July 13, 2013

America's Book of Secrets features segment on the Isabella Stewart Gardner 1990 Theft

Here's the show, America's Book of Secrets on the History Channel, which interviewed ARCA trustee Erik Nemeth (PH.D., Independent Researcher) for an episode aired in June, Lost Treasures.  At around minute 29, the show focuses on the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the segment "Bare Walls". Interviews include FBI Special Agent Geoffrey J. Kelly; Robert K. Wittman, former FBI Special Agent; Nemeth; Catherine Williamson, PH.D., Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Bonhams; and Chris Isleib, Director of Communications, National Archives.

July 12, 2013

FBI Looking for Owners of Recovered Art (Books and Maps)

The FBI has posted images of 57 rare books and maps in hopes of finding the owners:
After a well-known dealer of rare maps was caught stealing from a Yale University library in 2006, a subsequent FBI investigation revealed that the man had stolen antique maps and other valuable items from institutions around the world. Most of the pilfered material was eventually returned to its rightful owners—but not all of it. 
We are still in possession of 57 rare maps and books—some dating to the 17th century—and we would like to return them. To that end, we are posting pictures and information about the items in the accompanying photo gallery in the hopes that the individuals or institutions who own them will come forward to claim them. 
“These items have been legally forfeited to the U.S. government,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages the FBI’s Art Theft Program. “Technically, they belong to the Bureau now, but we don’t want to keep them. Even though we have tried to find the rightful owners over the years, we are making another attempt.” 
After Edward Forbes Smiley, III was arrested for the Yale library theft, he admitted stealing and selling nearly 100 rare maps from international collections over a period of seven years. With Smiley’s cooperation, we tracked down most of the dealers and collectors who purchased the approximately $3 million worth of stolen material. But returning the maps to their homes proved to be a daunting task. 
In many cases, the maps were cut from books with a razor and trimmed so they didn’t look like they came from books. Some of the maps had different titles—many in Latin—and could have come from several known copies of the same book. To further complicate matters, many libraries weren’t even aware they were missing items until we contacted them. 
“These maps aren’t vehicles with identification numbers stamped on them,” Special Agent Stephen J. Kelleher, who led the 2006 investigation, said at the time. Special Agent Lisa MacNamara, who is working the case now from our New Haven, Connecticut Division, added, “Our hope is that by reaching out to the public in this way, we can get these historical items back to where they belong.” 
The items still in our possession include rare maps such as an 18th century depiction of the United States, a 1683 street plan of Philadelphia, and several antique books. 
If you believe that one of the maps or books shown in the gallery was stolen from your collection, please contact Special Agent MacNamara at (203) 503-5268, or send an e-mail to artwork@ic.fbi.gov. To claim any of the items, you will need to provide evidence of ownership and positively identify the item in question. That might include—but is not limited to—giving a description of special markings or stamps, wear patterns, specific damage, or other detailed information.

July 10, 2013

Fire Damage: 17th century Parisian mansion Hôtel Lambert once owned by the Czartoryski and Rothschild families burns for six hours

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Hazardous materials from renovation work complicated fire fighting efforts to save the Hôtel Lambert on the Île St Louis in Paris early Wednesday morning (Euronews).

Built from 1640-44 for the financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert, the mansion had been purchased in the 19th century by Polish exiles of the Czartoryski family (owners of Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine) and purchased from the Rothschild family in 2007 by a Qatar prince. Many politicians, writers (George Sand) and musicians (Chopin) had worked or stayed at Hôtel Lambert.

Angelique Christafis of The Guardian reported more than 140 firefighters and 50 fire engines battled for six hours a blaze believed to have begun on the roof of the 17th century mansion which has been under a controversial renovation. Damage is being assessed:
The Paris fire brigade, which has not yet given a cause for the start of the fire, said work was taking place to establish the extent of fire, smoke and water damage to historic interiors and decorative artwork on walls and ceilings. 
Before the fire, many works inside the building remained in an almost pristine state, including a series of frescos in the gallery of Hercules by Charles Le Brun, the 17th-century French artist who also worked for Louis XIV.
Hôtel Lambert is included in UNESCO's World Heritage Site, "Paris, Banks of the Seine."

In February, the historic Villa Casdagli in Cairo (and former American Embassy) in also suffered extensive fire damage (here's a report by Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group).

July 9, 2013

Tuesday, July 09, 2013 - ,, No comments

Northern Israeli archaeological site unveils granite fragment of Egyptian sphinx -- ancient plunder or gift?

Archaeologist Shlomit Blecher discovered part of a granite Egyptian sphynx in Israel in August 2012, raising the question of plunder or gift?

Dr. Blecher, who manages the The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin, works at Tel Hazor, the ancient Canaanite and Israelite city located in modern Northern Israel.

Here's a YouTube Video from the AFP news agency showing the site and the size of the fragment in comparison to the person holding the granite claws, forearms and hieroglyphics.
Its discovery also marks the first time ever that researchers have found a statue dedicated to Egyptian ruler Mycerinus who ruled circa 2,500 BC and was builder of one of the three Giza pyramids, an expert said.
How did this object travel north? The AFP offers options:
How, when and why it reached Tel Hazor remains a mystery.
"That it arrived in the days of Mycerinus himself is unlikely, since there were absolutely no relations between Egypt and this part of the world then," said Ben-Tor.
"Egypt maintained relations with Lebanon, especially via the ancient port of Byblos, to import cedar wood via the Mediterranean, so they skipped" today's northern Israel, he said.
Another option is that the statue was part of the plunders of the Canaanites, who in the late 17th and early 16th century BC ruled lower Egypt, the expert said.
"Egyptian records tell us that those foreign rulers... plundered and desecrated the local temples and did all kinds of terrible things, and it is possible that some of this looting included a statue like this one".
But to Ben-Tor the most likely way the sphinx reached Tel Hazor is in the form of a gift sent by a later Egyptian ruler.
"The third option is that it arrived in Hazor some time after the New Kingdom started in 1,550 BC, during which Egypt ruled Canaan, and maintained close relations with the local rulers, who were left on their thrones," he said.
"In such a case it's possible the statue was sent by the Egyptian ruler to king of Hazor, the most important ruler in this region." 

"Cultural Heritage in the Crosshairs: Protecting Cultural Property during Conflict" provides case studies of Cultural Property Protection and the military

Dr. Joris D. Kila, University of Amsterdam, and James A. Zeidler, Colorado State University, edited Cultural Heritage in theCrosshairs: Protecting Cultural Property during Conflict (Brill Publications, May 2013).

Dr. Kila, co-recipient with Karl von Habsburg in 2012 of ARCA’s Art Protection and Security Award, attended the 2013 Art and Cultural Heritage Conference in Amelia last month. He has undertaken cultural rescue missions in Iraq, Macedonia, Egypt and Libya and is affiliated with several heritage organizations. In the Blue Shield Winner Heritage under Siege (Brill, 2012), Dr. Kila considered the practical feasibility of the 1954 Hague Convention. 

Dr. Zeidler is a Senior Research Scientist at Colorado State Univesity where he serves as Associate Director for Cultural Resources in the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMMI). He has been involve din Cultural Resource Management on US military installations since 1992 and has provided cultural heritage awareness training to US troops deployed in the Middle East.
The protection of cultural property during times of armed conflict and social unrest has been an on-going challenge for military forces throughout the world even after the ratification and implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols by participating nations. This volume provides a series of case studies and “lessons learned” to assess the current status of Cultural Property Protection (CPP) and the military, and use that information to rethink the way forward. The contributors are all recognized experts in the field of military CPP or cultural heritage and conflict, and all are actively engaged in developing national and international solutions for the protection and conservation of these non-renewable resources and the intangible cultural values that they represent.
Here’s a list of the chapters (the book can be purchased online; its discounted 25% through 31-12-2013 with the Action Code 50555):

Chapter 1: Introduction by Karl von Habsburg
Chapter 2: "Military involvement in Cultural Property Protection as part of Preventive Conservation" by Joris D. Kila
Chapter 3: "Respecting and Protecting Cultural Heritage in Peace Support Operations – a pragmatic approach" by Colonel Dr. Michael Pesendorfer
Chapter 4: "Cultural Property Protection and the Training Continuum in the US Department of Defense" by James A. Zeidler
Chapter 5: "Developing a Cultural Property Protection Training Program for ROTC: Methodology, Content, and Structure" by John A Valainis
Chapter 6: "Conflicting memory: The use of conflict archaeology sites as training for operational troops" by Richard Osgood
Chapter 7: "Developing a NATO Cultural Property Protection Capability" by CDR Michael Hallett
Chapter 8: "Aiming to Miss: Engaging with the Targeting Process as a means of Cultural Property Protection" by Michael Hallett
Chapter 9: "A Case Study in Cultural Heritage Protection in a Time of War" by CPT Benjamin A. Roberts and LTC Gary B. Roberts (Ret.)
Chapter 10: "Counterinsurgency: A Tool for Cultural Heritage?" by Cheryl White and Tommy Livoti
Chapter 11: "Heritage Destruction and Spikes in Violence: The Case of Iraq" by B. Isakhan
Chapter 12: "A Report on Archaeological Site Stability and Security in Afghanistan: The Lashkari Bazar Survey" by Matthieu J. Murdock and Carrie A. Hritz
Chapter 13: "Holy Places – Contested Heritage: Dealing with Cultural Heritage in the Region of Palestine From the Ottoman Period until Today" by Friedrich T. Schipper
Chapter 14: "Urban cultural heritage and armed conflict: the case of Beirut Central District" by Caroline A. Sandes
Chapter 15: "Antiquity & Conflict: Some Historical Remarks on a Matter of Selection" by Mirjam Hoijtink
Chapter 16: "Plundering Boys: A cultural criminology assessment on the power of cultural heritage as a cause for plunder in armed conflicts along history" by Marc Balcells (ARCA Alum).

July 3, 2013

Elmyr de Hory's friend Mark Forgy Begins Campaign on kickstarter.com to launch play "The Forger's Apprentice" at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

Mark Forgy, a friend of the forger Elmyr de Hory, sent out an email today:
Dear Friends,
I’m excited to share a new adventure with you. We’ve launched The Forger’s Apprentice – the new play—on kickstarter.com. This is a website dedicated to helping develop new projects. Please visit  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1072981678/the-forgers-apprentice-a-new-play to view a video about our play, interviews with our cast members, and check out our supporter-friendly donor incentive packages. We need and encourage your help in realizing this world premier stage adaptation of my story and life with one of the most remarkable artists of modern times. Mary Abbe, Arts columnist of the Star Tribune called my book “an incredible read.” It’s time to bring this amazing tale to life. Please be a valued part of this creative process. We anticipate a wonderful production. Advance ticket sales are available at: http://www.fringefestival.org/2013/show/?id=2463
Thank you for your help
This theatrical event also has a Facebook page and has five scheduled performances from August 3 through August 11 at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival.

According to Mr. Forgy: "The play dramatizes the complex relationship between Elmyr de Hory and his two apprentices, one who wants to protect him and the other who seeks to destroy him. It is a story that is rich with outrageous humor, tragedy, love and search for the truth as seen through the eyes of his true protégé."
This new play is based on the book The Forger’s Apprentice (a true story) by Mark Forgy. Described by Star Tribune Arts columnist Mary Abbe as “an incredible read,” veteran MN Fringe producers Kevin Bowen (The Red Tureen) and Sara Pilatzki-Warzeha (Thick Chick) bring to the stage a Kafka-meets-Marx Brothers tale of Elmyr (pronounced el-MEER) de Hory a.k.a. the world’s greatest art forger. 
The drama unfolds in a courtroom hearing on 7 December 1976, deciding whether Elmyr will be extradited from Spain to stand trial in France for art crimes based on charges concocted by Fernand Legros, his increasingly menacing dealer bent on destroying him. Elmyr’s young American protégé, Mark, intent on protecting his artist/mentor friend navigates this Dali-esque reality of misplaced trust, half-truths and lies trying to reconcile what’s authentic, what’s not. In the aftermath of a life governed by duplicity Elmyr struggles to shed his image of talented scoundrel; hoping for a reevaluation of his art untainted by reputation but based on artistic merit. While his relationship with Mark achieves a depth neither anticipated, Mark’s innocence blinds him to the threat Fernand Legros poses. During the days before the pending court decision that will determine Elmyr’s fate, he reflects on the ironies of his life, the effects of free but poor choices, the circumstantial nature of morality, the dirty little secrets of the art world, and  events determined not by him, but others. 

In 1973 Orson Welles produced his last feature film: F for Fake, a docu-fantasy on the world of trickery and illusion. De Hory was its focus. Welles adored Elmyr and felt a roguish/artistic kinship with the artist, drawing trompe l’oeil correlations between film and fine art, how artifice and pretense in each domain create a parallel universe more deserving of suspicion than eulogy. While taking some artistic license with this stage adaptation of “The Forger’s Apprentice,” the unreality of the story and characters is eerily close to fact. It is bizarre and wildly entertaining; a piece about which Lewis Carroll might have written, “I wish I had thought of that.”
The Forger's Apprentice was published in July 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

San Francisco art critic Jonathan Keats wrote about Elmyr de Hory in his book FORGED: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age (December 2012, Oxford University Press).

July 2, 2013

The New York Times' Tom Mashberg Points Out Turkish Claims over Lydian Bed in Storage at The Getty

Tom Mashberg writing for The New York Times on July 1 reports in "No Quick Answers in Fights Over Art" that quick resolutions over allegedly looted objects are 'rare':
More typical are disputes like one between Turkey and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles over a fifth-century bronze bed known as a Lydian kline, which has been an item of contention since 1995.
A PowerPoint Presentation available on the Internet and attributed to Brown University's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World describes the bed for a Lydian princess: "This bed is a metallurgical masterpiece as it is made in iron, completely covered with leaded tin bronze and with a copper lattice cast-in." The presentation, who's author is not identified, writes:
Acquired by J. Paul Getty Museum in 1982, this Lydian masterpiece has never been on display. Looted from a tumulus chamber in Lydia in 1979. Identified as the Alahidir tumulus in Turkey, the bed will be reclaimed by the Turkish Authorities, who have visited the bed in the Getty storerooms.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art repatriated the Lydian Hoard in 1993 back to Turkey. Journalist Sharon Waxman wrote about "Chasing the Lydian Hoard" in Smithsonian Magazine in 2008.

July 1, 2013

Monday, July 01, 2013 - , No comments

Ann Shaftel on "The art and craft of preserving art"

Canadian conservator Ann Shaftel has written on "The art and craft of preserving art", especially the maintenance of sacred textiles. Strong cleaning chemicals and modern lighting affect religious cloths and change the way the materials are cared for, Ms. Shaftel points out in the May-June 2013 for Tashi Delek:

For centuries, old treasures in monasteries and private homes have been cared for by resident nuns and monks. The longevity of these precious treasures is determined every day as the caretakers handle, clean and display these treasures on Buddhist shrines. Every Bhutanese home has an altar with thangkas and statues. Some shops and businesses also have an area with a thangka and offerings. Kiras, ghos (Bhutanese dress for me) and other everyday sacred family treasures that are woven into the fabric of daily life in Bhutan hold profound importance for the continuity of traditional Bhutanese culture. Yet the task of caring for them can baffle most. 
So there is robust logic in training nun, monks and private individuals in the care of these objects in their homes, nunneries and monasteries to enable them to gain basic preservation know-how. Though it is necessary to have some scientific understanding of materials and their behaviour, it can be combined with the dedication of caretakers and traditional rspect and methods to help preserve the treasures of Bhutan.

From Inside Neolithic Walls: On Collaboration and Cooperation

Hong Kong police officer Toby Bull presents at
ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia.
(Photo by Illicit Cultural Property)
by Martin Terrazas, co-posting with plundered art

I have been asked about the quality of the program offered by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, similarly, the Provenance Research Training Program. Why travel across the Atlantic Ocean despite such expense? Why attend postgraduate certificate-based programs in unfamiliar cultures and societies?

Daily moments of cross-cultural communication at Caffé Grande evoke inspiration: Understanding the tone of a buongiorno is essential. The relationship between customer and barista in implicit. Friendliness and attempts to become more Italian are rewarded with pleasantries. The morning caffeine jolt is more than a financial exchange; it requires mutual cooperation and collaboration.

Therein lies lessons for preventing art crime and conducting provenance research. There is little room for undue opposition and overly emotional outbursts as both are forensic exercises, in which, ultimately, the objective is to determine who has proper title to a stolen object. Research, investigation, analysis, and context are essential. The desire to jockey into position for fame and fortune is futile; ambition, in Amelia, Magdeburg, Zagreb, and future conference cities, is better focused on becoming a more refined, cooperative and ethical professional.

The existence of dishonorable participants in the art market is given; the larger question is whether these individuals define the art market or rather the art market defines them. Experience with “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume” and other databases allows me to realize that greed marks a loss of power and reputation. Rather than intrigue, the initials of Adolph Hitler and Hermann Göring on archival documents eternally evoke disgust and failure.

In saying benvenuto in the current “age of angst”, it is better to live in an environment of mutual cooperation.[1] Amelia and the think tank that settles into its crevices during the Mediterranean’s hottest months, similar to the periodic week-long efforts as a result of the 2009 Terezín Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, empowers future generations to learn through discourse and discussion.

 [1] Joergen Oerstrom Moeller, “Welcome to the Age of Angst,” Singapore Management University, 12 August 2012.

Martin Terrazas is a student with the Association for Research into Crimes against Art. He is a contributor to the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. He assisted in the release and continues in the expansion of “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects” – a cooperation between the Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Restitution Organization, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Archives and Records Administration, Das Bundesarchiv, and Ministère des Affaires étrangère et européannes. He participated in the Provenance Research Training Program – a project of the European Shoah Legacy Institute – hosted at the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg.

June 29, 2013

History of Art Crime: ARCA Student A. M. C. Knutsson Writes on Book Thief Anders Burius and the Theft at the Swedish Royal Library

by A. M. C. Knutsson, ARCA Student 2013
Photo: Andrea Davis Kronlund and Jens Östman
At 04.30 am on the 8th of December 2004, a top floor apartment in Central Stockholm explodes, injuring 11 people and forcing the evacuation of 44 others. Four days later the body of a man was found among the debris, along with a pro and con list of whether or not to stay alive. The man’s wrists had been slashed and the gas lead had been cut repeatedly; it remains uncertain whether Anders Burius was alive when his apartment exploded. Three days earlier Burius had been released from custody. 

Anders Burius had been the chief of the Swedish Royal Library’s Manuscript Department, and in charged of imposing increased safety measures following the thefts by renowned map-thief Peter Bellwood. Burius had also been stealing books from various libraries since 1986.

During the spring of 2004, the Royal Library personnel were looking for an 1850 map of the Mississippi. The online database REGINA still contained an entry indicating that the book would be in the library's possession, however it could not be located within the library. Following an inventory of the book stacks, it was revealed that more than 50 books had gone missing.  As the investigation wore on, Burius felt that it was only a matter of time before he would be exposed and he confessed to a colleague.

On the All Saints Eve, Burius sent a text message to a colleague, “Now I’m going into Bergsgatan 58 [the police station]”. At 4.40 pm, Burius was arrested for the thefts in the Royal Library. He was almost immediately dubbed "KB mannen" (the Royal Library man) by the media and his story spread through the news like wildfire. During his three weeks in custody, he kept writing lists for the police of all the books he had stolen. In total, Burius appears to have stolen 103 books whereof 58 where from the Royal Library. As the investigation dragged out, Burius was temporarily released.

At the time of the discovery of the thefts, Burius had systematically retrieved books from his work for a decade. He had, with his intimate knowledge of the library, been able to steal books and remove entries from the old card index in order to conceal his crimes.  However, over time, Burius had become less careful and started leaving catalogue traces behind. In addition to his meddling with the catalogues, Burius was also careful to remove identifying marks from the books. In the extreme case of Maximilianus Transylvanus' 1523 account of Magellan’s tour of the world, he had even cut the text-block out of its original binding and had it rebound in Germany in order to conceal its connection to the Royal Library. The book was later sold for €94,300.

After ‘cleaning’ the books, Burius approached dealers in Germany under the pseudonym Karl Fields, a nod to the Swedish poet Karlfeldt. The auction house Ketterer Kunst, Burius claimed, only required the seller to sign an assurance of ownership and made no effort to check the provenance of the works offered for sale. Ketterer Kunst maintains that they did nothing wrong in selling the books as Burius had confirmed that the books were his.

In June 2012, one of the most important stolen objects resurfaced in New York. The Cornelius Wytfliet atlas that contains one of the earliest maps of North America was offered for sale by W. Graham Arder III. He in turn had purchased it in good faith from Sotheby’s in 2003 for $100,000; its current value was estimated at $450,000. Mr Arder returned the book to Sotheby’s who reimbursed him in full and later returned it to the Royal Library after negotiations. Whilst it is hoped that this find will encourage other books to resurface, most of these books have now been legally acquired by ‘good faith’ purchasers and it is uncertain whether the Royal Library will be able to recreate its marred collections.





Bibliotekstjuven (The Library Thief), originally aired January 2011