Showing posts with label New Zealand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Zealand. Show all posts

September 21, 2017

April 7, 2017

CCTV footage released of suspects who stole two iconic Māori paintings in Auckland, NZ

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
CCTV footage released by Auckland City Police shows blurry images of two men, wearing bandanas, black gloves and dark sweatshirts involved in the smash and grab burglary at Parnell’s International Art Center last Saturday.  

According to eyewitness testimony, a stolen Ford Courier ute (utility vehicle) drove up Parnell Road between 3:30 and 4:00 am on April 01, 2017 to the front of the gallery, where it then turned and reversed into the plate glass window at the front of the gallery allowing access to the artworks. 

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
One suspect exited the ute at or near the same time a second vehicle, a white 2016 Holden Commodore, pictured below, arrived driven by an accomplice.  Both men then entered the gallery through the broken window and made off with two iconic Māori portraits of Chieftainess Ngatai – Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure, by Gottfried Lindauer. 

Image Credit: Auckland City Police
Lindauer, a Czech-born Kiwi artist painted in the the late 19th and early 20th century.  He is famous for painting detailed portraits of Māori in customary Māori attire, often with pounamu toki ornaments. 

The signed and dated oil on canvas portrait of Chieftainess Ngatai – Raure was painted in 1884 and is valued at $350,000 - $450,000 NZD.  It shows the Māori chieftainess wearing a cloak.  Her hair is adorned with two Huia feathers and she is wearing a hei-tiki necklace with one visible pounamu earring. 

The signed and dated oil on canvas portrait of Chief Ngatai-Raure was also painted in 1884 and has the same estimated value.  This portrait shows the Māori chief adorned with two Huia feathers and a pounamu earring holding a greenstone mere. 

Earlier this week a third Gottfried Lindauer portrait, of Chief Renata Kawepo sold for $227,000 at Dunbar Sloane, New Zealand's leading and largest auctioneer of fine art and antiques showing the value of this artist's portraiture. Previously, the highest price paid for a Lindauer portrait sold was $198,000.

Any information on the thieves or the white 2016 Holden Commodore should be reported to Auckland City Police on (09) 302 6832, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

By:  Lynda Albertson

April 3, 2017

Art Theft Alert: What the Guardian later called a “garden variety ram-raid”

What the Guardian later called a “garden variety ram-raid” happened around 4:00 am on the morning of Saturday, 1 April 2017. In a tree-lined upmarket street close to the city centre in Auckland, New Zealand, a vehicle, later recovered by police at the scene, smashed the plate-glass front window of the International Art Centre in Parnell.  A sign written on the window had proclaimed that an “Important and Rare Art” auction was to take place a few days later.  A second vehicle was reportedly seen leaving the scene shortly afterwards.

Displayed in the gallery’s window, and taken during the raid, were the intended centrepieces of that auction: two companion portraits, painted by Bohemian-born and Viennese-educated émigré artist Gottfried Lindauer in New Zealand in the late nineteenth century, entitled Chieftainess Ngati-Raure and Chief Ngati-Raure.

The auction house selling the works had valued them in the run-up to the auction at around NZ $350,000 - $450,000 each. Local art world figures expressed dismay at the thefts, characterising Lindauer’s works as “mesmerising and … a significant and critically important record of Maori culture.” Immediate and extensive publicity both in New Zealand and elsewhere would seem to ensure that a legitimate mainstream sale or disposal of the artworks appears unlikely.  

Within 24 hours media reports tentatively drew a possible link with earlier and speculative internet chatter expressing anger that the portraits of two ancestors were being offered for sale rather than returned to the descendents of the sitters, but in the hours and days after the raid, little is known for certain and the works remain missing. 

Any information can be relayed to New Zealand Police in Auckland Police on:
00 64 9 302 6832 

or anonymously to the New Zealand Crimestoppers tip-line: 
0800 555 111

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

September 20, 2016

New Art Crime Book: Art Thieves, Fakers & Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story

Do you happen to know the whereabouts of Psyche? Its the painting that graces this cover of the new Awa Press book:  Art Thieves, Fakers & Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story? 

The publisher asks, because it went missing 74 years ago from Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch, and has never been seen again.

Psyche was a massive turn-of-the-century work painted by British artist Solomon J. Solomon. It had been torn from its gilt frame. An inspection of the building found wax matches on the floor. Some window catches had been tampered with and a glass pane broken.

Yet there seemed no possible way thieves could have got the painting out of the gallery and through the locked gates of the surrounding Botanic Gardens.

Was it an inside job? A wartime prank by visiting US servicemen? A phantom operating through a locked skylight?

The Psyche mystery is just one of the intriguing stories in Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story

Author Penelope Jackson is an art historian, former director of Tauranga Art Gallery, and founding member of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, set up in 2015.

Lest we think that art theft, faking and forgery are things that happen only in other countries, Jackson's book unveils a catalogue of Kiwi home-grown skulduggery. 

Urewera mural, 1975
Some crimes, such as the heist of the $2 million Colin McCahon Urewera Mural from the visitor centre at Waikaremoana, have made headlines, but others have not been widely publicised by galleries perhaps anxious to not to deter potential donors.

With many valuable art collections hanging in private homes, Jackson also includes timely suggestions on how to ensure artworks don’t disappear out the door, like five much–loved paintings that took flight from an Auckland home twenty-five years ago. They, too, have never been found. 

And if you’re advertising your house for sale on New Zealand's Trade Me, you may want to read this book first.

Take a look at what the academics in the field are saying: 

Release date: October 14, 2016; RRP: $40.00

For a review copy, cover image, extracts, and/or interview with the author, contact Sarah Thornton, sarah.thornton (at); (09) 479-8763/021 753 744

September 28, 2015

New Zealand Hosts its First Art Crime Symposium

The inaugural Art Crime Symposium, held at City Gallery in Wellington on 19 September 2015, brought together leading academics and researchers for an innovative and ground-breaking one-day symposium, covering many aspects of art crime, both in New Zealand and beyond.  Organised by the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, this one-day event was the first of its kind in New Zealand. The founding trustees of the newly formed trust are Judge Arthur Tompkins, Penelope Jackson, Ngarino Ellis and Louisa Gommans. 

The organisers of the event were inspired after attending the annual conference held by the Association for Research into Crime against Art (ARCA) in Amelia, Italy, to recreate something similar much closer to home.  The Trust’s secretary, Louisa Gommans, says “We thought it likely that people in New Zealand would be interested in the topic of art crime, but we have been absolutely blown away by the number of people who attended and their enthusiasm for the subject!”  The auditorium at City Gallery was nearly at full capacity, with over 70 people in attendance, and the range of backgrounds and professions of those who attended captures the multi-disciplinary background of those interested in art crime.  

The Symposium began with a cocktail function in the foyer of City Gallery on Friday 18 September, which was a great opportunity for attendees and speakers to mix and mingle.  The Symposium commenced at 10 am on Saturday 19 September with a welcome from the Hon. Chris Finlayson Q.C., Attorney General.  This welcome focussed particularly on the Motunui Panels, recently returned home to New Zealand and soon to be unveiled at Puke Ariki Museum and Library in New Plymouth.   

Then followed a fascinating line up of lectures throughout the day.  Many who had registered for the Symposium thought New Zealand probably did not have an art crime problem, but were soon put straight on that score:

Penelope Jackson, an Art Historian with a special interest in NZ art crime, gave an overview of the art crime scene in New Zealand;
Garth Galloway, Partner at Chapman Tripp, discussed immunity from seizure legislation and the fact that New Zealand has not implemented any such legislation to date;
Catherine Gardner, Manager of Case Management for New Zealand Police, talked about the difficulties of recording crimes relating to art and some of the interesting cases the Police have dealt with;
Ngarino Ellis, Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Auckland, illustrated art crime in a Maori context, particularly in post-colonial times;
Roger Blackley, Associate Professor in the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University, gave a captivating example of connoisseurship in action while discussing two apparently similar paintings, only one of which is thought to be an authentic work by Gottfried Lindauer;
Judge Arthur Tompkins, a Judge in the District Court, delved into the saga surrounding Cornelius Gurlitt and the challenges of dealing with Nazi-looted art works;
Louisa Gommans, a Lawyer with a special interest in art law, discussed the repatriation of Maori and Moriori ancestral remains home to New Zealand.

The Symposium concluded with a highly topical panel discussion, chaired by Kim Hill, featuring Geoffrey Batchen (a teacher, writer and curator, focusing on the history of photography), Jim Barr (art commentator) and Sarah Farrar (Senior Curator of Art at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand).  The panel considered the issue of selfies in galleries, including the merits – or not – of allowing visitors to take photographs for personal use while viewing art works.  While the panel did not reach a consensus about whether or not selfie-taking was good or bad thing, it did conclude that people are unlikely to stop taking selfies anytime soon. 

The organisers hope to make the Symposium an annual event, and have already confirmed Saturday 15 October 2016 at City Gallery, Wellington for next year’s event.  

For more information please contact the secretary of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, Louisa Gommans, at or follow “New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust: The Symposium” on Facebook.  

April 25, 2015

Stolen Treasures Mysteriously and Anonymously Returned

By: Judge Arthur Tompkins

Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum, Wellington, New Zealand
A week ago, 14 Maori taonga [treasures], dating from the 1800s and which were in the care of a local resident in their home, were stolen during a house burglary of a rural property near to the Hawke's Bay town of Hastings, in the eastern part of the North Island of New Zealand.

Included in the haul were a number of items registered with New Zealand's Natonal Musuem, Te Papa Tongarewa, and thus protected from export under New Zealand law.

The stolen pieces included a number of greenstone (the New Zealand indigenous jade, also known as pounamu) ceremonial mere, including the two shown here, a closely-related patu [club] made from whalebone, and a ceremonial adze with a pounamu blade.

Ceremonial Greenstone Mere I

Ceremonial Greenstone Mere II

"The thieves will be aware of both of these things.  We appeal to the people who took these items to return them immediately so they can be cared for by their proper guardians and remain in their turangawaewae [resting place]."
Yesterday, Friday NZ time, all the items taken were handed anonymously back to Te Papa Tongarewa.  No other details of the return have been released, apart from the fact that the items were seemingly undamaged both during their theft and during their transport down to Wellington, the nation's capital.

Police are continuing their investigation.

December 3, 2014

Judge Arthur Tompkins to present historical survey section of his "Art in War" course at Victoria University in Spring 2015 in Wellington

Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA trustee and faculty member, is presenting the historical survey section of his "Art in War" course as a Continuing Education Short Course at Victoria University in April/May 2015, in Wellington, New Zealand.  Taught over 5 two-hour evening sessions, on five sequential Wednesdays - April 8th, 15th, 22, and 29 April, and 6th May, 2015 - the course will examine the history of art crime during armed conflict, ranging from Classical Antiquity, through the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic era, the first and second World Wars, and finally Iraq and Afghansitan.

A link to the course details, including a more detailed course outline, is

October 7, 2014

ARCA’s network assists in getting two fake de Hory forgeries withdrawn from sale

By Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Trustee and Lecturer

On Saturday 4 October 2015 an article appeared in the online edition of The New Zealand Herald, a national newspaper in New Zealand, about two forgeries by the well-known forger Elmyr de Hory, coming up for public auction. 

The article ran under images of one of the forgeries alongside a genuine Monet:

The article said:

Two "Monet" paintings by a legendary art forger have surfaced at an Auckland auction. ... While Monet originals fetch millions, the two fakes will have reserves of only $1000 each when they go under the hammer at Cordy's auction house on Tuesday.
"They are colourful and nice paintings, but you don't look at them and think, 'Boy, that's an amazing masterpiece'," said auctioneer Andrew Grigg.
"They don't look like a real Monet - the detail, the quality of the originals would be just absolutely amazing."

The article described how the two paintings were said to have been purchased from de Hory by one Ken Talbot:

Retired London bookmaker Ken Talbot, ... owned more than 400 de Hory works that adorned every wall of his plush Regents Park townhouse.
Now, an Auckland descendent who inherited two items from him is selling two "Claude Monet" paintings.

A member of the ARCA family, Penny Jackson, Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery here in New Zealand, first spotted the article.  The link to the article then went to curator and art fraud specialist Colette Loll who attended courses at the inaugural ARCA Postgraduate program in 2009, and is the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights (

Mark Forgy is de Hory’s heir and author of 'TheForger’s Apprentice: Life with the World’s Most Notorious Artist’ (2012), a memoir of his life with de Hory up until de Hory’s untimely death in 1976. Colette Loll and Mark Forgy have collaborated significantly on several projects including a book, documentary film and Colette’s exhibition, ‘Intent to Deceive’ (, for which Mark was a major lender.

Ms. Loll immediately sent the article on to Mr. Forgy.

Closing the circle, Mark Forgy then emailed the auctioneers, Cordy’s in Auckland, New Zealand.  He said to them:

“Please be aware that Talbot himself was a con man who established a robust cottage industry of fabricating phony works by de Hory. I write about Talbot in my book ‘The Forger's Apprentice : Life with the World's Most Notorious Artist’. I was de Hory's friend, personal assistant and am his sole legal heir. I authenticate his works. I assure you that the painting you intend to auction in the manner of Claude Monet is NOT by de Hory.  I have added this bogus de Hory to scores of others I've harvested from online auction sites.

Mark later commented:

When I said that Talbot started a cottage industry of fabricating phony works by Elmyr, he wasn't the painter of them. Talbot had others do the fake Elmyrs. I suspect they came from some Asian source, but I can't be certain.

The next day, on the morning of the auction, Tuesday 7 October, news came through that Cordy’s had commendably and immediately withdrawn the two paintings from sale.  Under the headline ‘Auction House Pulls Paintings When Told Forgeries Faked’, Mark Forgy is quoted in the follow-up article in the New Zealand Herald:

"Talbot fabricated an oft-told story that he acquired hundreds of works by Elmyr in exchange for unpaid loans. All this is just nonsense," Forgy said yesterday. Forgy now monitors online auction sites for fake de Hory works and has added the latest pair to the collection.
He said the irony of the famous faker himself being copied "is never lost on me".
"The subject of others forging his works came up only one time. We both contemplated that for a moment and then laughed at the far-fetched notion," he said.
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg confirmed their withdrawal from today's antique and art sale.
"Of course it is never our intention to deceive and we were not aware that the faker's works were faked," he said.

So, within a few short days of the initial article being published online, ARCA's network was instrumental in helping to ensure that these forgeries of de Hory’s forgeries of two "Monets" were not wrongly sold to an unsuspecting buyer who might have purchased them because they were, as it initially seemed, ‘genuine’ forgeries. 

Mark Forgy, reflecting on how this all unfolded, comments:

I think the issue of "fake fakes" merits attention in that it speaks to the deeply flawed art market. It brings art fraud to another level of criminal inventiveness. More alarmingly, we see a marketplace that incentivizes such activity for the lack of regulation of the art trade. The loopholes in the safety net (if one exists) are welcoming portals for anyone intent on committing larceny. One inescapable irony is that art never seems to gather as much attention as when its authenticity is questioned, and through this examination process these fraudsters hold up a mirror, showing us who we are as a society, our values, and how we view art. So, in an unintended way, they become our social conscience. No, there's no lack of irony here.

Ironies all round indeed ...

June 9, 2014

Art Crime with Judge Arthur Tompkins on New Zealand's National Radio: The 1961 Theft of Francisco de Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington

Francisco de Goya, The Duke of Wellington, 1812-1814
oil on mahogany, 64.3 x 52.4 cm
Judge Arthur Tompkins, who teaches "Art in War" for ARCA's certificate program, appears monthly with Kim Hill on New Zealand's National public radio. This month, he discusses the 1961 theft from the National Gallery of London of Francisco de Goya's Duke of Ellington. Previous shows covered the Four Horses of San Marcos and the Ghent Altarpiece.

Judge Tompkins talks about the myth of the theft, the suspected "real" thief, and the legislation that followed.

Here's a link to the painting at the National Gallery of London where you can find it on display in Room 39.

And here's a direct link to the broadcast.

December 27, 2013

Link to Radio New Zealand's Interview with Penny Jackson, director of the Tauranga Art Gallery and a NZ art crime expert

Here's a link to Radio New Zealand's interview last summer with Penny Jackson, director of the Tauranga Art Gallery and a New Zealand art crime expert. Ms. Jackson was kind enough to provide a list of some of the names of artists and institutions she mentions in this podcast:

Edward Bullmore
James Jacques Joseph Tissot
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Rotorua Museum
Waiouru Museum
Kermadec exhibition/John Reynolds
Dowse Art Museum
C F Goldie
University of Auckland
Karl Sim
Urewera Mural by Colin McCahon and borrowed by Tama Iti 
Sarah Hillary
Dame Jenny Gibbs
Gottfried Lindauer
Waikato Trust
Robert McDougall Art Gallery
Heather Straka

Ms. Jackson plans to attend the 2014 ARCA conference.

March 8, 2013

ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins Interviewed on New Zealand's Public Radio

Here's the link to last week's interview of art crime lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins on New Zealand's public radio. Judge Tompkins teaches a unit on the subject of art crime in war for ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in Umbria.

In this 21-minute interview on Nine to Noon by journalist Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand, Judge Tompkins discusses cases from the history of art theft from "Ancient Greek and Roman times to modern day Iraq and Afghanistan".  

January 25, 2013

Portrait of a Museum Robbery: The 1998 Theft of Tissot's "Still on Top" from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

At ten minutes past 11 o'clock in the morning on Sunday, August 9th, 1998, a man with a shotgun entered the Auckland Art Gallery, threatened nearby visitors, then went directly to one of the collections most valuable paintings, James Tissot's "Still on Top" (c 1873).  The thief ripped the painting from the wall, smashed its glass into the painting, and used a crowbar to pry the canvas out of its frame.  He then ran outside the gallery into a nearby park and escaped on a motorcycle.  The robbery took less than four minutes.

Here in this YouTube video, Auckland Art Gallery - Restoring Tissot, is surveillance footage of the crime, the story of the damaged painting recovery nine days later, and the long process of restoration for public display.

James Tissot's "Still on Top"
Many of the original newspaper stories published in The New Zealand Herald can be ordered via email through the Auckland City Council Library here.

The man arrested eight days later had demanded a ransom of more than $260,000 from the Auckland Art Gallery and hidden the damaged work underneath a bed.  One year later, Anthony Sannd was found guilty and sentenced to nearly 17 years in jail, including charges related to two armed robberies of a security van and a bank branch.

The New Zealand art museum accepted $500,000 for the loss in value for the damaged Tissot painting and was able to repair the work and return it for public display three years later.

On February 1, 2005, the thief, Anthony Sannd (also known as Ricardo Genovese), escaped from a prison farm and eluded recapture for almost four weeks (during which time he was alleged to have stolen a BMW and burgled a home).  Two more years was added to his sentence.  Sannd was released from jail in March 2012.  Then Sannd filed a claim that the government owed him $100,000 for keeping him in jail six months longer than he had been sentenced.

October 16, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "Planning Revenge: Art Crime and Charles Frederick Goldie" by Penelope Jackson

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Penelope Jackson writes about "Planning Revenge: Art Crime and Charles Frederick Goldie":
Charles Frederick Goldie is one of New Zealand's best-loved artists.  His portraits of Maori have been the victims of theft, vandalism, and forgery for decades.  Goldie's portraits remain highly prized and valuable.  This article highlights and gives an overview of the art crime that Goldie's oeuvre attracts, and offers some explanations behind what has become a catalogue of illegal practice.
Penelope Jackson is the Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, New Zealand.  She holds an M. Phil (University of Queensland) in Art History and an MA (Hons) in Art History (University of Auckland).  The author of Edward Bullmore: A Surrealist Odyssey (2008) and The Brown Years: Nigel Brown (2009), she has contributed to The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and journals including Art New Zealand, Art Monthly Australia, Studies in Travel Writing and Katherine Mansfield Studies.

You may read this article by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

March 29, 2012

Catching up with Judge Tompkins About his "Art Crime during Armed Conflict" course at the University of Waikato's Law School

University of Waikato's Law School
Judge Arthur Tompkins, an instructor at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, also taught a course in February in his home country.  ARCA Blog caught up with him to see how it went in New Zealand.

Tell us about the Art Crime course you presented earlier this year at the University of Waikato?

The University of Waikato's Law School hosted the course and offered it as a credit course to their own students.  It was also offered as a non-credit coruse through the Continuing Education arm of the University. The course was entitled "Art Crime during Armed Conflict", and, similarly to the course I teach in Amelia as part of the ARCA Postgraduate, it was a five-day intensive course, comprising 5 hours of teaching each day for a week during the height of our Southern Hemisphere summer. We cover two thousand years of the history of art crime during war, and the international and private law responses to it. And all in five fun-filled and fascinating days! 

We ended up with 16 students in the group, from three countries and two hemispheres, with the largest sub-group being law students (I was teaching the course within a Law School, after all!). But the class also included a working artist, two art historians, a police officer, a doctor, an art gallery director, a cultural heritage worker, and others.  It all made for a vibrant and energetic group, and we had some spirited discussions!  And on the last day, ARCA's Noah Charney was able to join us, via Skype, from Slovenia, which was a real highlight.

University of Waikato's campus
At least two of the group will be in Amelia for this year's Art Crime Conference on 23/24 June, and in addition, in the last few days, I have learnt that one of the group has been accepted into the full ARCA Postgraduate Program, so will get to spend the entire Italian summer living and studying in Amelia.

It is likely that the course will be offered every second year at Waikato University, so the next occasion will be in February 2014. I am presently investigating offering a similar course elsewhere in New Zealand in the intervening year.

What time period do students seem most interested in? Nazi theft?

The students were from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, as I said, and I think that as a result no one area or era stood out.  They have written (or are writing - the assignments from the for-credit students are due soon!) assignments on an equally wide range or topics - which is, I think, a testament to the breadth of scholarship that falls under the art crime umbrella.  And because the course covers not only the historical background to art crimes during wars over the centuries, but also the international and national legal responses, there is something of real interest there for everyone.

What do you think are the most contentious legal issues involved in conflict art?

Two difficult issues continue stand out for me - first, the return of objects taken during past armed conflict, that are held currently by a state or national institution, and where there is a call for return.  In that context no issue of private ownership arises, but rather the issue revolves around often contentious questions of the principles underlying the legal structures around the state's continued retention of the object, and the ability or willingness of a state, or its politicians, to relinquish possession. Secondly, the spectrum of responses by legal systems around the world to the bona fide purchaser rule - where someone has paid a reasonable price without knowledge of the fact that the item had in the past been stolen, do they or should they prevail over the original, dispossessed owner's rights? Different legal systems around the world adopt often mutually exclusive positions on this issue, and despite decades of work, the gulf remains unbridged.  We need to find some way of reconciling the irreconcilable!

In 2009 you spoke at the International Art Crime Conference in Amelia about a proposed International Art Crime Tribunal.  As you have now taught this course three times, how have your ideas about an IACT evolved? What would it take to make it happen and what do you think would be some of the first cases that you would like to see be dealt with?

I would still love to see such a Tribunal established, and nothing that I have seen or read or heard over the last three years has changed that view - to the contrary, there is still much to recommend it.  The United Kingdom's Spoliation Panel has shown that a tribunal can effectively apply both legal and moral criteria when resolving claims to disputed art, and, whilst effective in some cases, the litigation experience in the United States shows that the resolution of such disputes by "traditional" adversarial litigation brings with it inevitable constraints, in terms of access to justice, the restrictions inherent in the rules of evidence a court applies, and a likely win/lose result paradigm.  

What would it need to make this happen? As I said to the ARCA Conference in 2010, it needs a champion on the world stage, and a real commitment by a group of states with a single voice in the forums of international law - particularly the United Nations and within that, UNESCO - to make it happen.  Where either of those might be found, I do not know.  Until then, it will remain a lonely idea wandering at large in the world, although I was very heartened to hear Pablo Ferri support the idea at last year's ARCA Conference!  

By the way, I still think, for a whole lot of reasons, that Florence would be a very suitable seat for such a Tribunal!

November 25, 2011

New Zealand: Summer Intensive course – Art Crime during Armed Conflict

Hamilton, New Zealand
Down in New Zealand, the University of Waikato’s Te Piringa-Faculty of Law and the University’s Centre for Continued Education have recently announced a forthcoming five-day summer intensive course, entitled “Art Crime during Armed Conflict”.

The course can be taken for credit by enrolled students (in which case, email for enrolment details), or as a non-credit course by anybody – in this case, the course cost is a very reasonable NZ$215 (at current exchange rates, equal to about US$160, or €120). To enrol as a continuing education participant, go here or email .

The Course will be taught over five days, from 13 – 17 February 2012 (which is high summer in the Southern Hemisphere!), on the campus of the University of Waikato at Hamilton, New Zealand. The city of Hamilton is situated in a verdant dairy farming region of New Zealand, known as the Waikato after the great river that flows through the province, (and amongst many other attractions is located within an easy 40 minute drive of the location for the filming of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Tours of the extensive, and fully rebuilt, Hobbiton film set can be arranged at

Judge Tompkins
The Course’s developer and presenter is Judge Arthur Tompkins. Judge Tompkins developed the course for ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, offered each year at Amelia in Umbria, Italy, and has taught the course there in 2010 and 2011. He will be returning to teach the course again in 2012.

During the first two days the course covers about 2000 years of history, from the sack of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 through to art and cultural heritage crimes committed during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and very many instances of art and cultural heritage crime during times of war in between - including the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years' War, Napoleonic and Imperial France, and the First and Second World Wars.

On the third day, the course covers the fate of several famous libraries destroyed or displaced by war - including the Library at Alexandria, destroyed on several occasions starting with Julius Caesar's sending of fire ships into Alexandria Harbour in 48 BC, the removal of Library of the Palatinate (carried over the Alps from Heidelberg to the Vatican on the backs of 200 mules in the early 17th century), the destruction of the Library at Louvain in the First World War and likewise the devastation of National Library during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s.

Waikato University
On the last two days the international and private law response to such crimes will be covered, beginning with Cicero's prosecution of Verres before the Roman Senate in 70 BC, through to Grotius' Laws of War, the Leiber Code, and on to the Hague Conventions of 1907 and 1954. The two main hurdles in the way of private claimants seeking to recover looted art - Limitation Periods and the differing responses to the bona fide purchaser - will round out the last day of the course.

Throughout the course, the lectures will consider numerous case studies, and the lectures are copiously illustrated by accompanying and extensive Powerpoint presentations. Copies of these will be distributed to all participants, along with a detailed Course Outline and Bibliography.

For more information, email (for course-credit enquiries), or (for non-credit enquiries).

November 19, 2011

New Zealand: Prison Term Begins for Thief of National Army Museum

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Blog New Zealand Correspondent

Yesterday, Friday 18 November, in New Zealand one of the more prolific and long-lasting insider thieves in New Zealand’s cultural and military history begins a prison term.

Keith Davies

Keith Davies was a serving soldier in the New Zealand army for 30 years and, upon his retirement from active service after an illness in the 1990s, his considerable knowledge of New Zealand’s military history saw him secure a job at New Zealand’s National Army Museum situated in Waiouru, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.

He served at the museum from 1995 to 2002, being responsible for, amongst other duties, storage and inventorying the Museum’s medal collection, and corresponding with the families of donors. The collection had been built up over many years, and containing medals and other items donated to the Museum by soldiers and their families. Davies’s seniority and knowledge of the Museum’s systems enabled him to cover his thefts both whilst he was employed at the Museum, and for eight years after he left, by altering records and replacing medals with other similar medals, so as to maintain the illusion that sets of medals had not been broken up.

Overall, he stole 750 medals, sold at least 131 to buyers around the world, and had about 270 still in his possession when he was arrested in Australia earlier this year. Around 350 medals are still missing. One estimate put the value of the stolen medals at of NZ$236,515.00. But the prosecutor said to the Court at sentencing that:
“The greatest effect was on the trust of the people who donated medals and other artefacts to the museum for the benefit of the cultural history of New Zealand.”
The New Zealand Army Museum, Waiouru.
His defence lawyer claimed that Davies could not account for why he stole the medals, noting that the thefts began when he took the medals home to clean and mount them, but then did not return them. The sentencing Judge characterised the thefts as “premeditated, ongoing and organised”, and noted the “gross, wholesale and ongoing abuse of trust.”

Davies was sentenced to three years in prison, and ordered to pay reparation of NZ$50,000 immediately, to be funded by raising finance against a home in Sydney, Australia. Under New Zealand’s parole laws, Davies will serve one year before appearing for the first time before the Parole Board.

The Museum announced that it would continue to search world-wide for the missing medals, saying that pictures of the missing medals would be displayed on the Museum’s website at, although at time of writing the pictures had not yet appeared. Nor, indeed, is there yet any mention on the website of the thefts!

The Museum is, unfortunately, no stranger to the theft of medals – on 2 December 2007 smash and grab burglars stole 96 medals from glass display cases, including 9 Victoria Crosses. On 18 February 2008 all the medals stolen in this raid were recovered, after payment of a reward of NZ$300,000, half of which was itself also recovered – a case-study the writer presented to ARCA’s 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Italy. It seems possible that investigative work triggered by that theft revealed Davies’s unconnected but earlier crimes.

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a District Court Judge in New Zealand, and teaches Art in War in Italy each year at ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

October 24, 2011

New Zealand: "Stealing Beauty: Art Crime during War" A public lecture by Judge Arthur Tompkins

Judge Arthur Tompkins will deliver a public lecture on "Stealing Beauty: Art Crime during War" at 6 p.m. Friday, November 4, 2011, at Lecture Theatre 3 in the Old Government Building in Wellington. Across the road from the Parliament, the Old Government Building now houses the Law School of the University of Wellington.
“Art always suffers during wartime. From the sack of the Temple of Solomon, through the many crimes committed against the Ghent Altarpiece (above), and the depredations of Napoleon and Hitler across Europe, this has always been so. This lecture will survey fascinating examples of these sorts of crimes, the people involved, and some of the stories and myths surrounding them. 
“As well as the Ghent Altarpiece, the lecture will include the long history of the Four Horses of San Marco’s Basilica in Venice, the theft of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the miracle of the Alt Aussee salt mine, and the bizarre story connecting Goya, the Duke of Wellington, James Bond, and television licensing fees.”
JUDGE ARTHUR TOMPKINS is a District Court Judge in Hamilton. He has presented at numerous international conferences and workshops, in New Zealand and elsewhere, on a variety of topics, including international art crime. Each year he teaches Art in War at the Summer Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Heritage Protection Studies, presented annually by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art ( in Umbria, Italy.

September 17, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins Lectures on 'Stealing Beauty' at the University of Auckland Law School on October 6

Judge Arthur Tompkins, an instructor in ARCA's academic program, will be discussing 'Stealing Beauty' at the University of Auckland Law School on Friday October 6.

The lecture will be held at 1 p.m. at Northey Lecture Theatre (further information may be found at

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a Disrict Court Judge in New Zealand. He has presented at numerous international conferences and workshops, in New Zealand and elsewhere, on a variety of topics, including international art crime. Each year he teaches Art in War at the Summer Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Heritage Protection Studies, presented annually by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art ( in Umbria, Italy.
"Art always suffers during wartime. From the sack of the Temple of Solomon, through the many crimes committed against the Ghent Altarpiece, and the depredations of Napoleon and Hitler across Europe, this has always been so. This lecture will survey fascinating examples of these sorts of crimes, the people involved, and some of the stories and myths surrounding them. 
As well as the Ghent Altarpiece, the lecture will include the long history of the Four Horses of San Marco's Basilica in Venice, the theft of Veronese's Wedding at Cana, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the miracle of the Alt Aussee salt mine, the survival of the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the bizarre story connecting Goya, the Duke of Wellington, James Bond, and television licensing fees."