January 11, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021 - , No comments

New Zealand Police want help in finding the owners of recovered stolen artworks

Image Credit:  Waikato Police

Law enforcement authorities with the Waikato Police have posted photos of numerous artworks to their Facebook page which officers believe were taken during a spate of burglaries from properties around the Waihi Beach and Coromandel area at the western end of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand's North Island. 

Image Credit:  Waikato Police

ARCA's readers are encouraged to make a report online at 105.police.govt.nz if you recognize any of these artworks or artists in these photographs.  If you have any information and are regionally located in New Zealand you can also call 24/7 on the Police Non-Emergency Reporting number, 105.





 on their Facebook page today which they believed were stolen in burglaries over the past several months.

January 5, 2021

Israel's Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit take three people into custody for questioning on suspicion of dealing in illicit antiquities.

Image Credit - Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

Three people, believed to be involved in an illegal antiquities trading network, have been taken into custody as the result of an extensive investigation in Israel.  All three individuals are said to be residents of Gush Dan, the densely populated region surrounding the city of Tel-Aviv and have been under surveillance for suspicion of trafficking, illegal possession of antiquities, as well as possible instances of fraud and money laundering.  Amir Ganor, the director of the Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit told Israeli newspapers that this is one of the "most significant operations carried out in the country against illegal trade in antiquities" involving some €2.5 million worth of ancient art. 

During the past several months, the fraud unit in the Tel Aviv district has conducted a joint undercover investigation, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the country's Tax Authority.  Yesterday, in the early morning, law enforcement announced that they had conducted search warrants on the apartments of the three unnamed suspects, in warehouses and at a gallery in Tel Aviv.

Law enforcement officers recovered ancient objects and coins most of which dates from the 3rd century BCE through the 11th century CE.  The objects are believed to have been removed from their context during clandestine excavations throughout the Mediterranean basin and North Africa and include Red-figure and Black-figure attic pottery from Ancient Greece and Italy, as well as jugs, vases, coins from the Seleucid Hellenistic period, jewellery, statues, and figurines.  Officers also recovered decorated sarcophagus lids, painted wooden boxes, and objects created with faience from Egypt. 

Despite their stunning recovery, the Israel Antiquities Authority has stated that their investigation is just now getting started.   The country will be reaching out to art and antiquities enforcement counterparts in other countries to discuss the origins and perhaps movements of the objects before their arrival to Israel. 

Two of the suspects have been listed in open source reports as a 70-year-old gallery owner and his 40-year-old son though other article sources indicate that none of the detainees were licensed traders in ancient art though some of the suspects were in contact with licensed dealers.  The third suspect has been described as being a 40-year-old resident of the city of Holon, located 10 km outside the Tel Aviv metropolis.   

All three men were brought in for questioning at the offices of the fraud unit in the Tel Aviv district.  Carrying out illegal excavations at antiquities sites in Israel without a license constitutes a severe violation of the country's patrimony law.  If convicted as such, culprits can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Operación Nongreta brings in three gun runners and uncovers one suspect's "museum" of Nazi-themed objects

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

Arrested in a complex multinational police action code-named Operación Nongreta one of three gun runners arrested in Spain at the end of December has been found to have maintained a "museum" of Nazi-themed objects, alongside a substantial arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Within the framework of the year-long Nongreta operation, involving the Information Office (UCE3) of Spain's Civil Guard, with the support of the Bundeskriminalamt, (the German Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA), the Andalusian Area Information Section, the USECIC and the GEDEX of the Málaga Command, and members of the GAR and the Servicio Cinológico, law enforcement successfully dismantled an arms trafficking group known to be dealing with drug trafficking cells working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar regions in the south of Spain.   

The operation, born out of a noticeable uptick in murders carried out during drug-related crimes committed on the Costa del Sol in the final stretch of 2019 using modified assault rifles, resulted in the arrested of three key actors - two German citizens and one British, who have each been charged with participation in an organized crime group, storing and trafficking of arms and ammunition, drug trafficking, and use of forged documents.  The arms traffickers are believed to have been in operation for at least three years, operating a sophisticated scheme which funnelled weaponry obtained from Eastern Europian countries, with access to the old Soviet arsenals, to drug traffickers in need of weaponry active in southern Spain. 

In breaking up the ring, investigators focused their attention on a seventy-year-old German citizen, a former gunsmith living in Coín on the pretext of being a simple foreign retiree. Through exchanges of information with Germany's Bundeskriminalamt, Spanish authorities were informed that the suspect had spent four years in prison for the illegal modification of weapons and also had a current outstanding European Arrest Warrant (EAW), after an arsenal was tied to him in a Hannover case in 2019.  In that case, a family member has already been sentenced to prison for their involvement.

In a subsequent search of this suspect's home in Coín, the Civil Guard, with the assistance of a firearm-sniffing K-9, found a sophisticated hidden workshop, complete with complex machinery, which tapped into the city's electrical grid in order to operate a milling lathe, column drills, a hydraulic press and a blueing oven, the latter used after erasing the serial numbers to restore the barrels of the weapons to almost mint condition.  This would make the weapons almost untraceable, and therefore a perfect weapon of choice in the clandestine arms market.

It was here that the suspect would modify weapons such as the Zastava M70, (Застава М70), a standard-issue domestic folding-stock Kalashnikov variant once used by the Yugoslav People's Army in 1970.  Short and easily concealable under a coat or loose jacket, the weapons are perfect for drug factions engaged in quick hits when fighting over competing turf.  The weapons had been purchased from collectors in Eastern Europe disassembled and were modified in the Spain workshop for resale. The second suspect, also a German citizen, is believed to have been responsible for the storage and concealment of the weapons in a rented warehouse. 

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

The Third Reich memorabilia was identified in a second suspect's home in Alhaurín el Grandes, a town located in the province of Málaga on the north side of the Sierra de Mijas.  There, the police found tables, shelves and display cases jammed with Nazi memorabilia including a portrait bust of Adolf Hitler, SS Uniforms, helmets, stick pins, insignias, medals, flags, and armbands of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, many of which were emblazoned in some way with a swastika or the Nazi eagle.

After a search of the suspect's home, officers moved on to a safe house he rented on the outskirts of the municipality.  It is in that rented warehouse where authorities uncovered an arsenal ready for sale.  There, law enforcement seized 160 firearms made up of 121 short weapons, 22 assault rifles and 8 submachine guns.  Along with the arms, officers recovered 9,967 rounds of ammunition of different calibres, eight silencers, 273 magazines, a grenade, and a kilo and a half of military explosives. 

Spanish newspapers have identified the holder of the Nazi memorabilia and the warehouse as a 54-year-old German named Tilo Kränzler, who publically claimed to be "the grandson of the real driver of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler" during an interview which can be found on the Radio Platja d'Aro program "Enigma Report." He is also known to have saught connections with a Spanish far-right group.

In addition to his involvement with arms selling, the Kränzler sold olive oil on eBay, and operated a stall which sold military and Nazi paraphernalia as well as T-shirts with the face of the Swedish activist and environmentalist Greta Thunberg with the label “persona Non Greta.” It was this play on words that became the code name for the UCE 3 of the Civil Guard's Operación Nongreta.

The third lead suspect is a British national who also resided in Coín, who acted as the group's intermediary in the sale between the arms dealers, taking a cut of the profits for the arms sold to drug traffickers working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar.  Previously arrested for drug trafficking, this UK individual also using fake passports to hide his identity, several of which were recovered by law enforcement during the operation.

At the search of the British suspect's home, the Civil Guard recovered a pistol with its serial number erased and more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition. 

For now, the Court of Instruction of Coín has ordered that the three remain in custody pending trial while the hashish drug traffickers who operate in the Campo de Gibraltar area and to a large part of the mafias that have faced each other for years in Málaga's Costa del Sol will have a bit of difficulty stocking up on their firearms.

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

January 4, 2021

Monday, January 04, 2021 - No comments

Another sentencing for Congolese Activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza


On 22 October 2020 Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza entered the Musée du Louvre in Paris and after a brief stroll through the Pavillon des Sessions, where the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum collection is exhibited made the latest in a string of protests regarding colonial-period acquisitions in French museum collections. 

During the disruption, Diyabanza began by making a live-streamed speech stating he was taking back "what was stolen and plundered from us… to take back what was pillaged from Africa".  Like in his previous demonstrations, his protest then crossed the lines of legality when the activist lifted an 18th-century Ana deo figure of the Nage people and began walking through the museum with it. 

Ironically, the artefact Diyabanza then carried a short distance through the museum's gallery, hugged to his chest as if carrying a child, represents the tutelar spirits of a clan house, and comes from Flores Island in Eastern Indonesia, not from Africa.  The activist was then intercepted first by a chastising museum patron and shortly thereafter by security from the Musée du Louvre who detained the activist until police could take him into custody.


For this latest escapade, Diyabanza was sentenced by the Paris court to 5,000 euros in fines, including 2,000 euros in favour of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac which had loaned the artwork to the Louvre.  He was also handed a  suspended prison sentence of 4 months all of which he plans to appeal. 

Diyabanza began his demonstrations during the summer of 2020 and on 13 June entered the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris and removed a 19th-century Chadian funerary pole from its display, arguing the object was originally stolen from Africa by French colonisers.  Initially accused of attempted theft, he was convicted of aggravated theft, after describing his actions as a protest against colonial looting, not a theft, knowing he would be stopped. In this incident, he was acquitted by a Marseille court and received a fine of €1,000.

On 30 July 2020 Diyabanza was again arrested for taking a ceremonial ivory spear from its display at the Musée Colonial de Marseille founded by Dr. Édouard Marie Heckel but was later acquitted of the charges related to the incident.

On 10 September 2020 Diyabanza visited the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands and picked up a Congolese statue and marched the statue out of the museum.  The museum staff did not interfere with the demonstration in order to prevent any possible damage to the statue and allowed the group to leave the museum having already notified the Dutch police, who were waiting outside to apprehend the protestors

In early October Diyabanza also visited the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp and symbolically removed a painting from the 100X Congo exhibition before realizing it was a contemporary and not colonial-period work.

Image Credit: Mwazulu Diyabanza Siwa Lemba official Facebook Page

Conference: "Orphan artworks / Œuvres orphelines

Conference Dates:
4-5 February 2020


Conference Location:
Online (visioconférence)


Conference Fees:
Free with registration

Language(s):
French and English (with simultaneous translation)

Covering the provenance, legality, and responsible stewardship of what is referred to as an "orphan object", i.e., artefacts in circulation within the art market or within existing collections which are determined to have inadequate provenance.

Registration for this online conference is open and a PDF copy of the programme and speakers is available from the Centre Universitaire du Droit de l'Art, headquartered at the University of Geneva, via this link.

December 19, 2020

Unsolved string of incidents at multiple museums, vandalising more than 100 objects, in Germany

Last October the museum world was shocked by mysterious vandalism of sixty objects in four hours at three prominent German museums on Berlin's Museumsinsel (Museum Island), the Pergamon Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Neues Museum.  On October 3rd of this year, the artefacts were splashed with an oily liquid.  Nothing more about the substance of the liquid has been shared with the media and it is unknown at what time the widespread vandalisation occurred. 

News of the attacks was not made public for more than two weeks after the damage was identified and a police report on the incidents was not published until October 21st, the results of which were brief and gave few little details:

“Unknown perpetrators attacked numerous works of art and artifacts in several museums on Berlin's Museum Island from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on October 3. The strangers applied a liquid to the objects and thus caused damage that cannot yet be quantified. The responsible commissioner for art offences in the Berlin State Criminal Police Office has taken over the investigation. In order not to jeopardize the investigations and research, the investigators decided, in coordination with the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, not to comment publicly on the event for reasons of tactical investigations and only now to address the public with a call to witnesses.” 

The vandalism occurred on German Unity Day, a public holiday which commemorates German reunification in 1990 when the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic were unified. It is, however, unclear whether the motivation behind the attack was political, as the incidents are believed to have occurred on the first day that the Pergamon and other museums reopened following a shutdown related to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions earlier this year. 

Image Credit: Markus Schreiber-AP.  Friederike Seyfried, director of Antique Egyptian Department of the Neues Museum in Berlin, shows media a stain from the liquid on the Sarcophagus of the prophet Ahmose on Wednesday.

The criminal director at the State Criminal Police Office, Carsten Pfohl, has commented that they would not “engage in speculation” about motives behind these incidents as they have not been able to identify any of the perpetrators on the security footage.  No link has been found between the damaged artefacts at the three museums, and a full accounting of which objects were affected has not been made public, although it is believed to include an Egyptian sarcophagi, some stone sculptures, and painting frames.  

Image Credit: Markus Schreiber-AP News

The lack of concrete information regarding the motivations of the perpetrator(s) has led some in the German media to speculate about why the museums' artworks were targeted.  While the true motives of the culprit(s) remain to be determined, one theory proffered places blame for the damage on having been inspired by conspiracy theorist Attila Klaus Peter Hildmann.

Hildmann, a best-selling cookbook author, turned QAnon follower, has been wildly outspoken regarding Covid-19 who sees the coronavirus in connection with the planned introduction of a so-called “ New World Order. ”  He has also been vocal in his criticism of the Pergamon museum, launching protests and accusations denouncing it as “the throne of Satan.”  Hildmann has also made wild claims about night-time practices surrounding the use of the museum's reconstructed Pergamon altar, a Hellenistic Period (c. 200-150 BCE) altar to the Greek gods Zeus and Athena which was created in Pergamon, Turkey.

Calling the museum a "centre of global satanists and Corona criminals" he has implied that the alter (currently closed for restorations, has been used for human sacrifice.   In one of his accusations he referenced Revelations 2:12-13 which reads:

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:  These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.  I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” 

While Hildmann has made no comment regarding his involvement in the museums' vandalism, he has tweeted links to articles which reference his potential involvement.  Hildmann has also made comments in the past encouraging his supporters to take action against the museum, encouraging them to storm the museum in August.  The deputy director of the museum, Christina Haak, commented that there had been many acts of vandalism over the summer, mostly limited to the exterior of the museum and involving either graffiti or torn posters.  

On October 21st the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation held a press conference and questions were asked regarding the potential involvement of Hildmann or his supporters.  Pfohl commented that the police suspect a single perpetrator but could not rule out the involvement of multiple people at this time.  He also commented that the participation of Hildmann supporters could neither be excluded, nor confirmed, at the moment.  

Image Credit: Markus Mayer, Flickr

As a result of the vandalism, an offer of aid in the restoration of the objects has come in from the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation which has said that it will provide €100,000 to assist the museums. A spokesperson for the Berlin State Museums, who spoke with Artnet News  said that they were “very pleased about the fast and unbureaucratic support.”  The costs of the damage have not been assessed, but the funds will undoubtedly be needed. 

In November the German daily newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau, based in Frankfurt am Main reported additional attacks at the Wewelsburg district museum in North Rhine-Westphalia and an attack in the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, as well as an earlier Mid July attack at the Wewelsburg district museum over the summer.  In the latter incident and similar to the attack in Berlin, employees discovered 50 objects which had also been damaged by an oily substance.  According to that newspaper, the liquid used in Potsdam and Berlin tested as being vegetable-based. 


By:  Lynnette Turnblom


Bibliography

Brown, Kate. 2020. “An Art Foundation Has Pledged €100,000 in Aid to a Group of German Museums Attacked by Vandals.” Artnet News. October 22, 2020. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/berlin-museum-vandalism-security-1917316.

Eddy, Melissa. 2020. “Vandals Deface Dozens of Artworks in Berlin Museums.” The New York Times, October 21, 2020, sec. Arts. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/arts/design/berlin-museums-vandalism.html.

Koldehoff, Stefan, and Tobias Timm. 2020. “ZEIT ONLINE | Lesen Sie Zeit.de Mit Werbung Oder Im PUR-Abo. Sie Haben Die Wahl.” Www.Zeit.De. October 20, 2020. https://www.zeit.de/kultur/2020-10/kunst-vandalismus-berlin-museumsinsel-recherche.

Kurianowicz, Tomasz. 2020. “Attila Hildmann: Pergamonmuseum Beherbergt „Thron Satans“.” Berliner Zeitung. October 21, 2020. https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/kultur-vergnuegen/attila-hildmann-pergamonmuseum-beherbergt-thron-des-satans-zerstoerung-museumsinsel-berlin-li.112933.

Morris, Loveday, and Luisa Beck. 2020. “Dozens of Artifacts Vandalized in Three Berlin Museums.” Washington Post, October 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/berlin-museum-vandalism-germany/2020/10/21/2cb1e194-1383-11eb-a258-614acf2b906d_story.html.

Nicholson, Esme. 2020. “Dozens Of Artifacts Apparently Vandalized At Berlin’s Museums.” NPR.Org. October 21, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/21/926200421/nearly-70-artifacts-apparently-vandalized-at-berlins-museums?t=1603358606430.

Oltermann, Philip. 2020. “Berlin: Vandalism of Museum Artefacts ‘Linked to Conspiracy Theorists.’” The Guardian, October 20, 2020, sec. World news. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/21/berlin-vandalism-of-museum-artefacts-linked-to-conspiracy-theorists.

“Weiteres Museum von Attacken betroffen” The Frankfurter Rundschau, November 20, 2020. https://www.fr.de/ratgeber/medien/weiteres-museum-von-attacken-betroffen-zr-90107022.html

“Zahlreiche Kunstwerke Mit Flüssigkeit Angegriffen – Zeugen Gesucht.” 2020. Www.Berlin.De. October 21, 2020. https://www.berlin.de/polizei/polizeimeldungen/pressemitteilung.1006830.php.


December 14, 2020

Voluntary Restitution of Indian Annapurna, the Hindu Goddess of food and nourishment, by University of Regina in Canada.

Image Credit:  Dona Hall, courtesy of MacKenzie Art Gallery
Figure of Annapoorna (Benares, India, 18th century),
artist unknown, stone, 17.30 x 9.90 x 4.90 cm.

An 18th-century murti of the Hindu goddess Annapurna, which was stolen from India over a century ago, will be returning home soon from Canada. Upon the discovery that one of the idols in their collection had been stolen from a shrine in Varanasi, India, the Mackenzie Art Gallery at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan reached out to officials in India to discuss restitution. 

The statue has been in the university’s possession since 1936 when it was donated by Norman MacKenzie, the namesake of the university's gallery. The sculpture remained unquestioned until 2019 when artist Divya Mehra was invited to host a solo exhibition at the Gallery. 

While doing research for her exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Divya Mehra discovered the statue’s illicit origin. Her exhibition, entitled, From India to Canada and Back to India (There Is Nothing I Can Possess Which You Cannot Take Away), "unravels the West’s obsession with simultaneously defining and consuming the histories and identities of other cultures. In this collection of reproduced, misclassified, staged, and stolen cultural property, Mehra deftly and playfully navigates complex networks of colonial entitlement, popular culture, art history, sacred objects, exotic adventurism, and novelty."

It was through her research in the university archives that she discovered the notes from Norman MacKenzie’s trip to India in 1913 which revealed that the idol had been stolen from a small sanctuary along the Ganges, procured indirectly at the behest of MacKenzie. At the time the sculpture was accessioned into the museum's art collection the idol was misclassified as a representation of the god Vishnu and continued to be labelled as such until Mehra began her research. 

When  Mehra recognized that the clearly female sculpture was not Vishnu, she consulted with Dr. Siddhartha V. Shah, curator of South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum who revealed that the deity depicted was in fact Annapurna, also known as the Queen of Benares and Hindu goddess of food and nourishment. Upon the discovery of the illicit origins of the artefact the artist approached John Hampton, interim CEO and Executive Director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, regarding restitution.  The university then took the steps to reach out to the High Commission of India to discuss the sacred object's return. 

The proactive and voluntary repatriation of an artefact is quite unusual in the museum world, with repatriation often taking years of legal discussions and cultural diplomacy between the cultural institution and the aggrieved nation. Mr. Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India commented that "the move to voluntarily repatriate such cultural treasures shows the maturity and depth of India-Canada relations".

The repatriation ceremony was held virtually on November 19th, with attendees from the High Commission of India, Global Affairs Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, the University of Regina, and the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Dr. Thomas Chase, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina stated during the ceremony that "as a university we have a responsibility to right historical wrongs and help overcome the damaging legacy of colonialism wherever possible...repatriating this statue does not atone for the wrong that was done a century ago, but it is an appropriate and important act today. I am thankful to the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Indian High Commission, and the Department of Canadian Heritage for their roles in making it possible."

Image Credit: University of Regina
Screenshot from Repatriation Ceremony

The university and gallery have affirmed that as a result of the discovery of the illicit provenance of the Annapurna idol they will be conducting a full review of the rest of their collection.  Alex King, the Curator for the University’s art collection commented that "the repatriation of the Annapurna is part of a global, long-overdue conversation in which museums seek to address harmful and continuing imperial legacies built into, sometimes, the very foundations of their collections. As stewards of cultural heritage, our responsibility to act respectfully and ethically is fundamental, as is the willingness to look critically at our own institutional histories."

This is undoubtably a step in the right direction for cultural restitution, but it is also a reflection of how little is known about museum collections.  Founder of the India Pride Project S. Vijay Kumar commented that "while the recent restitution is a welcome move it is pertinent to point out that a very distinct feminine sculpture holding a ladle and a bowl was displayed in an academic Institution since the mid-1930’s as a Vishnu. It shows how little of displaced Indian art in Canada has been properly studied. Further that the paperwork attested to its dodgy provenance was within the University archives shows the importance of reviewing provenance and due diligence not just for current acquisitions but for the past as well.  Museums in Canada have in general a very poor record in displaying collections let alone disclosing provenance publicly on their web sites and this is despite high profile cases linked to Subhash Kapoor and even prior that to the Pathur nataraja in 1980s.  We hope this good trend catches on and other public museums engage experts into researching provenance or as a start put the available provenance online."

Image Credit: Sarah Fuller
Courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects

As this Annapurna returns to India her space in the museum collection will be filled by a new piece by Mehra titled 'There is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away (Not Vishnu: New ways of Darsána)'. She spoke with ARCA about the new piece explaining that "the work is a small bag of sand — purchased at a Hollywood prop store (rich in Indiana Jones memorabilia) and artificially aged with coffee, and dye —weighing the equivalent (2.4 lbs.) of the stolen stone goddess of Annapurna that is no longer a part of the collection. The bag sits upon an altar constructed as if for a film set, in front of a ‘Jungle Vine’ painted backdrop. The work is based on a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark — where Indian Jones steals an idol off of a pedestal from an ancient temple. He leaves a bag of sand with what he guesses to be the weight of the stolen idol." The new piece is a reversal of the gap left in the cultural heritage by the antiquarians of the past, the bag of sand now being left at the museums as the statue returns to the place it was stolen. It can also be seen as a commentary on the idolization in the modern world for characters such as Indiana Jones, who treated the cultural heritage of other countries as prized objects to acquire, careless of the value it held to the people it was stolen from. 


By: Lynette Turnblom 

Bibliography 

Annapoorna Virtual Repatriation Ceremony. 2020. “Annapoorna Virtual Repatriation Ceremony.” YouTube. November 20, 2020. https://youtu.be/q769-baqiaA.

Hampton, John G. 2020. “Divya Mehra: From India to Canada and Back to India (There Is Nothing I Can Possess Which You Cannot Take Away).” MacKenzie Art Gallery. 2020. https://mackenzie.art/experience/exhibition/divya-mehra-from-india-to-canada-and-back-to-india-there-is-nothing-i-can-possess-which-you-cannot-take-away/.

“Statue from the University of Regina’s Art Collection Officially Repatriated to India in Virtual Repatriation Ceremony | Communications and Marketing, University of Regina.” 2020. Uregina.Ca. November 19, 2020. https://www.uregina.ca/external/communications/feature-stories/current/2020/11-19.html. 

“Statue from the University of Regina’s Art Collection to Be Returned to India Following Virtual Repatriation Ceremony.” 2020. MacKenzie Art Gallery. November 24, 2020. https://mackenzie.art/statue-from-the-university-of-reginas-art-collection-to-be-returned-to-india-following-virtual-repatriation-ceremony/.

December 11, 2020

Restitution: Cybele, the Anatolia goddess of Phrygia, finally goes home

Image Credit: Turkish Consulate General in New York

After a four and a half year stalemate in an international custody battle between a collector and the Turkish government, a marble statue representing the Anatolian goddess Cybele is finally flying home. 

Just before the start of the first intifada collector Eliezer Levin purchased the Cybele sculpture on 3 November 1987 during a public auction held by Matsa Co. Ltd (“Matsa”), run by the Archeological Center in Old Jaffa and its head, antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch.  Founded in 1979, the center on Mazal Dagim street was established by Deutsch to conduct auctions of archaeological material and other activities.

The provenance listed in the Matsa/Deutsch auction catalogue for the Cybele states that the artefact is: 

“From the collection of the late general Moshe Dayan, sold to a private collector.”
 
Moshe Dayan was an influential and controversial military leader and politician, whose influence over Israel was considerable.  Between 1951-1981, Dayan bought, exchanged, and sold antiquities, establishing a vast private collection, many of which were acquired through illicit excavations.  Known for his insatiable thirst for material, Dayan was hospitalised for three weeks in 1968 after being badly injured in a landslide while robbing a burial cave at Azur near Tel Aviv. 

Image Credit: The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures,
Volume 4: Article 5, 2003

Disbursed for the most part after the deceased general's death, suspect antiquities acquired by and through Dayan have found their way problematically into both private and public collections, most with little in the way of substantiated legal and ethical provenance. 

By 2016, Eliezer Levin had decided to sell the Cybele, and consigned her indirectly to Christie's.  In relation to its sale and eventual transport for auction in New York, the collector filed for the issuance of an export license which he received on 23 February 2016 from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities.  One day later, his designate shipped the sculpture to the auction house in Rockefeller Center. 

By the first of March, the IAA was notified by Interpol that Turkey suspected that the Cybele sculpture had likely been taken out of Turkey illegally.  Once it was determined that the statue had left Israel,  the IAA contacted the United States Department of Homeland Security - HSI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and advised them that the artefact was en route to the United States and that Turkey might be moving forward with a claim.

On April 18, 2016, the Turkish Consulate General in New York sent a letter to the auction house informing them that the Turkish authorities had reason to believe that  Cybele was “of Turkish [Anatolian] origin” and had been “taken out of the country illegally.”   In their request, Turkey rightfully claimed that Cybele is the only known goddess of Phrygia, the first kingdom in the west-central part of Anatolia, the territory at the heart of modern Turkey.  Pending a thorough investigation, the auction firm pulled the Cybele from its upcoming auction.

Eliezer Levin, through is attorney, filed a lawsuit on 21 February 2018 for declaratory judgment on the basis that the collector had acquired the sculpture and had maintained good title to the Cybele under Section 34 of Israeli Sale Law 1968.  His attorney at that time, Sharon Cohen Levin, with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP argued that there was no basis for the forfeiture of the antiquity under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, the United States Act of Congress that became federal law in 1983 which implemented the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  

This in turn lead to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Consulate General in New York to file counterclaims that the statue should be returned to Turkey.  Christie's in turn agreed to serve as, and is appointed by the court as, substitute custodian for the antiquity, holding it in their custody and control pending resolution of any outstanding legal claim of ownership.

While the story drug on, and legal claims worked their way through the court system, the Turkish authorities gathered expert and witness testimony building their case that the sculpture had similarities to other antiquities discovered during roadwork in the western Afyonkarahisar province in 1964.  This lead the Afyonkarahisar Museum Directorate to consult with residents of the area in which these similar objects were thought to be found who reported illicit digging at around the same time period.  

Turkish law enforcement, in turn, identified an individual with a criminal record for antiquities smuggling who had lived in the area of the illicit digging in the 1960s while one of the villagers questioned gave a sworn statement describing an artefact he/she had seen that matched the description of the Cybele statue.  Later, when shown a series of similar artefact images, this same individual was able to correctly pick the exported statue of Cybele from series of similar photographs. 

Image Credits: Turkish Consulate General in New York

Predicated on the preponderance of the evidence gathered by the Turkish authorities, Eliezer Levin stipulated to voluntary dismissal on 11 December 2020, withdrawing his claim for the Cybele concluding all cases in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York.  Packed up and placed in cargo for her return flight to Turkey,  once she is home, the Cybele is scheduled to be returned to Afyonkarahisar once the new museum in the area has been completed. 

The life of a trafficked slave as seen through the eyes of his trafficked funerary portrait.


Earlier this week ARCA talked about two suspect funerary portraits tied to the ancient city of Ostia identified in the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art and a campaign by Italian Senator Margherita Corrado (5-star Movement) to revitalize Italy's attempts to return looted artworks back to their proper contexts. 

Given that a funerary relief should be seen not just for its aesthetics as an ancient art object but as a memorial for the person it was carved for, we thought to add a bit more detail to the man behind the plundered portrait, L. Caltilius Diadumenus, who lived the mid to the late century CE. 

Our portrait sitter was a Greek freedman. As a freed slave his epitaph reads: 

D.M / L. CALTILIO / VIXIR ANNIS XXXV /L. CALTILIUS EUHODUS / SENIOR LIBERTO / OPTIMO FECIT / L CALTILIUS DIADVMENVS HIC CONDITVS E ST 

‘To the souls of the dead, for Lucius Caltilius Diadumenus. 

He lived 35 years.  

Lucius Caltilius Euhodus Senior made it for his best freedman’.

But while the inscription directed by his wealthy patrician informs us about the passage of this slave's 35 year long life, from chattel to independence, during the reigns of the emperors Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius, it is his portrait that shows the real evolution Lucius Caltilius Diadumenus' life underwent.

In ancient Rome inequality was an accepted part of life. Unlike Roman citizens, slaves could be subjected to corporal punishment, sexual exploitation, torture and summary execution.  Their status was so low that even a freed criminal had more rights.   

A male slave who had acquired libertas (freedom) was known as a libertus.  To achieve this status, Lucius would likely have been freed by his owner either in return for services rendered or by buying his freedom from his own earnings, if his owner had allowed him to keep money.  Given the grandeur of this monument, it is reasonable to assume that the two maintained a relationship after Lucius was set free. 

Why Lucius Caltilius Euhodus Senior considered him to be his "best" freedman, implying he had more than one, is unclear.  What is known is that he chose to honour his former slave by having the artisan depict him wearing a toga, the one-piece outer garment worn in public by male citizens in ancient Rome, remembering him as a citizen of society, who apparently lived out his free life in Roman society until his death in Ostia. 

Ostia Antica, the harbour city of ancient Rome,
from its early Republic days to the late Empire period.

Just think about that for a moment...  

Likely captured in some foreign war, and the subject of human trafficking, Lucius Caltilius Diadumenus lived his life, treated as property, during the Pax Romana in Ostia until he was able to claw his way out of the lowest social strata to freedom,  choosing to live out the remainder of his days (we don't know when his freedom was granted), alongside his former "owner" only to, again in death, be trafficked as property for a second time, offered for sale, first to the Kelsey Museum in Michigan and then to the Tampa Museum. 

December 8, 2020

Italian Senator Margherita Corrado commenting on two suspect Roman altars at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art

Last week Italian Senator Margherita Corrado (5-star Movement) signed a motion to create an organization to recover works of art that have left the national territory of Italy.  Signed by many senators of the Movimento 5 Stelle, the motion undertakes to create "a special independent body that has, as its institutional purpose, the recovery of works of art illegally removed from the national territory, activating all remedies and the legal instruments that the legal system makes available for this purpose". 

Her motion calls for Italy to look more broadly into utilizing a pool of experts with knowledge and experience concerning art and antiquities identified in circulation in the art market, as well as in private and public museum collections in order to establish strategies, both legal and diplomatic, to facilitate claims for art and artefacts whose origins are proven to be illicit. 

On December 4th Senator Corrado publicised a pointed press release via Facebook, calling out the J. Paul Getty Museum in California and the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida for having two altars of suspect origin. 

Screenshot cache: Tampa Museum of Art 

Although the find spots of these Rome artefacts are uncertain, they can be linked to the Caltilii of Ostia who built a temple and kept the status of cultores of an international religion involving Isis and Serapis in the port city outside of Rome.  At least one of the two antiquities the senator mentioned is known to have passed through the hands of Gianfranco Becchina who was accused by Italian prosecutors of being part of an antiquities trafficking network that involved tombaroli (tomb raiders) in southern Italy and suspect antiquities dealers and buyers around the globe. 

ARCA has printed Senator Margherita Corrado's statement in its entirety in Italian here as well as with an English translation of her statement below. 

COMUNICATO STAMPA

Due musei privati alle opposte estremità degli Stati Uniti, il Paul Getty Museum di Los Angeles (California) ed il Tampa Museum of Art (Florida), espongono altrettanti altari funerari in marmo risalenti alla prima metà del II secolo. Relativi entrambi a membri della gens Caltilia e allocati forse allo stesso sepolcro di famiglia, sono il frutto di scavi clandestini condotti ad Ostia negli anni ’70 del Novecento per essere poi esportati illegalmente all’estero. 

Nel merito, a proposito dell’ara oggi a Malibù, che reca i busti-ritratto dei coniugi L. Caltilius Stephanus e Caltilia Moschis, nell’archivio di Gianfranco Becchina è stata trovata la proposta di vendita (1980) ad un terzo museo statunitense fatta dalla sua Antike Kunst Palladion per conto di un collezionista svizzero, verosimilmente lo stesso che nel 1983 avrebbe poi ‘donato’ l’altare al Getty.

Quanto all’ara oggi a Tampa, che menziona L. Caltilius Diadumenus, riconoscibile nel busto-ritratto associato, e il suo liberto Euhodus, il portale ufficiale del museo asserisce trattarsi di un acquisto fatto con denaro messo a disposizione "dai collezionisti" nel 1991, dunque ben dopo la ratifica USA (1983) della Convenzione UNESCO di Parigi 1970 ma prima di adottare, nel 2011, una nuova "Collections Managment Policy", e rivederla ulteriormente nel 2013: una presa di distanza dell’attuale governance del museo dalla precedente strategia di incremento delle collezioni, evidentemente poco rispettosa della legalità. 

Con apposita interrogazione, pubblicata dal Senato in questi giorni, ho chiesto a Franceschini se sia a conoscenza “di indagini, eseguite o in corso, tese ad accertare modalità e tempi di acquisizione degli altari dei Caltili da parte dei musei di Los Angeles e Tampa”; nonché, “se intenda riferire quali iniziative il suo dicastero abbia assunto o intenda assumere per dimostrare ai due musei statunitensi, che oggi li espongono, l’origine ostiense dei manufatti e chiederne la restituzione sia sulla base della mancanza di prove attestanti la liceità dell’esportazione, mentre ne esistono per affermare che almeno una delle due arae fu immessa sul mercato statunitense da una società implicata nel traffico internazionale di reperti archeologici, sia, soprattutto, in considerazione della possibilità di acquisire meriti sul piano culturale restituendole al loro contesto d’origine, unico modo per accrescerne sensibilmente il valore documentale.”

[English Translation]

Statement to the Press

Two private museums at opposite ends of the United States, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, and the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida, exhibit marble funerary altars dating back to the first half of the 2nd century CE. Relative to both institutions, two of these artefacts relate to two members of the Caltilian family, linked to the Caltilii of Ostia, perhaps taken from the same family tomb, as the result of illegal excavations conducted in Ostia in the 1970s and then illegally exported abroad. 

[Documents] regarding the altar on display in Malibu, which depicts the funerary portrait busts of L(ucius) Caltilius G(aiae) Libertus Hilarus and Caltilia L(ucii) L(iberta) Felicula can be found in the archive of Gianfranco Bacchina and include a proposal made out by his company, Antike Kunst Palladion, to sell the artefact in 1980 to a third U.S. museum on behalf of a Swiss collector, probably the same individual who, in 1983, then 'donated' the funerary altar to the Getty

As for the altar to be found in Tampa, which mentions L. Caltilius Diadumenus as the person who commissioned the funerary altar for his freedman, Euhodus, the museum's official portal claims that the artefact was purchased with money made available "by the collectors" in 1991, well after the US ratification (1983) of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property in Paris but before adopting a new Collections Management Policy in 2011 and further revising it in 2013: distancing the current governance of the museum from its previous strategy of increasing the collections, which evidently was not very respectful of legalities.

With a specific question, published by the [Italian]  Senate in recent days, I have asked [Dario] Franceschini [serving as Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism] if he is aware of "investigations, carried out or in progress, aimed at ascertaining the methods and times for the acquisition of the Caltili altars by the museums in Los Angeles and Tampa"; as well as, "if he intends to report what initiatives his cultural administration has taken or intends to take to demonstrate to the two US museums, which today exhibit them, the Ostiense origin of the artifacts and request their return both on the basis of the lack of evidence attesting to the lawfulness of the export, while evidence exists to affirm that at least one of the two altars was placed on the US market by a company involved in the international traffic of archaeological finds, and, above all, in consideration of the spirit of cultural diplomacy, returning them to their original context, whereby they can be studied in their rightful context."