October 31, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Journalist Colin Gleadell on "overvaluation" of the seven stolen paintings

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

So much has been written about the October 16 theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam that it takes a long time to sift through so much of the published material to find original information on the internet.  However, Colin Gleadell writing for Britain's Telegraph grabbed my attention with the headline "Stone Dutch works wildly overvalued".

Last week ARCA's CEO Lynda Albertson wrote about the Triton Foundation here on this blog, finding that the collection assembled in the last two decades had been infrequently exhibited, had no website and had its first big show of 150 of the works this month at the Kunsthal Rotterdam ("Avant-Gardes").

This December, Yale University Press is publishing "Avant-Gardes, 1870-1970, The Triton Collection" ($125, cloth) , a 568-page book by Sjraar van Heugten, an independent art historian and a former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (about 60 kilometers north of Rotterdam).  The Triton Foundation's collection contains approximately 250 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from more than 170 Western artists dating from 1870 to 1970  including George Braques, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning, Lucien Freud, Roy Lichtenstein, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol ("Avante-Gardes").

The statement attributed to the director of the Kunsthal Rotterdam Emily Ansenk posted on the art gallery's website identifies the stolen paintings adding that the investigation will be handled by the police.  As to the seven stolen paintings, Ansenk states: "Perhaps we should add that all stolen works have been internationally registered and described and are therefore unsaleable.  We are not prepared to comment on the value of the works."

Historically, published accounts of art thefts have attached a value to the paintings which thieves have used as a basis for a ransom demand.

However, Gleadell, who has written extensively on the art market, assesses the value of the seven stolen paintings between "£12.5 million and £16 million" based on experts familiar with the collection who wished to remain anonymous:  
Some pictures that were thought to be oil paintings were in fact much less valuable pastels or drawings on paper, and none of the stolen pictures measured more than 13in by 16in – handy enough for the thieves to tuck under their arms. Monet’s oil paintings of the Thames, made when he stayed at the Savoy Hotel in 1901, have fetched as much as £18 million at auction. But the two stolen Monets were small pastels the likes of which have never sold for more than £250,000 at auction.
The Picasso, a late work, was also a small coloured drawing on paper, not an oil painting.
Picasso’s large, late oil paintings have made £10 million at auction, hence a guesstimate by Forbes of £9.7 million. But late drawings of this size have never sold for over a million pounds, though the quality of this one may lift it to seven figures.
The International Herald Tribune came up with a punchy $130 million figure for the Picasso and Matisse alone, and while the Matisse was indeed an oil painting – larger, more sumptuous interiors of seated or reclining women have made £10 million or more – the small scale of this work and less seductive pose of the sitter led our experts to place a value of between £3 million and £4 million on it. 
Similarly, the Gauguin is an early painting from 1888, so is of historical interest, but would not command anything like the sums generated by his sought-after Tahitian pictures. Our experts granted it a £3 million to £4 million estimate. 
The self-portrait by the lesser-known Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan is more difficult because so few of his works have been sold at auction and none for more than £600,000. A friend of Gauguin’s, he painted this when the two were in Brittany in the late 1880s. And while it is stylistically related to the Frenchman’s work of the time, it is a small masterpiece by de Haan; thus a figure of £2 million has been suggested. 
The only contemporary work to be stolen was a portrait of the young journalist Emily Bearn by Lucian Freud, painted in 2002. Although Freud’s late work tends to be less sought after, this is a remarkably tender portrait and has been included in several museum exhibitions. Our experts estimate that it should be worth about £3 million. 

October 29, 2012

Bill Reid Theft 2008: Postmedia News obtains RCMP and university campus security records to answer outstanding questions about the heist of UBC's Museum of Anthropology and the investigation that followed

Haida artist Bill Reid's art safely back on display
 at UBC's Museum of Anthropology (Photo Sezgin)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

More than four years after robbery at University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver Canada, journalist Douglas Quan has been persistent in obtaining information about the theft and the investigation that led to the recovery of the stolen Bill Reid jewelry:
Newly released RCMP and university campus security records obtained by Postmedia News through federal and provincial access-to-information laws, plus court documents, offer a fuller picture of the mysterious theft and its bizarre fallout.
At about 4:40 a.m. on May 24, 2008, thieves removed "a glass panel" from the back of the museum, "unleashed a cloud of bear spray, presumably to repel any guards who might try to intervene" and smashed a glass showcase to steal $2 million of jewelry designed by Haida artist Bill Reid (Quan, quoting campus security report).  The heist was estimated to have taken less than 3 minutes (compared to the more than 2-minute Kunsthal Rotterdam heist on October 16).  According to Quan's review of the report, "security cameras stopped recording before the break-in".  UBC's Museum of Anthropology has since been renovated and expanded.

Quan points out that in 2008 the security guard at the Museum of Anthropology had been widely reported to be on a smoking break at the time of the robbery:
Contrary to media reports that suggested he had been on a smoke break and apparently oblivious to trouble, the guard alerted dispatch when the alarms started wailing, the former security officer said.
Protocol at the time dictated that the guard stay put and that dispatch send another officer to walk through the museum.  But the walk-through never happened, the former security officer said.
An alarm falsely attributed to "invalid"and a "false sense of security" (Quan) were problematic.

According to Quan, the investigation, led by the RCMP major crimes section, involved an anonymous tip within days of the theft; police surveillance of the suspect; background checks on construction workers involved in the renovation of the museum, a fired security guard, and "disgruntled" artists who had worked with Reid.  A search of a home connected to a man with "at least 11 convictions for property crimes" led to the recovery of "all but two of the stolen items" on June 8 (just a little more than two weeks after the theft).  By August the other items were recovered: "The last piece, the argillite pipe, was dropped off anonymously. (Quan)"

Then in January 2009, CBC reported the RCMP had paid $20,000 to a criminal informant for "help with the investigation."  According to Quan, the RCMP "would not say this week who received the money or how much was paid" and the case is "unresolved" and that "two years after charges were recommended in the museum heist, Crown counsel notified RCMP there wasn't enough evidence to lay charges."

October 26, 2012

Theft Anniversary: Two artifacts (Assyrian and Roman) stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art last year


by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Last year on October 26, someone stole two ancient sculptures from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  Three months later, the Montreal Gazette and AXA Art, the insurance company which insured the pieces, released a video on YouTube from the surveillance camera inside the museum showing a suspect wanted for questioning in the investigation.

AXA Art Insurance issued a press release dated February 13, 2012: "AXA Art Offering Substantial Reward for Safe Recovery of Rare Artifacts".  The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts issued no press release in 2011 or 2012 regarding the theft, a reward, or an ongoing investigation -- at least it's not listed on the museum's website.

The Sûreté du Québec's Art Alerte publicized the stolen works  and the poster in English and French offering the "Substantial Reward" also on February 14 (Alain Dumouchel responded in an email at that time that the Montreal police were in charge of the investigation).  The Art Alerte for Case File: 11-98 also included a picture of the suspect captured by the museum's surveillance cameras.

Reward Poster

The "Head of a guard" (fragment of a low relief) is estimated to as old as 5th century BCE from Persepolis (Persia), the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 BC).

Assyrian low relief Sandstone, 21 x 20.5 x 3 cm
A marble head dating from the Roman
 Empire 20,2 x 13,3 x 8,5 cm
The second object, Head of a Man (Egypto-archaizing style) of yellow Numidian marble, is dated from the Roman Empire around 1st century A.D.

Neither of these objects was highlighted in the MMFA's museum guide.

In 1972, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was the site of Canada's largest art theft when three thieves stole 18 paintings, including a painting attributed to Rembrandt.  The theft remains unsolved after an aborted ransom attempt and 17 of the paintings are still missing.

October 25, 2012

ARCA Lecturer Dorit Straus' on how a stolen violin inspired "Orchestra of Exiles"

Bronislaw Huberman with Albert Einstein
 who was instrumental in raising funds to
 start the orchestra./Orchestra of the Exiles
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The documentary opening tomorrow in New York City, “Orchestra of Exiles”, tells the story of cultural preservation of people and music, and also features the family history of one of ARCA’s Lecturers, Dorit Straus, who returns each summer to Amelia to teach “Investigation, Insurance and the Art Trade”. Before Ms. Straus studied archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, her father was one of many musicians who escaped Jewish persecution from the Third Reich.

The film's writer, director, and producer Josh Aronson spent two years filming in Germany, Poland, Israel and New York.  The film centers on the story of polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman’s struggle to bring Jewish classical musicians to British Palestine in 1936 to found what would later become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

One of those musicians, David Grunschlag, was Dorit Straus’ father. We asked Ms. Straus via email about the film -- and discovered her story also involved an anecdote about a stolen -- and recovered -- Stradivarius violin once owned by Bronislaw Huberman.

ARCA Blog: According to Mr. Aronson, it was your dedication to honor Huberman’s memory that was the initial driving force behind this film.   Could you elaborate for us?
Ms. Straus: In 1995 I set down with my father to do an oral history about his life as a musical prodigy and what it was like to live in Vienna during the the 20s.  I was particularly interested to know if there was any intersection between the musical life and the visual arts, since it was such an interesting time in the arts. I also knew that he was Bronsilaw Huberman's protege and I wanted to know more about what it was like to be a "Wunderkind" and what exactly his interactions were with Huberman. My father told me about growing up poor but rich in talent which opened all kinds of doors for him.  He played in some of the most opulent homes in Vienna. There was indeed a direct link to the visual arts as both my father and his sisters would often play in the homes of the wealthiest Viennese families including the Bloch-Bauer family.  My father told me how Bronislaw Huberman was one of the most famous violinists of his time and very hands-on in my father's education -- sending him to Berlin at age 14 to study at the most famous music academies such as "Hochshule fur music" so that he would have a very rounded education.  At the same time, Huberman took care of finding my father a patron in Berlin to live with and arranged to pay for all the expenses through his personal banker.
The following year, my father passed away so it was very lucky for me to have this material to keep for future generations of my family.  In 2004, I was attending a conference in Dresden and decided to make a trip to Berlin to see if I could find any materials relating to my father's studies in Berlin.  I was so surprised to find so much material in the archives of the conservatory including letters from Huberman's banker as well as letters from my grandfather relating to my father's stay there. I connected with my father's younger sisters who were duo pianists, and for the first time I heard how Huberman had personally arranged for them to leave Vienna in 1939 when they had no hope of getting out.  I had never heard that story before and that was a real awakening for me. A few years later, I was visiting family in Israel and noticed that in the hall where the IPO plays there was no mention of Huberman at all or of the founding members so I went to the orchestra management.  In 2006, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the orchestra, we dedicated a plaque to Huberman and all the founding musicians at a wonderful ceremony with Zubin Mehta and descendants of the original players.
Around the same time, I met by chance Joshua Bell who was riding on the NY subway carrying with him the Stradivarius that used to belong to Huberman.  The violin was stolen in 1936 when Huberman was playing at Carnegie Hall raising money for his orchestra.  The violin did not surface for 50 years when in 1986 the thief on his death bed confessed to his wife that he had stolen it. She reported it to the police and got a reward. The police turned the violin over to the insurance company who sold it through a well known violin dealer to Norbert Brainin the violinist of the Amadeus String Quartet, and eventually in 2004 Joshua Bell purchased it from Norbert.  I felt that this was a sign from heaven, and that it was up to me to remind the world who Huberman was and what he did to save so many musicians from certain death. First I produced a concert in Vienna with Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk to commemorate Huberman and that led to the film.
ARCA Blog: What was your role in the development of the film?
Ms. Straus: First, I pitched the idea to Josh Aronson.  Then I helped in the research and made introductions in Israel to the General Manager of the Israel Philharmonic and many of the people who are featured in the film -- like the violin maker Amnon Weinstein; the composer Tzvi Avni who complied the Huberman archives with Huberman's secretary Ida Ibbeken after Huberman died in 1947;  Leon Botstein who told me that everything about Huberman interested him and he would be happy to help. Leon did a marvelous job in providing historical context and more, and last but not least my aunt Rosi Grunschlag who died  earlier this year who has an incredibly moving interview sort of in the "golden section" of the movie telling how Huberman helped them.
I helped in translations from Hebrew as well as giving advise about images and identifying people.  I found a not-for-profit entity with a mission compatible with the subject of the film who were able to offer tax deductible charitable deductions for contributions.  I contributed financially, as well as raised money from others, wrote letters asking for support, and spoke to anyone who would listen about the film.  For the last three years in addition to my "day" job, I was totally absorbed in the project.  This was a large project with a budget of over $1 million.  We started the film just when the (Bernie) Madoff scandal came out -- so raising money was incredibly difficult when so many Jewish foundations and funders who would have naturally supported such a project were not in a position to do so. So it is incredible that we were able to complete the film without going into a deficit.
ARCA Blog: The website for “Orchestra of Exiles” says that the movie sets out to answer two questions: “How did living through WWI and the Depression change Huberman from a self-absorbed eccentric genius into an altruistic statesman dedicated to egalitarian politics and humanism? How did Nazism and its cultural policies ignite Huberman and inspire him to bring music to Palestine, to save Jews and to fight anti-Semitism?” What is your personal response?
Ms. Straus:  Josh Aronson the filmmaker, did a fabulous job in answering these questions.  When I started out to make this film it was going to be a small personal story, but Josh -- through his research and his creative mind -- saw the bigger picture and asked these questions and answered them very dramatically in the film.
ARCA Blog:  What does Huberman have to teach us today about being heroic and living productive lives that make a difference to others?
Ms. Straus:  In Huberman’s case, the producers of the movie estimate he saved more than 1,000 lives. What made him different from the others who felt so powerless against a repressive government? I think that is the question that is most difficult to answer - why would someone at the height of his career dedicate himself totally to the plight of others when he could have gone to Switzerland and then to the US and continued with his career -- unlike ordinary people, there would have been little difficulty for him to relocate  particularly as early as 1933 -- but that is what makes him and Arturo Toscanini and Pablo Casals unique -- they had a broader world view and a conscious and they acted upon it!
"Orchestra of Exiles" opened October 26th at New York City's Quad Theater at 13th Street between 5th and 6th. NOTE:  The Quad Cinema at 34 W 13th Street is back up and running post hurricane Sandy and the documentary will be running from Friday November 16th for another week.  Josh Aronson will be at the 7:30 showing on Sunday, November 18th for Q & A.

Simultaneously, the film will be shown in LA at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 and will open soon at the Laemmle Monica - both on a limited schedule.  Please consult the Laemmle Theaters website for schedule.  The film will also be screened in the Hudson Valley at Upstate Films November 16th.

In Europe, the documentary will premiere at the Berlin Jewish Museum on November 22 with a 2nd Berlin screening on November 23rd and in Paris on December 11th and on January 15th.

Here’s a link to the film’s trailer and more information about the film: www.orchestraofexiles.com.

Here's a link to an interview with Josh Aronson and his meeting with Ms. Straus and her story about Joshua Bell and the stolen violin.  And here on Joshua Bell's website is the "Story of His Violin".

Former FBI Agent Virginia Curry on Cultural Security, Fire and Safety, and “Utility” of stolen art

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Virginia Curry, a licensed security consultant, was the FBI Agent responsible for the facilities security and personnel security for 35 locations in greater Los Angeles subsequent to the events of 9-11.  Ms. Curry provided perspective on the trade-off between protecting buildings against theft and protecting people in the event of an emergency. Prior to becoming an FBI Special Agent, Ms. Curry surveyed and approved casino security measures in Atlantic City as a New Jersey state investigator.  I followed up via email with Ms. Curry recently to ask her professional opinion regarding the thieves breaking into the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16:
This is about safety and risk management.  Fire and safety codes always ensure that, in the event of an emergency, all doors must release from the inside to allow someone inside during an emergency to exit to safety. The preservation of human life is more important than goods or money (even in a casino).
Without going into further detail, what they did was actually more of a takeoff on the scheme of "How to Steal a Million" [the 1966 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole] where the thieves took advantage of the weakness of a security system and the human element.  In this Rotterdam case, the human element was again the sanctity of life over the value of property. The perpetrator did not necessarily have to include a member of museum staff, but rather someone who had access to the building prior to this event.
You cannot change the default setting on the inside door releases in an emergency. As pointed out earlier by Ton Cremers, institutions need to make it harder for someone to get to what they are trying to protect. Building in physical delays such as walls and doors is like building a maze around a high value item "the cheese".
Security professionals assessing risk always determine how long it takes to breach the security measures, resolve the maze and return to safely exit the facility in a direct comparison to the primary responders. If the protocol calls for an alarm to be verified prior to the notification of the police, this delays the police response time, which is also predicated on their own law enforcement priorities.
I very much concur with Dr. Tom Flynn’s recent assessment that stolen art has “utility”. The power of “utility” in economic theory is not necessarily always measured in a cash value.

October 23, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Challenging the blame on the fire alarm automatically opening the back doors for the thieves?

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Dutch Journalist Niels Rutger questions the Kunsthal Rotterdam's statement yesterday that the gallery's doors automatically unlock in the event a fire alarm is triggered. Rutger asks why should the doors unlock at night when the gallery is closed and no visitors are at risk? Security consultant Ton Cremers, founder of Museum Security Network, tells Rutger that the art gallery's emergency door can be pushed open from inside the building and that disarming the locks would make it easy for the thief to pry open the doors.

Thomas Escritt writing for Reuters from Rotterdam on the unbolted doors: The apparent ease with which the thieves entered and escaped has raised questions about the Kunsthal's security system and whether an insider was involved. The Kunsthal said in a statement on Monday that the electronic locks on its doors were in working order, but were designed to automatically unbolt shortly after the burglar alarm was set off. After that, only mechanical door locks stood between the intruders and the Kunsthal's treasures. "The theft on Monday night suggests the intruders forced the lock after the unbolting, presumably quickly," the statement said. The thieves forced the mechanical lock on an emergency exit at the rear of the ground floor gallery. Police arrived at the scene within five minutes, but the intruders had already gone.

Bruce Waterfield for Britian's telegraph.com also writes that "the gang broke a physical lock on an emergency door". Niels Rutger reported last week that a piece of plastic had been used to disengaged the deadbolt (Mr. Rutger confirmed via email to the ARCA Blog that his information was from discussions with security personnel).

According to Bloomberg News' Catherine Hickly in Berlin, the Kunsthal has made "adjustments to its locking system" and its "alarm, camera, and entrance control systems were all inspected in the past few months and a new fire alarm and smoke detectors were installed earlier this year."

Kunstahl's Surveillance video captures thieves in action

The surveillance video from the Kunsthal released on Oct. 20, four days after the theft, shows how two or three individuals entered a rear door of the gallery and removed the paintings in about 2 minutes and 13 seconds. My best guess at viewing the portion of the video released on NOS.nl is that at 3:22:23 a.m. (22 minutes later than initially reported last Tuesday after the theft), someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt is followed by a shorter hooded person into the gallery. I cannot tell if a third person is left outside holding open the door. At 3:24:00, the taller person exits through the door with paintings sticking out of a back on his back. Two seconds later, the second person leaves in the same way. At 3:24:08, someone runs back inside and leaves with supposedly more paintings 16 seconds later. At 3:24:36, the door of the gallery is shut. I asked Mr. Cremers for his professional opinion and this is what he emailed back:
The director stated in a press release that security of the Kunsthal is state of the art, but this unique theft took just two minutes. The CCTV coverage is absolutely below standard. There was no fire alarm, so this press release about fire alarms opening doors - which is absurd during closing hours - is very irrelevant. I have been on Dutch national TV calling for this director to resign because she neglected security, and shows to be fully incompetent.
Here on Ad.NL (Algemeen Dagblad, a major Dutch newspaper) a visitor to the Kunsthal Rotterdam last summer tells of how he and a friend were mistakenly locked inside the same exhibition space that was robbed last week until the security alarm went off and the doors opened to let them out -- and stood around talking about the incident for ten minutes (the Kunsthal denies the timing of this).  Reuters also reported that the motion detector had been repaired in August.

Art historian (and ARCA lecturer) Tom Flynn on his blog "artknows" writes on Kunsthal's security and CCTV footage:
Instead all we have on the Rotterdam heist are a few seconds of grainy CCTV camera footage that might have been shot by Eisenstein on a bad day. So will someone please tell me the purpose of what Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk herself described as a “multi-million-euro high-tech...state-of-the-art security system” if all it can do is mimic out-takes from early Expressionist cinema? And the Oscar goes to....the CCTV camera companies! (for pulling off the greatest multi-million-dollar heist of all).
As for the value of the stolen paintings taken from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last week, Caleb Molby writing for Forbes.com estimates the value of the seven paintings from $36 million to $100 million (Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin" last auctioned in 2007 for $15.16 million).

The Art Theft of Cellini's Saliera: Security Scrutiny in a high profile theft

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The Kunstahl Rotterdam is not alone.  Almost a decade ago, another famous art heist in Europe captured headlines and museum officials faced charges of inadequate security. Jeffrey Fleishman and Sonya Yee reported for The Los Angeles Times that on May 11, 2003, Benvenuto Cellini's saliera (saltcellar), a rare gold-plated sculpture, was stolen from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum.


The Cellini Saliera heist set off a three-year "nightmare" for the museum as the Austrian press accused it of "lax security", Richard Bernstein reported for The New York Times ("For Stolen Saltcellar, a Cell Phone is Golden"). 

In January 2006, Robert Mang, a 50-year-old "specialist in security alarms" lead police to "a wooded area 50 miles outside of Vienna where he had buried the legendary 10 inch-high sculpture inside a lead box" (Bernstein):

In September 2006, the BBC reported that Mang was "jailed for four years" for the theft of the Cellini Saliera which Mang called a "prank".

A few days ago, Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art investigator and now a private investigator, had this to say about the thief:

Robert Mang was almost a teetotaler who lived in Zwettel, 50 miles north of Vienna.  He was a security alarm engineer who, from another source, at his trial was so attractive (like some latter day Rudolph Valentino) to the women of Vienna that some of them sent him their knickers and house keys. He served a short sentence. The guard who turned off the alarm system when it was activated had recently married a Serbian lady. I thought her relatives might be interesting for the police to look at. The cops did a good job catching Mang.

October 22, 2012

"Lady in Gold" author Anne-Marie O'Connor spoke of "an age of restitution" in Nazi-looted art disputes at Rutgers University


by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Correspondent

In the eventful weekend of the annual CHAPS Conference at Rutgers University, I could not help but be interested in the multitude of flyers posted in Voorhees Hall announcing upcoming talks and events.  Of particular interest was an announcement for a talk given by Anne-Marie O’Connor on her book The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.”  So after enjoying a weekend long conference, I made my way back to New Brunswick to hear O’Connor speak about her recounting of the history of Klimt’s painting.

Standing in a small classroom, Anne-Marie O’Connor gave a brief account of the history of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the restitution case concluded only a few years ago.  In an almost disarmingly candid manner, O’Connor told the tale that was “not just a restitution of art but a restitution of history,” sparking discussions of the issues surrounding restitution during the following question period.  The case of this particular painting opened the door on restitution of Nazi-era looted art, ushering in, as O’Connor dubbed it, “an age of restitution.”  An appropriate name since the Hague will be hosting an international symposium on “Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes, status quo and new developments” on November 27, 2012.  As more restitution cases come to light, more undiscovered histories, like those recounted in The Lady in Gold, are laid out for the world to discover.

If you have not read O’Connor’s book, please see Catherine Schofield Sezgin’s review of the book (in three parts) and hunt down a copy of the book to enjoy the complex and extraordinary tale of this painting.

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Anne-Marie O'Connor's "The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Anne-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings (Knopf, 2012):
In 1907, Gustav Klimt finished the portrait of 24-year-old Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a wealthy art patron who lived across the square from Vienna's Fine Art Academy.  In the same year, that same art school would reject Adolf Hitler's application for admission because he failed the drawing exam.  More than three decades later, these two events collided when a Nazi stole this portrait from the home of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jew who had fled Europe's great cultural center when Austria united with Hitler's fascist regime.
In Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings, journalist Anne-Marie O'Connor tells the story of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which would sell for $135 million to an American in 2007.  O'Connor first describes the relationship between Klimt, his Jewish art patrons, and the cultural environment in pre-Nazi Austria.  From the point of view of the Bloch-Bauer family we are told of the collaboration between Austria and the German Nazis to loot Jewish art collections.  The book concludes with the legal struggles of American attorney Randy Schoenberg to navigate the U. S. legal system and help Maria Altmann and the other surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family to recovery four stolen Klimt paintings.  It's a story of how a legitimate government corrupted legislation to steal from, and murder, its own citizens.
Against the backdrop of the murder of 6 million Jews, restitution of stolen art may seem unimportant, especially as newspapers today sport headlines of Jewish families recovering and then selling artworks for millions of dollars.  Why is it so important that these paintings are returned to the families now? Weren't these issues of restitution settled decades ago when Allied forces discovered stolen art in the salt mines of Germany after the war? And why does the American legal system have to get involved in these cases, almost seven decades after armistice? Isn't this a metter for the government of Austria to decide? Lady in Gold answers these questions.
You may read this review by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

The CHAPS Conference: A Personal Perspective on Preservation of Cultural Landscapes


by Kaitlin King Murphy, ARCA Alum 2011

The CHAPS conference ("Cultural Landscapes: Preservation Challenges in the 21st Century, October 12-14, 2011, Rutger's University) allowed me to see a new dimension of cultural heritage preservation and protection.  Landscapes themselves are tangible but as we heard from the presenters, there is a spiritual dimension that is lost to a Westernized mindset.  In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO, I was pleased to learn about other cultures and what they have been doing behind the scenes for years in terms of preserving and protecting their lands.  These voices truly provided important perspectives on what we can do both locally and internationally to move forward in sharing the natural landscape.

In the news, we hear about war torn countries and their cultural losses within their landscapes which include geographical territories, sacred burial grounds, statues and other art works. Closer to home in the US, we have our own deep cultural history that has been firmly rooted in our terrain that is lost to development, environmental forces, and general lack of understanding.  From Pueblos to Olmsted planned gardens, we have our own struggles in how to preserve, re-discover, and protect our heritage.  We are fortunate because there are public and non-profit organizations dedicated to these sites as money is allotted and raised for such endeavors.  The challenge is in how to work together to establish and reach goals to continue with our combined traditions.

The conference was a great platform for the collaboration of efforts and helped me understand the importance of cultural landscapes through a non-Westernized perspective.  Thinking in this way was a bit of a deviation from my usual, show up at a world class museum and apply a Western interpretation to the history to the art works.  The landscapes are the museums, living museums.  While I don't practice the traditions of the other cultural groups, I can appreciate their pride, thankfulness, and dedication to their cultural preservation. 

The way in how we use and interpret our land is an art form across the world.