Showing posts with label in the media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in the media. Show all posts

December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014 - ,, No comments

Noah Charney in Salon: '"Home Alone's" secret lesson: How to foil an art heist'

In a December 20th post on Salon, "Home Alone's" secret lesson: How to foil an art heist", ARCA founder Noah Charney writes on how a holiday movie has messages about museum security:
This Christmas, like every Christmas, millions of televisions will broadcast the exploits of young Kevin McCallister, whom his family forgot in their rush to the airport, to spend the holidays in Paris. “Home Alone” is a Yuletide staple, and I make a point of tuning in every year. But while most will watch “Home Alone” for its heartwarming moments, slapstick comedy and family-as-the-greatest-holiday-gift message, I see in it something else entirely—a master class in low-budget museum security.
I promise, this will all make sense in a moment.
The rest of the article can be found on here.

July 15, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - , No comments

Laguna Beach's Festival of Arts Picks "The Art Detective" as theme for 2014 Pageant of the Masters

"The Last Supper", The Festival of the Arts, Laguna Beach
"The Art Detective" is the theme for this year's Pageant of the Masters, the summer festival in Laguna Beach, California, which has shown the recreation of artistic masterpieces for more than eight decades. The 2014 program (showing through August 30) includes Vermeer's 1664 painting "The Concert" (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990) and Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" (nearly destroyed in the bombing of Milan in World War II (here's a link to the rest of the program).

Richard Chang for the Orange Coast Register published an interview on July 2 with the pageant's director:
Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy came up with the motif about three years ago, but hadn’t been able to implement it until now. “This art detective theme has been on the back burner for several years,” said Davy, who is directing her 19th consecutive Pageant of the Masters this summer. “It is really quite coincidental that there’s so much in the news these days about World War II art, and lost and stolen art. So our show will open with scenes of art that disappeared, and art that went into hiding during World War II.” Davy says her initial inspiration came from TV shows like “The History Detectives” and “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS and the BBC “Connections” documentary series created by science historian James Burke. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes also served a key influence.

October 26, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013 - ,, No comments

Author Barry Lancet introduces Jim Brodie, antique dealer, as protagonist in debut thriller JAPANTOWN

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

Author Barry Lancet features a San Francisco antique dealer in Japantown: A Thriller who consults for the police in regards to evidence related to Japanese art and culture. Here's a link to a book review by Steve Sacks for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Between speaking engagements in California, Mr. Lancet spoke to the ARCA blog via email:
Why did you choose an antique dealer as your protagonists' profession?
So that I could talk about the high culture as well as the low points required of the genre. I much prefer the culture, which includes art, but you don't have a mystery/thriller without the low. Very few have both. 
JAPANTOWN and the Jim Brodie series will always have an art theme running through them either as a plot or subplot, or as background.  In JAPANTOWN, as you'll see, art provides color and culture and character, and sometimes provides clues or insights into character.  And then there's the calligraphy, but I'll leave it there to prevent spoilers.
In the books to follow in this series, will there be any art crimes -- thefts, forgeries or even smuggling?
Book 2 also has an art theme woven into the story, and so will the next book. In Jim Brodie's second outing, there are plenty of art crimes -- theft, a long-lost treasure (that is controversial but said to exist by some), an illegal art auction, an actual art object used for very unpleasant political purposes, and more.
Will art historians, art lovers, and collectors learn a lot about Japanese art from your book? Do you strive for authenticity? 
Without a doubt. One of my goals is to pass on some Japanese culture and history with each book, and much of that comes in the form of Japanese art. 
As a book editor for over two decades--and many of them art books--I'm very careful about how I present the culture and the art, and it's all authentic (unless I need to invent something for the story). I've got an About Authenticity section at the end of the book so readers can tell exactly what is accurate in regards to the art, history, culture, and so on.
Mr. Lancet will be speaking at the Northridge branch of the Los Angeles Library on November 2.

Here are a few interviews: NPR / CPR (Capitol Public Radio)interview with Beth Ruyak of INSIGHT (4th button); Out of Ink.  “From the US toJapan and back again – an interview with Barry Lancet”; and 5-in-5: Barry Lancet” by J. Daniel Parra  (Pieces of Tracy).

A wonderful contemporary Japanese tea bowl.  Jim Brodie, the art-dealer protagonist of JAPANTOWN, is working on just such a repair when he receives an urgent phone call from the SFPD.  For more Japanese pieces featured in the book see “Brodie’s Antiques” in the “Japan & More” section of the author’s website (click on the images to enlarge).  Iga tea bowl, with "half moon" gold repair by Shiro Tsujimura (b. 1947– ).

September 26, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013 - ,, 1 comment

Review of theater screening of "Pompeii from the British Museum": expert guides provide insight to exhibit

by Eleanor Edwards, Special Contributor

Last night, September 25, theaters all around the United States screened "Pompeii from the British Museum", an 'exclusive private view of a major exhibition'. The show was excellent and in many ways better than the “in person” experience.

This special screening did not include the shoulder to shoulder crowd experience of visiting the British Museum in person. Instead the audience was shown around the empty exhibit space by leading experts in various fields related to the study of the Roman Empire.

The exhibit emphasizes the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The objects exhibited are meant to evoke an appreciation of both the ordinary working people and the more privileged. What did these people think about, how did they get ready for the day, what did they eat, how did they pass their leisure hours, how did they live in their houses? The exhibit itself is laid out like a typical home of a more privileged Pompeiian.

The introduction to the exhibit was made by Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, who pointed out the interesting motif of the dog that runs throughout the exhibit and serves as a common reference between the viewer and the residents of this ill-fated household.

Mary Beard, Classicist from Cambridge, took us around the the cubiculum (bedroom) and discussed the more intimate thoughts, dreams and desires of the residents. This provided a brief look into the possible ways of looking at particular objects of art displayed in the home (much made of the propensity for “willy waving” among the men of the time). But what Professor Beard brought to this experience was her unbridled enthusiasm and excitement for the subject. It was great fun to look at the exhibit with her.

At the British Museum in August, I found it was almost impossible to see and take in the relevance of each object so one tact was to choose a few favorites to swoop in on when there was a break in the crowd. For me those were the kitchen items. This behind the scenes presentation certainly added to my previous enjoyment of those objects when taken around by the Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli. We could really appreciate the beauty of everyday objects like a colander and the ferocity of the dormouse, a favorite delicacy.

One area that I completely missed was the display of items found in the drains of Herculaneum. Being show these items by the resident drains expert, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, brought real immediacy to what had been an overlooked display. He also brought up the controversial question regarding the continued excavation of the site versus the view that, for now, the focus should be the conservation of what has been already uncovered.

In 90 minutes, through both reenactments and expert analysis, Pompeii from the British Museum provided an engaging look at this exhibit. While not every item is examined, and a few favorites are notably missing, this event is well worth attending whether of not you have been to the British Museum exhibit.

The British Museum also has an application for iPhones and iPads, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here's a link to the museum's exhibit which closes on September 29.

Fathom Events will show "Vermeer and Music" at theaters on October 10, 2013.

September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Fathom Events Presents "Pompeii from the British Museum" in US Theaters Tonight Only

"Pompeii from the British Museum" will be screened in dozens of theaters throughout the United States tonight. Here's a link to Fathom Events to purchase tickets. The British Museum produced this film about their exhibit, "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum" (closing September 29). Here's a link to the worldwide listings of this event.

July 27, 2013

Daniel Silva Launches "English Girl" Featuring Art Restorer Gabriel Allon at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

by Tanya K. Lervik, ARCA Alum

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday night, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva endured lighthearted ribbing and a gentle grilling by his wife, veteran journalist Jamie Gangel at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.  The event celebrated the launch of Silva's latest novel, "The English Girl."  The hero of Silva's series, Gabriel Allon, an art restorer turned Mossad covert agent, is drawn once again into a complex adventure - this time an attempt to rescue the kidnapped secret mistress of the British Prime Minister.  The packed audience welcomed several prominent guests including the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren; Newt and Callista Gingrich; and celebrated CNN  journalist Bernard Shaw.

Daniel Silva explained how his background as a journalist, first at UPI, and then as a writer at CNN helped prepare him to create his popular series of novels.  One audience member asked about how he dealt with "writer's block".  Mr. Silva replied that, though he might not always be pleased with his writing, he does not have difficulty in writing the 1000 words per day required to complete a novel.  He credits his time as a reporter with that discipline because there was no time for hesitation.  Stories had to be written to a tight deadline.

Interestingly, Daniel Silva described how his main character, Gabriel Allon, was never meant to be the main focus of his first book.  Mr. Silva does not outline his novels in advance, and they evolve as he writes. He described the character as "just taking over" as he wrote, which is fortunate for his fans now enjoying the thirteenth installment in the series.

Research plays an important role in the process, according to Daniel Silva, including library research, expert interviews, and travel.  One memorable experience Mr. Silva described was visiting with the Vatican's expert restorers.  By chance, as he walked through the workshop, he noticed an unfinished work by Leonardo da Vinci, unframed and awaiting repairs.  Astonished, Silva was treated to an up close inspection of the masterpiece by the Vatican specialist.

He said the idea for this current book coalesced as he was standing in St. Peter's in Rome.   As he stood there, he kept hearing a piece of scripture resonating in his head, "And the house which Solomon made for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high."   Silva said, "Of course it wasn't my voice I heard saying it.  It was Bernie's (Bernard Shaw),"  which brought chuckles from the audience in acknowledgment of the broadcaster's famous baritone. 

Though the character, Gabriel Allon, has aged into his sixties, Silva has no plans to retire the series anytime soon.  When asked whether the series might someday make the leap to film, Silva said he had been in negotiations, but that he was very concerned about keeping control of the end product. Regardless, the future seems bright for the author and his novels with their unlikely fusion of fine art and spy-craft.

July 13, 2013

America's Book of Secrets features segment on the Isabella Stewart Gardner 1990 Theft

Here's the show, America's Book of Secrets on the History Channel, which interviewed ARCA trustee Erik Nemeth (PH.D., Independent Researcher) for an episode aired in June, Lost Treasures.  At around minute 29, the show focuses on the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the segment "Bare Walls". Interviews include FBI Special Agent Geoffrey J. Kelly; Robert K. Wittman, former FBI Special Agent; Nemeth; Catherine Williamson, PH.D., Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Bonhams; and Chris Isleib, Director of Communications, National Archives.

July 3, 2013

Elmyr de Hory's friend Mark Forgy Begins Campaign on to launch play "The Forger's Apprentice" at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

Mark Forgy, a friend of the forger Elmyr de Hory, sent out an email today:
Dear Friends,
I’m excited to share a new adventure with you. We’ve launched The Forger’s Apprentice – the new play—on This is a website dedicated to helping develop new projects. Please visit to view a video about our play, interviews with our cast members, and check out our supporter-friendly donor incentive packages. We need and encourage your help in realizing this world premier stage adaptation of my story and life with one of the most remarkable artists of modern times. Mary Abbe, Arts columnist of the Star Tribune called my book “an incredible read.” It’s time to bring this amazing tale to life. Please be a valued part of this creative process. We anticipate a wonderful production. Advance ticket sales are available at:
Thank you for your help
This theatrical event also has a Facebook page and has five scheduled performances from August 3 through August 11 at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

According to Mr. Forgy: "The play dramatizes the complex relationship between Elmyr de Hory and his two apprentices, one who wants to protect him and the other who seeks to destroy him. It is a story that is rich with outrageous humor, tragedy, love and search for the truth as seen through the eyes of his true protégé."
This new play is based on the book The Forger’s Apprentice (a true story) by Mark Forgy. Described by Star Tribune Arts columnist Mary Abbe as “an incredible read,” veteran MN Fringe producers Kevin Bowen (The Red Tureen) and Sara Pilatzki-Warzeha (Thick Chick) bring to the stage a Kafka-meets-Marx Brothers tale of Elmyr (pronounced el-MEER) de Hory a.k.a. the world’s greatest art forger. 
The drama unfolds in a courtroom hearing on 7 December 1976, deciding whether Elmyr will be extradited from Spain to stand trial in France for art crimes based on charges concocted by Fernand Legros, his increasingly menacing dealer bent on destroying him. Elmyr’s young American protégé, Mark, intent on protecting his artist/mentor friend navigates this Dali-esque reality of misplaced trust, half-truths and lies trying to reconcile what’s authentic, what’s not. In the aftermath of a life governed by duplicity Elmyr struggles to shed his image of talented scoundrel; hoping for a reevaluation of his art untainted by reputation but based on artistic merit. While his relationship with Mark achieves a depth neither anticipated, Mark’s innocence blinds him to the threat Fernand Legros poses. During the days before the pending court decision that will determine Elmyr’s fate, he reflects on the ironies of his life, the effects of free but poor choices, the circumstantial nature of morality, the dirty little secrets of the art world, and  events determined not by him, but others. 

In 1973 Orson Welles produced his last feature film: F for Fake, a docu-fantasy on the world of trickery and illusion. De Hory was its focus. Welles adored Elmyr and felt a roguish/artistic kinship with the artist, drawing trompe l’oeil correlations between film and fine art, how artifice and pretense in each domain create a parallel universe more deserving of suspicion than eulogy. While taking some artistic license with this stage adaptation of “The Forger’s Apprentice,” the unreality of the story and characters is eerily close to fact. It is bizarre and wildly entertaining; a piece about which Lewis Carroll might have written, “I wish I had thought of that.”
The Forger's Apprentice was published in July 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

San Francisco art critic Jonathan Keats wrote about Elmyr de Hory in his book FORGED: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age (December 2012, Oxford University Press).

March 19, 2013

Jennifer Levitz for The Wall Street Journal: FBI Will Begin Media Campaign in Philadelphia to flush out art stolen from Gardner Museum in 1990

In the article "Clearer Picture of Art Heist", Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Levitz outlined the media blitz FBI will understake to flush out art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990:

Although it doesn't know the current whereabouts of the art, the FBI believes it might still be in the Philadelphia area. So the agency will launch a publicity campaign, soliciting tips using social media and, within a few weeks, putting up digital roadside billboards in and around Philadelphia, where it believes someone may have glimpsed—or even bought—the art without knowing of the tainted origin. The museum is offering a $5 million reward for a tip leading to the recovery. The theft represents the largest property crime in U.S. history, according to the FBI.

February 1, 2013

Art Crime in the Media: "Art Cops" Highlights theft of Stradivarius, The Romanoff Heist, and the Art Loss Register's Most Wanted

Here's a link to Art Cops, "A new series dealing with the theft of works of art, antiquities, books and maps from major museums, cultural institutions and collectors" (Twitter), hosted by Burt Wolf, a public television host of Travels & Traditions.

This episode, which aired on September 1, 2012 on Iowa Public Television, tells the story of "The Missing Stradivarius", the 1995 theft of a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin stolen from the New York City Apartment of Erica Morini while the 91-year-old Viennese violinist was dying in the hospital. The rare violin remains missing today.  (You can read more about stolen Stradivarius violins on the website of violinist Joshua Bell in an article by David J. Krajicek for The New York Daily News.  Mr. Wolf interviews Mr. Bell; Christopher Marinello of The Art Loss Register (and a frequent speaker at ARCA's art crime conferences); Dorit Straus, world-wide fine arts manager at Chubb Insurance Company (and an ARCA Lecturer); Bob Wittman, former FBI agent; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, head of the FBI's Art Crime Team.

The same episode discusses "The Romanoff Heist" when thieves stole twelve art works by Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtensteins from the residence of Robert Romanoff in Manhattan's Meat Packing District on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.

Mr. Wolf also identifies three artworks Marinello and The Art Loss Register are "particularly interested in recovering": Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Dona Maar stolen in 1999 from the yacht of a Saudi Prince while anchored for repairs in the harbor at Antibes on the French Riviera; a portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud stolen when the Tate Gallery of London lent the painting to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; and the theft of a painting by Gustav Klimt in 1997 from a gallery under renovation in Italy (someone opened the skylight).

January 31, 2013

Danny Boyle's 2013 "Trance" to Continue the Rakish Image of the Art Thief

"Anyone can steal a painting, all it takes is a bit of muscle, but no piece of art is worth a human life" says the (fictional) thief in the trailer for Danny Boyle's new movie, Trance, set to open in theaters in the United Kingdom on March 27 and in the United States on April 5.

Leah Rozen for BBC America reports that Danny (Slumdog Millionaire) Boyle's psychological thriller involving the theft of a Goya painting by an amnesiac thief (photogenically played by the Scottish actor James McAvoy) was filmed on location at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  McAvoy's character Simon is an employee at an auction house who grabs a painting off the wall during a diversion, bumps his head, and then allegedly requires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to recovery the memory of where he hid the stolen painting before his violent associate (Vincent Cassel) tortures the recollection out of him.

Gundlach Art Theft: Case against suspected art thieves slowly working its way through the court appearances

Last September thieves broke into the Santa Monica home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach and stole, amongst his possessions, some very valuable paintings.  Two weeks later, on the other side of Los Angeles County, with the cooperation of various law enforcement agencies, the paintings were recovered and the arrests began.  By early January, six people had been charged in the theft and appeared in court to plead "not guilty" (this is called an arraignment).  A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 6 at 9 a.m. in Department 142 at the Airport Branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  This appearance in court is a just a proceeding to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require a trial.

This theft and recovery of these multimillion dollar paintings seem less glamorous than art thieves  portrayed in the media.  You can read all about art thieves and the media in a piece by Katie Ogden (ARCA 2009) on the ARCA blog here.

April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - ,, No comments

Forging News (Part two of four): The News Media's Misrepresentation of the Art Criminal

by Katherine Ogden, ARCA Alum 2009

Worldly Perceptions: The Reporting of Art Crime Criminals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy

Ironically, while the news media thrives on images, when it comes to art crime, which is situated within an art world comprised of imagery, pictures are hard to come by. When a painting is stolen the public is typically presented with a stock photo of the missing painting, and occasionally a photo taken from a distance of the crime scene. Even more rarely the article may be accompanied by a blurry image of black-clothed thieves running from the scene of the crime. It is puzzling that when dealing with such a visual medium it is rare to find a photo of said criminal. This seems to be the case in each of the countries that were focused on for the purpose of this paper. We will start our study with the United Kingdom.

The two papers with the highest circulation in the United Kingdom are The Sun and The Daily Mail (Wikipedia). Both The Sun and The Daily Mail are considered tabloid papers, which indicates that the papers’ articles focus primarily on local interest stories and entertainment. This classification does not dictate that these papers do not report on international news or contain serious journalism, but it does suggest that they are inclined to offer their readers a larger portion of entertainment than hard news. This indication becomes obvious when analyzing some of the headlines associated with stolen art articles printed in The Sun.

On April 29, 2003, The Sun printed “Stolen Art found in the Loo-vre” which referred to stolen paintings, including a Van Gogh, found in public restroom, or loo (Cardy). The article explains that the paintings were found in the loo after being stolen from the Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester, but fails to mention key factors of the theft, such as the name of the Van Gogh painting or why they chose to implicate the Louvre even though the Louvre was not involved at any point. Quite amazingly, The Sun was able to provide photographs of before and after shots of the Van Gogh painting. The inclusion of the photographs is helpful because it shows how destructive art crime can be, however the photographs would have had a stronger impact had key information such as size, title, age, etc. been included in the story.
The Fortifications of Paris with Houses
Vincent van Gogh, 1887, water colour
Whitworth Art Gallery

Another headline found in The Sun, “Mob are Sculpture Vultures” refers to an unidentified gang that had allegedly stolen up to twenty metal sculptures from public spaces in the United Kingdom. Additionally this article included a sidebar, which asked, “What’ll crooks steel?” that listed other sculptures the thieves might be interested in procuring (Syson)(Plot). While these attention-grabbing headlines may be entertaining and grab the reader’s attention, they clearly diminish the severity of the crime being committed. Besides comical headlines, The Sun also has a tendency to focus on the sensationalism of the crime as opposed to the callousness of the criminal. There is little to no mention in either article of the criminal(s) associated with the crime. [You can read 'Mystery of the stolen Moore solved' here].

Terry Adams (Daily Mail)
As opposed to the attention grabbing headlines evident in The Sun, the United Kingdom’s other widely read paper The Daily Mail offers readers more developed articles that focus marginally more on the facts and slightly less on comedic value. Additionally, The Daily Mail is one of the few newspapers in our examination that mentions the art crime criminal. Not only does The Daily Mail mention the criminal, Terry Adams, but they also provide readers with a picture and a descriptive article in “Revealed: Godfather Adams’ 500,000 Aladdin’s Cave of stolen art and antiques”. The article explains how authorities found the items, which are also pictured, in the mob leader’s home. This article is revolutionary in the field of art crime reporting, not only because it mentions and provides photographs of an art crime criminal, but also because it highlights an often disputed direct link between organized crime and art crime.

Overall, the news media outlets of the United Kingdom, primarily The Sun and The Daily Mail, focus on the details regarding the crime, sometimes the details regarding the recovery, and rarely the details regarding the art crime criminal. This is not entirely different from the way that news media outlets in the United States portray art crime. The two top circulated news publications in the United States are The Wall Street Journal and USA Today (Wikipedia). However, since there were no examples of articles written on art crime in The Wall Street Journal, this paper will focus instead on USA Today and The New York Times which is the third most widely circulated news publication in the United States (Wikipedia).

The LAPD released images of
the stolen Warhol paintings
An article published in USA Today on September 12, 2009, “Warhol’s sports superstar pieces stolen from L.A. home,” has all the markings of a traditional art crime article published in the United States (Associated Press). Along with copious mention of the monetary value of the paintings and corresponding reward money, a typical call to arms regarding the state of insurance for the art collection in question is also included. American art crime articles typically attempt to place blame with the owner for either having or neglecting to have an insurance policy for their collection. In either instance the news media finds fault. If the owner has insurance and works go missing the owner is often accused of hiring someone to steal the paintings in order to collect the insurance money. This is precisely what occurred with this Warhol case in a follow-up article entitled Insurance Waived in Warhol Theft Case, where the owner is called into question for refusing to accept the insurance premium. Why is the American news media so quick to place blame on the victim and yet so slow to call for the criminals accountability? In this particular case, the reporter has committed a great disservice to the audience by not explaining that in most cases by refusing the insurance payout, the owner is still hoping the artwork(s) will be found and returned. If the artwork is found and the owner has already accepted a payout from the insurance company, the owner forfeits their ownership rights and the insurance company acquires the title to the recovered pieces. From this standpoint, one would presume that refusal to accept an insurance payout would be further proof that the owner did not hire a thief to steal the artwork so that they could profit from the insurance.

Moreover if you were to compare this case to an automobile theft, would the news media be so quick to place blame on the owner for the theft? Granted the notoriety and money would not be proportional, but the percentage of the value of an insurance payout for a car is similar to that for a piece of art. Throughout the course of this study it has become evident that the public’s resentment towards private collectors, fueled by the news media, exists because of a distaste towards the collectors’ ability to own something of such astronomical value. Since the news media continually cultivates this sentiment, the importance of identifying and prosecuting the criminal that steals such objects is lost in the cloud of resentment. It is almost as if a sense of appropriateness has been created in a Robin Hood sense of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, even though art crime criminals are no Robin Hoods.

Moving onto The New York Times and an article that ran on February 28, 2007, titled Purloined Picassos in Paris. This piece reports on the theft of multiple Picassos from the home of Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso. Although the alliterative headline does not mention the monetary value of the stolen paintings, the first sentence displays the 65 million dollar figure quite prominently. Which brings us to a new issue, why is it a problem that the American news media focuses on the values associated with art crime? This has to do with the fact that by advertising reported values; the news media is giving thieves an inflated view of the value of a stolen painting.

On February 1, 1976, 119 paintings by Pablo Picasso were reported stolen from the Papal Palace at Avignon in France (Unknown, Picasso Theft Valued at $4.5 Million). This theft occurred at a time when thefts of master paintings in France had risen from 1,500 in 1970 to 5,000 in 1976 (Unknown, Picasso Theft Valued at $4.5 Million). This rise in thefts of master paintings coincides with an increase of record-breaking publicized sales of masterworks by the news media and began with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s purchase of Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer in 1961 (Knox). The morning after the purchase The New York Times’ front page had the bold headline “Museum Gets Rembrandt for 2.3 Million,” which the article then went on to explain was the highest price paid for a piece of art in history (Knox). After this purchase the values of other master artists rose as well, including Pablo Picasso. It is believed that the Corsican Mafia carried out the theft of the 119 paintings by Picasso, although following the initial theft there has only been one mention of leads and no mention of recovery in the media (Charney).

What the comprehensive review of news media in the United States regarding art crime criminals has shown is a large absence of the art crime criminal. News media outlets in the United States prefer to focus on monetary values associated with thefts, the thematic quality of the thefts, and rarely on the recovery of thefts. Which brings us to our final focus, the news media in Italy. The top two news publications in Italy are La Gazzetta dello Sport and La Repubblica, since the main focus of La Gazzetta dello Sport is sports, we will be focusing on the third top news publication Corriere della Sera (Wikipedia).

The first thing you will notice about the mention of art crimes in Italian news media outlets is that the monetary value of the object is rarely mentioned. This can be attributed to the strong connection that Italians have with their culture, it is a relationship that does not exist to such a degree in the United Kingdom or the United States. In Italian news media the word art is often replaced by treasure or treasures, such as the following headline from the March 12, 2004 edition of La Repubblica, “Recuperati dai carabinieri tesori d' arte rubati 15 anni fa” which translates to “Treasures recovered by art police stolen 15 years ago” (Staff, Recuperati dai carabinieri tesori d' arte rubati 15 anni fa). The article explains that these items were stolen, taken apart, and reassembled in order to be sold to private collectors. The article reads more like a missing persons report than a record of loss of monetary value, and this may be due to the Italian’s deep bond with their culture and their history, Italians as a whole see a lost work of art as a deprivation to society.

In the summer of 2009, while speaking to a group at a conference in Amelia, Italy, Vice Comandante Cortellessa of the Italian Carabinieri’s Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage was asked if the focus of recovering art was on the artwork or the criminal, and if he had to choose one, which would he choose (Cortellessa). Vice Comandante Cortellessa responded that art is irreplaceable and that he and his men always work to secure the art first, the criminal second. He added that criminals will always commit crimes, so he can always catch the criminal another time, he may not have a second chance to recover a piece of stolen art. This connection with art is what separates the Italians from much of the rest of the world. Additionally, this connection with art previously led to the creation of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the elevation of art crime as serious in the national media landscape.

An additional difference between Italian news media and the others we have discussed is their constant praise for the Carabinieri for the recovery of stolen goods. In Corriere della Sera, an article published on July 15, 2009, “Tresori etruschi in vendita ai russi
la finanza sequestra reperti rubati” commended the police for the capture of a car filled with Italian antiquities headed to Russia for sale (Staff, Tesori etruschi in vendita ai russi la finanza sequestra reperti rubati). Again there is no mention of the monetary value of these items. While the Italian news media outlets are more proactive in the fight against art crime, they too tend to ignore the actual art criminals. However, the news media’s focus on the recovery and prevention of art crime is a decidedly different approach to the reporting of art crime and leads to headlines such as this one from the November 16, 2009 edition of Corriere della Sera “Furti d'arte, calo nel 2009
” which translates to “Thefts of art drop in 2009” (Staff, Furti d'arte, calo nel 2009).

April 26, 2011

Forging News (Part one of four): The News Media’s Misrepresentation of the Art Criminal

by Katherine Ogden, ARCA Alum 2009

This article is a study concerning the current lack of representation of art crime criminals in the news media. This study focuses on news media outlets in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy in order to examine why the news media tends to sensationalize art crimes while downplaying the role of the criminal. This article will work to find a conclusion to the quandary created by the news media as they continue to create a view of art crime criminals as sexy and fascinating as opposed to dangerous and criminal. A quandary that leads to people both within and outside of the art world being unable to distinguish between the real and the fictional art crime criminals, something that must be corrected.

Literature Review:

There is no research published on the representation of art crime criminals in the news media, so for the purposes of this examination the following information was reviewed: newspaper articles, criminology, crime and media, criminals and media, victims in the media and popular culture representations of criminals. Through the literature review it became apparent that the relationship that the media creates between art crime and the criminals committing the crime is dealt with in an entirely different way than the media represents common criminals.

For more than forty years the news media has represented art crime in a fashion eliciting feelings of awe and amazement. As a result, while the general public perceives art crime as insignificant, criminals have developed misguided ideas pertaining to how to profit from and engage in art crime. This study will focus on the traditional methods employed by the news media to represent criminals and will expand to compare those methods to those used to represent perpetrators of art crime found in the print and electronic versions of the top newspapers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Radio, motion picture and television media will be excluded from this analysis. As opposed to using the term “art criminal” which tends to imply acts of criminal mischief such as graffiti, for the purpose of this discussion I will utilize the term “art crime criminal” in order to focus on those criminals responsible for art thefts, forgeries, and other serious art crimes.

The News Media: The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
In order to understand the portrayal of art crime criminals in the news media, one must understand the origins and uses of the medium. Currently, the general public holds a misguided belief that news media outlets deliver the truth with fact-filled stories meant to inform readers. However, given high incidences of exaggerated reporting of current events it is evident that a main purpose of the news media is the entertainment of the newsreader with fact-based news articles. In this case attention should be placed on the phrase “fact-based.” As with any business, news media outlets require profits in order to survive. Much of this income is derived from advertisers who prefer to work with outlets holding the largest percentage of circulation within a given market (Demers). As a direct result of this relationship news media outlets work to attract the most readers and in order to accomplish this they compete to create the most entertaining and interesting stories each day. Even if those stories stretch the concept of “fact-based.”

When reporting on stories related to crime, news media outlets tend to distort the truth in order to paint the perpetrator in a more negative light. This allows the media to create a more interesting story while simultaneously creating a distorted image of crime for their audience. Conventional criminology states that:
To be realistic about crime is not an easy task…We are caught between two currents, one which would grossly exaggerate the problems of crime, another covering a wide swathe of political opinion that may seriously underestimate the extent of the problem. Crime is a staple of news in the Western mass media and police fiction a major genre of television drama…the media abound with images of the dangerous stranger. On television we see folk monsters who are psychopathic killers or serial murderers yet offenders who even remotely fit these caricatures are extremely rare…the criminologist knows that this is far from the humdrum nature of reality…the nature of crime, of victimization and of policing is thus systematically distorted in the mass media (qtd. in Brown 42).
It is because news media outlets struggle to increase their circulation that the public’s view of crime has become so distorted; a bleak picture of a society emerges filled with robbers, rapists and killers. Much of the general public places its trust in the media to tell them what and who to fear, absorbing any suggestion that a certain individual should be associated with a crime. Since a large proportion of the public informs their understanding of crime from news media outlets, their comprehension of the crime world is far from the reality. In relation to this analysis, news media outlets often portray perpetrators of non-art related crime as more monstrous and offensive than they may be in reality, while at the same time portraying the perpetrators of art-related crime as suave and almost gentlemanly. Which could not be further from the truth in most cases.

The Media’s Portrayal of Art Criminal: As Suave and Sophisticated or Unappealing and Slovenly?

If you were to ask someone walking around the mall this weekend to describe or to name an art crime criminal I would dare say the majority would answer describing the fictitious criminal as suave, sophisticated, handsome, and smart. In other words, Thomas Crown. Most of the general public believes that art crime criminals are either collectors looking for the crowning piece to their collection or common thieves hired by these collectors to enlarge their collections. Sadly, this misconception carries over to many news stories that in turn mention fictional characters such as Dr. No, Thomas Crown, and the Ocean’s 11 crew, in articles furthering the public’s misunderstanding of the danger of art crime. The seriousness of this misconception lies in the fact that it is not only the general public that is fooled by these fictional characters, but people in the art world themselves.

As part of my coursework I presented seventeen peers with photos of real and fictional art thieves. Out of the examples, none of my peers were able to identify the real art thieves while easily identifying the fictional art thieves. Although this small exercise mainly demonstrated that well-known actors are more readily identifiable than anonymous criminals, it also illustrated a significant problem associated with art crime: how can we fight art crime if students of art crime are not able to identify the perpetrators of crimes against it effectively? How has the infiltration of media become so intense that even those who have studied this field can have the wool pulled over their eyes?

This has come to fruition because news media outlets have evidently followed Hollywood’s lead and assisted in the creation of the “sexy” art criminal. News media outlets rarely, if ever, publish photos of art criminals since the focus is placed on the fantastic nature of the crime itself, not of the capture and conviction of the criminal who perpetrated it. These media outlets repeatedly break from their mold of demonizing criminals when it comes to art crime, portraying them as exciting and elevating them to a level of revered indifference when in fact they should be feared and reviled like any other criminal.

A prime example occurred recently. On September 24, 2009, the New York Times reported that two armed men stole Olympia, a painting by Rene Magritte worth $1.1 million dollars. This case exhibited an example of a rising trend in art crime whereby criminals have started using deadly weapons, a far departure from the pacifist art criminal picture that the news media has previously painted (Itzkoff). Such inaction on the media’s part is highly detrimental in relation to the prevention of and enforcement against art crime and presumably may suggest further indifference to such acts in the future.

October 26, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - ,, No comments

Setting the Price Point for Stolen Art

Noah Charney was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace yesterday.  Charney argues that the majority of art theft after World War II can be traced to organized crime syndicates, and that the media actually helps set the price point for the black market transfer of high profile works of art.

The Marketplace Interview:

On the missing panel from the Ghent Altarpiece:

September 22, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - , No comments

Two Forfeited Works Returned to Brazil

"Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave", Roy Lichtenstein
Art crime does not just include the theft of works of art or the looting of antiquities.  The value and portability of works of art make them a very convenient way to launder money as well.
I am quoted in a piece for NPR affiliate WNYC discussing the return of two objects to Brazil. 

This work by Roy Lichtenstein and another work by Joaquin Torres-Garcia were returned to the government of Brazil today during a ceremony in New York (press release).  The works were once owned by the disgraced Brazilian banker Edemar Cid Ferreira who was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison in 2006 for financial fraud.

A judge in Brazil ordered Ferreira to surrender his unlawfully-gained assets.  In an attempt to conceal some of these assets, these works were shipped to the Netherlands and then to New York where they were sold to unsuspecting buyers. The paperwork accompanying these works valued them at only $200, while they may be worth as much as $12 million.

This is an example of the use of civil forfeiture in policing the art and antiquities trade.  The "Portrait of Wally" settlement reached earlier this summer was also reached via forfeiture. Forfeiture allows prosecutors to bring a suit against an object which was part of a crime, and all claimants to the object come forward to challenge the forfeiture.  It is a powerful tool for prosecutors, as the burden of proof is far lower than the typical "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard typically involved in prosecutions.  Historically, federal prosecutors have intervened on behalf of origin nations or claimants when they have potential claims. Yet it has also been a useful tool in policing organized and white collar crimes. 
  1. Marlon Bishop, Lichtenstein and Torres García Paintings On the Way Back to Brazil, WNYC, September 21, 2010, (last visited Sep 21, 2010).
  2. Erica Orden, U.S. Returns Valuable Paintings Seized From Ex-Banker to Brazil,, September 21, 2010, (last visited Sep 21, 2010).