August 8, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011 - ,, No comments

Amelia's Bronze Germanicus Travels to Rome for Portrait Exhibit at Capitoline Museum; Curators Reveal New Information about the First Century Bronze Statue

Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In mid-July, I traveled to Amelia for an art crime conference and to visit the archaeological museum to see the bronze statue of Germanicus. However, Germanicus, found outside the gates of Amelia in 1963, was not in town. Germanicus had been disassembled and boxed, then shipped to Rome for a six-month exhibit at the Musei Capitolini at the Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michalangelo (1475-1564) and commissioned by Alessandro Farnese (Pope Paul III from 1534 to 1549) to impress Charles V (1500-1558), the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Palazzo Farnese
In Rome, I mistakenly walked to Campo di Fiori looking for the Musei Capitolini as directed by Google Maps. If it hadn't been so hot and humid, I would have recalled that I was looking for some very large steps to climb up to the museum and that it was behind not Piazza Navona but the Victor Emmanuelle II's monument. Instead I found Palazzo Farnese, now the French Embassy, around Campo di Fiori before following directions from an Italian couple to walk further and further down the road.

By the time I'd walked up the cordonata, Michelangelo's staircase wide enough for riders and their horses in the day, and turned right into the first building, the Palazzo Nuovo, a security guard stopped me. The ticket box was closed and although the museum would be open another 50 minutes, I could not go in without a ticket. I begged, he pointed to the surveillance camera above us, and I stepped back out onto the Piazza. After asking two people -- one woman had lost her husband who had their tickets and she couldn't go into the building to find him -- I obtained a used ticket and returned to the building's entrance. The security guard said that I couldn't go in because I had not purchased the ticket. But I begged, saying he'd only told me that I had to have a ticket. He finally sought advice from another staff member, a woman who seemed to have more authority with her walkie-talkie, and I was let into the building.

"Germanicus, Germanicus, Germanicus," I called softly walking through hallways and passed many portraits and monuments. It had been a long day, it was 44 degrees Celcius outside, and obviously the heat had gotten to me. "Germanicus, I can't find you!"

Germanicus amongst other Roman portraits, Capitoline Museums
In the very last room, at the far end of the floor, Germanicus stood in the rear. The rope usually around him at the archaeological museum in Amelia was gone and visitors could walk directly up to his base. He was marvelously old and delicate as up close it was obvious that he was depending upon a steel and wood structure to remain upright.

Then there was a display sign that read:
“The bronze statue found at Amelia, in Umbria, was not made as a portrait of Germanicus. The original head was eventually replaced with that of the young Germancius, whom his uncle Tiberius had designated as his heir, but who died in 19 AD. What probably happened is that the person (Perhaps Germanicus’s son Caligula) who had originally been honored with this statue was later condemned to damnatio memoriae [by the Senate], the removal of his public images to erase all memory of him, and that the costly statue was then reused to honor another member of the dynasty. 
“The ornamentation is very complex. On the upper part of the breastplate is the menacing image of the monstrous Scylla. On the lower part is a scene from Homer: Achilles ambushing the young Trojan prince Troilus. The scene is completed by the two Victories who converge from the sides toward the Greek hero, bringing him arms as a reward for his feat. The decoration extends to the back of the armor, where we see a religious scene in which two women dance in front of a candelabrum, symbol of the eternity of the imperial power. The pteryges, metal plates protecting the groin, are formed in the first row by lions’ heads and adorned in the second by heads of satyrs alternating with heads of gorgons. As a whole, the decorative plan was meant to epitomize control of the seas (Scylla) and to compare the honored man to Achilles, the most valiant of all the Achaean heroes.”
The bronze statue of Germanicus was dated 25-50 AD. It made sense that it had not been commissioned at the time of his death in 19 AD as his uncle, the second Roman emperor Tiberius, did not even attend the placement of his ashes into the Mausoleum of Augustus. So this statue could have been made for his son Caligula and when the Senate voted to erase the assassinated emperor's image from history, it was the head of Germanicus that replaced the original.

Surprised that only the head had been made for Germanicus, I retreated back to Piazza Navona, stopping to purchase a few DVDs of my favorite Italian television series about Salvo Montalbano in Sicily; ate a dinner of friend zucchini blossoms and artichokes at the always-welcoming family restaurant of Ristorante Archimede San Eustachio (Piazza dei Caprettari, 63); and fought my way to the counter at the cafe of Sant 'Eustachio for not one, but two cappucini.

Germanicus will be on display in Rome through September 25 at the Capitoline Museum.

August 7, 2011

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Features Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Register

Paolo Ferri and Chris Marinello
By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Chris Marinello, Executive Director & General Counsel of the Art Loss Register, delivered a lecture on the role of private and public stolen art databases in the recovery of lost art. In March 2011, Marinello along with ARCA’s Catherine Sezgin attended the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris France.

As of 2011, the ALR’s database contained over 300,000 stolen works of art. The ALR offers its registration services on a pro bono basis to countries that are currently engaged in armed conflict or that have endured through natural disasters. For example, upon hearing news of the looting and theft of objects from sites and institutions across Egypt, the ALR reached out to Zahi Hawass to assist in the swift recovery of its missing objects.

Marinello continued with a discussion of a number of the more intriguing recoveries the ALR had made in recent years. For example, in cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ALR returned a portrait of a young girl by famous Belgian artist Antoine (Anto) Carte to its owner 69 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. During the World War II, the work’s original owners fled their Brussels home and the Nazis eventually confiscated their art. In November 2008, the ALR notified ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office that a Long Island art gallery had possession of the work. Fortunately, in this case owner forfeited the painting upon hearing that it had been stolen during the war. However, as Marinello alluded to, few cases are resolved as quickly. As illustrated in the Carte case, the ALR frequently works closely with domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Scotland Yard, the Carabinieri, and Interpol.

Upon conclusion of Marinello’s lecture, former Italian state prosecutor Paolo Ferri, provided a few insights into the Carabinieri’s lost art database, which now contains over a million registered objects.

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention

Catherine Schofield Sezgin reports on her participation at the 40th anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO convention at the at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy July 10

by Jessica Nielsen, ARCA Intern

November 14, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. ARCA blog editor-in-chief, Catherine Sezgin, reported on her participation in a celebration of the 40th anniversary held in Paris last March from her notes on the event. She mentioned that she had seen Annika Kuhn and Prosecutor Paolo Ferri at the event and invited them and many of her other fellow presenters at the ARCA conference (who she deferred to as having greater knowledge of the history and successes of the treaty), to engage in a lively discussion following her presentation.

"The Fight against the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property: The 1970 Convention: Past and Future" The conference was an opportunity for UNESCO to look at the history of the Convention, evaluate its accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses and examine its main challenges. Sezgin noted that there was a speaker who brought up the similarities in the implementation of the 1970 Convention of UNESCO on illicit traffic to the experiences of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna 1973 (CITES). She also sat in on a public debate covering various issues among representatives from “source and destination” countries, the art market, museums and international organizations. Sezgin was most impressed by the Mexican representative, Dr. Jorge A. S├ínchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; who spoke about Mexico’s active participation in the forming of the treaty and that it was the eighth country to ratify it. Mr. Cordero said:
We are in a situation that we cannot tolerate. Many countries are being plundered through clandestine excavations. Despite all our efforts, criminals operate on sites and in the trafficking of cultural and archeological objects.
Dr. Sanchez-Codero also talked about the ‘international community experiencing a rise of a new consciousness regarding the need of protecting cultural heritage, which is not linked to cultural nationalism, but rather to the need of safeguarding universal knowledge.’ Sezgin reported that he urged UNESCO to ‘play a prominent role in the new cultural order' and said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list,’ this was a perfect introduction to the next speaker at the ARCA conference, Chris Marinello, from the Art Loss Registry, who described his company’s database.

More from Sezgin’s report on the event can be read on the ARCA blog here and here.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate certificate in ARCA’s International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in The Journal of Art Crime. She has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog since 2010.

August 6, 2011

Mark Durney, Founder of the website “Art Theft Central” and moderator of Museum Security Network, on “Collection Inventories”

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

Collection Inventories account for works in the event of disaster, transition or conservation treatment and are a proactive effort to protect and secure art collections, Mark Durney, ARCA’s Business and Admissions Director, told the audience at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on July 10.

Accurate and well-audited inventories may increase the likelihood of recovering missing items. In 2008, an inventory of Russian museums discovered 242,000 pieces missing of which only 24,500 were officially registered as stolen.

In 1980, the Dutch Institute for Social Policy Research’s Condition Survey reported a backlog of 70,000 “men years” to inventory 16 national museums.

Many collections in Egypt don’t have inventories, Durney told the audience. And when 56 objects were reported missing from Egypt as published by the Supreme Council, the description of such items as a ‘wooden model vase’ were incomplete as to claim or recognize the object.

In France, 2002 legislation required all museums to create inventories of their collections and calls for them to be reviewed every ten years. The Joconde: catalogue des Collections des Musees de France” is an online inventory from 328 museums.

“More information, better results,” Mark Durney said. “Collection inventories hold institutions accountable for objects in the public trust; motivates more accurate theft reporting; and increases likelihood of recovery.”

“Law enforcement claims a recovery rate of 5-10 percent,” Mark Durney said. “But looking at the numbers over a ten year period, only 1.9% of objects registered stolen were recovered. The confidence interval is 95% and you can quote me on that.”

August 5, 2011

Katharyn Hanson on “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study”

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Katharyn Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, concentrating her studies in Mesopotamian Archaeology. Her archaeological experience has helped her to examine the dangers that archaeological sites face and what can be done to prevent the looting and destruction of these sites. In her presentation, “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study,” Hanson examined the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq and stressed the tools with which these sites can be protected in the future.

Opening her talk with the devastation of the Iraqi National Museum, Hanson highlighted the difficulties entailed in even knowing how much has been stolen from a museum—let alone from an archaeological site. In addition, the lack of recoveries made is even more depressing than not knowing how much was lost in the first place. After opening with this sad tale, Hanson used the same basis to talk about two archaeological sites in Iraq that have been devastated by looters: Umma and Umm al Aqarib. As she stated in her presentation, “By far, the majority of artifacts stolen from Iraq come from archaeological sites.” Using aerial and satellite photos, she was able to show the extreme addition of looter’s holes to archaeological sites from 2003 to 2008. The result was depressing and mind-numbing, with an increase of nearly 5,000 or more looter’s holes at each site over the course of five years.

Hanson also stressed that certain artifacts had been recovered after being found in the presence of weapons, such as AK-47s—marking a tie between the arms market and the black antiquities market. In a really somber moment, she stated that we do not really know where these works go after they have been dug up: “We don’t have a great answer. I don’t know.” Hanson then stated what measures are out there, legally, for protecting sites, such as CIPA, Customs Enforcement, and the Hague Convention which calls for sites to be protected during wartime. However, it was pointed out that sadly, these are more measures for protecting what is looted from sites in the hopes of recovering them. Hanson brought a very somber topic to the conference, but it was certainly one worth hearing and will, hopefully, advocate more work towards protecting archaeological sites in Iraq and around the world.

August 4, 2011

Thursday, August 04, 2011 - No comments

Art Crime Roundup: Riopelle Statues Recovered

Damaged Riopelle sculptures recovered (Photo by The Canadian Press)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Editor-in-Chief

VANCOUVER, CANADA - The August 3 edition of Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, delivered to most hotels, homes and newsstands in "The World's Most Livable City", lead off its Globe Index on the front page highlighting an article on Page 3:
'Those guys were imbeciles' Art gallery owner Simon Blais on the metal thieves who tried to make off with a 1,000-pound bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle in Montreal. The artwork was recovered hours later, broken but salvageable.
On Page 3, under the headline "'Dumb thieves' botch Riopelle heist", journalist Ingrid Peritz reported from Montreal:
A trio of hapless thieves who tried to abscond with a $1-million sculpture by famed Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle ended up ditching their treasure instead in the Quebec woods. It was retrieved - broken but salvageable.
You can also read more on art theft in Canada in Jon Hembrey's article, "Global art theft: From Rembrandt to Riopelle", on CBC News online.

Today I will be visiting The Museum of Anthropology, the site of a May 2008 theft where 12 pieces of gold artworks by Bill Reid were stolen and later recovered. You can see Noah Charney's piece on the theft published in 2008 in The National Post here. Since the robbery, the museum has undergone a renovation and expansion.

Larry Rothfield on What Museums and Archaeological Sites can to do protect themselves during times of upheaval and lessons learned from Cairo

by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Larry Rothfield, a writer-in-residence during the ARCA postgraduate program in Art and Crime Studies this year, presented his thoughts on the recent looting during the revolution in Cairo at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

"The recent revolution in Egypt provided a natural experiment or stress test of the security system that normally protects antiquities, whether in museums, or on sites or remote storerooms. What can we learn from the looting of the Cairo Museum (and from storerooms and archaeological sites around the country) about how other heritage professionals could and should be planning ahead to cope with similar situations of political instability that might strike their country?"

Rothfield described the failings of security during the recent revolution in Cairo that “allow us to see important things about the structure of heritage protection.” The lack of foresight to establish a contingency plan in the wake of the Tunisian revolution essentially left the Cairo museum unguarded and allowed a mob of one thousand people to break in to the gift shop of the museum, a very few of whom were able to then penetrate the galleries and steal a small number of artifacts. Some of these looters were apprehended by citizens who formed a human chain around the museum to protect it from further thefts.

Rothfield questioned why the “Pharoah of Antiquities,” Zahi Hawass, was not better prepared for the eventuality of the looting, the timeline involving his resignation and subsequent re-instatement after Mubarak’s toppling, the inaccurate reporting on the series of events surrounding the looting, and due to some strange coincidences, whether the thefts could have possibly been an inside job. He went on to list six lessons learned:
1. Contingency plans are needed to assure the safety of museums and cultural heritage sites during times of normal security breakdown.
2. Antiquities ministries are interested in scholarship and excavations and aren’t particularly interested in site security.
3. Well-conserved sites that are not armed are not protected.
4. Sites and museums can be protected by a mobilized public and dedicated civil servants.
5. There is no substitution for police, or militarized police, in general lawlessness.
6. Tourism revenue alone will not provide locals with enough incentive to protect heritage if doing so become too dangerous.
In response to questions regarding the arming of guards he said that he did not believe in simply handing out guns and that a contingency plan, training and an “all hands on deck” approach would have prevented the little looting that did occur. He also stressed that the situation in Cairo was very different than the issues that Donny George at the Baghdad Museum faced during wartime. An article in the Guardian published during the conference discussed Mr. Rothfield’s views in more detail.

Larry Rothfield is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, where he co-founded and directed the Cultural Policy Center from 1999-2008. He has published on a wide array of subjects in cultural policy. His last book, The Rape of Mesopotamia (University of Chicago Press, 2009) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the causes for the failure of US forces to secure the Iraq National Museum and the country's archaeological sites from looters in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

August 3, 2011

Courtney McWhorter on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art”

by Jessica Graham Nielsen

ARCA welcomed one of the newest scholars to the field, Courtney McWhorter, as she presented her paper on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art” in the “Fresh Perspectives” panel at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

McWhorter described the different and changing ways we have valued art over time: from placing a high value on the aesthetic experience; to subsequently valuing its specific place in history; to the current trend of appreciating it more in economic terms. She proposed that as the perceptions of the value of art have changed, so has our acceptance and tolerance for copies and forgeries:
"I will show how art is valued today according to its historicity, rather than its aesthetic capabilities. Such a claim explains why forgeries could have once been acceptable, but now are not because they falsify history."
McWhorter explained that in the Renaissance, art was valued for the aesthetic experience it could impart. Scholars looked to the Ancients for inspiration on how to think about art and embraced Plato and Aristotle’s theories. The Greek philosophers considered art to be a mere copy of the ideal, and that its primary objective should be to evoke a feeling. Thus, when the Duke of Mantua was told that the “Raphael” he had coveted and that had been (reluctantly) given to him by Ottavio de Medici was in reality a copy by Andrea del Sarto, he reportedly said that he “valued it no less than if it were by the hand of Raphael.” In his mind the genius was in Sarto’s perfect copy – an improvement on the original. The copy had artistic merit in its own right.

McWhorter then discussed the 20th century and used Van Meegeren’s “Vermeers” as an example of how the value of art has shifted to one of historicity. Originally esteemed as some of Vermeer’s greatest masterpieces when they were “discovered,” they were disparaged by critics as worthless fakes once Van Meegeren was forced to admit (and prove) that he had actually painted them. The career of the connoisseur who had enthusiastically welcomed them as the long hoped for missing link between Vermeer’s earliest religious work and the small domestic scenes he became associated with later, was ruined. It was the great value placed on art’s historical relevance that Van Meegeren had exploited for the conception and acceptance of his Vermeer pastiches.

Lastly McWhorter turned to the current obsession of valuing art as an economic asset. She showed several images of editorial headlines proclaiming the monetary losses various collectors, including the actor Steve Martin, had suffered by being duped by fakes and forgers such as the “German Ring.” She blamed the auction houses for the current commodification of art and although she did not expand on it, she alluded to a developing phenomenon of fakes becoming just as economically valuable as some of the works they imitate.

Courtney McWhorter is currently completing her final year as an Honors student at Brigham Young University, working towards a Bachelors in Art History.

August 2, 2011

Michelle D’Ippolito on “Discrepancies in Data: The Role of Museums in Recovering Stolen Works of Art”

By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Aspiring art crime researcher, Michelle D’Ippolito, who currently is completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland at College Park, discussed the role museums play in reporting and recovering stolen art. Many museums are reluctant to report art thefts due to their “concern for their public image and a persistent lack of funding.” According to D’Ippolito, the public’s opinion of a museum greatly affects its ability to attract visitors and donations, which in turn impacts its likelihood of receiving government grants. Unfortunately, in the event of a theft, the media frequently focuses its headlines on museums’ security shortcomings rather than on the possible factors that may have contributed to its loss. For example, after it was reported that 1,800 historic artifacts were missing from Pennsylvania’s state collections, the media published headlines, such as “PA. Auditor Says State Has Lost Treasure Trove of Artifacts” and “Audit: Pennsylvania museums’ artifacts ‘likely lost forever.’”

Alternatively, the media could have examined how the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission’s recent budget cuts and staff reductions may have contributed to its ability to accurately account for its collections. Funding is critical to a museum’s basic operations and its effort to preserve and protect cultural heritage. For example, it enables a museum to purchase current collections management software, which streamlines the inventory process, and it provides financing for the specialized training of museum personnel.

D’Ippolito continued her panel lecture with a discussion of the variety of national, international, and private stolen art databases available to art theft victims. While such databases are helpful to ensuring a quicker recovery of stolen art, their true potential has not yet been realized. Many countries do not consistently report museum theft due to their inability to register accurate statistics. According to D’Ippolito, this element coupled with the fact that many museums are reluctant to report theft has given rise to a situation that has little effect on deterrence.

In conclusion, D’Ippolito offered a few tactics in order to increase the reporting and recovery of stolen art. She identified eliminating discrepancies in the information required to report a theft; interfacing the current databases; creating a database related to the objects recovered with details of the investigation; and increasing museums’ participation in reporting theft.

August 1, 2011

Sarah Zimmer on “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print”

By Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Sarah Zimmer is a part-time faculty member at the Art Institute of Michigan’s Photography department and teaches both art history and studio art. Her experience ranges from fine art exhibitions to art history to museum work, on which her presentation, “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print,” is based. While working in the archive of a museum, Zimmer discovered that an etching by Rembrandt was missing and then proceeded to investigate its disappearance. Her investigation, which included emailing former directors of the museum and anyone that may have an idea of where the print disappeared to, led to an interesting turn when she was asked to halt all investigation into this mystery.

Rather than completely forgetting the project, Zimmer was driven to investigate the value of this particular print and the value of works to museums. A contemporary artist with no prior knowledge of Rembrandt’s “worth,” she was intrigued by the question of: “What is the value of this museum protecting this secret when the value of the work may be minimal?” Using her artistic training, Zimmer delved into the realms of forgery to recreate the Rembrandt print along with provenance documents for an exhibition examining the value of a work and where the value lies. “I’m attempting to understand the value of the work, whether it’s monetary value or assigned value. Whether it’s the name that counts or the functional value of depicting a story.” Zimmer’s exhibition was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit in 2010 and also in Chicago.

Not inclined to completely let go of the project, Zimmer is still interested in examining the value that museums place on works and what value society places on works of art, such as “How we’ve made Rembrandt, the name, a commodity.” Though she no longer works for the museum, from which this print went missing, Sarah stated that, “the true crime was the institution depriving us of information and not allowing us to continue our investigation.” Of the multiple missing works that Zimmer investigated while working at this museum, the Rembrandt is the only one that raised the attention of the institution to cease research into its whereabouts. Zimmer is still pursuing research into the value that is placed on works by museums and the art community.