monitor) and alarms with good human resources managing them 24 hours a day. That is expensive, and most museums cannot afford that combination, but they should always aspire to it and try to achieve it as best they can, particularly when they have other people's art treasures on loan for an exhibition.
ARCA Blog: This month in Santa Monica, California, a private collector, Jeffrey Gundlach, recovered stolen art valued around $2 million after offering a reward. However, other paintings from art heists -- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, and the Van Gogh Museum in 2002 have never been recovered. What are the chances of seeing these seven stolen works taken from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal?
Mr. Hill: These stolen works of art are likely to turn up again because they were stolen in an intelligent way, probably little damaged. But overall, stealing masterpieces is the most stupid thing a thief or thieves can do. They are not readily realisable as cash assets. They are unsaleable on the open market. The values attributed to them, and I read in the Independent this morning here in London that a figure for all of the stolen pictures was put at £250 million. What nonsense.
I also read that they were for some secret collector and his secret collection. More stuff and nonsense. In my experience the only Captain Nemo or Dr. No character I have ever met who collected stolen works of art is George Ortiz of Geneva. He used to show anyone his superb collection of looted antiquities, and every one of his friends and enemies knows what he has got. His main friends are the city fathers of Geneva who are set to inherit it all, and his enemies begin with Lord Renfrew, the famous Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University. Jules Verne and Ian Fleming (actually, Cubby Broccoli) invented all of that secret collector nonsense. These pictures will turn up in drugs raids and other searches over time, unless the police in Rotterdam get a good tip off soon and hit the place where they are stashed now.
ARCA Blog: The Santa Monica Police and Pasadena police in California were able to recover the stolen paintings from the Jeffrey Gundlach collection at a car stereo business and at a nearby residence. One of the paintings was recovered in Glendale during what appeared to be a sale preview. In the Gundlach robbery, the thieves also stole a Porsche and watches. This robbery is more focused on the art.
Mr. Hill: My view is that this theft was particularly well organised, done quickly and in the almost certain knowledge that the thieves and what they stole would be long gone by the time the police arrived. Also, the thieves were apparently not opportunists such as the two with a ladder at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam some years ago who smashed a window and took the two pictures nearest the broken glass, nor were they Balkan bandits with machine pistols like the ones who hit the Munch Museum in 2004, or the Buhrle Collection in Zurich a few years ago.
The closest pattern I know is of Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010. The pattern in Rotterdam the night before last was closer to that. See the art crimes of The General as he called himself, Martin Cahill of Dublin. Interestingly, one of Cahill's gang, George Mitchell, known as The Penguin, lives close to Rotterdam where he works in commodities with his Colombian, Russian, Dutch, Brit, Irish and other friends. I wonder if he has a part to play in this? He could do something about getting those pictures back, I'm sure, if any good Dutch police officer not in his pay asked him for some help.
Readers may read about Charley Hill's undercover work to recovery Edvard Munch's Scream stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 in Edward Dolnick's book The Rescue Artist. The exploits of Dublin criminal Martin Cahill are told in Mathew Hart's book The Irish Game.

We emailed a few questions to Mr. Hill that he thought we should address to our readers in the hopes of generating a thoughtful discussion:
What about the Serbian gangs who had been involved in the theft of the two Turners from the Tate Gallery which had been on loan to Frankfurt (as documented in Sandy Nairne's book Art Theft and The Case of the Stolen Turners)? Do you think the paintings, if taken by someone like that Irish gangs, would be shipped into Britain? If you were to steal these paintings from Rotterdam, what country would you ship them to?

Rotterdam Art Heist: What is the Triton Foundation?

Book cover for a volume Yale Press
 is publishing this December
by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

The Triton Collection was built over twenty years by Rotterdam oil and shipping magnate Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The collection includes approximately 250 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture.  The core of the collection consists of Western art dating from 1870 to 1970 and is reputed to be one of the 200 most important private collections in the world.

An entrepreneur and investor, Willem Cordia served as an officer with the Holland-America Line and later became a strategic investment developer and port magnate in Rotterdam.  His wife’s family was well known in the Dutch shipping world, making their fortune in the worldwide transport of dry bulk cargo like ore, coal and grain.  At the time of his death, Cordia's wealth was estimated at  € 330 million.

The Triton Collection was bequeathed to the Dutch Foundation Triton at the time of Cordia’s death.  Starting with the goal of making the collection and new acquisitions more accessible to the general public, the foundation’s overseers have loaned works from the collection to museums and temporary exhibitions.  Artworks from the collection have been loaned to international art museums such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Seoul Museum of Art and locally within the Netherlands to the Van Gogh Museum as well as the Hague Municipal Museum.

The Triton Collection focuses on innovators in modern art and includes artworks by Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, De Kooning, Dufy, Fontana, Freud, Giacometti, Kelly, Klein, Manzoni, Modigliani, Mondrian, Monet, Picabia, Picasso, Stella, Uecker, Van Dongen, Van Gogh, and Vuillard.

From 2006 to 2011, Peter van Beveren served as curator of the Triton Foundation.  The Collection is now curated by Marlies Cordia-Roeloffs, daughter of Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The exhibit on loan to the Kunsthal Rotterdam from 7 October 2012 to 20 January 2013 included more than 150 artworks selected from over 100 different artists from the vanguard, the avant-garde of western art history.  Many of the works were on display for the first time publicly.

Between the evening of the 15th and the morning of the 16th of October 2012, the following seven paintings were stolen from the exhibition:

•           Pablo Picasso : Tête d'Arlequin (1971)
•           Henri Matisse : La Liseuse and Blanc et Jaune (1919)
•           Claude Monet : Waterloo Bridge, London (1901)
•           Claude Monet: Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901)
•           Paul Gauguin : Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée (1888)
•           Meijer de Haan : Autoportrait (circa 1889-1891)
•           Lucian Freud : Woman with Eyes Closed (2002)

Rotterdam Art Heist: The Day After

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Questions remain the day after seven stolen paintings estimated to be worth "tens of millions" remain missing from the Kunsthal art gallery when yesterday morning the 20-year-old building's "state of the art" security system alerted private security, then the Rotterdam police, that the contemporary art space had been robbed.  A Picasso, two Monets, a Gauguin, a Matissee -- five of the paintings were attributed to artists favored by thieves for their fame and perceived value -- plus another by Lucien Freud (famous contemporary artist) and Meijer de Haan (1852-1895), whose name may not be as recognizable but the Dutch artist's paintings are in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (Meyer de Haan painted with Gauguin in Brittany).

Here are links to CBS News (video and text) on the heist and speculation as to whether or not it was an inside job because, as discussed by Chris Marinello of The Art Loss Register, the theft "just went too smoothly".   In the later segment, CBS News correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director, describes art thieves not as sophisticated urbanites (see Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair) but "knuckleheads" who put a lot of time into taking the paintings but will either seek assistance in selling the paintings that usually involves undercover agents, or will try to ransom the paintings back to the insurance company, or will keep the paintings for years as a 'get out of jail card'.

The question after an art heist is more overwhelmingly not who took the paintings but when or if they will ever be recovered.  Listing the stolen paintings into the database of The Art Loss Register, with the media, and other law enforcement agencies is meant to stop the sale of the works through legitimate art dealers and auction houses.

In Kate Connolly's piece yesterday in The Guardian ("Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist"), "security experts speculated that the thieves might have taken advantage of Rotterdam's port -- one of the largest in the world -- to swiftly move the paintings abroad" and that the paintings could have been "stolen to order" or held for ransom.

According to the Associated Press (published online here with the Winnipeg Free Press), Dutch police are following up on "15 tips from the public", "studying video surveillance images", and have "focused their attention on a rear door that thieves most likely used to get into the gallery before snatching the paintings."

Here DutchNews.nl reports that the Kunsthal reopened Wednesday and replaced the spaces formerly occupied by the stolen paintings with works from the Triton Foundation (and notes that journalists outnumbered visitors inside the museum).