March 30, 2019

To celebrate Van Gogh's birthday, we again highlight his works of art which have been stolen over the years.


Today is Van Gogh’s 166th birthday.

To celebrate his importance, we highlight his works of art which have been stolen over the years. Some of these remain missing.

When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen? 

In Van Gogh's lifetime, he only sold one painting, The Red Vineyard, despite the fact that his works  have long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Nine of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold.    

Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. And when that happens,  thieves often follow the path of least protection or resistance and strike at objects the know to be of value taking into consideration the places that allow for the opportunity.

Taking a look inside ARCA's list of art crimes involving the artist Vincent Van Gogh and by our count, 36 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 14 separate art thefts.

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Stolen in 1937 - The Lovers: The Poet's Garden IV, 1888  is only known to the art world through an 1888 letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo. This artwork, likely an oil on canvas was completed the same year the letter was sent and may have been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  The only known image of this painting is based the small sketch the artist sent to his brother along with his letter.  This work of art has never been recovered. 

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June 4, 1977 - Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen from Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum and later recovered only to then be stolen again in 2010. 

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February 17, 1975 – Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was one of 28 works of art stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. The painting was recovered in an apartment registered to an alias in Milan on April 6, 1975.  It too was stolen a second time, just one month later. See the individual theft post here.

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May 15, 1975 - Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was stolen for a second time along with 37 other Impressionist and Post Impressionist works of art from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. This follow-up theft included many of same artworks previously taken during the February 17, 1975 theft. The Van Gogh was recovered on November 2, 1975 in what was then West Germany along with ten other stolen artworks taken during the second the Galleria d'Arte Moderna theft. See the individual theft post here.

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May 20, 1988 - Three paintings Vase with Carnations (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh, La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) painted in 1874 by Johan Barthold Jongkind and Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and peaches) painted in 1890 by Paul Cézanne were stolen from the Stedelijk Museum, next door to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein in Amsterdam.  All three works of art were recovered undamaged.  See the individual theft post here.

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December 12, 1988 -  Three Van Goghs worth an estimated €113 million euros were stolen from the The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo about 60 miles east of Amsterdam. The stolen works of art included the second of three painted sketches titled De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters) completed in 1885, as well as two other works Four Cut Sunflowers, (also known as Overblown Sunflowers from August-September), 1887 and Loom with Weaver,1884.  All three paintings were recovered but had sustained damages.  See the individual theft post here.

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June 28, 1990 - Three early Van Gogh paintings, Digging farmer, 1885-87, Brabant Peasant, seated, 1884-1885, and Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The Digging Farmer was found in 1991 in a bank safe in Belgium. The other two paintings were returned in 1994 via negotiations with a tertiary party.  See the individual theft post here.

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April 14, 1991 - 20 paintings by Vincent van Gogh were stolen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All 20 paintings were recovered within 24 hours. Three of the 20 paintings were severely damaged. Four perpetrators, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm were arrested in July 1991.  See the entire list of artworks and the individual theft post here.

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May 19, 1998  -  The prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome was robbed by three armed with guns shortly before closing time. The criminals stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne, 1889 and Le Jardinier, October 1889 and Paul Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906.  On July 5, 1998 eight suspects were arrested and all three paintings were recovered.   See the individual theft post here.

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May 13-15, 1999 - The Vincent van Gogh painting, The Willow, was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch. The painting was recovered in 2006 following an undercover sting operation where two suspects were arrested. See the individual theft post here.

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December 7, 2002 - Two thieves using a ladder break in to the Van Gogh Museum making off with two paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884). Following an intensive international investigation, two Dutchmen, Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn were arrested in 2004 for their respective roles in the burglary. Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn was sentenced to 4 years incarceration. Each of the culprits were ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages and both denied responsibility.  The paintings remained lost for 14 years only to resurface in late September 2016 in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples. During a blitz by Italian law enforcement on members of an illicit cocaine trafficking ring operated by  a splinter group of the Naples Camorra, the paintings were recovered and are now safely back at the artist's museum in Amsterdam.  See individual theft post here. 

April 26, 2003 - Three paintings including Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape were taken from The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester. The works of art were found the next day crammed into a tube behind a public toilet in Manchester's Whitworth Park. See the individual theft post here.

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February 10, 2008 - Four paintings were stolen at gunpoint from a private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. The paintings were Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat, Claude Monet's Poppies near Vétheuil and Edgar Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters.  The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered on February 18, 2008.  The Degas was recovered in April 2012 and Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat was recovered April 12, 2012.  See the individual theft post here.

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August 21, 2010Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen for the second time from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.  Its current whereabouts are still unknown. 

March 26, 2019

Court dismisses Hicham Aboutaam complaint against Dow Jones & Company's for Benoit Faucon and Georgi Kantchev's Wall Street Journal article discussing the family's ancient art business



In July 2017 antiquities dealer Hicham Aboutaam sued the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal’s corporate parent Dow Jones & Co., in New York County Supreme Court over an article titled “Prominent Art Family Entangled in ISIS Antiquities-Looting Investigations” which was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 31, 2017 claiming his family's business and reputation had been damaged by the article written by WSJ reporters Benoit Faucon and Georgi Kantchev .  The journalists, who shared a byline on the article, were not named as defendants in the lawsuit.

In the filed 30 page complaint, Hicham Aboutaam as Plaintiff requested unspecified damages based on claims of libel and defamation.

In a ruling before the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, dated March 22, 2019 and filed today, Honorable Robert D. Kalish J.S.C granted the Motion of the Defendant, Dow Jones & Company, dismissing the complaint in its entirety.  The Court ruled that "the thrust of the article was that Plaintiff's family –"one of the most storied families in the international antiquities business"– is being investigated and scrutinized about the selling of looted antiquities and whether the family business is dealing in items looted by ISIS and then sold through dealers like Plaintiff and his brother Ali."  

In making his ruling, Kalish added:

"By no means does this Court's decision seek to undermine the serious consequences that sometimes follow a news organization's decision to publish details of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement.  However, the decision to truthfully report on an ongoing law enforcement investigation is ultimately a question of journalistic judgement.  Unless the reporting on such an investigation is materially false or affirmatively creates false suggestions, it is not for the courts to question an editorial judgement to report on an ongoing investigation." 

As the Court dismissed the plaintiff's causes of action for libel and defamation by implication, the Court did not address the Defendant's, Dow Jones & Co., argument that the Plaintiff failed to plead actual malice with regard to both causes of action.

In an email exchange regarding the Court's decision, Steve Severinghaus, Senior Director of Communications with Dow Jones stated "We are gratified by the court's decision to dismiss Mr. Aboutaam’s lawsuit against Dow Jones."

Suspect antiquities, traceable to ancient art sales through Hicham and Ali Aboutaam's companies have been written about with recurring frequency on the Association's blog.

It should be remembered that Hicham Aboutaam was arrested in 2003 for smuggling a looted ceremonial drinking vessel from Iran into the US, claiming that it had come from Syria.  Hicham pled guilty to the charges in 2004, paid a fine, and the vessel was returned to the Iranian authorities. As a result of that incident, Hicham Aboutaam stated that his conviction stemmed from a "lapse in judgment."

In the past, the Egyptian authorities accused Ali Aboutaam of involvement with Tarek El-Suesy (al-Seweissi), who was arrested in 2003 under Egypt’s patrimony law for illegal export of antiquities. Ali Aboutaam was tried in absentia, pronounced guilty and was fined, and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the Egyptian court in April 2004 after he was accused of smuggling artefacts from Egypt to Switzerland.  To date, Ali Aboutaam has not served any of the Egyptian sentence. 

The Aboutaams voluntarily repatriated 251 Antiquities valued at $2.7 Million to the State of Italy in May 2009 when the objects were tied to one of Italy's most notorious smuggling rings.


By Lynda Albertson

Recovered: Picasso portrait of Dora Maar


After negotiations that stretched from the UK, to the Netherlands and beyond, a Pablo Picasso portrait of photographer Dora Maar, stolen in 1999, has been recovered thanks to the work of private investigators.

Painted in 1938, Buste de Femme, is one of 63 known works in homage to Picasso's muse of nine years.  The artwork was stolen on March 11, 1999 from a 238 foot private yacht owned by the sometimes controversial Saudi billionaire Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh.  The theft occurred while his vessel, Coral Island, was harbored at Antibes on the Côte d’Azur in France undergoing refurbishment.

According to reports, just prior to its theft, the painting had been hung in the luxury vessel's primary living room, but had been removed temporarily from its pride of place and alarmed position while the room was being redecorated.  Packed precisely, it had been relocated to another locked room, placed carefully alongside a second artwork by Henri Matisse.  The Picasso was stolen, but the Matisse was not. And interestingly, the CCTV at the Antibes dock where the ship was moored, was conveniently malfunctioning.

The painting was eventually traced to the home of a Dutch real estate developer, who reportedly acted in good faith at the time of the purchase and was not aware of the theft.  In a post published on Twitter, Dutch art historian Arthur Brand released his own statement announcing his recovery along with a photograph of the artwork. 


Speaking with the Dutch morning news outlet Volkskrant Brand said "Once people realize that it is a stolen thing, they want to get rid of it." ...“They don't dare go to the police, they are afraid of it being stolen or being arrested while they have nothing to do with it. And then they come to me.”

Less than a month ago, intermediaries brought the painting to Brand’s apartment in Amsterdam.  On hand was Dick Ellis, the retired founder of Scotland Yard’s art and antiques squad.  An ARCA trustee, Ellis now works as a private investigator, in this case representing the insurance company who legally owns the stolen Picasso.  A representative from New York’s Pace Gallery, where the painting had previously been purchased, was flown in to authenticate the painting at a high-security location in Amsterdam.

Police in France and the Netherlands have issued statements that they will not prosecute the painting's last owner as the artwork apparently changed hands several times over the waning years. As the painting was insured, it is now the property of the insurance company, who will decide what to do with it next. 

Who ultimately gets to keep the artwork will depend on the policy-holder's "buy-back" rights, if he had any.  Buy back rights are specifically written clauses contained in property insurance policies that insure against physical loss or damage of high-value tangible property. In some cases buy-back clauses give the insured, in this case a private owner, first rights when in comes to buying the object back from the insurance company after having received a payout.  

As has been the case in the past, high-value, high-portability and rapidly appreciating works of art that have been stolen and subsequently recovered often bring large sums when they are sold after their recovery. 

A humorous look at life in Amelia from the eyes of a former participant

A medieval town & its secret passageways
by Summer Clowers, ARCA Alumna

WARNING: this essay is a work of satire.  It will be best understood if read in the voice of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, from Downton Abbey.

As an ARCA alumna, I have come to warn you about all of the things that you will hate about this small program on art crime. In that vein, I here offer you a list of the woes of living in a small Umbrian town the likes of which will keep you up at night as you scroll through old Facebook photos.  A letter of warning, if you will, to all prospective ARCA-ites. Should you choose to ignore my advice, I cannot be responsible for the consequences.

Your first few days in Amelia will leave you with an intense urge to explore and make friends.  The town is ancient, surrounded on most sides by a Neolithic wall with even more history buried beneath it.  There are secret passages and hidden rooms and you’re going to want to grab a new-found buddy and sneak through every one of them.  DON’T.  The more you explore, the more you will love the town, and it will make it that much harder to leave.  Yes, there are three secret Roman cellars to be discovered as well as an ancient Roman cistern.  Yes, the town’s people do scatter the roads with rose petals in the shape of angels once each summer.  All of these things are beside the point.  Walk steady on the path and avoid all temptations to adventure.

As for friends, stick with people that live near to you back in the real world.  I know Papa Di Stefano is fantastic, and yes, he will befriend you in a way that transcends language, but do you really want to miss him when you’ve gone?  And your fellow students?  Well, most of them are going to live nowhere near you.  Do you really need to have contacts in Lisbon and Melbourne and New York and Amsterdam?  No, you don’t.  It’s so damp in the Netherlands and we all know London is just atrocious.  I mean really, all those people. Take my advice, ignore anyone that lives far away from you.  You are here to learn and leave, not make connections that will last you the rest of forever.

You will also want to avoid the town’s locals.  Amelia is tiny, so getting to know most of its shopkeepers and inhabitants will not be very hard, but you must resist the urge to do so.  It’s true that Massimo will know your coffee order before you get fully through his door, and the Count will open his home with a smile to show you around his gorgeous palazzo, and Titi will make you the best surprise sandwich, but these things are not proper.  Do not mistake their overflowing kindness and warmth for anything other than good breeding.  And when you find yourself sobbing at the thought of saying goodbye to Monica, you can just blame your tears on the pollen like the rest of us.

Your instructors are going to be just as big of a challenge.  The professor’s are really too friendly.  I know that Noah Charney says that he’s available for lunch and the founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques squad, Dick Ellis, will happily have a beer with you, but is getting to know your professor socially really appropriate?  I mean, we’ve all attended seminars where you barely see the speaker outside of stolen moments during coffee breaks, and that’s the best way for things to go, isn’t it?  Sterile classroom experience with little to no professorial interactions is the way academic things should run.  I know I never saw any of my professor’s outside of class.  And I certainly don’t keep up with Judge Tompkins' travels through his prosaic emails; that would just be inappropriate.

And then there’s the conference.  It lasts an entire weekend.  Why would I want to attend a weekend long event where powerhouses in the field open up their brains for poor plebeians?  I mean honestly, meeting Christos Tsirogiannis at the conference will be a high point in your year, and it will be too difficult to control your nerdy spasms when Toby Bull sits down next to you at dinner.  And then, when you find out that Christos joined ARCA's teaching team in 2014, you’ll find yourself scrambling to come up with a way to take the program a second time just so you can pick his brain. Think about how much work that will be.  They aim to make this an easy experience where you rarely have to use powers of higher thinking.  This should be like the grand tour, a comfortable time away from home so that you can tell others that you simply summered in Italy. 

And the program would be so much better served in Rome.  I mean, just think on it.  You would never have to learn Italian because you’d be in a city full of tourists.  You’d get to pay three times as much for an apartment a third of the size of the one you rent in Amelia, and you wouldn’t have to live near any of your classmates.  A city the size of Rome is big enough that a half hour metro ride to each other’s places would be pretty much de rigueur.  This means you wouldn’t have to deal with any of those impromptu dinner/study salons at one another's apartments.  And there certainly wouldn’t be random class-wide wine tastings at the Palazzo Venturelli. That’s just too much socializing anyway.  It’s unseemly.

And finally, let’s talk about the classes.  Do we really care about art crime? Sure, Dick Drent is pretty much the coolest human you’ll ever meet and you will never look at a museum the same way again, and Dorit Straus somehow manages to make art insurance spectacularly interesting, but really, do we care?  Isn’t that better left to one’s financial advisor?  And the secret porchetta truck that the interns will show you as you study the intricacies of art law, could surely be found on one’s own.  Couldn’t it?  I think we would all be much better served by just watching that terrible Monuments Men movie, fawning over George Clooney and Matt Damon, and thinking about the things we could be doing all from the safety and comfort of our own homes.  I do so hate leaving home.  The ARCA program involves work, and eleven courses with fifteen different professors, and classmates that will quickly become family, well it's all so exhausting.  I mean really, tell me, does this sound like the program for you?

ARCA Editorial Note:  Late applications are still being accepted.  If you would like more information on ARCA's 2019 program please write to education (at) artcrimeresearch.org for a copy of this year's prospectus and application materials. 

March 23, 2019

Cultural Property Advisory Committee session - To be Streamed


The US Cultural Property Advisory Committee will meet April 1-3, 2019, to review new requests for cultural property agreements from Chile and Jordan. 

The CPAC committee invites public comment on the requests and the public may participate in the virtual open session of the meeting on April 1, 2019, from 1:30 – 2:30 pm EDT. 

Chile’s Request:  The Government of the Republic of Chile has requested U.S. import restrictions on archaeological material from Chile. This request was submitted pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as implemented by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. More information on Chile’s request can be found here

Jordan’s Request: The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has requested U.S. import restrictions on archaeological material from Jordan. This request was submitted pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as implemented by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. More information on Jordan’s request can be found here. 

The Review Process:  The State Department will follow these procedures as it weighs responses to the request for an agreement from Chile and Jordan. 

Comments on the Chile and Jordan: For Chile and Jordan’s requests, public comments should focus on the four determinations described in the procedures above. All comments must be submitted in writing no later than March 25, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). 

Use regulations.gov, enter docket DOS-2019-0004, and follow the prompts to submit written comments. 

Participate in the Virtual Open Session:  The virtual open session of the Committee meeting will be held on April 1 from 1:30 pm to approximately 2:30 pm EDT using Zoom, a web conferencing service. Anyone may attend and/or participate. 

If you are new to Zoom, these tips will help you get started. 

If needed, please request reasonable accommodation not later than March 15 by contacting the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at: culprop@state.gov. 

Requests made after that date will be considered, but it may not be possible to fulfill them. 

To participate:  If you wish to participate in the open session at the meeting, you must request to be scheduled by March 27, 2019, via email (culprop@state.gov) in order to be guaranteed a slot. Please submit your name and organizational affiliation in this request. 

After you pre-register, you will be provided with instructions on how to participate. 

The open session will start with a brief presentation by the Committee, after which participants should be prepared to answer questions on any written statements they may have submitted. Finally, participants may provide additional oral comments for up to five (5) minutes per participant. 

Due to time constraints, it may not be possible to accommodate all who wish to speak. 

To observe: It is not necessary to pre-register. The webinar will include a chat space for conversation among observers. The chat space will not be monitored by the Committee and will not be incorporated into the record of the meeting. 

To join as an observer: Click the link to join the webinar: https://eca-state.zoom.us/j/463744513 

Or by Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 646 876 9923 or +1 669 900 6833 Webinar ID: 463 744 513 

International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/aciF0sNigl

More Info: https://eca.state.gov/highlight/cultural-property-advisory-committee-meeting-april-1-3

March 4, 2019

Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA and leading expert on art crime, returns to Amelia to teach at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection


This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 14, 2019 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s lecturers will be interviewed. This week I sit down with Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA.

Can you tell us something about your background and work? 

I was trying to decide what to study--traditional art history or playwriting believe it or not--when I stumbled into the field of art crime. I originally decided to study art history but did so in London where I could also go see a lot of plays. During that time I thought I wanted to be a playwright and actually got an agent for my plays. But she said that it was far easier to make a living as a novelist than a playwright and did I maybe have a novel in mind? I didn't, but I got started writing.

It was the era of The Thomas Crown Affair and The Da Vinci Code and I thought I'd try something along those lines. As I began my research I realized that there was very little published on true art crimes, especially from an academic angle.  The outcome was I wound up writing The Art Thief, which I was very lucky with.

My interest in studying art crime was piqued at that point and eventually I shifted from art history into criminology, in order to focus on its motivating factors. Turns out I was one of the very few academics drawn to studying this type of crime. While working towards my PhD I organized a conference in Cambridge that brought together art police and academics researching art related crimes. I got lucky again and the conference and this blending of law enforcement and academia were written up in The New York Times. This really kicked things off and was the starting point for my deciding to found ARCA as a research association on art crime, in order to bring together individuals from the various disciplines and specializations that, at the time, seemed so separated from one another. 

What sets the ARCA program apart from others developed later? 

I'm very proud of ARCA's post graduate program, both in terms of what we have created, and what it has supported its graduates to gone on and do professionally.   The program itself was written up in a separate article in the New York Times specifically because of its distinctive subject matter and for it being the first program of its kind in the world, in which one could study art crime but also in a very unique and distinctive format.

The program runs every summer over 11 weeks and we bring in 11-15 world experts in varying disciplines who each teach, or co-teach, one of eleven course modules, each of which are interconnected and make up the foundation of our postgraduate-level professional development program.  Some of our lecturers include Richard Ellis, the founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad, Marc Masurovsky, who is an expert on Holocaust looted assets, Dorit Straus, who is an art insurance underwriting expert who also sits on the United State's Cultural Property Advisory Committee, and Dick Drent, the former director of security for the Van Gogh Museum who is a risk management consultant for museums around the globe.

We are also lucky to have a judge, three criminologists and two archaeologists as primary course professors and guest lecturers who come in every year and speak on current cases and art crime deterrent initiatives, which add to the diversity of material we cover.   This year we will have guest lecturers working in conflict archaeology and two curators from the British Museum who will be part of our opening course, lecturing on the issues of circulating illicit artefacts and due diligence. 

I myself teach our history of art crime course, which has a heavy emphasis on forgery. In developing our format, students pursuing MAs and PhDs and professionals can take the program over the course of one summer, or split the program up over two summers and still get the time to explore Italy and Europe. Setting up the program in this way also allows us to bring major experts in the fields, who otherwise have full-time jobs elsewhere, to teach with us one week or two weeks each summer, sharing their knowledge.

Since ARCA's first year of programming in 2009, we have now trained more than 260 alumni who come from 35 different countries around the world and from all different professional backgrounds.  Some of our participants go on to work on Masters degrees or their own  PhDs, and others already work in allied art industry fields.  What's interesting is that the profile of our participants cuts across all disciplines and age groups from late twenties to mature senior learners.

We have had graduates invent new careers in the field, some who have moved on to prominent roles at art law firms, consulting with UNESCO and other heritage organizations, or who blaze their own trails, working in the fields of provenance research or within museums in varying capacities. It is always a wonderfully bonded group that falls in love with the town of Amelia in Italy where the program has been held for more than a decade and who stay in touch with one another, networking long after the program concludes.  That chemistry and diversity is something that we are very proud of. 

Another thing we are proud of is our training of scholars working in conflict countries.  This month we are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so we can offer more scholarships to heritage professionals from countries where cultural heritage is particularly at risk as the result of war and or poverty. Since 2015 we have been able to give scholarships to professionals working in Yemen and Iraq and Syria and we would like to be able to do more in this capacity.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

Our program schedule is very intensive -- 5 hours a day for 5 days a week.  But while there are a lot of lecture hours, 220 over the course of all 11 course modules, the overall feeling during the summer is quite relaxed. Classes begin at 10:30 in the morning so it is not exactly at the crack of dawn. We also have a generous 2-hour break for lunch and classes finish by 5:30 in the evening so participants still have time to adjourn to lovely gardens or cafes and to enjoy some wine and pizza. We also try to balance the quantity of home-based assignments with in classroom assignments.

For me, I love teaching and the 5 hours a day of lectures I give fly by. Teaching the history of art crime with a focus on forgery, my goal is to highlight historical case studies that help participants understand how to analyze criminal cases.   Even when we have incomplete information on the crime committed by delving into these historical examples we shed light on present and future issues.

I also always include a bonus lecture for our participants that focuses on strategies for writing their thesis or any academic journal article. If there is time and enough interest, I also include a second bonus lecture on how to get published and earn money as a freelance writer.  There are lots of lessons that I had to learn through experience that I think can really help people and it's my pleasure to offer anything I can to help our participants who are interested in writing, whatever their age or background might be.

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your course, is there anything you learn from them in class?

I am always learning and part of the fun is the fact that art crime is both so understudied and also so multifaceted. As only a limited amount of material has been published in detail on this subject area,  and as so few people in the world have historically focused on art crime in the art world, each person who studies with us has a chance to make a real and meaningful contribution by exploring the nuances of the genre.  By the very reason that this subject area is a rare though important field of study, postgraduate scholars can make real breakthroughs that can really shake things up and contribute to the knowledge base within this sector.

As an emerging area of focus, there are lots of empty spaces and unanswered questions that need to be filled in. For example one of our earliest participants focused on the specific ways certain criminals had passed off forgeries and looted works of art as legitimate.  By fabricated documents to create a plausible collection history of the artwork, what people in the art trade call provenance documentation, this disreputable player had created a wholly fictitious backstory in order to legitimize the sale of objects on the art market.   Knowing that there was no real focus on gathering and confirming or discounting presented documentation in order to determine an object's illegitimacy, the criminals had laundered artworks onto the market with impunity.

When I talked about some of the ways that historically criminals have tricked the art trade and buyers one participant explained that in their country, in many art market situations and sales environments there isn't anyone whose job it is to verify an objects providence, or to determine whether or not the consigned object or its paperwork, were forged. The fact that an industry the size of the art market was so intentionally vulnerable, all in the name of sales, was a real eye opener. 

In anticipation of your course, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

There are so many good writers, many associated with ARCA, who have good and useful books well worth reading. I think it's also actually a good exercise to indulge in art crime entertainment. It is useful because it's fun and it also exemplifies how misleading so many films are.  This is a useful starting point for recognizing which aspects of art criminality presented to the general public are accurate and which are not.

There are many great films that are a lot of fun and that also teach viewers two things. First the films give a sense of what the public thinks, or wants to believe about art crime, and are something criminals themselves learn from about the art world as they have access to the same sources of the general public.  But films and fiction are also generally not very accurate. Second, understanding the criminals' knowledge base is very helpful in stopping them.   Films are useful for our participants because they see just how much they've learned by the end of the program by being able to think back on these pop culture touchstone's and having learned to recognize which aspects of them are plausible and which are truly just Hollywood-esque entertainment and hype.

What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique? 

The program is unique. That phrase is often used as hyperbole but in this case it is very true. ARCA's PG Cert was the very first program in the world where you could study art crime in an interdisciplinary academic way. There have since been other programs developed that have popped up long after ours was initiated but they tend to focus on specific subsections of art crime, such as criminal investigation or law as it relates to specific countries, or to the illicit trade in antiquities. Whereas ours remains the only comprehensive program out there.  So for me, if someone wants to study our crime I believe this is still the only place where one can really do it full justice as we aren't restricted to one subject discipline. 

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria? 

Amelia is a wonderful place to spend a summer and our participants inevitably fall in love with the town and the region and the people in the city and their fellow participants. Many of our alumni come back to our summer art crime conference every year not just for the interesting scholarship but also as an excuse to visit old friends and colleagues. Over the course of a summer it is also easy for participants to explore every nook and cranny of Amelia as it is modest in size but with surprising riches such as a city's spectacular Duomo.

Borrowing a car, or better still, a friend with a car, is a great thing to do because there are wonderful day trips to do near Amelia. There are many wonderful towns worth seeing in Italy, and I'm not just talking about the grand tour cities of Rome and Florence and Venice and Naples. Bomarzo, with its amazing and crazy mannerist sculpture garden, is full of these stone sculptures of giants and monsters that are much larger than life size and which is only a half hour away from where we are based. Orvieto and Viterbo, Civita di Bagnoregio, Narni, Spoleto...are also gems worth visiting. 

Maybe one of the nicest activities to do that is beyond the traditional beaten tourist path is to attend a summer sagra. This village food festivals pop up all over Italy throughout the summer. Each one has a theme focusing on a special food from their area and during these it is like a giant pop-up communal restaurant filled with local townspeople, eating at long tables.  These provide lots of camaraderie and dancing and are a cheap way to enjoy delicious speciality eats with locals.

Can you tell us something about your books outside the field of art and crime? 

While I'm known mostly for my books on art crime I've also enjoyed branching out in recent years. I just finished helping a famous Slovenian chef with his latest cookbook and I had great fun publishing a book about my adventures living in Slovenia called Slovenology.  This book has been very well received and translated into several languages.   I seem to be known for two things: art crime and for being an American expat in Slovenia. I hope I have brought some positive changes and interpretations to both of these subjects!


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org


Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

March 1, 2019

Found in an attic, oh my.

I found it in an attic...never a basement, never on the wall, never in granny's bedroom.  The number of forgotten masterpieces purportedly found under the rooftops of houses, many of them French for some reason, sometime can seem too good to be true.  Not to mention an almost tritely predictable location.   

I've been in my parents attics lots of times but all I ever find is old Christmas ornaments, not priceless, formally unknown masterpieces. 

Here are some of the fortunes found (and not) in attics recently:


A masterpiece by Giambattista Tiepolo's "The Portrait of a lady as Flora" was reportedly found in the attic of a French château.  This artwork sold in 2008 via Christie's for £2.8 million. 



In 2010 family members found a Chinese 18th Century Qianlong porcelain Fish Vase, clearing out the attic of their uncle/brother's modest home in Pinner, a town in the Borough of Harrow, in northwest London shortly after he recently died.  The 18th century vase later sold at Bainbridges auction for a mind boggling £53.1 million.  


In 2013, after considerable doubt, then Van Gogh museum director Axel Rüger announced that the 1988 "Sunset at Montmajour" which had been “rediscovered” after sitting in a Norwegian attic,  was authentic.


In 2013 a tiny figurine, made by Faberge, depicting a known personal bodyguard to the family of Russian Czar Nicholas II was found in an upstate New York attic when relatives cleaned out the space following the death of a relative.  The jaunty soldier sold for $5.2 million.  



The artwork " Poise (1916), painted by Scottish Colorist John Duncan Fergusson was rediscovered in another French attic, this time in Giverny.  It was sold in November 2014 for £638,500.


In 2015,  a Scotsman, Dominic Currie told the world he was cleaning out old belongings that once belonged to his deceased mother, and purportedly found a work by the Cubist artist Pablo Picasso rolled up in an old suitcase he had stored in his attic in 2000, apparently too distraught to go through her things at the time of his mum's passing.  The artwork later turned out to be a hoax, though Currie claims that his ruse was simply a piece of performance art, done to raise awareness of the plight of struggling artists like himself.


In April of 2016, in still yet another French attic, near Toulouse, apparently produced a rare painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.  This artwork depicts the violent biblical scene of "Judith Beheading Holofernes" which, if it is to be believed, dates back to around 1600.  It will go under the hammer in Toulouse on June 27 this year and could fetch as much as $171 million.


In 2018 a second set of siblings cleaning out their parents attic in France found dozens of pieces of Chinoiserie.  One of them was an Imperial 18th-century ‘Yangcai’ Famille-Rose porcelain vase, found in a shoebox, created during the reign of Qianlong, the fourth emperor in the Qing dynasty.  It sold for 16.2 million euros via Sotheby's later that same year. 

Perhaps it's time to tidy up those dusty attic corners.

By:  Lynda Albertson