Showing posts with label Kirsten Hower. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kirsten Hower. Show all posts

July 22, 2015

Book Review: Kirsten Hower on "America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures" by Michael J Kurtz

Kirsten Hower reviews Michael J. Kurtz's "America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures" in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crimeedited by Noah Charney (with Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis) and published by ARCA:

Michael J Kurtz’s book, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband, is a breath of fresh air in an often overwhelming branch of cultural heritage history. Focusing on the role that America played in the processes of protecting, recovering, and repatriating the art looted by the Nazis, Kurtz examines the struggles of the bloody quagmire that was World War II. Despite emphasizing the American role in the conflict, Kurtz is resolute in maintaining as much objectivity as possible. He tells history through the groundbreaking achievements, the mundane struggle, and the mistakes of the American restitution effort that had long-standing consequences.

Thorough in nature, Kurtz addresses the origins of wartime looting and the countermeasures from antiquity through World War I, journeying through the troubled times that would prompt the treacherous years of Nazi Germany. The main focus being World War II, Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Record Services in Washington, D.C., delves into the topic with great detail and fervor, using in-depth archival research to tell the story of the deeply flawed paradigm that was the protection and later restitution of ..cultural objects during this period.

Of particular interest, Kurtz details the tense relationship in the quadripartite powers of the Allied countries in the process of collecting and restituting of artworks stolen by the Nazis during the war. The complications created by countries vying for the immediate return of their cultural property helped create this tense environment that was exacerbated by the secretive and uncooperative attitude of the Soviet Union. While countries such as France and Belgium clamored bitterly to get their cultural property back from the collecting points established throughout Germany, the Soviets demanded harsh reparations for the atrocities committed against their people by the Nazis. Despite the troves of cultural objects that the Soviet Trophy Brigades plundered during the collapse of the Nazi regime, they wanted more. ...
Kirsten Hower is an ARCA Postgraduate Program alum and has served as ARCA’s Social Networking Correspondent and List-Serve Manager. 

Here's a link to ARCA's website about access to The Journal of Art Crime.

September 1, 2013

ARCA's Art & Cultural Heritage Conference 2013: Felicity Strong (University of Melbourne), Theodosia Latsi (Utrecht University) and Verity Algar (University College, London) presented in Panel 4

(Left to right): Kirsten Hower (moderator), Felicity Strong,
Theodosia Latsi, and Verity Algar
Sunday morning, June 23rd, Kirsten Hower, the academic program assistant for ARCA's summer certificate program, moderated a panel on art-related crimes with presentations by three students and/or recent graduates.

Felicity Strong, PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, spoke on "The mythology of the art forger":
In the twentieth century, there has been the rise of depiction of the art forger in non-fiction biographies and memoir. Distinct from scholarly research, these depictions of individual art forgers have developed a common mythology, which weaves through each story of the art forger. The art forger is mythologised as a hero; the failed artists rallying against a corrupt art market, dominated by greedy art dealers and scholars. In Australian and British culture, this mythology has its roots in the wider mythology of hero criminal, such as in the stories of Robin Hood or Ned Kelly. It also feeds into a broader anti-intellectualism and mistrust of the establishment, particularly in contrast to the depiction of art curators and connoisseurs in the depictions. This mythology is evident in a number of biographies of notable forgers, such as Han van Meegeren and Elmyr de Hory, which intersect with the sub-genre of memoir, in the personal accounts of Tom Keating, Eric Hebborn and Ken Peryani. These accounts fuel the ability of the forgers to create their own public persona and feed into the wider mythology of the art forger. Analysis of non-fictional depictions of the art forger may offer an insight into why it is not considered as serious as other crimes and worth of closer scrutiny by the broader community.
Ms. Strong is in her second year of research at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has a Master of Art Curatorship and has worked in commercial galleries in Melbourne and London. Her PhD research is focused on discovering the extent to which perceptions of art forgery are influenced by depictions in cultural context, such as in literature, on screen and within an art museum environment.

Theodosia Latsi, MA in Global Criminology, Utrecht University, presented on "The Art of Stealing: the Case of Museum Thefts in the Netherlands". Ms. Latsi has studied Sociology in Panteion University of Athens, Greece and has recently graduated from the master of Criminology at Utrecht University. She is currently conducting research voluntarily for the Trafficking Culture Project and offers periodically assistance at CIROC (Centre for Information and Research on Organised Crime, Netherlands).

Verity Algar, art history student, University College London, presented on "Cultural memory and the restitution of cultural property: Comparing Nazi-looted art and Melanesian malanggan":
Using two disparate case studies -- claims for the restitution of artworks confiscated by the Nazis being lodged by Jewish families and concerns regarding the presence Melanesian malanggan in Western museum collections -- I will discuss the importance of collective, or cultural memory in the context of making decisions about whether to restitute objects. The two cases can be differentiated by the approach to social memory taken by the groups involved. Many Jewish people are keen to have their property returned to them, whereas the people of New Ireland do not want the malanggan, which they spent months carving, returned to them. I discuss the problems that arise when legal definitions of ownership clash with cultural notions of property and illustrate this using Marie Altmann's successful restitution of five Klimt paintings from the Australian government and the malanggan example. I draw on the language of restitution claims and the display of Nazi-looted art at Israel's Yad Vashem museum and will apply Appadurai's theory that objects have "social lives" to overcome the dichotomy between the cultural value and monetary value of an object. I conclude that cultural memory is a useful concept to apply to restitution claims. Its impact can vastly differ from case to case, as illustrated by the divergent attitudes to memory and cultural property in the Jewish and Melanesian case studies. Cultural memory needs to be defined on a cultural-specific basis. The concept of cultural memory allows cultural objects to be part of the collective cultural memory of one group of people, whilst being legally owned by an individual.
Ms. Algar is a second year B.A. History of Art student at University College London, where she minors in Anthropology. She is interested in the legal regulation of the art market and restitution cases, particularly those relating to wartime looting.

December 8, 2011

Post from London: The Institute of Art and Law's "A Round Up of Recent Events in the World of Art and Antiquities"

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA 2011, ARCA Blog London Correspondent

The Institute of Art and Law in London, England, hosts both academic certificates and accompanying events such as conferences and study forums. On Saturday, November 26th, they held a study forum titled, “A Round Up of Recent Events in the World of Art and Antiquities,” which focused on current legislation concerning art and antiquities. The forum was attended by lawyers, art historians and students, giving a broad scope to the seminar’s coverage.

Norman Palmer, Professor of Law at the University College London and a central figure of the day, opened the day’s talks by addressing the issues surrounding anti-seizure statutes in the United Kingdom. He focused on the problems of anti-seizure which do not allow a claim to be taken to court while an artwork is on loan. However, loopholes inside the statutes create further problems, most of which could be, potentially, avoided with a good provenance. The point, as Palmer noted, is that, “Art is mobile. It should be able to move and be able to move safely.” This is, of course, a notion many of us hope for.

The next speaker was Nicholas Querée, a solicitor of Hickman Rose, who expounded on “Theft and Handling of Stolen Cultural Objects.” It was a very lively presentation filled with theft stories such as the 1961 theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington and the theft of the Stone of Scone. In addition, he addressed existing UK legislation concerning theft and handling stolen goods (such as the 1968 Theft Act) as well as fraud (the 2006 Fraud Act). The most difficult issue concerning the handling of stolen cultural objects, as Querée pointed out, is establishing suspicion or knowledge that the object is stolen—which is far more difficult than one can imagine.

Tony Baumgartner, of Clyde & Co. LLP, rounded off the morning session with his talk “Targeted Offences: the Iraq Order and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003” in which he recalled the sad tale of the Baghdad Museum in 2003. He stressed the fact that, though there is an estimate of how many works are missing, the true amount is unknown as to how much was looted from the museum from April 10th to April 16th. What happened to many of these works, is also not known. Baumgartner did, however, focus on the legislation enacted after the fact: the 2003 Act and the 2003 Iraq Order. The 2003 Act, which deals with tainted cultural objects, is limited to protecting objects stolen after December 30, 2003, (when it was commenced) and prompted the creation of the Iraq Order which prohibits all imports and exports of items illegally taken from Iraq.

The second half of the forum started with an interesting talk by Elizabeth Weaver, Barrister at XXIV Old Buildings, outlining the problematic case of Accidia Foundation v. Simon C. Dickinson Ltd. The convoluted case boiled down to the problem of certain parties acting as both agent and dealer in regards to the sale of artwork. As Weaver pointed out, agent and dealer are, in the eyes of the law, two very different roles and typically mutually exclusive. However, attempting to act in both capacities can cause infinite problems, especially in the art market which, as Weaver pointed out, is rather document shy.

Paul Stevenson, Barrister at Tanfield Chambers, continued on Weaver’s final note of the art market being document shy by speaking about, “Contracts and Exclusion of Liability,” and the problems that arise in court due to a lack of documentation. He focused specifically on exemption clauses in contracts that deal with the liability of each party in the context of their contract. Stevenson focused on two pieces of legislation that deal with liability within sales contracts: Unfair Contract Terms Act (UCTA) 1977 and Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCR) 1999. These pieces of legislation deal with breaches of contract dealing with sales—something very important within the art market.

Kevin Chamberlain, Barrister at York Chambers, gave one of the most instructive talks of the afternoon, “UK Implementation of the UNESCO 1970 Convention.” Chamberlain paid specific attention to the articles of the Convention that UK law either initially conformed to or that it adapted to conform to. It was both interesting and helpful to have someone speak about the individual articles and to speak about their importance in the construction and evolution of UK Law.

Janet Ulph, Professor at the University of Leicester, gave an enlightening talk on “Art and Money Laundering” to give an overview to the legal aspects of art theft and fraud as well as their link to money laundering. She drew attention to the case of R v. Tokeley-Parry (1999) which concerns the problems of handling goods that have been stolen abroad. In addition, Ulph explained Confiscation Orders and how they have been upheld in United Kingdom. Quoting statistics of these Orders, “Between April 2007 and February 2008, 4,054 confiscation orders were made for a total of £225.87 million.” The main difficulty, as Ulph pointed out, is the statute of limitations that keeps casing from being prosecuted; an unfortunate reality throughout legal systems. Keep an eye out in the coming year for Ulph’s new book on this same subject.

The IAL’s study forum, like many of the other programs of the IAL, was a great combination of art and law that brought together those looking to study and protect art. For more information on the Institute of Art and Law, their events and certificate programs, visit

October 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - , No comments

A Dangerous Turn for Rhino Thefts

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor

Over the course of the summer, museums throughout Europe have been targeted by thieves in search of rhino horns. When I last wrote about this strange series of events in June, the theory that was floating around in the news was that the thieves were looking to make a profit on the black market, selling the horns off to people wanting ivory or the medicinal properties associated with these horns. Museums had been urged to take their horns off display and store them off-site to avoid being added to the growing list of those robbed.

Things have changed since then.

The Ipswich Museum has been added to the list of museums hit by the rhino horn thieves. As the Museum Journal reports, “According to law enforcement agency Europol, the recent spate of thefts is the work of an Irish gang.” The rhino horns are being sold for very large amounts of money to people looking to benefit from the medicinal properties which are rumored to include curing cancer and reversing the effects of a stroke. However, this may not be the case given the new steps that museums are taking to protect their collections: taxidermy heads and cast horns. The problem with taxidermy is that it involves arsenic and could taint the horns which could be harmful if they are digested.

Definitely not the cure for cancer that someone out there is looking for.

Ms. Hower, a former ARCA 2011 Intern, now studying Arts of Europe at Christie's Education in London, also blogs at The Wandering Scholar.