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September 30, 2011

Forgery in South Africa: The Story of Frans Claerhout

A 'fake'

by Toby Orford

Higher prices for art are an inevitable sign of emerging market maturity – and also widespread criminal activity. Although art dealers and auctioneers are discreet about the scope of the problem in South Africa, the sales of art attributed to the artist Frans Claerhout on an internet auction site is blatant evidence that art forgery is an ongoing problem that cannot be ignored or, it seems, stopped.

A Belgian Catholic missionary priest, Frans Claerhout, lived most of his life in the Orange Free State. From 1957 onwards – heavily influenced by Flemish expressionism - Claerhout painted a large number of landscapes and figures. Other media included drawings in charcoal, pen-and-ink and crayon.

In 2002 the artist belatedly acknowledged that a close family friend of 45 years had started independently to copy his work, without his knowledge or involvement, and that “hundreds” of forgeries had been sold as originals in well-known Bloemfontein art gallery.

Claerhout died in 2006. Several years later a suspiciously large number of works are being sold on South African internet auction – and private - websites. Anonymous sellers are advertising works at prices in the region of ZAR 3,000 (approx USD 375) to ZAR 7,000 (approx USD 875). As Artinsure ( has noted, in a clumsy attempt to manufacture credible provenance, paintings are accompanied by a “Certificate of Authenticity” and, on the back, a reproduction of a supposedly original message from the artist. Unfortunately, the pro forma message does not refer to the artwork to which it is attached -  and is also false.

The quality of the work is inexplicably amateurish and inferior, and obviously inconsistent with the artist’s style, technique and imagery. Moreover, buyers have reported that paintings have arrived with fresh, wet – even smudged – paint, on board that only recently became available in South Africa.

Nevertheless, the tactic of selling fakes very cheaply on the internet has been quite successful. It has been reported that more than 30 such forgeries have been identified. The low prices are both a temptation and a warning. It is usually the less wealthy and less experienced purchaser that is deceived. Tempted by greed to “beat the market”, even those who suspect that they have been deceived probably don’t care. Or, for such a low outlay, they are prepared to take the risk – or to turn a blind eye to what is going on.  
Cecile Loedolff, an art curator, said in 2002 that the Absa Bank Collection had decided a long time ago to stop buying Claerhout paintings:

" I don't touch a Claerhout ….. I find it very strange that nobody became suspicious earlier. In the last few years, Claerhouts have been issued at the speed of white light."

People are naturally concerned about the authenticity of anything attributed to Claerhout and this will always be bad news for the value of his art. This may explain why as recently as Monday 26 September 2011 several Claerhout paintings failed to sell at a major fine art auction in Cape Town.

The South African Police are investigating. Previous police investigations have failed and a lack of training, experience and resources means that criminal prosecutions are unlikely. Unfortunately is not taking any action, because (it says) it has yet to be presented with any “hard, factual evidence or proof” and has not been contacted by the authorities.

And so, nearly ten years later, the uncertainty, which some lamely predicted would “sort itself out”, continues. The general reluctance to confront and stop such obviously fraudulent activity is surprising.

Privately funded litigation might be the only way to break this vicious circle. Robert Badenhorst is an artist and gallery owner who agrees that Claerhout values have dropped. He is currently considering whether to overcome inertia and to organise a private investigation in order to collect the evidence that is necessary to prosecute the sellers. Civil litigation against them is also a possibility. Although the buyers who have been cheated want to recover their losses, the main objective of any legal action would be to “name and shame” – and stop the forgeries. This is necessary in order to protect Claerhout’s legacy. But it is also necessary to protect the reputation of South African art in general. 

© Toby Orford 2011

September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - , No comments

Evidence of changing attitudes: The Art Loss Register recovers valuable medallion on behalf of the Castle Friedenstein Foundation in Gotha Germany

When SJ Phillips, a jewellery and art dealer, offered to sell a rare 17th century gold medallion to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts museum the institute contacted the Art Loss Register who confirmed that the item was on it's database of stolen works, and once contacted with this information, the seller offered to return the item to it's pre-World War II owners. You may read the press release on the Art Loss Register's website here.

September 28, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney's Q&A with Alan Hirsch

Williams College's Professor Alan Hirsch spoke with Noah Charney for a Q&A column for the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Hirsch is author of For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights (Free Press, 1998) and Talking Heads: Political Talk Shows and Their Star Pundits (St. Martin's, 1991). His most recent book is The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball (McFarland, 2011).
Why, you might ask, [Charney writes] is he being interviewed for a column about art historical mysteries and art crime? Because he is the world's foremost expert in the 1961 theft of Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington," stolen from the National Gallery in London -- he's currently writing a book on it.
Hirsch addresses the issues of art history, law, and true crime as involved in the Goya Theft. You may read this interview in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through ARCA's website or purchasing individual issues through

September 27, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - , No comments

"The Three Elephants" are Fighting For Survival in Court: Moral Rights Through the Prism of the South African Constitution

'Elephant' by artist Andries Botha under construction
Press release issued by Toby Orford, TOBY ORFORD ART LAW, who attended ARCA's Third International Art Crime Conference.

In order to protect his “Three Elephants” artwork – a life-size sculpture at the Warwick Triangle Viaduct in Durban – the internationally respected artist Andries Botha has been forced to institute legal proceedings. The case is brought against eThekwini Municipality and other parties, including the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile. Botha will be represented in the Durban High Court proceedings by the prominent constitutional and administrative law Advocates Gilbert Marcus SC and Max du Plessis.

The dispute has generated much public interest since February 2010 and the dilemma of Andries Botha and “The Three Elephants” has been reported on extensively in the media, in South Africa and internationally.

At the heart of the dispute is the fate of “The Three Elephants”. “If eThekwini has its way, my sculpture, which was approved and commissioned by them, will be torn down”, said Andries Botha. Although eThekwini concluded a contract with Botha to build three elephants emerging from a sea of stones, it changed its mind in June 2010. Having formally ordered Botha to stop working on the public sculpture, eThekwini passed a Resolution which approved the destruction of two of the elephants and the incorporation of the remaining elephant into a new urban design concept consisting of the “Big Five” animals.

eThekwini's about-turn is closely linked to rumours that local ANC politicians are fearful that “The Three Elephants” are too closely related to the official symbol of the Inkatha Freedom Party:

“This is ironic because the elephants were specially chosen – by eThekwini - as an apolitical African metaphor for tolerance, co-existence and due consideration for a vulnerable eco-system”, said Botha.

Botha wants to complete “The Three Elephants” project in the public interest, and to receive payment for the work he and his employees have done. Notwithstanding Botha's efforts to find a solution to the stand-off, eThekwini has refused to give an undertaking to safeguard the integrity of “The Three Elephants” – which means that the elephants may be removed at any time.

Andries Botha says that he has been left with no choice but to seek the court's protection. His legal representative Toby Orford of Toby Orford Art Law has been instructed to lodge application papers at the Durban High Court. Toby Orford confirmed that the papers have been filed and are being served on the respondents. According to Toby Orford, “The purpose of the application is fully set out in the application papers but it is no secret that it is an application for a declaration to confirm Andries Botha's rights, a review of eThekwini's decision and an interdict prohibiting eThekwini (and others) from modifying, altering or destroying “The Three Elephants”. Andries also has separate claims in contract and delict against the contractors involved in the Warwick Triangle project.”

Botha's case is that eThekwini's decision to remove two of the elephant figures is a decision to destroy, mutilate or change a work of art. eThekwini's decision amounts to censorship and interference, which violates the artist's freedom of artistic expression which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Above all, eThekwini's decision is a breach of the moral rights of an artist. Toby Orford explained further:

“Moral rights are known in copyright law as the author's “moral right” and are closely derived from Article 6 of the Berne Convention, 1886. An artist's moral rights (as set out in section 20 of the Copyright Act) are infringed when without his approval his right of paternity in the work is not acknowledged or (as in this case) an unjustifiable distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work takes place or is threatened.”

It is time that the moral right of the artist is upheld in South Africa, as seen through the wide-angle lens of section 16 of the Constitution:

“Art and artists have clear rights. Unfortunately, it appears that the only way to protect those rights and the public's interest in The Three Elephants is by recourse to the courts. This decision has been taken only after careful deliberation and unsuccessful efforts to broker a compromise solution”, said Toby Orford.

Toby Orford can be reached at OR

September 26, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney's Q&A with Peter Watson

Peter Watson, the critically-acclaimed author, answered questions posed by Noah Charney for the Q&A column for the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Mr. Watson has been a senior editor at the London Sunday Times, the New York correspondent of the daily Times, and a columnist for the Observer. He has also written regularly for the New York Times and the Spectator. He is the author of several books of cultural and intellectual history, including Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention and, most recently The German Genius. His work on the art world and art crime includes The Caravaggio Conspiracy; Sotheby's: the Inside Story; and The Medici Conspiracy. From 1997 to 2007 he was a research associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.

Charney asks Watson about writing, his first interest in the dark side of the art world, and his theory about the fate of the Caravaggio Nativity, and his opinion as to the best way to curb art crime in the future.

You may subscribe to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website or purchase individual issues through

September 23, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Douglas L. Yearwood Reviews books on Henry Walters, Bernard Berenson and Giuseppe Panza

Doug Yearwood, Director of the North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center, has reviewed two books on collecting for the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Henry Walters and Bernard Berenson: Collector and Connoisseur
by Stanley Mazaroff
John Hopkins University Press, 2010
Stanley Mazaroff, a retired barrister who returned to Johns Hopkins to pursue the study of art history, documents the tumultuous, dynamic and topsy-turvy love-hate relationship between the railroad tycoon and art collector, Henry Walters, and Bernard Berenson, a world renowned Italian Renaissance art expert and dealer, between 1902 and 1927.  Drawing on extensive museum records and related archival documents, including the personal correspondence, papers and letters of the two men, the author cogently depicts the highs and lows of Walters collecting career, reveals the inherent difficulties of identifying works attributed, and misattributed, to the Italian masters all within the context of America's gilded age and the lust for anything remotely related to the Renaissance among the nation's most wealthy industrialists and their families.

Giuseppe Panza: Memories of a Collector
by Giuseppe Panza
Abbeville Press, 2008

Memories of a collector is Giuseppe Panza's autobiographical explication of his love, devotion and nearly obsessive desire to put together the best collection of modern or contemporary American art.  Unlike Walters who often left purchases uncrated for months at a time, Panza was a true connoisseur, scholar and an extremely astute buyer who had an uncanny innate ability to know which artists and their works would become famous or desirable well before others in the market.

You may read the complete reviews in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through the ARCA website or by purchasing individual copies through

Getty to Return More Items to Greece - The Aftermath of "Chasing Aphrodite"

Los Angeles - The Associate Press is reporting today that the J. Paul Getty Museum will return three Greek marbles to Greece. The "5th century B.C. works [are] two pieces of a relief sculpture from a grave marker — a third fragment of which is in a Greek museum — and a slab with an inscription related to a religious festival". It's part of the continued story of Chasing Aphrodite as reported by journalists Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino about the collection of antiquities at the "world's richest museum." The book is not just an indictment against the Getty but also the narrative of the types of pressures involved in the trade of antiquities and the changing perception of what is and isn't acceptable after the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Since writing their book, Felch and Frammolino also continue posting additional stories on their website, Chasing Aphrodite, such as the curator who was under surveillance by the FBI for alleged spying activities. Felch and Frammolino spent more than five years investigating the story then condensed the information in an easy to read and informative volume.

Here's a link to more on the story in The Los Angeles Times.

September 21, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney reviews two exhibitions

The Journal of Art Crime's editor-in-chief Noah Charney reviews an exhibition, "Jan Gossaert at the National Gallery, London, 23 February - 30 May 2011" in the Spring 2011 issue of this peer-reviewed academic journal on the interdisciplinary study of art crime.

The exhibit featured Jan Gossaert, a Flemish Mannerist (1478-1532), who had spent time in Italy. This review was first published in ArtInfo in April 2011.

In a second review of an exhibition, Mr. Charney covered the "Mostra Palazzo Farnese" at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome that was held from 17 December 2010 through 27 April 2011 in the building which is has been the French Embassy of Rome.

September 20, 2011

The Art Loss Register Recovers Two Seventeenth Century Colonial Paintings Stolen from a Church in Bolivia

St. Rose Viterbo
ART LOSS REGISTER PRESS RELEASE - On Christmas Eve in 1997, more than a hundred religious artefacts were stolen from the Church (Templo) of San Andres de Machaca in La Paz, Bolivia. The church, declared a Bolivian National Monument in 1962, had been the target of thieves several years earlier before being stripped of its colonial masterpieces in 1997. The theft was reported to the Bolivian Ministry of Culture and Interpol and subsequently recorded on the Art Loss Register’s international database of stolen, missing and looted artwork.

Saint Augustin
In May 2011, over thirteen years after the theft, the Art Loss Register received a request to search its database of stolen art for two of the Bolivian colonial works. The request was submitted by a U.S. art dealer who claimed to have received the paintings on consignment from an elderly American collector. The art historians employed by the Art Loss Register were able to conclusively identify the portraits of ‘Saint Rose of Viterbo’ and ‘Saint Augustin’from several unique areas of damage thanks to the good quality archival photographs taken by the church prior to the theft.

Bolivian Ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron Crespo
 and Christopher Marinello of the Art Loss Register 
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specializes in recovering stolen art for the Art Loss Register in London, handled the complicated negotiations that brought these iconic pictures back to Bolivia. “We could not have located these paintings without the important and groundbreaking work of Interpol and the Interpol Database of Stolen Art. This case is emblematic of the cooperation between the public and the private sector, a relationship that, in my view, is crucial to the protection of cultural heritage worldwide.”

In a brief ceremony at the Bolivian Embassy in London on 12 September 2011, the paintings were returned to Ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron Crespo on behalf of the Bolivian Ministry of Culture.

September 19, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: An excerpt from Elena Franchi's book "I viaggi dell'Assunta. La protezione del patrimonio artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali"

The Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime presents excerpts and images from a book by Elena Franchi, published in Italian, entitled "The Travels of the Assumption: the Protection of Venetian Cultural Heritage during the Two World Wars" (Pisa University Press 2010).
As ARCA is based in both the United States and Italy we wish to encourage the international cooperation of scholars in the joint pursuit of the protection of art and the advancement of art crime studies. The Introduction is published here [in the JAC] in Italian with the permission of the author, and the images have been provided with captions in English by the author.
Elena Franchi was nominated for a 2009 Emmy Award for "Research" for the American documentary The Rape of Europa, made in 2006 with filmmakers Richard Berge, Bonnie Cohen and Nicole Newnham. She participated in an international project on the study of Kuntschutz, a German unit created for the protection of cultural heritage of the countries involved in the war. She is also the author of Arte in assetto di guerra. Protezione e distruzione del patrimonio artistico a Pisa durante la seconda guerra mondiale (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2006).

You may obtain a copy of this issue by subscribing through ARCA's website or by individual copy through

September 18, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - No comments

Vernon Silver Presented "Crime Scenes as Archaeological Sites" at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference

Silver discusses Euphronio's Krater
 (Photo by Urska Charney)
"Crime Scenes as Archaeological Sites"
Vernon Silver
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford

Vernon Silver, senior writer at Bloomberg News in Rome and author of "The Lost Chalice" (Harper Paperbacks, 2010), presented his paper, "Crimes Scenes as Archaeological Sites" at ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia in July 2011.

"The Lost Chalice" is a nonfiction thriller about the oldest known work by ancient Greek artist Eurphronio's $1 million pot that formerly resided at The Met and its lost twin that traveled through the hands of Bruce McNall and the Hunt Brothers then was sold at auction through Sotheby's in 1990.

Here Silver describes his work:
Italy's criminal investigations of the illicit antiquities trade have largely ignored the archaeological sites from which artifacts have been removed. Greater attention to these crime scenes -- which double as archaeological sites -- can help restore some of the archaeological context lost in the process of looting objects. 
This paper uses the example of the 1971 illicit dig at Greppe Sant'Angelo in Cerveteri, Italy, in which tomb robbers uncovered a previously unknown complex of Etruscan tombs, removing sellable artifacts that included a red-figure Attic vase that became known as the Euphronios krater. The recent trials in Rome that led the Metropolitan Museum of Art to return the vase to Italy did not address the archaeological origins of the object. Although Italy's requests for its return drew on the moral argument that the nation's archaeological heritage had been harmed, the lack of crime-scene analysis was a lost opportunity to rebuild a record of the vase's history, including the other objects with which it was buried, and details of the necropolis where it was found. 
Drawing on research for the author's doctoral thesis ("The Antiquities Trade: Object Biographies of Euphronios vases looted from Etruria") and his related book, "The Lost Chalice" (2009, 2010) this paper presents examples of the rich selection of untapped data about the site: photos from the early 1970s in the archive of the Villa Giulia museum; interviews with a surviving tomb robber; contemporary visits to the site itself and objects in the Cerveteri archaeology museum that were also found at the site but never labeled as such. All can help rebuild the lost context. 
From a policing view, an eye for archaeology would enhance the collection of such records. (Fans of one crime-scene television show might think of this approach as "CSI: Ancient Victims Unit.") For the sake of archaeology, there is more to investigate than just the buyers and sellers. 
In the future, greater police and prosecutor attention to developing and publishing crime-scene data on illicit excavations, and involving archaeologists in the process, would be a step to restoring damage to the archaeological record. Outside Italy and other source countries such as Greece and Egypt, scholarly attention to police evidence should also help meet those ends.

September 17, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins Lectures on 'Stealing Beauty' at the University of Auckland Law School on October 6

Judge Arthur Tompkins, an instructor in ARCA's academic program, will be discussing 'Stealing Beauty' at the University of Auckland Law School on Friday October 6.

The lecture will be held at 1 p.m. at Northey Lecture Theatre (further information may be found at

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a Disrict Court Judge in New Zealand. He has presented at numerous international conferences and workshops, in New Zealand and elsewhere, on a variety of topics, including international art crime. Each year he teaches Art in War at the Summer Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Heritage Protection Studies, presented annually by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art ( in Umbria, Italy.
"Art always suffers during wartime. From the sack of the Temple of Solomon, through the many crimes committed against the Ghent Altarpiece, and the depredations of Napoleon and Hitler across Europe, this has always been so. This lecture will survey fascinating examples of these sorts of crimes, the people involved, and some of the stories and myths surrounding them. 
As well as the Ghent Altarpiece, the lecture will include the long history of the Four Horses of San Marco's Basilica in Venice, the theft of Veronese's Wedding at Cana, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the miracle of the Alt Aussee salt mine, the survival of the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the bizarre story connecting Goya, the Duke of Wellington, James Bond, and television licensing fees."

September 16, 2011

Art Loss Register Theft Alert: Renoir Stolen from Private Collection in Houston

Pierre-August Renoir's
 Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow
 with Flowers in Her Hair
1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm)
September 16 - The Art Loss Register has issued a theft alert for a painting by Renoir stolen from a private collection in Houston on September 8. The alert can be found here and reads as follows:
Pierre-August Renoir's Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair (1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm) was stolen from a private collection during the evening of the 8th of September 2011 as reported to the Houston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for information leading to the return of the painting. Anyone with information regarding this item please contact: 
Christopher A. Marinello, Executive & General Counsel, The Art Loss Register, 1st Floor, 63-66 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8LE, United Kingdom, Tel: +44 (0) 207 841 5780, email: 
Robert Wittman, Robert Whittman, Inc., PO Box 653, Chester Heights, PA 19017, USA Tel: 610-361-8929, email:

ARCA blog contacted Mr. Marinello and asked for more information. "Unfortunately, we cannot comment on the theft due to the fact that it is a pending investigation by the Houston PD and Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Marinello responded in an email. "The Art Loss Register has 259 stolen Renoirs in its database of stolen, missing, and looted artwork. We are hopeful that the publicity given to this horrific crime will produce some leads that will assist with the recovery of this painting."


Mathew Taylor (LAPD Art Theft Detail)
Press Release from the US Attorney's Office for Central District of California

by Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer

LOS ANGELES – A Florida man was arrested this morning pursuant to a federal indictment that alleges he sold paintings stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery, and that he had sold forged artworks to a collector with false claims that they had been painted by esteemed artists.

Matthew Taylor, 43, of Vero Beach, Florida, was arrested without incident this morning by special agents with the FBI. Taylor, who formerly worked as an art dealer, is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Fort Pierce, Florida.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Taylor last week on seven felony charges related to art theft and a long-running fraud that targeted a Los Angeles art collector.

The indictment charges Taylor with defrauding the art collector victim out of millions of dollars by selling him forged art works. Taylor allegedly sold the collector more than 100 paintings – including paintings that he falsely claimed were by artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko – for a total of more than $2 million. The indictment alleges that Taylor altered paintings from unknown artists to make them appear to be the products of famous artists, and then sold the bogus artwork to the victim at prices exponentially higher than their actual worth.

To conceal the true nature of the paintings, Taylor allegedly put forged on the paintings and painted over or otherwise concealed signatures from the actual artists. The indictment also alleges that Taylor created and put onto the paintings fake labels which falsely represented that the artworks were once part of prestigious art collections at famous museums, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in the New York and the Guggenheim Museum.

Stolen: "Park Scene, Paris"
$20,000 Lucien Frank painting 
Regarding the alleged art heists, the indictment accuses Taylor of stealing a Granville Redmond painting called “Seascape at Twilight” from a gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor later sold that painting to a different gallery for $85,000, falsely claiming that his mother had owned it for several years. The indictment also alleges that Taylor stole a separate artwork – a painting by Lucien Frank titled “Park Scene, Paris” – from the same gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor was seen several years later in possession of the stolen Lucien Frank painting at a gallery in Vero Beach.

The indictment further alleges that Taylor laundered and transferred across state lines some of the proceeds from his fraud on the collector victim – specifically, $105,000 that Taylor had taken from the victim by selling him four forged paintings in September 2006.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The indictment charges Taylor with three counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and one count of possession of stolen property. The mail fraud charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and the remaining counts each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years. Therefore, if he is convicted of all seven counts in the indictment, Taylor faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years in federal prison.

Based on evidence collected throughout this case, investigators believe there are additional victims of art fraud related to Taylor’s activities. Individuals who purchased art from Taylor and believe they may have been defrauded should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles at (310) 477-6565 or the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail at (213) 486-6940.

The ongoing investigation into Taylor is being conducted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail, and IRS - Criminal Investigation.

You may read more about this case on the LAPD Art Theft Detail website.

More information about the $20,000 Lucien Frank painting that is still outstanding may be found here.

September 14, 2011

"Fakes, Forgeries and the Art of Deception": A Lecture at the Smithsonian by Colette Loll Marvin

Independent curator and researcher Colette Loll Marvin is lecturing on "Fakes, Forgeries and the Art of Deception" at the Smithsonian on Wednesday, September 21.

Ms. Marvin was a student in the first 2009 class of ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Protection Studies.

Colette Loll Marvin, Paris
You may find out more information about this program at this link, including how to order tickets.

ARCA program attendees or alumni may contact Colette Marvin at for courtesy tickets.

September 12, 2011

Art Theft Detectives Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis Will Discuss Some of the World's Most Intriguing Cases at Stonehill College on September 20

Art detectives Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis will discuss some of the world's most intriguing cases at Martin Auditorium at Stonehill College on September 20.

Virginia Curry, a retired FBI Special Agent and charter member of the FBI Art Crimes Task Force, has been involved in many high profile art theft investigations throughout her career.

Dick Ellis, an art crime investigator for over 20 years, began the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland. He has many notable recoveries such as "The Scream", looted Chinese and Egyptian antiquities, as well as valuable items from private British Collections.

There will be a reception from 5.30 to 6.30 p.m. followed by a presentation from 7:00 p.m. Stonehill College is located near Boston in Easton, Massachusetts.

Mr. Ellis has taught for the past three years at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. Ms. Curry has written for The Journal of Art Crime and presented at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in 2009.

September 9, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Danelle Augustin Writes "A Different View of Art Crime: An Interview with Sculptor Nicolas Lobo"

Nicolas Lobo's Cough Syrup Play-Doh Diorama, 2007
In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, art historian Danelle Augustin interviews a Miami artist about the influence of illegality in his works in the interview "A Different view of Art Crime."

Augustin, a professor and attorney who lives and works in Miami, Florida, discussed the artist's works titled "Dummy Crack Doppelganger", "Cough Syrup Play-doh Diorama", and "Canario".

You may obtain a copy of this issue through ARCA's website or

September 7, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: David Gill's Context Matters looks at "The Unresolved Case of the Minneapolis Krater"

In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, David Gill writes about "The Unresolved Case of the Minneapolis Krater" in his regular column Context Matters.

Gill, head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, at Ipswich, Suffolk, England (from October 2011) and author of Sifting the soil of Greece: the early years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919), answers the question of why the dispute over the krater needs to be resolved. The Athenian pot, decorated with a Dionysiac scene, was acquired in 1983 from the London-based dealer Robin Symes by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Although the collecting history for the krater claims that it had been private owned by collectors in Switzerland and Great Britain for 15 years prior to the purchase, the pot has been identified from the photographic archive seized in a warehouse facility held by Robert Hecht and Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2004 for dealing in stolen ancient artifacts.

To read more about this five-year-old dispute, you may obtain a copy of this issue by subscription through the ARCA website or through

September 5, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney writes on "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the Valfierno Con" in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime"

In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor-in-chief Noah Charney writes about "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the Valfierno Con" in his regular column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime."

"The story in question regards a mythical character called Eduardo de Valfierno, an Argentine criminal alleged to have commissioned the theft of the Mona Lisa by Vincenzo Peruggia in 1911 in order to sell six forgeries of it to unsuspecting nouveau-riche criminal collectors," Mr. Charney writes. "The idea was that each of these 'collectors would believe that they had the stolen original, and they would be unable to advertise their acquisition of the Mona Lisa for the very fact it was stolen.

You may read more about this plan and its myth in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through the ARCA website or by purchasing this issue at

September 3, 2011

Saturday, September 03, 2011 - , No comments

Lynda Albertson Hired as New CEO of ARCA

Lynda Albertson
by Noah Charney, Founder and President of ARCA

We at ARCA are pleased to announce the hiring of a new CEO.

ARCA is an international non-profit research group on the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. With seats in the United States and Italy, ARCA acts as a bridge between world art police, museums, security professionals, art lawyers, archaeologists, and scholars studying this field, with the collective goal of promoting art crime as a distinctive field of study. Featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and other publications, ARCA is a small 501c3 which runs academic, research, and publication-based projects.

ARCA publishes a twice-yearly academic journal, The Journal of Art Crime, the first and only interdisciplinary journal in this field.

ARCA runs an annual Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Studies, held in Umbria every summer. This program is the first and only in the world to offer students a chance to study art crime from both a theoretical and practical standpoint, with visiting professors teaching alongside world-renowned art police and security directors.

ARCA run lectures, workshops, and engages in media outreach to better inform the public and professionals alike about art crime. It also publishes books, including the edited volume, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009) and the recent The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting (ARCA Publications 2011).

For more information on ARCA, please visit

The Trustees of ARCA are pleased to announce the appointment of a new CEO, Lynda Albertson.

Ms. Albertson has a particularly well-suited suite of qualifications that set her apart. She comes to us from the post of Director of Programming at the American Institute for Roman Culture, which is, like ARCA, a US-registered 501c3 non-profit that functions in Italy which hosts students living and studying abroad and which runs conferences, lectures, and publications. This combination of direct experience in running an American 501c3 organization in Italy, and also experience dealing with students living abroad in Italy, combined with her location in Rome, her excellent contacts in Italy, her comfort functioning in an Italian context, and her Italian language abilities, make her an ideal candidate.

We at ARCA look forward to a long and fruitful period with Ms. Albertson at the helm. Ms. Albertson may be contacted at director "at"