"As the Curator who was responsible for organizing the exhibition hall from which the object was stolen over two years ago, I am obviously very happy to see this beautiful work of ancient sculpture return to the museum. It was one of our only pieces representative of Persian art of the Achaemenid period (2nd half 6th century BCE to 330 BCE). It represents in low relief the head and shoulder of an armed Persian guard and probably decorated the walls of one of the several Achaemenid palaces spread across the Persian empire. Similar pieces are found in various museums and most were looted from palace sites in the first part of the 19th century. This particular piece is very well preserved and had suffered no damage during its recent adventure. The work of the RCMP and the Sureté du Québec in recovering this artefact was remarkable and the officers in question are to be complimented for the quality of their work and its successful end. We all hope that this success will deter would-be thieves from attempting other such thefts. The investigation continues to try and recover the second object stolen from the museum also in the autumn of 2011."
Sergente Mélanie Dumaresq, spokesperson for the Sureté du Québec, answered a few questions also via email on behalf of Canada's Art Crime Team:
Was a reward paid? In this case no reward was given.
Were the police acting on a tip? Information received from the public enabled us to advance the investigation and identify the suspect. The investigation begun by the Montreal Police (SPVM) but it was transferred to the SQ in order to make use of the expertise of the integrated artworks investigation team, which is a specialized team composed of members of the SQ and the RCMP.
What charges will be filed against the suspect? The investigation shows that he did not commit the theft at the MMFA, but purchased the object knowing that it had been stolen. The arrested suspect may be charged with possession of criminally obtained property. He will appear on march 19, 2014 in the morning at the Edmonton courthouse.
We have posted a copy of the French press release from the Canadian authorities in Quebec below (the original can be viewed here):
Objet: Artéfact de 1,2 million $ rapatrié au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal
Montréal, le 13 février 2014 – L’Équipe intégrée des enquêtes en œuvres d’art de la Sûreté du Québec a retrouvé, le 22 janvier dernier à Edmonton, l’un des deux artefacts volés en septembre et en octobre 2011 au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.
La pièce d’une valeur de 1,2 million $, qui a été volée le 3 septembre 2011, est un fragment de bas-relief perse datant du 5e siècle avant Jésus-Christ. Elle a été rapatriée au Québec et restituée au Musée des beaux-arts à la suite de sa découverte lors d’une perquisition dans un logement d’Edmonton en Alberta. Un homme de 33 ans d’Edmonton a été arrêté à la suite de cette perquisition réalisée avec la collaboration des policiers de la Division K (Alberta) de la Gendarmerie royale du Canada.
L’enquête se poursuit pour retrouver le deuxième artefact volé, une statuette de marbre représentant la tête d’un homme de style Égypto-archaïsant datant du 1er siècle avant Jésus-Christ. Cette pièce a été volée le 26 octobre 2011. Toute information pouvant permettre de la retrouver peut être communiquée à la Centrale de l’information criminelle de la Sûreté du Québec, au 1 800 659-4264 ou à l’adresse firstname.lastname@example.org. Tous les signalements seront traités de façon confidentielle.
Soulignons la collaboration de la compagnie AXA Art qui a permis de faire progresser cette enquête.
L’Équipe intégrée des enquêtes en œuvres d’art est formée d’enquêteurs de la Sûreté du Québec et de la Gendarmerie royale du Canada. Elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec différentes organisations qui détiennent des expertises permettant d’enquêter sur les crimes liés au marché de l’art.
Pour plus d’informations sur l’Équipe d’enquête et pour s’inscrire au service gratuit de diffusion ART ALERTE, les intervenants du monde de l’art sont invités à visiter le site web de la Sûreté du Québec, au www.sq.gouv.qc.ca.
Here's a link to the article announcing today's press conference and links to other published reports:
"Edmonton man charged with possessing stolen artifact 'honoured' to have looked after it", Jana G. Purden, Cailynn Klingbeil, Edmonton Journal:
EDMONTON - For two years, a stolen ancient artifact worth $1.2 million sat on an Ikea bookshelf in a south Edmonton apartment, displayed above a plastic Star Wars spaceship, flanked by crystals and a small collection of stuffed animals. The Persian bas-relief sculpture, dating from the fifth century BC, sat slightly behind a handmade vase decorated with a painted fish and filled with dried flowers. Then, at about 9 a.m. on Jan. 22, a team of police officers working with Quebec RCMP’s Integrated Art Crime Investigation Team banged on Simon Metke’s apartment door. “There’s like 20 RCMP officers flooding my place, the sunshine’s coming in, the crystals are making rainbows everywhere, the bougainvillea flowers are glowing in the sunrise light,” Simon Metke, 33, said Thursday evening, sitting cross-legged in his south Edmonton apartment. “And I’m just sort of, ‘What the heck is going on?’ And, OK, here’s the thing I think you’re looking for. This thing is a lot more significant than I thought it was.”
Police say the sculpture was stolen from Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts in September 2011. The same thief is then believed to have taken a second piece from the museum a month later. That piece, a statuette of a man dating from the first century B.C., is still missing. The man who took the pieces has not been charged. Police aren’t saying what led them to Metke. Metke said he bought the sculpture from the neighbour of a friend in Montreal, thinking it was an “interesting replica” or maybe an antique — but mostly drawn to it because of his own interest in Mesopotamian religion and art. “I didn’t realize that it was an actual piece of the Persepolis,” he said, referring to the ancient Persian ceremonial capital. “I’m honoured to have had it, but I feel really hurt that I wasn’t able to have a positive experience in the end with it.” He said he was somewhat skeptical about buying the piece for $1,400 — mostly because he thought it might not be worth it. In the end, he said he bought it to help out his friend, a “starving artist” who received a $300 commission, and the seller, who said he needed to pay child support and rent, and assured Metke it was “a good deal.”
"Police track down artifacts stolen from the Museum of Fine Arts", Sue Montgomery, Montreal Gazette:
Twice during fall 2011, someone walked into Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts and walked out with two ancient artifacts worth close to $1.3 million. The Sûreté du Québec, with the help of the RCMP, recently found one of the rare pieces of art in an Edmonton home and arrested a man. The other, from the first century BC, is still missing. Yet the museum said its security system — cameras and agents — is fine and they have no intention of putting the treasures under protective glass. "This is very unusual," Danielle Champagne, director of the museum's foundation, said about the thefts. "Montrealers are very respectful." The last theft from the museum was in 1972, she said.
"Artifact taken from Montreal museum found in Edmonton; 2nd piece still missing", Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press:
A reward was offered several months after the theft. Provincial police spokeswoman Joyce Kemp said Thursday that whoever bought the artifact after it was stolen paid less than what it was actually worth. "We know that the person purchased it for a price really inferior to what is the real value of the artifact," she told reporters. Kemp would not give any details about how it was purchased. "The investigation is still ongoing (and) it might interfere with the next steps of the investigation," she said.
The SQ/RCMP Integrated Art Crime Investigation Unit issued an Art Alerte for the "Recovered World of Art" (Case File: 11-098) to announce the return of sandstone Bas-Relief, noting its size (21 x 20.5 x 3 cm). Here's the link to the YouTube channel for the Sûreté du Québec if they publish a video of the conference.
by Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO and Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief