April 23, 2013

Leila Amineddoleh Begins First Month as Executive Director for the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Leila Amineddoleh (Cappadocia)
Leila Amineddoleh (ARCA Alum '10) is the new Executive Director for the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation as of April 1.

Ms. Amineddoleh is of counsel at Lombard & Geliebter LLP and Adjunct Professor at Fordham University School of Law. In addition, Leila has been a frequent contributor to the ARCA Blog and a presenter at ARCA's Art Crime Conference. Leila, a pianist, also created "Classical Twist" with ARCA classmate and violinist Daniella Fischetti.

What will you be looking forward to this year in your role as Executive Director?
I am so excited about this position because the LCCHP is a great organization. The committee is in the midst of planning an exciting conference in NYC (tentatively planned for Nov 1-2,2013); submitting a written statement and testifying in support of the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between China and the US; continuing our call for the return of the ancient golden table at issue in In Re: Riven Flamenbaum; supporting the work of the Cambodian and US governments in repatriating a looted statue from Cambodia; and various other advocacy projects that are in the works.
Will we be seeing you in Amelia and are you presenting?
Unfortunately I will not be at the 2013 ARCA conference, but I will be spending time in Italy as I'll be teaching Art & Cultural Heritage Law in Rome for St. John's School of Law's summer program. What other upcoming conferences or panels will you be attending? Earlier this month I moderated a panel at Fordham Law School entitled "Defining Cultural Ownership: Shifting Focus, Shifting Norms..." It was well-attended and absolutely fascinating, as we had a fantastic line-up of speakers. My time in Italy this summer will also be busy with events, as my course includes tours around Rome, a field trip to the Roman Forum (led by an archaeologist), and various other events. I haven't committed to any other major events scheduled for after my time in Rome, due to the demands of my litigation practice. However, things in NY generally start getting hectic again in the fall.

April 17, 2013

B. A. Shapiro invents a fifth version of Degas' "After the Bath" in the book "The Art Forger" which focuses on the Boston art world and the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Degas' After the Bath c 1883
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

B. A. Shapiro's The Art Forger (Algonquin Books, 2012) mixes elements with the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Theft with the Boston art world and art forgery. Ms. Shapiro uses a fictional painting by Edgar Degas, After the Bath, in this art crime novel.

Here's a link to the book review in The New York Times by Maxwell Carter, an associate vice president and a specialist in Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, which provides a nice synopsis of the plot.

Here's a link to the author B. A. Shapiro's website which includes information on art thefts, art forgeries, and encouraging words about writing novels.

This link to a book review last January in the Salisbury Post ("'Art Forger' leaves readers wondering what's real") highlights the author's note at the end of the book:
Shapiro does several clever things. She uses real artists and real connoisseurs like Gardner in the telling of the book. All the forgers Claire learns from are real, as are the techniques they used. She mixes in chapters of Isabella Gardner’s letters to her niece detailing her adventures with Degas — these are juicy fiction. She offers “A Note on the Research” at the end of the book to make clear what is history and what is fiction.
Barbara Shapiro writes in this "Note on the Research":
The painting techniques that Claire uses for both her forgery and her own work are consistent with current practices, as are the descriptions of the struggles of a young artists. The forgers and dealers she discovers through her Internet research were/are actual people, including John Myratt, Ely Sakhai, and Han van Meegeren, and the specifics of their crimes, methods, inventions, and punishments are also accurate. 
The details of the 1990 robbery of Gardner Museum are factual -- it remains the largest unsolved art heist in history -- with the exception of the inclusion of Degas' fifth After the Bath, which neither was stolen nor exists, although it is a composite based on his other four After the Bath works.
Blogger Poul Webb (Arts & Artists) shows images from Degas' studies on women after bathing.

Here's a link to a discussion of Degas' After the Bath at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Quebec's Art Crime Enforcement Unit Reports Recovery of Stolen Domingue Painting

On January 14, Quebec's art crime enforcement unit, a partnership between the province's police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, reported the theft of "Rue Richard", an 18 by 24 cm watercolor by artist Maurice Domingue.

Today Art Alerte, the email notification system for Canada's art crime squad, published the information that the painting has been recovered.

No other information has been made available.

April 16, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - No comments

Our condolences to Boston

Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937
Reina Sofia Museum
Boston hosts great art museums, world-class universities, and a great Marathon. Institutions like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum close today on Patriot's Day. This year more than half a million people lined the streets to cheer more than 26,000 runners until the Boston Marathon ended with two deadly explosions. People were senselessly killed and maimed. One doctor described injuries similar to those resulting from a battlefield. Our hearts mourn with yours. And thank you to all the emergency personnel, including the race's first aid center, who responded so quickly.

April 15, 2013

American Institute for Roman Culture To Host Third Annual UNLISTED Conference on Archaeological Cultural Heritage

"Cultural Heritage in Digital Media: Conversation for Conversation, Sustaining Global Storytelling Online" is the subject for the third annual UNLISTED conference to be sponsored by the American Institute for Roman Culture.

This program, which offers simultaneous translations in English and Italian, will be held at the Marconi University in Rome from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18.
"Conversation for Conservation" 
It is essential to tell a good story on a global level in an accessible manner through the various channels of digital media (e.g., FB, Twitter, Instagram), to foster conversation. This dialogue, in turn, leads to action, having a direct beneficial effect on sites and monuments because of the broad range of people and organizations involved through existing partnerships and participation."
Here's a link AIRC's conference page. The conference can be followed via live streaming courtesy of Marconi University.

Brent E. Huffman, producer of the documentary "The Buddhas of Mes Aynak" (2013), will speak at this conference. Other participants include Stephan Faris, a freelance journalist who writes for TIME (e.g. Gladiator Tomb); Nicolee Drake, professional photographer; Erica Firpo, freelance writer and social media consultant; Sam Horine, professional photographer; and AIRC Documentary Films.

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Art Gallery Robbed Last October to Close for Six Months to go "green"

The Kunsthal Rotterdam robbed last October will close from June to October 2013 for planned reconstruction works, according to the email send out yesterday.
During these months, overdue maintenance will be realised, the main entrance relocated, technical installations renewed, and the sustainability of the entire building shall be improved. The reconstruction works are jointly initiated by the Kunsthal, de municipality of Rotterdam – owner of the building – and architecture firm OMA. The board of the Kunsthal as well as the Mayor and Executive Board of Rotterdam have given their consent for the reconstruction works. 
Seen the scope of the renovation, it has been decided to extend the management of the Kunsthal with a business director, Bas den Hollander. 
The Kunsthal will be closed for visitors during its five months reconstruction works. Therefore, Friends of the Kunsthal and members of the Kunsthal Business Club are compensated and will receive a forthcoming letter with additional information.
Behind the scenes, the Kunsthal-team will continue to work on an exciting exhibition programme.

As from November 2013, we will be happy to welcome you in a beautiful renovated and sustainable building.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: How has the institution faired more than two decades after the theft? Former Undersecretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyman wrote about this last year

Here's an article overlooked by the ARCA Blog last year: In the Boston Globe, a former Undersecretary for Home Security, Juliette Kayyem, wrote in March 2012 of the "Gardner's narrative of resiliency" on the new addition to the institution:

In 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers told the museum night guards on duty that they were responding to a call. The thieves passed the sole security door. There was just one alarm button at the time; only motion detectors traced their movements. There were no cameras. A mere 81 minutes later, they were in possession of the masterpieces worth, today, half a billion dollars. The investigation is ongoing. 
The new building could have been a fortress. But that would have made the theft the focal point of how we would perceive the museum. Instead, the colorless glass entry, the brick walls, even the enclosed corridor that passes from the new building through a grove of trees into Gardner’s historic courtyard serve as practical access controls. There are no doors for the public to the original Gardner mansion. A thief would now have to walk through a transparent glass tunnel, into the new building, and out a security door for the easiest exit. Though counterintuitive, its openness makes it more secure. 
While the museum is watched by hundreds of cameras, the new structure is designed to relieve some of the stress from Gardner’s old home by shifting the burdens of exit and entry to the much more modern and secure building. “There is simply no place in the museum where a thief can just grab art and get outside,’’ Anthony Amore, the head of museum security and author of “Stealing Rembrandts,’’ said.

April 14, 2013

The Buddhas of Mes Aynak: Kickstart Funds Used to Purchase Computers and Cameras for Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul

New computer at Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul
 (Photo via The Buddhas of Aynak on Facebook)
Documentarian Brent E. Huffman raised $35,200 on Kickstart for The Buddhas of Mes Aynak. On Friday he announced on Facebook (The Buddhas of Aynak) that new computers and cameras have been purchased from 10% of those Kickstart funds for the Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul.

"Now the Afghan archaeologists can accurately record record their findings at the Buddhist city at Mes Aynak and other archaeology sites in Afghanistan," Huffman wrote.

Brent Huffman is an assistant professor at the Medil School of Journalism at Northwest University.

German Camera Productions has finished the documentary on the Buddhist monastery ruins sitting on top of a larger copper mine contracted to a Chinese company for extraction. (See previous ARCA blog posts here: archaeological wealth threatened; dangerous precedent; and archeologist's deadline in Mes Aynak extended.

Mary Ellen Gabriel reported for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News ("Archaeologists on front lines of protecting ancient culture in turbulent regions") that archaeologists may only have until June to work at Mes Aynak unless something can be worked out once the excavation begins.
The China Metallurgical Group said in June it will close the site to archaeologists and begin preparing the area to make way for a massive copper mine that will bring in an estimated $100 billion in revenue, of which $3 billion will be paid to the Afghan government. Archaeologists fear that everything will be destroyed, including artifacts from undiscovered levels beneath the Buddhist monuments that may date back to 3000 B.C., during the Bronze Age. 
Though the mine will go forward no matter what, there is still a chance — a small chance — that the excavation site could exist alongside it.
University of Wisconsin-Madison's professor of anthropology J. Mark Kenoyer is working to rally support to preserve the site [again quoting from Ms. Gabriel's article].

“Miracles can happen,” says Kenoyer, which is one reason he agreed to travel for the first time to the heart of Taliban country to help make a dramatic case for preserving this vital piece of global heritage. 

Around the world, archaeological sites are threatened by war, environmental degradation, mining, dam-building, and even mass tourism. Rebellions in Libya, Syria and Mali have endangered not only the lives of millions of people, but thousands of years of human history. 

Archaeologists and anthro-pologists play an increasingly vital role in communicating not only the importance of what will be lost, but the potential benefits to tourism and culture if it can be saved. In the digital age, the impact of a well-crafted story, or petition, or documentary can resonate much further than it might have 15 years ago.

April 13, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013 - , No comments

Rijksmuseum Reopens Today after $480 ten year renovation

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Photo: Telegraph)
Queen Beatrix reopened the Rijksmuseum today amidst fireworks and a queque of people waiting to enter the museum for free after a ten year $480 million renovation designed by Spanish architects Cruz and Ortiz:
The museum covers 800 years of Dutch history through 8,000 objects, distributed through 80 rooms. A one mile (1.5-kilometre) walk around the galleries will take you "from the Middle Ages to Mondrian," the Dutch painter and one of the pioneers of the De Stijl movement in the first half of the 20th century.
But at the heart of the museum's physical and artistic identity is Rembrandt's vast masterpiece of militia intimidation, The Night WatchThe painting, flanked by works by the likes of Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals, symbolises the Golden Age, roughly spanning the 17th century, when the Dutch dominated much of world trade and, as a result, art.
The renovation Rijksmuseum is also known for a special feature -- the nearby bike path leading out of Vogel Park continues through a tunnel running through the middle of the museum:
The museum didn't want the tunnel used as a bike path because of its proximity to the entrance, but the city authorities decided to let the bikes through and monitor the situation.
The Telegraph published a guide on how to get around the renovated Rijksmuseum.

German Government Agrees to Return Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" to Flechtheim's Heirs

Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" (1910)
Museum Ludwig/Marcus Stroetzel via Bloomberg
The ARCA Blog mentioned Alfred Flechtheim and a painting by Oskar Kokoschka in November 2010 when German forgers were suspected of using fraudulent stickers from the Dusseldorf art dealer's gallery to sell artworks falsely attributed to French and German Expressionist artists ("German Forgers May Have Used Catalogs of Jewish Art Dealer").

Alfred Flechtheim fled Nazi Germany when his business was confiscated in 1933 and died in London in 1937. Flechtheim's heirs have tried to recover more than 100 paintings by artists such as Picasso, Juan Gris, Fernand L├ęger, and Vincent van Gogh from European and American museums.

Catherine Hickley reported for Bloomberg News on April 9 that the German government has agreed to return Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" (1910) to Flechtheim's heirs:
“Portrait of Tilla Durieux” (1910) has been in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne since 1976. Flechtheim’s great-nephew Mike Hulton, a medical doctor based in California, filed a claim for the painting’s restitution in 2008, saying the dealer sold it under duress and didn’t get a fair price. The museum said Flechtheim was already in financial trouble before the Nazis came to power and sold the painting to pay off debts. 
“The view of the advisory commission is that this case cannot be exhaustively clarified,” the panel, led by former constitutional judge Jutta Limbach, said in a statement. “Because of an absence of concrete evidence, it is to be assumed that Alfred Flechtheim was forced to sell the disputed painting because he was persecuted.”