Showing posts with label illicit cultural property. Show all posts
Showing posts with label illicit cultural property. Show all posts

October 28, 2016

Looting Matters posting on the UK Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

For nine years Professor David Gill’s blog Looting Matters has been the place to turn for thoughtful discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities.  As a Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at the University of Suffolk and a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, as well as a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award recipient, it's safe to say that Dr. Gill has the credentials and expertise necessary to have an informed and measured opinion on the multiple threats facing our cultural heritage.

Dr. Gill has published widely on archaeological ethics, often with Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge).  Frequently on Looting Matters, as he has done today, he is the first in the heritage crimes field, to announce important news that we should all be paying attention to, often paces ahead of other researchers, including myself. 

Today Dr. Gill reminds us that on Monday, October 31, 2016 the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [HL] 2016-17 will have its 2nd reading in the UK’s House of Commons. 

In its current form, the Bill is an nobile effort to establish the United Kingdom's place as a champion for the world’s cultural heritage by introducing the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the Hague convention and its two protocols.   The bill seeks to introduce the necessary domestic legislation to enable the UK to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict, a convention the UK signed in December 1954 and has been publicly committed to ratifying, along with its two Protocols since 2004. 

As of March 2016, 127 states are party to the Hague treaty, while 4 others (Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the United Kingdom) have signed, but not ratified. Additionally, there are 104 States Parties to the First Protocol and 69 State Parties signatories to the Second Protocol

If passed this UK bill will not be retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 will make it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad.

To read up on this bill and its significance please see Dr. Gill's blog and the hyperlinks he has already posted.  While you are at it, I suggest you also follow his ongoing academic research here and perhaps take a look at his standing column "Context Matters" which he writes two times per year in the Journal of Art Crime speaking out about the material and intellectual consequences of heritage looting and illicit trafficking. 

By Lynda Albertson



October 8, 2016

UNESCO issues report on Freeports


The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) promotes practical tools and communication to raise public awareness about trafficking in and return of stolen objects.

With its work closely tied to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the Committee met at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris, on September 29-30, 2016 to discus the need for better prevention, increased cooperation and awareness raising of illicit trafficking in cultural property.

As an outcome of that meeting, UNESCO issued a document which highlights the phenomenon of free ports and their implications on the illicit art market. A copy of their report, it its entirety, can be referenced directly on the UNESCO website here:

Freeport concerns are a subject that ARCA has blogged about with regularity as has Professor David Gill on the blog Looting Matters as they have long been havens for high value artwork in general and illicit art work in particular.  More recently Free ports have been springing up around the world with increasing regularity as more investors begin to store and trade physical assets at locations which provide taxation incentives.

With their state of the art security, enormous potential for tax savings and less than transparent ownership record keeping which varies from country to country and freeport to freeport, these massive storage facilities may well continue to be a convenient and secure weigh station for traffickers to park hot goods until the world gets distracted elsewhere.  










July 26, 2016

Illicit Antiquities Trafficking an Ongoing, Organized Enterprise in Italy

This week, in the town of Teano, 30 kilometres northwest of Caserta on the road to Rome from Naples, the Carabinieri formally placed under investigation four individuals under suspicion of having committed a series of thefts “of historical interest” and then selling their stash onward via the illegal market.  In layman's English, the men were arrested for trafficking illicit antiquities and laundering them on via middlemen on to wealthy buyers.   The archaeological areas of Teano-Calvi have long been massacred for decades by tomb raiders without scruples.


One of those arrested was Emilio Autieri, a 65 year old registered nurse with Italy's Local Health Authority Service (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, ASL) which proves that even with a decent state pension, individuals can be coaxed into a world of illicit crime where money flows freely and behind closed doors.   He and 22 year old Antonia Pane have been placed under house arrest pending further investigation.   Massimo Aversano, 43 and 19 year old Domenico De Biasio have been released on their own recognizance with reporting conditions and restrictions to not leave the territorial area.

The investigation began in January 2016 following a not-publicized theft from the Archaeological Museum of Teano.  The case serves as a good example into the minds of criminals who receive, possess, conceal, store, barter, and sell, not just antiquity, but any goods, wares, or merchandise where there is a willing buyer willing to look the other way.

Following months of observation and chasing leads on various burglaries at private residences and shops, the Teano carabinieri conducted a series of wire taps and reviewed CCTV footage related to various burglaries.  This in turn lead them to execute search warrants which uncovered what appears to be a well structured group of organized criminals who moved objects via fences working in the archaeological sector who had a supply of buyers willing to turn a blind eye to the illicit origin of the pieces they purchased. 

During the July sting operation, authorities recovered and sequestered more than 200 historical objects; antiquities which initial examination appears to date from from as early as the 9th and 8th Century BCE to as late as the 1st and 2nd century CE. Law enforcement has estimated the value of the seizure to have a combined value of €500,000.00 on the illicit market. 

The objects  brought into police custody include various sculptures in terracotta, ivory carvings, marble architectural elements, terracotta amphorae, as well as Bucchero pottery, common in pre-Roman Italy.  The team also had a stash of votive statues, and various metal and stone objects, buckles, brooches and earrings.  Interestingly, authorities also seized stolen objects not of an archaeological nature.  This shows that the ring of thieves and fences, did not restrict their dealings to stolen goods solely from antiquity. 

video

Earlier, in March of this year, a well-respected surgeon, Domenico Bova from nearby Sessa Aurunca and Gerardo Mastrostefano, an attorney from the same town as this weeks arrests, were investigated for their own related involvement to this offence and receiving stolen archaeological goods after 33 ancient finds were confiscated from their individual residences. Along with them an unnamed fence was reportedly involved as the ring's middleman.  The investigation into these prior individuals coupled with this week's formal charging of four others seem to lend credibility that the zone continues to have weaknesses that in the past have made it well adapted to the trafficking of culture.

In January 2014 an ex capo and former Camorrista of the Casalesi clan turned justice informant, Carmine Schiavone, stated that the Camorra had infiltrated the cities of Teano, Vairano, Caianello and other areas in Alto Caserta.   Schiavone, prior to his death was a former member of the Casalesi clan from Casal di Principe in the province of Caserta between Naples and Salerno and a cousin of former Camorra superboss Francesco Schiavone.  Heavily entrenched in the clan's business, he could be considered a person well informed as to the illicit activities in the region.

Is this summer's heritage crime case localized to one small group of organized bandits or part of something more sinister?







April 20, 2016

Highlights from the US Hearing Entitled “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS”

On April 19, 2016 the US House Financial Services Committee Task Force on Terrorism Financing held a one panel, two hour and fifteen minute long hearing entitled “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS” in the Rayburn House Office Building.

A 16 page introductory memorandum and witness biography can be found on the US House of Representatives Financial Services website here. 

During this hearing, testimony was given by: (in alphabetical, not speaking order)

• Dr. Amr Al-Azm, PhD, Associate Professor, Shawnee State University
• Mr. Robert M. Edsel, Chairman of the Board, Monuments Men Foundation
• Mr. Yaya J. Fanusie, Director of Analysis, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance,
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
• Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, PhD, Distinguished Professor, DePaul University College of
Law
• Mr. Lawrence Shindell, Chairman, ARIS Title Insurance Corporation

A video recording of the entire hearing can be viewed below.



During the hearing witnesses described the unabated and systematic process of cultural heritage destruction in Iraq and Syria and antiquities looting in the region which has grown steadily given the regions' instability.  

Secretary of U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, Patty Gerstenblith, speaking in a personal capacity and for the Blue Shield organisation she represents, testified before the Financial Services Committee’s Task Force saying, in part

“Unfortunately the looting of archaeological sites is big business, often carried out on an organised industrialised scale and in response to market demand.  And many of these sites are unknown before they are looted.  

As cultural objects move from source, transit and destination countries different legal systems create obstacles to interdiction of objects and prosecution of crimes and they allow the laundering of title to these artefacts.  

The United States is the single largest market for art in the world, with forty-three percent of market share.  Because of the availability of the charitable tax deduction, the ability to import works of art and artefacts without payment of tariffs and because of artistic preference, the United States is the largest ultimate market for antiquities, particularly those from the Mediterranean and the Middle East."

A transcript of Dr. Gerstenblith's testimony can be read in its entirety here.

Key imagery from Dr. Amr Al-Azm's testimony can be viewed here.

A transcript of Mr. Robert Edsel's testimony can be read in its entirety here.

A transcript of Mr. Yaya Fanusie's testimony can be read in its entirety here.

A transcript of Dr. Lawrence Shindell's testimony can be read in its entirety here.


While key takeaways from this hearing conversations are distilled here ARCA strongly encourages its blog readership to take the time to listen to the entire hearing and examine the legal instruments evidence Dr. Gerstenblith underscores as being necessary.  

She reminds us that looting of archaeological sites imposes incalculable costs on society by destroying the original contexts of archaeological artifacts thereby impairing our ability to reconstruct and understand the historical record.  Her testimony reminds us that looters loot because they are motivated by profit and that the looting and illicit trafficking phenomenon we are seeing in Iraq, Syria and Libya are responses to the basic economic principle of supply and demand.   

The statements of all of the speakers remind us that while the market in antiquities has existed for centuries, its role in facilitating criminal enterprise on the scale that we are seeing in the Middle East is a terrifying one.  

Maamoun Abdelkarim of Syria’s DGAM inspecting the condition of delivered
artefacts transported from various parts of Syria to Damascus on Sept. 21, 2015.

Antiquities collectors must be educated to understand that the purchase of objects emerging on the open market without legitimate collection histories (i.e. provenance) are the likely product of conflict-based looting of archaeological sites, and contribute significantly to the destruction of the world's cultural heritage.  Buyers need to be made to realise that their buying power and their, until now, unharnessed demand for archaeological material, absent transparent ethical acquisition documentation, incentivises those facing economic hardship to participate in, or tacitly condone,  the looting that we are observing in countries of conflict.  

If collectors in market nations such as the United States and London refuse to buy undocumented artifacts, then the incentives for looting historic sites, which by proxy funds criminal enterprise and terrorism, diminish. 

Armed conflicts have long been called the “perfect storm” within which large-scale looting can take place, but not without collectors willing to look the other way. 

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO


August 21, 2015

Two Syrians Detained in Istanbul’s Esenyurt District for Smuggling Ottoman-era “Sikke” Coins

By Lynda Albertson

Antiquities trafficking from source countries to collector markets requires a global network of routes and facilitation by domestic and international criminal groups and, or middle men. Although the various trajectories are always evolving, there are certain well-established trafficking routes regularly used for the purpose of transporting illicit goods, be they drugs, precursor chemicals, illicit arms, humans or portable antiquities.

Some trafficking routes are chosen out of geographic necessity, while others are selected when smugglers associate an alternate route with a lower risk of discovery, higher profit margin or simply because logistics, such as fuel supplies, transport or available couriers, make one transport route or trafficker more appealing than another. 

Turkey has long been a viable trade corridor for heroin as well as other illegal merchandise.  As a stop along what is known as the Balkan Route the country's strategic geographical location has helped to develop it into a major staging area and transportation conduit used by drug traffickers smuggling heroin destined for European markets, with the largest percentage flowing into Germany and the Netherlands. 
April 27, 2015 Heroin Seizure 


But does Turkey serve as a trade route for illicit antiquities?

This week Turkish authorities announced that police had detained two Syrian antiquities smugglers also in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district and confiscated 500 historic "sikke" dating back to the Tanzimat period (1839–1876) of the Ottoman Empire.  Along with the coins police seized ammunition, a firearm, and a substantial amount of cash in three separate currencies:
August 2015 Coin Hoard Seizure

€119,000 (Euros)
₺134,500 (Turkish lira)
$4,250 (US Dollars)

Is the antiquities trade always tied to the illicit drug trade? 

Certainly not.  However one could conclude that underworld figures willing to ply their trade with one black market item (heroin) might be convinced to transport/fence other lucrative goods (coins) available on the illicit market if and when opportunity knocks and they are presented with objects for which there are likely to be buyers.  

Is the antiquities trade tied to one specific district? 

Again certainly not.  Nor should any parallel be drawn by any of our readers connecting these two isolated events in one distinct of Istanbul.

The lack of solid statistical reporting in the field of heritage-related crimes and the clandestine nature of illicit trafficking in general make drawing conclusions as to how often one type of illicit trafficking overlaps with another impossible to ascertain.  What is important however is that we actively recognize that fluid network structures, rather than more formal hierarchies, coupled with porous borders and geographical proximity to destabilized source countries located in the vicinity of established trafficking corridors where transnational criminal networks are already active could be leveraged as a means to traffic movable heritage.   It should also be understood that the average participant may not be a career criminal, but a regular citizen attempting to exploit an opportunity to supplement their income as a single link in a complex chain. 









July 1, 2012

The Spring/Summer 2012 Issue of The Journal of Art Crime is now available to download by subscription

The PDF edition of the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime can now be downloaded by subscribers. This seventh issue is edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA.
 
Academic articles: "Bordering on Alchemy: A Nation of Counterfeiters" by Stephen Mihm; "Daubertizing the Art Expert" by John Daab; "Looting History: An Analysis of the Illicit Antiquities Trade in Israel" by Aleksandra Sheftel; "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times" by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel; and "The Forger's Point of View" by Thierry Lenain.

Regular columns: Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy on "When Photography Might be Illegal"; Ton Cremers on "Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?"; David Gill's Context Matters on "Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities"; and Noah Charney's Lessons from the History of Art Crime on "Mark Landis: the Forger Who Has Yet to Commit a Crime".

Editorial Essays: Joshua Knelman on "Headache Art"; Noah Charney on "Appendix on Forensics of Forgery Investigation"; and Noah Charney on "Art Crime in North America".

Reviews: Stuart George reviews "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg; David Gill reviews "Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum" by James Cuno; Catherine Schofield Sezgin reviews "Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art" by Joshua Knelman; Noah Charney reviews "The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century" by Aviva Briefel; and John Kleberg reviews "Leonardo's Lost Princess" by Peter Silverman with Catherine Whitney.

Extras: Noah Charney's interviews with George H. O. Abungu; Ernst Schöller; Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg; Ralph Frammolino and Jason Felch; Thierry Lenain; and a Q&A on "Art Crime in Canada".  

There is also a list of the 2012 ARCA Awards.

June 21, 2012

UNESCO promotes public awareness of illicit trafficking of cultural property with 2011 Documentary "Stealing the Past"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to the website and video for “Stealing the Past”, co-produced by dev.tv; One Planet Pictures; and the Swiss Confederation.  This English language documentary is intended to create public awareness about the illicit trafficking of cultural property worldwide.  This program spotlights Italy, Colombia and the United Kingdom to see ‘what police, museums and auction houses are doing to tackle’ looting of heritage.

"Stealing the Past" has Gihane Zaki, Eyptian Ministry of Culture, talking about how people 'rallied' to protect the collection of the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo during the Arab Spring Uprising in early 2011.  "When they heard in the media that the museum was looted, they went directly there and it was really fantastic to see all of the young people gather around the museum to prevent more looting." The museum reported only 18 items stolen, according to the documentary.

From Iraq, up to 7,000 ancient objects were "still at large" from the archaeological museum.  An art dealer in California was found last year trying to sell 25 of them, according to the film's narrator.

Others included in this program: Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol Criminal Organisations & Drugs Unit; Jane Levine, Director of Compliance for Sotheby's; Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO; Rita Cosentino, Director, Etruscan National Museum; Sir Mark Jones, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum; Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit; Diego Herrera, Director General, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Captain Erica Correa Bustos, Colombian National Police; Carlos Emilio Piazzini, Deputy Director, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Dr. Andrew Richardson, Canterbury Archaeological Trust; Mark Harrison, Chief Superintendent, Kent Police; Maurice Worsley, Kent Amateur Metal Detecting Support Unit;

“Stealing the Past” includes a statement from the March 2011 commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

"One-hundred twenty countries have signed a convention which has no teeth,” Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO told the participants at the Paris meeting.  “This is one of the specific conventions which doesn't have a specific enforcing mechanism."
Other highlights:

UNESCO works closely with INTERPOL, the international policing agency that maintains a database of stolen items totaling around 40,000 as of last year. According to UNESCO, Italy is 'home' to 60% of the world's art treasures. The Carabinieri Heritage Unit has a stolen art database of more than 1.5 million objects. "Cerveteri is known throughout the world for the activity of illegal excavation," said Rita Cosentino, Director of the Etruscan National Museum. "These activities have been devastating for a site like Cerveteri." The Carabinieri conduct frequent investigations into the area of Cerveteri aimed at finding illegal excavations, finding the thieves, and seizing any stolen objects, according to the documentary's narrator. The crew was 'given permission to follow one such operation' of 'ten officers, four cars, and four horses' with a helicopter surveying the targeted area from above for 'illegal excavations taking place'. When the road runs out, the horses are at an advantage over 'rough terrain' in the event of a chase. A Carabinieri officer climbs into a looted tomb and finds a 3rd century BC cup. "There are sporadic incidents," Cosentino says. "But the majority these days are done by amateurs. On the whole, the phenomenon of looting, thanks to the Carabinieri, has practically been defeated."

“The threats we need to combat are those criminal offences that pose a danger to Italian cultural heritage,” says Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit. “From theft, to robbery, to vandalism. To support our work we have a number of legislative tools for the safeguarding of cultural goods and above all to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. In recent years criminal organizations at the international level have become interested in this traffic as a way of laundering money from other criminal activities. We have found Italian artworks all over the world. But I have to say that with high-level government collaboration we have been able to bring back to Italy thousands and thousands of works of art.”

From inside the Carabinieri Heritage Units warehouse, Colonel Mancino points out a headless statue of Zeus stolen some years ago from the Norwegian Institute of Culture in Rome and a Greek-style vase intercepted by custom officials at an airport.

The Colombian Ministry of Culture estimates that 10,000 archaeological treasures are smuggled out of the country every year and less than 1% of these artworks are recovered. In 2007, the Colombian police created a special unit to deal with the illegal trafficking of the country’s heritage. The unit works in collaboration with the Institute of Anthropology. It has three offices.

Metal detecting in the UK has turned into a ‘thriving’ hobby (as has ‘night hawking’ the term for illegally using metal detectors at night on archaeological sites). The British government is willing to purchase ancient items found in the ground. “There is more political will on the part of the governments to stop this illicit trade,” Irena Bokova said in the television show.

February 1, 2012

Profile: ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth and New Lecturer to ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies

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

ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth will be lecturing in Amelia this summer for the Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

Dr. Nemeth is Director at CulturalSecurity.net and Adjunct Staff at RAND Corporation. He will be teaching “Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy, and perceptions of security” between July 30 and August 10, 2012.

In The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2009, Erik Nemeth published on “Plunderer & Protector of Cultural Property: Security-Intelligence Services Shape Strategic Value of Art.”

In 2010, Dr. Nemeth published “The Artifacts of Wartime Art Crime: Evidence for a Model of the Evolving Clout of Cultural Property in Foreign Affairs” in Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (edited by Noah Charney) among other papers.

In recent years, Dr. Nemeth has presented on panels at the American Society of Criminology: “Cultural Intelligence: data sources on the motivation and means for trafficking” (2009) and “Antiquities Trafficking – Complementary Countermeasures” (2010).

ARCA Blog: Dr. Nemeth, If I understand what you said at the ASC in 2010 is that by looking at public auction sale catalogs, policy makers can understand if there’s a lucrative market for the cultural property of a region and a period. If policy makers understand that there’s demand for cultural property, they can then look at opportunities organized crime may have seized to hire local people to loot archaeological sites for more saleable artifacts and also look for weaknesses in the government that may lead to corruption. Did your studies indicate that certain regions are more susceptible to looting than others? Do you think the governments in these areas are utilizing available data to create policy to stem looting?
Dr. Nemeth: I appreciate your asking about the research. I embarked on the study in 2009 to explore quantitative means of assessing risk in looting of and trafficking in cultural artifacts. By collecting data from auction sales archives, I had a chance to experiment with comparing changes in trade volume and average market value of cultural artifacts by geographic region of origin over a nine-year period. For the dataset to which I had access, African tribal art stood out as increasing along both parameters relative to classical antiquities, pre-Columbian art, Islamic art, and Indian and Southeast Asian art. After analyzing the data, I had two thoughts on how such analyses might support risk analysis. 
Does trading of cultural artifacts reflect political and economic conditions in regions of origin for the objects? For example, quantitative measures of demand for cultural artifacts by region of origin over time could be compared against events in politics and economics for nations in the region. Can the auction market for cultural artifacts provide a quantitative, albeit indirect, measure of the illicit trade? The opaque illicit market has proven challenging, if not impossible, to quantify accurately. Perhaps a structured study of the auction market can help in devising a well defined estimate of the size of the illicit market for antiquities, tribal art, and other cultural artifacts.
ARCA Blog: You will be teaching the course tentatively titled, “Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy and perceptions of security.” Could you elaborate for our readers on what you will discuss in the classroom, the books you might assign, and what you think your students might discover while exploring this topic?
Dr. Nemeth: Cultural security is a rapidly evolving field. I expect to expand on what the course will cover between now and the summer, but here is what I have in mind so far. I will start with what I would call a traditional understanding of the relationship between culture and security, namely protection of artworks and historic structures during wartime and restitution cases for and repatriation of cultural property after conflict. I plan to examine the relationship in different periods—World War II, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War—which have shaped the political clout of cultural property. The post-Cold War provides a lead-in to a perceptual dimension of the relationship with the targeting of religious monuments in political violence. The simultaneous increase in the financial volume of the art market since World War II adds an economic dimension and forms a relationship between culture and financial security.

I consider myself an integrator of various disciplines in pursuit of an understanding of the evolving role of culture in identity and perception of security, and I anticipate that the students may have greater depth of knowledge than I in particular areas such as history of art, archaeology, criminology, and law. I trust that the students will gain an appreciation for the potential of bridging disciplines to enhance and expand their own areas of specialization. Accordingly, I plan to assign readings of cross-disciplinary studies. Here are a few examples of potential sources. Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World brings together scholars from a range of disciplines, and Cloak and Trowel by David Price creatively examines the controversial relationship between security-intelligence services, anthropologists, and archaeologists. On the perceptual side, science can lend insight into the emotional and symbolic significance of artworks, and Inner Vision by Semir Zeki provides an intuitive introduction to the field of neuroaesthetics. I have other sources in mind, and I suspect that I will work in some of my own publications as well.
Additional information may be found about Dr. Nemeth’s work at http://culturalsecurity.net.

November 30, 2011

RAND Europe: "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective"

RAND Europe has publicly published online, "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective", a report by by Siobhán Ní Chonaill, Anaïs Reding, and Lorenzo Valeri:
"The aim of this research is to explore new ways of curtailing the illegal trade in cultural property. Despite a range of legislative and policy interventions, the trade in illicit art and antiquities continues to flourish, resulting in damage to the arts, scholarship and heritage. Through an exploration of existing intervention tools, two case studies and a set of key informant interviews, this study demonstrates the existing difficulties in curtailing the market in cultural property and explores the potential for new policy interventions. More specifically, we map the supply chain for the illegal trade in cultural property and explore the failures of current policy interventions through two case studies, the Medici trading cartel and the Beit collection robberies. On this basis, we prioritise policy interventions to contain the illegal trade in cultural property according to the applicable stage of the supply chain phase (supply, transfer or demand) and the associated priority level (low, medium or high)." 
Readers may access this report here.  RAND Europe is an independent not-for-profit policy research organisation.

The authors propose that in addition to coordinating policing internationally and improving security at cultural institutions that meet the seriousness of the current problem, that a central database is essential.  They write:
"In order to prevent situations whereby individuals or galleries purchase stolen art in good faith, there is a need for a legal mandate that for all prospective buyers to consult a central registry of stolen art.  Although a number of different databases of stolen art are in existence, there is no one central registry used by all parties in the legal art trade.  By ensuring greater diligence in the maintenance and use of a central international database, the number of good faith purchases of stolen art could be reduced.  This would have the additional effect of making it more difficult for illegal traders to sell stolen works of art, making the enterprise less attractive overall."
At the UNESCO meeting commemorating the 1970 Convention in Paris last March, conference delegates also said that a central database was important.  How and who's going to be in charge and finance it seems to be the question.  The Art Loss Register offered its services, but not everyone seemed comfortable with a private company providing a database.