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February 29, 2012

FBI Agent (Retired) Virginia Curry and former Scotland Yard Detective Richard Ellis Will Team Up This Summer to Teach An Art Crime Course at Stonehill College in Massachusetts

Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis holding a painting
 by David Teniers, Peasant Filling His Pipe,  stolen from the
Richard Green Gallery in London.
ARCA supports this short course program as a precursor to our Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Program.  Attendees to the Stonehill program will qualify for a fees reduction to ARCA's 10 week program if they attend both programs.  Please contact for more information.

Former Scotland Yard detective Richard Ellis and former FBI Agent Virginia Curry will team up to teach "The Fine Art of Crime and Art World Basic Primer" at Stonehill College from July 30 to August 3, 2012 at North Easton, Massachusetts.

Richard Ellis is a professional art crime investigator and a director of the Art Management Group. Based in London he is a former detective with New Scotland Yard, where he founded and ran the Art & Antiques Squad for over a decade.  FBI Special Agent (Retired) and Art Crime Team Investigator Virginia Curry is a FBI certified and highly successful undercover agent/instructor and former FBI Security consultant, now privately licensed by the State of Texas. This is the description for their course:
Presenting our partnership with Stonehill College, in which we take full advantage of the beautiful campus and the rich resources of the greater Boston area we offer participants a "hands on" connection and an exceptional experience of scholarship and professionalism with art.  There will be lecturers on campus each morning focusing on topics which initiate the novice aficionado to the economics of art, provide suggestions for researching their own areas of art interest and of course we will discuss crimes against art and share our first hand international experience, scholarship and current topics in the field. 
In the afternoons we visit several museums, premier art galleries and conduct practical exercises, such as participation in a mock auction at Stonehill, and learn about how auctions are conducted at a major Boston fine art auction house our behind the scenes visit.   We will meet museum professionals who will explain their function in regard to exhibition preparation and curation. We’ll try our hand at solving the most important unsolved museum heist in U.S. history. We will observe how conservation specialists work and how security managers manage the risk of the exposure of their treasures.  We'll speak with the curator of an important corporate collection to see how business collects and presents investment art. We'll experience the culture of Boston from the Red Sox at Fenway Park to the clambakes of Cape Cod.  This unique seminar adventure equips you to pursue your interest in collecting and appreciating art and understanding the diverse crimes against art like none other.

Lunches on site at Stonehill College are included.  Transportation for excursions is included.  Scheduled evening events and socials such as the opening Sam Adams Boston Lager toasting reception, Boston Red Sox game, and the closing clam bake, barring inclement weather or unforeseen emergency, are included.  All basic course materials (handouts, etc.,) are included.  Other evening meals and meals off campus are at personal expense.  Local lodging at a discounted rate is available, which includes breakfast and transportation to Stonehill College and return.  Discounted airfare has been arranged through American Airlines for travelers.
Cost: $2,250. A Deposit of $300 is required to reserve your place by May 1, 2012; balance must be received by June 1, 2012.  Kindly respond early since participation is quite limited.
For more information please contact:

February 28, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Donn Zaretsky's column "Art Law and Policy"

In Donn Zaretsky's regular column, "Art Law and Policy", the attorney asks "When is a citizen not a citizen for purposes of foreign sovereign immunity?" in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Mr. Zaretsky tries to answer that question in his column:
The case that The New York Times has called “the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim” may provide an answer to that question. In de Csepel v. Republic Of Hungary (10-cv-1261), heirs of the Hungarian banker Baron Mor Lipot Herzog sued in United States District Court in Washington seeking the return of a collection worth more than $100 million. Since the suit is against the Republic of Hungary (and several of its state-run museums, where much of the collection still hangs), the question of foreign sovereign immunity naturally presents itself. The plaintiffs say the doctrine doesn’t apply because the works were taken in violation of international law -- even though it is well-established that a state’s taking of the property of its own citizens cannot violate international law. In a recent decision (issued September 1, 2011), the District Court agreed.
Donn Zaretsky is an art law specialist at the firm John Silberman Associates and a leading name in the art law corner of the legal blogosphere. Zaretsky publishes the Art Law Blog at  and is frequently cited by journalists for his commentary on art-related legal matters.

You may read Mr. Zaretsky's opinion in ARCA's publication, The Journal of Art Crime, by subscribing here.

February 27, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Christopher A. Marinello and Jerome Hasler on "The Flap Over Scrap: Theft and Vandalism in Exterior Sculptures"

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Christopher A. Marinello and Jerome Hasler look at "The Flap Over Scrap: Theft and Vandalism in External Sculptures". Here an excerpt:
Every morning on their way to the Notting Hill tube many individuals run into (sometimes literally) Nadim Karam's Carnival Elephant sculpture, idly evoking the movement of people around it with it's gently revolving fan, spinning in unison with the whirlwind of activity at the Newcombe Piazza. Last week, however, the fan was not moving: some rascal had indiscriminately broken off one of the blades. The stasis causes many to wonder how and when the watchful elephant will be repaired, following the unholy act of animal cruelty enacted upon it. 
Deliberate damage upon public sculptures and monuments is by no means a modern development. Indeed even medieval morons pried bronze clamps and support bars from inside the walls of Rome’s Colosseum for use elsewhere in the city, owing in part to their own inability to manufacture the building materials they required.
Jerome Hasler is a student of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Christopher A. Marinello had been a litigator in the criminal and civil courts in New York for over 20 years before joining the Art Loss Register as Executive Director and General Counsel. Chris has represented galleries, dealers, artists and collectors and is currently managing US and worldwide art recovery cases for the London based organization. The Art Loss Register is the world’s largest international database of stolen, missing and looted artwork. It is used by law enforcement agencies, the insurance industry, the art market, museums and private collectors, who can commission pre-sale due diligence checks as well as fine art recovery services. Chris serves as the ALR’s chief negotiator and has mediated and settled numerous art related disputes as well as several high-profile Holocaust Restitution claims. He is often asked by law enforcement to take part in clandestine art recovery operations and has participated in numerous international conferences on stolen artistic property. Chris has taught Law & Ethics in the Art Market at New York University SCPS, Seton Hall University and Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Masters Degree Program. He is also a member of Advisory Council of the Appraisers Association of America and Inland Marine Underwriters Association.

February 26, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: David Gill's Column "Context Matters" looks at "Compliance and the Antiquities Market

In the Fall issue of The Journal of Art Crime, David Gill, in his column "Context Matters" looks at "Compliance and the Antiquities Market." Here's an excerpt from his column:

Over the years there has been a major change in the way countries have sought to reclaim archaeological material that had been looted. Claims have been made against the background of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This was accepted by the USA in 1984 and by the United Kingdom in 2002. 
Attempts to reclaim material were extended and tended to take time to go through the legal channels. Such disputes included the Kanakaria Mosaics to Cyprus, the Dekadrachm Hoard and the Lydian Treasure to Turkey, and the Aidonia Treasure to Greece. The case of the Sevso Treasure is unresolved as although it was certainly removed from its archaeological context by unscientific means, it has not been possible to confirm where this hoard was found. 
The seizure of the Medici Dossier in the Geneva Freeport (and related photographic archives in Basel and in Greece) has allowed the Italian authorities to adopt a different strategy. Images of objects in a fragmented state or still covered in mud have been an emotive force in the rhetoric surrounding the returns. Museums that were reluctant to negotiate were persuaded that bad publicity could be avoided if discussions about returns were initiated. In one case a major North American museum was shown images in 2005 and less than a year later had arranged to return 13 antiquities to Italy. It was, and is, hard to argue that something was in “an old collection” when the object had been recorded in a distressed state subsequent to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. 
Yet compliance has been reluctant in some quarters. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was aware nearly twenty years ago that the torso of a Weary Herakles fit the abdomen and legs of a statue that had been excavated at Perge in southern Turkey. The presentation of a collection history that suggested that the torso had surfaced in Germany in the 1950s was a distraction. The situation was made more complicated as the donors had retained part ownership of the torso. Full title was eventually transferred to the MFA.
David Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, UK. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome. He returned to Newcastle University as a Sir James Knott Fellow where he laid the foundations for Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) written with Michael Vickers. He was appointed Museum Assistant in Research in the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge where he had curatorial responsibility for the Greek and Roman collections. He then moved to Swansea University where he was Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology. His Sifting the Soil of Greece: the Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) (London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2011) was published to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the School.

February 24, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Leila Amineddoleh on "The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside"

The Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime features an article by ARCA Alum (2010) Leila Amineddoleh on "The Pillaging of The Spanish Countryside", first presented at the International Crime Conference in Amelia last July.

Abstract: Spain is rich in art treasures: artwork ranging from religious works, modern paintings, ancient architecture, Roman ruins, and Visigoth remnants are densely scattered across Spain’s cities and countryside. Whereas some of the art is world-renowned and protected, much of the art is still hidden in churches and in depopulated towns and is left vulnerable to damage and theft. 
Spain’s cache of hidden works has great cultural value to the Spanish cultural identity; however, these works are often misappropriated because their existence is virtually unknown or unprotected. In light of the international upset over the theft of the Codex Calixtinus, this paper sets forth recommendations for Spain to follow to protect is patrimony, most importantly the necessity of creating an extensive catalogue, encompassing both State and Church property.
Leila Amineddoleh is an art law and intellectual property attorney in New York City. Upon graduation from law school, she worked as a litigator at Fitzpatrick Cella for three years. She then worked as a legal consultant, and recently joined Lysaght, Lysaght & Ertel. She is Of Counsel at the firm and the Chair of the Art Law Group. Recently she joined Fordham University School of Law where she teaches Art Law as an adjunct professor. Prior to the pursuit of her legal degree, Ms. Amineddoleh received her B.A. from NYU, and she completed ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in 2010.

You may subscribe to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website here.

February 23, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: John Daab on "Flouting the Law through Fine and Decorative Art Appraising"

The Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime features an academic article by returning contributor John Daab.
ABSTRACT: In appraising fine and decorative art, there are standards available in carrying out the process. The Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice were developed to protect the appraiser, client, and the public against bad appraisals. Over the last 5 years appraisals filed with the Internal Revenue Service have a hit rate of about 30-40%. That is, the 23 IRS Art Panel reviewers made up of experts in the field of art have found over the last 5 years the 500 or so appraisals filed for donations, estates, or capital gains/losses failed to satisfy USPAP or legal standards required for an IRS qualified appraisal in at least 6 to 7 out of every 10 cases. The significant point is that those bad appraisals, not reviewed, are costing the public millions of dollars in tax dollars. Further, appraisal violations not only cost the appraiser in terms of penalties, but the client has to pay unnecessary interest costs and penalties as well. This article looks at the history of the appraisal process, its structures, the expectations of an appraisal in violation of the standards, the liabilities associated with an appraisal in violation of the standards and laws, and those factors lending themselves in the promotion of fraudulent appraising. From the analysis the article offers suggestions to hold back the spate of poorly developed appraisals.
John Daab is a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. A Certified Forensics Consultant and Accredited Forensic Counselor, he is also a Registered Investigator with the American College of Forensic Examiners International. His academic credentials include a BA,/MA Philosophy, MBA Business, MPS/Industrial Counseling, MA Labor Studies and a PhD in Business Administration. John has also completed New York University’s Fine and Decorative Art Appraisal Program and is completing a docent program at Princeton University. He is a member of the National Sculpture Society, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute, Association for Research in Crimes Against Art, and The Fine Art Registry. In addition to his awards for teaching management and service to NYU, John has published more than 70 articles and authored, The Art Fraud Protection Handbook. Having recently completed a second book, Forensic Applications in Detecting Fine, Decorative, and Collectible Art Fakes and is now working on his third book on the Business of Art.

You may subscribe to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website here.

February 22, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Hasan Niyazi on "The Art of Seeing - A Leonardo Case Study"

In the current issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011, Hasan Niyazi writes on "The Art of Seeing - A Leonardo Case Study":
ABSTRACT: An exploration of the scientific and stylistic processes employed to determine the date and authorship of an ink on vellum drawing of a young girl. Sold by Christie's as a pastiche by a German 19th century artist, the results of the investigation nominated Leonardo da Vinci as the probable author of the drawing. An examination of critical response and possible implications of the phenomenon known as 'CSI effect is also considered.
Hasan Nayazi is an independent arts writer based in Melbourne, Australia. With a background in clinical sciences, he seeks to apply the logical processes inherent in clinical decision making into his researches on the mode of reporting in the authentication of artworks. He maintains a weblog dedicated to these efforts at and tweets as @3pipenet.

You may obtain a copy of this issue of the Journal of Art Crime or past volumes through subscription at the ARCA website here.

February 21, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Aviva Briefel on "Imperfect Doubles: the Forger and the Copyist"

Aviva Briefel, an Associate Professor of English at Bowdoin University, has published “Imperfect Doubles: The Forger and the Copyist” in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, the first peer-reviewed journal on the interdisciplinary study of art crime.

Here is the abstract of the article:
The nineteenth-century forger emerged as an unlikely model of middle-class selfhood, embodying the bourgeois ideals of industriousness, education and thrift. More than this, he offered an example for living in a capitalistic society without being contaminated by it. Although his artistic productions supplied a market demand, he escaped the charge of base materialism. Representations of the forger were rigorously gendered; he was always male. The forger embodied a set of prized masculine values that had to be guarded from female intrusion. Contemporary literary, artistic, and journalistic texts constructed the figure of the female copyist to guard the parameters of faking. The depicted the copyist as the forger’s imperfect double; while their work methods were often the same, they were separated by a world of difference.
Aviva Briefel is the author of The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century (Cornell University Press, 2006) and co-editor of Horror after 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror (University of Texas Press, 2011). She is currently at work on a book titled Amputations: The Colonial Hand at the Fin de Siècle.

The 2011 Fall Issue of the Journal of Art Crime is available as an electronic journal through subscription at ARCA’s website here.

February 20, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012 - , No comments

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Now Available

The sixth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, the first peer-reviewed academic journal on the interdisciplinary study of art crime, is now available. The journal is edited by Noah Charney, founder and President of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

Lynda Albertson, ARCA's new Chief Operating Officer since September, has written a "Letter from Rome":
"As ARCA's new CEO I hope to raise awareness at the grass roots level of another type of art crime: public apathy: public apathy and destruction to our collective cultural patrimony. I want to encourage cultural stewardship and promote public awareness at the individual level as well as the professional one, to facilitate greater community awareness that each of us has a social responsibility for the protection and care of the art, places, and material culture that define us as not only a civilization but as human beings."
This issue includes four academic articles: Aviva Briefel's "Imperfect Doubles: The Forger and the Copyist"; Hasan Niyazi's "Enhancing the Art of Seeing - A Leonardo Case Study"; John Daab's "Flouting the Law through Fine and Decorative Art Appraising"; and Leila Amineddoleh's "The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside".

The regular columns feature Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy; David Gill's Context Matters on "Compliance and the Antiquities Market"; and Christopher A. Marinello and Jerome Hasler on "The Flap Over Scrap: Theft and Vandalism in Exterior Sculptures".

Editorial essays include Howard N. Spiegler's "What the Lady Has Wrought: The Ramifications of the Portrait of Wally Case"; Paolo Giorgio Ferri's "Are Penal Procedures Only a Last Resort?"; General B(a) CC Giovanni Pastore's "Archaeology and the Problem of Unauthorized Excavation in Italy"; and Noah Charney's Lessons from the History of Art Crime.

Reviews include three by Diane Joy Charney: Nathaniel Herzberg's "Le Musée Invisible: Les Chefs-d'oeuvre volés"; Vivant Denon's "No Tomorrow"; and Terence M. Russell's "The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon's Travels with Napoleon's Army".  Noah Charney reviews Sandy Nairne's "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners."

Other contributions include Noah Charney's Q&A with Sandy Nairne and another with Stuart George; his regular contribution, "The Art We Must Protect: Top Ten Must-See Artworks in Florence"; a Synopsis of ARCA's Third International Art Crime Conference; and the 2011 ARCA Award Winners.

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

The Journal of Art Crime welcomes submissions to be considered for publication. The Journal of Art Crime publishes both academic articles, subject to anonymous peer review, and editorial articles, book reviews, interviews, and news items, making it an ideal, informed and scholarly go-to source for information and discoveries in the world of art crime. Relevant subjects include law, theft, forgery, security, investigation, the illicit trade in antiquities, art looting in war, vandalism and iconoclasm, and museum studies. To submit a paper, subscribe, or if you have any questions, write to editor (at)

February 19, 2012

ARCA Announces Nominees for 2012 Awards to be Presented at the International Art Crime Conference in Amelia in June

For the past three years, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) has recognized the professional contributions of four people for the protection of art and cultural property at its International Art Crime Conference in Amelia, the home of the postgraduate certificate program. This month ARCA's Trustees and the Editorial Board of The Journal of Art Crime will again vote for the winners or four awards.

The Award for Art Policing and Recovery (which usually goes to a police officer, investigator, or lawyer). This award has been given to former Director of Scotland Yard's Arts and Antiquities Squad  Vernon Rapley (2009), former Scotland Yard investigator Charlie Hill (2010), and former Italian State prosecutor Paolo Giorgio Ferri (2011). The 2012 nominees for the award for Art Policing and Recovering are Don Hyrycyk, Los Angeles Police Department; Alain Lacoursière, founder of Quebec's Art Theft Squad; Sharon Cohen Levin, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York; Maurizio Seracini, art historian and scientist searching for Leonardo da Vinci's lost "Battle of the Anghiari" in Florence; and Christos Tsirogiannis, Archaeologist, Illicit antiquities researcher at the University of Cambridge.

The Award for Art Protection and Security (usually goes to a security director or policy-maker); this award has acknowledged the work of former mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli (2009); Dick Drent, security director of Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, (2010); and archaeologist Lord Colin Renfrew (2011). The 2012 nominees for this award are Colonel Mathew Bogdanos, United States Marine Corps Reserves, Senior Investigative Counsel, Assistant District Attorney, New York; Dr. Laurie Rush, manager of the Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program; and (jointly) Karl von Habsburg, President, Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield and Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman, International Military Cultural Resources Work Group.  

The Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship (to a professor or author). Past winners include Norman Palmer (2009); Larry Rothfield (2010); and Neil Brodie (2011). This year's nominees are Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino for their book, Chasing Aphrodite; Fabio Isman, Journalist Il Messaggero, Italy; Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery of London and author of Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners.

The Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art Award (given to an individual or institution in recognition of many decades of excellence in the field) has been conferred to the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage collectively (2009); attorney Howard Spiegler (2010); and cultural property expert John Henry Merryman (2011). This year's nominees are Dr. George Okello Abungu; Colonel Mathew Bogdanos; Mark Dalrymple, Managing Director of Loss Adjuster at Tyler & Co. (Adjusters) Ltd.; Sandy Nairne; and Maurizio Seracini.

The awards will be presented to the winners at the International Art Crime Conference on June 23 and 24 in Amelia, Umbria, Italy.

February 18, 2012

Museum of the History of the Olympic Games: England's Channel 4 News 'Armed robbers loot ancient Greek museum'

Follow this link "Armed robbers loot ancient Greek museum" to view a video about the theft of the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games on February 17, 2012. ARCA Instructor Dick Ellis is quoted in the accompanying article (excerpts here):
As a pair of armed robbers bound and gag a security guard to steal dozens of ancient artifacts from the Olympia museum in Greece, Channel 4 News goes hot on the trail of the illicit antiquities trade. "It has become an organised crime business," said Richard Ellis. A former Scotland Yard detective who set up the Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiques Squad, the specialist art and antiquities crime investigator has worked on the recovery of some of the world's most famous paintings, including Edvard Munch's The Scream. 
The latest known theft to have taken place only happened this morning, when two armed robbers broke into an Olympia Museum and made off with between 60 to 70 bronze and clay pottery objects. They tied up and gagged the female security guard before using hammers to smash display cases and grab the loot. That followed the theft last month of a Picasso and a Mondrian from the capital's National Gallery. Today's incident prompted the culture minister, Pavlos Geroulanos, to tender his resignation, amid outcry that the nation's priceless treasures were no longer safe in state hands. Now, Mr Ellis told Channel 4 News, "the incentive is there to make money in Greece". And they may well begin a life which sees them travel from the poorer hands of the lowly thieves who broke into the museum to reach the lucrative shores of London or New York, and in some cases, find themselves auctioned off for tens of millions of dollars. "I am sure the current economic situation is Greece is triggering people to become more active," Mr Ellis said. "I would expect these objects are going to get moved. It's a transitional country for other stolen goods, and they can go west or east." 
According to Mr Ellis, many are looted or excavated by poorer local people looking to make some fast yet small amounts of cash, before being sold on to intermediaries. The real mark up, he says, comes in the stage after that, after they have been passed on to dealers. From here they can end up in auction houses or with private collectors, having changed hands for millions of dollars. In some cases, Mr Ellis said, collectors are aware they are trading in illegal goods, despite a rise in 'due dilligence' to establish the provenance of items.
The article also includes a perspective from Christos Tsirogiannis, [a contributor (along with David Gill) to ARCA's Journal of Art Crime] a researcher in illicit antiquities and repatriation cases at Cambridge University, and a former archeologist with the Greek police squad.
"All the countries that are in decline, with financial problems, and yet hosted ancient civilisations, such as Greece, Italy and Egypt - they are going to see big problems. In Greece, this is connected with the financial situation. We will have more of such things coming up in the next few months. The people who stole this are uneducated people with no money, who are not aware it will be difficult to give these objects to the market as they are recorded, and there are pictures of them. They do it for money, but they are not aware it will be really difficult to get rid of them." It may be the case that some of them end up in refrigeration trucks transporting food in order to be smuggled across borders, through Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, before reaching Europe where they are likely to fetch up a higher price. Another popular route for other goods illegally seized or excavated from Asia, Mr Tsirogiannis said, is aboard ships to Italy. From there they may make their way to Switzerland, and from there, he said, they may be laundered in auctions in London and New York before being sold to private museums and collectors.

February 17, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012 - , No comments

Profile Update: ARCA Alum Perri Osattin on the 2011 ARCA Program in Amelia

Perri Osattin at Ephesus, Turkey
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

This week Perri Osattin (ARCA '11) answered a few questions as a follow up to her profile posted on the ARCA blog prior to her attendance at the Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies in Amelia.

ARCA Blog: How did ARCA's program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies support your interest in the subject?
Perri Osattin: The ARCA program broadened my conception of what constitutes "art crime" and heightened my understanding of the need to approach it as both a scholarly discipline and a matter of daily, practical concern. In particular, I was struck by the fact that although art crime is a truly international issue (and business), encompassing legal and moral questions, there are no global standards for combating it and levels of awareness and passion vary greatly from country to country, both among the general public and law enforcement entities. I was especially surprised at the apparent lack of cognizance or punishment of art crime in the U. S., which led me to pursue my thesis topic.
ARCA Blog: The program culminates in the writing of an article -- what area of art crime or cultural protection did you research?
Perri Osattin: For my final dissertation I researched a specific and controversial case of trafficking in Native American artifacts in the Southwestern U. S. I analyzed the legal and law enforcement approaches to the case, as well as local public opinion and the media's interpretation of the events.
How have you continued your interest since leaving the program?
Perri Osattin: I still read ARCA blog updates regularly, troll for crime-related articles on everyday, and attended a talk by Sandy Nairn at Sotheby's in New York in the fall with a group of fellow ARCA students. Since I came to understand that the art market and art crime are inextricably, if unpredictably linked, I've also (belatedly) read some well-known and wonderful accounts of the commercial art world, including Seven Days in the Art World and An Object of Beauty. Finally, I ask as many security-related questions at my new job as I can without making my coworkers suspicious!
What did you enjoy about living in Amelia and what do you find that you miss?
Perri Osattin: What didn't I enjoy? I really miss the inexpensive, individual squares of pizza at the hole-in-the-wall joints (even more than the thin-crust pies at the regular restaurants). I miss hearing the gossipy chatter of my older neighbors outside in the evenings while doing work at the dining room table with my flat-mate. I miss my early morning runs in the valley below the city. Mostly, I miss the vistas, the cappuccino ritual, and my fellow students and professors! Being that we are currently in the midst of winter, I could also use some of those wonderfully warm summer breezes...
Ms. Osattin is a gallery associate at Pucker Gallery in Boston. 

February 15, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - ,, No comments

Profile Update: ARCA Alum Marc Balcells ('11) Discusses the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies

Marc Balcells at The Met, NY
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Many page visits to the ARCA blog appear to be from those getting familiar with ARCA and the Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. Last year I interviewed (via email) Marc Balcells, art historian and criminologist, before he entered the program in Amelia. This week I asked Marc Balcells, an Adjunct Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,  a few questions about his experience studying art crime in Umbria.

How did ARCA's program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies support your interest in the subject?
Marc Balcells: Well, my interest on researching art crime has grown, of course. That was easy because of two reasons: first, because as a researcher/scholar/proud "ambassador" of the topic, I am very happy on conducting research non-stop. I do take it very seriously, so we can advance the field by very serious academic work.

Also, because those 10 weeks were fantastic, on the educational side... I have no words to really express how enriching that was! Professors, materials, books... On the book side let me tell you that when the girl at the check-in counter at Fiumicino wanted to weigh my trolley bag, well... it weighed more than 25 kilos out of how many books I bought in Amelia regarding art crime. I still remember her face! Nerdish? Maybe, but now imagine for three months a professor recommending this book, a guest speaker another, a panelist another... Your trolley will resent you!
The program culminates in the writing of an article -- what area of art crime or cultural protection did you research?
Marc Balcells: I am a criminologist conducting research on organized crime and the links with the art world, so it was obvious that my thesis went on that direction. Because I am in academia my thesis is just a first step on what it will be a longer project (and article) on defining organized crime operations in the art world (for my thesis I just used a small example), getting even to challenge that concept to the extent that maybe when we are talking organized crime in some cases it can be another thing (like occupational crime), changing the players and the scenarios where they act. I hope that more data and some crime-explaining theories will be useful on debating that point.
How have you continued your interest since leaving the program?
Marc Balcells: Well, since leaving the program the show just goes on and on! When I do teach, I like to use a lot of examples from my own research, or even from colleagues' and professors' experiences that I learned during the summer. So my students at John Jay College at the City University of New York get a good deal on art crime in both courses I teach. But I also must confess that ARCA's Postgraduate program really confirmed my belonging in this field, and I do take very seriously (no kidding here!) on producing serious empirical work that may establish art crime as a form of criminality that can rival any other better researched form of crime.

I do also take very seriously my "ambassador" role, and I feel that my columns on art crime, or my guest talks (both in an academic environment or on TV, radio or press: yes, future ARCA students, now you know a lot about that and media may want to hear what you have to say!) have to be very seriously addressed: that is, not only talking about the fancy crimes that everybody wants to hear, but also on the serious consequences art crime may have.
What did you enjoy about living in Amelia and what do you find that you miss?
Marc Balcells: Oh, I miss many things from Amelia. One of them could be the silence that allows you to contemplate every single building on the old part (works fantastic for working, or reading a good novel), even during week days. But I have to admit I treasure all the laughs and drinks we all shared at Fuori Porta or the bar at the Park. There were nights that were, simply put, memorable. On the foodie side, I miss the trofie al Pesto or the ragu alla lepre from Punto di Vino (and the cappuccinos), the Porcella pizza at Porcelli's; the lemon ice cream at Tropicana or my favorite breakfast, ciambelle, at Bar Leonardi! And even though I am a city boy, it will be fun being back for the conference, meeting the new cohort, and well... you know what they say about criminals: they like to go back to the scene of crime!
ARCA will be accepting applications for the 2012 program through the end of February; to request a prospectus and apply,  please contact ARCA Admissions at

February 13, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012 - No comments

Congratulations to Simon Mackenzie and Neil Brodie

Simon Mackenzie and Neil Brodie have been awarded a substantial grant to study the illicit trade in antiquities. Brodie was the recipient of the 2011 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship, and also joined the ARCA summer program as a writer-in-residence.

This is very good news for those of us who follow this issue. Brodie and Mackenzie have both produced terrific research in this area, using empirical data to track the looting of sites and its connections to major art markets in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong. They have taken the study of antiquities looting from impressionistic accounts to a solid empirical foundation for future policy changes in the law and the art trade generally.

From an announcement on the Guardian's web page:
"It's extremely widespread," said criminologist Dr Simon Mackenzie, who will lead the project. "There are architectural sites and museums that are being looted all over the world, including Britain and the USA, but obviously more so in the developing world. Previous safe areas have become accessible and the material is saleable. Nowhere is safe." 
. . .
Neil Brodie, accepting an ARCA award in 2011
The market, says Neil Brodie, is driven by availability, and the size of an artefact is not a problem "It goes through phases. Greek pots have always been popular but there are not a lot of new Greek pots coming on the market so people might start marketing Iranian pottery. There is more actually coming out of Iran. Some of the pieces are huge; Cambodian sculptures, for example. "The people who sell this material they are actively wanting to create markets. If it becomes possible, for instance, to dig up rock art in the deep Sahara, they will be promoting that; they will actively create a market for it. There is a synergy between the accessibility and the availability of the material, and the marketability by the dealers. The internet has made that a lot easier."
Congratulations to them both, best of luck with their important work.

  1. Kristy Scott, Glasgow team gets £1m grant to study illegal trade in antiquities, the Guardian, February 13, 2012, (last visited Feb 13, 2012).

February 10, 2012

Journalist Jason Felch on Antiquities Dealer Robert Hecht Jr. "I found Hecht to be a likable rogue"

Robert Hecht Jr in front of the Euphronios Krater
 at The Met which was returned to Italy; now on display at 
the National Etruscan Museum at the Villa Guilia in Rome.
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Journalist Jason Felch, co-author of Chasing Aphrodite with Ralph Frammolino, reported for The Los Angeles Times the death of the "controversial dealer in classical antiquities," 92-year-old Robert Hecht Jr. who died in Paris just three weeks after Italian judges dismissed looting charges against him.

In their book on the history of The J. Paul Getty Museum's collection practices for antiquities, Chasing Aphrodite (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), Felch and Frammolino describe Hecht as "the preeminent middleman of the classical antiquities trade" who's "network of loyal suppliers reached deep into the tombs and ruins of Greece, Turkey and Italy."
"Since the 1950s, Hecht had sold some of the finest pieces of classical art to emerge on the market. His clients included dozens of American and European museums, universities, and private collectors ... For decades, Hecht single-handedly dominated the antiquities market with his brilliance, brutality and panache.... Even those who sold directly to museums gave Hecht a cut of the deal, earning him the nickname "Mr. Percentage".
Last month, Elisabetta Povoledo for The New York Times reported that the Italian trial against Robert Hecht for "receiving artifacts illegally looted from Italy and conspiring to deal in them" ended with the expiration of the statue of limitations on his alleged crimes.

In fact, although Hecht was banished from Turkey in 1962 for allegedly dealing in ancient coins and from his home in Italy after details of his relationship with Giacomo Medici and Marion True emerged, Hecht was never convicted of any crime. Medici was convicted of trafficking in looted antiquities in 2004 but remains out of jail while he appeals the conviction. The case against Marion True was also dismissed because the statue of limitations expired.

Via email I asked for Jason Felch's thoughts on Robert Hecht whom he had interviewed on the phone after the charges were dismissed last month.  This is Mr. Felch's response:
Hecht was a career criminal, and a remarkably successful one. We've detailed his crimes and the damage they caused in Chasing Aphrodite at length. He was investigated several times in several countries and never successfully prosecuted. Obviously that's a failure of justice. 
That said, I rather liked Hecht. I first met him in 2006 in New York City and continued to talk and occasionally meet with him over the years as I investigated the illicit antiquities trade. During those same years I also met with several other key middlemen in the trade. All were interesting men, but most were unpleasant. Medici was overbearing and boorish, fond of speak of himself in the third person. [Gianfranco] Becchina was hard to read and rather ominous. [Robin] Symes, who I never met but Ralph interviewed in jail in London, came off as a shrill pill. 
Hecht, by contrast, was fascinating and, for the most part, a pleasant dinner companion. He was very sharp, evasive and often witty. He told me his story and the story of the trade, while always remaining coy about certain details. He had deep knowledge about ancient art of all kinds and was clearly passionate about the subject. So much so that he was a lousy businessman, perennially broke because he couldn't say no (and because of a nasty gambling habit.) He was driven less by greed, it seems, than by a passion for the objects and the collector's obsession to possess. He was brilliant at what he did, and had he continued with his studies at the American Academy he would have made a remarkable archaeologist. Instead, he chose the dark side.
He also had a curious sense of honor, one honed during decades of working in a criminal underworld. The latest example was telling. About a month after I sent him a copy of Chasing Aphrodite -- which contain dozens of damning references to Hecht's role in the illicit trade -- he called me at my desk at the Times. Well written, he said, but you got one thing wrong. I asked: Was it that part about you running the illicit antiquities trade for decades? Or perhaps the part where Marion True describes you as an abusive, occasionally violent alcoholic? No, Hecht was upset that we had suggested he had ratted out the competition (something his competitors accused him of in sworn testimony.) He had never done so, he insisted, and our suggesting otherwise was "bad for business."
My job occasionally requires me to spend time with criminals. Many are awful people. I found Hecht to be a likable rogue. Someone should make a movie.
In addition to Chasing Aphrodite, you may find additional information about Robert Hecht Jr.'s career in the book by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities -- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums (PublicAffairs, 2006).

February 9, 2012

The Sliding Scale of Looting: Some Definitions

by Meg Lambert, Bennington College

The tricky thing about studying the illicit trafficking of art and antiquities as an undergraduate is that after a certain point, there aren’t many people who know too much more than you do. As a field of study, it’s just a little older than I am and only slightly more mature, which means that even though all the experts may have more experience with the issues, they still haven’t found definitive answers to the decades-old questions you’ve been asking as well. Funnily enough, some of those questions still involve how to define the issues that we’re studying.

In the two or so years that I’ve had my head stuck in the art crime sand, I have found that there is no one standard set of definitions for the myriad of ways one can get an artifact from ground to collector. “Looting” has been used as a catchall term for something that is actually much more complex and multifaceted than its verb implies. In the media, it is used to describe anything from what mythical pirates do to what happened at the Iraq Museum in 2003. In academia, it is used to describe anything from commercial salvaging to recreational pot hunting. And among the public, there is often little understanding of the differences between real archaeology and commercial salvaging, or between the glorified lore of treasure hunting and the dangerous reality of artifact trafficking. The truth is that in between all of these blurred lines and misconceptions, there is a sliding scale of what we call “looting” that differs depending on who is doing it, where it’s happening, and when in history it’s occurring. Because definitions are so important in establishing understanding, I have identified three different types of what is often collectively referred to as “looting”: pot hunting, looting, and commercial salvaging.

Pot Hunting:

“Pot hunting” is best used to describe the recreational activity performed by people searching for old odds and ends in shallow ground. These artifacts don’t just include pots, but any sort of small, portable antiquity like coins or arrowheads. Often, the artifacts found are more for the finder’s own personal enjoyment and collection than for commercial gain. However, some do sell their finds on websites like eBay. When these odds and ends are documented by the people finding them, it is sometimes called amateur or avocational archaeology. However, there is a definite distinction between pot hunting and true amateur archaeology. Dr. Siobhan Hart describes, “Avocationals are archaeologists in that they see sites as resources requiring documentation and protection, and not as a source of artifacts for profit or prestige, as characteristic of private collectors, pothunters, and looters. Yet avocationals are distinct from professionals in that they have not received the extensive training in fieldwork, laboratory analysis, methods, and theory that professionals obtain, though they often have a significant amount of informal training and accumulated knowledge.” (Hart, Siobhan M., "High stakes: A poly-communal archaeology of the Pocumtuck Fort, Deerfield, Massachusetts" (2009). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 11.

The biggest challenge found in this type of artifact hunting is getting the public to understand that the best way to enjoy history is to preserve the context of archaeological finds, thus preserving the stories that artifacts have to tell. A perilous combination of too-cool-but-not-very-professional Indiana Jones and a lack of education on these issues in school systems has allowed for a lot of misinformation to run rampant, making it very difficult to replace the popularity of pot hunting with the not-so-sexy alternative of professional archaeology.


As messy and all-encompassing as this term can sound, broken down it’s really quite simple. Sort of. Within this type, there are two other types that define “looting” as we know it: historical looting and modern looting.

Historical looting refers to the kind of pillaging and stealing that took place before the trafficking of art and artifacts became mechanized, structured, and favored by organized crime syndicates in the 1960s. This type covers pre-contemporary war-time looting and grave robbing, such as that inflicted by Western countries, such as France and England, upon colonized or war-torn countries, like Egypt and Greece, in the 18th and 19th centuries. The backlash from these years of Western colonialism are found in modern repatriation controversies. For example, Greece has repeatedly called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, which were taken by the British Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, throughout 1801 to 1804, and have been owned by the British Museum since 1816. However, Britain refuses to return them because, technically speaking, they were legally acquired and are now officially a part of Britain’s patrimony. The challenges in addressing this kind of looting lies in dilemma of modern nationalism versus cultural heritage and the changing nature of international law.

Modern looting is the illegal digging of artifacts for sale on the international market. This is the largest and most complex issue on this scale. The who, how, and why of modern looting varies but can be found in almost every region in the world. At its least extreme, it can involve farmers or fishermen selling objects they come across in their day-to-day. Somewhere in the middle, it can involve individuals banding together on occasion to find and empty tombs. At its most extreme, it involves the aggressive and methodological looting of sites by teams who report to individuals within organized crime syndicates. In the more extreme cases, looters do carry automatic weapons. Where objects end up depend on their commercial value and what is currently in fashion. For example, when Peruvian artifacts were first introduced to the market, ceramics were a favored item. However, trends have shifted and the last I heard, tapestries preserved by arid conditions were in vogue. Lesser-valued items are often sold to tourists or even used by those who found them, whereas the most prized artifacts are sold by middlemen to dealers, then by dealers to collectors.

The challenges in addressing modern looting are numerous and vary by region. Overall, it is incredibly difficult to tackle a trade that is as large, pervasive, and dangerous an issue as the illegal trafficking of drugs or arms. At an international level, many countries need to do more to create and enforce national laws to prevent and punish the illegal excavation and sale of cultural property. At an economic level, it is a whole issue in itself to address the poverty that drives many looters to sell what they can in order to provide for their families. Similarly, it is hard to dissuade dealers from engaging in such a profitable trade or to persuade collectors to channel their money into a less destructive hobby. And at a cultural and educational level, it is incredibly difficult to change the minds of millions who see art and artifacts primarily for their commercial and aesthetic value instead of their historical and cultural worth. In a post-industrial age where almost anything can be commercialized and sold en masse, the concept of a non-renewable resource is hard for many to fathom.

Commercial salvaging:

Commercial salvaging is the legal excavation of artifacts for a profit. This type of “looting” is most common in harvesting underwater cultural heritage. Commercial salvagers can obtain legal permits to dig artifacts that they are then allowed to sell. They are not required to hold up any particular standard of excavation, and so in the process of obtaining their merchandise, destroy the site without obtaining or recording any scientific information in the process, effectively erasing history. Additionally, searching for a profitable site often ruins other, less commercially-exploitable sites, leaving a trail of state-sanctioned destruction and lost opportunities.

The challenges in addressing commercial salvaging are an interesting blend of the challenges associated with pot hunting and modern looting as well. The biggest obstacle, of course, is that commercial salvaging is legal. The obstacles behind state support include the economic factors found in modern looting and the cultural misconceptions about archaeology found in pot hunting and looting.

These definitions may not be official, but they do offer some functioning terms to distinguish between a variety of related but ultimately very different sides of the same coin.

Meg Lambert, an undergraduate at Bennington College, is also author of the blog, Things You Can't Take Back.

February 1, 2012

Profile: ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth and New Lecturer to ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth will be lecturing in Amelia this summer for the Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

Dr. Nemeth is Director at and Adjunct Staff at RAND Corporation. He will be teaching “Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy, and perceptions of security” between July 30 and August 10, 2012.

In The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2009, Erik Nemeth published on “Plunderer & Protector of Cultural Property: Security-Intelligence Services Shape Strategic Value of Art.”

In 2010, Dr. Nemeth published “The Artifacts of Wartime Art Crime: Evidence for a Model of the Evolving Clout of Cultural Property in Foreign Affairs” in Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (edited by Noah Charney) among other papers.

In recent years, Dr. Nemeth has presented on panels at the American Society of Criminology: “Cultural Intelligence: data sources on the motivation and means for trafficking” (2009) and “Antiquities Trafficking – Complementary Countermeasures” (2010).

ARCA Blog: Dr. Nemeth, If I understand what you said at the ASC in 2010 is that by looking at public auction sale catalogs, policy makers can understand if there’s a lucrative market for the cultural property of a region and a period. If policy makers understand that there’s demand for cultural property, they can then look at opportunities organized crime may have seized to hire local people to loot archaeological sites for more saleable artifacts and also look for weaknesses in the government that may lead to corruption. Did your studies indicate that certain regions are more susceptible to looting than others? Do you think the governments in these areas are utilizing available data to create policy to stem looting?
Dr. Nemeth: I appreciate your asking about the research. I embarked on the study in 2009 to explore quantitative means of assessing risk in looting of and trafficking in cultural artifacts. By collecting data from auction sales archives, I had a chance to experiment with comparing changes in trade volume and average market value of cultural artifacts by geographic region of origin over a nine-year period. For the dataset to which I had access, African tribal art stood out as increasing along both parameters relative to classical antiquities, pre-Columbian art, Islamic art, and Indian and Southeast Asian art. After analyzing the data, I had two thoughts on how such analyses might support risk analysis. 
Does trading of cultural artifacts reflect political and economic conditions in regions of origin for the objects? For example, quantitative measures of demand for cultural artifacts by region of origin over time could be compared against events in politics and economics for nations in the region. Can the auction market for cultural artifacts provide a quantitative, albeit indirect, measure of the illicit trade? The opaque illicit market has proven challenging, if not impossible, to quantify accurately. Perhaps a structured study of the auction market can help in devising a well defined estimate of the size of the illicit market for antiquities, tribal art, and other cultural artifacts.
ARCA Blog: You will be teaching the course tentatively titled, “Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy and perceptions of security.” Could you elaborate for our readers on what you will discuss in the classroom, the books you might assign, and what you think your students might discover while exploring this topic?
Dr. Nemeth: Cultural security is a rapidly evolving field. I expect to expand on what the course will cover between now and the summer, but here is what I have in mind so far. I will start with what I would call a traditional understanding of the relationship between culture and security, namely protection of artworks and historic structures during wartime and restitution cases for and repatriation of cultural property after conflict. I plan to examine the relationship in different periods—World War II, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War—which have shaped the political clout of cultural property. The post-Cold War provides a lead-in to a perceptual dimension of the relationship with the targeting of religious monuments in political violence. The simultaneous increase in the financial volume of the art market since World War II adds an economic dimension and forms a relationship between culture and financial security.

I consider myself an integrator of various disciplines in pursuit of an understanding of the evolving role of culture in identity and perception of security, and I anticipate that the students may have greater depth of knowledge than I in particular areas such as history of art, archaeology, criminology, and law. I trust that the students will gain an appreciation for the potential of bridging disciplines to enhance and expand their own areas of specialization. Accordingly, I plan to assign readings of cross-disciplinary studies. Here are a few examples of potential sources. Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World brings together scholars from a range of disciplines, and Cloak and Trowel by David Price creatively examines the controversial relationship between security-intelligence services, anthropologists, and archaeologists. On the perceptual side, science can lend insight into the emotional and symbolic significance of artworks, and Inner Vision by Semir Zeki provides an intuitive introduction to the field of neuroaesthetics. I have other sources in mind, and I suspect that I will work in some of my own publications as well.
Additional information may be found about Dr. Nemeth’s work at