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May 15, 2009

Carabinieri Celebrate 40 Years Fighting Art Crime

To celebrate 40 years of success against art crime, the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Italian Ministry of Culture has planned a series of major exhibitions, in Naples, Florence, and Rome, throughout 2009. 

Established in 1969, the Carabinieri Comando per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale was the world’s first dedicated art squad, established in response to a rash of thefts on the part of Organized Crime throughout the 1960s, culminating in the 1969 theft of Madonna’s Nativity from the chapel of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily. The Caravaggio, thought to have been stolen by the Sicilian Mafia, is still number one on the list of world’s most wanted stolen art. 

The Carabinieri are far and away the largest and most effective art police force in the world, with over three-hundred full-time agents. They also have much more to deal with, as Italy has nearly ten times as many art crimes reported per year than any other country. The Italian government has been one of the only governments to take art crime as seriously as the crime warrants, and to dedicate sufficient resources to the art police. Most countries have no dedicated art police, and those that do tend to be under-funded and receive insufficient support from their governments.

Exhibitions of recovered masterpieces will be held at the Palazzo Reale in Naples, the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, and the Galleria Palatina in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. An exhibition catalogue, entitled “L’Arma per l’Arte,” will also be published. Reviews of the catalogue and exhibitions will appear in the Fall 2009 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. 

ARCA is proud to support Italy and the Carabinieri, and would like to congratulate founding trustee Col. Giovanni Pastore of the Carabinieri for his efforts throughout his career. ARCA is also pleased to award Gen. Giovanni Nistri of the Carabinieri, with the 2009 ARCA Award for Lifetime Achievement in Defence of Art. The 2009 ARCA ArtGuard Award for Art Protection & Security will be presented to former Italian Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli, at the awards ceremony at ARCA’s conference this July 11 in Amelia.