Showing posts with label The Monuments Men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Monuments Men. Show all posts

May 17, 2017

Blast from ARCA Program Pasts: ARCA'13 Alum Summer Clowers asks: Is the ARCA program for you? Really now.

A medieval town & its secret passageways
by Summer Clowers, ARCA 2013

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

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

Your first few days in Amelia will leave you with an intense urge to explore and make friends.  The town is ancient, surrounded on most sides by a Neolithic wall, and even more ancient history buried beneath it.  There are secret passages and hidden rooms and you will want to grab a new-found "buddy" as the Americans are saying and sneak through every one of them.  DON’T.  The more you explore, the more you will love the town, and it will make it all that much harder to leave.  Yes, there is a secret Roman cellar underneath one of the restaurants.  No, I will not tell you which one.  Yes, the town’s people do scatter the roads with rose petals in the shape of angels every June. No, pictures do not do it justice.  Yes, there quite possibly is a hidden room in your classmate's flat.  All of these things are beside the point.  Walk steadily on the path and avoid all temptations to adventure.

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, let’s talk about the classes.  Do we really care about art crime? Sure, Dick Drent is pretty much the coolest human you’ll ever meet, and Dorit Straus somehow manages to make art insurance interesting, but really, do you care?  Isn’t that better left to one’s financial advisor?  And the secret porchetta truck that the interns will show you as you study the intricacies of art law, could surely be found on one’s own.  Couldn’t it?  I think we would all be much better served by just watching that  Monuments Men movie, fawning over George Clooney and Matt Damon, and thinking about the things we could be doing all from the safety and comfort of our own homes.  I do so hate leaving home.  The ARCA program involves work, and ten courses with ten different professors, and classmates that will quickly become family. It’s all so exhausting.  I mean really, tell me, does this sound like the program for you?

ARCA Editorial Note:  If you would like more information on ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program, please write to us at: education (at) 

We will put you on the list to receive application materials when the 2018 application period opens in Autumn 2017. 

February 20, 2014

A Nod to the Monuments Men: The National Gallery of Art’s New Exhibition; Event March 16 features Lynn H. Nicholas, author of "The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War"

"Monuments Officers and the NGA"
By Kirsten Hower, Social Networking Correspondent and List-Serve Manager

In lieu of the release of George Clooney’s film adaptation of the story of The Monuments Men and their endeavors to save the art of Europe, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., like many other institutions, has put on an exhibition, Monuments Officers and the NGA (Feb. 11-Sep. 1, 2014), celebrating the real men behind the mass rescue mission to save Europe's art. Given the National Gallery’s involvement in the efforts to start the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program, it is hardly surprising to find an exhibition held in conjunction with the opening of this film based on Robert Edsel's book by the same name.

Tucked into the Founder’s Room, just off of the spacious Rotunda in the West Wing, the exhibition is actually far smaller than one would expect. The entirety of the exhibition is one display case that, while very small, is full of some very interesting jewels. Pulled mostly from the Gallery’s own archives of the MFAA, the exhibit is composed of pictures of saved sites, men at work collecting stolen works of art, and other photos related to the war.

If you happen to be passing through Washington DC before September 1st, stop by the National Gallery of Art to see the exhibition and relish in some of the factual aspects of the story of the rather amazing Monuments Men.

This press release by the gallery announces an upcoming event:
On March 16 at 2:00 p.m., the Gallery will host the lecture The Inside Story: The Monuments Men and the National Gallery of Art detailing its relationship with the Monuments Men of the MFAA. Speakers will include Maygene Daniels, chief of Gallery Archives; Gregory Most, the Gallery's chief of library image collections; and Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. Faya Causey, head of the academic programs department, will moderate. The event is free and open to the public and the audience is invited to participate in an open discussion afterwards.

February 7, 2014

The Monuments Men: George Clooney's Movie Opened in North American Theaters Today, Think "Oceans 12" meets "The Train"

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

The morning screening of George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" in Pasadena today attracted a larger audience that other art crime related recent films ("The Trance" and "The Missing Piece". This movie is not a foreign film or a documentary (for that you can see "The Rape of Europa" on Netfix or DVD) but a Hollywood project populated by popular film actors such as John Goodman, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett. After a sobering opening of the dismantling of the Ghent Altarpiece, the gathering of the Monuments Men team leads me to describe the film quickly as "Oceans 12" meets "The Train" featuring another handsome actor, Burt Lancaster, and both of those movies reached a wide audience.

As for a 'review' of this movie, I prefer overheard comments. During the closing credits, the woman sitting next to me offered her unsolicited opinion: "Leave it to Clooney to find this and bring it to us." Overheard from a stall in the women's restroom: "If nothing else, it gets you interested enough to investigate it."

I'm not going to ruin your entertainment by talking about what happens in the film so let me discuss some of the questions I had leaving the theater: Did any of the real members of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (informally known as the Monuments Men) die while searching to recover the art Hitler had systematically stolen from European museums and private Jewish collections (the answer is yes)? The Monuments Men website, sponsored by Robert Edsel, viewable on this page lists members of the MFAA and is trying to gather biographical information and photographs to commemorate those who served.

What is the true story of saving Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna and Child? How did the Monuments Men really find the salt mine hiding the art masterpieces? Were the Soviets in the Trophy Brigade really on the trail of the Monuments Men racing to recover art that would not be returned to European countries but be used as compensation for the 20 million plus Russian lives lost during the war? And I want to know everything about Rose Valland, the French woman initially jailed as a Nazi conspirator for her work in the Jeu de Paume where Nazis collected and confiscated Jewish art collections.

You'll have some questions of your own to add. As for me, I'm diving back into my iBook copies of The Rape of Europa (Lynn Nicholas) and The Monuments Men (Robert M. Edsel with Brett Witter) until I can take my kids back to the see the movie -- because even my teenagers have said they'll see the George Clooney movie on art theft.


ARCA blog subscriber Paul Lahaie, Massachusetts, wrote in with his observations: The movie does a fairly decent job of following the book. Battle scenes, showing how the Monuments Men [via personal letters to their wives] battling military bureaucracy and achieving more than anyone thought they would. The book and move critics say the same thing -- not enough art. Tough! The audience clapped until the end of the film credits.

Here the University of Iowa profiles Monuments Man George Stout, an UI alum and the future director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

ARCA Founder Noah Charney Writes on "Inside Hitler's Fantasy Museum" for The Daily Beast

Published in The Daily Beast on February 7, 2014, "Inside Hitler's Fantasy Museum":
Before World War II’s start, Hitler was driven to create his dream museum containing all his favorite Aryan-approved art. Noah Charney on how the Monuments Men had to unravel the thousands of objects plundered by the Fuhrer’s minions—and what they learned from Napoleon. 
When Monuments Men Robert Posey and Lincoln Kirstein walked into the white-washed cottage in the German forest that housed Hermann Bunjes, the Harvard-educated one-time SS officer and art advisor to Herman Goring, they learned of an elaborate plan involving the wholesale looting of Europe’s art treasures. Bunjes, hiding in fear of reprisals against SS officers by angry German citizens, told these fellow art historians about the ERR—the Nazi art theft unit—and about Hitler’s plan to create a city-wide museum in his boyhood town of Linz, Austria: a “super museum” that would contain every important artwork in the world, including a wing of “degenerate art,” a sort of chamber of horrors to demonstrate from what monstrosities the Nazis had saved the world. It was news to Posey and Kirstein, who had to restrain their shock. The Monuments Men had heard rumors of art theft and looting throughout the war, but had no idea of the scale (some estimate that around 5 million cultural objects were looted, lost, or mishandled during the war), the advanced level of organization (scores of Nazi officers and hundreds of soldiers were assigned exclusively to the confiscation, transport, and maintenance of looted art and archival material), and the ultimate destination of the choicest pieces—the F├╝hrermuseum. It was years into the war, when this encounter took place, and only then did the Monuments Men finally realized what they were up against. Bunjes further detailed a number of hiding places for looted art, including the famous salt mine at Altaussee, in the Austrian Alps, which contained some twelve-thousand stolen artworks, the mother-load destined for the Linz museum. Posey and Kirstein were on the hunt for The Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, the most influential painting ever made and the most-frequently stolen, but could hardly believe what they were hearing. Yes,The Ghent Altarpiece was the number one target that Hitler wanted as the centerpiece for his museum, both because of its beauty, fame, and importance but also because it had been forcibly repatriated to Belgium from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, and seizing it back would right this perceived wrong against the German people. But here was the chance to save not just this painting, but tens of thousands of artworks.
You can finish reading this article by going to the article on The Daily Beast.

February 6, 2014

The Monuments Men: Museums Ride the Publicity Wave of the Monuments Men Action Film to Tell the True Story

The new George Clooney action movie The Monuments Men, inspired by the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section during World War II, is also energizing museums to reach out to their communities about the true story.

The Frick Museum's website has a section on "The Frick During World War II":
The Monuments Men were a multinational group of 350 men and women who volunteered for military service in order to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from destruction during World War II. In civilian life, many of them were museum directors, curators, artists, architects, and educators. These dedicated men and women tracked, located, and ultimately returned to their rightful owners more than five million artworks and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving Europe’s cultural treasures was without precedent. 
The Frick Art Reference Library in Wartime 
The story of the Monuments Men in Europe has become increasingly well known, but few are aware that another group of dedicated art historians were engaged in “the fight for art” on American shores. In 1943, William B. Dinsmoor, a Harvard professor and Chairman of the American Council of Learned Societies, established the Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. Made up of thirty volunteer American and European scholars, the committee was charged with creating (and distributing to the Allied armed forces) maps and lists of important monuments to be spared during bombing raids. Headquartered principally at the Frick Art Reference Library, which had been involved in the preservation effort as early as 1941, Dinsmoor’s committee was responsible for coordinating information gathered from myriad sources and compiling it into a master index that listed the historic buildings and important works of art in each occupied country. In 1943 the library closed its doors for six months — the only time in its ninety-three-year history that it has done so — in order to support the committee’s research and generate the photography required to prepare more than 700 maps. Even before the end of hostilities, the Frick staff and its resources also played a vital role in the research needed for the recovery of stolen and looted art, which became a top priority of Dinsmoor’s committee and its parent Washington-based Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe. Indeed, even today, researchers — with the help of the Frick Art Reference Library’s vast resources — continue to piece together information to help reunite works of art and their rightful owners.
 The Fine Art Museum of San Francisco is presenting an online Google talk tomorrow:
As part of the renewed interest in the heroic efforts of the Monuments Men, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are presenting an online Google Art Talk this Friday, February 7 with other experts discussing their real life connections to the feature film "The Monuments Men," opening Friday. Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. (1904-1994), the director of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from 1939 through 1968, played a significant role in the events depicted in the upcoming film, which focuses on a group of museum professionals sent to Europe to save cherished art works stolen by the Nazis during World War II. 
Beginning Saturday, February 8 in Gallery 14, the Legion of Honor will exhibit a painting recovered by the Monuments Men. The painting, Portrait of a Lady (ca. 1620) by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) was at one time in the possession of Hermann Goering. It was later returned to its rightful owners and subsequently given to the Legion of Honor by the Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Collection. 

February 5, 2014

Monuments Men Feature Film: George Clooney's new movie involves Nazi-looted art and seeing it is strictly professional

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Two more days until the new George Clooney movie on the Monuments Men. There are serious preparations to be done -- re-watch "The Rape of Europa" on Netflix; finish reading Robert E. Edsel's book on The Monuments Men (available in print, on audible, and in iBooks); peruse Lynn Nicholas' book The Rape of Europa (paperback and iBooks); and then watch tonight's show featuring ARCA founder Noah Charney on National Geographic, "Hunting Hitler's Treasures Stolen Treasures: the Monuments Men".

Nicholas' The Rape of Europa provides an overall view of the Nazi efforts to dominate and claim culture for the Third Reich, including the confiscation of "degenerate art" from German museums; theft from Jewish private collections; and the attempted obliteration of Slavic and Russian culture. Robert E. Edsel co-produced the film on Nichols' book and wrote Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic essay on the Nazis' attempt to steal Europe's art.

Here's a link to an article published in the Harvard Gazette, "A monument to saved art: Harvard-trained conservators were key players in tracking, rescuing priceless works in World War II (written by Edward Mason, Harvard Correspondent)". The article, which covers a panel with Edsel and a Skype call from actor Matt Damon, points out that Clooney plays a fictional character.
The “Monuments Men” belonged to the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section. Their ranks included Lincoln Kirstein ’30, the founder of the New York City Ballet; Paul Sachs, Class of 1900, a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, which recruited many of the team’s members; and Stout. Born in 1897, Stout was a tall, dashing man with a pencil-thin mustache ­— not unlike actor George Clooney, who in the film plays the Stout-like team leader, Frank Stokes. Clooney also produced and directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay. Stout helped pioneer the field of art conservation while a graduate assistant at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. Long before World War II, he had the vision to see the risk aerial bombing and firebombing posed to art, Edsel said. Stout had spent the early ’40s pushing for a national art conservation plan. The Allies and Stout knew that bombs were hardly the only danger to art. The Nazis engaged in “premeditated, organized looting never before seen in war,” Edsel said. The hunger their leaders displayed for European art put Western treasures at risk.
Other articles to read while you wait for the George Clooney movie on Nazi-looted art and the team of middle-aged art professionals who tried to save Europe's culture:

Anna Goldenberg interviews MM's Harry Ettlinger in The Jewish Daily Forward.

"Monuments Men" is a popular phrase for the MFAA section, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, which did include women as this article by Tom Mashberg points out here in The New York Times.

February 2, 2014

Noah Charney Is Featured in "Hunting Hitler's Stolen Treasures: The Monuments Men" to be Aired Feb. 5 on National Geographic in US

Noah Charney is featured in “Hunting Hitler’s Stolen Treasures: the Monuments Men,” the documentary tie-in to The Monuments Men Feature Film (Directed by and starring George Clooney). It will be aired on the National Geographic Channel at 8pm Eastern Standard Time on February 5 in the United States.
NGC presents the true story of an unlikely World War II “band of brothers.” The unsuspecting group of scholars, academics, historians and architects headed to the front lines of the bloodiest war in history to rescue thousands of years' worth of European art and culture from Nazi-occupied Europe. Through extensive archive sources and photographs, journals and letter excerpts, along with the personal accounts from surviving family members, this special sheds light on the remarkable story.
From the show's website:
According to Dr. Noah Charney, "while the soldiers were trying to save Europe physically, the Monuments Men were really charged with saving its soul."

December 23, 2013

Ilaria Dagnini Brey's "The Venus Fixers" and Robert Edsel's "Saving Italy" Reviewed in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Associate Editor Marc Balcells reviewed Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers and Robert Edsel's Saving Italy in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Of The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009) by Ilaria Dagnini Brey, Balcells wrote:
Following in the steps of many other books depicting the loss of cultural heritage during World War II (whose examples include Lynn Nicholas' The Rape of Europa or Harclerode and Pittaway's The Lost Masters, among others), Ilaria Dagnini Brey's book traces the fate of Italian works of art that suffered during the armed conflict. An Italian journalist herself, Mrs. Dagnini Brey traces, with a complete array of documentation, the history and the impact of World War II in Italy, especially in its cities, filled with monuments, museums, historical buildings and archives. The book covers only particular cities: of course writing a book with the vast amount of information on cultural heritage in every corner of Italy would be a work fit for an encyclopedia, and not just a single volume. 
One of the assets of the book is its establishment of a very solid base setting the scene: path of Italy's entrance to the war is clearly delineated. But instead of giving only a historical account of the events, the author establishes, from the very beginning, the links to cultural heritage and the policies taken to prevent the possible damage. In order to do so, the main characters are carefully introduced, and the main cities that configure the book's landscape are clearly laid from the very beginning (Padua, Rome, Florence...). Out of these characters, for the reader who has previous knowledge of the subject, the Allied Monuments Men will echo from others (mostly Edsel's two previous books, Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men). However, without downplaying their role, the book also abounds with Italian characters who have been mostly unacknowledged, and are fully explored in it.
Of Robert M. Edsel's Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (W.W. Norton & Company, May 2013), Balcells wrote:
Followers of Robert Edsel's previous books can rejoice, as a new one has appeared on the market: after Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men, Saving Italy follows his previous books related to World War II and the destruction of cultural heritage, and the task that the Monuments Men conducted in order to save, in this case, Italy's cultural heritage. 
This book relates much to its predecessor, The Monuments Men (Rescuing Da Vinci follows a mostly illustrated, coffee table book format), as it traces the work of the Allied officers from England and the United States into Italy, as the German forces retreated. The book follows a chronological order in four parts: the inception, struggle, victory and aftermath of the Monuments Men.
Marc Balcells is the Associate Editor of The Journal of Art Crime. A Spanish criminologist, he holds degrees in Law, Criminology and Human Services, and masters both in Criminal Law, and the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. A Fulbright scholar, he is currently completing his PhD in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research revolves around criminological aspects of archaeological looting, though he has also written about other forms of art crime. He has taught both Criminal Law and Criminology courses as an associate at the Universitat Aut├▓noma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Political Science department at John Jay College. He is also a criminal defense attorney whose practice is located in Barcelona.

You may finish reading this book review in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).