Showing posts with label Hot Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hot Art. Show all posts

December 3, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Noah Charney's Q&A with Joshua Knelman

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor-in-chief Noah Charney interviews Joshua Knelman, a journalist living in Canada who's first book, Hot Art, is about investigating stolen art.  In it he profiles Don Hrycyk and follows the story of several heists and their subsequent investigations.  Along the way he speaks with a number of ARCA staff and colleagues.

"We chatted with Joshua about his research and how he came to write this book," Noah introduces.

Here's the first question Noah Charney asks Joshua Knelman:

Which art theft do you discuss in your book and how did you choose those cases in particular? With over 50,000 reported art thefts per year worldwide, and with the Carabinieri databased packed with over 3 million stolen artworks, it must have been tough to choose where to focus.
I chose to focus on cases related to me by a wide range of sources, and followed the threads, hoping to identify criminal patterns.  I was less interested in following one art theft case than in figuring out how art theft as a phenomenon works.  So it wasn't a matter of one particular case.  The book showcases a wide variety of art thefts ranging from blockbuster art heists, to art gallery smash and grabs, to the almost invisible plague of thefts from private residences.  It was this last category which seemed to be less covered, but persuasive.  When I began the book, I have to admit, I was hoping for a Thomas Crown Affair story I could follow, bu the reality turned out to be far more complex, and, to my mind, more interesting.
You may read the rest of this interview by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.






July 25, 2012

Joshua Knelman's "Hot Art" Reviewed in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

ARCA Blog Editor Catherine Sezgin reviews Joshua Knelman's "Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Art" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:
Interpol and UNESCO listed art theft as the fourth- largest black market in the world (after drugs, money-laundering, and weapons). But what did that mean? After I’d been following Czegledi’s career for several years, one point was clear: don’t look at the Hollywood versions of art theft – the Myth. This is a bigger game, with more players, and the legitimate business of art is directly implicated. A lot of the crimes are hidden in the open. Stealing art is just the beginning. Then the art is laundered up into the legitimate market, into private collections, into the world’s most renowned museums. – Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art Toronto journalist
Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books 2012), introduces to the general reader the international problem of art crime and the limited resources of legal authorities in fighting this problem in the first decade of the 21st century. In 2003, Knelman was just a 26-year-old researcher for the Canadian magazine Walrus, when he stumbled down the rabbit hole of art theft and recovery. A gallery owner hesitant to speak about the theft of $250,000 worth of photographs stolen two years earlier opens up when police arrest a thief who has some of the pieces. Knelman asks to speak to the suspect’s lawyer, leading to a midnight phone call from the thief who has been investigating Knelman. The two meet in a café in Toronto. The aspiring reporter is physically threatened, given stolen art, and then lectured by the thief about how the secretive business practices in the legitimate art market actually support art crime. Thus begins Knelman’s adventures through the world of thieves and investigators of looted art.

July 12, 2012

Joshua Knelman publishes the essay "Headache Art" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Joshua Knelman's essay "Headache Art" is an excerpt from his book Hot Art (Tin House, 2012) and is published with permission from the author in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, was supposed to be relaxing. He woke up in Scotland on his first holiday that year, excited about attending the Edinburgh International Festival—music, poetry, literature. He hadn’t even left a telephone number where he could be contacted by staff.
Waterfield was out of bed by 9 AM and strolled from the art dealer’s apartment where he was staying to nearby Waverley train station, where he bought a copy of The Times. He scanned the front page of the most venerated newspaper in England. The date was August 15, 1981. “It was right there in bold letters: ‘Rembrandt Stolen for Third Time,’” remembered Waterfield.
Joshua Knelman is a journalist, based in Toronto, whose first book, Hot Art, was recently published by Tin House.

May 4, 2012

BOOK REVIEW CONCLUDED: Joshua Knelman's Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

(You may find the first two parts here and here)

In London, Julian Radcliffe, founder of the Art Loss Register, a private company originally funded by auction houses and insurers to create a database of stolen art, tells Knelman of his effort to establish a stolen art database for art dealers and auction houses.  The company also reported over $200 million in art theft recoveries by 2008, including recoveries of paintings by Cézanne, Edouard Manet, and Pablo Picasso.

“Famous paintings are just a small percentage of what is being stolen,” Radcliffe told Knelman, [adding that] most of the art on the ALR list consists of minor paintings and antiques, and fewer than 1 per cent of those are ever recovered.

Radcliffe explains that art dealers often didn’t question why they could purchase a painting cheaply.  Sometimes if art dealers found out the art was reported stolen on ALR, they would not buy the work but refer it to someone else.  Even art thieves like to search the database to see if a painting has been reported stolen.

In the over 1,000 recoveries Radcliffe has enjoyed, in only three cases was the thief not after the paycheck for the stolen art, and most of the art that wasn’t immediately passed on to a dealer or auction house was stored in a vault, a closet, an attic, or a basement.
“Transactions in the art world are often carried out anonymously … and this cult of secrecy can be taken advantage of by criminals,” said Radcliffe.  “The art trade is the least regulated and least transparent activity in the commercial world, and the portability of the times and their international market make them very attractive for moving value, unobserved.”
Radcliffe said that the average value of stolen art is under $10,000 and that thieves will pass these items off to fences, who will then move them into the outlands of the art market: to small auction houses or galleries, or across oceans…. About half of all stolen art recovered by the ALR was found in a different country from where it was originally stolen. 

In the United States, Knelmen meets Special Agent Robert K. Wittman, then a Senior Art Investigator for the Rapid Deployment Art Crime Team for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Wittman was six months away from retirement.  The 1996 law, The Theft of Major Artwork had made it a federal crime to steal from a museum or to steal a work of art worth more than $5,000 or older than 100 years.  Knelman tells how Wittman recovered a Norman Rockwell painting in Brazil just three months after helping with the recovery effort after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Knelman meets Matthew Bogdanos who had lived one block from the WTC on 9/11.  The assistant U. S. district attorney, a Marine reservist, led the art theft investigation of the National Museum of Iraq after looting in 2003, and established an amnesty program to recover the stolen antiquities.

In the fall of 2009, Knelman meets Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Art Crime Team which had reorganized in response to the looting of the Iraqi museum.  Magness-Gardiner echoes what Knelman heard in his first meeting with an art thief in Toronto six years earlier about an unregulated and undocumented art market based on secretive transactions involving millions of dollars.

I asked Magness-Gardiner if it was fair to say that no one had a handle on how large the black market in stolen art had become.  “Yes, that’s fair to say,” she answered....  “When we say ‘black market,’ really what we mean are those stolen items that are in the legitimate market and shouldn’t be there.  The black market isn’t separate.  So we’re talking about items that have no history.  The collectors, the museums, and the dealers all partake on some level.”

Magness-Gardiner explains:
“Art is one of the biggest unregulated markets in the U. S.  The business of art tends to be very closed and secretive.  It is still business done on a handshake.  Financial transactions are quite difficult to track, because you don’t have a paper trail.  How art is bought, sold, and moved is a challenge in itself to understand.  When a piece of art is bought or sold, there is the movement of the physical object from one location to another.  There is also the transfer of money from one bank account to another.  There is nothing to link those two events.”
Magness-Gardiner addressed the lack of information about the collecting history or previous ownership of an object of art or cultural property:
“Another problem built into a business-on-a-handshake model is the issue of provenance.  The first thing we tell a new agent to do is to find out whether or not the work of art that has been stolen is, in fact, real.  Where does it come from? Where are its records? We don’t know until we do a background investigation on the piece of art.”  She continued, “Looking at the authenticity of a piece is always detective work.  Unlike most other material items manufactured today, art does not have serial numbers.  Lack of a serial number is one element that really distinguishes art from other types of property theft.  The only parallel is jewellery and gems – difficult to trace because they don’t have a serial number either, and so they are particularly valuable to thieves,” she said. 

“The middlemen and the dealers don’t want other people to know their sources.  This can stem from a legitimate business concern, because if other dealers find out who their sources are, they could use those same sources.”
Knelman dedicates a chapter to the art crime investigator, Alain Lacoursière, who had worked on art thefts as part of his police job until he retired. When Knelman met the new generation of the  Quebec Art Squad they didn’t know of the work of the LAPD Art Theft Detail until Knelman told the French-speaking detectives of Hrycyk’s work.

In Hot Art, Knelman successfully brings a personal narrative navigating the disparate international world of art theft and recovery that almost unknowingly tell of the same story of theft and laundering stolen art through the legitimate market and the limited resources to combat the problem.  From England’s first art investigative team, the Sussex Police’s art and antiques squad, in 1965 to information flourishing on the internet through blogs such as Art Hostage (written by the former  Brighton Knocker Paul "Turbo" Hendry), and information dispersed by Interpol, the LAPD’S Art Theft Detail, Quebec’s Art Crime Squad, and the Museum Security Network, who in the English-speaking world will be the next law enforcement officers to continue the work of its pioneers?

May 2, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Joshua Knelman's Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Interpol and UNESCO listed art theft as the fourth-largest black market in the world (after drugs, money-laundering, and weapons).  But what did that mean? After I’d been following [Bonnie] Czegledi’s career for several years, one point was clear: don't look at the Hollywood versions of an art thief -- the Myth.  This is a bigger game, with more players, and the legitimate business of art is directly implicated.  A lot of the crimes are hidden in the open.  Stealing art is just the beginning.  Then the art is laundered up into the legitimate market, into private collections, into the world's most renowned museums.
 -- Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art

Toronto journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books, 2012), introduces to the general reader the international problem of art crime and the limited resources of legal authorities in fighting this problem in the first decade of the 21st century.

In 2003, Knelman was just a 26-year-old researcher for the Canadian magazine Walrus when he stumbled down the rabbit hole of art theft and recovery.  A gallery owner hesitant to speak about the theft of $250,000 worth of photographs stolen two years earlier opens up to Knelman after police recover part of the stolen artwork.  Knelman eventually contacts the suspect’s lawyer, and that leads to a midnight phone call from the thief who has been investigating Knelman. The two meet in a café in Toronto.  The aspiring reporter is physically threatened, given stolen art, and then lectured by the thief about how the secretive business practices in the legitimate art market actually supports art crime.  Thus begins Knelman’s adventures through the world of thieves and investigators of looted art.

The journalist befriends Bonnie Czegledi, a Toronto attorney specializing in art crime, who educates Knelman about the types of stolen art and cultural property: missing Holocaust-looted artworks; pillaging of antiquities from source countries such as Egypt, Afghanistan, and Turkey; multi-million dollar thefts from museums worldwide; and unreported thefts from galleries and residences.  Knelman writes:
The world’s cultural heritage had become one big department store, and thieves of all kinds, at all levels, were shoplifting with impunity, as if the one security guard on duty was out on a smoke break.
Stolen art can be laundered through auction houses and art dealers; police aren’t trained to investigate art theft; and lawyers aren’t trained to prosecute them.  “Meanwhile, the criminal network is international, sophisticated and organized,” Czegledi says.

Ten years ago when Knelman first met Czegledi, tools to recover stolen art included Interpol’s stolen art database; the International Council of Museum’s guidelines for the buying practices of museums; the International Foundation for Art Research; and the Art Loss Register.

For example, Knelman relates that a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum was offered the chance to buy some Iraqi antiquities (the institution declined).  This was after the National Museum of Iraq was looted in 2003 and about 25 years after Canada had signed the 1970 Convention barring importing stolen artwork across international borders.

Knelman points out that only a handful of detectives worldwide have the expertise and training to investigate art thefts – from the pairs of police officers located in Montreal and Los Angeles to the larger European squads in England and Italy.

In 2005, Knelman’s published an article in The Walrus, “Artful Crimes” which highlights art crime in Canada against an increasingly global and transnational problem.  But he wasn’t done with the story.  Two years later, Knelman paid his own way to join cultural attorney Czegledi at the International Ccouncil of Museum’s conference in Cairo.  American prosecutor Rick St. Hilaire guides him through Egyptian history of ancient art crimes and summarizes the problem of smuggling of antiquities today which Knelman smartly summarizes in his book.  Knelman also meets Alain Lacoursière, the police officer that initiated the study of art crime in Quebec, while dodging an Egyptian conference organizer who demands the journalist pay a higher rate on his hotel room – Knelman sleeps on the floor in another room to avoid paying the organizer his cut.

By 2008, Knelman has a contract to write an investigative book on the mysterious and increasingly violent black market for stolen art.  He goes online to find an art thief interviewed by the magazine Foreign Policy.  He tracks down Paul Hendry, a Brighton knocker who graduated to handling millions of dollars in stolen paintings and antiques.  “We struck up what turned out to be a three-year conversation,” Knelman writes.  “We started to talk once, twice, sometimes three times a week.”

“It was easy to make a living from stealing art, according to Paul, if a thief made intelligent choices, if he stayed below a certain value mark – about $100,000.  Less was better.  Don’t steal a van Gogh.  To someone who knew how to work the system, the legitimate business of fine art became a giant laundry machine for stolen art.  You could steal a piece and sell it back into the system without anyone being the wiser.”
 
“It’s called ‘pass the hot potato,’” Paul told me.  “A dealer sells it on to the next dealer, and the next, until nobody knows where it came from.  It’s a fantastic system!  And that system is the same wherever you are.  It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about London, New York or New Delhi,” he explained.  “Art is something you have to think about as a commodity that goes round in circles.  The only time it appears in the open is when someone tries to filter it into the legitimate art market – auctions, art fairs, gallery sales, dealers.  Otherwise it’s hidden away inside someone’s home.”

Hendry grew up in Brighton and learned his outlaw trade as a “Knocker” who talked elderly residents out of their art and antiques.  Since 1965 Sussex Police had been responding to a high number of residential burglaries and created England’s first Art and Antiques Squad that operated until 1989.

According to Paul, in the 1960s Brighton closed down a large open-air market and built a huge shopping mall, Churchill Square.  Produce vendors started going door to door, which created opportunities to buy “good junk.”  They became known as “knockers”.

Knockers sold “junk” to antique dealers at a price higher than they had paid for it.  Knocking turned into a devious game that allowed thieves to peek at the inventory inside the houses of the upper middle class.’

Hendry tells Knelman of his poor and chaotic childhood, his training on the streets of crime, and how he hires local men from the neighborhood bar to break into homes and steal family treasures that Hendry can then sell.

The second part of this book review continues tomorrow.

March 23, 2012

"Hot Art" Book Launched at The Flag Art Foundation on March 22 in NYC

by Marc Balcells, ARCA 2011 Graduate

NEW YORK CITY -- A new book bringing attention to the topic of art crime is a motive for a celebration. And indeed, that was the feeling that one could perceive at the Flag Art Foundation when attending Joshua Knelman’s launching party of his new book, “Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art”.

Far away from the typical afternoon where audiences sit and listen to the author, the presentation of the book came with a twist. To begin with, the place served the purpose fantastically: not only is the Flag Art Foundation located in New York’s art district, but it also occupies the ninth and tenth floors of a high rise, becoming a fantastic place designed to admire contemporary art. The space is contemplative, filled with light (thanks a lot, Daylight Saving Time 2012!) and the atmosphere serves the purpose of both enjoying the art hanging in the walls and presenting a book that deals with the topic of art as a victim.

The author was there to greet the guests as they arrived and among them, a representation of ARCA students from the 2011 MA program: taking advantage of the author’s willingness and kindness, we have shared various opinions on the topic of his book.

When the moment came, Mr. Knelman addressed the audience to give a brief description of a lengthy 5-year investigation that became the book. His talk has been a reminder of important figures who were at the reception. Mr. Knelman first mentioned my dear colleague Professor Emerita Laurie Adams, with whom I had the pleasure to share conversations at our respective workplace, John Jay College, until her retirement. Professor Adams wrote in 1974 the innovative book “Art Cop. Robert Volpe: Art Crime Detective”. This mention allowed Mr. Knelman to address the lack of properly trained police officers, not only in many parts of the world, but also in a city that is known worldwide as the most important art market, referring to New York. To prove his point, he referred to the starting point of his book, where Los Angeles’ detectives Don Hrycyk and Stephanie Lazarus make their first appearance on its pages.

Another important person in the world of art crime who was among the audience members and whose figure Mr. Knelman wanted to highlight was Col. Matthew Bogdanos, author of the book “Thieves of Baghdad".  Col. Bogdanos narrated in first person his quest to recover many of the artworks that disappeared after the siege of this museum in 2003, when the building was left unprotected. Mr. Knelman not only thanked his work, ensuing a round of applause, but also pointed out the hardships of Col. Bogdano’s task as an example of the difficulty of solving these cases.

However, the book deals not only with interviewees coming from a law enforcement perspective. Mr. Knelman provided in his talk the example of Paul, aka Turbo, an art thief, whose life is explained in several chapters of the book, highlighting the complexity of the illicit art trade. 

Also, I had the pleasure to chat with Col. Bogdanos: we both share a career in courts (albeit in opposite sides: he is a prosecutor, while I devoted my time to criminal defense), and a passion for researching into art crime. He pointed out that the lack of dedicated law enforcement agents in the field of art crime was explained, in his opinion, because of the particularities of this form of crime, and how these investigations were usually lengthy and complicated. Because of the urgent need for more research into this criminal phenomenon, he stated how he admired the premise of ARCA.

In sum, a fantastic New York afternoon to congratulate Mr. Knelman’s new book. 

March 22, 2012

Joshua Knelman Signed "Hot Art" Tuesday night at Book Soup in Los Angeles

Joshua Knelman speaking at Book Soup
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

LOS ANGELES - Journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art, spoke before an intimate crowd at an informal book signing Tuesday night at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard.

Recovering from jet lag after arriving from an international book fair in Beijing where he had spoken to a large crown of English-speaking expats, Knelman, settled into a corner of the bookstore, and pointed out the presence of one of the people featured in his book: Giles Waterfield.

Mr. Waterfield, an Associate Professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art, is currently a guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute (The Artist's and Photographer's Studio).  In 1981, he was director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London when on vacation in Scotland he read a newspaper headline "Rembrandt Stolen for Third Time." Rembrandt's Jacob de Gheyn III, nicknamed The Takeaway Rembrandt, had been stolen.  Knelman recounts Waterfield's recovery of the small Rembrandt portrait in Chapter 7 under the title "Headache Art".   

"The Takeaway Rembrandt"
Joshua Knelman was just 26 years old and head of research at the Canadian magazine, The Walrus, when he covered a burglarized art gallery in the Forst Hill section of Toronto.  He soon found himself having coffee at the Caffe Doria in the Rosedale area with the man who would admit to having committed the theft -- a pleasant enough person who tried to manipulate Knelman into accepting the stolen property.

One of the questions raised to Knelman from the audience was the question of legacy -- the recent murder conviction of former Detective Stephanie Lazarus, whom Don Hrycyk on the Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Squad had been training to succeed him in 2009 at the time of her arrest, brought up again the issue of who will continue the work of Hrycyk.  Knelman said that the LAPD has not yet found a successor and that Hrycyk is currently working without a partner.  "Detective Hrycyk, with 39 years on the LAPD, is the 8th most senior officer of 10,000 police officer," Knelman said.  "Although there is no retirement age in the LAPD, it will take years for Hrycyk to train someone."

Another question asked was as to why there were so few art crime squads in North America.  "The units are in the secondary markets of Los Angeles and Montreal and not the primary art markets of New York City and Toronto," Knelman said.  "Clearly there should be one in New York.  Recovery rates increase when detectives have the time to spend getting to know the art community, building trust with the art dealers and collectors.  Unlike other property crimes, recovery of artworks may take decades."

And where does the stolen art go? asked another person.  "That is the billion dollar question," Knelman said.  "There are two separate categories.  The very famous stolen masterpieces can be used as currency, but the other stolen artworks, 95% of the stolen art which is valued at less than $100,000 or even $25,000, is laundered back into the art market, stolen in Los Angeles, sold in New York and displayed in Vancouver."

Knelman will be discussing his book, Hot Art, tonight at 8 p.m. at The Flag Art Foundation in New York City.  You can read more about his book here on the ARCAblog.