Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts

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).

November 14, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - ,,,, No comments

Art critic Alastair Sooke features V&A Art Symposium in his BBC article on the 'seedy reality' behind the myth of art crime

In the BBC's "Art Crime: The seedy reality behind the myth" (November 13), "Alastair Sooke, art critic for The Daily Telegraph, covers "Daring heists have a glamorous image. But in truth, the billion-dollar black market is a far dirtier business". As part of his research, he attended ARCA's symposium last week at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
“The myth of the sophisticated, art-loving Hollywood gentleman art thief is nothing like the real thing,” says Dick Ellis, a career detective with London’s Metropolitan Police. He set up the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland Yard in 1989, and was involved in the recovery of a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, after it had been stolen from the first floor of the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 by two thieves who gained access by using a ladder and breaking a glass window, before leaving a postcard in Norwegian: “Thanks for the poor security”. “In reality, art thieves are professional criminals who view art and antiques as a soft touch, offering potentially high rewards and/or the ability to utilise the asset as a form of collateral to fund other areas of criminal activity.”
In part, this explains one of the puzzles surrounding this form of art crime: why thieves would want to purloin world-famous works of art that are essentially unsellable because they would be recognised at once if they were ever offered for sale in the future.
While some criminals hope to ransom lost artworks back to the institutions from which they were stolen, this strategy rarely works, according to Dick Ellis, because paying out ransoms, as well as being illegal, only encourages further thefts. Institutions are more likely to offer rewards for information leading to the recovery of stolen artworks. A $5m reward, for instance, is on the table for anyone who can crack the Isabella Stewart Gardner case – though, 23 years on, this has yet to yield results. 
“Recovery rates internationally are very small, but best for well-known works of art,” explains Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA, and a professor of art history specialising in art crime. “So smarter criminals would steal B- or C-level works of art rather than more famous ones.”
With ransom rarely an option, criminals find other uses for high-profile stolen paintings, which often accrue a new value on the black market – typically, according to Ellis, around three to 10% of a painting’s total estimated value as reported in the media. Once this value has been determined, a stolen painting can then be offered as collateral to help secure a loan to finance illicit endeavours. “In this way stolen art actually funds activities such as drugs or tobacco trafficking,” Ellis explains.
Moreover, he continues, “Art now provides an alternative mechanism to transporting cash” – offering a solution for criminals keen to circumvent money-laundering regulations. “Stolen art can easily be carried across international borders and is used as a kind of banker’s draft to pay for things like drugs consignments. It has an international value without the hassle of currency conversion and may even be accepted as a trophy payment by senior cartel members.”

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.