Showing posts with label art forgery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art forgery. Show all posts

November 8, 2019

Book Review – Females in the Frame, Women, Art and Crime

Guest Blog post by: Dr. Catherine Gardner

Penelope Jackson wrote this book as a result of a challenge unwittingly thrown down by Dr Noah Chaney. He somewhat naively noted in his 2015 book The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of Master Forgers “there is a decided lack of female forgers in this book; there are female accomplices and con men, but I know of no notable forgers in the history of forgery”.  This motivated Jackson to investigate further the role women play (have played) in art crime.  The result of her research is this easy to read book. 

Penelope Jackson is an Art Historian and is the author of: Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story (2016).  The offenders in this book are all men apart from one female thief who somewhat brazenly stole a piece of art from an exhibition in a small Otago town.  Jackson noted that the only other women in the book were at the receiving end of art crime. In Females in the Frame she wanted to uncover not only other roles women took in art crime but also try and understand their reasons for doing it.  For me, the why is often more interesting than the how.

One of the first things that you will notice (well I did anyway) is the depth of the research that Jackson has done for this book. In some instances, she has given institutions information about their artwork that they were unaware of.  In her way Jackson has added to the history of these artworks.

Jackson has given each chapter a theme which provides a useful cohesion to the book. These chapters are essentially case studies on the women involved.  I believe this makes the book more relatable as it brings the characters to life.  The chapters give examples of women who have destroyed art  (chapter 2 – Lady Destroyers), mothers who have protected their art criminal sons (chapter 3 – The Mother of All Art Crimes), women who have vandalised art (chapter 4 – She Vandals), women who conned artists and clients (chapter 5 - The Art of the Con(Wo)man), women who stole art works (chapter 6 - The Light Fingered),  forged art (chapter 7 - Naming Rights), those who used their professional positions to commit white collar crime (chapter 8 – The professionals) and her concluding chapter (chapter 9 – Afterword: Making a Noise about the Silence).

Jackson goes into detail in her chapters about the women who did what they did and why.  She has sympathy for some of the actions such as the Suffragettes who destroyed paintings rather than hurt people to highlight the inequity of women in society. Although the cause for women’s right to vote is a just one there is an overarching sadness in terms of artwork that has been lost due to vandalism, destruction or theft. Another example is of the Russian woman who stole from her work to pay for diabetes medication. Something I can’t imagine ever having to do living in my comfortable world but once again, I get a feeling of sadness and disappointment by Jackson who is fiercely protective of art works.   

She does save some particular ire for Clementine Churchill.  Jackson spends a considerable amount of time discussing Clementine Churchill’s alleged penchant for destroying unflattering portraits (according to her) of her husband.  One such painting was commissioned by the House of Commons and the House of Lords after the sum of 1000 guineas was raised.  This painting was to celebrate Churchill's 80th birthday.  The chosen artist was celebrated portraitist Graham Sutherland and the painting was unveiled at a televised event, meaning, thankfully, that there are photos of the painting. This painting was a gift from the nation but also to the nation of a highly regarded public figure. The story (in fact Jackson gives four possible accounts of its demise) is that Clementine did not like the portrait, that she believed it to be an unflattering likeness of Churchill and organised for it to be destroyed.  Arguably it showed him perfectly, quite possibly how everyone remembers him, stubborn, unbending and resolute, not to mention 80 years old.   Jackson rightly argues that this was never her painting to destroy.  This painting belonged to the people of Great Britain.  Likewise, Jackson asks the question about who truly has authority, ownership or the right to destroy any of these artworks.  

This segues rather nicely into the case studies of women protecting their art criminal sons and the lengths they would take to protect them, including the heart-breaking destruction of many irreplaceable pieces. Jackson is forever trying to understand why the women did as they did and explores the psychology behind their actions as well.  I believe this adds another layer of richness to the book.

Jackson also discusses where artwork has been accidently damaged by cleaners or more intriguingly or perhaps tragically by amateur restorers.  She highlights the work by two well-meaning but ultimately hopeless (that word might be too strong) women who did irreparable damage to very old and sacred work.  They meant well but there is a reason why such work is left to the professionals. In my view, the results were criminal and perhaps did more damage than any criminal/vandal could have done.

Another very interesting story that Jackson writes about is the case of an Australian woman, an acclaimed artist, who decided one day to paint under a nom de brush.  That in itself was not an issue, but it was the fact that she took on the name and persona of an aboriginal man and began to paint in an obvious aboriginal style that is the problem.  Add to that her total lack of understanding why a white, middle class woman pretending to be an aboriginal man might be offensive.  

Jackson’s book also sets the story straight on a few myths.  The belief that the novelist Patricia Cornwell destroyed a painting just to get DNA from the artist is debunked by setting out the facts of what happened. Likewise, in her final chapter she also sets the record straight on the film, The Monuments Men and separates the truth from the Hollywood version. This brings me to my favourite moment in the book, the story of Rose Valland (played by Cate Blanchett in the movie The Monuments Men).  As Jackson says the film should be called The Monuments Men and Women but Hollywood never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It is this section in the book (in my view) that sums up so much of what Jackson is trying to highlight.   

Rose Valland (inter-alia) was responsible for saving and recovering many works of art that the Nazis tried to pilfer during world war two.  She put her life on the line so that these works could be recovered.  Rather than focusing on this remarkable act of bravery and the fact that she was a well-qualified art historian there seems to be more attention placed on how she looked; “plain looking, and plainly dressed” or described as; “a mousy little spinster” (with nerves of tungsten).  Jackson talks more than once about gendered language in her book and comments on the way in which women are portrayed in the media versus men.  

Jackson has written an accessible book that takes the reader on a journey into the world of art and crime and women.  She attempts to understand why the women did as they did as well as trying to redress the balance in how women are portrayed in print.  It is evident that Jackson has a real love of art and the overriding message for me was the need to protect and look after all art so that future generations can experience these marvellous works. 

October 25, 2019

Arrested and released for health reasons, German Dealer Michael Schultz is accused of having deceived clients with false documentation.


For more than 30 years, Michael Schultz operated one of Berlin's most prestigious galleries, focusing on contemporary European and Asian art and selling paintings and sculpture to Germany's rich and famous.  He also was associated with two other galleries, one in Beijing and another in Seoul and is known to have regularly participates at international art fairs in Cologne, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Miami Beach, and New York,

But his future in the art market was thrown into jeopardy following his arrest by Germany's State Criminal Police Office or Landeskriminalamt (LKA) on October 17, 2019.  Standing accused of fraud, Shultz who was arrested at home, was released pending trial by the German magistrate due to his poor state of health. 

At the heart of the investigation is a forged work of art purportedly by the renowned German visual artist Gerhard Richter.  

Original Richter
"Abstract Picture" (Catalogue Raisonné: 706-2)
painted in 1989.
The forged artwork, put up for auction at Christie's in New York, was given to a collector by Shultz as a repayment for an outstanding debt, when Shultz could not repay the original loan. The collector in turn consigned the painting for auction to Christies. 

As part of the auction house's due diligence, they in turn contacted the Gerhard Richter Archive of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden for information about the painting and from there things ultimately began to unravel.   The original artwork by Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné: 706-2, failed to match the artwork the collector had readied for auction. 

What prompted Shultz to pawn a forged work of art so easily verified through a digital online catalogue Raisonné is curious. Richter has long been known as the "Man Behind the Squeegee" and his highly crafted abstract minimalist artworks bring top dollar on the contemporary art market as they are highly sought after.  

To create his original works Richter first applies paint in scrims, then uses a length of perspex encased in wood, which he then moves left to right, or top to bottom to create textured smears of the many layers of the still-wet thickened paint.  A faux Richter, could never (conceivably) smear in quite the same way as an original. The forger would not only need to know exactly where and in what quantity the artist had placed the starting paint layers on the artwork but he/she would also have to employ the exact same squeegee sluices, using precisely the same motion and pressure to come anywhere close to replicating the work. 


What drove Shultz to perpetuate this fraud is unknown.  Perhaps it was driven by long-standing debts, as the dealer is known to have closed his gallery on Mommsenstraße, opened in 1986 in the rich district of Charlottenburg, center of the former west Berlin.  He also opened preliminary insolvency proceedings in September through the District Court of Charlottenburg. 

Interestingly, his bad luck with Gerhard Richter didn't just start now.  In 2015 Shultz had to answer to embezzlement charges Tiergarten district court when he sold a Richter he held as collateral for another art dealer who conversely, in this instance, borrowed money from him.  When that borrower defaulted, Shultz sold the other dealer's Richter for €300,000.  Given that the sold painting was actually the property of the second dealer's wife, (and therefore not the dealer's to use as a guarantee for debt, Schultz then claimed the painting had disappeared from his gallery. When the artwork was ultimately recovered, Richter was fined €15,000.


March 4, 2019

Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA and leading expert on art crime, returns to Amelia to teach at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection


This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 14, 2019 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s lecturers will be interviewed. This week I sit down with Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA.

Can you tell us something about your background and work? 

I was trying to decide what to study--traditional art history or playwriting believe it or not--when I stumbled into the field of art crime. I originally decided to study art history but did so in London where I could also go see a lot of plays. During that time I thought I wanted to be a playwright and actually got an agent for my plays. But she said that it was far easier to make a living as a novelist than a playwright and did I maybe have a novel in mind? I didn't, but I got started writing.

It was the era of The Thomas Crown Affair and The Da Vinci Code and I thought I'd try something along those lines. As I began my research I realized that there was very little published on true art crimes, especially from an academic angle.  The outcome was I wound up writing The Art Thief, which I was very lucky with.

My interest in studying art crime was piqued at that point and eventually I shifted from art history into criminology, in order to focus on its motivating factors. Turns out I was one of the very few academics drawn to studying this type of crime. While working towards my PhD I organized a conference in Cambridge that brought together art police and academics researching art related crimes. I got lucky again and the conference and this blending of law enforcement and academia were written up in The New York Times. This really kicked things off and was the starting point for my deciding to found ARCA as a research association on art crime, in order to bring together individuals from the various disciplines and specializations that, at the time, seemed so separated from one another. 

What sets the ARCA program apart from others developed later? 

I'm very proud of ARCA's post graduate program, both in terms of what we have created, and what it has supported its graduates to gone on and do professionally.   The program itself was written up in a separate article in the New York Times specifically because of its distinctive subject matter and for it being the first program of its kind in the world, in which one could study art crime but also in a very unique and distinctive format.

The program runs every summer over 11 weeks and we bring in 11-15 world experts in varying disciplines who each teach, or co-teach, one of eleven course modules, each of which are interconnected and make up the foundation of our postgraduate-level professional development program.  Some of our lecturers include Richard Ellis, the founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad, Marc Masurovsky, who is an expert on Holocaust looted assets, Dorit Straus, who is an art insurance underwriting expert who also sits on the United State's Cultural Property Advisory Committee, and Dick Drent, the former director of security for the Van Gogh Museum who is a risk management consultant for museums around the globe.

We are also lucky to have a judge, three criminologists and two archaeologists as primary course professors and guest lecturers who come in every year and speak on current cases and art crime deterrent initiatives, which add to the diversity of material we cover.   This year we will have guest lecturers working in conflict archaeology and two curators from the British Museum who will be part of our opening course, lecturing on the issues of circulating illicit artefacts and due diligence. 

I myself teach our history of art crime course, which has a heavy emphasis on forgery. In developing our format, students pursuing MAs and PhDs and professionals can take the program over the course of one summer, or split the program up over two summers and still get the time to explore Italy and Europe. Setting up the program in this way also allows us to bring major experts in the fields, who otherwise have full-time jobs elsewhere, to teach with us one week or two weeks each summer, sharing their knowledge.

Since ARCA's first year of programming in 2009, we have now trained more than 260 alumni who come from 35 different countries around the world and from all different professional backgrounds.  Some of our participants go on to work on Masters degrees or their own  PhDs, and others already work in allied art industry fields.  What's interesting is that the profile of our participants cuts across all disciplines and age groups from late twenties to mature senior learners.

We have had graduates invent new careers in the field, some who have moved on to prominent roles at art law firms, consulting with UNESCO and other heritage organizations, or who blaze their own trails, working in the fields of provenance research or within museums in varying capacities. It is always a wonderfully bonded group that falls in love with the town of Amelia in Italy where the program has been held for more than a decade and who stay in touch with one another, networking long after the program concludes.  That chemistry and diversity is something that we are very proud of. 

Another thing we are proud of is our training of scholars working in conflict countries.  This month we are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so we can offer more scholarships to heritage professionals from countries where cultural heritage is particularly at risk as the result of war and or poverty. Since 2015 we have been able to give scholarships to professionals working in Yemen and Iraq and Syria and we would like to be able to do more in this capacity.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

Our program schedule is very intensive -- 5 hours a day for 5 days a week.  But while there are a lot of lecture hours, 220 over the course of all 11 course modules, the overall feeling during the summer is quite relaxed. Classes begin at 10:30 in the morning so it is not exactly at the crack of dawn. We also have a generous 2-hour break for lunch and classes finish by 5:30 in the evening so participants still have time to adjourn to lovely gardens or cafes and to enjoy some wine and pizza. We also try to balance the quantity of home-based assignments with in classroom assignments.

For me, I love teaching and the 5 hours a day of lectures I give fly by. Teaching the history of art crime with a focus on forgery, my goal is to highlight historical case studies that help participants understand how to analyze criminal cases.   Even when we have incomplete information on the crime committed by delving into these historical examples we shed light on present and future issues.

I also always include a bonus lecture for our participants that focuses on strategies for writing their thesis or any academic journal article. If there is time and enough interest, I also include a second bonus lecture on how to get published and earn money as a freelance writer.  There are lots of lessons that I had to learn through experience that I think can really help people and it's my pleasure to offer anything I can to help our participants who are interested in writing, whatever their age or background might be.

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your course, is there anything you learn from them in class?

I am always learning and part of the fun is the fact that art crime is both so understudied and also so multifaceted. As only a limited amount of material has been published in detail on this subject area,  and as so few people in the world have historically focused on art crime in the art world, each person who studies with us has a chance to make a real and meaningful contribution by exploring the nuances of the genre.  By the very reason that this subject area is a rare though important field of study, postgraduate scholars can make real breakthroughs that can really shake things up and contribute to the knowledge base within this sector.

As an emerging area of focus, there are lots of empty spaces and unanswered questions that need to be filled in. For example one of our earliest participants focused on the specific ways certain criminals had passed off forgeries and looted works of art as legitimate.  By fabricated documents to create a plausible collection history of the artwork, what people in the art trade call provenance documentation, this disreputable player had created a wholly fictitious backstory in order to legitimize the sale of objects on the art market.   Knowing that there was no real focus on gathering and confirming or discounting presented documentation in order to determine an object's illegitimacy, the criminals had laundered artworks onto the market with impunity.

When I talked about some of the ways that historically criminals have tricked the art trade and buyers one participant explained that in their country, in many art market situations and sales environments there isn't anyone whose job it is to verify an objects providence, or to determine whether or not the consigned object or its paperwork, were forged. The fact that an industry the size of the art market was so intentionally vulnerable, all in the name of sales, was a real eye opener. 

In anticipation of your course, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

There are so many good writers, many associated with ARCA, who have good and useful books well worth reading. I think it's also actually a good exercise to indulge in art crime entertainment. It is useful because it's fun and it also exemplifies how misleading so many films are.  This is a useful starting point for recognizing which aspects of art criminality presented to the general public are accurate and which are not.

There are many great films that are a lot of fun and that also teach viewers two things. First the films give a sense of what the public thinks, or wants to believe about art crime, and are something criminals themselves learn from about the art world as they have access to the same sources of the general public.  But films and fiction are also generally not very accurate. Second, understanding the criminals' knowledge base is very helpful in stopping them.   Films are useful for our participants because they see just how much they've learned by the end of the program by being able to think back on these pop culture touchstone's and having learned to recognize which aspects of them are plausible and which are truly just Hollywood-esque entertainment and hype.

What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique? 

The program is unique. That phrase is often used as hyperbole but in this case it is very true. ARCA's PG Cert was the very first program in the world where you could study art crime in an interdisciplinary academic way. There have since been other programs developed that have popped up long after ours was initiated but they tend to focus on specific subsections of art crime, such as criminal investigation or law as it relates to specific countries, or to the illicit trade in antiquities. Whereas ours remains the only comprehensive program out there.  So for me, if someone wants to study our crime I believe this is still the only place where one can really do it full justice as we aren't restricted to one subject discipline. 

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

Amelia is a wonderful place to spend a summer and our participants inevitably fall in love with the town and the region and the people in the city and their fellow participants. Many of our alumni come back to our summer art crime conference every year not just for the interesting scholarship but also as an excuse to visit old friends and colleagues. Over the course of a summer it is also easy for participants to explore every nook and cranny of Amelia as it is modest in size but with surprising riches such as a city's spectacular Duomo.

Borrowing a car, or better still, a friend with a car, is a great thing to do because there are wonderful day trips to do near Amelia. There are many wonderful towns worth seeing in Italy, and I'm not just talking about the grand tour cities of Rome and Florence and Venice and Naples. Bomarzo, with its amazing and crazy mannerist sculpture garden, is full of these stone sculptures of giants and monsters that are much larger than life size and which is only a half hour away from where we are based. Orvieto and Viterbo, Civita di Bagnoregio, Narni, Spoleto...are also gems worth visiting. 

Maybe one of the nicest activities to do that is beyond the traditional beaten tourist path is to attend a summer sagra. This village food festivals pop up all over Italy throughout the summer. Each one has a theme focusing on a special food from their area and during these it is like a giant pop-up communal restaurant filled with local townspeople, eating at long tables.  These provide lots of camaraderie and dancing and are a cheap way to enjoy delicious speciality eats with locals.

Can you tell us something about your books outside the field of art and crime? 

While I'm known mostly for my books on art crime I've also enjoyed branching out in recent years. I just finished helping a famous Slovenian chef with his latest cookbook and I had great fun publishing a book about my adventures living in Slovenia called Slovenology.  This book has been very well received and translated into several languages.   I seem to be known for two things: art crime and for being an American expat in Slovenia. I hope I have brought some positive changes and interpretations to both of these subjects!


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org


Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

August 27, 2017

Conference - Authenticity, forgery, provenance, and ethics at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting


The 2017 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, will be held in Boston on November 18–21, 2017 and will feature an interesting panel on legitimacy and forgery and the ethical and unethical trade and publication of historic archaeological material with limited or no provenance. 

The title of the panel is:  Avoiding Deception: Forgeries, Fake News, and Unprovenanced Material in Religious Studies

Session date and time:  November 19, 2017 from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Rome and Location: Orleans (Fourth Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Invited speakers include: 


According to the annual meeting program book this session will delve into the following: 

Why is provenance important? Although the forgery of documents and artifacts has always been a primary concern in religious studies, recent events surrounding the colloquially designated “Jesus’ Wife Fragment” and various unprovenanced fragments touted as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls have propelled scholars into a new era of forgery studies. While some may suppose that scholars are easily able to identify and disprove such items as forgeries, the complicated landscape in which such materials surface and are distributed has necessitated the adaptation of scholarship to remain diligent in preserving authentic items of history for study. This panel will address the challenges facing scholars in identifying and disproving forgeries in our current era. Invited speakers will similarly offer a space to examine the complexities and current status of forgeries in religious studies, identifying ways scholars can navigate the field without perpetuating erroneous materials in their scholarship. Time will be left following the panel for students and faculty to meet and mingle, in order to facilitate networking between scholars interested in similar material.

February 19, 2017

Eric Spoutz sentenced Thursday to 41 months in prison for selling fake works

Linkedin ScreenCapture: 19 February 2017
Charged with a single count of wire fraud and facing 20 years in prison, well-known Michigan art dealer Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz, a/k/a “Robert Chad Smith,” a/k/a “John Goodman,” a/k/a “James Sinclair,” has been sentenced instead to 41 months incarceration.  Once released from prison, he will be required to undergo three years supervised release and has been ordered forfeit $1.45 million in ill-gotten gains and to pay restitution in the amount of $154,100.

Spoutz, who once advised private collectors, businesses, and museums on acquisitions, was convicted for the alleged sale of dozens of forged artworks between 2003 and March 2015, purported to be the works of renowned postwar American painters renown for being at the center of the avant-garde.

Under the guise of one of several false identities, the dealer provided fake provenance, which he then used to convince the purchasers that he had inherited or purchased dozens of authentic works by influential Abstract Expressionism artists like Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Joan Mitchell.

Spoutz offered works attributed to (clockwise from top left)
American artists Arthur Dove, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Franz Kline.
Despite his efforts to create false histories for the forged artworks, investigators working on the case identified multiple inconsistencies and errors in the forged provenance records which eventually proved the evidentiary basis of his conviction.

During the court proceedings Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams said “Spoutz falsified a complex series of seemingly original documentation of each piece’s provenance: bills of sale, letters from art dealers, correspondence from prior owner’s estates, etc.,” ...... “His research and care in the preparation of letterhead and stationary from these figures – including falsified letters dated from the 1950s through the 1990s – required an intense commitment to deception.”

For more information on the fraudster's scheme please see the reporting by Special Agent Christopher McKeogh from the FBI’s Art Crime Team's New York Field Office.



December 1, 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016 - ,,, No comments

Just another day, living in gangsta...I mean art market...paradise...

“History is subjective. History is alterable. History is, finally, little more than modeling clay in a very warm room.” ― Bradford Morrow, The Forgers

Papyrologist and ancient historian Dr. Roberta Mazza once coined a phrase to describe the world in general, but which also aptly applies to how the art market sometimes moves and acts....“absurdistan”

Chiming in with her very own “prestigious auction alert” on her spot-on blog Faces & Voices earlier this week, Mazza then drew our attention to an upcoming New York auction we may not want to miss.  In addition to auctioning six, six-figure bibles from the Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie collection, auction powerhouse Sotheby's is also offering a “Souvenir Facsimile” of the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John's fragment. 

But who recreates a Canonical gospel as a souvenir? And more importantly, who buys one?  Does its ownership by a famous theologian make the counterfeit knock-off the Bible-nerds equivalent to a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card?

If reading about a certified fake on auction wasn't enough to make me think people will buy just about anything, the auction house news reminded me of this list-serv posting from 2014.  It is from an antiquities collector forum and was posted by a well known dealer.  Its title...

A journey in the life of a looted antiquity...

I'm sure this lovely step-by-step guide was merely an illustration, mind you. Surely the um.... the respectable dealer himself wasn't speaking from any first-hand experience?

“Hello to you all.

I would like to share with you my thoughts regarding how a piece you end up buying in auction at Bonhams or Christies is actually looted.

- A poor farmer in Egypt finds it while ploughing [sic] his land.

- He is scared to report it considering the hell he will go through, confiscating his land, ending up in jail, family dying from hunger etc... so he sells it to the local dealer in the village.

- Local dealer sells it to the middle man in Cairo.

- Middle man sells it to the big boss in Cairo.

- Big boss smuggles it to an Arabian gulf country, e.g. Qatar, Dubai, Bahrain.

- Piece then shipped to a stupid European country, e.g. Portugal.  sorry, stupid meaning = level of  customs awareness.

- Then an invoice is made from a dealer in another European country e.g. Belgium, to this Portuguese dealer for the piece, of course no body [sic] checks, it's an EU transaction, no tax, no customs.

- Based on the Belgian invoice, the Portuguese dealer make an export licence [sic] to U.S.A from ministry of culture, piece origin from Belgium, this totally cancels the fact that the piece came from the Arabian gulf.

- Item received in the U.S , no trouble, legal,

- Item sold in auction + old European collection, legally entered to U.S, customs paid.” 

Dealer name withheld  
Location: somewhere in “absurdistan”

NB:  ARCA has screenshots of the conversation with said dealer in question, but based on the above, we are super happy that US Secretary of State John Kerry has signed off this week on the U.S.-Egypt cultural property Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

by: Lynda Albertson

November 21, 2016

Book Review: Portraits of Pretence by Susan Grossey

Book 4 in the Sam Plank Mystery Series
Author:  Susan Grossey

Review by:  Arthur Tompkins

Constable Sam Plank is a magistrate’s constable in seventeenth century Regency London. In Portraits of Pretence (available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon) the fourth Sam Plank novel, Susan Grossey weaves an elegant and polished tale of art crime, forgery, falsified provenance, smuggling, clandestine collecting, dubious art dealers and untimely death, all against a backdrop of the evocative sights, sounds, smells and ambience of crowded and bustling Regency London.

Susan Grossey is, by day, a specialist in combating money laundering, and also the author of the (now) four Sam Plank mysteries (her Amazon author’s page can be found here). In Constable Sam Plank she has created a gentle, thoughtful, careful, indomitable and very likeable investigator of crime in the heart of England’s great capital.  In the first three Sam Plank novels, Sam tackled financial forgery and bank fraud (Fatal Forgery, set in 1824), investment fraud (The Man in the Canary Waistcoat, set in 1825) and blackmail and corruption (Worm in the Blossom, set in 1826). This time around, it is the spring of 1827 and Sam is plunged into the art market and the criminal dishonesty that swirls in and around it in post-Napoleonic England and Europe. An elderly French artist is found dead, clutching an exquisite miniature painted on ivory in his hand.  The trail leads through the vaults under the then newly-built Customs House in riverside London, visits to the blockade-men stationed in Kent, and in and out of various salubrious and not-so salubrious rooms of artists and dealers in London.

Constable Plank is ably assisted in his investigation, as he was in his earlier outings, by his indomitable and perceptive wife, Martha, his able and swift-to-learn (although not always, in matters of the heart) junior constable William, and a widening circle of memorable supporting characters – some based on historical figures, others plausible and fascinating characters circulating in the milieu of a London bursting at the seams and flexing its commercial, financial and international muscle as it enters the period when Great Britain would dominate the known world.

Ms Grossey is meticulous in her research. Her characters’ language, the streets and the buildings they inhabit, and the street-level topography of central London they walk by day and by night, are a delight. To read the story is to live in the streets of a London on the brink of global greatness, thronged by a deeply rich tapestry of life’s all-too-human variety.  The tone of the novel and the writing throughout is eminently readable and light-handed (a not inconsiderable authorial achievement), and briskly-paced.

The historical background is accurate, but not overpowering – personally I liked the passing and accurate references to the historical development of the protection and repatriation of cultural property plundered in war, and various facets of art crime itself. The many manifestations of art crime that Sam encounters are illuminating, especially for students of contemporary art crime, who will quickly realise that nothing that lies beneath the glittering surface of today’s art world is new, and that the same dark currents twisted and ran riot two centuries ago just as they do now.

Three more Sam Plank mysteries are scheduled, the next one due out (a reliable source tells me) in October 2018...

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Arthur Tompkins is a sitting District Court Judge based in Wellington and one of the founders of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust.  For 8 years now he has taught the Art in War course module for the annual Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Heritage Protection presented by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art in Amelia, Umbria, Italy. He has lectured around New Zealand and abroad on art crime, and is a regular art-crime guest on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning show on National Radio.

November 15, 2016

When a Master Forger is a Master Artist

"Michelangelo Buonarotti" 2016, by Charles Vincent Sabba
Fingerprint ink on Police criminal print card
In 1446, Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted a sleeping cupid out of marble and buried it in "sour" earth. This acidic dirt made the sculpture appear much older than it really was. The cupid was sold as an antiquity through a dealer to Cardinal Raffaelle Riario di San Giorgio. Someone informed the cardinal that he had been duped and he demanded his money back; he gave up an original Michelangelo, which undoubtedly would be worth a fortune today. This cupid ended up in the d'Este collection in Mantua, but unfortunately, is lost today.



June 4, 2015

Thursday, June 04, 2015 - , No comments

Unfiltered: An email from Mark Forgy on supporting "The Forger's Apprentice - The Musical"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

I recently received this email and I pass it on to you:

Dear Friends,

I'm proud to share this with you. The Forger's Apprentice - The Musical will soon have its world premiere at Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, MN with eight performances from June 11 - 21. We invite your cherished support. Please see our GoFundMe page (http://www.gofundme.com/forgersapprentice) This is a story that has garnered media attention in the New York Times, Boston Globe, ARTnews, NPR's Snap Judgment, and Orson Welles's F for Fake. We believe musical theater is the perfect venue for this compelling saga. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1577926.

Best always!

Mark Forgy

February 17, 2015

The Stakes are in the Stroke: "Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project"

Photograph: Robert Sanderson for the BBC
By Liza Weber, ARCA '14 Alumna

In 1811 Sir John Soane drew up the blueprint for Dulwich Picture Gallery, Britain’s first public art gallery. That is, Sir Radical Soane drew up a template for how to house Francis Bourgeois’ first-class private collection: open its Bourgeois doors to the public. Two centuries on and the template—save for the ticket price—has not been tampered with. For where the conceptual artist, Doug Fishbone, today asks the public to discern the dud in the gallery’s Permanent Collection of Claude’s to Canaletto’s, its welcome mat is down.

But a dud, mind you, that is meant to spark—spark intrigue, in anyone who has ever suspected that a Christmas gift was too-leather-good-to be-true. Intrigue in you, the sceptic. Spotting the fake from the fortune is not reserved for the BBC-coiffed-likes of Fiona Bruce as she uncovers, in the attic, ancestors with considerable assets. Spotting the fake from the fortune is as good a guess yours as it is (t)heirs.

Made in China, somewhere South. Mailed to Dulwich, South London. Mailed with a questionable £120 invoice (supposedly Meishing Oil Painting Manufacture Company kept the carbon copy). And at last hung in the frame belonging to the fortune. All within the dead of night.

Photograph: Robert Sanderson for the BBC
When the 10th morning of February was broken, I donned my detective hat to try my eye at the collection’s 270 paintings for the counterfeit thing. Ok, I lie. I tried my eye at about a dozen. My reasoning? 
1. The painting had to be at eye-level. To hang it in the upper echelons of the burgundy galleries would be a gesture, paradoxically, below the belt. 
2.  It was French. 
The French bit was an itch. A hunch. Over something, something perhaps remembered…

French Art was particularly popular post-WWII, which meant that a great number of fakes surfaced to supply the demand. They have been washing-up like driftwood ever since. French Law—as if to build a dam—allowed the confiscation and burning of counterfeit works at the behest of the artist’s estate. (I think it still does.) A French fake then is about high stakes. If Fishbone genuinely had a bone to pick with authenticity, or lack thereof, he surely would have pitched his conceptual stakes high? Call my reasoning what you will, the fact is, I’m an art critic in the making and freelance, so with nothing much to lose. Here goes my guess.

It was a toss-up between Nicolas Poussin’s
1.  'Landscape with Travellers Resting (or A Roman Road)', 1648
2.  'The Triumph of David', c.1628-31
It was the frame around the frame of the former that found me suspicious:
1.  The wall panel text read This canvas seems to have been painted as a pair to the ‘Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain (or A Greek Road)’ now in the National Gallery London. I am always wary of a wall text that finds space, in less than 100 words, to use up one with ‘seems’. I am looking at some sort of semblance—a likeness, image, or copy of. Seeing double. X-ray examinations show that the canvas was first used for a partial copy of Poussin’s ‘Moses trampling Pharaoh’s Crown’, now in the Louvre. Now I am seeing triple. Why ever not a fourth?
2.  The gallery walls, an unforgiving Payne’s grey, were scuffed here, there, in fact, everywhere. Fresh tracks of movement. But tracks that you would be, if anything, lazy not to cover up with a lick of paint. No, it was all too obvious…
Plus Poussin’s travellers are behind a pane of glass. It is simply impractical to get up close and personal. And yet ‘close and personal’ is exactly what Dulwich Picture Gallery is asking of its visitors. No, this Poussin is too obscured from fine observation.

‘The Triumph of David’ is comparatively clear. One of Poussin’s most studied and cerebral compositions, it is the focal point of the French room, bordered by a burgundy archway and a beckoning chaise longue. Come sit it says. So I stand, an inch-close to the canvas. Load a Google image on my iPhone. Compare physical with pixelated paint. There is something altogether off here:
1. Look at the cracked foundation in the lower left corner; its fallen stone fragments. Count the sandal straps. Follow the extraordinary length of the ladies fingers, pointing here, there, no there. This is geometry. That art historical school that gallery director Ian Dejardin distrusts for trying too hard to tie down the imprecise phenomenon of artistic composition. A school that is perhaps here apt. Getting close and personal means to study not merely the flatness of the piece (for every Fake is, according to the guess-pert, Flat), but the properties and relations of points, lines, surfaces, and solids. It is perhaps then time to take a solid seat. And stare a while longer. 
2. For this Poussin is the Director’s Choice. Which is to say, ‘The Triumph of David’ made it into Dejardin’s selected 37 paintings for book publication. It made the cut. Why not a copy? Remember, Doug Fishbone is in collaboration with Dejardin. His choice matters.
Plus this is a painting of a procession, a procession—Dejardin reminds us—that passes through a representative section of humanity where every gesture and action is significant. If Fishbone and Dejardin wanted to stress the whole(sale) sordid affair of Chinese Studios, and their replicas as downright disruptive to the Market, they would have surely stressed it in a painting where every stroke counts?

To conclude let me approach the one big question—the one big question Fishbone and Dejardin set to Xylophone tones in their video trailer for the project—
Does it have an aura?
I won’t bore you with Walter Benjamin. For now, let us just agree that the aura is in the waiting. The reveal: 28th April 2015. I, for one, am counting.
And as I count I discover that I was not the only one staring at the Poussin on the 10th morning of February. The Daily Mail caught a lady on the chaise longue. She was donning a red beret. How Very French.  

Ms. Weber is a freelance journalist.

For additional reading on this subject, please follow this link to Angelina Giovani's piece on the blog "plundered art", a perspective from the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Angie is also an ARCA alumna.

February 1, 2015

ARCA Founder Noah Charney returns to Amelia for seventh year to teach "Art Forgers and Thieves" for the 2014 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

Noah Charney in Ghent
ARCA founder Noah Charney returns to Amelia for the seventh year to teach "Art Forgers and Thieves" for the 2014 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

What is the relevancy of your course?

Art theft and forgery fascinate professional and the general public alike, but both fields have received relatively little in the way of scholarly study prior to the foundation of ARCA. This course will examine historical case studies of art theft and forgery from which we can glean more global lessons about both phenomena. What are the preferred modi operandi for art thieves and how can knowing them help us better secure our art collections? What is the most common confidence trick used by art forgers, and how can we guard against it? We will examine these questions through the context of fascinating historical case studies.

Why do you keep coming back to teach in Amelia?

I love teaching and I love Amelia. It's an ideal small Italian town, one which provides the true immersion experience in Italian life. It is gorgeous, charming, and the locals adopt our students as their own. It's a great place to spend a summer.

What do you hope students will get out of the course?

My students should, first and foremost, enjoy themselves enough that they don't realize just how much they are learning until the end of the program. Then everything will shift into place and they will realize that they are among a tiny group of fellow experts and program graduates who know more about this subject than anyone else in the world. It's a very empowering feeling. But during my course, I try to teach through engaging anecdotes, to which I tie in theory, which makes the lessons far easier to comprehend and retain. If a course is interesting enough, students learn without feeling like they are "Working."

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

I tend to talk a lot, as I have a lot of stories to tell. I'm something of a performance junkie, so I'm jumping around in front of my slides, but then we always engage in group discussion. I feel that if there's anything a student has not understood, it is because I have not taught it well enough, and I say that on the first day. So it's up to me to lay out case studies as examples of theories in practice, to make complicated matters clear.

In anticipation of your course, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to students?

In an act of shameless self-promotion, I recommend that my students read my non-fiction books on the subject: Stealing the Mystic Lamb; The Thefts of the Mona Lisa; Art & Crime, and even The Wine Forger's Handbook. Rare wine counts as edible art!

February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014 - , No comments

Wolfgang Beltracchi, Art Forger: CBS Profiles German Fraudster, An "Evil Genius" and "Con Man"?

Here's a link to the CBS "60 Minutes" segment on art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi. The German fraudster tells interviewer Bob Simon that he knew what he was doing was wrong, he did not feel guilty for defrauding collectors, and used faked 'archival photographs' to support fake collecting history.

Here's a review ("60 Minutes" Recap) by Tammie Edenshaw of CMR (Current Movie Reviews):
Bob Simon brings the next story about Wolfgang Beltracchi, a con artist whose paintings are remarkable works of forgery. They are the ideas of a man whose visions are what he feels the master painters would have done or may have lost. His career has encompassed more than forty years and earned him millions. During the interview, Beltrachhi shows how he forges Max Ernst by painting on a wooden bridge outside his home. What is spectacular about this man is not the fact he “copies” famous works of art, but that he “channels” the artist and creates new works, which are his own, but passed off as those of a famous artist. He is probably one of the most exhibited painters in the world but was busted in 2010 but white paint which had titanium white. His downfall has turned the art world on his head as auction houses are being sued for endorsing the forgeries. Experts are now unsettled to the point of no longer rendering opinions of authentication. Beltracchi is now painting under his own name as he faces millions in lawsuits.
Dawn Levesque on Liberty Voice writes in "Wolfgang Beltracchi and the Biggest Art Scandal" that:
It is said that Wolfgang Beltracchi painted artworks by Raoul Duffy, Max Ernst, Georges Braque and Fernand Leger, along with other 20th century Surrealists and Expressionists. Beltracchi did not copy the paintings but passed off his own paintings in what he believed the real artist might have painted. These paintings became “newly discovered masterpieces” by 20th century artists. He expertly forged the artist’s painting style so flawlessly that no one was the wiser. In hindsight, according to modern art expert, Ralph Jentsch, it was due to the formidable desire to believe. Jentsch affirms, that in the world of art, connoisseurship and origins can go astray in the “frenzy of excitement over a new find.” Beltracchi also created artwork that once existed but had been missing for years. He conned even the finest art connoisseurs by working with paint and canvases from the appropriate period. In addition, he went so far as to produce realistic, time-worn dealer labels. Then, came the story to accompany the forged artwork. His wife, Helene claimed that her deceased grandfather, Werner Jägers had hidden his fine art collection away prior to World War II in a country home near Cologne. Subsequently, the collection was bequeathed to her, and according to Beltracchi, that is how he came into possession of the undiscovered artworks by renowned artists. To add integrity to the story, the Beltracchis presented a credible old black and white photo of Helene personating her grandmother, posed in front of canvases from the alleged “Jägers collection.”
[...]
In August 2010, Berlin’s art fraud branch conducted their biggest operation, and police teams seized paintings, the Beltracchis and their accomplices. However, with the lack of evidence at their trial, the judge terminated the proceedings, and the Beltracchis jail terms were reduced. A top forensic art analyst, Jamie Martin, is one expert that acknowledges that Wolfgang Beltracchi’s fakes are very credible, and some of the best counterfeits he has seen in his profession. He believes that if forensic analysts had inspected the paintings more thoroughly that maybe Beltracchi would have been exposed much earlier. However, that does not raise the spirits of those who have been prosecuted, including auction houses, galleries and experts, for selling Beltracchi fakes. At Beltracchi’s trial, the prosecuting attorney stated that he had produced 36 counterfeit artworks, bought for $46 million. Spanning four decades, it has been estimated that Beltracchi, Helene and their accomplices made $22 million on their art fraud. Even though authorities have charged Beltracchi with 36 works, he claims that there may be over 300 counterfeit paintings still in circulation. In truth, what is considered the “biggest art scandal of all time is not finished. German police have only uncovered 60 fraudulent paintings of Wolfgang Beltracchi since the trial, with an undetermined quantity amount still in circulation.

February 23, 2014

Sam Cullman and Jen Grausman seeking support on Kickstarter to complete "Art and Craft", a documentary on art forger Mark Landis

Here's a link to the Kickstarter campaign to raise $48,250 to bring "Art and Craft", a documentary by Sam Cullman and Jen Grausman on the fraud art forger Mark Landis, to audiences:
THE STORY: Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century Icons, the Hudson River School, and even Picasso. And while his copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis has never been in it for the money. Posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest, Landis has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States. But, when Matthew Leininger, a registrar in Cincinnati, discovers his thirty-year ruse and organizes an exhibition of the work, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.


December 12, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013 - ,,,, No comments

Felicity Strong on "The Mythology of the Art Forger" in the Fall 2013 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Felicity Strong uses the biographies of Han van Meegeren and Elmyr de Hory, amongst others, in her academic article on "The Mythology of the Art Forger" in the tenth issue of The Journal of Art Crime. From the abstract:
In the twentieth century, there has been the rise in the depiction of the art forger in non-fiction biographies and memoir. Distinct from scholarly research, these portrayals of individual art forgers have developed a common mythology, which weaves through each narrative. The art forger is mythicised as a hero; the failed artist protesting a corrupt art market dominated by greedy art dealers and scholars. In Australian culture, this mythology has its roots in the wider legend of hero criminal such as in the story of Ned Kelly and includes elements of the North American ‘trickster’ mythology. It also feeds into a broader anti-intellectualism and mistrust of the establishment, particularly in the depiction of art curators and connoisseurs. 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 Pereyni. These narratives fuel the ability of the forgers to construct their own public persona and feed into the wider mythology of the art forger.
Ms. Strong's article begins with:
“Art forgers are endowed with the same evil attractiveness as emanates from great criminals”. Thierry Lenain
Art historian Otto Kurz in his book, Fakes: a Handbook for Collectors and Students, summarizes the basis of the mythology of the art forger. He refers to the “often repeated story of the innocent forger, dished up every time one of the great forgers has been found out”. This mythology more or less follows the same narrative arc across each story: beginning with childhood struggle, such as Tom Keating, described as “born with every disadvantage except a loving mother, or Eric Hebborn, who described his maternal relationship, “as her favourite, my ears were those she liked to box the best, my bottom was the preferred target for an affectionate kick”. Most of the art forgers overcome their struggles through learning the tools of the art trade, working for restorers or conservators and slowly developing a common distain for the cultural elite and art market. Keating is characterized triumphing over adversity through his talents, as he “taught himself reading and achieved a much broader cultural than most of today’s A-level students and feather- bedded graduates”. The art forgers who began their career as failed artists rail against the agents of the market; dealers, gallery owners, critics and curators; whom they perceive as having wronged them. They begin to create forgeries, justifying their production on their perceived mistreatment by the cultural elite. This is evident in the case of Han van Meegeren, who trained as an artist and held a number of solo exhibitions before he began to forge old master painters. Some commentators claim it was series of poorly performing shows and negative reviews by Amsterdam’s arts community, which drove him to forge Vermeer. He allegedly refused the offer of critics, who approached van Meegeren for payment in return for positive appraisals of his shows, resulting in negative reviews. Jonathan Lopez dismisses the idea that he was pushed into forging, claiming that van Meegeren was creating forgeries well before this time, motivated purely by the money that more established artists could command.
Felicity Strong is a PhD candidate 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.

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).

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.

August 31, 2013

The New Yorker: Mark Landis as forger or con artist? Alec Wilkinson quotes ARCA Founder Noah Charney

The August 26, 2013 issue of The New Yorker magazine includes an article on Mark Landis in an article by Alec Wilkinson "The Giveaway: Who was the mysterious man donating all the valuable art?"
Matthew Leininger, of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, was the first person to pursue Mark Landis, but Landis had been suspected as a forger by at least one museum, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, in Laurel, Mississippi. In 2003, five years before Everett Shinn called "Nymph on the Rocks." Landis had promised other works, which the museum tried for a year to obtain; which he didn't provide the pieces, the staff grew suspicious of him.
The article includes a quote by art historian Noah Charney, founder of ARCA:
Some people consider Landis to be not so much a forger as a con artists which is the epithet Leininger most often employs. Noah Charney, an art historian who is the founder of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, in Rome, wrote me that he thinks of Landis as an adept impostor "more akin to identity fraudsters, like Clark Rockefeller." Money isn't what such people desire. They want to be treated as substantial citizens. "Social status and a feeling of belonging is their reward," Charney wrote. In this context, the painting or drawing Landis spends an hour making is ephemeral: it needs to last only long enough to admit him to a sympathetic haven.   


August 20, 2013

Noah Charney's "Q&A with Ken Perenyi" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Noah Charney, ARCA Founder and Editor of The Journal of Art Crime, interviews Ken Perenyi, American art forger and author of Caveat Emptor, in the Spring 2013 issue.
Noah Charney: Could you begin by telling me about the very first work that you forged, the process of making it, and what made you turn to creating a work that would be passed off as something it was not? 
Ken Perenyi: The first one was a matter of circumstance that led me to it. I found myself in a great need of money when I was 18, and I had already started painting. I had worked under the direction of a well-known commercial artist from New York called Tom Bailey, and I discovered that I had a real natural talent for oil painting. It impressed my mentor, Tom, and I learned to paint simply by looking at Old Masters in museums. I never had lessons or formal training, it was just looking at paintings, studying them, and figuring out how the artists achieved their effects. 
I started painting in 1967, with no intention of creating fakes. I wanted to paint surrealistic pictures to impress my friends at the time. The hippy era was big, and my friends from New York City were all avant-garde, they were all older than me. They leased a crumbling old mansion on the Palisade cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, and so I began hanging out there with them. I wanted to fit in and impress them, so I started painting a number of surrealistic pictures. But everyone who looked at them said that they seem to be influenced by the Old Masters -- that wasn't a criticism, just an observation. And that's the way I understood how to paint, to layer and make things appear like the Old Masters.
I spent a lot of time in museums, studying painting. When I found myself in desperate need of cash, an artist friend joked that I should try forging a painting. He gave me a book about the forger [Han] van Meegeren, that he had just finished reading. I was impressed, and in the brashness of youth, I figured, maybe I can do this?
On my next trip to the museum, I visited the Dutch section and was looking at the portraits. I looked at these little portraits, and thought that they've got to be simple. I thought, why don't I try something like this? So I painted one on a small wooden panel that I scavenged, it was the bottom of an early piece of furniture. I managed to make a fine little portrait on the panel, and was able to sell it to a gallery on 57th Street [in New York]. I got $800 for it -- that was my first fake. From that point on, it wasn't a matter of if I would paint another one, but when I would paint another one. It was the beginning of a career -- I didn't look upon it as a career at that point, I saw it as something I could always fall back on, to raise some quick cash, until a turning point came later in life.
This interview is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. It is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.