January 31, 2013

Danny Boyle's 2013 "Trance" to Continue the Rakish Image of the Art Thief

"Anyone can steal a painting, all it takes is a bit of muscle, but no piece of art is worth a human life" says the (fictional) thief in the trailer for Danny Boyle's new movie, Trance, set to open in theaters in the United Kingdom on March 27 and in the United States on April 5.

Leah Rozen for BBC America reports that Danny (Slumdog Millionaire) Boyle's psychological thriller involving the theft of a Goya painting by an amnesiac thief (photogenically played by the Scottish actor James McAvoy) was filmed on location at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  McAvoy's character Simon is an employee at an auction house who grabs a painting off the wall during a diversion, bumps his head, and then allegedly requires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to recovery the memory of where he hid the stolen painting before his violent associate (Vincent Cassel) tortures the recollection out of him.

January 30, 2013

Gundlach Art Theft: Case against suspected art thieves slowly working its way through the court appearances

Last September thieves broke into the Santa Monica home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach and stole, amongst his possessions, some very valuable paintings.  Two weeks later, on the other side of Los Angeles County, with the cooperation of various law enforcement agencies, the paintings were recovered and the arrests began.  By early January, six people had been charged in the theft and appeared in court to plead "not guilty" (this is called an arraignment).  A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 6 at 9 a.m. in Department 142 at the Airport Branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  This appearance in court is a just a proceeding to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require a trial.

This theft and recovery of these multimillion dollar paintings seem less glamorous than art thieves  portrayed in the media.  You can read all about art thieves and the media in a piece by Katie Ogden (ARCA 2009) on the ARCA blog here.

January 27, 2013

Recapping the Villa Giulia Symposium - Italy’s Archaeological Looting, Then and Now

By Lynda Albertson,  ARCA 's  CEO

Waking this morning and checking the news bureaus I came across the January 26th New York Times editorial piece The Great Giveback by Hugh Eakin.

Before proceeding further, let me state that despite the almost 2,000 words of commentary by the senior editor of the New York Review of Books of his personal opinion as to what the motives are in countries like Italy in seeking restitution of their looted art, Eakin doesn’t seem to be talking thoughtfully with anyone in Rome at the present time.   If he is, he certainly isn’t attentive to what people closely involved in these cases are saying.

Having just spent last Thursday, January 24th at the round table symposium at the Villa Giulia hosted by Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent Archaeologist for Southern Etruria, in reviewing the work conducted in these contentious cases over the last 15+ years I can assure you that extortion is not, nor has it ever been, a nefarious motive in seeking the return of Italy’s looted antiquities.

Italy’s motive, if it can be summed-up in a simple statement, is to preserve and protect the country’s antiquities for all its generations and in doing so, by recording objects in their discovered contexts, expanding upon our knowledge of the ancient world.

While not as intimately informed about the impetuses for reinstatement of looted art in Greece or Turkey, I think I can speak fairly knowledgeably that like Italy, their objectives are not to strip foreign museums bare of their collections but to protect what is legally defined as theirs.  While at times it can seem prosecutorial, these countries, like Italy, seek to right past wrongs, intentionally malicious or not, and to uphold current international law.  Ancillary to that is to examine preventative measures so that the illicit trade in antiquities doesn’t merely shift to alternate buying markets.

Last Thursday’s meeting in Rome was a chance for people directly involved in the Italian looting cases of which Mr. Eakin speaks to see how far their country has come in working for the return of works of art stolen or exported illegally.  Knowing that as recently as 3 weeks ago a tomborolo in Vulci,  Alberto Sorbera, from Montalto di Castro, suffocated while looting an Etruscan tomb, they are faced with daily evidence which starkly highlights that the country has a long way to go in eliminating its looting problem.

The Villa Giulia meeting was a solemn one.  Thursday’s talks started with an introduction by the Director General for Antiquities Luigi Malnati, who spoke of the continuing difficulties Italy has in terms of manpower and financial potency in securing cultural heritage sites, especially those in remote areas. His exact words were “Senza il controllo del territorio, non si fa nulla”.

Italy’s law enforcement also spoke.  I listened to the thoughtful words of retired General Roberto Conforti, former Commander of the Carabinieri TPC (Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale) who spoke  about the early days of the TPC.  He explained how Italy’s Ministry of Culture trained officers on the intricacies of the art world and how, during his tenure, the collaborative efforts of judges, consultants and museum personnel culminated in much of what we know today of the illegal trade dealings of the principal suppliers involved in these US and foreign museum related cases.

Major Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection and Major Massimo Rossi, Commander of the Cultural Heritage Protection Group of the Guardia di Finanza each spoke about current and ongoing investigations involving recent incidents of plundered art.  Their statistics emphasized that despite growing public awareness, international focus from the archeaological world and cooperation between nations and museums in requesting the return of pillaged objects, the number of looting sites throughout Italian territories are still significant.  Their statistics and images of recent looting served to highlight that the problem with trafficking is ongoing, even if current buyers do not appear to be museum heads.

Maurizio Fiorilli, Attorney General of the State; Guglielmo Muntoni, President of the Court of Review of Rome; and Paolo Giorgio Ferri, former magistrate for the Getty and Met cases and now a judicial advisor to the Directorate General for Antiquities, also spoke of the complexity of Italy’s antiquities trafficking problem.  Fiorilli voiced his opinion that it is necessary for Italy to apply not just judicial pressure, but political pressure as well if Italy is to uphold seizure orders such as the one for The Getty Bronze.  This statue known in Italy as l’Atleta di Fano, the signature piece of The Getty's embattled antiquities collection, was, according to Italian court records, illegally exported before the museum purchased it for $4 million in 1976.

Muntoni spoke about the horror investigators felt when viewing the hundreds of polaroid photos Tomboroli took of Italy’s looted artwork, seen broken and stuffed into the trunks of cars with dirt still clinging to them. He also mentioned his personal disappointment that professional archaeologists and museum curators used U.S. tax laws to inflate the value of donated objects in a rush to have wealthy patrons collude with them to add to their collections.

Paolo Girogio Ferri listened to me thoughtfully as I talked about the continued need to find compromises that neither destroy US museum reputations nor allow them to indefinitely delay the return of objects they know should be returned.  We discussed the lock system of illicit trafficking, and how at the end of the day antiquities should be perceived not just as cultural heritage but as merchandise, and that as long as there are buyers and unprotected territories with objects the buyer wants, looting will continue to represent a problem for safeguarding Italy’s cultural patrimony.

Italian journalists Fabio Isman and Cecilia Todeschini spoke first-hand about current looting cases and the tireless archaeologists in small regional museums who try their best, despite limited funding, to protect what they can.  Daily though, these front-line soldiers take photos of their battle scarred regions as evidence that Italy’s battle against the theft of antiquities has not been won.

Isman highlighted the facts surrounding a very recent article he published in Il Messagero, I predatori dell'arte perduta:due leoni alla corte del Getty, where he brought Italy’s attention to two 1912 archive photographs from the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) taken of the front of the Palazzo Spaventa in Pretùro near Aquila. The photos show two lions, originating from the ancient Sabine city of Amiternum, which flank an entrance to the building as sentinels.  The fact that they are there is not surprising.   This area of the Abruzzo and surrounding territory are known to have been an important zone where Roman funerary lions were carved. What is puzzling is when they were removed and how and when they were trafficked out of Italy.

What we do know though is where they are at present.  Acquired by The Getty in 1958 through some of the same trafficking channels made famous by the more public cases Mr. Eakin has written about, the two statues languish in the museum’s storage.  Not even on display, the Getty's records attribute the lions' provenance to an old Parisian collection and place their origins as Asia Minor.

The topics of these speakers at Thursday’s symposium are just a selection of some of the vocal Italian voices heard at the Villa Giulia this past week.  Their focus is not strong-arm tactic or hostile threat but an honest effort on the part of those involved and who have spent thousands of hours pouring over more than 70,000 pages of evidence to locate the currently-known 1500 trafficked pieces at 40 identified museums.

Trophy hunting?  I think not.  I think Italy is trying to find the head of the snake when so far it had only just started to uncover its tail.

January 26, 2013

Eric Hebborn - Portrait of a Master Forger (Interview Available on YouTube)

Here's a YouTube video, Eric Hebborn - Portrait of a Master Forger, featuring an interview with the British painter and art forger.  Hebborn was murdered in Rome in 1996.

January 25, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Speculation Abounds Regarding Recovery of Looted Paintings

When Romanian police arrested three men in Bucharest Tuesday, Rotterdam police confirmed that none of the paintings by Picasso, Freud, Matisse or Gauguin stolen on October 16 had been found yet rumors in the media and declarations by Interpol fuel recovery speculations.

According to an Associated Press article published yesterday by The Huffington Post, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble has declared that he is confident that the paintings will be recovered.

Romanian-Insider.com ran the headline "Stolen Matisse painting offered to Romanian businessman".

But then Rotterdam police announced no paintings have been recovered.

January 24, 2013

Portrait of a Museum Robbery: The 1998 Theft of Tissot's "Still on Top" from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

At ten minutes past 11 o'clock in the morning on Sunday, August 9th, 1998, a man with a shotgun entered the Auckland Art Gallery, threatened nearby visitors, then went directly to one of the collections most valuable paintings, James Tissot's "Still on Top" (c 1873).  The thief ripped the painting from the wall, smashed its glass into the painting, and used a crowbar to pry the canvas out of its frame.  He then ran outside the gallery into a nearby park and escaped on a motorcycle.  The robbery took less than four minutes.

Here in this YouTube video, Auckland Art Gallery - Restoring Tissot, is surveillance footage of the crime, the story of the damaged painting recovery nine days later, and the long process of restoration for public display.

James Tissot's "Still on Top"
Many of the original newspaper stories published in The New Zealand Herald can be ordered via email through the Auckland City Council Library here.

The man arrested eight days later had demanded a ransom of more than $260,000 from the Auckland Art Gallery and hidden the damaged work underneath a bed.  One year later, Anthony Sannd was found guilty and sentenced to nearly 17 years in jail, including charges related to two armed robberies of a security van and a bank branch.

The New Zealand art museum accepted $500,000 for the loss in value for the damaged Tissot painting and was able to repair the work and return it for public display three years later.

On February 1, 2005, the thief, Anthony Sannd (also known as Ricardo Genovese), escaped from a prison farm and eluded recapture for almost four weeks (during which time he was alleged to have stolen a BMW and burgled a home).  Two more years was added to his sentence.  Sannd was released from jail in March 2012.  Then Sannd filed a claim that the government owed him $100,000 for keeping him in jail six months longer than he had been sentenced.

January 22, 2013

Organized crime unit of Romanian police arrest three men for Kunsthal Rotterdam theft; no paintings found

Romanian police arrest three men suspected of robbing
Kunsthal Rotterdam last October.
Today DutchNews.nl in its post "Three arrested for Kunsthal art theft in Romania, say local media"cited Nos Television as the source of the information.

The photo to the left is from the online Romanian news service Adevarul.

On the Dutch television channel, Nos cites a Rotterdam police twitter for the information that none of the paintings stolen from a temporary exhibit on October 16 were recovered.  Nos cites Romania's antena3.ro for information that the suspects have been arrested and will be held for 30 days in police custody while the investigation proceeds.  According to the report out of Romania, the police on the case specialize in combatting Organized Crime and Terrorism.

Martijn van der Starre and Irina Savu for Bloomberg News quote police spokesman Roland Ekkers that none of the stolen paintings by Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin or Lucian Freud were found.  A Bucharest court issued the arrest warrant.
Kunsthal Rotterdam

According to Robin Van Daalen for The Wall Street Journal online (Three Arrested Over Dutch Art Theft), a Romanian police spokeswoman said 'that officers had "carried out multiple activities" at the request of organized-crime prosecutors and that the operations were continuing'.

BBC News covered the theft under Rotterdam Dutch art thefts lead to Romanian arrests.

You can read previous ARCA blog posts about this theft here regarding the theft; the press conference; expert opinions; questions the day after the theft; available information about the owner of the paintings, the Triton Foundation; discussion with former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill; discussion with security consultant Ton Cremers; case progress reported by Rotterdam-Rijnmond police; speculation that flipper method opened back door; AP's press conference video (excerpt); Dutch news reporting theft (video); theft shown on surveillance video; the question of fire alarmed doors; former FBI agent Virginia Curry on fire and safety; "overvaluation" of stolen paintings; private art investigator Arthur Brand on last year's rhino theft adjacent to Kunsthal and Irish organized thieves; and Brand on messenger bag used in theft.


January 18, 2013

Roundtable Discussion Organized by the Archaeological Superintendency of Southern Etruria on "Illicit trafficking and recovered cultural patrimony: Results and Perspective" at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia on Jan. 24

A roundtable discussion on "Illicit trafficking and recovered cultural patrimony: Results and Perspective" will be held at Fortune Hall at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia at 9.30 on Thursday, January 24, 2013.  The meeting, chaired by journalist Cinzia Dal Maso, will serve as the closing event to the Villa Giulia's current exhibition, I predatori dell’Arte e il Patrimonio ritrovato.

An internationally focused exhibition, inaugurated on European Heritage Day 2012 which  ran from September 29th through December 15th 2012 was inaugurated on the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2012 and was exhibited on the first floor of the Villa Giulia. The exhibition consisted of recovered objects, illegally looted and trafficked from multiple locations around Italy dating back as far as the 1970's and recovered as the result of seizures made, beginning in Switzerland in 1995. 

As a result of the exhibitions success in Italy's capital city, Rome, the pieces will go on display in the Spring at the National Archaeological Museum of Vulci and at the National Etruscan Museum of Cerveteri during the summer.

This January round table discussion, draws upon the title of the exhibition and was developed to provide a platform for thoughtful discussion and scientific debate regarding the sharing of information throughout this series of interwoven cases.  The round table will cover the various flows of information throughout the cases lengthy discovery and will consist of many principle voices involved in the information sharing of this case.  This discussion will strive to present a critical comparison and analysis of the problems associated with illicit trafficking while focusing on differing perspectives in achieving possible solutions for the long term problem. 

Based on these considerations, the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Southern Etruria, in collaboration with the Directorate General of Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, has planned a day of topics divided into morning and afternoon panel sessions.  One session will focus on the results obtained so far in the field recovery.  The second session will  be forward thinking, looking towards the future and Italy's prospects for the recovery of its cultural patrimony. 

During the first session, after the introduction from the Director General of Antiquities Luigi Malnati, there are themed presentations aimed at highlighting the operational aspect of the cases, showing the work done by the Judiciary, the Carabinieri TPC, by the Guardia di Finanza and by the archaeologists Ministry of Culture.   Those attending the session will have the opportunity to hear the thoughts and impressions of General Roberto Conforti, former Commander of the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection; Guglielmo Muntoni, President of the Court of Review of Rome; Maurizio Fiorilli, Attorney General of the State; Lynda Albertson, CEO, The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art; Major Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations, Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection; and Major Massimo Rossi, Commander of the Cultural Heritage Protection Group of the Guardia di Finanza. Rounding out the discussions will be Italian journalists Fabio Isman and Cecilia Todeschini.  

The afternoon session, focusing on future initiatives in the field will discuss guidelines and possible solutions to the trafficking problem.  Speakers will include Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent Archaeologist for Southern Etruria; Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Magistrate and judicial advisor to the Directorate General for Antiquities; Jeannette Papadopoulos, Director of Services III to the Directorate General for Antiquities; Anna Maria Dolciotti, the Directorate General of Antiquities; Pier Giovanni Guzzo, former Superintendent Archaeologist for Naples and Pompeii; Francesca Spatafora, Director of the  Archaeological Park Himera; and Maurizio Pellegrini, official archaeologist of the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Southern Etruria.

After the presentations, the floor will open for discussion and feedback of the topics presented followed by a wine tasting from the wine cellars of Casale Cento Corvi e Castello di Torre in Pietra.

SOPRINTENDENZA PER I BENI ARCHEOLOGICI DELL’ETRURIA MERIDIONALE MUSEO NAZIONALE ETRUSCO DI VILLA GIULIA Sala della Fortuna Tavola rotonda I traffici illeciti e il patrimonio ritrovato: risultati e prospettive


24 gennaio 2013/COMUNICATO STAMPA

Giovedì 24 gennaio 2013 si svolgerà nella Sala della Fortuna del Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, la tavola rotonda I traffici illeciti e il patrimonio ritrovato: risultati e prospettive.

L’incontro, moderato dalla giornalista Cinzia Dal Maso, vuole essere la giusta conclusione della mostra I predatori dell’Arte e il Patrimonio ritrovato. Storie del recupero, inaugurata in occasione delle Giornate Europee del patrimonio 2012 e allestita al piano nobile del Museo dal 29 settembre al 15 dicembre 2012. Nella mostra veniva illustrato l’ingente patrimonio archeologico disperso a causa degli scavi di frodo fin dagli anni ’70 del secolo scorso e recuperato a seguito di un sequestro operato in Svizzera nel 1995.

La mostra, dopo il successo romano, sarà riproposta la prossima primavera nel Museo archeologico nazionale di Vulci e in estate nel Museo nazionale etrusco di Cerveteri.

La tavola rotonda, nel ricalcare il titolo della mostra, intende promuovere il dibattito scientifico che segue le fasi dell’esposizione e della divulgazione in una riflessione a più voci finalizzata allo scambio delle reciproche informazioni, al confronto, all’analisi dei problemi e delle criticità e soprattutto alla proposta delle possibili soluzioni e prospettive.

Partendo da queste considerazioni, la Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici dell’Etruria meridionale, in collaborazione con la Direzione Generale per le Antichità del MiBAC, ha previsto una articolata giornata di lavori con una partizione in due aree tematiche: quella dei risultati finora ottenuti nel campo del recupero e quella delle prospettive future, distribuite in due differenti sezioni di interventi del mattino e del pomeriggio.

Nella prima parte, dopo l’introduzione del Direttore Generale per le Antichità Luigi Malnati, sono previsti gli interventi volti ad evidenziare l’aspetto operativo della questione, mostrando il lavoro compiuto dalla Magistratura, dai Carabinieri TPC, dalla Guardia di Finanza e dagli archeologi del MiBAC. Ascolteremo le parole del generale Roberto Conforti, già Comandante dei Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, di Guglielmo Muntoni, Presidente del Tribunale del Riesame di Roma, di Maurizio  Fiorilli dell’Avvocatura Generale dello Stato, di Lynda Albertson dell’Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, del maggiore Massimiliano Quagliarella, Capo Sezione Operazioni Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale e del maggiore Massimo Rossi, Comandante del Gruppo Tutela Patrimonio Artistico della Guardia di Finanza. Completeranno il quadro dell’analisi dei risultati i giornalisti Fabio Isman e Cecilia Todeschini.

La sessione pomeridiana, orientata invece alle prospettive future, alle linee di indirizzo e alle possibili soluzioni delle criticità emerse, vedrà la partecipazione di Alfonsina Russo, Soprintendente Archeologo per l’Etruria Meridionale, di Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Magistrato e consulente giuridico della Direzione Generale per le Antichità, di  Jeannette  Papadopoulos, Direttore del Servizio III della Direzione Generale per le Antichità, di Anna Maria Dolciotti della Direzione Generale per le Antichità,  di Pier Giovanni Guzzo, già Soprintendente Archeologo per Napoli e Pompei, di Francesca Spatafora, Direttore del Servizio Parco Archeologico di Himera, e di Maurizio Pellegrini, funzionario archeologo della Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici dell’Etruria Meridionale.

Dopo gli interventi si aprirà la discussione per le considerazioni conclusive della giornata dei lavori.
Al termine verrà offerta una degustazione di vini delle cantine "Casale Cento Corvi e Castello di Torre in Pietra".
  
Maggiori dettagli del programma sono disponibili nel file PDF allegato.

Marco Sala
Ufficio per la Comunicazione
Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria Meridionale
Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9
00196 Roma
Tel 06 3226571  fax 06 3202010

January 16, 2013

Lecture booked at the Getty Villa tonight: "Saving Herculaneum: The Challenges of Archaeological Conservation"

As of noon today, all seats are taken for the free lecture at the Getty Villa tonight: Herculaneum Conservation Project director Andrew Wallace-Hadrill will speak of the archaeological work at the ancient sister city of Pompeii.
From 1995 to 2009 [Andrew Wallace-Hadrill] served as director of the British School at Rome and is currently director of research of the faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge. An expert on the archaeology of the Vesuvian cities, he was awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's James R. Wiseman Award in 1995 for his book Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (1994). He has written several other books, including Rome's Cultural Revolution (2008), Augustan Rome (1993), Suetonius: The Scholar and His Caesars (1985), and most recently Herculaneum: Past and Future (2011). He has held visiting fellowships at Princeton University and the J. Paul Getty Museum, and is a frequent contributor to radio and television broadcasts. 
The Herculaneum Conservation Project is funded by The Packard Humanities Institute which also supports conservation efforts of the removal of the mosaics from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma in eastern Turkey before the area was flooded for a dam.

January 14, 2013

Norwegian police suspect Irish Travellers of Stealing Chinese Artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen last week

Maeve Sheehan, a contributing writer for Irish Independent, reports in Irish Traveller gang linked to audacious Norway art heist that Norwegian police "suspect the same gang of Irish Travellers who have already been linked by Europol to a string of robberies, money laundering, and counterfeit goods" in last week's theft of Chinese artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen.

Last October, former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill spoke of the similarity between "the Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010" and the break-in at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.  Private art investigator Arthur Brand offered his suspicions earlier on this blog regarding the Kunsthal Rotterdam and a theft a year earlier of rhino horns from the Natural History Museum across from the Kunsthal.


January 12, 2013

Smithsonian Channel re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", a documentary on Maurizo Seracini's decades long search for the artist's lost mural at Florence's town hall

The Smithsonian Channel is re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", the story of Maurizio Seracini's controversial search for Leonardo Da Vinci's 1505 The Battle of Anghiari mural underneath a Giorgio Vasari fresco at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. (This 2006 documentary is also available on DVD.) Here in Britian's The Guardian, art blogger Jonathan Jones asked last March "Did Vasari save a Da Vinci for us?", describing Vasari's redecoration of Florence's town hall for the Medici family as a coverup to erase its republican past. However, in September, Priscilla Frank for The Huffington Post (one of many journalists that did cover the story) reported that Seracini's search for The Battle of Anghiari has been suspended.  You can read why here.

January 9, 2013

Gundlach art theft: Six people charged with first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property three months after artworks recovered

One man has been accused of breaking into the private residence of financier Jeffrey Gundlach in Santa Monica, California, last September to steal 13 artworks by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Jasper Johns, and Joseph Cornell.  Hours later, the thief allegedly returned to take Gundlach's Porsche at the request of the manager of a Pasadena car & stereo shop where the paintings had been stashed.  It's about a 70-mile roundtrip between the site of the theft and the hiding place for the artwork.  Prosecutors also charge that the thief's mother and two brothers helped to conceal and sell the stolen paintings.  A sixth person is accused of receiving the stolen items.

This is the press release issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office issued on January 4, 2013:
LOS ANGELES – Six people are awaiting arraignment this afternoon in connection with the $3.2 million theft of paintings, wine, jewelry and a car from financier Jeffrey Gundlach in September, the District Attorney’s Office announced. 
Darren Agee Merager, 43, allegedly broke into Gundlach’s Santa Monica home between Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, 2012, and stole valuable art work, jewelry and wine, said Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin with the Airport Branch office. Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s Porsche at the behest of Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45. 
Nieto allegedly helped conceal the stolen art and other items at his Pasadena store. Pasadena police, who received a tip, and the Santa Monica Police Department investigated the case. 
Charged as co-conspirators are Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, 29-year-old Wanis George Wahba and his 26-year-old brother, Ely George Wahba. The three allegedly tried to sell and conceal the stolen items. In addition, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items. 
The six, who are charged in case SA082879 with multiple counts, including first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property, are scheduled to be arraigned at the Los Angeles Superior Court, Airport Branch, in Department 144. 
Prosecutors will ask that bail be set at $10 million for each defendant. 
Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted.
Here's a few links to earlier coverage on this blog regarding the theft and the recovery of Gundlach's stolen art.

Here in the Beverly Hills Weekly last February is a notice that Merager was arrested on January 25, 2012 for receiving "known stolen property"; and here is a notice in the Laguna Beach Independent that Merager was arrested on May 17 for a Beverly Hills warrant for stolen property and that bail had been set at $500,000.  Merager, who's residence was identified as Lake Havasu (Arizona), travels extended from Los Angeles to Orange County.

January 8, 2013

Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum robbed of Chinese antiques

Here's a link to the surveillance video of two men carrying baskets who break into the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts (Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum) in Bergen through a window panel, smash glass display cases, and grab items before running back out in less than two minutes.

The Norway Post reports online that 23 Chinese antiques of made from "jade, bronze, porcelain and wood" were stolen on Saturday, January 5.  Earlier the Norway Post quoted the Bergen Tidende that the alarm sounded at 5.20 a.m and that the same institution was robbed two years ago.

Here's a link to an article in the online news-in-English.

Update: The museum has posted detailed versions of the photos on their Facebook page and would like help spreading the images world wide.  Please like and repost.  With the help of social networking perhaps these objects will be reported as being seen. 

January 7, 2013

Mes Aynak Archaeologists Given More Time to Remove Relics and Artifacts

Documentarian Brent E. Huffman has announced on his Kickstarter page, The Buddhas of Mes Aynak, that archaeologists have six to nine more months to remove relics and artifacts from the ancient monastery in Afghanistan before the site is transformed into the world's second largest copper mine.

The remains of Mes Aynak of more than 300 Buddha statues and stupas were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of 2012 (here's an ARCA interview with Mr. Huffman last September on the site's endangerment and background on archaeologists' efforts to protect the site).

Here's a link to a 12/12/12 interview on PBS with Huffman.  And here's a link to an Opinion article by freelance journalist Andrew Lawler in The New York Times "Chinese-Led Copper Mining Threatens Afghan Buddhist Monasteries" that notes Buddhism came to China from Middle Asia where it thrived from the 3rd to the 9th centuries.