October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - No comments

Smithsonian Announces Upcoming Conference on Cultural Property Protection

The Smithsonian has announced that next year's National Conference on Cultural Property Protection will take place from February 21-24 in Washington, DC . This event "offers insight and proven solutions for new and seasoned professionals in the field of cultural property protection." Session proposals are currently begin accepted and registration will begin soon. For more information, visit the conference website.

October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009 - No comments

ARCA Trustee Uncovers New Twist in California Heist

Anthony Amore — chief of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, head of Amore Associates, and a trustee of ARCA — has uncovered a new twist in the increasingly bizarre art thefts in California. Amore's discovery, which contradicts statements in the press by the alleged victims of the heist, was featured in the October 11 edition of the Boston Herald. You can read the full story here.

October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009 - No comments

CNN/KSRO Radio Interviews ARCA About Recent Art Thefts in California

On October 8, KSRO Radio interviewed ARCA's Managing Director Terressa Davis regarding the recent art thefts in Pebble Beach, California. The heist initially made international headlines because of its scale and significance — up to $80,000,000 US worth of art was purported missing, including pieces by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Jackson Pollock. Now, the story is making headlines for a different reason, since the collectors who reported the crime are now the prime suspects.

KSRO is a CNN affiliate in the San Francisco Bay Area and the station sends all interviews to CNN for national broadcast after they are aired locally. KSRO will also replay the interview with Davis tomorrow as its "Live Line of the Week." Until and after then, you can listen to the full interview here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009 - , No comments

Why steal artwork?

In a recent edition of the National — one of the leading English language newspapers in the Arab world — journalist Andy Pemberton investigates why thieves steal artwork that is nearly impossible to sell. To do so, he interviewed ARCA's Managing Director Terressa Davis and the Art Loss Register's William Webber, who both dispute the popular misconception that thieves steal art to order. Instead, stolen art is most commonly held for ransom or used as collateral when trading with other criminals.

You can read the full text of the article, entitled "Painting Into a Corner," here.

October 7, 2009

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - ,, No comments

ARCA Launches New Monthly Newsletter

To keep our supporters better informed, ARCA has launched a new online bulletin. Citations: Updates from the Association for Research into Crimes against Art has already been e-mailed to our mailing list subscribers. From now on, this newsletter will be sent out on the first Tuesday of every month. It includes information on our work, a calendar of upcoming events, and links to important news stories. For future issues, we welcome your input on what other features you would like to see included.

If you are not already on our mailing list, you can join it at our website. You can also view our past newsletter archive online. Thanks for your interest and support!

Letter from the New Managing Director

Please let me introduce myself. In September 2009, I was named Managing Director of ARCA. As such, I'll be running the organization's daily operations, as well as helping to conceptualize, develop, and implement new projects. I hope to continue the great work founder Noah Charney and so many others have begun, but to do so, I will need your help.

Supporters like you have already allowed us to achieve a great deal in a short amount of time. In just the past year, ARCA launched the world's only Postgraduate program in Art Crime Studies, introduced the Journal of Art Crime, published the book Art and Crime, and consulted governments, law enforcement agencies, museums, places of worship, and other public institutions on art protection and recovery cases. In the next year, we will continue these endeavors and undertake numerous others, about which you'll be able to read in future posts on the ARCAblog.

There are many ways that you can become involved in this important work. Show your support by becoming a member, making a tax-deductible donation, subscribing to the Journal of Art Crime, purchasing Art and Crime, or studying in our Postgraduate program. Just as importantly, we need people to donate their time by volunteering or interning. And we are always looking for contributors to our journal, blog, and podcasts.

Thank you for your interest and support. If you have any questions or comments about our organization, I encourage you to email me. And you'll be hearing again from me soon on the ARCAblog.

I look forward to working with you!

Terressa Davis
director at artcrime.info

September 29, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - No comments

Saving Venice: a Charity Event in London

This Thursday, October 1, at the Royal Geographic Society in London there will be a charity gala evening sponsored by ARCA and Venice in Peril. The two featured speakers are ARCA Director Noah Charney and former ARCA Trustee and current Head of Scotland Yard's Arts and Antiques Division, Vernon Rapley. Charney will be discussing his next non-fiction book, entitled "Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the True History of the World's Most Frequently Stolen Masterpiece" and Rapley will discuss art policing, fakes, and forgeries in London. Tickets support the charity Venice in Peril, which protects Venetian monuments. For tickets, please write to tamara.rissogill@veniceinperil.org

September 27, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009 - No comments

2010 Postgraduate Program Application and Prospectus Now Available

The Application (Due 15 Dec. 2009) and Prospectus for the 2010 Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies are now available.

Once again, ARCA presents the first organized postgraduate program in International Art Crime Studies to be held June 1 - August 13. This program will provide in-depth instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements of art crime: its history, its nature, its impact, and what can be done to curb it. Courses are taught by international experts, in the beautiful setting of Umbria, Italy. Topics include art history and the art trade, museums and conservation, art security and policing, criminology and criminal investigation, law and policy, and the study of art theft, antiquities looting, war looting, forgery and deception, vandalism, and cultural heritage protection throughout history and around the world. It is the idea program for art police and security professionals, art lawyers, insurers, and curators, members of the art trade and post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history.

September 13, 2009

Warhols Likely Stolen for Reward Money

On the night of September 2 a multi-million dollar collection of prints by Andy Warhol, from his so-called “Athlete’s Series,” were stolen from the LA home of collector Robert L. Weisman. The theft is knowledgeably commented upon by ARCA staff member Mark Durney in his blog, Art Theft Central.

There is almost no market, black or otherwise, for stolen art as recognizable as these Warhols, even though they are prints, and therefore multiple copies exist. So, what is the most likely outcome of the situation? There have been so few thefts commissioned by criminal art collectors that they represent a negligible percentage, and the least likely scenario of all. Most likely in this case is a left for ransom, demanding payment either of the theft victim or their insurer. In a case such as this, in which a generous reward has been offered, then no ransom demand is needed. The most probable outcome of this situation is that a “well-meaning” informant will call in a lead that will bring police to the stolen art. Once the art is recovered, the good samaritan will be paid the reward. Likely in cases such as this, the call that leads to the recovery of the art will come from a colleague of the thieves. The reward will therefore be distributed among the thieves via the informant. For a few hours’ legwork, the thieves will have stolen art, abandoned it, had a colleague call in the location to the police, retrieve the reward, and pocket it. Stealing art simply for the reward money may seem like a bad deal for the thieves—the art is, after all, worth many times more than the reward. But one must think of it not as the difference between the actual value of the art and the $1 million reward, but between what the thieves had before the theft (nothing) and the reward money. Not bad for a day’s work. Of course, offering a reward is the best way to ensure that stolen art will be returned to its owner. But in doing so, there is a significant risk that the reward will make its way into the hands of the thieves. And the owner must be very careful to better secure their collection once it is back in their hands, as historic precedent suggests that stolen and returned art is at a very high risk to be stolen again, now that the thieves have learned that art theft pays handsomely.

ARCA was consulted in a recent article for UK newspaper, The Independent on Sunday, regarding this case. To read the article, please see: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/a-swag-bag-of-warhol-1786631.html

September 11, 2009

Ptolomeo sufre de nuevo

Map of Ptolemy
The following article on Spanish map and manuscript thefts has been contributed to ARCAblog by Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez of Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. An English translation will follow shortly.

Ptolomeo sufre de nuevo.
El húngaro Zslot Vamos sustrae documentos históricos de instituciones públicas españolas.

Se dice que la imitación lleva implícito un alto grado de homenaje, admiración y respeto.

¿Es Zslot Vamos un imitador que pretendía emular a Cesar Gómez Rivero, autor del robo de la Biblioteca Nacional Española? No podemos asegurarlo pero lo que si es cierto es que ambos sentían fascinación por el astrónomo griego Claudio Ptolomeo.

El pasado siete de agosto en Pamplona el destino se truncó para Vamos, fue detenido por el presunto delito de haber robado sesenta y siete mapas de gran valor histórico mayoritariamente del siglo XVI.

Su afición por este tipo de material le llevó a robar al menos en siete centros, Biblioteca Pública de Soria, Biblioteca Pública de Castilla y León en Valladolid, Universidad de Salamanca, Biblioteca Pública de Logroño, Universidad de Navarra, Archivo General de Navarra y Biblioteca de Castilla La Mancha, en el Alcázar de Toledo.

En el momento de su detención llevaba un mapa de carreteras donde tenía indicado una ruta de expoliación; “visitaría” veintiocho ciudades españolas, tres portuguesas (Lisboa, Coimbra y Oporto), y otras en Italia y Francia.

Zslot aseguró al Grupo de Patrimonio Histórico de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) de la Guardia Civil que las piezas robadas eran para su disfrute personal y no deseaba venderlas en el mercado negro.

Modus Operandi

Para acceder a las bibliotecas utilizaba un pasaporte eslovaco falso a nombre de Anton Ziska, además tenía otro por si le fallaba a nombre de Gabor Josef Cservenka.

Se presentaba como periodista especializado en temas históricos para conseguir un carné de investigador.

Para llevar a cabo sus robos se ayudaba de cuchillas de cúter, si las instituciones carecían de detector de metales y, de cuñas de plástico de los cuellos de sus camisas, previamente afiladas y convertidas en pequeños cuchillos en aquellos centros provistos de sistemas de seguridad.
Pero a pesar de lo cuidadoso que parecía en sus operativas iba dejando pistas, durante el año 2007 había visitado varias bibliotecas accediendo a ellas con sus verdaderos datos personales.

España, atrapa al ladrón

Las bibliotecas y archivos españoles han vuelto a ser atacadas. En marzo de 2008, después de que en agosto de 2007 la BNE denunció la desaparición de diecinueve valiosos grabados. se inició la Operación Biblión por el Grupo de Patrimonio Histórico de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) de la Guardia Civil tras la desaparición en la Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial de un mapa desplegable que formaba parte de un tratado sobre cosmografía y expediciones geográficas, editado en 1537 en Basilea; operación que finalizó con éxito tras la detención de Zslot Vamos por el supuesto robo de al menos sesenta y siete documentos históricos.

Los robos en bibliotecas y archivos poseedores de materiales bibliográficos históricos y accesibles al público no son casos aislados.
Sucede con frecuencia que son descubiertos pasados los años, durante rutinarios inventarios o al ser consultados por otro investigador, hecho que dificulta la detención del responsable y el seguimiento de las piezas, generalmente destinadas a coleccionistas privados.

La experiencia de los robos ocurridos en bibliotecas a lo largo de la historia, generan mejoría en las medidas de seguridad, pero todavía se debe aunar esfuerzos con el objetivo de reducir totalmente las acciones de los delincuentes, destacando las siguientes recomendaciones:
  • La digitalización total del patrimonio documental reduciría considerablemente el contacto directo con la obra y por tanto sus robos.
  • Aplicación de normas de la ACRL y RBMS en todos los centros poseedores de materiales históricos.
  • Los investigadores, únicos usuarios a los que se les permite el acceso, deben ser vigilados permanentemente mediante personal formado adecuadamente.
  • A nivel nacional, las bibliotecas poseedoras de material histórico susceptible de robo deben conectarse entre sí, a través de redes y bases de datos compartidas con el fin de facilitar los seguimientos y detecciones de los supuestos ladrones.
  • Nunca debe permitirse la entrada de objetos capaces de facilitar la extracción de documentos.
  • Optimas medidas de seguridad físicas y electrónicas sobre las instalaciones y sobre los mismos soportes documentales.
Es importante destacar que los controles de seguridad resultan considerablemente más económicos y eficaces si se incorporan en la etapa de especificación de requerimientos y diseño de las instalaciones.

Esto no ocurre en muchos casos, ya que en la actualidad, muchos de los edificios destinados a bibliotecas no han sido construidos para desempañar esta función.
Aun así, la seguridad puede lograrse, debiendo ser respaldada por una gestión y procedimientos adecuados. En estos casos la identificación de los controles que deben implementarse requiere una mayor planificación y atención a todos los detalles.
Pero en general la administración de la seguridad, exige, como mínimo, la participación del responsable de la biblioteca, proveedores y empresas de seguridad, gerente y administrador del edificio e incluso si las acciones lo requieren no se debe dudar en contratar el asesoramiento experto de organizaciones externas.

Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez
Universidad Complutense de Madrid