November 30, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Hattusa Sphinx and Turkish Antiquities Repatriation Efforts" by Aaron Haines

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Aaron Haines writes about "The Hattusa Sphinx and Turkish Antiquities Repatriation Efforts":
On March 1 of 2012, Art News journalist Martin Bailey reported that the Turkish government had prohibited the loan of cultural artifacts to the New York Metropolitan Museum of art, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated that these museums have artifacts that were illegally removed from Turkey, and that the ban would be removed once the contested objects were returned.  Soon it was discovered that Turkey had given the ultimatum to many other museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Dumberton Oaks, the Museum of Art at Bowling State University, the Louvre Museum, and the Berlin Pergamon Museum.  Turkey has prohibited exhibition loans to any of these museums until the requested objects have been returned. 
Turkey has been petitioning for the return of most of these artifacts for many years, but most often these petitions have come in the form of simple requests.  This is the first time that the country has made such a widespread and forceful demand.  This should not come as a surprise, in light of recent events regarding Turkey's repatriation efforts.  Of particular importance was its recovery of the Hattusa Sphinx, returned last year from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  Turkey was forceful with Germany, and the two countries were able to quickly come to an agreement.  This success emboldened Turkey and gave it the necessary confidence to use forceful tactics with other reluctant countries and institutions that own contested objects.  Exploring the motivations and actions of both parties involved with the Hattusa Sphinx will shed further light on why Turkey recently enforced this ban and what their plans are for the future.
Aaron Haines is a teaching assistant at Brigham Young University where he is pursuing a B. A. in Art History and Curatorial Studies.  He has worked at the Museo civico in Siena, italy as well at the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University.  He recently completed training with the Provenance Research Training Organization in Magdeburg, Germany and is a Foreign Language Area Studies Scholar.

November 28, 2012

Richard "Dick" Ellis on Working with Michel van Rijn

Richard "Dick" Ellis is an art crime investigator (with The Art Management Group), the former founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Group, and a lecturer at ARCA's post-graduate program in researching art crime.

Here in this video "The Odd Couple of Art Theft" posted on YouTube, Mr. Ellis' discusses working with Mr. van Rijn, an admitted former smuggler.

November 26, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Edmund de Waal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Picador, 2010).

Edmund de Waal is a British ceramic potter and academic uses the history of his family's netsuke collection to allow readers to understand this Japanese art in his memoir:
I pick one up and turn it around in my fingers, weight it in the palm of my hand.  If it is wood, chestnut or elm, it is even lighter than the ivory.  You see the patina more easily on these wooden ones: there is a faint shine on the spine of the bridled wolf and on the tumbling acrobats locked in their embrace.  The ivory ones come in shades of cream, every color, in fact, but white.  A few have inland eyes of amber or horn.  Some of the older ones are slightly worn away: the haunch of the faun resting on leaves has lost its markings.  There is a slight split, an almost imperceptible fault line on the cicada.  Who dropped it? Where and when?
The story involves 19th century Paris, Nazi occupied Vienna, and post-war Japan.

"Not since Jonathan Harr's book, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, has a book so influenced me," Ms. Sezgin writes in the review.

Ms. Sezgin edits the ARCA blog.

You may read this article by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

November 23, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Andrew Shea's documentary film "Portrait of Wally"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Andrew Shea's documentary film Portrait of Wally:
A Nazi stole Egon Schiele's Portrait of Wally from the Vienna residence of Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray in 1939.  For three decades, until her death in 1969, Mrs. Jaray wanted to recovery her painting, even soliciting help from Dr. Rudolf Leopold, another Schiele expert and art collector who frequented her art gallery in London.
What Lea Bondi did not know was that Dr. Leopold had found her painting at the Belvedere Palace, amongst the works of the Austrian National Gallery.  The picture was mislabeled as Portrait of a Woman and identified as part of the collection of Dr. Heinrich Reiger, who had died in the Holocaust.  In the 1960s, Dr. Leopold traded another Schiele painting for the Portrait of Wally but instead of returning it to Bondi, he kept the stolen artwork for himself for more than three decades.
In 1997, Portrait of Wally was part of an Egon Schiele exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where Lea Bondi's relatives recognized her painting.  Her nephew, Henry Bondi, requested that the museum return the stolen picture to the family.  When the museum denied the request, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a subpoena to seize the painting before it could be shipped back to the Leopold Museum in Austria.
The dramatic 70-year-old battle to recover this painting is documented in the 90-minute film Portrait of Wally directed by Andrew Shea and produced by P. O. W. Productions.  This documentary uses film footage of Nazis in Austria and numerous interviews with the lawyers, journalists, and art collectors to explain an important legal case regarding the "last prisoners of World War II" (as described by Ronald Lauder, then Chairman of MoMA).
Catherine Sezgin is editor of the ARCA blog.

November 21, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Lord Byron Forged Letter: Where's the Questioned Document Analysis (QDE)?" by John Daab

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, regular contributor John Daab writes on "The Lord Byron Forged Letter: Where's the Questioned Document Analysis (QDE)?":
Lloyd Smith was an avid collector of rare books and letters amassing thousands of works upon his death.  In 1957 the Morristown National Historical Park Museum was elated to find that they were the recipient of 300,000 of Smith's works from his estate.  Contained with these artifacts was a letter from Lord Byron, the poet.  Over the last 40-50 years the letter was exhibited on occasion but, for the most part, it lay in storage (Pfister, 2011).  In 2010 the letter was scanned and brought to the attention of nearby Drew University scholars, who suspected that the work was not genuine (Appendix exhibit B). The evidence supporting the forgery call was that there were anomalies in signature, date, type of address to Captain hay (the receiver of the letter), and wording used.  The scholars argued that the signature was not that of Lord Byron, the dating of the months did not match Byron's dating, the word "affectionately" was not typical for Byron, and the use of "My dear Hay" to address Captain Hay his friend was not appropriate (Fischer, 2012 Appendix C).
To confirm the conclusion found by Drew Scholars, the National Historic Park Museum enlisted the services of Doucet Devin Fisher from the New York Public Library, a Byron scholar and member of the Byron Society.  Fisher compared the letter with the notes of a Rutgers University Byron scholar Leslie Marquand, and found that the letter was a forgery.  Fisher noted that the Byron letter under review matched a similar forgery.  What is not apparent from the various narratives and media accounts found regarding the announcement of the forgery, is a clear description of how the forgery was determined.  The fundamental rule in scholarly research and forensic examination is that another researcher may carry out the research in similar fashion and reach the same conclusion.  Verification informs reliability and, without it, specious conclusions may emerge.  What seems to be problematic and a serious issue is that those carrying out the process of document determination, in terms of authenticity, is the extent that the process establishing the forgery followed proper QDE, or Questioned Document Examination (FBI, 2009).  Before we engage in the QDE process ourselves, let us first define and discuss some of the concepts presented in the account of the latest Byron fake and those lacking in the examination.
John Daab was formerly a NYCTP Police Officer and an NYU Professor.  John holds the following designations: Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Forensic Consultant, Certified Criminal Investigator, Certified Instructor, Diplomate American Board of Forensic Examiners, Certified Homeland Security, and Certified Intelligence Analyst.  He holds the degrees of Ph.D. MA, MPS, MA, MBA, and BA.  He writes regularly for The Journal of Art Crime.

November 19, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Sword in the Museum: On Whether La Vallette's Sword and Dagger, Currently Housed in the Louvre, Should be Returned to Malta" by Mario Buhagiar

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Mario Buhagiar writes on "The Sword in the Museum: On Whether La Valette's Sword and Dagger, Currently Housed in the Louvre, Should be Returned to Malta":
The debate about the spoils of war and national heritage is always an intense one.  Whenever I ask somebody whether a recognized objet d'art which used to be in a country's possession out to be returned to its first home, I always get a resounding 'yes.'  In Malta's case, the most popular objet d'art in question is La Valette's sword.  Together with its matching dagger, the sword was a gift from Philippe II of Spain in 1565 to The Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Malta at the time, Jean Parisot De La Valette (active 1557-1568), marking the Knights of Malta's victory in the Great siege and the subsequent retreat of the Ottoman forces.(1) The set of weapons remained in the Order's possession for more than two hundred years after the death of the Grand Master, who first received it on the Order's behalf.  This sword was later taken by Napoleon's forces when they invaded Malta, and is now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Mario Buhagiar is a professor and head of the History of Art Department at the University of Malta.

November 14, 2012

Update on Pretoria Art Museum Theft

Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons
By Lynda Albertson.

Four of the paintings stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum have been found in a small private cemetery in Sunridge Park, behind the Dutch Reformed Church in Port Elizabeth.

Brigadier Marinda Mills of the South African Police Service (SAPS) said the recovered paintings appeared to be Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias (1936); JH Pierneef's Eland and bird (1961); Irma Stern's Fishing Boats (1931) and Hugo Naude's Hottentot Chief.  Mills told the press that an officer had received an early morning tip from an informant and that the paintings were recovered beneath a park bench by a patrolling canine officer.  Though no formal evaluation had been conducted, it appeared that the paintings were in good condition overall.

This photo released by the South African Police Service (SAPS)
Earlier in the week, Daywood Khans, a member of staff from the museum, speaking with interviewers from South African radio station Eye Witness News (EWN), reported that during the theft thieves, posing as students had pointed a gun at him and produced a "shopping list" of artworks.  Why the paintings were abandoned 700 miles away is still unclear.

Journalist Karabo Ngoepe from Independent Online, A South African news website had reported yesterday that law enforcement has received a tip claiming that a prominent Pretoria artist was suspected of being behind the robbery but did not name the artist.   At this time there is no confirmation that this police lead had any connection to the paintings being abandoned and no arrests have been made.



Pretoria Art Museum Theft Update: South African television stations post videos on YouTube

Here are two videos posted on YouTube of local and national television coverage of the Pretoria Art Museum heist on Sunday, November 11.







November 13, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Messenger bags may have allowed thieves to flee on foot or by bike

Painting by Gauguin stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to an article by Robbert Blokland and Jolande van der Graaf published today in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraf regarding progress on the investigation of the theft at the Kunsthal Rotterdam last month.

Here Arthur Brand, private art investigator, provided an analysis of the article along with his own commentary:
A retired Dutch police office (Dick Gosewehr) is claiming that the police are doing something wrong in their investigation of the Kunsthal Rotterdam heist if they are looking for a getaway car.  If you look carefully at the surveillance video of the theft, you can see that the bags that the the thieves are wearing are what messenger boys use in cities for delivery packages on bicycles.
The police have been desperately searching for an escape car, but these are bags used for when people are carrying something on their back while walking or on the bicycle.  His theory is that they never used a car.
 
If you go to the map showing the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the museum park, you can see it’s difficult to approach the gallery or park a car on a busy street during a robbery.  It would be less conspicuous to travel by bike or to walk because the police would have a hard time finding you.  They might have stashed the paintings somewhere near the museum and maybe 1-2-3 days later when the heat was down, they could have come back to collect the paintings.  It would explain messenger bags and no escape car.
 
The retired police officer says that the CCTV cameras focus on cars and street traffic but wouldn’t necessarily follow someone walking into the bushes.
 
Martin Cahill was known to have buried stolen paintings – and sometimes he could not find them later.
 
Half of Martin’s gang is still in The Netherlands and the Rathkeal Rovers who are still operating have been linked in the past to very big art thefts.  One of them is now in an American jail for tricking an antiques dealer.  The Rathkeal Rovers see each other every November and December when they return to their town to celebrate the holidays so they all know each other.  Irish Travelers, the Cahill gang, and the Rathkeal Rovers all know each other and deal in drugs and steal art.  The Cahill group were not originally Irish Travellers but came from the poorest level of society.
 
George Mitchell and some of the other people took their expertise with them to the Netherlands.  Kunsthall is a temporary art collection.  If they took a look back last year and saw that the paintings were visible through the glass walls then all they had to do was wait for a big exhibition and strike after it opened.  It’s not 100% but rumors go that way and it’s just too obvious.  If police ignore this link, then they are doing a bad job.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Private art investigator Arthur Brand suspects Irish gang involved in rhino horn theft last year and last month's robbery


Matisse painting stolen last month from Kunsthal

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch private art investigator Arthur Brand has a theory that ties two seemingly unrelated museum thefts together: the theft of the rhino horns from Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum and last months’ theft of paintings from the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Mr. Brand, who described himself as “well informed about art thefts in Holland”, introduced himself via the Internet and told me that I could ask former Scotland Yard detective Charley Hill to vouch for his credibility (which Mr. Hill did via email).

In a conversation via Skype, Mr. Brand extended the dialogue begun last month on the ARCA blog by former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill in regards to the Kunsthal robbery:
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.
 This is Mr. Brand’s assessment:

George “The Penguin” Mitchell escaped to Holland in 1996 after the murder of Irish reporter Veronica Guerin.  Mitchell lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam before moving to Morocco a couple of years ago.  He visits The Netherlands to see family and to do business (one of those businesses dealing in Indonesian antiquities).  I thought about what Charley Hill said about The Penguin’s involvement and made some inquiries in the underworld and learned that an Irish connection could very well be possible.

Mitchell, who once worked for the gang of art thief Martin Cahill, is said to know members of  the Rathkeale Rovers, a gang of Irish Travellers (gypsies) suspected of stealing rhino horns from a few dozen museums throughout Europe.  Rhino horns are valued for medicinal purposes in eastern Asia.  Thieves make millions with that but there is more to this group.

The Rathkeale Rovers were linked in 2005 to the theft of the Henry Moore sculpture stolen and melted down for bronze scrap metal.  Irish Travellers were suspected in the 2003 theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder from Drumlanrig castle in Scotland.  Although the painting was recovered in 2007, the thieves who removed the painting from the home of the Duke of Buccleuch have never been caught.  In 2005, according to rumors and a source in the FBI, Irish Travellers planned to rob the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  I have been told that George Mitchell was connected to Martin Cahill’s associate Martin Foley who is suspected of robbing the Russborough House in 2001 and 2002.

The Rathkeal Rovers were almost certainly at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam on August 26, 2011 when three rhino horns were stolen.  If you look at this image of the Kunsthal, you can see a building to the left – about five to ten meters away from the art gallery.  This is the Natural History Museum.  If you look back from there, you can see right through the big glass windows of the Kunsthal and see the art displayed.  What I suspect and it’s backed up by a few rumors, the thieves stealing the rhino horns probably figured that this was too good to be true – that they were looking into the worst protected museum in the world.  If you smash a window you are in and you can take 100-200 million euros worth of paintings.  Why steal rhino horn for less than 20,000 euros when we can kick in the glass window and get 100 million?  The rumor in the criminal world is that the Rathkeale Rovers are behind the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft.  One year after rhino horns were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam, another theft occurs at the art gallery just five to ten meters away.  Nobody has brought these two events together even though the Irish Travellers and the Rathkeale Rovers have been linked to art thefts and they are well connected to the old Cahill group known as the world’s best art thieves.  They all know each other.  After the IRA murdered Cahill, part of his gang thought they should go to the Netherlands and Amsterdam is the best place to go if you still want to deal in drugs.  The best art thieves and Irish Travellers live in the Netherlands.  It was even more difficult to break into Natural History Museum than the Kunsthall – you can send in a girl of 10 to steal art from there.  I cannot confirm the rumor that it was an Irish job but I can logically connect the events –- there is only one group right now robbing museums.

Here's the link to an article by Jolande van der Graaf and Robbert Blokland published today in De Telegraf on the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft which we'll discuss in the next post. 

November 12, 2012

Pretoria Art Museum in South Africa robbed

"Street Scene" by Gerard Sekoto was one of the paintings stolen
 from the Pretoria Art Museum
 (City of  Tishwane, Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times' website)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Three men paid admission to the Pretoria Art Museum, checked to see that the art gallery was empty, then pointed a gun at a museum employee and used a list to steal six paintings worth 15 million South African Rands on Sunday morning -- although one of the paintings was abandoned when it did not fit into the getaway car, a silver Toyota Avante.


Robyn Dixon for The Los Angeles Times identified the painting left behind on the sidewalk as "Two Malay Musicians" by Irma Stern, valued at $1.5 million, the most valuable work taken from the museum.  

"It's particularly distressing to see the increased use of violence in the commission of art crimes," said Chris Marinello, director of the Art Loss Register.  "Let's face it, very few museum security measures can stand up to an armed group of criminals.  The last thing we want to see is airport- like security at museums around the world but it does look like we're approaching that solution.  It's a sad commentary on society."

The museum's closed-circuit television system was not working -- a problem was reported on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the municipality.  The museum's CCTV was repaired Monday morning, Dixon reported.

Found this posted on Art Insure's Facebook Page
The five stolen paintings included work by Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, Maggie Laubser, JH Pierneef, and Hugo Naude.

Jon Gambrell of the Associate Press reported from Johannesburg that the stolen art is valued at $2 million in US dollars:
The robbers favored oil paintings in their theft, grabbing a 1931 painting by famous South African artist Irma Stern of brightly colored sailboats waiting against a pier, city spokesman Pieter de Necker said. Other works stolen included a gouache drawing of an eland and bird by South African landscape artist J.H. Pierneef, a pastel-toned street scene by Gerard Sekoto, a thick-stroked oil painting of a chief by Hugo Naude and a picture of a cat near a vase full of petunias by Maggie Laubser.

Conclusions of Interpol's first international conference on counterfeit art

Last month Interpol's first International Conference on Counterfeit Art arrived at a list of "Conclusions" in Lyon.  The conference identified "a rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and international misattribution of works of art and cultural heritage" causing "significant economic prejudice and non-material damage" by "substantial criminal assets generated by the production and distribution of counterfeit art" due to the lack of awareness and of appropriate national laws and international legal instruments."

The Interpol conference recommended that member countries:
"(1) RAISE public and political awareness of the increasing trend in counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries, and intentional misattribution, and the impact on cultural heritage, the art market and historic and scientific knowledge";  (2) ENFORCE, review and, if necessary, adapt existing national laws to be able to fight the above-mentioned crimes effectively;  (3) CALL FOR counterfeit art to be explicitly included in regional and international laws criminalizing other types of counterfeiting or DEVELOP specific regional and international legislation on this subject;  (4) DEVELOP mechanisms and procedures to fight counterfeit art effectively, if necessary by creating working groups and inter-sectorial commissions;  (5) SUPPORT national  law enforcement agencies in preventing and suppressing the above crimes and in allocating adequate resources;  (6) DEVOTE, where possible; additional efforts and resources to tracing assets generated through the above crimes so as to dismantle the criminal networks involved;  (7) ENHANCE the information exchange on the above crimes through INTERPOL channels, and share experiences and best practices among member countries; (8) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a checklist of precautions to be taken by potential customers to prevent them from acquiring fake objects; (9) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a set of principles for professionals to prevent them from becoming invovled in the commerce of fake objects.
Here's a link to an article published last week in the New York Times: "With rules Murky, Fake Artworks Stay on the Market."

November 11, 2012

Interpol’s International Conference on Counterfeit Art


By Colette Loll Marvin

Recently, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the first ever International Conference on Counterfeit Art, sponsored by Interpol and held in Lyon, France.  The two-day meeting (October 23 and 24), gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from 22 countries, and focused on the need for increased information exchange and for enhanced public and government awareness of art forgery and related crimes. This global trade in illicit art runs into the billions of Euros each year.  Link to press release.

The most exciting part about participating in this conference was meeting law enforcement officials from all over the world, many presenting specific case studies about organized art forgery rings they have been successful in stopping and prosecuting. The German police summary of their work on the Beltracchi case was especially impressive! Also, it was important to hear from several artist foundations and artist right’s holders about their ongoing challenge to protect the cultural legacy of modern masters from the dilution caused by the massive influx of forgeries, many from online sources. The economic, legal, aesthetic and scholarly implications of this crime are far reaching.  I presented a lecture entitled “Fakes, Forgeries and EBay” detailing some of the challenges of investigating Internet art fraud.  I was joined by a materials scientist and an art historian from an art forensic laboratory.

This cultural heritage conference culminated with a collective draft of a very specific set of conclusions that the delegates worked together to create and refine.  Ultimately, the collective hope of the delegates is that this rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and intentional misattributions of art and objects of cultural heritage can be reversed with increased educational awareness and corresponding increases in law enforcement resources dedicated to this specific criminal phenomenon.

November 10, 2012

Eleven year old boy finds and returns stolen painting to artist in British Columbia

Mathew Claxton of the Langley Advance in British Columbia broke the story of an 11-year-old boy who recovered a stolen painting from a neighbor's garage sale.  Artist Reet Herder had 17 artworks stolen from an exhibit at an art gallery in Langley in August 2005.  Matt Hanna, bargain hunter and now probably our youngest art investigator, noticed a painting of sail boats in a cove titled "Harbouring Great Memories".  Hanna Googled it and discovered the painting had been reported as stolen.  I wondered if the boy had used any of the conventional stolen art databases so I too Googled the name of the painting and discovered a website named "Stolen Fine Art", a service of MyArtClub.com so I  emailed one of the website masters, Cam Anderson, who responded to my questions.  This is an excerpt:
The Story of Stolen Fine Art really starts with Reet Herder.  Reet was the first to let us know there was an issue. Reet wrote that she and others had suffered such a devastating loss. I shocked to hear just how bad it was. We always like to respond to artist request for features, or listen to their business issues, and look for ways we can assist. This practice has been wonderful for both the artists and for our development as a service. 
Peter Newell and I put our heads together and figured we could host the images of stolen art as a collection. The MyArtClub site was already set up to host artist groups, so we simply leveraged that as a way to focus on this awful issue.  What we did ask artists for was a police reference number of some kind and police and artist contact information.  We have a form for artists to fill out (available on our website). 
Over the years Reet has been really a founding member of our website and involved in creating the form. Karma has a way doesn’t it? She helped build a service that we host and hope it is of some use to artists, and voila – her art is the one found through the Internet! 
I telephoned Reet to congratulate her on the recovery. Reet is amazed at not only the painting’s recovery but the media attention! “All I did was paint it” she says. This was one of her earlier works, but she was happy with how it had turned out. It was based on a visit to Schooner Cove. The story continues: as might be expected the painting itself was not in the best of conditions. However with luck Reet had prepared to create giclees from this art, and so offered this kind family a giclee in return which they accepted. Reet says “ the giclee’s colours look better”.  She presents it tomorrow to the father at his work.
About us: My wife Heather Anderson and a neighbour Terry Newell, both artists, thought their husbands should get together and do websites for artists.  I was studying Internet Marketing and had many years in Sales and Marketing, and Peter Newell had many years in computer software and project management.
We created the site to be a fair deal. We believe artists deserve assistance with business issues, and we wanted on our part to give back to our community using our skills. Also we found and still do find so many who offer help to artists seem to be out to gouge them. Maybe that is reality – you have to charge high prices to survive, but as we have jobs, we don’t. But look at this example: in the year 2000 a company offered my wife an artist website with 10 images for $1,000. At the time too, most artist websites were static, artists had to repay the site creators to change an artwork. We wanted to fix that.  So we kicked off MyArtClub.Com in year 2000 ( such an early time! Artists then had no digital cameras, and used scanners to create images for their sites).
We set out to launch a service for what is now $45 per year that gives amazing value for an artist website. We had to follow our artist’s wives directive – they should be able to change anything they wished, anytime, instantly. In other words, be in total control.  However, just having a website is not the answer. You need traffic.  We advise artists what they can do to build traffic, and have through newsletters and our blog tried to keep them informed about ideas and opportunities.
We felt a “portal” into the art world would help visitors see more art, and drive traffic to artists’ sites. And yet we provide each artist a standalone website. We thought the name MyArtClub fit as we are here to help both artist and art patrons connect. We also know that many artist belong to collectives, sometimes called clubs although many feel that is a little beneath the professional artist. We decided MyArtClub even if controversial had the right motivations, and buyers liked the name, so we launched it.
While we appear to be local to BC, in fact we have artists who have posted art from all over the world. Some load a free 3 images, so they can link from our portal back to their website. It is our form of links. Others sign up for an artist website, we have many across Canada and some in UK, Australia, Europe even Asia. Sadly we have had very little take up in the USA. We have really not tried hard, but I think the out of country aspect maybe an issue. Anyway, big opportunity when retired!
We are here to help artists with their Internet marketing.  We give free presentations on what artists need to know.  We host a large database which we advertise to increase artists chances of being found online. We have researched the customer base to help our artists understand the who, what, where, when and why of art buyers, and we give this report free to all who ask.  All this and so far we have not taken a single dollar of commissions.
Either we are crazy, or we really do just want to help artists progress with their business.  

November 9, 2012

UCLA & UC Irvine: Two-day program in Southern California showcases international research on Afghanistan's archaeology and history

Oxford Classics lecturer Llewelyn Morgan, and author of The Buddhas of Bamiyan, spoke yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles at the first of a two-day program at UCLA and UC Irvine, "Beyond the Bamiyan Buddhas: Archaeology and History in the Modern and Ancient Persianate World".

Here's a link to the Thursday program at Bunch Hall in Westwood and here's another link to the program in Orange County today.  You will notice that the program uses the image of the Buddhas on a postage stamp printed in London for "Postes Afghanistan" (an Afghan banknote in 1939 showed a panoramic image of the Buddhas of Bamiyan).

Dr. Morgan, interviewed here on the blog last summer, was the keynote lecturer with "Oxus: Bamiyan, Afghanistan and the World", highlighting visitors to Bamiyan in the 19th century who saw the importance of Afghanistan's history as that of a path once taken by Alexander the Great.  For example, Lieutenant Vincent Eyre who along with his wife and son were hostages in Afghanistan for nine months after a British retreat during the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842.  Eyre noted in his journal that on a direct road to Cabul he had "Alexander the Great's column in view nearly the whole way" which he described as "one of the ancient relics of antiquity in the East" (The Military Operations at Cabul).  The 15-foot marble pillar was destroyed in 1998.

Tomorrow's meeting in Irvine will again include Dr. Morgan ("Hindu Kush: Boundary and Point of Encounter") along with Frederick Hiebert of the National Geographic Society; Phillipe Marquise, Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA),  Kabul (""2002-2012 Ten Years of Archaeological Activities in Afghanistan: A Travel through Cultures")Touraj Daryaee, UC Irvine, "King Huvishka, Yima and the Bird: Observations on a Paradisaic State"; Jennifer Rose, Claremont Graduate University, "Above the Bamiyan Buddhas: Mithra Rides in Judgment"; and Alka Patel, UC Irvine, "Afghanistan's Palimpsest Landscape: Buddhism and Islam in Material Culture".


November 8, 2012

Palais Fesch Art Theft Update: Security guard and bartender sentenced to four and two years, respectively

Palais Fesch in Adjaccio, Corsica
On October 26, 2012, two men received prison sentences of two and for years for stealing four paintings from the Palais Fesch in Corsica on February 19, 2011.

Antoine Mocellini, one of the security guards at the museum,  confessed to police that he had taken the Italian paintings as leverage in improving his living quarters, but then lost the paintings before he could return them (see blog post here).  In May 2012, the paintings were recovered in a car at a parking lot north of Adjaccio (see blog post here).

The online publication Le Journal de Arts reported last week that Mocellini was sentenced to five years in prison with one year suspended and prohibited from practicing his profession for another five years.  Mocellini's alleged accomplice, bar manager Christian Andarelli, suspected of having transported the paintings, was sentenced to two years in prison.

November 7, 2012

Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation Conference Opens Tomorrow: "From Plunder to Preservation: The Untold Story of Cultural Heritage, World War II, and the Pacific"

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The Lawyer’s Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation is opening its annual conference in Washington DC on Thursday, “From Plunder to Preservation: The Untold Story of Cultural Heritage, World War II, and the Pacific.” Here are links to information about the conference and its program. Here’s a link to the conference program: Panels include The Destruction and Plunder of Cultural Heritage in the Pacific War: A Silent Legacy; Old Records: New Possibilities, and The Legal Framework for Preserving the Pacific’s World War II-Era Past.

Thomas R. Kline, Of Counsel with the law firm of Andrews Kurth, volunteered on behalf of LCCHP to speak about the conference.  Mr. Kline began his work in the recovery of stolen art and cultural property in 1989 when he represented the Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus in litigation against an art dealer in Indianapolis that led to the recovery of Byzantine mosaics that had been stolen from a Church in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus.

“We thought no one had done a conference on cultural property stolen during World War II in the Pacific,” Mr. Kline said via telephone from his office in Washington DC where he has practiced for 35 years. “When we tried to find people knowledgeable about losses and restitution in the Pacific arena, it was very difficult to identify such experts.”

Mr. Kline is moderator of the panel on Old Records: New Possibilities:
The National Archives here in Washington contain some historical American records and translations of captured Japanese records. Records on wartime and occupation looting in the Pacific Theatre parallel the European records, but the records on events in Europe have been closely studied and due to the interest in Holocaust-related events. Archives on looting in the Pacific have been largely untouched, but we will have as speakers the people with the most knowledge about those records and how they can be put to use by scholars.
Mr. Kline represented the Church of St. Servatii, Quedlinburg, Germany, in recovering world-famous medieval religious treasures stolen in Allied-occupied Germany by an American officer and mailed home to Texas in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Mr. Kline has represented families of Holocaust survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims in recovering art taken by the Nazis during World War II in the systematic looting of art owned by Jews and others.

Old Records: New Possibilities also includes Miriam Kleiman, Public Affairs Specialist for the National Archives and Records Administration; Greg Bradsher, Archivist with the National Archives; and historian Marc Masurovsky.  Mr. Kline explained:
Miriam Kleiman will talk about the history of these archives and how they developed. Greg Bradsher has produced a finding aid for the National Archives and he will discuss the records that exist and how his finding aid can be used.  Marc Masurovsky will discuss the history of losses and restitution in the Pacific.
Mr. Kline discussed the example of Okinawa, one of the outer Japanese islands.
Okinawa was devastated in one of the worst battles of the war, on the level of Stalingrad.  Whatever wasn’t destroyed was stolen later. Japanese soldiers are believed to have looted throughout the Pacific theatre that stretched all the way to India. The scope of Allied looting in Asia/Pacific region is not well understood. Recently an auction in Michigan attempted to sell 125 objects that shared the same provenance – that of an American sergeant who claimed that the pieces had been a gift to him after the Korean War. Fortunately the art market is getting more knowledgeable and more careful and these events are more commonly identified, followed up and referred to Homeland Security.
Mr. Kline mentioned that wartime and military occupation, beyond the loss of life and human suffering, raises many issues for the victor and the vanquished concerning the fate of culturally significant objects and sites.

"Stolen objects may remain concealed for decades in private collections or be donated or sold to a museum," Mr. Kline said.  "Whether or not the object ends up in a private collection or a museum, theft is theft and the ownership of such objects must be considered.”

November 6, 2012

Lynn Nicholas spoke as keynote speaker at DePaul's conference "Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects"

Image of Nefertiti
by Sarah Wilson, Second Year Law Student at DePaul University

Lynn Nicholas, the noted author of The Rape of Europa, presented a captivating and thoughtful keynote lecture at the “Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects” conference held at the DePaul University College of Law. Hurricane Sandy may have hindered the quantity of speakers that attended the event, but the super-storm could not hinder the quality of Nicholas’ lecture. She addressed several issues surrounding restitution, many of which were raised in the acclaimed film about the dreadful lootings that occurred during World War II.

Nicholas examined Holocaust-era pillaging from a various perspectives, providing the audience with a broad roadmap of the different ideologies surrounding stolen objects. Of particular interest was the work of the Monuments Men (and Women) who dedicated their efforts to protecting the cultural identities of war-ravished countries. This group of American servicemen saved many of Europe’s artistic treasures and preserved much of the continental cultural heritage that came under threat of destruction during the war. Nicholas commented on the dichotomy of stolen objects: on one hand these objects are considered prizes of war, but on the other there is an essential consideration for common justice and decency that desires the return of such objects.

Nicholas raised an interesting point in the stance that Russia takes regarding looted Holocaust art. Russia—following the “prize of war” outlook—approaches restitution with an unwavering determination to maintain possession. This position is echoed in the final scenes of The Rape of Europa movie, and displays the reasons why these issues are not soon to be resolved. The government of the former Soviet Union nationalized all of the WWII works in its control at the close of the war. The country refused then—and still refuses now—to restitute the works to the pre-war owners. Whether this is viewed as the collateral damage to be suffered by other countries as the cost of doing war, or whether Russia simply feels entitled to the works that ended up within its borders, the debate continues: who are the proper owners of looted works?

The Hermitage Museum admittedly houses numerous items of suspicious origin, both on its gallery walls and hidden in the labyrinth of passageways beneath the building. Russian museums have even gone so far as to publish books about the Holocaust-era objects in their collections, an obvious display of their apathy for persons pillaged during the war. The country’s refusal to participate in restitution efforts displays a further problem: will these looted works ever be returned to the proper owners without a significant effort to harmonize international laws? In Nicholas’ opinion, the answer is no. Restitution may be morally admirable, but it appears that morals are often secondary to possession. Until the affected countries can develop mutually-beneficial methods for dealing with the problem, a solution remains elusive. As the search continues for a global resolution, the focus should remain on providing fair outcomes for all parties. Ex post facto looting from good faith purchasers of stolen objects is not the objective that Nicholas advocates.

Thousands of objects stolen during the war are still unclaimed and unrestituted. Increased litigation in the coming years appears inevitable. This is also due to the passing of the WWII generation, many of whom bequeathed stolen art to their unknowing heirs. Issues of ownership and proper title become increasingly relevant as these works find their way to the marketplace. While lawyers may aim to facilitate the harm suffered by wronged parties, their work may actually exacerbate the injury. Legal professionals often lack a proper understanding of provenance and the importance that it has on restitution attempts, and Nicholas stressed the imperative need of educating lawyers working in this field. Restituting objects becomes increasingly complicated if the ownership line is not given adequate weight. The issue is compounded by the fact that claims for looted works are frequently exaggerated, not only by lawyers, but also by media publicity. Numerous cases that result in amicable settlements regularly go unacknowledged. Nicholas also voiced her apprehension against litigation, claiming that efforts to enact restitution laws may be too political to be effective.

Nicholas served the audience well by using her all-encompassing expertise to educate the listeners about the importance of restitution. Nicholas refrained from giving a rosy-colored outlook of the future of looted objects. However, her candor leads one to believe that the path to global restitution is possible, albeit with several obstructions to overcome first.

Ms. Wilson is President of the Art and Cultural Heritage Law Society at DePaul.

November 5, 2012

MoMA Director Glenn Lowry's Responds to Hurricane Sandy; NYC museum works with American Institute for Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team

Yesterday Glenn D. Lowry, director of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, sent an email letter to the art institution's "members and friends" expressing concern for those people affected by Hurricane Sandy:
Our foremost concern has been for our neighbors and friends who have suffered so much hardship and damage.  A MoMA curator and the director of MoMAPS1 put out a call for volunteers from the art community and together they filled a bus with donated supplies and headed to one of the many areas in need of help today.  This is but a small part of the relief effort, but we were humbled by the incredible commitment of the volunteers.  Our staff will continue to play a role in the recovery, and we invite those of you who are able to join us in these efforts.
The Museum of Modern Art's conservation staff and speakers from the American Institute for Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) were scheduled to meet Sunday in "a series of workshops to help the many artists and galleries whose works were affected by Hurricane Sandy":
They will provide suggestions and answer questions on how to safely handle damaged paintings, drawings, books, sculptures, and other artistic and cultural materials.  Visit MoMA.org for more information on this program.  MoMA has also issued Immediate Response for Collections, a document offering step-by-step guidelines for dealing with artworks damaged by flooding, and we will continue to lend knowledge and support to those carrying for collections affected by the storm.
If you are in a position to help others, you may want to visit nyc.gov for information on making donations and nycservice.org for information on volunteer opportunities.  Visitors to MoMA will also find a collection box in the Museum's lobby, with proceeds to be donated to relief efforts in Greater New York.

November 2, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Columnist Noah Charney on "Counterfeit Money" in Lessons from the History of Art Crime

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, columnist Noah Charney writes on "Counterfeit Money" in Lessons from the History of Art Crime:
In this, and the last, issue of The Journal of Art Crime, we have seen excellent academic articles on aspects of counterfeit money (see Mihm, Stephen in the Spring 2012 issue, and Judson and Porter in this issue).  While counterfeit money is its own field of study, it has many parallels with art forgery, and we therefore have seen fit to consider it in this journal.  In doing so, I thought that it might be of interest to present a brief history of counterfeit money, for those unfamiliar with the subject. 
Perhaps the most well-known sort of forgery is the faking of money, whether counterfeiting coins, dollar bills, or treasury bonds.  The United States Secret Service, before they became best-known as the bodyguards of the president, were established in order to investigate counterfeit money printing operations and close them down.
Noah Charney is founder of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime.