February 13, 2013

ARCA Alum Julia Brennan Invited to Speak at the Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia, Feb. 15-18, 2013


Julia Brennan
ARCA Alum (2009) and textile conservator Julia Brennan will be one of the speakers at the Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia in the Kingdom of Bhutan this week.  Ms. Brennan has worked in Bhutan and Thailand for more than a decade. She will be speaking on "Deterring the Illicit Art Trade and Preserving Cultural Heritage: The Essential Role of Collection Care Professionals and Preventive Conservation" on a panel moderated by Professor Wendy Larson, a specialist in East Asian Language and Literature at the University of Oregon.

Here's a link to the final agenda for the conference to be held Feb. 15-18.  Speakers include: Mr. Etienne Clement, Deputy Director, UNESCO, Bangkok, "International Convention on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Objects and other specific action by UNESCO"; Jean-Robert Gisler, Switzerland, "Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property in Switzerland as a Market Country: Organization, Perspective and Institutional Policy"; Karl-Heinz Kind, Germany: "Role of INTERPOL in the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property"; Tshewang Gyalpo, Bhutan: "Protecting Moveable Cultural Properties in Bhutan"; Martin Finkelnberg, The Netherlands, "Technical Aspects of Protecting Cultural Property - Networking: A case of The Netherlands"; Ann Shaftel, Canada, "Need for Implementing Security Training in Traditional Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries"; Dr. Iain Shearer, "The Trade in Illicit Afghan Cultural Property in London: The Response of Key British Institutions Since 2006"; Duncan Chappell, Australia and Damien Huffer, "Bringing Them Home: Some Contemporary Australian Perspectives on the Investigation, Prosecution, Seizure and Repatriation of Looted Asian Region Human Remains and Artefacts"; Major Guy Tubiana, France, "Experience of a Police Officer in the Protection of Cultural Property"; and Fabrizio Panone, Italy, "Fight Against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage: Oppositional Activities at International Level".

February 12, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - , No comments

Update on King Tut: From Harvard to Highclere (location of Downton Abbey)

The burial mask of King Tut
Recent DNA analysis indicates King Tut was the son of Nefertiti and her first cousin Akhenaten, French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde told an audience at Harvard's Science Center last week.

Here's a link to Alvin Powell's article in the Harvard Gazette, "A different take on Tut" which also notes that Gabolde told the audience that the tomb discovered in 1922 of the boy king Tutankhamun may have been hurriedly prepared when King Tut suddenly died of infection after breaking a leg.

Other details of Tut’s life, which Gabolde has pieced together from carved images and inscriptions, include a military campaign in Syria, in which he likely didn’t personally take part. Tut also was interested in Nubia, a region in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Inscriptions on a fan that belonged to Tut showed him hunting ostriches, whose feathers were used to make the fan. In addition, Gabolde said, a staff found in Tut’s tomb had inscriptions that showed it was made of a tall reed, cut by Tut himself in a city on the Nile delta.
Gabolde also traced an ornament that was found with Tut when he was discovered in 1922, but had since disappeared. Gabolde said he believes the golden hawk-head clasp, part of a broad collar worn by Tut, is in a private collection, sold by Tut discoverer Howard Carter to pay for surgery later in his life. The rest of the broad collar was stolen during World War II, Gabolde said.
A tour of King Tut's treasures ended last month in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center.  Here's a link to a video on the Today in 2005 which covered the exhibit before it opened at the Los Angeles County Museum.

The home for King Tut's treasures is at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Here's the link to the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

But for those readers who want to combine a little Downton Abbey field trip with their Egyptian fix, visit the basement exhibition of reproductions at Highclere (where the show is filmed on location).  It was Lord Carnarvon's ancestor who opened King Tut's tomb with Howard Carter.

February 11, 2013

Paris Match Reports Jean Jacques Fernier's confirmation that found painting belongs to Courbet's "L'Origine du Monde'

Courbet's L'Origine du Monde (1866) on display
in 2009 at Musée d'Orsay in Paris
/Photo by C. Sezgin
The feminist painting L'Origine du Monde in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris now has a face according to Courbet expert Jean Jacques Fernier (he continued the work of his father Robert who published the artist's catalogue raisonné).

In 1866, Courbet painted a woman's torso with her vagina on display and her legs opened for Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil-bey who sold the work two years later before becoming ambassador to Vienna. The painting was owned by five private collections before entering the Musée d'Orsay in 1995.  Khalil-bey reportedly contracted syphilis from a prostitute in St. Petersburg and sold the painting in 1868 to settle gambling debts. 


Last week Paris Match posted Fernier's video explaining why the newly discovered painting of a woman's head belongs to the model in L'Origine du Monde. The work was reportedly purchased for 1,400 euros from a Parisian antiques dealer in 2010.  Fernier believes that the unsigned painting was cut off from the canvas of L'Origine du Monde.  The model is believed to be Joanna Hiffernan, an Irish artist's model romantically linked to both Courbet and the American painter James Abbott Whistler. It should be noted that a critic quoted in a competitive media outlet, Le Figaro, disputes the attribution of the painting. 


Here are some thoughts from ARCA Lecturer Tom Flynn on the discussion with a focus on psychoanalysis and the painting.




  

February 8, 2013

Bosnian Culture Heritage Survived the War but will it Survive the Nation's Peace?


by Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO

Bosnia's shuttered national museum in Sarajevo and the Bosnian Commission for Historic Monuments say they cannot loan The Metropolitan Museum of Art its Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare medieval illuminated manuscript that contains the illustrated traditional text of the Passover Haggadah, read during the Jewish Passover Seder.

They say the manuscript cannot be loaned because of the unresolved status of its home.  The 125-year old institution, The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Zemaljski Muzej), has been left without funding as a result of the 1995 Bosnian peace agreement.  The signing of the Dayton Accord may have brought an end to the region’s conflict but it also effectively fractured the country into two parts: the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina linked by a weakened central government. 

In the war’s aftermath, the crucial priorities of the country’s postwar leadership were rebuilding the economy, resettling an estimated one million refugees and establishing a working government amongst the ethnically mixed populace.  While the accord heralded a much-needed peace, it also created a constitutional vacuum, open to conflicting interpretations over the maintenance of the country’s cultural legacy. 

Within Bosnia and Herzegovina there are those who insist that the situation should be resolved giving responsibility for key cultural institutions to the state.   Others argue that since nothing is mentioned in the country’s constitution, the administration should remain with lower levels of government and its expenses should not fall on the common budget.
 
Many in Sarajevo hope that by rejecting the Met’s lending request, the situation will put pressure on the government to try to step in to resolve the issue, saving the museum and other key cultural institutions facing potential closure due to lack of funding and oversight.

Like with the more recently publicized Arabic manuscripts in Mali, this Sarajevo Haggadah’s preservation history is a testament to the lengths citizens from various countries have gone to protect their cultural heritage during times of conflict.

Handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold, the manuscript is believed to have originated in Catalonia in the mid 14th century.  Splashed among the pages are droplets of red wine, a testament to its use, most likely by a Sephardic family.  Historians believe that the manuscript was spirited out of Spain after King Ferdinand decreed that Jews should be expelled in 1492.

During this exodus, many Sephardic Jews relocated first to Provence and later to Venice. The Sarajevo Haggadah surfaced in Venice in 1609, during a period when Jews were prohibited from printing books and restricted to the islet of Cannaregio.  Subject to inspection during the inquisition, where texts perceived as dangerous to the Church were burned, the book was ultimately spared, as witnessed by the handwritten notation on its pages which was signed by the Dominican inquisitor of Giovanni Vistorini, censor of Hebrew texts.

The manuscript made its way eventually to Sarajevo, where it was housed but not displayed publically at the Archaeological Museum, now National Museum in Sarajevo.

During the Second World War the manuscript was hidden from Nazi forces through the ingenuity of the museum’s director, Jozo Petrovic, and Dervis Korkut, an ethnic Albanian Muslim who served as the museum’s chief librarian.  With the help of a Muslim imim in Zenica the Sarajevo Haggadah was hidden in a mosque’s library until after the war.

During the 1992-1995 Bosnian war the manuscript was again subject to great risk. Sarajevo was on the front line and constantly under siege by Bosnian Serb forces.  To keep the text safe from harm or potential looting the director of the Museum, Enver Imamovic under armed guardsequestered the manuscript in an underground vault at the National Bank. Despite being safe, several newspaper articles around the world speculated that the Sarajevo Haggadah  had been secretly sold and used to buy arms to support the ongoing conflict.  This rumor was proved false when the newly instated president of Bosnia presented the manuscript publicly at a community Seder in 1995.

In 2001 Jacques Klein, the head of the U.N. mission in Bosnia along with two international experts examined the Haggadah at the invitation of UNESCO. Through the joint efforts of the UN Mission, which donated $50,000,  Klein himself, the German Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Bank and Bosnia's Jewish community minor repairs were undertaken on the Haggadah, primarily working to conserve its binding.   A space to permanently exhibit the Haggadah was also established and the manuscript at last went on public display in December 2002.

In the last ten years Sarajevo's National Art Gallery, its National Library and the Historical Museum, have joined the National Museum in slow decline due to lack of funding.  Resourceful staffers first tried to squirrel away resources by cutting their heating, then staff salaries or in some cases, opening their doors to the public only a few days per week.  Eventually, failing to find alternative funding solutions, the National Museum was forced to lock its doors.

According to cultureshutdown.net, February 4, 2013 marked the National Museum in Sarajevo’s 125th anniversary.  Wooden planks were nailed over entrance last October despite pleas for civic intervention to save the museum and its collection. At this birthday celebration all well-wishers could do was light 125 candles and lay 125 roses.

The museum's deputy director, Marica Filipovic, said that the institution had survived two world wars and the Bosnian conflict: "But it seems it will not survive the peace.”

Here's a link to a report from Radio Free Europe last April on the Sarajevo Haggadah.

February 7, 2013

Portrait of a Museum Theft Case: The 2007 Robbery of the Museum of Fine Arts in Nice

Jan Brueghel the Elder's
 "Allegorie de la terre"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last night after looking up stolen snuffboxes on INTERPOL's Works of Art database, I curiously looked up Recovered Items and found a pair of paintings by Brueghel, Allegorie de la terre and Allegorie de l'eau, recovered in Marseille in June 2008. INTERPOL provides thumbnail images of the paintings; descriptions (in this case, for example, exterior scene with figures and animals, not religious); measurements; and the date of recovery. The rest of the information can be found from articles published online:


Brueghel's "Allegorie de l'eau"
On August 5, 2007, at about 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, five masked thieves with weapons entered the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice and left five minutes later with the two paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder and two Impressionist works: Claude Monet’s 1897 “Cliffs Near Dieppe” and Alfred Sisley’s 1890 “Lane of Poplars at Moret-sur-Loing” ("Four Masterpieces Stolen from French Museum", The New York Times, August 7, 2007).

Alfred Sisley's "Lane of Poplars at Moret"
Ten months later, French police recovered the four paintings in Marseilles and detained more than 10 people in Nice and Marseilles ("French police recover stolen art by Monet, Brueghel", Reuters, June 4, 2008).  The sting operation had involved undercover FBI Agent Robert Wittman posing as an American art dealer ready to purchase the stolen art for more than $4 million in cash ("From the Art World to the Underworld", Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008).  In Wittman's memoir Priceless (Crown Publishers, New York, 2010), the then senior investigator of the FBI's Art Crime Team says that as of March 2007 he had "spent nine painstaking months undercover" as "some sort of shady American art dealer" trying to recover the paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

In a Factual Proffer (United States v. Bernard Jean Ternus), the defendant, in an effort to cut a deal with prosecutors and avoid a trial, admits that from August 2007 to June 2008 he and his "co-conspirators" "knowing that the Nice paintings had been stolen" "brokered the sale" of the four works to undercover FBI and French National Police agents (the legal statement details those negotiations).  When the Nice paintings were recovered in Marseilles, Ternus was arrested in Florida. On July 8, Ternus pleaded guilty to "conspiring to transport in interstate and foreign commerce four stolen paintings knowing that they were stolen":
According to plea documents, on Jan. 19, 2008, Ternus met in Barcelona with undercover FBI agents and with an unindicted co-conspirator. At the meeting, Ternus and his unindicted co-conspirator negotiated a two-part transaction with the undercover FBI agents. They would sell all four stolen paintings to the undercover agents for a total of 3 million Euros. Two of the paintings would be transferred in exchange for 1.5 million Euros, and the remaining two paintings would be transferred on a separate date for 1.5 million Euros. According to information entered at court, the defendant and his unindicted co-conspirator structured the two-part transaction to retain leverage with law enforcement in the event anyone was arrested upon the sale of the first two paintings. If this occurred, they intended to use the remaining two paintings to bargain for the release of anyone who was arrested. (Department of Justice)
Ternus had a criminal history:
In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ternus also pleaded guilty to a visa fraud charge before U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia A. Altonaga in Miami. During the plea, Ternus admitted that he fraudulently concealed his French criminal history to obtain a U.S. visa, which he then used to enter and remain in the United States. During the plea, Ternus admitted that, prior to applying for his U.S. visa, he had been arrested in France on at least seven separate occasions, and that he had been convicted in France of assault with a deadly weapon. Ternus also admitted that he knew the visa he obtained and used had been procured by falsely claiming to have no French criminal history. (Department of Justice)
In this April 2009 article by Michael J. Mooney of The Broward Palm Beach New Times, "Trail ends in Florida",  the Nice museum thieves are identified as Pierre Noël-Dumarais "an escaped felon with a long record"; a former boxer; an "Armenian drug dealer living in Marseilles"; and two others.  Mooney tells of a fifth painting targeted in the theft but left on the floor when it couldn't fit into the bag for stolen loot.  According to Mooney, Ternus, living in Florida, got involved in brokering the sale of the Nice paintings via the Armenian drug dealer two months after the theft.  Ternus, according to Mooney, came to the dubious art broker from Philadelphia (Wittman) through local drug traffickers involved in selling cocaine from Colombia. In September 2008, Ternus was sentenced to five years in prison at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

In March 2010, Ternus' conviction was affirmed ("Art thief appeals verdict") by the Eleventh Circuit:
Ternus challenges his conviction, arguing that the foreign commerce element in 18 U.S.C. § 2314 is “jurisdictional.” He contends that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case because there was insufficient evidence in the record that he conspired to transport the stolen paintings in foreign commerce. Ternus’ guilty plea waived all non-jurisdictional defects in the proceedings against him.

In November 2011, the seven men on trial in Aix-en-Provenance claimed that the FBI had instructed them to steal the four paintings from the museum in Nice four years earlier.  A few days later, the French court passed out sentences of two to nine years to the guilty (Noël-Dumarais, who had used a weapon in the heist, received the longer term).

February 6, 2013

Belgian Police Searching for Snuffboxes Stolen from Residence before New Year's Eve

INTERPOL has issued an alert that Belgian Police are searching for 18th and 19th century snuffboxes and boxes stolen December 30 from a Namur residence in the south of Belgium (INTERPOL added 56 stolen items to its  Works of Art Database).

One of the snuffboxes (dated 1795-1797), pictured to the left, is made of gold, diamonds, and translucent blue enamel.  On the lid is a portrait of Napoleon painted on ivory.  It is signed 'AUGUSTIN'.  The jeweller is identified as Adrien Jean Maximilien Vachette, the French goldsmith.  The snuffbox is engraved with "No. 35.E", the same number handwritten on a sticker inside the case that bears the coat of arms of the emperor.

In September 1979, the Smithsonian Institute reported the theft of a $125,000 gold snuffbox, a gift from the Russian Empress Catherine the Great to one of her lovers, Prince Gregory Orlov.  Three years later, the FBI revealed that the gold box had been stripped of its diamonds and melted down.

February 5, 2013

Leila Amineddoleh Quoted in NYTimes Article "Lawyers Fight to Keep Auction Sellers Anonymous"

In the Feb. 3 New York Times article ("Lawyers Fight to Keep Auction Sellers Anonymous") by investigative journalist Tom Mashberg (co-author of Stealing Rembrandts), art lawyer Leila Amineddoleh (ARCA Alum 2010) notes that disclosing the identity of the seller could 'aid with provenance questions and enhance the future value of an item.'

Mashberg reports that an appellate court ruled last October to uphold a state law that requires the names of sellers be given to buyers in post-auction paperwork in order to close the sale.

February 3, 2013

Cultural Property: Upcoming Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in Asia

Here's a link to the Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in Asia to be held February 15-18th in Thimpu Bhutan.  This conference, sponsored by INTERPOL and the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs,  will include a session on the issues of working with INTERPOL in protecting and recovering cultural property in Bhutan.  We'll amend this post to include the final agenda once posted online.

February 1, 2013

Art Crime in the Media: "Art Cops" Highlights theft of Stradivarius, The Romanoff Heist, and the Art Loss Register's Most Wanted

Here's a link to Art Cops, "A new series dealing with the theft of works of art, antiquities, books and maps from major museums, cultural institutions and collectors" (Twitter), hosted by Burt Wolf, a public television host of Travels & Traditions.

This episode, which aired on September 1, 2012 on Iowa Public Television, tells the story of "The Missing Stradivarius", the 1995 theft of a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin stolen from the New York City Apartment of Erica Morini while the 91-year-old Viennese violinist was dying in the hospital. The rare violin remains missing today.  (You can read more about stolen Stradivarius violins on the website of violinist Joshua Bell in an article by David J. Krajicek for The New York Daily News.  Mr. Wolf interviews Mr. Bell; Christopher Marinello of The Art Loss Register (and a frequent speaker at ARCA's art crime conferences); Dorit Straus, world-wide fine arts manager at Chubb Insurance Company (and an ARCA Lecturer); Bob Wittman, former FBI agent; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, head of the FBI's Art Crime Team.

The same episode discusses "The Romanoff Heist" when thieves stole twelve art works by Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtensteins from the residence of Robert Romanoff in Manhattan's Meat Packing District on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.

Mr. Wolf also identifies three artworks Marinello and The Art Loss Register are "particularly interested in recovering": Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Dona Maar stolen in 1999 from the yacht of a Saudi Prince while anchored for repairs in the harbor at Antibes on the French Riviera; a portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud stolen when the Tate Gallery of London lent the painting to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; and the theft of a painting by Gustav Klimt in 1997 from a gallery under renovation in Italy (someone opened the skylight).

January 31, 2013

Danny Boyle's 2013 "Trance" to Continue the Rakish Image of the Art Thief

"Anyone can steal a painting, all it takes is a bit of muscle, but no piece of art is worth a human life" says the (fictional) thief in the trailer for Danny Boyle's new movie, Trance, set to open in theaters in the United Kingdom on March 27 and in the United States on April 5.

Leah Rozen for BBC America reports that Danny (Slumdog Millionaire) Boyle's psychological thriller involving the theft of a Goya painting by an amnesiac thief (photogenically played by the Scottish actor James McAvoy) was filmed on location at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  McAvoy's character Simon is an employee at an auction house who grabs a painting off the wall during a diversion, bumps his head, and then allegedly requires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to recovery the memory of where he hid the stolen painting before his violent associate (Vincent Cassel) tortures the recollection out of him.

Gundlach Art Theft: Case against suspected art thieves slowly working its way through the court appearances

Last September thieves broke into the Santa Monica home of financier Jeffrey Gundlach and stole, amongst his possessions, some very valuable paintings.  Two weeks later, on the other side of Los Angeles County, with the cooperation of various law enforcement agencies, the paintings were recovered and the arrests began.  By early January, six people had been charged in the theft and appeared in court to plead "not guilty" (this is called an arraignment).  A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 6 at 9 a.m. in Department 142 at the Airport Branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  This appearance in court is a just a proceeding to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require a trial.

This theft and recovery of these multimillion dollar paintings seem less glamorous than art thieves  portrayed in the media.  You can read all about art thieves and the media in a piece by Katie Ogden (ARCA 2009) on the ARCA blog here.

January 27, 2013

Recapping the Villa Giulia Symposium - Italy’s Archaeological Looting, Then and Now

By Lynda Albertson,  ARCA 's  CEO

Waking this morning and checking the news bureaus I came across the January 26th New York Times editorial piece The Great Giveback by Hugh Eakin.

Before proceeding further, let me state that despite the almost 2,000 words of commentary by the senior editor of the New York Review of Books of his personal opinion as to what the motives are in countries like Italy in seeking restitution of their looted art, Eakin doesn’t seem to be talking thoughtfully with anyone in Rome at the present time.   If he is, he certainly isn’t attentive to what people closely involved in these cases are saying.

Having just spent last Thursday, January 24th at the round table symposium at the Villa Giulia hosted by Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent Archaeologist for Southern Etruria, in reviewing the work conducted in these contentious cases over the last 15+ years I can assure you that extortion is not, nor has it ever been, a nefarious motive in seeking the return of Italy’s looted antiquities.

Italy’s motive, if it can be summed-up in a simple statement, is to preserve and protect the country’s antiquities for all its generations and in doing so, by recording objects in their discovered contexts, expanding upon our knowledge of the ancient world.

While not as intimately informed about the impetuses for reinstatement of looted art in Greece or Turkey, I think I can speak fairly knowledgeably that like Italy, their objectives are not to strip foreign museums bare of their collections but to protect what is legally defined as theirs.  While at times it can seem prosecutorial, these countries, like Italy, seek to right past wrongs, intentionally malicious or not, and to uphold current international law.  Ancillary to that is to examine preventative measures so that the illicit trade in antiquities doesn’t merely shift to alternate buying markets.

Last Thursday’s meeting in Rome was a chance for people directly involved in the Italian looting cases of which Mr. Eakin speaks to see how far their country has come in working for the return of works of art stolen or exported illegally.  Knowing that as recently as 3 weeks ago a tomborolo in Vulci,  Alberto Sorbera, from Montalto di Castro, suffocated while looting an Etruscan tomb, they are faced with daily evidence which starkly highlights that the country has a long way to go in eliminating its looting problem.

The Villa Giulia meeting was a solemn one.  Thursday’s talks started with an introduction by the Director General for Antiquities Luigi Malnati, who spoke of the continuing difficulties Italy has in terms of manpower and financial potency in securing cultural heritage sites, especially those in remote areas. His exact words were “Senza il controllo del territorio, non si fa nulla”.

Italy’s law enforcement also spoke.  I listened to the thoughtful words of retired General Roberto Conforti, former Commander of the Carabinieri TPC (Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale) who spoke  about the early days of the TPC.  He explained how Italy’s Ministry of Culture trained officers on the intricacies of the art world and how, during his tenure, the collaborative efforts of judges, consultants and museum personnel culminated in much of what we know today of the illegal trade dealings of the principal suppliers involved in these US and foreign museum related cases.

Major Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection and Major Massimo Rossi, Commander of the Cultural Heritage Protection Group of the Guardia di Finanza each spoke about current and ongoing investigations involving recent incidents of plundered art.  Their statistics emphasized that despite growing public awareness, international focus from the archeaological world and cooperation between nations and museums in requesting the return of pillaged objects, the number of looting sites throughout Italian territories are still significant.  Their statistics and images of recent looting served to highlight that the problem with trafficking is ongoing, even if current buyers do not appear to be museum heads.

Maurizio Fiorilli, Attorney General of the State; Guglielmo Muntoni, President of the Court of Review of Rome; and Paolo Giorgio Ferri, former magistrate for the Getty and Met cases and now a judicial advisor to the Directorate General for Antiquities, also spoke of the complexity of Italy’s antiquities trafficking problem.  Fiorilli voiced his opinion that it is necessary for Italy to apply not just judicial pressure, but political pressure as well if Italy is to uphold seizure orders such as the one for The Getty Bronze.  This statue known in Italy as l’Atleta di Fano, the signature piece of The Getty's embattled antiquities collection, was, according to Italian court records, illegally exported before the museum purchased it for $4 million in 1976.

Muntoni spoke about the horror investigators felt when viewing the hundreds of polaroid photos Tomboroli took of Italy’s looted artwork, seen broken and stuffed into the trunks of cars with dirt still clinging to them. He also mentioned his personal disappointment that professional archaeologists and museum curators used U.S. tax laws to inflate the value of donated objects in a rush to have wealthy patrons collude with them to add to their collections.

Paolo Girogio Ferri listened to me thoughtfully as I talked about the continued need to find compromises that neither destroy US museum reputations nor allow them to indefinitely delay the return of objects they know should be returned.  We discussed the lock system of illicit trafficking, and how at the end of the day antiquities should be perceived not just as cultural heritage but as merchandise, and that as long as there are buyers and unprotected territories with objects the buyer wants, looting will continue to represent a problem for safeguarding Italy’s cultural patrimony.

Italian journalists Fabio Isman and Cecilia Todeschini spoke first-hand about current looting cases and the tireless archaeologists in small regional museums who try their best, despite limited funding, to protect what they can.  Daily though, these front-line soldiers take photos of their battle scarred regions as evidence that Italy’s battle against the theft of antiquities has not been won.

Isman highlighted the facts surrounding a very recent article he published in Il Messagero, I predatori dell'arte perduta:due leoni alla corte del Getty, where he brought Italy’s attention to two 1912 archive photographs from the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) taken of the front of the Palazzo Spaventa in Pretùro near Aquila. The photos show two lions, originating from the ancient Sabine city of Amiternum, which flank an entrance to the building as sentinels.  The fact that they are there is not surprising.   This area of the Abruzzo and surrounding territory are known to have been an important zone where Roman funerary lions were carved. What is puzzling is when they were removed and how and when they were trafficked out of Italy.

What we do know though is where they are at present.  Acquired by The Getty in 1958 through some of the same trafficking channels made famous by the more public cases Mr. Eakin has written about, the two statues languish in the museum’s storage.  Not even on display, the Getty's records attribute the lions' provenance to an old Parisian collection and place their origins as Asia Minor.

The topics of these speakers at Thursday’s symposium are just a selection of some of the vocal Italian voices heard at the Villa Giulia this past week.  Their focus is not strong-arm tactic or hostile threat but an honest effort on the part of those involved and who have spent thousands of hours pouring over more than 70,000 pages of evidence to locate the currently-known 1500 trafficked pieces at 40 identified museums.

Trophy hunting?  I think not.  I think Italy is trying to find the head of the snake when so far it had only just started to uncover its tail.

January 26, 2013

January 25, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Speculation Abounds Regarding Recovery of Looted Paintings

When Romanian police arrested three men in Bucharest Tuesday, Rotterdam police confirmed that none of the paintings by Picasso, Freud, Matisse or Gauguin stolen on October 16 had been found yet rumors in the media and declarations by Interpol fuel recovery speculations.

According to an Associated Press article published yesterday by The Huffington Post, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble has declared that he is confident that the paintings will be recovered.

Romanian-Insider.com ran the headline "Stolen Matisse painting offered to Romanian businessman".

But then Rotterdam police announced no paintings have been recovered.

Portrait of a Museum Robbery: The 1998 Theft of Tissot's "Still on Top" from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

At ten minutes past 11 o'clock in the morning on Sunday, August 9th, 1998, a man with a shotgun entered the Auckland Art Gallery, threatened nearby visitors, then went directly to one of the collections most valuable paintings, James Tissot's "Still on Top" (c 1873).  The thief ripped the painting from the wall, smashed its glass into the painting, and used a crowbar to pry the canvas out of its frame.  He then ran outside the gallery into a nearby park and escaped on a motorcycle.  The robbery took less than four minutes.

Here in this YouTube video, Auckland Art Gallery - Restoring Tissot, is surveillance footage of the crime, the story of the damaged painting recovery nine days later, and the long process of restoration for public display.

James Tissot's "Still on Top"
Many of the original newspaper stories published in The New Zealand Herald can be ordered via email through the Auckland City Council Library here.

The man arrested eight days later had demanded a ransom of more than $260,000 from the Auckland Art Gallery and hidden the damaged work underneath a bed.  One year later, Anthony Sannd was found guilty and sentenced to nearly 17 years in jail, including charges related to two armed robberies of a security van and a bank branch.

The New Zealand art museum accepted $500,000 for the loss in value for the damaged Tissot painting and was able to repair the work and return it for public display three years later.

On February 1, 2005, the thief, Anthony Sannd (also known as Ricardo Genovese), escaped from a prison farm and eluded recapture for almost four weeks (during which time he was alleged to have stolen a BMW and burgled a home).  Two more years was added to his sentence.  Sannd was released from jail in March 2012.  Then Sannd filed a claim that the government owed him $100,000 for keeping him in jail six months longer than he had been sentenced.

January 22, 2013

Organized crime unit of Romanian police arrest three men for Kunsthal Rotterdam theft; no paintings found

Romanian police arrest three men suspected of robbing
Kunsthal Rotterdam last October.
Today DutchNews.nl in its post "Three arrested for Kunsthal art theft in Romania, say local media"cited Nos Television as the source of the information.

The photo to the left is from the online Romanian news service Adevarul.

On the Dutch television channel, Nos cites a Rotterdam police twitter for the information that none of the paintings stolen from a temporary exhibit on October 16 were recovered.  Nos cites Romania's antena3.ro for information that the suspects have been arrested and will be held for 30 days in police custody while the investigation proceeds.  According to the report out of Romania, the police on the case specialize in combatting Organized Crime and Terrorism.

Martijn van der Starre and Irina Savu for Bloomberg News quote police spokesman Roland Ekkers that none of the stolen paintings by Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin or Lucian Freud were found.  A Bucharest court issued the arrest warrant.
Kunsthal Rotterdam

According to Robin Van Daalen for The Wall Street Journal online (Three Arrested Over Dutch Art Theft), a Romanian police spokeswoman said 'that officers had "carried out multiple activities" at the request of organized-crime prosecutors and that the operations were continuing'.

BBC News covered the theft under Rotterdam Dutch art thefts lead to Romanian arrests.

You can read previous ARCA blog posts about this theft here regarding the theft; the press conference; expert opinions; questions the day after the theft; available information about the owner of the paintings, the Triton Foundation; discussion with former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill; discussion with security consultant Ton Cremers; case progress reported by Rotterdam-Rijnmond police; speculation that flipper method opened back door; AP's press conference video (excerpt); Dutch news reporting theft (video); theft shown on surveillance video; the question of fire alarmed doors; former FBI agent Virginia Curry on fire and safety; "overvaluation" of stolen paintings; private art investigator Arthur Brand on last year's rhino theft adjacent to Kunsthal and Irish organized thieves; and Brand on messenger bag used in theft.


January 18, 2013

Roundtable Discussion Organized by the Archaeological Superintendency of Southern Etruria on "Illicit trafficking and recovered cultural patrimony: Results and Perspective" at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia on Jan. 24

A roundtable discussion on "Illicit trafficking and recovered cultural patrimony: Results and Perspective" will be held at Fortune Hall at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia at 9.30 on Thursday, January 24, 2013.  The meeting, chaired by journalist Cinzia Dal Maso, will serve as the closing event to the Villa Giulia's current exhibition, I predatori dell’Arte e il Patrimonio ritrovato.

An internationally focused exhibition, inaugurated on European Heritage Day 2012 which  ran from September 29th through December 15th 2012 was inaugurated on the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2012 and was exhibited on the first floor of the Villa Giulia. The exhibition consisted of recovered objects, illegally looted and trafficked from multiple locations around Italy dating back as far as the 1970's and recovered as the result of seizures made, beginning in Switzerland in 1995. 

As a result of the exhibitions success in Italy's capital city, Rome, the pieces will go on display in the Spring at the National Archaeological Museum of Vulci and at the National Etruscan Museum of Cerveteri during the summer.

This January round table discussion, draws upon the title of the exhibition and was developed to provide a platform for thoughtful discussion and scientific debate regarding the sharing of information throughout this series of interwoven cases.  The round table will cover the various flows of information throughout the cases lengthy discovery and will consist of many principle voices involved in the information sharing of this case.  This discussion will strive to present a critical comparison and analysis of the problems associated with illicit trafficking while focusing on differing perspectives in achieving possible solutions for the long term problem. 

Based on these considerations, the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Southern Etruria, in collaboration with the Directorate General of Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, has planned a day of topics divided into morning and afternoon panel sessions.  One session will focus on the results obtained so far in the field recovery.  The second session will  be forward thinking, looking towards the future and Italy's prospects for the recovery of its cultural patrimony. 

During the first session, after the introduction from the Director General of Antiquities Luigi Malnati, there are themed presentations aimed at highlighting the operational aspect of the cases, showing the work done by the Judiciary, the Carabinieri TPC, by the Guardia di Finanza and by the archaeologists Ministry of Culture.   Those attending the session will have the opportunity to hear the thoughts and impressions of General Roberto Conforti, former Commander of the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection; Guglielmo Muntoni, President of the Court of Review of Rome; Maurizio Fiorilli, Attorney General of the State; Lynda Albertson, CEO, The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art; Major Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations, Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection; and Major Massimo Rossi, Commander of the Cultural Heritage Protection Group of the Guardia di Finanza. Rounding out the discussions will be Italian journalists Fabio Isman and Cecilia Todeschini.  

The afternoon session, focusing on future initiatives in the field will discuss guidelines and possible solutions to the trafficking problem.  Speakers will include Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent Archaeologist for Southern Etruria; Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Magistrate and judicial advisor to the Directorate General for Antiquities; Jeannette Papadopoulos, Director of Services III to the Directorate General for Antiquities; Anna Maria Dolciotti, the Directorate General of Antiquities; Pier Giovanni Guzzo, former Superintendent Archaeologist for Naples and Pompeii; Francesca Spatafora, Director of the  Archaeological Park Himera; and Maurizio Pellegrini, official archaeologist of the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Southern Etruria.

After the presentations, the floor will open for discussion and feedback of the topics presented followed by a wine tasting from the wine cellars of Casale Cento Corvi e Castello di Torre in Pietra.

Friday, January 18, 2013 - No comments

SOPRINTENDENZA PER I BENI ARCHEOLOGICI DELL’ETRURIA MERIDIONALE MUSEO NAZIONALE ETRUSCO DI VILLA GIULIA Sala della Fortuna Tavola rotonda I traffici illeciti e il patrimonio ritrovato: risultati e prospettive


24 gennaio 2013/COMUNICATO STAMPA

Giovedì 24 gennaio 2013 si svolgerà nella Sala della Fortuna del Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, la tavola rotonda I traffici illeciti e il patrimonio ritrovato: risultati e prospettive.

L’incontro, moderato dalla giornalista Cinzia Dal Maso, vuole essere la giusta conclusione della mostra I predatori dell’Arte e il Patrimonio ritrovato. Storie del recupero, inaugurata in occasione delle Giornate Europee del patrimonio 2012 e allestita al piano nobile del Museo dal 29 settembre al 15 dicembre 2012. Nella mostra veniva illustrato l’ingente patrimonio archeologico disperso a causa degli scavi di frodo fin dagli anni ’70 del secolo scorso e recuperato a seguito di un sequestro operato in Svizzera nel 1995.

La mostra, dopo il successo romano, sarà riproposta la prossima primavera nel Museo archeologico nazionale di Vulci e in estate nel Museo nazionale etrusco di Cerveteri.

La tavola rotonda, nel ricalcare il titolo della mostra, intende promuovere il dibattito scientifico che segue le fasi dell’esposizione e della divulgazione in una riflessione a più voci finalizzata allo scambio delle reciproche informazioni, al confronto, all’analisi dei problemi e delle criticità e soprattutto alla proposta delle possibili soluzioni e prospettive.

Partendo da queste considerazioni, la Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici dell’Etruria meridionale, in collaborazione con la Direzione Generale per le Antichità del MiBAC, ha previsto una articolata giornata di lavori con una partizione in due aree tematiche: quella dei risultati finora ottenuti nel campo del recupero e quella delle prospettive future, distribuite in due differenti sezioni di interventi del mattino e del pomeriggio.

Nella prima parte, dopo l’introduzione del Direttore Generale per le Antichità Luigi Malnati, sono previsti gli interventi volti ad evidenziare l’aspetto operativo della questione, mostrando il lavoro compiuto dalla Magistratura, dai Carabinieri TPC, dalla Guardia di Finanza e dagli archeologi del MiBAC. Ascolteremo le parole del generale Roberto Conforti, già Comandante dei Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, di Guglielmo Muntoni, Presidente del Tribunale del Riesame di Roma, di Maurizio  Fiorilli dell’Avvocatura Generale dello Stato, di Lynda Albertson dell’Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, del maggiore Massimiliano Quagliarella, Capo Sezione Operazioni Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale e del maggiore Massimo Rossi, Comandante del Gruppo Tutela Patrimonio Artistico della Guardia di Finanza. Completeranno il quadro dell’analisi dei risultati i giornalisti Fabio Isman e Cecilia Todeschini.

La sessione pomeridiana, orientata invece alle prospettive future, alle linee di indirizzo e alle possibili soluzioni delle criticità emerse, vedrà la partecipazione di Alfonsina Russo, Soprintendente Archeologo per l’Etruria Meridionale, di Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Magistrato e consulente giuridico della Direzione Generale per le Antichità, di  Jeannette  Papadopoulos, Direttore del Servizio III della Direzione Generale per le Antichità, di Anna Maria Dolciotti della Direzione Generale per le Antichità,  di Pier Giovanni Guzzo, già Soprintendente Archeologo per Napoli e Pompei, di Francesca Spatafora, Direttore del Servizio Parco Archeologico di Himera, e di Maurizio Pellegrini, funzionario archeologo della Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici dell’Etruria Meridionale.

Dopo gli interventi si aprirà la discussione per le considerazioni conclusive della giornata dei lavori.
Al termine verrà offerta una degustazione di vini delle cantine "Casale Cento Corvi e Castello di Torre in Pietra".
  
Maggiori dettagli del programma sono disponibili nel file PDF allegato.

Marco Sala
Ufficio per la Comunicazione
Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria Meridionale
Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9
00196 Roma
Tel 06 3226571  fax 06 3202010

January 16, 2013

Lecture booked at the Getty Villa tonight: "Saving Herculaneum: The Challenges of Archaeological Conservation"

As of noon today, all seats are taken for the free lecture at the Getty Villa tonight: Herculaneum Conservation Project director Andrew Wallace-Hadrill will speak of the archaeological work at the ancient sister city of Pompeii.
From 1995 to 2009 [Andrew Wallace-Hadrill] served as director of the British School at Rome and is currently director of research of the faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge. An expert on the archaeology of the Vesuvian cities, he was awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's James R. Wiseman Award in 1995 for his book Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (1994). He has written several other books, including Rome's Cultural Revolution (2008), Augustan Rome (1993), Suetonius: The Scholar and His Caesars (1985), and most recently Herculaneum: Past and Future (2011). He has held visiting fellowships at Princeton University and the J. Paul Getty Museum, and is a frequent contributor to radio and television broadcasts. 
The Herculaneum Conservation Project is funded by The Packard Humanities Institute which also supports conservation efforts of the removal of the mosaics from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma in eastern Turkey before the area was flooded for a dam.

January 15, 2013

Norwegian police suspect Irish Travellers of Stealing Chinese Artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen last week

Maeve Sheehan, a contributing writer for Irish Independent, reports in Irish Traveller gang linked to audacious Norway art heist that Norwegian police "suspect the same gang of Irish Travellers who have already been linked by Europol to a string of robberies, money laundering, and counterfeit goods" in last week's theft of Chinese artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen.

Last October, former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill spoke of the similarity between "the Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010" and the break-in at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.  Private art investigator Arthur Brand offered his suspicions earlier on this blog regarding the Kunsthal Rotterdam and a theft a year earlier of rhino horns from the Natural History Museum across from the Kunsthal.


January 12, 2013

Smithsonian Channel re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", a documentary on Maurizo Seracini's decades long search for the artist's lost mural at Florence's town hall

The Smithsonian Channel is re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", the story of Maurizio Seracini's controversial search for Leonardo Da Vinci's 1505 The Battle of Anghiari mural underneath a Giorgio Vasari fresco at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. (This 2006 documentary is also available on DVD.) Here in Britian's The Guardian, art blogger Jonathan Jones asked last March "Did Vasari save a Da Vinci for us?", describing Vasari's redecoration of Florence's town hall for the Medici family as a coverup to erase its republican past. However, in September, Priscilla Frank for The Huffington Post (one of many journalists that did cover the story) reported that Seracini's search for The Battle of Anghiari has been suspended.  You can read why here.

January 9, 2013

Gundlach art theft: Six people charged with first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property three months after artworks recovered

One man has been accused of breaking into the private residence of financier Jeffrey Gundlach in Santa Monica, California, last September to steal 13 artworks by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Jasper Johns, and Joseph Cornell.  Hours later, the thief allegedly returned to take Gundlach's Porsche at the request of the manager of a Pasadena car & stereo shop where the paintings had been stashed.  It's about a 70-mile roundtrip between the site of the theft and the hiding place for the artwork.  Prosecutors also charge that the thief's mother and two brothers helped to conceal and sell the stolen paintings.  A sixth person is accused of receiving the stolen items.

This is the press release issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office issued on January 4, 2013:
LOS ANGELES – Six people are awaiting arraignment this afternoon in connection with the $3.2 million theft of paintings, wine, jewelry and a car from financier Jeffrey Gundlach in September, the District Attorney’s Office announced. 
Darren Agee Merager, 43, allegedly broke into Gundlach’s Santa Monica home between Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, 2012, and stole valuable art work, jewelry and wine, said Deputy District Attorney Alva Lin with the Airport Branch office. Merager then allegedly returned hours later and stole Gundlach’s Porsche at the behest of Jay Jeffrey Nieto, 45. 
Nieto allegedly helped conceal the stolen art and other items at his Pasadena store. Pasadena police, who received a tip, and the Santa Monica Police Department investigated the case. 
Charged as co-conspirators are Merager’s 68-year-old mother, Brenda Joyce Merager, and two brothers, 29-year-old Wanis George Wahba and his 26-year-old brother, Ely George Wahba. The three allegedly tried to sell and conceal the stolen items. In addition, Wilmer Bolosan Cadiz, 40, is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen items. 
The six, who are charged in case SA082879 with multiple counts, including first-degree residential burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property, are scheduled to be arraigned at the Los Angeles Superior Court, Airport Branch, in Department 144. 
Prosecutors will ask that bail be set at $10 million for each defendant. 
Merager, who has multiple prior convictions, is facing more than nine years in state prison if convicted.
Here's a few links to earlier coverage on this blog regarding the theft and the recovery of Gundlach's stolen art.

Here in the Beverly Hills Weekly last February is a notice that Merager was arrested on January 25, 2012 for receiving "known stolen property"; and here is a notice in the Laguna Beach Independent that Merager was arrested on May 17 for a Beverly Hills warrant for stolen property and that bail had been set at $500,000.  Merager, who's residence was identified as Lake Havasu (Arizona), travels extended from Los Angeles to Orange County.

January 8, 2013

Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum robbed of Chinese antiques

Here's a link to the surveillance video of two men carrying baskets who break into the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts (Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum) in Bergen through a window panel, smash glass display cases, and grab items before running back out in less than two minutes.

The Norway Post reports online that 23 Chinese antiques of made from "jade, bronze, porcelain and wood" were stolen on Saturday, January 5.  Earlier the Norway Post quoted the Bergen Tidende that the alarm sounded at 5.20 a.m and that the same institution was robbed two years ago.

Here's a link to an article in the online news-in-English.

Update: The museum has posted detailed versions of the photos on their Facebook page and would like help spreading the images world wide.  Please like and repost.  With the help of social networking perhaps these objects will be reported as being seen. 

Mes Aynak Archaeologists Given More Time to Remove Relics and Artifacts

Documentarian Brent E. Huffman has announced on his Kickstarter page, The Buddhas of Mes Aynak, that archaeologists have six to nine more months to remove relics and artifacts from the ancient monastery in Afghanistan before the site is transformed into the world's second largest copper mine.

The remains of Mes Aynak of more than 300 Buddha statues and stupas were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of 2012 (here's an ARCA interview with Mr. Huffman last September on the site's endangerment and background on archaeologists' efforts to protect the site).

Here's a link to a 12/12/12 interview on PBS with Huffman.  And here's a link to an Opinion article by freelance journalist Andrew Lawler in The New York Times "Chinese-Led Copper Mining Threatens Afghan Buddhist Monasteries" that notes Buddhism came to China from Middle Asia where it thrived from the 3rd to the 9th centuries.