April 7, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011 Features Synopsis of ARCA's 2011 International Art Crime Conference

The Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime includes a Synopsis of ARCA's Third International Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Umbria, on July 9 and 10, compiled and edited by ARCA blog Editor-in-Chief Catherine Sezgin.

The synopsis features an introduction by ARCA Intern Kirsten Hower and features summaries of the panel speakers by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central, and ARCA Interns Molly Cotter, Hower, and Jessica Graham Nielsen.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin graduated “With Distinction” from the ARCA Master’s Certificate Program in International Art Crime Studies in Amelia, Italy, in 2010. She has an undergraduate degree in Finance from San Diego State University where she was a reporter and a news editor for the daily newspaper. She is currently the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog and writing an art crime mystery set in Amelia.

April 6, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Art Guard's Bill Anderson on Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID)

Bill Anderson, Partner in Art Guard, explains radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and art security in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Radio frequency identification tags are a general term for a method of attaching radio waves to artworks with the intention to alert security personnel to any attempt to tamper or steal an artwork -- mostly paintings, Anderson writes, then continues to point out the strengths and weaknesses of such technology.

Ton Cremers of the Museum Security Network in his regular column for The Journal of Art Crime also wrote about RFID tags in the Fall 2010 issue.

You may read about RFID from Mr. Anderson's viewpoint by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime here.

You may read other articles on the subject on the Washington Post ("Museums' fine art of protecting masterpieces") and in the New York Times ("Keeping Precious Artwork Safe").

April 5, 2012

UNESCO Warns Mali's Cultural Heritage Sites Endangered

Old Towns of Djenné
On April 2, UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova "voiced concern about the risk posed by fighting posed around the World Heritage site of Timbuktu in the north of Mali and recalled the internationally recognized obligation of countries to safeguard their heritage in times of war."

According to BBC News, a recent coup in the West African country has brought fighting to Timbuktu, an important center of Islamic study with 700,000 manuscripts, many from Timbuktu's golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries, in approximately 60 private libraries.

Director-General Bokova identified Timbuktu's architectural wonders as the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahla.  Timbuktu was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1988.

In the press release, UNESCO reiterates that "according to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict and Its Protocols, armies must refrain from using or damaging cultural heritage properties during times of war."

Bokova offered UNESCO's "expertise and experience to help Mali ensure the safeguarding of Timbuktu."
According to recent news reports, rebels have entered the site and shots have been heard there.  Mali has three other world heritage sites beside Timbuktu: The Old Towns of Djenné, the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) and the Tomb of Askia.
Last year in March, Samuel Sidibé, Director of the National Museum of Mali, attended UNESCO's meeting in Paris that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

April 4, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - ,, No comments

Syrian Arab News Agency Reports Claims by Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums that World Heritage Sites in Syria Suffered Attacks by Terrorists

"The oasis where the Temple of Bel stands"/
Istanbul Archaeological Museum

On the same day, CBS News Correspondent Clarrisa War reported that U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with delegates from 70 countries at a meeting in Istanbul to "support the opposition" [or what the Syrian government calls "terrorists"] to the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.  CBS News has reported that the U. S. pledges $12 million to Syria's rebels and reports that the Syrian Regime won't back down.

According to Bloomberg News today, a "United Nations team is headed to Damascas to discuss deploying unarmed peacekeepers after the Syrian president agreed to an April 10 cease-fire."

According to SANA's online report, the world heritage sites in Damascus (the Ancient City of Damascus), Aleppo, Old Bosra, Palmyra, Citadel of Saladin, and Crac des Chevaliers were "targeted by the terrorist groups."

Palmyra also has a sacred site, The Temple of Bel, in honor of the Babylonian god Bel-Marduk.

April 3, 2012

ARCA Awarded Stuttgart Detective Ernst Schöller 2012 Art Policing and Recovery Award

Painting in the style of Max Ernst
ARCA's Board of Trustees has awarded Ernst Schöller this year's Art Policing and Recovery award in in recognition of his dedication and work within the Stuttgart Fine Art and Antiquities Squad.  The award will be presented at the fourth annual International Art Crime Conference on June 23-24 in Amelia, Umbria, Italy.

Previous year's winners include Vernon Rapley (2009), Charlie Hill (2010), and Paolo Giorgio Ferri (2011).

Kriminalhauptkommissar (translated to English as Chief Detective) Ernst Schöller works for the Landeskriminalamt Baden-Württemberg (the State Criminal Investigations Department of Baden-Württemberg).  He is also a scholar specializing in investigating forgery cases.

Last year Schöller helped in the case of the German forgery run by Wolfgang Beltracchi  (interviewed this month by Spiegel) that sold falsely attributed artworks with fake provenance internationally to buyers, including actor Steve Martin.  He worked to retrieve the fake copy of the painting, La Horde, falsely attributed to artist Max Ernst.  The forged "La Horde" was sold to a German collector in 2006 for around 3.5 million pounds.

Kriminalhauptkommissar Schöller described his other investigations:
Wolfgang LÄMMLE faked works by artists of the “south German school” and of the so-called “classic Modern Art” with over 500 paintings and prints. (1988-1990).
KonradKUJAU, the well- known as forger of the “Diaries of Adolf Hitler" in the 1980s as well as forger of paintings and drawings till his death in 2000.
Geert Jan JANSEN, alias Jan van den Bergen was searched by the Netherland authorities for 10 years. He lives as "Jan van den Bergen" in France (Orleans, Poitiers) with his girl friend. (1994-95) 
Leon AMIEL - publisher in New York, a great success of the “New York postal inspection service“ in 1992-93. On one day there were sequestered more than 83.000 faked prints (etchings, lithographs, wood cuts….) from Dali, Miro, Chagall and Picasso. 
Alexej JAWLENSKY - Exhibition at the “Folkwang Museum“ in Essen in the year 2000, 108 of 150 exhibited works were faked, totally there were nearly 600 fakes, drawings and watercolors, each described in the cataloque raisonnee (Volume 5, Beck, Munich). They were retired  2005. 
Alberto GIACOMETTI - Investigations of the LKA Stuttgart,  with the seizure of more than 1200 sculptures (bronzes and plasters) of A. Giacometti in a worth of 250-300 millions of Euros. The actors were convicted in 2011 and in 2012 received up to 9 years from District Court of Stuttgart.
Schöller wrote in an acceptance email that he is looking forward to attending ARCA's International Crime Conference in Amelia this June. 

April 2, 2012

Spain reports recovery of two first-century Roman bronzes looted from archaeological site

The Roman bronzes recovered in Spain were about 5 feet tall.
(Photo via The Archaeology News Network)
Courtesy of Museum Security Network (MSN): An English-language news website in Spain, The Olive Pressreported that a pair of looted first century Roman bronze statues were 'rescued' in southern Spain before they could be illegally sold for half of their 6 million Euro value.

The bronze statues found in Jaen, a small town near Córdoba in Andalusia, reported The Olive Press "were taken from the ancient Roman site Sacilis Marcialis and are believed to form part of the Castor and Polix sculpture in Córdoba:
The statues, 1.50m and 1.30m in size, depict two naked males, with each piece weighing about 30 kilos and in a good state of conservation, although one has lost part of his chest and the other his genitals.
The Olive Press reports that according to the police commissionar Daniel Salgado, the figures were to be sold by two brothers at an finca (estate) in Pedro Abad in Cordoba "to an Italian buyer via an intermediary".  Interpol is now hunting for the buyer, according to the article.

One of the brothers has also been arrested and two other people charged with a crime against heritage and the attempted smuggling of historic property.  The statues will now be taken to the Cordoba Museum to be restored.

April 1, 2012

Palmyra and other Syrian Cultural Heritage at Risk During Armed Conflict; UNESCO asks Syrian authorities to respect international cultural property protection conventions they have signed since 1954

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Since early March, archaeologists, government officials and Syrian expatriates have been alarmed at the threat to cultural property sites in Syria after more than a year of civil conflict.  UNESCO has issued a request to the Syrian authorities to protect their cultural heritage in accordance with the international cultural property protection conventions they have signed since 1954.

Global Heritage Fund blogged on March 5, 2012 that the Syrian army was attacking Palmyra's Roman Ruins.  According to the report, the Syrian army has set itself up in a hilltop citadel and firing into the ancient ruins. 

Palmyra, located about 200 kilometers northeast of Damascus, an ancient Roman trading center accommodating caravans between Persia and the Mediterranean countries flourished in the 1st through the 3rd centuries.  It was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.  It is a national monument and since 1980 included on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

According to the Global Heritage Network, "Protestors have made use of this UNESCO World Heritage Site during recent protests on December 30th of 2011.

On March 24, Popular Archaeology wrote in "Leaked Government Memo Warns of Organized Looting in Syria" that government is concerned that the current civil conflict in Syria will increase damage and theft from archaeological sites.  Syria has 25 antiquities museums throughout the country near the original excavation sites.

Kate Deimling for ARTINFO France reported March 27th that Syrian activists had appealed to UNESCO for financial aid to protect the country's ancient sites. One archaeologist reported that looting "takes place in the form of direct attacks on specific sites or clandestine searches of in storehouses holding historic pieces."

"The Syrian Expatriates Organization (SEO) is disturbed by the Assad regime's deliberate destruction and failure to preserve Syria's great archaeological sites and ancient antiquities," according to a press release dated March 28.  SEO asked that UNESCO issue a statement "condemning the Syrian government's actions regarding the potential loss of cultural property and for help in assessing the damage "as soon as the situation allows".

On March 30, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, appealed for protection of Syria's cultural heritage:
Earlier this year, UNESCO alerted the Syrian authorities, through their representative at UNESCO, about their responsibility to ensure the protection of cultural heritage.  'This situation is becoming more crucial by the hour,' stated the Director-General. 'I urge the Syrian authorities to respect the international conventions they have signed, in particular the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), and the 1972 World Heritage Convention. 
In the framework of the 1970 Convention, the Director-General has already contacted the World Customs Organization, INTERPOL, and the specialized heritage police of France and Italy to alert them to objects from Syria that could appear on the international antiquities market.  She has also called for the mobilization of all UNESCO's partners to ensure the safeguarding of this heritage.
The photos (by Catherine Sezgin) published here are second century funeral monuments from Palmyra on permanent display in January at Istanbul's Archaeological Museum.

March 31, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: The Daumier Register

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Lilian and Dieter Noack of the Daumier Register announced that they had pinned down the the location of two paintings by the French painter and lithographer Honoré Daumier (1808-78) whose whereabouts had been previously unknown to the Swiss-based website that has the mission of identifying the works of the satirist of French society and politics.

The Daumier Register keeps a list of "Lost and Missing Paintings" and "Stolen and Looted Paintings".

Daumier's oil painting,
 "Femme avec deux enfants"
Daumier’s (“Femme avec deux enfants” / “Mother with her children” (numbered as DR7196 in the Daumier Register) is an oil painting (1865/68) that has been in the collection of the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrave, Serbia, since 1949, according to the Noacks, founders of the Daumier register, who report that "rumours about the theft of the picture are thus unfounded." The painting was reportedly owned by Ambroise Vollard, a Parisian art dealer who died in an auto accident in 1939 whose assistant Erich Schlomovic, a young Croatian Jew, exhibited the painting in Zagreb in 1940.   The painting was also exhibited in Prague, 1971; Zagreb again in 1989-90; Japan, 2005-6; and in Como, Italy, in 2007. The communist government of Yugoslavia incorporated the painting into the state's collection after World War II. [Schlomovic was murdered at the age of 27 in a mobile gas chamber in 1942).

The National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade closed its permanent collection on June 1, 2003, for a reconstruction.

Daumier's "Third Class"
The second painting, DR9119 (“Un wagon de troisième classe “ / “Third Class “ / “Wagen dritter Klasse’) had disappeared after it had been sold in 1982 at Drouot Auction in Paris. It was part of two Daumier paintings (the second being DR7005), which belonged to the estate of Parisian industrialist Roger Leybold (1896-1970) and shows an interesting Third Class Carriage scene, according to the Daumier Register. "We were informed by the owners that it was offered for sale in 2011 by Galerie AB in Paris where it had been stored since 1982," Daumier Register reported. You may read more about the background of this painting here.

The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) lists sources, including the Daumier Register, to obtain information on the body of work (catalogues raisonnés) for Honoré Daumier.

March 30, 2012

Senate Bill 2212: Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Aims to Prevent Seizures of Nazi-era Looted Paintings on Loan to American Museums

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor-in-Chief

The proposed Senate Bill S. 2212, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional, is the biggest threat to date of making legal claims for stolen art, according to Marc Masurovsky, a Washington, DC-based historian and a former researcher director for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust-era Assets.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (1992-2012), a Democrat from California, who introduced the bill on March 20th to "clarify the exception to foreign sovereign immunity set forth in section 1605 (a)(3) title 28, United States code.

"S. 2212 will immunize most looted art coming into the United States," Masurovsky wrote on a message on Facebook.

According to Govtrack.us, the bill is in the first stage of the legislative process:  "Most bills and resolutions are assigned to committees which consider them before they move to the House or Senate as a whole ... The sponsor [Feinstein] is a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where the bill has been referred." The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican-Utah), another member of the senate's judiciary committee. Govtrack.us also identifies this bill as related to another in the House of Representatives: H. R. 4086 of the same name.

"The backers of these two bills have asked Jewish groups, claimants and other interested parties, to make a choice: by opting for a limited category of art objects to be claimed in US courts that would come in from abroad for "cultural display," Masurovsky wrote in an email.  "They will allow all other looted art objects to enter the US without any possible legal recourse to seek restitution of those objects in a US court of law."

According to the bill submitted by Feinstein and Hatch:
If a work is imported into the United States from any foreign country pursuant to an agreement providing for the temporary exhibition or display of such work entered into between a foreign state that is the owner or custodian of such work and the United States or 1 or more cultural education institutions within the United States;
Last November, a Florida U. S. Attorney seized a 16th century painting (Girolamo Romano's Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue (1538) from the permanent collection of Italy's Pinacoteca di Brera in Milano loaned for an exhibit at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee. In February, a U. S. judge ordered the painting to be returned to the heirs of Frederico Gentili di Giuseppe, an Italian Jew who died in Paris before the Nazis invaded France.

"The case in Tallahassee could never have occurred had the bill been passed last year," Masurovsky explains.  "The question remains also whether Wally could have been made possible had the bill existed in 1997 as well as the Altman v. Republic of Austria and all of the Max Stern Estate seizures in the US."

The bill distinguishes that the artworks is a cultural object and not to be considered to be a commercial activity.  "NAZI-ERA CLAIMS. -- Paragraph (1) shall not apply in any case in which -- (A) the action is based upon a claim that the work was taken in Europe in violation of international law by a covered government during the covered period; (B) the court determines that the activity associated with the exhibition or display is commercial activity; and (C) a determination under subparagraph (B) is necessary for the court to exercise jurisdiction over the foreign state under subsection (a)(3)."

The "covered government" involves the Nazi's Third Reich regime and the "covered period" is specified as January 30, 1933, through May 8, 1945."

This S.2212 aims to prevent seizures such as the one in the Florida case above.

The ARCA blog asked Ori Z. Soltes, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, for a comment:
"I have three basic comments: the first is to acknowledge that the intention on the part of Feinstein and Hatch comes from the right emotional place and even to laud their intention, but to suggest that they are simply being misguided; to wit (and here is my second comment, which is essentially to repeat virtually what Marc has said with regard to the danger of so narrowing the focus on Nazi-plundered art): that the result is to make the coming of all other kinds of plundered art into the United States immune not just from seizure, but from being recognized as plundered; the effect for archaeological artifacts in particular is potentially disastrous. 
"My third comment, related to the second, is that the narrowing of focus that the bill proposes adds another aspect of looking at the Holocaust as an event specifically Jewish or specifically European or specifically whatever, which enables people to ignore the larger issue, the human issue, of which it is part, and which "largeness" is evidenced by the depressing number of Holocaust-like events to which one can point across the planet both before and after World War II -- which is analogous to the broad range of culture plunder both before and after. If, with all of its unique aspects (of which are plenty) we simply view it as an aberration, we no longer have to ask as many questions about ourselves, we no longer have to think as much--and that is a profound danger particularly to the American people, with ramifications beyond this issue."

Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue/FCN

FBI Reports 10 Year Sentence for Former Caretaker of Millionaire for Stealing $3.2 Million and Valuable Artwork

Warhol Heinz 57 box (FBI)
A press release from the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced "Former Caretaker of Millionaire Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 10 Years in Prison for Stealing $3.2 Million and Valuable Artwork":
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that James Stephen Biear, 51, of Ossining, New York, was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for stealing $3.2 million and artwork, including Andy Warhol's silkscreen on a wooden crate, mimicking a Heinz 57 case of ketchup (the "Warhol Heinz 57 box"), from his former employer, an elderly millionaire. Biear was found guilty on November 22, 2010 of 10 counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, wire, mail, bank, and credit card fraud and money laundering, after a two-week jury trial.  Biear was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by U. S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who also presided over the trial. 
In addition to the prison term, which reflected sentencing enhancements for abusing a position of trust and a vulnerable victim, Judge Castel sentenced Biear to four years of supervised release, imposed a $3.5 million forfeiture judgment, and ordered him to pay a $1,000 special assessment fee.  Restitution will be determined at a later date.
According to the FBI, in July 2008, Biear had sold the Andy Warhol artwork to an art collector in New York City for approximately $220,000.  Biear falsely claimed at the sale that the Warhol Heinz 57 box had been owned by his uncle.  Warhol had gifted the Warhol Heinz 57 box to an art collector in 1964, and in April 2007 the artwork was noticed to be missing from the art collector's residence after a birthday party.

Biear also stole "a playing card on paper by Marcel Duchamp, an ink drawing by Francis Picabia, a watercolor by Joe Brainard, and a charcoal drawing by Alex Katz, according to the FBI.

Biear will face additional charges in Westchester related to another painting and a false insurance claim, Barbara Leonard reports in "Warhol Thief Gets 10 Years for Conning Boss" for Courthouse News:
Biear filed a false insurance claim in August 2009 for a painting by a 19th century English artist that he claimed had been stolen from him, prosecutors say.  After an apparent tip from Biear's ex-wife, authorities ultimately found the piece in Biear's attic.