February 27, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - , No comments

"Mona Lisa Is Missing" DVD offers a special discount price to ARCA blog readers

Joe Medeiros, producer of the documentary on the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, has a special offer for ARCA blog readers:
It's the greatest little-known art theft of all time. With the most unlikely thief. And no one knows why he really did it. Until now. 100 years after the theft of the Mona Lisa, the award-winning documentary "Mona Lisa Is Missing" reveals the real reason Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre -- a reason Peruggia's only daughter didn't even know. And now ARCA members can own the DVD -- featuring 90 minutes of Bonus Features -- at a special discount price. Click on this link: http://bit.ly/MtZWpb and enter (or copy and paste) this special code at checkout: 3UJGLXNQYTJ8.
Here's a blog post on the documentary -- I've seen it twice and will still purchase this for the additional footage offered on the DVD.

February 26, 2014

OpEd: Italy’s Corte Suprema di Cassazione and the Getty Bronze: What will be the fate of the Fano Athlete?

By Lynda Albertson, CEO, ARCA

A story decades in the making, Italy’s Corte Suprema di Cassazione (Supreme Court of Cassation) was scheduled to hand down its final ruling today at the Palace of Justice in Rome on the fate of the l’Atleta di Fano, commonly known by as The Getty Bronze, the “Victorious Youth" or il Lisippo.  The bronze work of art, a representation of an athletic youth standing with all of his weight on his right leg, is depicted crowning himself with an olive wreath. It was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum under less than transparent circumstances in 1977 for $3.95 million.

After years of discussions Italy's highest court has elected not to issue its ruling today upholding a lower court's judgment that the "Victorious Youth" was illicitly exported from Italy and as such, is subject to seizure.  Instead the Prima sezione penale della Cassazione (First Penal Section of the Supreme Court of Italy) has elected to transfer the case to the Terzo sezione penale della Suprema Corte (Third Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court) where a new hearing will be scheduled to establish whether or not the order of confiscation issued by the Court of Pesaro on May 3, 2012 should be affirmed.

The Getty Museum has been fighting a lower court's ruling by claiming that the statue was found in international waters in 1964 and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977 -- years after Italian courts concluded that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.  Throughout this elongated court process, the J. Paul Getty Museum has maintained that the statue's accidental discovery by Italian fishermen, who then brought the bronze to Fano and hid it from authorities, did not grant the statue the status of an Italian object.

Examining the merits of the case within the Prima sezione penale della Cassazione (First Penal Section of the Supreme Court of Italy) were the following magistrates:

Dott. Renato Cortese, Panel President
Dott. Angela Tardio, Consiglieri (Counselor)
Dott. Lucia La Posta, Consiglieri
Dott. Filippo Casa, Consiglieri
Dott. Francesco Bonito, Relatore (Speaker)

The Getty museum was represented in the case by Milan attorney Emanuele Rimini and attorney Alfredo Gaito from Rome. The Italian Ministry of Culture was represented by state cultural heritage attorney Maurizio Fiorilli.

But why fight over such a beautiful work of art?

This life-size Greek bronze statue is believed to have been created between the 4th and 2nd century BCE, possibly by the artist Lysippo, the court sculptor of Alexander the Great. While Lysippo was a prolific sculpture, few of his bronzes remain in existence making this particular statue and its high financial value something worth fighting for.  Italy has fought for the statue's return based on principle and for many years has utilized the judicial system within its means to make a point that its antiquities should not be trafficked.  The J. Paul Getty Museum is concerned that it will lose a substantial investment and a critical and cherished piece in their collection.  These opposing desires have placed the "Victorious Youth" at the epicenter of an international legal dispute that has lasted through the careers of two of Italy's finest cultural property attorneys, Giorgio Paolo Ferri and Maurizio Fiorilli.

The story of the statue begins with its discovery in 1964 off the northern Adriatic coast of Italy where it was fished from the sea by the Italian crew of the fishing trawler, Ferrucio Ferri who plied their trade out of Italy. Hauled aboard in the fisherman's nets and later hoisted from the boat onto Italian soil when the ship docked in Fano, the statue has changed hands and countries multiple times.  Its journey has been filled with fishermen, traffickers, shady middlemen and even a priest, making its journey from port harbor to one of the United State’s most prestigious museums a story worthy of more than just one article.

Rather than declare the statue’s discovery to customs officials, as required under Italian law, the fisherman and his brothers hid the bronze almost immediately.  To protect their asset, they buried the bronze in a cabbage field and began scouting for potential buyers.  The work of art was eventually sold to Giacomo Barbetti, a wealthy antiquarian, who was the first to identify the bronze as perhaps being the work of the Greek master, Lysippo.

In May 1965, the bronze moved from Fano to Gubbio, where, with the help of Father Giovanni Nagni, it was hidden for a brief period in a church sacristy. As the encrusted statue, covered in marine organisms and barnacles from its 2000 years in seawater began to smell, it drew unwanted attention forcing the resourceful conspirators to relocate the bronze from the church room for vestments to the priest’s bathtub.  There it was submerged in a saltwater bath to minimize its odor and slow its decay.  Investigators and lawyers tracing the statues journey say that Barbetti quickly sold the bronze to an unidentified buyer from Milan. 

Afterwards, the "Victorious Youth" passed through a number of other hands, crisscrossing its way through several countries after it was smuggled out of Italy.  In 1972 it passed through antique dealer Herzer Heinz in Munich who was tasked with removing the detritus that was encrusting the statue. It was in Heinz's studio in Germany that the bronze was examined, but not purchased, by Thomas Hoving from the New York Metropolitan Museum. 

In 1974 the Luxembourg-based company Artemis S.A, purchased the statue for $700,000.  Founded in 1970, evidence presented by the Italian state at the Tribunal in Pesaro in February 2010 suggests that the firm was created ad hoc to craft false provenance for antiquities trafficking.

During this period Herzer contacted Bernard Ashmole, at the British Museum who in turn approached J. Paul Getty about a possible purchase.   The American industrialist, turned art collector was skeptical enough of the statue’s sketchy provenance and Italian police interest in the piece that he declined to purchase the masterpiece.  Despite their founder's misgivings, the J. Paul Getty Museum bought the statue one year after Getty’s death.  The purchase in turn resulted in an INTERPOL notification to the Italian authorities that the Victorious Youth had found a museum buyer.
Palazzo di Giustizia, Roma

To understand how the case moved through the Italian judicial system it is first necessary to understand a bit more about the country’s legal system.  It is the responsibility of the Corte Suprema di Cassazione to ensure the correct application of law in the inferior and appeal courts and to resolve disputes as to which lower court (penal, civil, administrative, military) has jurisdiction.  Additionally, the higher court is also entrusted with the charge of defining the jurisdiction i.e., of indicating, in case of controversy, the court, either ordinary or special, Italian or foreign, which has the power to rule on a case.

Unlike upper level courts in the United States or the United Kingdom, the Italian Supreme Court cannot refuse to review cases and defendants have unlimited appeal rights to the Supreme Court of Cassation.  Given the backlog of criminal and civil cases pending and the lengthy process involved in delivering a ruling once an absolute decision has been handed down, cases like this one can linger in judicial limbo for many years.

Interior, Palazzo di Giustizia, Roma
To put things in perspective and to give readers an idea of how this complicates judicial resolutions, it's helpful to look at other countries for comparison.  The United Kingdom's Supreme Court hears approximately 75 cases per year while the United States Supreme Court generally rules on 100 to 120 case decisions annually.  In a country serving a local population that is one-fifth the size of the United States, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation decides on close to 50,000 cases (both criminal and civil) annually.  The final administrative court, the Consiglio di Stato decides over 10,000 cases per year; while the Constitutional Court makes final decisions on around 400 cases per year.

Like other supreme courts around the world, the Court of Cassation is not tasked with re-examining the entire body of evidence in a given case.  Additionally it does not have to make rulings solely on cases that have passed through the Corte d'Assise d'Apello, Italy's Appellate Court. Cases which meet certain criteria can go directly from the tribunal level court system to the supreme court as the Court's role is specifically to rule on erores in iudicando and errores in procedendo (errors in procedure or application of the law). 

Some criminal cases reach Italy's Court of Cassation first passing through the Corte d'Assise d'Apello as was the case recently with the high profile murder case of Amanda Knox.  Both the defendant and the prosecution in this type of appeal case retain the right of appeal and both the Corte d'Assise d'Appello and the Supreme Court are required to publish written explanations of their rulings and decisions. But these are the upper courts.

Before arriving at the Supreme Court or Appeal Court cases are heard by regional tribunals.  Tribunals consist of one single judge or a panel of three judges depending on the type of case being heard.  It is these tribunali which are the Italian court's first instance of general jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. 

The Getty Villa, California
But getting back to the case of the Getty Bronze that in some ways is as complex and hard to follow judicially as a Wimbledon tennis match.

In 2007 the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the J. Paul Getty Trust agreed to set the question of the Victorius Youth aside pending the ongoing legal process before the Tribunal in Pesara concerning the object's illegal exportation from Italy.  The accord of the parties on this point was crucial as earlier negotiations in 2006 had been contentious and unfruitful due to disagreements between Italy and the Getty over the statue's ownership status.

In 2007, in proceedings before the Tribunal of Pesaro, charges related to the illicit exportation of the Victorious Youth were dismissed upon the request of the public prosecutor on the grounds that the statute of limitations on prosecution had expired against all of the defendants in the case leaving the Italian state with no one to prosecute.  At the time of the requested dismissal the prosecutor demanded the confiscation of the bronze given it had been exported out of Italy in contravention of existing Italian law.

Almost three years later, on the tenth of February 2010, Luisa Mussoni, the preliminary investigation judge at the Tribunal of Pesaro, ruled that the Victorious Youth was exported illicitly.  As a result of this court decision, the tribunal issued an order for the statue's immediate seizure and restitution to Italy.  This order followed an earlier and separate order June 12, 2009 ruling on the question of the jurisdiction.

As a result of these two decisions, the Getty Museum subsequently challenged the orders' validity before the Italian Court of Cassation on February 18, 2011. At that

hearing the case was remanded to back to the Tribunal of Pesaro for further examination of the merits of the case.


On May 3, 2012 Maurizio Di Palma, the Pre-Trial judge at the Tribunal of Pesaro, once again upheld the earlier 2010 order of forfeiture and confirmed that the statue was illegally exported from Italy.  His ruling placed the case's resolution back with Italy's Supreme Court for what was supposed to be today's final ruling.

If the Italian state affirms its final ruling with respect to this case at the Third Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court it will be interesting to see how the repatriation order will be enforced and if the J Paul Getty Museum will to the right thing and relinquish the statue voluntarily.

When asked his opinion on today's postponement, Stefano Alessandrini, Perito Scientifico to the Italian state on this and other cultural heritage looting cases indicated that he would not celebrate (or give up) until he saw the statue arrive at Rome's Aeroporto Internazionale Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino.

Italy's cultural property attorney Maurizio Fiorilli retires April 12, 2014 meaning the torch will have to be passed to a third state prosecutor. 

For now, Italy continues to wait.

February 25, 2014

John Follain in The Sunday Times Reports J. Paul Getty May Send The Athlete of Fano to Italy

Official from Marche visited in 2011 to
press for possession of Athlete of Fano
In Britain's The Sunday Times, John Follain reports in "2,400-year-old 'hostage' ready to fly home to Italy" (February 23, 2014) that the statue known as The Athlete of Fano may be leaving the J. Paul Getty Villa in Malibu:
CALIFORNIA’S J Paul Getty Museum is expected to be ordered this week to return to Italy an ancient Greek bronze statue of an athlete that has been one of its most prized exhibits for more than three decades. In a case that has become a symbol of Italy’s new-found determination to reclaim its lost masterpieces, the Supreme Court in Rome is due on Tuesday to rule on the long battle for the “Getty bronze” — also known as Victorious Youth — considered one of the greatest treasures of the ancient world. The statue, which depicts an athlete crowned with an olive wreath, dates back to the 4th century BC and is believed to be the work of Lysippos, personal sculptor to Alexander the Great.

In May 2012, an Italian judge ruled that the statue should be returned to Italy. Officials from the Region of Marche visited California in March 2011 to press their argument for the statue's return.

February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014 - , No comments

Wolfgang Beltracchi, Art Forger: CBS Profiles German Fraudster, An "Evil Genius" and "Con Man"?

Here's a link to the CBS "60 Minutes" segment on art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi. The German fraudster tells interviewer Bob Simon that he knew what he was doing was wrong, he did not feel guilty for defrauding collectors, and used faked 'archival photographs' to support fake collecting history.

Here's a review ("60 Minutes" Recap) by Tammie Edenshaw of CMR (Current Movie Reviews):
Bob Simon brings the next story about Wolfgang Beltracchi, a con artist whose paintings are remarkable works of forgery. They are the ideas of a man whose visions are what he feels the master painters would have done or may have lost. His career has encompassed more than forty years and earned him millions. During the interview, Beltrachhi shows how he forges Max Ernst by painting on a wooden bridge outside his home. What is spectacular about this man is not the fact he “copies” famous works of art, but that he “channels” the artist and creates new works, which are his own, but passed off as those of a famous artist. He is probably one of the most exhibited painters in the world but was busted in 2010 but white paint which had titanium white. His downfall has turned the art world on his head as auction houses are being sued for endorsing the forgeries. Experts are now unsettled to the point of no longer rendering opinions of authentication. Beltracchi is now painting under his own name as he faces millions in lawsuits.
Dawn Levesque on Liberty Voice writes in "Wolfgang Beltracchi and the Biggest Art Scandal" that:
It is said that Wolfgang Beltracchi painted artworks by Raoul Duffy, Max Ernst, Georges Braque and Fernand Leger, along with other 20th century Surrealists and Expressionists. Beltracchi did not copy the paintings but passed off his own paintings in what he believed the real artist might have painted. These paintings became “newly discovered masterpieces” by 20th century artists. He expertly forged the artist’s painting style so flawlessly that no one was the wiser. In hindsight, according to modern art expert, Ralph Jentsch, it was due to the formidable desire to believe. Jentsch affirms, that in the world of art, connoisseurship and origins can go astray in the “frenzy of excitement over a new find.” Beltracchi also created artwork that once existed but had been missing for years. He conned even the finest art connoisseurs by working with paint and canvases from the appropriate period. In addition, he went so far as to produce realistic, time-worn dealer labels. Then, came the story to accompany the forged artwork. His wife, Helene claimed that her deceased grandfather, Werner Jägers had hidden his fine art collection away prior to World War II in a country home near Cologne. Subsequently, the collection was bequeathed to her, and according to Beltracchi, that is how he came into possession of the undiscovered artworks by renowned artists. To add integrity to the story, the Beltracchis presented a credible old black and white photo of Helene personating her grandmother, posed in front of canvases from the alleged “Jägers collection.”
[...]
In August 2010, Berlin’s art fraud branch conducted their biggest operation, and police teams seized paintings, the Beltracchis and their accomplices. However, with the lack of evidence at their trial, the judge terminated the proceedings, and the Beltracchis jail terms were reduced. A top forensic art analyst, Jamie Martin, is one expert that acknowledges that Wolfgang Beltracchi’s fakes are very credible, and some of the best counterfeits he has seen in his profession. He believes that if forensic analysts had inspected the paintings more thoroughly that maybe Beltracchi would have been exposed much earlier. However, that does not raise the spirits of those who have been prosecuted, including auction houses, galleries and experts, for selling Beltracchi fakes. At Beltracchi’s trial, the prosecuting attorney stated that he had produced 36 counterfeit artworks, bought for $46 million. Spanning four decades, it has been estimated that Beltracchi, Helene and their accomplices made $22 million on their art fraud. Even though authorities have charged Beltracchi with 36 works, he claims that there may be over 300 counterfeit paintings still in circulation. In truth, what is considered the “biggest art scandal of all time is not finished. German police have only uncovered 60 fraudulent paintings of Wolfgang Beltracchi since the trial, with an undetermined quantity amount still in circulation.

February 23, 2014

Sam Cullman and Jen Grausman seeking support on Kickstarter to complete "Art and Craft", a documentary on art forger Mark Landis

Here's a link to the Kickstarter campaign to raise $48,250 to bring "Art and Craft", a documentary by Sam Cullman and Jen Grausman on the fraud art forger Mark Landis, to audiences:
THE STORY: Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century Icons, the Hudson River School, and even Picasso. And while his copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis has never been in it for the money. Posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest, Landis has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States. But, when Matthew Leininger, a registrar in Cincinnati, discovers his thirty-year ruse and organizes an exhibition of the work, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.


February 22, 2014

The Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt has retained legal counsel who have established a website on the case involving the seizure and claims over the "Nazi treasure"

In early November, the weekly German magazine Focus reported that Bavarian authorities had custody of value art collection owned by Cornelius Gurlitt whose father Hildebrand had been an art dealer to the Nazis. More than two months later, Mr. Gurlitt obtained legal counsel, Tido Park and Derek Setz, who have published a website presenting information about the Gurlitt Collection.

The website's chronology section details how a check of Cornelius Gurlitt on a train by German custom officials in September 2010 led to a search warrant a year later and the seizure in February 2012 of Gurlitt's art collection of 1,406 items from his residence in Munich. After Focus published the news of this "Nazi treasure", various government agencies initiated the process of publicizing the works amidst claims of theft. In December, a Munich court appointed a custodian, Chirstoph Edel, for Gurlitt. In January, Gurlitt's legal counsel filed 'a criminal complaint with the chief public prosecutor's office in Munich for breach of official secrecy. The main reason for the complaint was the publication of photographs of Gurlitt's apartment being searched and of other confidential details from the investigation files.' In February, more than 60 artworks were seized from Gurlitt's residence in Salzburg 'and were then insured and transported to a safe place at Mr. Gurlitt's request and at the suggestion and instigation of Christoph Edel – the court-appointed preliminary custodian – together with attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung and the professional assistance of art experts and conservators.' On Valentine's Day:
Professor Tido Park and Derek Setz, the attorneys defending Cornelius Gurlitt in his criminal lawsuit, filed an appeal with the Augsburg local court on February 14 this year against the search warrant and seizure order issued by the Augsburg local court on September 23, 2011 regarding the Schwabing part of the Gurlitt collection.
Another section on the Gurlitt Collection website, written by Munich lawyer Dr. Hannes Hartung, discusses the "Structure of the Collection of Dr. Hildebrant Gurlitt" from Gurlitt's role 'as one of the most important dealers in the German Reich' who 'acquired'
works for the Führermuseum planned by Hitler in Linz, Austria. In the same year, Gurlitt purchased a very large quantity of works that had formerly been Reich property from the German Reich and that as “degenerate” art had been confiscated from German museums. After the totalitarian “integration” process (Gleichschaltung), the German Reich saw no difference, both practically and legally, between national, regional, and local governments as we have today in our federal structure. 
The works originally came from the property of the German Reich and were legally acquired by Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt by way of purchase or trade. The collection of Cornelius Gurlitt confiscated in Schwabing now includes about 380 of these artwork.
Hildebrand Gurlitt’s avid acquisition activities, among other things motivated by the desire to save art labeled as degenerate from its destruction, is documented in the so-called Fischer List (see http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/e/entartete-kunst/). This list shows that Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt legally acquired many important works from former German Reich property. In many instances the works would have been destroyed if Dr. Gurlitt had not acquired them at bargain prices. The art that had been defamed as “degenerate” can therefore be considered the art historical focus of the Gurlitt collection. 
Private property of the Gurlitt family 
A large part of the artworks confiscated by the public prosecutors also includes works from the private collection of the Gurlitt family. Cornelius Gurlitt’s family is a major dynasty of German art historians. Some 330 works were already part of the family’s private collection before 1933 and are meant to be returned to their rightful owner, Cornelius Gurlitt, in the near future. 
“Looted art 
When the Nazis persecuted what they considered “degenerate” art, their target was the art itself and not its owners. Only in the case of looted art were the cultural assets bought up for far less than they were worth (compulsory sale), dispossessed, or confiscated. Only very few works in the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt are suspected of being looted art. 
Another 590 works are the solely property of Cornelius Gurlitt. Currently (as of February 14, 2014) only four claimants assert that the Gurlitt collection contains works that may have once been appropriated from Jewish owners in the context of Nazi persecution. Stated differently, the 1,280 seized works that are the property of Cornelius Gurlitt have attracted only four claimants who demand the return of so-called looted art from Cornelius Gurlitt. Specifically, the claimants are the Rosenberg, Friedmann, Glaser, and Littmann heirs.

February 21, 2014

Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ) enters plea for international help in protecting Art and Heritage in Kiev

OPEN LETTER (English version)
Outgoing # 6 from February 20th, 2014, Kyiv

To: General Director of UNESCO
Mrs. Iryna Bokova

President of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ)
Prof. Hans-Martin Hinz

President of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
Mr. Gustavo Araoz

Chair of ІСОМ Europe
Dr. Damodar Frlan

Head of the National Committee of Ukraine for UNESCO
Mr. Ruslan Demchenko

During December 2013 – February 2014 the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the Ukrainian House, where the depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History are located, were in the epicenter of confrontations in Kyiv.

Collective of the National Art Museum of Ukraine removed works from exposition to depositories; museum employees provide watch and control over museum collections on a twenty-four hour basis.  As for the Museum of Kyiv History, we know that during the stay of the law enforcement officers in the Ukrainian House, depositories and some drawers were opened (http://prostir.museum/ua/post/32017-currently this is the only material that was published.

During the protesters' stay in the Ukrainian House, no incidents were reported by the museum. From 19:00 on February 18th till the morning of February 20th, 2014 the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine controlled the Ukrainian House. At night on February 19th publications and interviews with museum workers were published where it was declared about the heist in the depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History – at midnight, February 19th triggered a burglar alarm, however, security did not respond the call (http://www.artukraine.com.ua/articles/1874.html#.UwUnQfCXknM.facebook). No statements from the officials about the condition of depositories of the Museum of Kyiv History as of February 20th, 2014, 15:00 were published, despite the tense situation, the precedent of infringement of the inviolability of museum collections and another escalation of confrontations.

On the February 19 the Ukrainian Committee of ICOM sent open letter addressed to the Acting Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Mr. V.Zakharchenko, the Acting Minister of Culture Mr. L.Novokhatko, the Head of Kyiv City State Administration Mr. V.Makeenko, and to the Head of Committee of Supreme Council of Ukraine with call to:-ensure maximum safety and inviolability of the Museum's of Kyiv History collections, stored in the Ukrainian House;
  • -immediately provide information about the state of museum collection in the Ukrainian House to the public;
  • -create the interdepartmental commission with the representatives of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Department of Culture KCSA, museum representatives, Ukrainian National Committee of ІCOM and the Ukrainian Center for Museum Development to monitor the situation and revision of presence of the collection of the Museum of Kyiv History in the Ukrainian House, and involve members of the Commission to investigate the incident with the Museum of Kyiv History, which occurred in the Ukrainian House over the last few months.
In the morning of February 20th, 2014, law enforcement officers, for unknown reasons, left the Ukrainian House. Museum staff with assistance of NGOs and volunteers organized the evacuation of the museum depositories to another building, which belongs to the Museum of Kyiv History (Bohdan Khmelnytsky st. 7).

Due to the aggravation of conflict on 18th-20th of February 2014 with the use of a weapon, museums and sites of cultural heritage are jeopardized in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine.
Ukraine House after 1/26 standoff between police and protesters

With regard to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of May 14, 1954 and taking into consideration the complete absence of any official information from the government for nearly three months of confrontations and precedents of violation of the integrity of the State Museum Fund, Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums ICOM appeals to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), ICOMOS and UNESCO with the call to articulate their opinion about the situation where museums in Ukraine become hostage off confrontation and shall take all possible measures to prevent such situations.

Sincerely,
Board of Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ІСОМ) 

(Translated by Bing)

February 20, 2014

A Nod to the Monuments Men: The National Gallery of Art’s New Exhibition; Event March 16 features Lynn H. Nicholas, author of "The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War"

"Monuments Officers and the NGA"
By Kirsten Hower, Social Networking Correspondent and List-Serve Manager

In lieu of the release of George Clooney’s film adaptation of the story of The Monuments Men and their endeavors to save the art of Europe, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., like many other institutions, has put on an exhibition, Monuments Officers and the NGA (Feb. 11-Sep. 1, 2014), celebrating the real men behind the mass rescue mission to save Europe's art. Given the National Gallery’s involvement in the efforts to start the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program, it is hardly surprising to find an exhibition held in conjunction with the opening of this film based on Robert Edsel's book by the same name.

Tucked into the Founder’s Room, just off of the spacious Rotunda in the West Wing, the exhibition is actually far smaller than one would expect. The entirety of the exhibition is one display case that, while very small, is full of some very interesting jewels. Pulled mostly from the Gallery’s own archives of the MFAA, the exhibit is composed of pictures of saved sites, men at work collecting stolen works of art, and other photos related to the war.

If you happen to be passing through Washington DC before September 1st, stop by the National Gallery of Art to see the exhibition and relish in some of the factual aspects of the story of the rather amazing Monuments Men.

This press release by the gallery announces an upcoming event:
On March 16 at 2:00 p.m., the Gallery will host the lecture The Inside Story: The Monuments Men and the National Gallery of Art detailing its relationship with the Monuments Men of the MFAA. Speakers will include Maygene Daniels, chief of Gallery Archives; Gregory Most, the Gallery's chief of library image collections; and Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. Faya Causey, head of the academic programs department, will moderate. The event is free and open to the public and the audience is invited to participate in an open discussion afterwards.

February 19, 2014

"Riverside County Art Dealer Arrested in Federal Cyberstalking Case" (U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release Feb. 12); FBI Art Crime Team Investigating

FROM:  Thom Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles) 

Issued on Wednesday, February 12 at 8:30 a.m. PST. EDS: a copy of the criminal complaint is attached. 
LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Temecula art gallery who allegedly stalked, harassed and attempted to extort several art world professionals was arrested today on federal cyberstalking charges. 
Jason White, 43, of Temecula, was arrested this morning without incident by special agents with the FBI. White’s arrest comes after federal prosecutors yesterday filed a criminal complaint that charges White with stalking, a crime that carries a potential penalty of five years in federal prison. White is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. 
According to the complaint, White engaged in a stalking and extortion scheme that targeted several art world professionals with whom he had had business relationships. When those business relationships ended, White posted derogatory information about his former associates on websites he had created, and then used threatening emails to demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for taking the websites down. According to the complaint, White repeatedly made extortionate demands through harassing text messages and emails, and when his demands were not met, he threatened violence.
In one part of the scheme, White targeted his former employer, an art publisher, as well as his supervisor at the art publisher’s company. After creating derogatory websites in the art publisher’s name, White allegedly sent threatening text messages to the art publisher, the publisher’s son, and his former supervisor. According to the complaint, in a text message to his former supervisor, he threatened to find her family and make her pay with “fear, anguish, and pain.” On several occasions, according to the complaint, White obtained pictures of her child and sent pictures of the child to the victim with comments such as “it will be very unfortunate if something was to happen to him.” During this time, according to the complaint, White continued to demand payment in exchange for taking down the websites he had created, and made it known to these victims that their business reputation would be ruined and that his websites would forever show up anytime anyone searched for their name on the internet. 
Late last month, White allegedly went to the Facebook page of a well-known artist represented by the art publisher and posted a picture of himself, along with a statement that he was focusing on the artist’s wife and child. White allegedly wrote that he would be waiting in the bushes to “knee cap a child.” Through the Facebook message, White told the artist, “your children are my end game.” 

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. 
The case against White is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Art Crime Team.

CONTACT:    Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Levitt
                        Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
                        (213) 894-2579 
Release No. 14-022

February 18, 2014

Stolen Lucio Fontana Painting Recovered

By Lynda Albertson

A painting by Lucio Fontana that was stolen the night of February 11, 2014 while on exhibition in Milan from the Pecci Museum in Ripa di Porta Ticinese has been recovered.  

An Italian painter and sculptor, Fontana is mostly known as the founder of Spatialism and for his ties to the Arte Povera movement.  As many of the artist's works carry the same simplified title, ARCA has elected not to publish a photograph of the recovered artwork until the painting has been confirmed and authenticated by the Carabineriri TPC as the version of "Spatial Concept 1962" stolen less than one week ago.

Local Italian police and fire fighters were called to the Porche dealership located on Via Stephenson in Milan yesterday to investigate an illegally parked Nissan automobile blocking the entry gates to the facility which is located in the northern suburbs of the city.  The painting, located in the back seat of the car, was found wrapped in a blanket.

According to the reconstruction report given by the police, the theft occurred when thieves entered the courtyard forcing a motor arm of an electric gate.   Police investigators are continuing to review surveillance camera footage in hopes that the recordings can provide useful information to identify the thieves who have stolen the work or perhaps be matched the driver of the car left blocking the dealership.  

In an interview with Italian newspaper "Il Tirreno, the director of the Pecci, Stefano Pezzato said the recovery of the painting, which occured on the closing day of the exhibition, was the conclusion of "a nightmare week".  The director added that not only were they happy and relieved that the painting had been recovered but that they would be looking into improvements for their exhibitions' security. 
  
Valued at 540 thousand euros and on loan from from its anonymous collector, "Spatial Concept, 1962" is not the first Lucio Fontana painting to meet with mishap. In 2010 "Spatial Concept - Waiting, 1968", an all white painting with five vertical cuts, was reportedly vandalized while on display at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. 

Like with many stolen and well cataloged paintings, the thieves most likely abandoned the artwork when they realized that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to sell. 




February 17, 2014

Dick Drent, Corporate Security Manager for the Van Gogh Museum, returns to Amelia to teach "Risk Assessment and Museum Security"

Dick Drent
Dick Drent, Corporate Security Manger for the Van Gogh Museum, will return July 12 - 16 to Amelia to teach "Risk Assessment and Museum Security" for ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crimes and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Before joining the staff at the Van Gogh MuseumMr. Drent worked in law enforcement in the Netherlands for 25 years, mostly in teams fighting organized crime and for few years as a liaison for the Dutch police for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. During the last 13 years in law enforcement, he worked as a coordinator with the National Undercover and Sensitive Operations Unit. In January 2005, he started as the Director of Security with the VGM before being appointed eight years later as Corporate Security Manager of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam where he is responsible for the development and realisation of security related issues (like policy, strategy, operations, risk assessment and management within the whole of the enterprise). In addition, Mr. Drent has a security consulting company, Omnirisk, which has provided services on the new Vincent Van Gogh Museum opening in Arles in April 2014; the renovation project of the Noordbrabants museum in Den Bosch (opened in 2013); and the renovation of the Dordrecht Museum in Dordrecht (2008-2010).

What makes your course relevant in the study of art crime?

The relevancy of my course is actually the solution for fighting crime against art in general. This is a firm statement of course but solving a crime against art is re-active and not protecting the art or cultural heritage. In a sentence: It is a tool to get the bad guys and recover, preferably undamaged, the stolen items. The power and strength of protecting art lies within the pro-active phase. How do you protect and secure your items, whether they are paintings, objects or other parts of cultural heritage? How do you prevent that something or anything will happen to it? These are the questions that will try to answer in my course.

What will be the focus in your course?

The focus on my course is that by the end of this course students will have gained an understanding on:
• The reasons why security should be an intrinsic part of a museum or other cultural heritage organization;
• The structure necessary to secure cultural heritage by ways of thorough risks analysis, combined with security measurement and proper training of staff; 

• A working knowledge of how to conduct a facility check via an audit within a museum or cultural heritage organization.; and
• An overview of working in a security role in a museum.
Do you have a recommended reading list that students can read before the course?

In addition to various course materials, students will be asked to read my chapter "Security for Temporary Exhibitions: Regular, Customized, or Bespoke" in Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger, 2009) from the ARCA library. I recommend that students read Managing the Unexpected, resilient performance in an age of uncertainty by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

February 15, 2014

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis will teach "Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: Lessons from Greece and Italy" for the 2014 ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis will return to Amelia this year to teach "Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: Lessons from Greece and Italy" from July 28-30 and August 4-6 in ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Dr. Tsirogiannis attended ARCA's International Art Crime Conference last year to accept the award for "Art Protection and Security" in recognition of his work of matching objects at auction with police-confiscated archives, leading to repatriations for Italy and Greece.

Christos, a Greek forensic archaeologist, studied archaeology and history of art in the University of Athens, then worked for the Greek Ministries of Culture and Justice from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. He voluntarily cooperated with the Greek police Art Squad on a daily basis (August 2004 - December 2008) and was a member of the Greek Task Force Team that repatriated looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities from the Getty Museum, the Shelby White/Leon Levy collection, the Jean-David Cahn AG galleries, and others.

Since 2007, Tsirogiannis has been identifying antiquities depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives with those in museums (e.g. the Michael Carlos Museum in Atlanta, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), galleries (e.g. Cahn AG), auction houses (Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams), and private collections (e.g. those of Shelby White/Leon Levy, Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, George Ortiz). Notifying public prosecutor Dr. Paolo Giorgio Ferri and the Greek authorities has led to repatriations (e.g. from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome). He received his Ph.D. last October at the University of Cambridge, on the international illicit antiquities network viewed through the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides archive.

What will be the focus in your course?
The trafficking of antiquities internationally, focusing on the last 50 years, and especially the developments in the illicit trade since 2005, using case studies throughout. We will start with a historical introduction, then survey the leading dealers of the international market. The central session of the course will consider the roles of auction houses, museums and galleries. Focusing on Greece, Italy, the UK and the USA, we will discuss the level of proof needed for a successful claim and repatriation, before we examine various strategies proposed for regulating the market in the future. Lectures will be combined with interactive discussion sessions.
Do you have a recommended reading list that students can read before the course?
CHIPPINDALE, CHRISTOPHER & DAVID W. J. GILL. 2000. Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting, American Journal of Archaeology 104:463-511. 
http://www.jstor.org/stable/507226
MEYER, KARL E. 1977. The Plundered Past. Atheneum (NY): Hamish Hamilton. 
O’KEEFE, PATRICK J. 1997. Trade in Antiquities: Reducing Destruction and Theft. London: Archetype Publications and UNESCO.
RENFREW, A. COLIN. 2006. Loot, legitimacy and ownership. London: Duckworth.
*WATSON, PETER & CECILIA TODESCHINI. 2007. The Medici conspiracy. New York (NY): Public Affairs.
Here's a link to a 2012 BBC interview with Christos Tsirogiannis.

The deadline to apply to the ARCA program in Umbria is March 1. You may send inquiries to education@artcrimeresearch.org.

February 14, 2014

Simon Metke and His Ongoing Relationship with "Protecting" Cultural Heritage


In a strange twist of you are famous three times and not just once, Simon Metke was first interviewed by CBC News Edmonton in December 2011 at his South Edmonton, Water's Edge condo on Saskatchewan Drive regarding incomplete works by the developer on the exterior of the highrise development.  
Photo Credit:  CBC News Edmonton
During his interview with Klingbeil and Pruden, Metke indicated he was drawn to the Achaemenid bas-relief panel stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011 because of his own interest in Mesopotamian religion and art.  He also indicated that he was pleased with having protected the object so that it didn’t get destroyed or lost.

Mr. Metke's feeling of protection towards cultural patrimony also seems to have included historic houses.  In March 2013 he was listed as a campaign team member for an Indiegogo crowd sourcing effort to raise $80,000 to preserve a historical landmark home to be designated as "The Healing Arts History House".  The home was to be utilized as a community centre for art, massage, music, dance, health, sustainable research, and community living.   The project only raised $1450 CAD.

CTV Edmonton News has a live interview with the puzzled Mr. Metke which Canadian viewers can see here.   

In further information related to this ongoing investigation, ARCA was informed by Sergente Mélanie Dumaresq, Agent d’information, Service des communications avec les médias for the Sûreté du Québec  (via email) that no reward has been paid out related to this case. When asked if police acted on a tip, Sergente Dumaresq replied that “Information received from the public enabled us to advance the investigation and identify the suspect.”  She added that the investigation was begun by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) but was transferred to the Sûreté du Québec in order to make use of the expertise of the integrated artworks investigation team, a specialized team composed of members of the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Sergente Dumaresq stated that the investigation indicates that the suspect did not commit the theft at the MMFA, but purchased the object knowing that it had been stolen.

Metke has been ordered to appear in an Edmonton courtroom on March 19, 2014.

February 13, 2014

AXA Art Insurance, the Sûreté du Québec, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Announce the recovery of a rare and valuable Achaemenid Bas-Relief Stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011


Sandstone, Head of a Guard photo by @DomenicFazioli
At a press conference today in Montreal, the Sûreté du Québec - Enquête de l'Équipe intégrée des enquêtes en œuvres d'art and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in cooperation with AXA Art Insurance Limited and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, announced the recovery of the Achaemenid bas-relief panel stolen from the gallery more than two years ago.

On October 26, 2011, a surveillance camera at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recorded a suspect in a baseball cap walking out of the gallery with a satchel believed by police and the museum to possibly contain one of the stolen artifacts reported to be worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars" (Montreal Gazette).

Three months later, an Art Alert (Case File : 11-98, dated February 14, 2012) issued by the Enquête de l'Équipe intégrée des enquêtes en œuvres d'art (the official name for Canada's Art Crime Enforcement Unit headquartered in Montreal) publicly identified the stolen objects as a 1st century C.E. yellow Numidian marble "Head of a Man, Egypto-archaizing style" and a more valuable 5th century B.C.E. Sandstone "Head of a Guard (fragment of a low relief)" from Persepolis. The announcement advertised a "Substantial Reward (Offered by AXA Art, subject to specific conditions) for information leading to the recovery" of the two archaeological objects. To avoid compromising the police investigation, no details of the theft aside from the video of the potential suspect, were released.

According to the press release issued for today's press conference, the $1.2 million sandstone bas-relief panel "Head of a Guard", valued at 1.2 million dollars, was recovered during a raid on an Edmonton house by an Alberta unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on January 22, 2014. This action led to the arrest of a 33-year-old man who has been charged with possession of stolen goods.

Surete du Quebec's spokesperson Joyce Kemp said in today's press conference said the unnamed individual arrested had purchased the object for an amount significantly inferior to its actual value.  The investigation and subsequent arrest have not, as yet, led to the recovery of the second artifact, the Yellow Numidian marble "Head of a Man", valued at $40,000 and reportedly stolen on October 26, 2011 nor the thief responsible for both thefts.

ARCA spoke with Mark Dalryrmple, the specialized fine art loss adjuster appointed by AXA ART assigned to this case, and asked him for his thoughts on today's recovery.  His responded positively with “No comment since as may be appreciated, the matter is sub judice, but we are extremely pleased that it is been recovered safely”.

Here's an excerpt from today's formal press release from the insurance company who offered the reward two years ago:

AXA ART announces the recovery of a rare and valuable Achaemenid Bas-Relief Following an intensive year long investigation between the police authorities in Montréal and Edmonton, AXA ART is pleased to announce the recovery of a rare and valuable Persian Achaemenid bas-relief panel.  The panel, together with a Roman marble head, was stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) in 2011.  The small portable panel was recovered almost 2,000 miles away in Edmonton and has now been returned to the Montréal Museum. “Given the difficulties involved in the recovery of stolen artwork we would like to acknowledge the diligence and extraordinary efforts of the Sûreté du Québec and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in collaboration with our Loss Adjuster, in securing the return of this precious cultural property”, commented AXA ART’s Claims Manager, Clare Dewey.  “The recovery should serve as encouragement for on-going investigations and as a deterrent for similar crimes. Our responsibility to our policy holders doesn’t end with a claims payment; we have a duty to work with law enforcement to recover cultural artefacts.” The Achaemenid relief dates from the 5th century BC. It is made of limestone, and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It has been part of the permanent collection held by the Montréal Museum for decades.  AXA ART is thrilled that this object can be returned to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts where it will continue to be enjoyed by the public for generations to come. 

UPDATED: This afternoon via email, ARCA interviewed Prof. John M. Fossey, Emeritus Curator, Mediterranean Archaeology for the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, who gave the following quote as to why the recovery is historically important:

"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 art.alerte@surete.qc.ca. 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.”


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