December 27, 2012

December 15, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012 - ,, No comments

Getting to know Amelia (Terni) "Borghi d'Italia (Tv2000)

Here's a video, "Amelia (Terni) - Borghi d'Italia (Tv2000)" which shows the town's ancient walls, the archaeological museum, the medieval traditions, and features local residents, including the bronze statue of Germanicus.

Highlights include the double organ so designed that a priest and a cloistered nun could play the keyboards at the same time; the monsignor of the duomo dedicated to Saints Fermina and Olympiades; and the theatre of Amelia.  Of course, a story about this ancient town wouldn't be complete without a few shots of some of the retired men hanging outside the Porto Romano.  

December 13, 2012

Provenance Research Training Program Workshop to be held in Zagreb, Croatia, March 10-15, 2013

The second Provenance Research Training Program workshop is scheduled for March 10-15, 2013, in Zagreb, Croatia.

"This an international workshop is open to scholars, students, professionals, collectors, dealers, and anyone interested in subjects related to cultural plunder, the ethics of collection management, cultural rights and heritages, as well as methodologies of research and analysis into the ownership histories of cultural objects misappropriated during mass conflicts," according to Marc Masurovsky, director of the program.
The inaugural workshop of the Provenance Research Training Program was held June 10-15, 2012 in Magdeburg, Germany, with the co-sponsorship of the Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste (Coordination Office for Lost Cultural Assets), a public institution jointly financed by the Federal Government of Germany and all the German Länder (States) and housed within the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in the Land of Saxony-Anhalt in Magdeburg.  Please see the Report on the Magdeburg Workshop.

The deadline for applications for the March 2013 workshop in Zagreb, Croatia, is January 4, 2013.

Here's a link to the website for more information: http://provenanceresearch.org/prtp/schedule.

December 12, 2012

Erik Nemeth on "The Diplomatic Case for Repatriating Art and Antiquities" in U.S. News

Erik Nemeth, formerly with the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, is a trustee of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and an adjunct international security policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Here's a link to Nemeth's article in U.S. News & World Report on "The Diplomatic Power of Art" which begins here:
Even as cultural property faces immediate peril today in conflict zones like Syria and Mali, there is anecdotal evidence that some nations are awakening to the diplomatic and foreign policy benefits that can flow from the repatriation of cultural patrimony.
While on a different scale from World War II, historic structures, religious monuments, and other priceless antiquities continue to suffer collateral damage and exploitation in armed conflict. Antiquities have been stolen, smuggled and sold in what is a reported multibillion dollar underground market. They have become the illicit prizes of private collectors and the subject of legal claims against museums.
So it goes in Syria, where wartime damage to World Heritage Sites, such as Krak des Chevaliers, seems intractable. In northern Mali, too, religious strife has brought ruin to centuries-old, historic shrines in Timbuktu. Where is the constructive potential of cultural property?

December 7, 2012

Conclusion of Dr. Tom Flynn's Interview with Georges Abungu at Forum d'Avignon

TF — We’re here at Forum d’Avignon where we’ve all been discussing culture as a source of hope. What excites you most about ICOM’s activities at present and what gives you most hope and optimism for the future?

GA — What gives me a lot of hope is that ICOM has tried to lead from the front, and from the bottom up, engaging museum professionals, and particularly in those areas involving the youth because they are the future of museums and heritage, and culture in general. ICOM has systematically made sure that where it has initiatives and programmes, where it has meetings, young people can begin to get involved. That is the first thing. The second is the ICOM Code of Ethics, which stipulates how we need to act together and negotiate and move forward on what we can do. The third is setting up these mediation teams where institutions don’t have to quarrel over things but can go through the mediation process with professional mediators, allowing them to discuss amongst themselves and agree on issues. And the same things I’ve been discussing with you can be taken through this mediation process. So to me that is very important. Speaking on an intellectual level as an academic, and referring to the production of intellectual material, ICOM has done that too. The only problem is that it lacks in peer review and that is something some of us have been arguing for because ICOM has a great body of intellectual potential and we could use that. We need to intellectualize our products, to generate more peer-reviewed material using our human resources as a network. It is taking place but we can do better. Lastly ICOM has been flexible enough to guide the development of museums from temples of heritage to community spaces, so it is not rigid. If you look at ICOM as an institution, compared with other bodies it really has embraced this idea of community as a bottom-up approach. I think that is very powerful. It has given museums a direction to enable them to engage with their communities, to open up museums as places of dialogue and as places where communities feel at home. And also to allow museums, indeed to encourage museums in different parts of the world to develop alongside the community’s way of living, of believing, the way the society looks at itself. When you go to Africa, the museum since the 1990s has developed in a very different way, so it is a place of meeting, it is a community centre, a place of dialogue, where you can talk politics. It is the only place that is open to the public in a very fresh way.  To me that issue of diversity that is embraced within ICOM is very important.

TF — Is this your first Forum d’Avignon?

GA — Yes, it’s my first forum and I’ve been enjoying it. I think it’s a fantastic event and I look forward to many more. Over the last two days I have seen how it’s moving on. I think because it’s in Avignon it is very French...

TF — Quintessentially French.

GA — Yes, it’s very French! But I hope that in future they will bring in even more people. They are talking about 42 different nations. It will have to be able to move to embrace those voices. I would have liked to hear what is happening in South America, what is happening in Africa. Africa is the emerging economy, the future of the world, the continent of the future. It is where things are taking place. People are talking about mobile phones here, Africa is where the majority of mobile phones are sold, where communication is moving so fast and I would have liked, when we are talking about culture, not to box it so that European culture is the main thing that needs to exported out, but that we look at other areas, particularly on the issue of diversity. There is no better place to talk about this than here because the whole of West Africa is more or less French. And Asia too. So it will take time, but I’d like to see us move away from the Eurocentric way of looking at culture to a much more globalized way of approaching it. But I’m very happy that we have been looking at culture in terms of innovation, in terms of digital technology, in terms of diversity, and in terms of hope. I’m very happy about that but I’d like to see it opened up to embrace other perspectives because we can learn a lot from the diversity of other cultures.

TF — Why do you think the African art market has not emerged in the same way that, for example, the Chinese art market has, or the Indian art market, or the Russian and Middle East art markets have? After all, Africa has produced great art.

GA — Africa does make fantastic art, but Africa is very busy with other things! We are still trying to find out what resources we have. We have oil, we have uranium...Kenya has oil, Uganda is now producing oil. Every part of Africa has mineral resources coming out if its ears, so there is a second scramble for Africa taking place. And of course the Chinese are there and the Indians are doing things, but Western Europe is finding itself late in this  second scramble for the continent. So I think Africa is trying to manage that before it goes into other things. Everybody is positioning themselves, but everyone talks about Africa as the future continent or the future in terms of the economic scramble. But I think culture is still being left on the side, which I think is a mistake because it should go hand-in-hand. We should use culture to manage those resources that are coming out. It is not that I am approving of what is happening now. I’m actually disapproving because this is the time to use our culture to manage the developments that are being driven by the new resources that are emerging out of the continent. Africa now is able to choose. As a continent, and its various countries, they don’t have to go to Washington to kneel to the IMF or the World Bank. The Chinese will give them money if those guys refuse, so there are choices now. There are resources, but if we don’t manage them now, using our heritage and our culture, we will regret it.

TF — So you’re reinforcing what has been said here at Forum d’Avignon this week, that culture should not be marginalized but should be placed right at the centre of economic activity?

GA — It should be central, but it should also to some extent dictate development because if you don’t do it your way someone else will do it their way and then, by the time you realise it, suddenly it will be too late and that could be a problem for Africa. That is why I’d like to hear more critical analysis at forums like this of how things are happening in Africa and how they could happen better, especially now that these new resources are coming in.

TF — So we should be pushing for greater African representation at Forum d’Avignon next year and in future years?

GA — Yes, that would be fantastic but not only Africa; there is also South America, and Asia, which is developing very fast, as well as the Pacific and other places. But Africa does deserve more critical analysis because we are the continent that still has the raw resources. We have to develop them in the right way, using our various cultures as central to that process. And of course the museum is part of that process too.

December 6, 2012

Part II of Dr. Tom Flynn's Interview with Georges Okello Abungu at Forum d'Avignon


TF — If the original acquisition involved intense violence or things were taken as a part of the subjugation of another culture — as was the case with Benin in 1897 — is that not a justification for thinking again about those objects?

GA — The Benin question is very complex. The first thing we need to accept about the museums that own those Benin collections is to come out and say: ‘Yes, we know these things were taken under those circumstances; we know the Benin kingdom, the Benin royal family, they still exist even if they are not as powerful as they were; we know there are contestations, we know there are claims’. How are we going to satisfy this after all the changes that have taken place? Even if you took it back, who are you going to give it to? Are you going to give it back to the kings? Are you going to give it back to the Nigerian government? Who are you going to return it to? These are issues that need to be discussed. They have been through so many hands, how are we going to trace them back? But these questions do not give you immunity against discussion. You cannot even talk about compensation because these things were done in the late nineteenth century. It was an attack, it was looting, it has ended up in some of these museums. If you measure them even in terms of financial economic benefits to the Benin people, how much is it? In some instances it may not apply because, as others argue, even if it were compensation, who would it go back to? Will it go back to the community, for who are the community? Will it go back to the royalty, for who are the royalty? Will it go back to the government and how will it trickle down there? So the issue is that we must engage in this. We cannot run away by claiming that we are a superior status or that we don’t want to talk. If we can start to engage in a discussion we will probably come to an understanding whereby source communities will be saying, ‘Now we understand. This case is so complex, that this heritage is better preserved where it is’. But if we do not engage and discuss with the [source communities], this problem will continue to be there, because there are people also who are making money out of this. There are NGOs who are paying so that they are in business, there are community members for whom it is a business to continue to agitate for return. There are also people who are genuine, who feel they have a genuine case that they need to be able to discuss and agree on. So at the end of the day I think sitting down, talking, negotiating, compromising and agreeing — ‘Ok, time has passed, you have had this. We are transferring it in good will, on a permanent loan. Have them because you have recognised that ideally these should have belonged to us.’ That is very simple because mentally and psychologically it also helps the community. They know you have reached a compromise, that their ownership has been accepted, symbolically, but physically things remain in the custody of the institution that now owns it on behalf of the world. But you see this is what we have never reached because most of the big institutions think that once they accept that, there will be another big legal challenge, you know, ‘OK, now you have accepted it, now we want it back.’ But if it is in good faith and negotiated properly, this issue of the flood of returns will disappear. I don’t think this is something that will last forever, but it is energized by the fact that big institutions refuse to negotiate and refuse to accept responsibility even where they have been wrong. You cannot win without dialogue, especially in terms of heritage because people feel very attached to it at times and emotional about it.

TF — Where do you stand on partage? As an archaeologist, is it not a way of enabling archaeology to continue to take place, for countries to collaborate on unearthing things and sharing them when they’ve found them? Or do you think anything that is dug up in a country should stay in that country?

GA — That is a very difficult question because we have had some very bad experiences. For years I personally have resisted the issue of sharing when it comes to commercial activities and this applies much more to underwater archaeology which has been misused because you have private companies with suspect archaeologists, you know, so-called archaeologists, who go and negotiate with governments who don’t understand the Convention and then you have officials who are corrupted for a few hundred dollars and they give permits and people go into the sea within the territories and get this material. In Africa there is a lot of problems with that. And they say ‘Fifty percent’. But the fifty percent in the first place on what basis? These are cultural materials. Their fifty percent is going to be sold somewhere. And so you are turning archaeological material into a sellable material. The second things is that the people who are digging here are people from outside so when they say fifty percent, how do you know that is really fifty percent? In most cases when you are told fifty percent, it is actually one hundredth of what is found. I was educated at Cambridge and so I grew up in a culture of cooperation; to me cooperation in the archaeological field is very important. But that sharing was always in the sharing of the knowledge, not in the sharing of the material, unless there was a request from an institution for a particular object or set of objects where there were more and you did not need all of them. In that case it should not be a problem. But I think the idea of people ganging together to go the field to exploit it and then share it; to me that has a risk, the risk that it becomes more of an occupation than the pursuit of knowledge and the representation of humanity’s heritage. It becomes like treasure hunting and if we can do away with the treasure hunting out of it then I have no problem with governments or  institutions sharing knowledge and information and sharing material as long as it is clear and documented and everything is clean. But I’m saying there must be clear policies and regulations and arguments as to how this can be done. It must not be based on bureaucratic decisions taken at government levels with people who could be compromised by giving them a hundred dollars and then the fifty percent comes in.

The conclusion of this interview will be posted tomorrow.

December 5, 2012

Georges Okello Abungu at Forum d'Avignon (Part I of III)

Georges Abungu, Vice President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was among delegates participating at Forum d’Avignon, the international think-tank that convenes in the southern French city every year to discuss urgent issues in the realms of culture, media, digital innovation, and economics. London arts journalist Tom Flynn spoke to Dr Abungu about museums, cultural heritage disputes, underwater archaeology, and the role culture should play in the future development of Africa.
 
TF — Dr Abungu, you were one of the few museum specialists who dared to speak out against the ‘Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums’ issued by the directors of European and North American Encyclopedic Museums and which continues to be a source of controversy as repatriation requests mount. How do you see the future of the Encyclopedic Museum as it is currently being articulated by leading museum directors?

GA — I’m very much a believer in museums that are relevant to communities, museums that stimulate curiosity but which also address human needs, that involve communities in the interpretation of their collections. The model I am describing is divorced from the old notion of the temple, it is a museum that is much more open to the public and to questioning; it is a place the curator is not the holder of all the answers. Now when you talk about Universal Museums, I have no problem with museum directors branding their museums in whatever way they wish, but I felt that the whole concept of the Universal Museum as it was being revived was not in good faith. One of the intentions of the Declaration seemed to be to try and do away with the discussions on the role of these collections, the positions of these collections, on the ownership of these collections. So the driving force behind that [Declaration] was to do away with questions that were emerging by branding themselves as universal and above questioning. I think the intention was not good, and that’s why I questioned it. And what about the other museums? What are they? I can give some examples of equally big museums that had big collections that were probably matching these Universal ones. Why weren’t they not also universal? Why were we trying to grade ourselves into different pedigrees? I thought it was going to bring divisions between museums where some are going to be more important than others. The word universal in this context struck a very bad kind of intention when I heard it and that was why I was against it. I think the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre, and all these big museums, they have a real role to play. They are wonders of the world and they have collections that apply to humanity but I think there is no need to try to grade themselves as much more superior than others and to degrade the others as not so important or as universal as them. So that was an important principle — it was questioning the intention and to me it was this hidden agenda that struck me very strongly.

Museums are places of dialogue, places of questions, and some of this dialogue can involve furious discussion, even on origins and acquisition policies and even on thefts, and collections that might have suspect origins and I think this is part of the richness of museums. I’ve seen this taking place. There have been returns, there have been museums that originally had collections that were questioned but some of these collections had been given by the source communities to these museums on the condition that originally they belonged to these communities and that they are now given on permanent loans or that they are given as gifts. To me that is the way forward rather than re-branding and segregating.

TF — Today, the requests by smaller nations and source communities for repatriation of objects are often criticised by some leading museum directors as a form of nationalism, on the grounds that all cultures are essentially hybrid and “mongrel” and that those calling for return are failing to understand the cosmopolitan nature of culture. What is your response to that?

GA — Well, I’ve heard that argument and I’ve written about returns and I’m one person who doesn’t believe in mass returns. I don’t think it makes sense, especially for collections that have been in these museums for hundreds of years. Unless they are human remains. In those cases I really have no short cut. I think if the source communities want them back, they should go back. But I believe that we should not shut doors and claim that these cultural objects are cosmopolitan. They must have origins and if those origins can be traced they must be returned to those places. There are materials, of course, that have origins in Britain, others that have origins in the USA, or in Germany, or in France, and if they can prove that, why not ask for them? I think the same applies to other parts of the world, to Asia, to the Pacific, to Australia, Africa, South America. The most important thing is not to hide behind terminologies...the whole concept of urbanism, metropolitanism, and all these things. The important thing is to sit down and create dialogue with those who are claiming, and not to take cover under the big name of Universality and then say ‘There are no more questions, we cannot discuss’. However, I also believe this issue of calling for mass repatriation of materials from museums taken from one place or another many years ago is also irresponsible. I’ve always been very categorical when it comes to the solutions. I think we need negotiation and ICOM has set up a structure where people can negotiate and agree. I personally believe very much in permanent loaning but I also believe that museums that have these collections, where there are have arguments about them, or claims behind them, they need to sit down and negotiate without dismissing these claims as cosmopolitan, as cross-cultural, and that they cannot be discussed. They need to engage in dialogue so that discussion can prevail at the end of the day. But as I’ve also said, I don’t believe in mass transfer of material from museums back to source communities just because they can show it was theirs... unless it is human remains. With that one it becomes very tricky. And also certain religious paraphernalia that can be proved to be still relevant to those particular communities.

Dr. Flynn is a lecturer at ARCA and author of The Universal Museum

Part two of this article will be published tomorrow.

December 3, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Noah Charney's Q&A with Joshua Knelman

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor-in-chief Noah Charney interviews Joshua Knelman, a journalist living in Canada who's first book, Hot Art, is about investigating stolen art.  In it he profiles Don Hrycyk and follows the story of several heists and their subsequent investigations.  Along the way he speaks with a number of ARCA staff and colleagues.

"We chatted with Joshua about his research and how he came to write this book," Noah introduces.

Here's the first question Noah Charney asks Joshua Knelman:

Which art theft do you discuss in your book and how did you choose those cases in particular? With over 50,000 reported art thefts per year worldwide, and with the Carabinieri databased packed with over 3 million stolen artworks, it must have been tough to choose where to focus.
I chose to focus on cases related to me by a wide range of sources, and followed the threads, hoping to identify criminal patterns.  I was less interested in following one art theft case than in figuring out how art theft as a phenomenon works.  So it wasn't a matter of one particular case.  The book showcases a wide variety of art thefts ranging from blockbuster art heists, to art gallery smash and grabs, to the almost invisible plague of thefts from private residences.  It was this last category which seemed to be less covered, but persuasive.  When I began the book, I have to admit, I was hoping for a Thomas Crown Affair story I could follow, bu the reality turned out to be far more complex, and, to my mind, more interesting.
You may read the rest of this interview by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.






November 30, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Hattusa Sphinx and Turkish Antiquities Repatriation Efforts" by Aaron Haines

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Aaron Haines writes about "The Hattusa Sphinx and Turkish Antiquities Repatriation Efforts":
On March 1 of 2012, Art News journalist Martin Bailey reported that the Turkish government had prohibited the loan of cultural artifacts to the New York Metropolitan Museum of art, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated that these museums have artifacts that were illegally removed from Turkey, and that the ban would be removed once the contested objects were returned.  Soon it was discovered that Turkey had given the ultimatum to many other museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Dumberton Oaks, the Museum of Art at Bowling State University, the Louvre Museum, and the Berlin Pergamon Museum.  Turkey has prohibited exhibition loans to any of these museums until the requested objects have been returned. 
Turkey has been petitioning for the return of most of these artifacts for many years, but most often these petitions have come in the form of simple requests.  This is the first time that the country has made such a widespread and forceful demand.  This should not come as a surprise, in light of recent events regarding Turkey's repatriation efforts.  Of particular importance was its recovery of the Hattusa Sphinx, returned last year from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  Turkey was forceful with Germany, and the two countries were able to quickly come to an agreement.  This success emboldened Turkey and gave it the necessary confidence to use forceful tactics with other reluctant countries and institutions that own contested objects.  Exploring the motivations and actions of both parties involved with the Hattusa Sphinx will shed further light on why Turkey recently enforced this ban and what their plans are for the future.
Aaron Haines is a teaching assistant at Brigham Young University where he is pursuing a B. A. in Art History and Curatorial Studies.  He has worked at the Museo civico in Siena, italy as well at the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University.  He recently completed training with the Provenance Research Training Organization in Magdeburg, Germany and is a Foreign Language Area Studies Scholar.

November 28, 2012

Richard "Dick" Ellis on Working with Michel van Rijn

Richard "Dick" Ellis is an art crime investigator (with The Art Management Group), the former founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Group, and a lecturer at ARCA's post-graduate program in researching art crime.

Here in this video "The Odd Couple of Art Theft" posted on YouTube, Mr. Ellis' discusses working with Mr. van Rijn, an admitted former smuggler.

November 26, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Edmund de Waal's The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Picador, 2010).

Edmund de Waal is a British ceramic potter and academic uses the history of his family's netsuke collection to allow readers to understand this Japanese art in his memoir:
I pick one up and turn it around in my fingers, weight it in the palm of my hand.  If it is wood, chestnut or elm, it is even lighter than the ivory.  You see the patina more easily on these wooden ones: there is a faint shine on the spine of the bridled wolf and on the tumbling acrobats locked in their embrace.  The ivory ones come in shades of cream, every color, in fact, but white.  A few have inland eyes of amber or horn.  Some of the older ones are slightly worn away: the haunch of the faun resting on leaves has lost its markings.  There is a slight split, an almost imperceptible fault line on the cicada.  Who dropped it? Where and when?
The story involves 19th century Paris, Nazi occupied Vienna, and post-war Japan.

"Not since Jonathan Harr's book, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, has a book so influenced me," Ms. Sezgin writes in the review.

Ms. Sezgin edits the ARCA blog.

You may read this article by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

November 23, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Andrew Shea's documentary film "Portrait of Wally"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Andrew Shea's documentary film Portrait of Wally:
A Nazi stole Egon Schiele's Portrait of Wally from the Vienna residence of Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray in 1939.  For three decades, until her death in 1969, Mrs. Jaray wanted to recovery her painting, even soliciting help from Dr. Rudolf Leopold, another Schiele expert and art collector who frequented her art gallery in London.
What Lea Bondi did not know was that Dr. Leopold had found her painting at the Belvedere Palace, amongst the works of the Austrian National Gallery.  The picture was mislabeled as Portrait of a Woman and identified as part of the collection of Dr. Heinrich Reiger, who had died in the Holocaust.  In the 1960s, Dr. Leopold traded another Schiele painting for the Portrait of Wally but instead of returning it to Bondi, he kept the stolen artwork for himself for more than three decades.
In 1997, Portrait of Wally was part of an Egon Schiele exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where Lea Bondi's relatives recognized her painting.  Her nephew, Henry Bondi, requested that the museum return the stolen picture to the family.  When the museum denied the request, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a subpoena to seize the painting before it could be shipped back to the Leopold Museum in Austria.
The dramatic 70-year-old battle to recover this painting is documented in the 90-minute film Portrait of Wally directed by Andrew Shea and produced by P. O. W. Productions.  This documentary uses film footage of Nazis in Austria and numerous interviews with the lawyers, journalists, and art collectors to explain an important legal case regarding the "last prisoners of World War II" (as described by Ronald Lauder, then Chairman of MoMA).
Catherine Sezgin is editor of the ARCA blog.

November 21, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Lord Byron Forged Letter: Where's the Questioned Document Analysis (QDE)?" by John Daab

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, regular contributor John Daab writes on "The Lord Byron Forged Letter: Where's the Questioned Document Analysis (QDE)?":
Lloyd Smith was an avid collector of rare books and letters amassing thousands of works upon his death.  In 1957 the Morristown National Historical Park Museum was elated to find that they were the recipient of 300,000 of Smith's works from his estate.  Contained with these artifacts was a letter from Lord Byron, the poet.  Over the last 40-50 years the letter was exhibited on occasion but, for the most part, it lay in storage (Pfister, 2011).  In 2010 the letter was scanned and brought to the attention of nearby Drew University scholars, who suspected that the work was not genuine (Appendix exhibit B). The evidence supporting the forgery call was that there were anomalies in signature, date, type of address to Captain hay (the receiver of the letter), and wording used.  The scholars argued that the signature was not that of Lord Byron, the dating of the months did not match Byron's dating, the word "affectionately" was not typical for Byron, and the use of "My dear Hay" to address Captain Hay his friend was not appropriate (Fischer, 2012 Appendix C).
To confirm the conclusion found by Drew Scholars, the National Historic Park Museum enlisted the services of Doucet Devin Fisher from the New York Public Library, a Byron scholar and member of the Byron Society.  Fisher compared the letter with the notes of a Rutgers University Byron scholar Leslie Marquand, and found that the letter was a forgery.  Fisher noted that the Byron letter under review matched a similar forgery.  What is not apparent from the various narratives and media accounts found regarding the announcement of the forgery, is a clear description of how the forgery was determined.  The fundamental rule in scholarly research and forensic examination is that another researcher may carry out the research in similar fashion and reach the same conclusion.  Verification informs reliability and, without it, specious conclusions may emerge.  What seems to be problematic and a serious issue is that those carrying out the process of document determination, in terms of authenticity, is the extent that the process establishing the forgery followed proper QDE, or Questioned Document Examination (FBI, 2009).  Before we engage in the QDE process ourselves, let us first define and discuss some of the concepts presented in the account of the latest Byron fake and those lacking in the examination.
John Daab was formerly a NYCTP Police Officer and an NYU Professor.  John holds the following designations: Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Forensic Consultant, Certified Criminal Investigator, Certified Instructor, Diplomate American Board of Forensic Examiners, Certified Homeland Security, and Certified Intelligence Analyst.  He holds the degrees of Ph.D. MA, MPS, MA, MBA, and BA.  He writes regularly for The Journal of Art Crime.

November 19, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Sword in the Museum: On Whether La Vallette's Sword and Dagger, Currently Housed in the Louvre, Should be Returned to Malta" by Mario Buhagiar

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Mario Buhagiar writes on "The Sword in the Museum: On Whether La Valette's Sword and Dagger, Currently Housed in the Louvre, Should be Returned to Malta":
The debate about the spoils of war and national heritage is always an intense one.  Whenever I ask somebody whether a recognized objet d'art which used to be in a country's possession out to be returned to its first home, I always get a resounding 'yes.'  In Malta's case, the most popular objet d'art in question is La Valette's sword.  Together with its matching dagger, the sword was a gift from Philippe II of Spain in 1565 to The Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Malta at the time, Jean Parisot De La Valette (active 1557-1568), marking the Knights of Malta's victory in the Great siege and the subsequent retreat of the Ottoman forces.(1) The set of weapons remained in the Order's possession for more than two hundred years after the death of the Grand Master, who first received it on the Order's behalf.  This sword was later taken by Napoleon's forces when they invaded Malta, and is now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Mario Buhagiar is a professor and head of the History of Art Department at the University of Malta.

November 14, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - No comments

Update on Pretoria Art Museum Theft

Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons
By Lynda Albertson.

Four of the paintings stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum have been found in a small private cemetery in Sunridge Park, behind the Dutch Reformed Church in Port Elizabeth.

Brigadier Marinda Mills of the South African Police Service (SAPS) said the recovered paintings appeared to be Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias (1936); JH Pierneef's Eland and bird (1961); Irma Stern's Fishing Boats (1931) and Hugo Naude's Hottentot Chief.  Mills told the press that an officer had received an early morning tip from an informant and that the paintings were recovered beneath a park bench by a patrolling canine officer.  Though no formal evaluation had been conducted, it appeared that the paintings were in good condition overall.

This photo released by the South African Police Service (SAPS)
Earlier in the week, Daywood Khans, a member of staff from the museum, speaking with interviewers from South African radio station Eye Witness News (EWN), reported that during the theft thieves, posing as students had pointed a gun at him and produced a "shopping list" of artworks.  Why the paintings were abandoned 700 miles away is still unclear.

Journalist Karabo Ngoepe from Independent Online, A South African news website had reported yesterday that law enforcement has received a tip claiming that a prominent Pretoria artist was suspected of being behind the robbery but did not name the artist.   At this time there is no confirmation that this police lead had any connection to the paintings being abandoned and no arrests have been made.



November 13, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Messenger bags may have allowed thieves to flee on foot or by bike

Painting by Gauguin stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to an article by Robbert Blokland and Jolande van der Graaf published today in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraf regarding progress on the investigation of the theft at the Kunsthal Rotterdam last month.

Here Arthur Brand, private art investigator, provided an analysis of the article along with his own commentary:
A retired Dutch police office (Dick Gosewehr) is claiming that the police are doing something wrong in their investigation of the Kunsthal Rotterdam heist if they are looking for a getaway car.  If you look carefully at the surveillance video of the theft, you can see that the bags that the the thieves are wearing are what messenger boys use in cities for delivery packages on bicycles.
The police have been desperately searching for an escape car, but these are bags used for when people are carrying something on their back while walking or on the bicycle.  His theory is that they never used a car.
 
If you go to the map showing the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the museum park, you can see it’s difficult to approach the gallery or park a car on a busy street during a robbery.  It would be less conspicuous to travel by bike or to walk because the police would have a hard time finding you.  They might have stashed the paintings somewhere near the museum and maybe 1-2-3 days later when the heat was down, they could have come back to collect the paintings.  It would explain messenger bags and no escape car.
 
The retired police officer says that the CCTV cameras focus on cars and street traffic but wouldn’t necessarily follow someone walking into the bushes.
 
Martin Cahill was known to have buried stolen paintings – and sometimes he could not find them later.
 
Half of Martin’s gang is still in The Netherlands and the Rathkeal Rovers who are still operating have been linked in the past to very big art thefts.  One of them is now in an American jail for tricking an antiques dealer.  The Rathkeal Rovers see each other every November and December when they return to their town to celebrate the holidays so they all know each other.  Irish Travelers, the Cahill gang, and the Rathkeal Rovers all know each other and deal in drugs and steal art.  The Cahill group were not originally Irish Travellers but came from the poorest level of society.
 
George Mitchell and some of the other people took their expertise with them to the Netherlands.  Kunsthall is a temporary art collection.  If they took a look back last year and saw that the paintings were visible through the glass walls then all they had to do was wait for a big exhibition and strike after it opened.  It’s not 100% but rumors go that way and it’s just too obvious.  If police ignore this link, then they are doing a bad job.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Private art investigator Arthur Brand suspects Irish gang involved in rhino horn theft last year and last month's robbery


Matisse painting stolen last month from Kunsthal

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch private art investigator Arthur Brand has a theory that ties two seemingly unrelated museum thefts together: the theft of the rhino horns from Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum and last months’ theft of paintings from the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Mr. Brand, who described himself as “well informed about art thefts in Holland”, introduced himself via the Internet and told me that I could ask former Scotland Yard detective Charley Hill to vouch for his credibility (which Mr. Hill did via email).

In a conversation via Skype, Mr. Brand extended the dialogue begun last month on the ARCA blog by former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill in regards to the Kunsthal robbery:
Mr. Hill: My view is that this theft was particularly well organised, done quickly and in the almost certain knowledge that the thieves and what they stole would be long gone by the time the police arrived. Also, the thieves were apparently not opportunists such as the two with a ladder at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam some years ago who smashed a window and took the two pictures nearest the broken glass, nor were they Balkan bandits with machine pistols like the ones who hit the Munch Museum in 2004, or the Buhrle Collection in Zurich a few years ago.


The closest pattern I know is of Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010. The pattern in Rotterdam the night before last was closer to that. See the art crimes of The General as he called himself, Martin Cahill of Dublin. Interestingly, one of Cahill's gang, George Mitchell, known as The Penguin, lives close to Rotterdam where he works in commodities with his Colombian, Russian, Dutch, Brit, Irish and other friends. I wonder if he has a part to play in this? He could do something about getting those pictures back, I'm sure, if any good Dutch police officer not in his pay asked him for some help.
 This is Mr. Brand’s assessment:

George “The Penguin” Mitchell escaped to Holland in 1996 after the murder of Irish reporter Veronica Guerin.  Mitchell lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam before moving to Morocco a couple of years ago.  He visits The Netherlands to see family and to do business (one of those businesses dealing in Indonesian antiquities).  I thought about what Charley Hill said about The Penguin’s involvement and made some inquiries in the underworld and learned that an Irish connection could very well be possible.

Mitchell, who once worked for the gang of art thief Martin Cahill, is said to know members of  the Rathkeale Rovers, a gang of Irish Travellers (gypsies) suspected of stealing rhino horns from a few dozen museums throughout Europe.  Rhino horns are valued for medicinal purposes in eastern Asia.  Thieves make millions with that but there is more to this group.

The Rathkeale Rovers were linked in 2005 to the theft of the Henry Moore sculpture stolen and melted down for bronze scrap metal.  Irish Travellers were suspected in the 2003 theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder from Drumlanrig castle in Scotland.  Although the painting was recovered in 2007, the thieves who removed the painting from the home of the Duke of Buccleuch have never been caught.  In 2005, according to rumors and a source in the FBI, Irish Travellers planned to rob the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  I have been told that George Mitchell was connected to Martin Cahill’s associate Martin Foley who is suspected of robbing the Russborough House in 2001 and 2002.

The Rathkeal Rovers were almost certainly at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam on August 26, 2011 when three rhino horns were stolen.  If you look at this image of the Kunsthal, you can see a building to the left – about five to ten meters away from the art gallery.  This is the Natural History Museum.  If you look back from there, you can see right through the big glass windows of the Kunsthal and see the art displayed.  What I suspect and it’s backed up by a few rumors, the thieves stealing the rhino horns probably figured that this was too good to be true – that they were looking into the worst protected museum in the world.  If you smash a window you are in and you can take 100-200 million euros worth of paintings.  Why steal rhino horn for less than 20,000 euros when we can kick in the glass window and get 100 million?  The rumor in the criminal world is that the Rathkeale Rovers are behind the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft.  One year after rhino horns were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam, another theft occurs at the art gallery just five to ten meters away.  Nobody has brought these two events together even though the Irish Travellers and the Rathkeale Rovers have been linked to art thefts and they are well connected to the old Cahill group known as the world’s best art thieves.  They all know each other.  After the IRA murdered Cahill, part of his gang thought they should go to the Netherlands and Amsterdam is the best place to go if you still want to deal in drugs.  The best art thieves and Irish Travellers live in the Netherlands.  It was even more difficult to break into Natural History Museum than the Kunsthall – you can send in a girl of 10 to steal art from there.  I cannot confirm the rumor that it was an Irish job but I can logically connect the events –- there is only one group right now robbing museums.

Here's the link to an article by Jolande van der Graaf and Robbert Blokland published today in De Telegraf on the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft which we'll discuss in the next post. 

November 12, 2012

Pretoria Art Museum in South Africa robbed

"Street Scene" by Gerard Sekoto was one of the paintings stolen
 from the Pretoria Art Museum
 (City of  Tishwane, Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times' website)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Three men paid admission to the Pretoria Art Museum, checked to see that the art gallery was empty, then pointed a gun at a museum employee and used a list to steal six paintings worth 15 million South African Rands on Sunday morning -- although one of the paintings was abandoned when it did not fit into the getaway car, a silver Toyota Avante.


Robyn Dixon for The Los Angeles Times identified the painting left behind on the sidewalk as "Two Malay Musicians" by Irma Stern, valued at $1.5 million, the most valuable work taken from the museum.  

"It's particularly distressing to see the increased use of violence in the commission of art crimes," said Chris Marinello, director of the Art Loss Register.  "Let's face it, very few museum security measures can stand up to an armed group of criminals.  The last thing we want to see is airport- like security at museums around the world but it does look like we're approaching that solution.  It's a sad commentary on society."

The museum's closed-circuit television system was not working -- a problem was reported on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the municipality.  The museum's CCTV was repaired Monday morning, Dixon reported.

Found this posted on Art Insure's Facebook Page
The five stolen paintings included work by Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, Maggie Laubser, JH Pierneef, and Hugo Naude.

Jon Gambrell of the Associate Press reported from Johannesburg that the stolen art is valued at $2 million in US dollars:
The robbers favored oil paintings in their theft, grabbing a 1931 painting by famous South African artist Irma Stern of brightly colored sailboats waiting against a pier, city spokesman Pieter de Necker said. Other works stolen included a gouache drawing of an eland and bird by South African landscape artist J.H. Pierneef, a pastel-toned street scene by Gerard Sekoto, a thick-stroked oil painting of a chief by Hugo Naude and a picture of a cat near a vase full of petunias by Maggie Laubser.

Conclusions of Interpol's first international conference on counterfeit art

Last month Interpol's first International Conference on Counterfeit Art arrived at a list of "Conclusions" in Lyon.  The conference identified "a rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and international misattribution of works of art and cultural heritage" causing "significant economic prejudice and non-material damage" by "substantial criminal assets generated by the production and distribution of counterfeit art" due to the lack of awareness and of appropriate national laws and international legal instruments."

The Interpol conference recommended that member countries:
"(1) RAISE public and political awareness of the increasing trend in counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries, and intentional misattribution, and the impact on cultural heritage, the art market and historic and scientific knowledge";  (2) ENFORCE, review and, if necessary, adapt existing national laws to be able to fight the above-mentioned crimes effectively;  (3) CALL FOR counterfeit art to be explicitly included in regional and international laws criminalizing other types of counterfeiting or DEVELOP specific regional and international legislation on this subject;  (4) DEVELOP mechanisms and procedures to fight counterfeit art effectively, if necessary by creating working groups and inter-sectorial commissions;  (5) SUPPORT national  law enforcement agencies in preventing and suppressing the above crimes and in allocating adequate resources;  (6) DEVOTE, where possible; additional efforts and resources to tracing assets generated through the above crimes so as to dismantle the criminal networks involved;  (7) ENHANCE the information exchange on the above crimes through INTERPOL channels, and share experiences and best practices among member countries; (8) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a checklist of precautions to be taken by potential customers to prevent them from acquiring fake objects; (9) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a set of principles for professionals to prevent them from becoming invovled in the commerce of fake objects.
Here's a link to an article published last week in the New York Times: "With rules Murky, Fake Artworks Stay on the Market."

November 11, 2012

Interpol’s International Conference on Counterfeit Art


By Colette Loll Marvin

Recently, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the first ever International Conference on Counterfeit Art, sponsored by Interpol and held in Lyon, France.  The two-day meeting (October 23 and 24), gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from 22 countries, and focused on the need for increased information exchange and for enhanced public and government awareness of art forgery and related crimes. This global trade in illicit art runs into the billions of Euros each year.  Link to press release.

The most exciting part about participating in this conference was meeting law enforcement officials from all over the world, many presenting specific case studies about organized art forgery rings they have been successful in stopping and prosecuting. The German police summary of their work on the Beltracchi case was especially impressive! Also, it was important to hear from several artist foundations and artist right’s holders about their ongoing challenge to protect the cultural legacy of modern masters from the dilution caused by the massive influx of forgeries, many from online sources. The economic, legal, aesthetic and scholarly implications of this crime are far reaching.  I presented a lecture entitled “Fakes, Forgeries and EBay” detailing some of the challenges of investigating Internet art fraud.  I was joined by a materials scientist and an art historian from an art forensic laboratory.

This cultural heritage conference culminated with a collective draft of a very specific set of conclusions that the delegates worked together to create and refine.  Ultimately, the collective hope of the delegates is that this rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and intentional misattributions of art and objects of cultural heritage can be reversed with increased educational awareness and corresponding increases in law enforcement resources dedicated to this specific criminal phenomenon.

November 10, 2012

Eleven year old boy finds and returns stolen painting to artist in British Columbia

Mathew Claxton of the Langley Advance in British Columbia broke the story of an 11-year-old boy who recovered a stolen painting from a neighbor's garage sale.  Artist Reet Herder had 17 artworks stolen from an exhibit at an art gallery in Langley in August 2005.  Matt Hanna, bargain hunter and now probably our youngest art investigator, noticed a painting of sail boats in a cove titled "Harbouring Great Memories".  Hanna Googled it and discovered the painting had been reported as stolen.  I wondered if the boy had used any of the conventional stolen art databases so I too Googled the name of the painting and discovered a website named "Stolen Fine Art", a service of MyArtClub.com so I  emailed one of the website masters, Cam Anderson, who responded to my questions.  This is an excerpt:
The Story of Stolen Fine Art really starts with Reet Herder.  Reet was the first to let us know there was an issue. Reet wrote that she and others had suffered such a devastating loss. I shocked to hear just how bad it was. We always like to respond to artist request for features, or listen to their business issues, and look for ways we can assist. This practice has been wonderful for both the artists and for our development as a service. 
Peter Newell and I put our heads together and figured we could host the images of stolen art as a collection. The MyArtClub site was already set up to host artist groups, so we simply leveraged that as a way to focus on this awful issue.  What we did ask artists for was a police reference number of some kind and police and artist contact information.  We have a form for artists to fill out (available on our website). 
Over the years Reet has been really a founding member of our website and involved in creating the form. Karma has a way doesn’t it? She helped build a service that we host and hope it is of some use to artists, and voila – her art is the one found through the Internet! 
I telephoned Reet to congratulate her on the recovery. Reet is amazed at not only the painting’s recovery but the media attention! “All I did was paint it” she says. This was one of her earlier works, but she was happy with how it had turned out. It was based on a visit to Schooner Cove. The story continues: as might be expected the painting itself was not in the best of conditions. However with luck Reet had prepared to create giclees from this art, and so offered this kind family a giclee in return which they accepted. Reet says “ the giclee’s colours look better”.  She presents it tomorrow to the father at his work.
About us: My wife Heather Anderson and a neighbour Terry Newell, both artists, thought their husbands should get together and do websites for artists.  I was studying Internet Marketing and had many years in Sales and Marketing, and Peter Newell had many years in computer software and project management.
We created the site to be a fair deal. We believe artists deserve assistance with business issues, and we wanted on our part to give back to our community using our skills. Also we found and still do find so many who offer help to artists seem to be out to gouge them. Maybe that is reality – you have to charge high prices to survive, but as we have jobs, we don’t. But look at this example: in the year 2000 a company offered my wife an artist website with 10 images for $1,000. At the time too, most artist websites were static, artists had to repay the site creators to change an artwork. We wanted to fix that.  So we kicked off MyArtClub.Com in year 2000 ( such an early time! Artists then had no digital cameras, and used scanners to create images for their sites).
We set out to launch a service for what is now $45 per year that gives amazing value for an artist website. We had to follow our artist’s wives directive – they should be able to change anything they wished, anytime, instantly. In other words, be in total control.  However, just having a website is not the answer. You need traffic.  We advise artists what they can do to build traffic, and have through newsletters and our blog tried to keep them informed about ideas and opportunities.
We felt a “portal” into the art world would help visitors see more art, and drive traffic to artists’ sites. And yet we provide each artist a standalone website. We thought the name MyArtClub fit as we are here to help both artist and art patrons connect. We also know that many artist belong to collectives, sometimes called clubs although many feel that is a little beneath the professional artist. We decided MyArtClub even if controversial had the right motivations, and buyers liked the name, so we launched it.
While we appear to be local to BC, in fact we have artists who have posted art from all over the world. Some load a free 3 images, so they can link from our portal back to their website. It is our form of links. Others sign up for an artist website, we have many across Canada and some in UK, Australia, Europe even Asia. Sadly we have had very little take up in the USA. We have really not tried hard, but I think the out of country aspect maybe an issue. Anyway, big opportunity when retired!
We are here to help artists with their Internet marketing.  We give free presentations on what artists need to know.  We host a large database which we advertise to increase artists chances of being found online. We have researched the customer base to help our artists understand the who, what, where, when and why of art buyers, and we give this report free to all who ask.  All this and so far we have not taken a single dollar of commissions.
Either we are crazy, or we really do just want to help artists progress with their business.