July 1, 2013

From Inside Neolithic Walls: On Collaboration and Cooperation

Hong Kong police officer Toby Bull presents at
ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia.
(Photo by Illicit Cultural Property)
by Martin Terrazas, co-posting with plundered art

I have been asked about the quality of the program offered by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, similarly, the Provenance Research Training Program. Why travel across the Atlantic Ocean despite such expense? Why attend postgraduate certificate-based programs in unfamiliar cultures and societies?

Daily moments of cross-cultural communication at Caffé Grande evoke inspiration: Understanding the tone of a buongiorno is essential. The relationship between customer and barista in implicit. Friendliness and attempts to become more Italian are rewarded with pleasantries. The morning caffeine jolt is more than a financial exchange; it requires mutual cooperation and collaboration.

Therein lies lessons for preventing art crime and conducting provenance research. There is little room for undue opposition and overly emotional outbursts as both are forensic exercises, in which, ultimately, the objective is to determine who has proper title to a stolen object. Research, investigation, analysis, and context are essential. The desire to jockey into position for fame and fortune is futile; ambition, in Amelia, Magdeburg, Zagreb, and future conference cities, is better focused on becoming a more refined, cooperative and ethical professional.

The existence of dishonorable participants in the art market is given; the larger question is whether these individuals define the art market or rather the art market defines them. Experience with “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume” and other databases allows me to realize that greed marks a loss of power and reputation. Rather than intrigue, the initials of Adolph Hitler and Hermann Göring on archival documents eternally evoke disgust and failure.

In saying benvenuto in the current “age of angst”, it is better to live in an environment of mutual cooperation.[1] Amelia and the think tank that settles into its crevices during the Mediterranean’s hottest months, similar to the periodic week-long efforts as a result of the 2009 Terezín Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, empowers future generations to learn through discourse and discussion.

 [1] Joergen Oerstrom Moeller, “Welcome to the Age of Angst,” Singapore Management University, 12 August 2012.


Martin Terrazas is a student with the Association for Research into Crimes against Art. He is a contributor to the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. He assisted in the release and continues in the expansion of “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects” – a cooperation between the Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Restitution Organization, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Archives and Records Administration, Das Bundesarchiv, and Ministère des Affaires étrangère et européannes. He participated in the Provenance Research Training Program – a project of the European Shoah Legacy Institute – hosted at the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg.

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