Showing posts with label Aubrey Catrone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aubrey Catrone. Show all posts

April 6, 2019

Interview with Aubrey Catrone, ARCA's 2018 Program Assistant

By Edgar Tijhuis

In 2019, the ARCA program will be held from May 31 through August 15, 2019 in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months up to the start of the program, a number of this years professors is as well as other staff of ARCA will interviewed. This time I speak with Aubrey Catrone, who served as ARCA's program assistant for the 2018 program.

Can you tell us something about your background?

Can you tell us something about your background? Growing up in Boston, in the shadow of the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist, I have always had a strong passion for the intersection of art, history, and crime. It is this enduring multidisciplinary approach to the art world that has helped shape my career and development as a provenance researcher. From an academic standpoint, I predominantly focused on the history of the Second World War, the French language, art crime, and art history. When I first attended the ARCA Postgraduate Program, it helped broaden my knowledge of the art market. It also further piqued my interest regarding the restitution of art looted in France during the Second World War. My MA in History of Art from University College London enabled me to explore my relationship with the history of art objects. In between what has undoubtedly been thousands of trips to the library, I have worked in art galleries and with art advisories, private collectors, non-profits, and academics. 

You have been ARCA's program assistant in the 2018. Can you tell us about your experiences in this role in Amelia?

Having stayed in Amelia as a participant and an alumna prior to this summer, working as the Program Assistant was definitely quite a shift in my experience with ARCA and Amelia in general. Serving as a critical point of contact for visitors, professors and students meant that I became far more acquainted with the city than I had been before. I can tell you the perfect route to take to get to where you need to go on festival days. I know which bar has the best WiFi. And, I’ve learned enough Italian to confidently travel throughout the countryside on my own. 

In anticipation of a summer in Italy, what do you recommend for participants to prepare for a summer of study in a small town? 

Patience. Amelia is an old city that enchants with its many charms but also infuriates you. Don’t panic when the internet cuts out and a project is due. In the fast-paced, electronically dominated society that we live in, remember to take a breath, smell the sunflowers, and enjoy the opportunity to unplug for a bit. Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO, also reminds participants that their largest retrievable databases are their professors as well as their fellow program participants. These sources can be accessed without the need for gigabyte data plans or modern technological accoutrements.

What makes the yearly ARCA PG Cert program unique? 

It is one of the only places in the world where postgraduate students of all ages can come to learn from and interact with world-renowned experts in the field of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Unlike programs in larger cities such as Rome, where teachers and students alike leave the classroom and go their separate ways, Amelia is small enough to bring everyone together on daily basis. Unlike large university settings, it’s a truly intimate environment where the experts are always accessible to share their knowledge and advice beyond the classroom, whether it's over coffee, dinner, or wine. It’s an enriching experience that endures beyond the summer months. 

Is it also possible to audit just one or two of the classes of the program? 

While each course can stand alone, the organisation of the summer program crescendos. For those looking for the full immersion experience, each course builds upon the next to create an in-depth understanding of art crime and cultural heritage protection. But, if someone has singular interests or goals, or less liberty to spend a full summer abroad, the opportunity to audit a single course can also provide unique benefits. 

While the participants always learn a lot in Amelia, what do you learn from them? 

With so many backgrounds and ages represented each year, everyone comes to Amelia with their own academic interests and cultural backgrounds. Over the summer months, Amelia becomes a melting pot for the sharing of ideas. I have heard stories ranging from archaeological digs in Syria, to the ofttimes unbelievable anecdotes of art detectives, to the way New Zealand smells in the summertime.

Which course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why? 

I’m always torn by this question. Marc Masurovsky’s work with provenance and Holocaust-era assets is something I am continually fascinated by and constantly starved to absorb. However, my summer schedule has yet to align with Christos Tsirogiannis’s course on illicit antiquities, a fascinating subject, and one I would be incredibly interested to incorporate into my research capabilities. 

What is your experience with the ARCA conference in June? 

The breadth of subject-matter covered over a single weekend by an international group of academics and experts is unprecedented. Speakers hail from the world’s most prestigious cultural heritage institutions while also including accomplished independent researchers. But, there is also time to enjoy the Italian countryside with organised dinners and cocktails, offering the opportunity to converse with colleagues in a relaxed social environment set against an Umbrian vista. 

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

I would always suggest that participants take advantage of the immersive experience. Become an Amerini (the name for the locals of Amelia). Hike through blooming sunflowers. Decorate the streets during Corpus Domini. Try as many local delicacies as your palette allows (affordable truffles and freshly made cheese are not easily attainable luxuries outside of Italy). Go on excursions. And, above all, be curious while you have the chance.

For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at

Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana (Slovenia). 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.

January 13, 2016

Should the Looting Legacy Enter the Museum?

By Aubrey Catrone, ARCA 2015 Alumna

MFA Exhibition Visitors: Class Distinctions, Image Credit MFA Website
The Nazi hunt for the work of Johannes Vermeer is not a long buried secret. It has been immortalized within a number of academic works and has found its way to mainstream media. Both Lynn H. Nicholas and Robert M. Edsel intimate an unspoken rivalry between Reichmarshall Hermann Georing and Hitler over the works of the Dutch Master that were uncovered during the pervasive looting of World War II. For, Vermeer was considered a champion of Germanic culture. In a world built upon the legacy of the great Italian masters, Hitler clung to Vermeer as the savior of his vision for cultural purity. For this reason, Vermeer's surviving works, if discovered amongst the loot, were to be considered revered above all else.

It was through this historical lens that I contextualized Vermeer’s The Astronomer, within the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s (MFA) special exhibit, “Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer.” This work was, arguably, one of Hitler’s most prized acquisitions during World War II. Having been seized from the Rothschilds, the German dictator believed The Astronomer epitomized the superiority of the Germanic peoples. 

Discreetly nestled on a temporary wall, painted a calming grey, so as not to detract from the beauty of the piece, the Astronomer, sat engrossed in his studies. The painting seemed to serve as a juxtaposition between the role of scientists in Dutch society during the 17th-century, and their wealthy counterparts who, while amateurs, yearned to immerse themselves in the evolving climate of discovery and advancement of the time period. In this manner, the placement and accompanying description of the painting captured the essence of the exhibit. Yet, there was no mention of the painting’s muddled past. The MFA plaque merely stated the painting was on loan from the Musée de Louvre.

I question whether or not a small mention of The Astronomer’s past should have been included within the exhibit. On one hand, it could be argued that such information could detract from the theme of the exhibit. Yet, wouldn’t it also bring a new dimension to the history of the piece as well as the exhibit itself?

This question is largely based in my observations of the patrons I walked with. One man asked if I had noticed a painting was on loan from Queen Elizabeth II's private collection. I overhead another couple debating not only the aesthetic aspects of a painting, but the historical details as well. Others simply took the time to peruse the gallery, reading each description in its entirety. These art enthusiasts, sacrificing a sunny, Monday afternoon to walk amongst vestiges of the past, were enthralled not only by the theme of the display, but by the lives of the paintings before them.

Informing patrons that an object was looted during World War II brings life to the artwork. For, the life of a painting does not simply end when the paint dries. It changes hands. It travels the world. It inspires emotion. Sharing such information, while somewhat controversial, not only creates the opportunity for people to engage with the art on a new level. It also preserves a significant period in art history. It is both a topic of conversation and an homage to the past. A single line of text is all it would require to preserve what should never be forgotten.

Sources Consulted: 

Edsel, Robert M. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. New York: Center Street, 2009.

Feigenbaum, Gail. ìManifest Provenance,î in Provenance: An Alternate History of Art, ed. Gail Feigenbaum and Inge Reist, 6-28. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012.

Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: the Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the Worldís Greatest Works of Art. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. ìAcquisitions and Provenance Policy.î Accessed August 4, 2015.

Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europa: the Fate of Europeís Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf, 1994.