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July 25, 2011

ARCA Award for Art Policing & Recovery Given to Paolo Ferri at International Art Crime Conference

Paolo Ferri and Noah Charney (Photo by Urska Charney)
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Paolo Giorgio Ferri received ARCA’s Award for Art Policing and Recovery for his work as a former Italian State Prosecutor and his role in the return of many looted antiquities from North American public and private collections. He was the lead attorney in Italy’s cases against The Getty Museum, Marion True, and other American museums for the return of looted antiquities. He now serves as an expert in international relations and recovery of works of art for the Italian Culture Ministry.

Dr. Ferri told the audience, in Italian and through the use of an English translator, that he was delighted to receive the ARCA award, his first major award recognizing his professional accomplishments.

Years ago, Ferri said, exporting of looted antiquities was a fiscal misdemeanor and assisted by the ease with which the items could be cleared through Switzerland. He credited the work of Peter Watson, the author of The Medici Conspiracy, for his investigation into Giacomo Medici that enabled the return of many objects. In addition, the subsequent media coverage increased awareness of the problem of selling cultural heritage.

Regarding resolution of these matters of allegations of stolen antiquities, Dr. Ferri would prefer an international court that would provide more uniform judgments. “This court could possibly be under the offices of UNESCO which recently started offices for mediation and restitution,” Dr. Ferri told the audience.

He proposes that arbitration would expedite these matters and that inexpensive working groups in each state could provide spontaneous information that could ease the return of cultural objects. “The Washington Agreement should help people who hold title in ‘good faith’ and return objects to the original state,” Dr. Ferri said. “The necessity of proof should come from the buyer of good faith.”

The object should be returned to the country of origin who claims it if there is any doubt, Dr. Ferri said. “Cooperation in marco-regions is of extreme importance,” he said.