September 26, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013 - ,, 1 comment

Review of theater screening of "Pompeii from the British Museum": expert guides provide insight to exhibit

by Eleanor Edwards, Special Contributor

Last night, September 25, theaters all around the United States screened "Pompeii from the British Museum", an 'exclusive private view of a major exhibition'. The show was excellent and in many ways better than the “in person” experience.

This special screening did not include the shoulder to shoulder crowd experience of visiting the British Museum in person. Instead the audience was shown around the empty exhibit space by leading experts in various fields related to the study of the Roman Empire.

The exhibit emphasizes the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The objects exhibited are meant to evoke an appreciation of both the ordinary working people and the more privileged. What did these people think about, how did they get ready for the day, what did they eat, how did they pass their leisure hours, how did they live in their houses? The exhibit itself is laid out like a typical home of a more privileged Pompeiian.

The introduction to the exhibit was made by Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, who pointed out the interesting motif of the dog that runs throughout the exhibit and serves as a common reference between the viewer and the residents of this ill-fated household.

Mary Beard, Classicist from Cambridge, took us around the the cubiculum (bedroom) and discussed the more intimate thoughts, dreams and desires of the residents. This provided a brief look into the possible ways of looking at particular objects of art displayed in the home (much made of the propensity for “willy waving” among the men of the time). But what Professor Beard brought to this experience was her unbridled enthusiasm and excitement for the subject. It was great fun to look at the exhibit with her.

At the British Museum in August, I found it was almost impossible to see and take in the relevance of each object so one tact was to choose a few favorites to swoop in on when there was a break in the crowd. For me those were the kitchen items. This behind the scenes presentation certainly added to my previous enjoyment of those objects when taken around by the Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli. We could really appreciate the beauty of everyday objects like a colander and the ferocity of the dormouse, a favorite delicacy.

One area that I completely missed was the display of items found in the drains of Herculaneum. Being show these items by the resident drains expert, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, brought real immediacy to what had been an overlooked display. He also brought up the controversial question regarding the continued excavation of the site versus the view that, for now, the focus should be the conservation of what has been already uncovered.

In 90 minutes, through both reenactments and expert analysis, Pompeii from the British Museum provided an engaging look at this exhibit. While not every item is examined, and a few favorites are notably missing, this event is well worth attending whether of not you have been to the British Museum exhibit.

The British Museum also has an application for iPhones and iPads, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here's a link to the museum's exhibit which closes on September 29.

Fathom Events will show "Vermeer and Music" at theaters on October 10, 2013.

September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Fathom Events Presents "Pompeii from the British Museum" in US Theaters Tonight Only

"Pompeii from the British Museum" will be screened in dozens of theaters throughout the United States tonight. Here's a link to Fathom Events to purchase tickets. The British Museum produced this film about their exhibit, "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum" (closing September 29). Here's a link to the worldwide listings of this event.

September 24, 2013

Showtimes for Joe Medeiros' documentary about the life and motivations of Vincenzo Peruggia's theft of the Mona Lisa

In July 2012, Tanya Levrik reviewed Joe Medeiros' documentary The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story about the life and motivations of Vincenzo Peruggia who stole Leonardo da Vinci's "La Joconde" from the Louvre in 1911. This film is still being seen in festivals across the country:

 thru Thursday, Sept. 26
4:10 pm
The Screen, Santa Fe, NM

Thursday, Sept. 26 - 7:30 pm
Atlas Cinema Eastgate, Cleveland, OH

Tuesday, Oct 1 thru Saturday, Oct. 5 - 6:15 pm
The Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, NM

Thursday, Oct. 3 thru Saturday, Oct. 5
Friday, Oct. 4 1:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 5 - 8:00 pm

Friday, October 11 - 3:30 pm

Friday, Oct. 11 - 7:00 pm
Sunday, Oct. 13 - 1:30 pm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

Sunday, Oct. 13 - 3:00 pm & 5:00 pm
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

Thursday, Oct. 15
Friday, Oct. 16
The Media Arts Center, San Diego, CA

Sunday, Oct. 20 - 2:00 pm
Sacramento, CA

Wednesday, Nov. 20 - 7:00 pm
Hiway Theater, Jenkintown, PA
Live Q&A with filmmakers

Sunday, November 24 - 4:30 pm
The Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, PA
Live Q&A with filmmakers

Thursday, Dec. 5 - 7:30 pm
Ambler Theater, Ambler, PA
Skype Q & A withfilmmakers

Tuesday, Dec. 20 - 8:00 pm
Batelle Film Club, Richland, WA

September 17, 2013

DePaul University College of Law in Chicago to host "Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects Symposium" on November 13, 2013

Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects Symposium will be held at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago on Thursday, November 14, 2013. The program will address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the return of cultural objects. Panels will discuss provenance research, museum acquisitions, historical appropriations, and the ethical issues that come into play when requests for repatriation are made.

Our Featured Lecturer will be Jack Trope, Executive Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs. Other speakers include: Lori Breslauer, Acting General Counsel of the Field Museum of Natural History; Steve Nash, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Rebecca Tsosie, a Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University; Richard M. Leventhal, the Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center; Charles Brian Rose, a James B. Pritchard Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Department of Classical Studies and Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum; Marc-André Renold, Director of the Art-Law Centre at the University of Geneva; Frank Lord, an associate at Herrick Feinstein LLP; Thomas R. Kline, Of Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Andrews Kurth LLP; and Simon Frankel, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, as well as several other leaders in the art, museum, and cultural heritage fields.

The symposium has been approved for 7.75 CLE credits, including 1.5 Ethics credits (pending Ethics Board approval). To register for the symposium, or for additional information, please visit: http://law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/art_museum/archaeological/default.asp.”

September 15, 2013

Italy loans Renaissance masterpiece to MFA, Boston as part of exhibit on recovery work by the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna"
Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna", a 15th century tempera and oil on panel, is on display through January 6, 2014, at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. This cultural exchange is part of the Italian government's program, 2013 - The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

In the Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers reports in "A museum, a heist, a rescued 'Madonna'":
The 24-by-21-inch work is a prime example of how a seemingly grim acknowledgment -- that the MFA had acquired works most likely looted from Italian soil -- has been turned into a bountiful cultural exchange. Back in 2006, under pressure and scrutiny from Italian investigators with photographic evidence that showed works looted sometime before they arrived in US museums, the MFA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York struck deals to send objects back.
Here's a link to the MFA's website and a video about the work of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Edgers writes:
The loan of the Piero is part of a campaign by the Carabinieri, Italy's military police, to publicize their effort to recovery stolen artworks. So the MFA's Lee gallery will feature extensive wall labels detailing both the significance of the work as well as the tale of the theft.
Virginia Curry, who spoke at ARCA's first international art crime conference in 2009, was interviewed for the article:
Virginia Curry, a retired special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who has worked closely with the Carabinieri and also on the 1990 Gardner theft, said the MFA loan truly helps both parties. The MFA gets to show a priceless masterpiece. The Italians, sometimes criticized for reclaiming artworks on prime display in the United States and putting them in storage or in little-seen galleries, are able to share the country's culture.
“That’s really the purpose of it,” said Curry, who is based in Texas. “They’re showing that they’re willing to bring something back. That they’re not just going to demand the return of this material to be placed in a storehouse in Italy because they can’t display it as well as at the MFA or at the Metropolitan. They’re trying to show some responsibility and willingness to share their culture.”

September 12, 2013

HARP (The Holocaust Art Restitution Project) and HARP-Europe Sign A Collaboration Agreement Involving Research in Artworks Looted by the Nazis

Press Contacts:
For HARP Europe: Elizabeth Royer, 06 13 17 44 70 , elizabeth.royer@wanadoo.fr
For HARP: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com

Paris, France - Washington, DC, USA - September 12, 2013 - The Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( HARP), based in Washington, DC, chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, and HARP-Europe, founded by Elizabeth Royer, both nonprofit organizations, announced today the signature of an exclusive collaboration agreement involving  research in artworks looted by the Nazi Regime.

For twelve years, Hitler’s Third Reich orchestrated a campaign of persecution, plunder and annihilation of millions of people, resulting in the seizure and expropriation of countless assets, including works of art. Due to the inertia from governments and the art market since 1945, and as Holocaust victims or their heirs continue to seek their stolen property, these artworks move freely around the world with impunity, and continue to be exhibited, exchanged or sold.

This is why HARP, based in Washington, DC, and chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, announced the signature of an exclusive collaboration agreement involving historical research of looted artworks, with HARP-Europe, a French association incorporated under French no-for-profit laws, and founded by Elizabeth Royer.  In fact, the identification and restitution of looted artworks require detailed research and analysis of public and private archives, either in Europe or North America.

HARP-Europe is a not-for-profit entity created and led by Elizabeth Royer, and headquartered in Paris. HARP is a US not-for-profit entity founded in 1997, which has worked for 16 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime. HARP was notably involved in the "Portrait of Wally" case, where a Schiele painting was seized by the U.S. Government, as well as in the restitution of an “Odalisque”, a painting by Henri Matisse, to the Rosenberg family. The purpose of both entities is to conduct archival research on artworks looted by the Nazi regime, to assist claimants in obtaining their restitution, to seek improvement of the legislative and political framework in favor of restitution of looted artworks, to develop and promote educational programs designed to facilitate historical research in property losses resulting from the Nazi regime.

HARP is advised and represented by the Ciric Law Firm Firm, PLLC in New York, USA, and Europe 

HARP is advised and represented by law firms Dauzier & Associés and Antoine Comte in Paris, France.

Elizabeth Royer, President                                                           
HARP-Europe, Paris, France

Ori Z. Soltes, President

HARP, Washington, DC, USA

Dick Ellis, ARCA Lecturer and founder of Scotland Yard's Art & Antiquities Squad, on arrests of travellers for thefts of museums and auction houses

Dick Ellis, ARCA Lecturer, formerly of Scotland Yard
When media reports announced that police had arrested suspects for a series of art-related thefts, ARCA blog turned to Richard Ellis, ARCA Lecturer and founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquity Squad, for his perspective: 
The arrest of two men in Essex was a part of a joint police operation which saw a total of 17 men and 2 women arrested across the UK and Ireland, following a series of thefts at museums and auction houses in which ancient Chinese objects, Rhino horns and other works of art and antiques valued in excess of £20 million were stolen during the course of 2012. 
Police from 26 forces including An Garda Siochana in Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and members of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) raided houses and traveller camps in London, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, The West Midlands, Nottingham, Belfast, Cork and in Rathkeale near Limerick, the home of the Irish Traveller community. 
They are reported to have seized a large amount of unspecified property although it is not known whether this includes any of the rare Chinese jade carvings stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for which crime, four people were convicted earlier this year including a 15 year old boy. All were from the traveller community, members of whom have been responsible for a series of the major art and antique robberies committed in the UK in recent years. 
Not for the first time, the UK police were forced to create a cross border task force to investigate a series of crimes committed by travellers against public and private collections of art and antiques. The crimes themselves demonstrate how criminals follow trends in various markets, including the art market, and the explosion in value of Chinese artefacts following the re-emergence of the Chinese art market did not go unnoticed. Likewise, the high prices offered for Rhino horn in the Far East attracted the attention of criminals who realised that it was easier and safer to steal the horns from exhibits in museums rather than poach the horns from live animals in Africa. 
Travellers have been arrested in a number of European countries in connection with the theft of horns from museums, and Austria was recently seeking the extradition of one leading Traveller from Rathkeale. The scale of these crimes resulted in many institutions replacing the horns with replicas to discourage thefts, however in the case of the Norwich museum in Norfolk, the birthplace of Admiral Lord Nelson, when the burglars were unable to steal the Rhino horn they turned their attentions to other exhibits and stole some Nelsonian objects including a mourning ring worn by a member of Nelson's family following his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. 
These crimes and how they and other art thefts are inspired by art market trends will be discussed in detail at the "Art Crime" Seminar to be held in Dallas Texas between the 14th - 18th October 2013 at the SMU Meadows School of the Arts at which I and former FBI Special Agent Virginia Curry will be talking. For further information about this course contact Abigail Smith at 214 768 3425 or abigails@smu.edu or visit http://mcs.smu.edu/calender/event/world-art-and-fine-art-crime.

September 6, 2013

Essay: Can there be a balance between the expansion of Makkah and the preservation of cultural heritage?

The Independent: 'Photo taken by activists in Saudia Arabia
 showing the destruction of the Grand Mosque.'
by Christiana O'Connell-Schizas

As the week of Hajj (October 13-18, 2013) is approaching, millions of Muslims around the world are preparing to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Medina. However, unlike any other year, the Ministry of Hajj is trying to reduce the number of foreign and domestic pilgrims due to the ongoing £690 million expansion work at Makkah's Grand Mosque. Islam is the fastest growing religion and every Muslim has to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Twelve million pilgrims visit Makkah and Medina every year with the numbers expected to rise to 17 million by 2025. This justifies the infrastructure developments in Makkah. But at what cost?

Over the past twenty years much of Makkah's cultural heritage has been destroyed to facilitate the expansion and modernization of the city with luxury five-star hotels, skyscrapers and shopping malls. On the edge of the Grand Mosque, the house of Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him), was demolished for public toilets. The grave of his mother Amina bint Wahb was bulldozed and gasoline poured over it. The house of the Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr is now the Hilton Hotel. The house of the Prophet’s grandson Ali-Oraid and the Mosque of Abu-Qubais is now the location of the King's palace in Makkah. The Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress was dynamited to build a skyscraper. Some clerics want the Mountain of Light, where the Prophet received the first verses of the Qur'an, demolished. There are plans to destroy the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns that contain the names of the Prophet's companions. The Islamic Heritage Foundation fears for the house the Prophet was born in and the Ottoman and Abbasi sections of the Grand Mosque.

Why is it that the cultural heritage of these cities which have a spiritual and material significance, as they have a direct link to the Prophet himself, are being annihilated? First and foremost, Wahhabism, the Kingdom's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, prohibits idolatry. This means that the cultural heritage associated with the Prophet, such as those mentioned above, encourage shirq, the worship of false or many gods, shrines and tomb visitations. (According to the Qur'an, verse 9.5, blasphemy is punishable by death: 'kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush'.) Secondly, some argue it is greed and opulence. The King Abdul-Aziz Endowment Project funded the $533 million Abraj al Bait Towers, the second tallest building in the world in 2012. These towers were built on the aforementioned Ajyad Fortress. They house the Makkah Clock Royal Tower, a 29-story Fairmont Hotel with 858 rooms renting for a minimum rate of $200 per night. Turkey protested the demolition of the fortress as cultural erasure. The Project planned to reconstruct it in the same traditional way as it was first built in the same location. This is not possible as the entire fortress was destroyed and the hotel now sits in its place. Today, eleven years on, there is no indication of it being rebuilt.

According to Mai Yamani, author of The Cradle of Islam: The Jijaz and the Quest for Identity in Saudi Arabia (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009) told The Independent, "what is alarming about this, is that the world doesn't question the Al-Sauds' custodianship of Islam's two holy places. These are the sites that are of such importance to over one billion Muslims and yet their destruction is being ignored... when the Prophet was insulted by Danish cartoonists thousands of people went into the streets to protest. The sites related to the Prophet are part of their heritage and religion but we see no concern from Muslims."
  
Why is this? With the exception of Turkey and Iran, many Islamic countries fear that any critical statement toward Saudi Arabia and its policies would reduce the number of its citizens' annual pilgrimage visas. Many locals are wary of what they say or are indifferent to the matter. Why the lack of concern from non-Muslims? Is it because they are not allowed visit these holy cities and have therefore never seen any of these sites? Maybe the international arena is not aware of the extent of the destruction due to the Kingdom's closely regulated press. These devastating events have been occurring over the past two decades yet have only gained recognition the past three years. What is left of early Islamic heritage needs to be saved and preserved. The monarchy and relevant ministries and authorities should act swiftly in finding a balance between cultural heritage and the expansion of Makkah and Medina.

Christiana O'Connell-Schizas, a solicitor, lived in Saudia Arabia for 18 years and returns frequently to visit.

Christos Tsirogiannis, 2013 winner for ARCA's Award for Art Protection and Security, speaks out against metal detecting in treasure hunting

Christos Tsirogiannis (Photo by DW, J. Di Marino)
Christos Tsirogiannis, winner of the 2013 ARCA Award for Art Protection and Security, weighs in on the subject of metal detecting enthusiasts in "UK treasure hunters make archaeologists see red" for Deutsche Welle (DW):
It's estimated that there are now more than 10,000 metal detector users in England and Wales alone. They've been making an impact. In 2011, close to a million artifacts were found by hobbyists. Nearly 1,000 of those could be classed as treasure - precious metals discovered by metal detector users. 
No harm done? 
But not everyone is pleased. Archaeologist and illicit antiquities researcher at Cambridge University, Christos Tsirogiannis, is one of those concerned. He says the amateur archeologists are damaging important sites. 
"Every object has an amazing historical value, especially when it's found in its actual and original archeological context," Christos Tsirogiannis explains. "If something is extracted violently and by an uneducated, non-specialist person from its original context, this cannot be reconstructed."
Mr. Tsirogiannis is quoted by DW as recommending the banning of all metal detectors:
"I'm sure that there are several people who are operating metal detectors and they do it just for excitement," he says. "But even in a legal way, the destruction that they generate is really big, and it is an unfortunate phenomenon that it is still legal."

September 4, 2013

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Theft: After more than four decades the paintings are still missing and the thieves remain unidentified

School of Jan Breughel the Elder
Landscape with vehicles and cattle, about 1620-80
(Recovered in 1972)

Oil on copper, 7 ½ x 10 ½ inches
Gift of Miss Jean Scott, 1958
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Canada's largest art theft occurred during Labor Day weekend more than four decades ago.

After midnight on Monday, September 4, 1972, a man with picks on his boots -- the same equipment used to scale telephone poles -- climbed a tree onto the roof two-story 1912 Beaux-Arts building on Sherbrooke Street which held the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He found a long construction ladder and lowered it to two accomplices on the ground who joined him on the roof.

The trio walked over to a skylight that had been under repair for two weeks, opened it, and slid down a 15-meter nylon cord to the second floor. A plastic sheet placed over the skylight had neutralized the security alarm. At 1.30 a.m., one intruder twice fired a 12-pump shotgun into the ceiling when a guard completing his rounds hesitated before dropping to the floor. Two other guards were overpowered, bound, and gagged. All three guards were held at gunpoint by one of their assailants (one of the guards would later untie himself an hour after the thieves left the building).

After 30 minutes of selecting paintings and jewelry, the thieves used a guard's key to open the door of the museum's panel truck parked in the garage. In the process, a side door alarm was tripped and the trio escaped on foot, abandoning more than 15 paintings by artists such as El Greco, Picasso, and Tintoretto and stealing 39 pieces of jewelry and 18 paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Delacroix, Gainsborough, Millet, and Rubens.

The Museum's Vulnerability

The museum's art collection, assembled over the past century from some of the wealthiest families in Canada, was insured for almost $8 million. Many of the stolen paintings had been widely publicized in Masterpieces from Montreal, an exhibition that had visited eight cities in the United States in the 18 months leading up to the Montreal Expo in 1967. The building itself was more than 60 years old and had not been updated (in 1973 it would close for three years for extensive renovation and expansion). Financially, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was struggling -- many of the English-speaking, mostly Protestant art patrons that had supported the MMFA had fled Montreal when Quebec nationalists gained political power. The provincial government provided grants making up only 40 percent of the museum's revenues. During Labor Day weekend, many of the top museum officials -- the MMFA's president, director, and the head of security and traffic -- were on their summer holidays outside of Canada. The highest ranking museum official -- and the first one called after the robbery -- was the director of public relations.

Recovery Efforts

The museum director received an envelope containing snapshots of the paintings as 'proof of life' and a ransom demand later negotiated down to $250,000. Someone with a "European" accent called the museum director and asked him to send someone to a telephone booth near McGill University where a pendant was recovered from inside a nearby cigarette package. The MMFA demanded additional proof that the thieves had possession of the paintings and were led to a locker at Montreal's Central Station and a painting by Brueghel the Elder (now re-attributed as belonging to the School of Brueghel). A rendezvous arranged between the thieves and an "insurance adjuster" (who was really a police officer) to exchange the ransom for the paintings was aborted when a squad car from a neighboring police district drove by the meeting spot. The insurance companies posted a $50,000 award for information leading to the arrest of the thieves or the recovery of the art before paying more than $1.9 million to settle the museum's claim. In 1973, a "wild good chase" between an anonymous caller and an insurance agent cost the museum board of directors $10,000 but recovered none of the paintings.

Suspects

The museum guards described two of the thieves as 'long-haired' men of medium height wearing ski hoods and carrying sawed-off shotguns. Two of the thieves spoke French, the third English. A week into the investigation, police officials focused on five art students from the neighboring Ecole des Beaux-Arts and surveilled them for 15 days without arresting anyone. In Montreal, local criminal organizations included French-Canadian mobsters, the English-speaking Irish West End gang that controlled the seaport, and the Italian mafia. However, the thieves' method of entering the museum through a skylight under repair led some police officers to believe that the thieves represented an experienced international crime network.

In May 1972, two criminals working for Florian "Al" Monday robbed the Worcester Art Museum in central Massachusetts, taking four paintings, including the gallery's only Rembrandt, St. Bartholomew.  (All four paintings were returned within a month). 

"Art-napping" in the 1960s in the South of France

Since 1960, criminal networks from Corsica or Marseilles had stolen paintings and held them for ransom in the South of france. An art dealer's home outside of Niece had been robbed of 30 paintings and two months later thieves climbed up the building of a museum in Menton to steal seven paintings. The next month, thieves broke into a restaurant through a window and stole 20 paintings. In July 1961, thieves in Saint Tropez climbed a fence to steal 57 paintings; the next month, thieves stole eight paintings by Paul Cézanne from a guarded temporary exhibit. Most of these artworks were found months later upon payment of ransom, showing the profitability of "art-napping", the holding of a work of art to extort money. In December 1971, a Rembrandt painting was stolen from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tours, France.

Where are the paintings now?

The paintings may have been destroyed to prevent the 'evidence' being used against the thieves in the prosecution of the crime. None of the paintings, listed by Interpol and the Art Loss Register, have been knowingly sold at public auction. However, the paintings may have been sold through small art dealers who did not check the stolen art databases. Before 1985, not even the larger auction houses checked stolen art databases. If the paintings have been sold privately, the value may have been discounted. One or more of the paintings may be in the winter residences belonging to one or more of the members of the West End gang who are beyond the jurisdiction of Canadian authorities in Costa Rica. 

After the Theft

More than 25 insurance companies paid the MMFA $2 million for the missing works. In 1975, the museum purchased a large painting by Peter Paul Rubens, The Leopards, with a substantial part of the insurance proceeds. On the 35th anniversary of the theft, the painting by Rubens was placed in storage following an expert opinion that the work was not by the artist but by assistants from his studio.

You may read more about the theft at the blog, Unsolved '72 Theft of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Patricia Cohen Reports for The New York Times that the "Growth in Online Art Market Brings More Fraud"

September 3, 2012 -- Patricia Cohen reports for The New York Times on the "Growth in Online Art Market Brings More Fraud" in the article "A Picasso Online for Just $450? Yes, It Is a Steal".

Ms. Cohen describes how anyone can purchase affordable "original" and "authentic" art works by "Picasso" and Matisse" through Internet companies:
That these works are sometimes fake or misleadingly labeled is no surprise to art experts and to foundations that monitor online art sales. But fraud has saturated certain sectors of the art market, experts say. 
“In every country that I visit, even Abu Dhabi, I’m approached by artists or estates who are desperate about the fake situation,” said Véronique Wiesinger, the director and senior curator of the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation in Paris. “We counted the other day 2,005 fake Giacometti sculptures for sale” on just one Web site, she added. 
Many reputable online sellers, of course, deliver precisely what they advertise. “There is a lot of buying online, and most people are satisfied,” said Alan Bamberger, an art consultant and appraiser. 
Over the last few years the Internet has broadened the art market far beyond the exclusivity and opaque jargon of its moneyed enclaves and has helped turn the slogan “art for everyone” into reality. But it has also become a sort of bazaar, where shoppers of varying sophistication routinely encounter all degrees of flimflammery, from the schemes of experienced grifters to the innocent mistakes of the unwitting and naïve. A recent study by statisticians at George Washington University and the University of California, Irvine, estimated that as many as 91 percent of the drawings and small sculptures sold online through eBay as the work of the artist Henry Moore were fake.

September 2, 2013

Museum van Bommel van Dam Art Theft: A Perspective on the stolen and recovered paintings and how the ALR distributes information

www.wikicollecting.com:
 'R69-32' (left) and the completelydifferent 'R69-39' (right) 
In August, the ARCA blog reported the recovery of paintings stolen five months earlier. In this post, one of this year's ARCA student provides background on the theft.

by Jacobiene Kuijpers

At five in the early morning of 22 March 2013, the Dutch Museum van Bommel van Dam was robbed. Two hooded thieves forced open the entrance door and took three papier-maché reliefs by the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven and a canvas by Tomas Rajlich. They managed to leave the museum and drive away by car before the police arrived. All of the stolen works were part of the Manders Collection, a private art collection that was currently exhibited in the museum. The museum director contacted Art Loss Register directly to report the theft and spread images of the works over the internet and television to get tips for the police investigation.

All of the artworks are predominantly white and show geometric structures. Schoonhoven was a renowned minimalist artist, part of the ZERO network, and has works of art in important collections such as the MoMA. Recently, Schoonhoven is seen as a rising star and the value of his works has gone up, which was clearly visible in a sale at Christie’s Amsterdam last October, where some works were hammered for almost double the estimate.[1] The stolen works by Schoonhoven were by far the most valuable works of art of the entire Manders Collection. The Rajlich painting is similar in representation and was hung in the same corner as the Schoonhovens -- one may suggest the thieves thought the works were all by the same artist.

On June 27, Sotheby’s London sold a work by Schoonhoven, titled R69-39, via the Amsterdam offices where this relief was brought before the end of April. Sotheby’s has no salesroom in Amsterdam anymore, thus the work was put up for the London auction, where its provenance mentioned it was part of an inheritance and the work was directly transferred from the artist to the first owner.[2] In the image printed in the auction catalogue, the artwork appeared identical to the stolen Schoonhoven with the title R69-32, except that the work was turned on its side. This similarity made the ALR alert the auction house that the work possibly represented a stolen work in their database. Sotheby’s checked this and replied that the title on the back of the work didn’t match the ALR record. No further measures were taken on both ends.

The work was sold to two galleries in Amsterdam and London who specialize in the ZERO network and often collaborate in acquisitions. When the Amsterdam gallery owner saw an image of the work for the first time on July 2, he was confused as he had possessed a work with the same title before, and this was not that work. He realized that the artwork was similar to one of the stolen Schoonhovens and contacts the London gallery holder. He expressed his doubts and requested a picture of the back of the painting, which he compared to a picture of the stolen work. He claimed it was fairly obvious the number 2 was changed into a 9, stickers and labels were removed, but the signature and title were identical.[3] Sotheby’s halted the sale and contacted the police.

In Amsterdam, investigations start to find the man who brought the work to Sotheby’s. At the beginning of August, private detective Arthur Brand was contacted by this man, who claimed he bought the three stolen Schoonhoven reliefs for 100 euros and showed a receipt of the transaction. Brand convinced the man to bring the two works he still had to the police. On August 14th the man walked into an Amsterdam police office holding a plastic bag with the two reliefs and was arrested immediately. The following day the director of the museum happily confirmed the identity of the artworks. The painting by Rajlich remains missing.

The director of the Museum van Bommel van Dam raised an interesting point in his commentary on the Sotheby’s sale of the stolen artwork. He points out that the alerts from the ALR are only directed towards the auction houses and dealers, and how it would be more helpful if these alerts were more public.[4] The museum or the private collector could have aided in the identification of the piece, which would have made the police intervene before the work was put up for auction.

ARCA's Art & Cultural Heritage Conference 2013: Giulia Mezzi (University of Reading), Carrie Johnson (South Texas College of Law) and Cynthia Roholt (South Texas College of Law)

The last panel of ARCA's fifth annual conference on art crime (June 21-23, 2013),  featured presentations by students in cultural property and law.

Giulia Mezzi, PhD Candidate, University of Reading, presented on "The origins of Cultural Heritage Protection in Italy, a historical survey":
This presentation aimed to outline the thought and philosophy behind the modern concept of cultural heritage protection in Italy -- both in legal terms but also in the broader sense of the monument's material preservation. 
The first edicts concerning heritage protection appeared in the Papal States during the Early Renaissance. In a later stage, law shielding heritage from the damages of natural decay, war, plundering or illegal exportation became more sophisticated, especially during the 19th century with the historical processes of nation-formation, where monuments or works of art acquired the symbolic meaning of the country's Volksgeist. The fundamental ideas present in those pioneering decrees are reflected in the contemporary international legislation and to this regard, I attempt to highlight the growing awareness -- legal, social, and political -- of the value of cultural heritage that went beyond the territorial boundaries of the Italian peninsula.
Carrie Johnson, JD Candidate, South Texas College of Law, presented on "Cultural Property in Crisis: Whose Burden is it?". Ms. Johnson previously graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor's degree in History and minors in Journalism and Anthropology.

Ms. Cynthia Roholt, JD Candidate, South Texas College of Law, presented on "Human Remains: Permission and Plastination."

September 1, 2013

ARCA's Art & Cultural Heritage Conference 2013: Felicity Strong (University of Melbourne), Theodosia Latsi (Utrecht University) and Verity Algar (University College, London) presented in Panel 4

(Left to right): Kirsten Hower (moderator), Felicity Strong,
Theodosia Latsi, and Verity Algar
Sunday morning, June 23rd, Kirsten Hower, the academic program assistant for ARCA's summer certificate program, moderated a panel on art-related crimes with presentations by three students and/or recent graduates.

Felicity Strong, PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, spoke on "The mythology of the art forger":
In the twentieth century, there has been the rise of depiction of the art forger in non-fiction biographies and memoir. Distinct from scholarly research, these depictions of individual art forgers have developed a common mythology, which weaves through each story of the art forger. The art forger is mythologised as a hero; the failed artists rallying against a corrupt art market, dominated by greedy art dealers and scholars. In Australian and British culture, this mythology has its roots in the wider mythology of hero criminal, such as in the stories of Robin Hood or Ned Kelly. It also feeds into a broader anti-intellectualism and mistrust of the establishment, particularly in contrast to the depiction of art curators and connoisseurs in the depictions. This mythology is evident in a number of biographies of notable forgers, such as Han van Meegeren and Elmyr de Hory, which intersect with the sub-genre of memoir, in the personal accounts of Tom Keating, Eric Hebborn and Ken Peryani. These accounts fuel the ability of the forgers to create their own public persona and feed into the wider mythology of the art forger. Analysis of non-fictional depictions of the art forger may offer an insight into why it is not considered as serious as other crimes and worth of closer scrutiny by the broader community.
Ms. Strong is in her second year of research at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has a Master of Art Curatorship and has worked in commercial galleries in Melbourne and London. Her PhD research is focused on discovering the extent to which perceptions of art forgery are influenced by depictions in cultural context, such as in literature, on screen and within an art museum environment.

Theodosia Latsi, MA in Global Criminology, Utrecht University, presented on "The Art of Stealing: the Case of Museum Thefts in the Netherlands". Ms. Latsi has studied Sociology in Panteion University of Athens, Greece and has recently graduated from the master of Criminology at Utrecht University. She is currently conducting research voluntarily for the Trafficking Culture Project and offers periodically assistance at CIROC (Centre for Information and Research on Organised Crime, Netherlands).

Verity Algar, art history student, University College London, presented on "Cultural memory and the restitution of cultural property: Comparing Nazi-looted art and Melanesian malanggan":
Using two disparate case studies -- claims for the restitution of artworks confiscated by the Nazis being lodged by Jewish families and concerns regarding the presence Melanesian malanggan in Western museum collections -- I will discuss the importance of collective, or cultural memory in the context of making decisions about whether to restitute objects. The two cases can be differentiated by the approach to social memory taken by the groups involved. Many Jewish people are keen to have their property returned to them, whereas the people of New Ireland do not want the malanggan, which they spent months carving, returned to them. I discuss the problems that arise when legal definitions of ownership clash with cultural notions of property and illustrate this using Marie Altmann's successful restitution of five Klimt paintings from the Australian government and the malanggan example. I draw on the language of restitution claims and the display of Nazi-looted art at Israel's Yad Vashem museum and will apply Appadurai's theory that objects have "social lives" to overcome the dichotomy between the cultural value and monetary value of an object. I conclude that cultural memory is a useful concept to apply to restitution claims. Its impact can vastly differ from case to case, as illustrated by the divergent attitudes to memory and cultural property in the Jewish and Melanesian case studies. Cultural memory needs to be defined on a cultural-specific basis. The concept of cultural memory allows cultural objects to be part of the collective cultural memory of one group of people, whilst being legally owned by an individual.
Ms. Algar is a second year B.A. History of Art student at University College London, where she minors in Anthropology. She is interested in the legal regulation of the art market and restitution cases, particularly those relating to wartime looting.