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June 30, 2012

Anthony Amore Discussing "Stealing Rembrandts" on "It's a Crime" Saturday afternoon on the radio

Anthony Amore, Security Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and co-author of "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists", will be on "It's a Crime" on Saturday, June 30, at 1:00 p.m. The live radio show is hosted by Margaret McLean, an attorney and author of the legal thriller Under Fire (2011, Tor Forge McMillan). Here's a link to the program. "Stealing Rembrandts", written by Amore and journalist Tom Mashberg, will be released in paperback on July 3.

June 21, 2012

UNESCO promotes public awareness of illicit trafficking of cultural property with 2011 Documentary "Stealing the Past"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to the website and video for “Stealing the Past”, co-produced by; One Planet Pictures; and the Swiss Confederation.  This English language documentary is intended to create public awareness about the illicit trafficking of cultural property worldwide.  This program spotlights Italy, Colombia and the United Kingdom to see ‘what police, museums and auction houses are doing to tackle’ looting of heritage.

"Stealing the Past" has Gihane Zaki, Eyptian Ministry of Culture, talking about how people 'rallied' to protect the collection of the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo during the Arab Spring Uprising in early 2011.  "When they heard in the media that the museum was looted, they went directly there and it was really fantastic to see all of the young people gather around the museum to prevent more looting." The museum reported only 18 items stolen, according to the documentary.

From Iraq, up to 7,000 ancient objects were "still at large" from the archaeological museum.  An art dealer in California was found last year trying to sell 25 of them, according to the film's narrator.

Others included in this program: Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol Criminal Organisations & Drugs Unit; Jane Levine, Director of Compliance for Sotheby's; Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO; Rita Cosentino, Director, Etruscan National Museum; Sir Mark Jones, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum; Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit; Diego Herrera, Director General, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Captain Erica Correa Bustos, Colombian National Police; Carlos Emilio Piazzini, Deputy Director, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Dr. Andrew Richardson, Canterbury Archaeological Trust; Mark Harrison, Chief Superintendent, Kent Police; Maurice Worsley, Kent Amateur Metal Detecting Support Unit;

“Stealing the Past” includes a statement from the March 2011 commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

"One-hundred twenty countries have signed a convention which has no teeth,” Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO told the participants at the Paris meeting.  “This is one of the specific conventions which doesn't have a specific enforcing mechanism."
Other highlights:

UNESCO works closely with INTERPOL, the international policing agency that maintains a database of stolen items totaling around 40,000 as of last year. According to UNESCO, Italy is 'home' to 60% of the world's art treasures. The Carabinieri Heritage Unit has a stolen art database of more than 1.5 million objects. "Cerveteri is known throughout the world for the activity of illegal excavation," said Rita Cosentino, Director of the Etruscan National Museum. "These activities have been devastating for a site like Cerveteri." The Carabinieri conduct frequent investigations into the area of Cerveteri aimed at finding illegal excavations, finding the thieves, and seizing any stolen objects, according to the documentary's narrator. The crew was 'given permission to follow one such operation' of 'ten officers, four cars, and four horses' with a helicopter surveying the targeted area from above for 'illegal excavations taking place'. When the road runs out, the horses are at an advantage over 'rough terrain' in the event of a chase. A Carabinieri officer climbs into a looted tomb and finds a 3rd century BC cup. "There are sporadic incidents," Cosentino says. "But the majority these days are done by amateurs. On the whole, the phenomenon of looting, thanks to the Carabinieri, has practically been defeated."

“The threats we need to combat are those criminal offences that pose a danger to Italian cultural heritage,” says Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit. “From theft, to robbery, to vandalism. To support our work we have a number of legislative tools for the safeguarding of cultural goods and above all to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. In recent years criminal organizations at the international level have become interested in this traffic as a way of laundering money from other criminal activities. We have found Italian artworks all over the world. But I have to say that with high-level government collaboration we have been able to bring back to Italy thousands and thousands of works of art.”

From inside the Carabinieri Heritage Units warehouse, Colonel Mancino points out a headless statue of Zeus stolen some years ago from the Norwegian Institute of Culture in Rome and a Greek-style vase intercepted by custom officials at an airport.

The Colombian Ministry of Culture estimates that 10,000 archaeological treasures are smuggled out of the country every year and less than 1% of these artworks are recovered. In 2007, the Colombian police created a special unit to deal with the illegal trafficking of the country’s heritage. The unit works in collaboration with the Institute of Anthropology. It has three offices.

Metal detecting in the UK has turned into a ‘thriving’ hobby (as has ‘night hawking’ the term for illegally using metal detectors at night on archaeological sites). The British government is willing to purchase ancient items found in the ground. “There is more political will on the part of the governments to stop this illicit trade,” Irena Bokova said in the television show.

June 20, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - , No comments

UNESCO'S Headquarters in Paris Hosts Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention (June 20 & 21)

UNESCO'S Picasso Mural "The Fall of Icarus" 1958
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

UNESCO Headquarters in Paris is hosting the Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention today and tomorrow to optimize the international agreement's "implementation, appraise its effectiveness with particular regard to new trends in trafficking in cultural property, and formulate strategies geared primarily to improve its application".

This meeting is a follow-up to the March 2011 meeting in Paris which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the legal instrument designed to promote international cooperation to stopping the illicit looting of archaeological sites by limited the flow of ancient objects across borders.  The ARCA blog covered the 2011 event here; Mexicans and Canadians attend; Mexico's plea; Turkey's statement; and the speakers including Jane Levine of Sotheby's.

"The meeting will examine in depth the status of this indispensable legal instrument in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property and its relevance to the needs of the international community," writes UNESCO.

The proposed agenda includes a 2007-2011 analysis of the implementation of the 1970 Convention by States Parties; regional reports on the implementation and the evolution of the art market at the regional level; and proposals concerning follow-up on the implementation of the 1970 Convention.

From 2007 to 2012, 12 countries signed  the 1970 UNESCO Convention bringing the total number to 122 states which have ratified the treaty on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  UNESCO and its partners created "legal, practical and awareness-raising tools" (Report of the Secretariat on its Activities) to facilitate and implementation of the 1970 Convention: 1) UNESCO's Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws; 2) basic measures concerning cultural items offered for sale on the Internet (proposed by INTERPOL and ICOM; 3) model export certificate for cultural objects developed jointly by the UNESCO and World Customs Organizations; 4) the publication of "Witnesses to History - Documents and writings on the return of cultural objects; 5) public awareness video materials and co-production of a documentary "Stealing the Past"; 6) continuing distance education ( for French-speaking countries; 7) model provisions on state ownership of undiscovered cultural objects; and 8) cultural heritage protection handbook No. 6 securing religious heritage.  Training workshops have been held regionally.

Five members of the European region who have not yet signed the 1970 convention (Austria, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Monaco) will be targeted by UNESCO for 'awareness-raising, information and training actions in conjunction with the authorities of these countries and art market stakeholders where relevant (UNESCO).

June 19, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - , No comments

Opening a new classical art museum in the post-1970 Convention Era

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

Last April British business Christian Levett opened a museum to display the more than 700 pieces of art and antiquties he has purchased over the past seven years, reports Dayla Alberge for The Guardian.  The article does not refer to the collecting history of these ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian objects. Compare this to tomorrow's opening of the Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention, which more than 40 years ago was designed to fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property.  How are ancient artefacts marketed, sold and displayed in this post-1970 Convention era?

The Mougins Museum of Classic Art ("Musee d'art classique de Mougins") is located northeast of Cannes in the South of France.  Its website contains images of the objects but no reference to the collecting history.

Levett is the owner of the archaeology magazine Minerva.  Last November he received the Ashmolean Museum Fellowship Award in Oxford.  One of the rooms in the Ashmoleans new Egyptian galleries is named after Mr. Levett and his family.

Alberge describes Levett's Mougin collection as 'ranging from Egyptian reliefs to masterpieces by Rubens and Picasso" of 'approximately 700 works spanning 5,000 years' with such 'jewels' as 'exquisite 1st-century Roman statues of Hadrian and the empress Domitia'.

Dr. David Gill, author of the blog Looting Matters, wrote more than a year ago about the history of a Greek Apulian hydria. Dr. Gill reports that Levett/Mougins Museum of Classical Art purchased some objects from the Royal-Athena Galleries and that some of the objects were from the collection of Patricia Kluge (see Dr. Gill's comments on an article by Italian journalist Fabio Isman).

Also a year ago, PHDIVA blogger Dorothy King wrote that she understands that "the Museum has a strict policy of 20 to 25 years' provenance for lesser items and 40+ years' provenance for more important antiquities."

If any of our readers are in the South of France this summer, maybe they would report back on the ARCA blog as to whether or not the museum provides additional information to visitors about the history of the objects on display.

Book Review (Part III): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Baur

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

In June, 1908, Klimt unveiled his gold portrait of the 26-year-old Adele, making her an ‘instant celebrity’ (O’Connor):

‘Klimt embedded Adele in a luminous field of real gold leaf, giving her the appearance of a religious icon, which art historians would compare to the mosaic portrait of Empress Theodora in Ravenna.’

Three years later, a syphilis-ridden Klimt visits the Bloch-Bauer castle in Czechloslovakia to work on a second portrait of Adele that he shows in 1912:

 ‘It was a very different work.  Her expression was mature, direct, and anything but seductive.  This was an older Adele, with world-weary eyes and cigarette-stained teeth, a painting some would call evidence of the end of the affair.’ (O’Connor)

Adele and her husband would also own four Klimt landscapes, including the 1912 “Apple Tree”.

In 1913, Hitler left Vienna.  The following year, an anarchist shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand outside of his residence at the Belvedere Palace, a random act that would lead to The Great War, and the death of millions of young men.

Klimt dies of Spanish influenza in 1918 at the age of fifty-five, a few months before Armistice Day which reduces the Habsburg’s empire from 60 million to a tenth of that population and squeezed into a debt-ridden new state.

Until Adele’s death of meningitis in her early 40s, she lives a prominent cultural life filled with intellectuals, Viennese composers and artists.  In 1923, Adele wrote in a short will: “I ask my husband after his death, to leave my two portraits and the four landscapes by Gustav Klimt to the Austrian Gallery in Vienna.” (O’Connor) In another strange parallel, it is the same year Hitler writes “Mein Kampf (My Struggle)”, ‘the bestseller he wrote from prison after his failed uprising in 1923’ (O’Connor).

Within 15 years, when Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer flees Austria to his summer home in Czechloslovakia prior to the unification of Germany and Austria, the Vienna Adele knew is unrecognizable.  Members of the extended family are arrested, jailed and tortured until valuable assets are signed over to the Nazi government.  Relatives pay a “flight tax” to escape to Canada ahead of deportation to concentration camps.  Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer is accused of financial crimes, his assets are ‘illegally taxed in Vienna and his entire estate was confiscated’ as he will write in his will in 1942.  Ferdinand dies in November of 1945 in Zurich.  He was unable to recovery any of his property.  His estate is left to three of his nieces and nephews, including 25% to Maria Altmann who will lead the family’s fight for the legal return of the stolen Klimt paintings.

After the war, as some say, many Nazis exchanged their uniforms for suits and went to work to rebuilding Austria.  New legislation discouraged Jews from returning to reclaim stolen property.  Export licenses for ‘masterpieces’ were withheld, Jewish owners had to pay to get what was left of their businesses.  O’Connor describes how Nazis in plainclothes entered Maria Altmann’s home, took her valuables, and imprisoned her husband at the infamous concentration camp, Dachau, until the family completed the paperwork required to Aryanize their property and businesses.

Maria, her husband Fritz, and other family members escape the Nazis and rebuild their lives, frustrated that the Bloch-Bauer Klimt paintings hang at Belvedere Palace with no mention of their Jewish patronage.  Then the District Attorney of New York City impounds a painting borrowed for an exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from an Austrian Art Institution (see review of the film “Portrait of Wally”).  Maria Altmann, now a widow in her 80s and living in Los Angeles, contacts “Randy” the lawyer son of a family friend.  Randal Schoenberg spends years beating the odds with legal arguments, working his way into arbitration with the Austrian government who eventually agrees to return to the paintings to the family.  O’Connor explains why Schoenberg was successful, how Maria Altmann helped the case, and why the family ended up selling the paintings.  It’s a story that will hopefully encourage more Jewish families to pursue their own claims for looted art.

June 18, 2012

Book Review (Part II): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

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

In 1898, 17-year-old Adele, the daughter of Viennese banker Moritz Bauer, meets her future husband Ferdinand Bloch when her older sister Therese marries Ferdinand’s younger brother.  A few months later, an anarchist murders the free-spirited Empress Elisabeth, much admired by most of the Hapsburgs’ Austro-Hungarian Empire for her love of horses and her reluctance to participate in royal court politics.  An era of stability is ending.  A middle-aged Gustav Klimt, who is about to alienate his government sponsors, opens a ‘palace dedicated to Art Nouveau on the Ringstrasse’ for a group dubbed the Secessionists who wrote above the entrance “to every age its art; to art its freedom”.

A year later, Adele marries Ferdinand, a man twice her age but not the ladies’ man Klimt is reputed to be, at the same time Sigmund Freud publishes “The Interpretation of Dreams”, ‘his anatomy of the unconscious impulses driving individuals and society’ (O’Connor).

The next year Klimt, a favored court painter, shows the first of three ceiling murals for the University of Vienna, failing to please the authorities in the next few years with his decade portrayals on the themes of Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.  ‘Jewish families were assimilating in Vienna through art and culture’, as characterized by writer Karl Kraus.  It was these Jewish patrons who financially support Klimt when the Ministry of Culture rejects Klimt for a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts.

Although Klimt is not commissioned to paint Adele’s portrait until 1903, his 1901 portrait of Judith ‘bears an almost photographic resemblance to Adele’ (O’Connor), leading to support that Klimt may have known Adele earlier and may have had an intimate relationship with her.  Klimt’s Judith is one of the masterpieces highlighted at Austria’s national art collection at the Belvedere Palace.  ‘A Klimt commission at the time cost 4,000 crowns, a quarter of the price of a well-appointed country villa’ (O’Connor):

‘Klimt portrayed women as individuals, without the presence of a husband, father, or children to suggest their domestic role…. They soon gained the reputation of having an affair with the master who was so infamous with his amours.”

A few months after agreeing to the Bloch-Bauer portrait, Klimt traveled to Ravenna to study the sixth-century mosaics ‘the greatest legacies of the Byzantine art outside Constantinople’ (O’Connor), which include portraits of the childless and powerful Empress Theodora, courtesan and wife of Justinian.  The mosaics include the use of gold tiles, the material Klimt grew up studying at the workshop of his father, an engraver who worked on the city’s monuments.  Upon Klimt’s return to his studio in Vienna, he began sketching another childless woman, the restless, ambitious and intelligent Adele Bloch-Bauer.  Klimt’s reputation for seducing many women and Adele’s unromantic marriage had led to rumors of a sexual relationship between artist and subject, according to O’Connor’s interviews half a century later with Adele’s niece, Maria Altmann:

“So when Adele went to Klimt’s studio that winter, she faced the possibility of failure as a woman.  No one ever believed Adele was in love with Ferdinand.  But she was expected to feel lucky, or at least content.  Instead, she struggled with sobering disappointment.’ ‘Klimt made endless sketches of Adele.’ ‘He would make more than a hundred studies of Adele.’

Klimt painted Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I from 1904 to 1907.  He also painted Danae and The Kiss (both now at the Belvedere) in 1907, the same year struggling artist Adolf Hitler moves to Vienna and lives in a ‘hostel financed with large donations from Baron Nathaniel Rothschild and the Gutmanns’ (O’Connor).  While only a Jewish owner of a frame and window store, Samuel Morgenstern, purchased Hitler’s drawings and watercolors, the artist became ‘fascinated’ by ‘the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Karl Lueger [Vienna’s elected mayor] … who was able to focus popular discontent on the liberal Jewish intelligentsia’ (O’Connor).

Part Three continues tomorrow.

June 17, 2012

Book Review (Part I): Anne-Marie O'Connor's "Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

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

In 1907 prosperous Vienna, the great cultural center of Europe, two events happened which would not collide for another three decades.  Gustav Klimt would fulfill a commission to paint the portrait of 24-year-old Adele Bloch-Bauer, who lived across the square from Vienna’s Fine Art Academy, the art school which would in that same year reject Adolf Hitler’s for admission because he failed the drawing exam.

In Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt paintings, journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor tells the extraordinary story of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I which would sell for $135 million to an American in 2007.  O’Connor first describes the relationship between Klimt, his Jewish art patrons, and the cultural environment in pre-Nazi Austria. From the point of view of the Bloch-Bauer family is told of the collaboration between Austria and the German Nazis to loot Jewish art collections.  The book concludes with the legal struggles of American attorney Randy Schoenberg to navigate the U. S. legal system to help Maria Altmann and the other surviving members of the Bloch-Bauer family to recover four stolen Klimt paintings.  It’s a story of how a legitimate government corrupted legislation to steal from and murder its own citizens.

Within a decade, the Nazis succeeded in destroying the Jewish community Austrian-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef (ruled from 1848-1916) created in Vienna by providing citizenship rights to European Jews in the 19th century – offering them a sanctuary from discrimination and persecution that stretched to the hinterlands of Russia.  The Jewish population in Vienna rapidly increased from 6,000 to more than 200,000 in less than 40 years, creating dissention in the anti-Semitic mostly Roman Catholic population.  Vienna, against the wishes of Franz Joseph, elected an anti-Semitic mayor for two decades who served in effect as a political mentor for Hitler.  After the Second World War, less Jews lived in Austria than had a century ago and they had no intention of returning to a country that treated them less favorably than its population of horses.

Against the backdrop of the murder of 6 million Jews, restitution of stolen art may seem unimportant, especially as newspapers today sport headlines of Jewish families recovering then selling artworks for millions of dollars.  Why is it so important that these paintings are returned to the families now? Weren’t these issues of restitution settled decades ago when Allied forces discovered stolen art in the salt mines of Germany after the war? And why does the American legal system have to get involved in these cases almost seven decades after armistice? Isn’t this a matter for the government of Austria to decide? Lady in Gold answers these questions.

Vienna at the turn of the 20th century was hedonistic.  In 1889, the Crown Prince shot his teenage mistress then himself in 1889.  The Emperor’s mistress was a stage actress.  In 1897, American writer Mark Twain publicly lectured about the virulent anti-Semitism palpable in the Vienna, the city rebuilding itself after successfully defeating Ottoman invaders a half century earlier.  The old fortress walls came down and the Ringstrasse, a series of boulevards encircling the center of Vienna arose, providing an opportunity for Vienna’s nuveau riche, many of them Jewish, to celebrate their financial and industrial wealth with monumental mansions and beautiful decorative arts.  Even statues fronting public buildings glisten with gold.

Part Two continues tomorrow.

June 16, 2012

Stonehill College's "The World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime" Symposium has added seats

Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry, who will co-teach with Dick Ellis "The World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime" symposium at Stonehill College this summer, would like to inform interested students that two seat have been added to the program.

"It has come to our attention that spam filters some emails failed to accept our response emails," Curry wrote in an email to the ARCA blog.  "In order to address the inquiries which we have received after the close of registration, we have added two additional seats to this very special program, on a first come, first serve basis."

The Stonehill College Symposium runs from July 30 to August 3, 2012.  Details may be accessed on the website:

June 15, 2012

Reviewing two stolen Corot paintings and updating the catalogue raisonné of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Corot's "The Dreamer"/MMFA
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Theft and authenticity intertwined in the case of the 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  In the years prior to the break-in, museum curators had been examining the collection and questions of authenticity had been left in the archives' files.  A recent article in the June issue of ARTnews about the authenticity of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) sent me back to my notes on two Corot oil paintings stolen in 1972 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the largest art theft in Canada.  What kind of research is available to study the provenance of two missing Corot paintings?

Two oil paintings by Corot, "La rêveuse à la fontaine/The Dreamer at the Fountain" and "Jeune fille accoudée sur le bras gauche/Young Woman Resting Her Head in Her Left Hand), had both completed in the 1860s and donated a century later to the Quebec art gallery.

The museum's archives have very little information about the medium-sized paintings removed four decades ago by three thieves who entered the MMFA through a unsecured skylight on Labor Day Weekend and stole 18 paintings and 39 decorative art objects.

"The Dreamer", with its right corner signature of "COROT", was believed to have been painted between 1855-1863.  The museum received the painting from an anonymous donor in memory of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Angus (steel foundry executive).  In a 1969 press release, prepared for the exhibition From Daumier to Roualt, Bill Bantey -- a notorious journalist and the director of public relations for the museum -- noted that the painting 'was virtually unknown as it had been "lost" to scholarly knowledge for over 60 years in a private Montreal collection'.  The other stolen Corot painting, "Young Woman Resting" was a donation in 1963 from the estate of Miss Olive Hosmer, daughter of 'multi-millionaire financier Charles S. Hosmer'.  Miss Hosmer also bequeathed Jean-François Millet's signed portrait of his first wife (Portrait of Madame Millet), also taken on September 4, 1972.

Corot's "Young Woman Resting"
The collection at Montreal's premier art gallery had been built from donations from wealthy Anglo families that had prospered from the construction of Canada's transcontinental railroad and trading from the port of Montreal.  During the late 19th century and early 20th, many art dealers had offered paintings to Montreal collectors before approaching buyers in New York City.  The MMFA published a book by George-Hébert Germain, A City's Museum: A History of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which chronicles the growth of the art gallery founded in 1860.  (Journalist and art historian Cynthia Saltzman tells of how American collectors bought up European masterpieces a century ago in her book, Old Masters, New World).

Laurie Hurwitz, writing for ARTnews, 'If It Doesn't Dance, It's Not Corot', tells of how 'a family steeped in Corot uses connoisseurship and instinct to distinguish the real paintings from copies and fakes'.  Hurwitz's article features the two-decades long work of Corot expert, Martin Dieterle, and his stepdaughter, Claire Lebeau, to create a database of authentic and fake paintings by the Barbizon School painter.  Alfred Robaut's four volume catalogue raisonné of Corot's work published in 1905 (you can read it online through the Getty Research Portal) identified 2,460 paintings.  A supplement published in 1948 added 100 canvases.  According to Dieterle, the notoriously generous artist had gifted numerous canvases to friends -- and those works had little documentation.  Dieterle's connection to Corot goes back to his great-great-grandfather who painted with the artist on the Normandy coast.  Other paintings not inventoried by Robaut had been those sold early on out of Corot's atelier "so it is impossible for Robaut to have known about them," Hurwitz quoted Dieterle.  According to Dieterle, most copies were executed during the artists' lifetime "thus eliminating the need for forensic authentication." Dieterle and Lebeau are preparing the sixth supplement to the artist's catalogue raisonné.

Hurwitz's article is available in the June issue of ARTnews.

June 14, 2012

Destroyed in WWII: Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano" (1899)

Gustav Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano", 1899
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Mizzi Zimmerman was the red-haired teenager in Gustav Klimt's 1899 painting, Schubert at the Piano.  In Anne-Marie O'Connor's 2012 book, Lady in Gold, the journalist mentions this work in describing the seduction powers of the artist.  In this painting of the Austrian composer, Mizzi is pregnant with Klimt's son.  The 'whispery silk gown' Mizzi models is lent by Serena Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 of Klimt's paintings, including a portrait by Klimt of Egon Schiele's mistress, Valerie Neuzil.

Mizzi also posed nude for another of the artist's works, Naked Truth, but Klimt had no intention of marrying the pregnant Catholic girl, O'Connor writes.  Klimt, who had also impregnated another woman at the same time, told Mizzi that he would be focusing his energies on a big commission to paint ceiling murals for the University of Vienna -- Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.   Mizzi told her mother of her pregnancy, O'Connor reports: her stepfather threw Mizzi out of the house and she begged the artist for financial support.

But we can't see Schubert at the Piano in any museum.  This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set Schloss Immendorf on fire.  The paintings from the Lederer collection had been placed at the residence of Baron Rudolf Freudenthan, an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), for safekeeping in 1943.  O'Connor recounts that the Lederer Klimt collection of "as many as fourteen spectacular Klimt paintings" included Golden Apple Tree, Philosophy and Jurisprudence (which the Lederers had purchased when the University of Vienna rejected them), Girl Friends and Music II ("The precise number of paintings burned at Schloss Immendorf is unknown, O'Connor notes).

June 13, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - ,, No comments

The New York Times' Randy Kennedy Reports on how austerity measures in Greece is affecting state archaeologists and the country's heritage

Minoan Marine Style Pottery/NMAA
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Turkish journalist Özgen Açar sent out a link to June 11 article in the New York Times, "Archaeologists Say Greece Threatened by Austerity".  When the man who tracked down the stolen Lydian Hoard from Turkey to New York City sends out an email, I pay attention, very close attention.

Açar is pointing out an article written by Randy Kennedy that shows how more than a 10% reduction in Greece's state archaeologists is limiting access to artifacts in museums and reducing the country's ability to protect its cultural heritage.  The Association for Greek Archaeologists has created a television commercial to create public awareness.

In Kennedy's article, Minoan vases are being washed away and bulldozers are paving roads to ancient sites while fewer archaeologists can respond to the problems of securing Greece's culture and history.

The Artemision Bronze/NMAA
Many schoolchildren must be disappointed to have access limited to the symbols of Greek mythology as bestselling books such as those by Rick Riordan have reignited popular reading about the gods and the humans who interact with them. Aren't we trying to encourage the younger generation to take an interest in cultural institutions? My 12-year-old daughter volunteered to spend the day at Istanbul's Archaeology Museum and walked through all the exhibits looking for Greek and Roman gods -- only to find out that that section was closed for renovation last winter.

YouTube has a 14-minute video which is a walking tour through the National Archaeology Museum of Athens, including a view of the impressive 2,500 year old Artemision Bronze.

What happens when a source country of ancient objects cannot protect its patrimony and needs funds? What would you do living and working in a country with 21% unemployment? You might not loot antiquities but would someone more desperate with family obligations or someone less scrupulous be able to resist the temptation of taking one of the many pieces that just lie underneath the dirt?

June 12, 2012

FBI: Violent and Property Crimes Down (no separate accounting for antiquities or art theft)

FBI's National Stolen Art File: Picasso's Dance
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

A newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report indicates 2011 crime rates in the United States declined from the previous year.  The report has categories for robbery and burglary; however, no numbers address art theft or looted antiquities.

The FBI's website does have a section on "Art Theft" which includes current art crime cases, the FBI's Top Ten Art Crimes, and information about the Art Crime Team.  The FBI's National Stolen Art File Search allows the public to search for stolen artworks.  For example, under paintings I searched for "Picasso" and received the title of ten pictures, some with images, such as Picasso's "Dance".  The FBI's Art Crime Team is a team of agents assigned in various offices of the federal agency.

June 11, 2012

Boston Globe: FBI plans public awareness campaign aimed at recovering paintings stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

I am always curious when a new article is published more than two decades after the world's largest museum theft, the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  It has been almost one year since James "Whitey" Bulger was apprehended in Santa Monica, California, briefly giving rise to expectations that one of the FBI's formerly "Most Wanted" criminals would talk about the stolen paintings as a way to negotiate favorable treatment after his arrest.

The Boston Globe's article by Milton J. Valencia and Stephen Kurkjian, "Public's aid sought in '90  Gardner Museum heist", explains that the FBI plans a "public awareness campaign" to recover the paintings, much like the strategy used to capture fugitive Bulger.  Let's all hope that the efforts are successful and that the museum's security director, Anthony Amore, will finally put the artworks back into the empty frames hanging on the institution's walls.

Anniversary of Gustave Courbet's Birth and the Number of Stolen Courbet Paintings Reported by Interpol

Courbet's Coastal Landscape in North of France/Interpol
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Huffington Post contributor Priscilla Frank saluted Gustave Courbet's birth on June 10, 1819 with a tribute to the artist and a selection of ten of her favorite paintings.

On the ARCA blog, we've covered a Courbet painting stolen from a gallery in Swansea, Wales in 1957; a landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1972; and a Nazi-era looted painting of a dead deer.

Interpol's Stolen Art Database lists 10 works by Courbet that remain stolen (identified by their Interpol titles in English): Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves (Swansea, 1957); Self-Portrait (Italy, 1971); Landscape with Rocks and Steam (Canada, 1972); Head of a Young (France, 1981); Standing Man (Switzerland, 1984); La Mer (Switzerland, 1992); Stream of Consolation (France, 1997); Landscape (Paraguay, 2002); Coastal Landscape In North of France (Switzerland, 2008); and   Shot Deer (Slovenia, 2010).

June 9, 2012

Accusations of money laundering, vandalism and the theft of a Picasso lithograph in Northern California at a mansion allegedly belonging to the former Ukrainian Prime Minister

Novato mansion/Associated Press
The theft of a Picasso lithograph, accusations of money laundering, and vandalism converge in an abandoned mansion in Northern California.

More than 100 people partied in a 19,500 square foot residence in South Novato without the permission of the alleged owner, former Ukrainian Prime Minister  Pavlo Lazarenko, reports Will Jason for the Marin Independent Journal.

The caretaker reported that amongst the vandalism, a $30,000 Picasso lithograph disappeared.

Lazarenko is imprisoned in Southern California.  The United Nations estimates that Lazarenko stole $200 million from the government of Ukraine.

UPDATE: The Picasso lithograph was found on a walking path below the mansion and handed over to the police.  You can see the video and read the story here.

June 7, 2012

Paolo Ferri and Jason Felch on Wikiloot

ARCA's Annual Conference in Amelia
Tom Kington reports for the Guardian on the efforts of Jason Felch to use crowdsourcing to help police the antiquities trade with wikiloot:
Felch now plans to obtain and post piles of material seized from dealers during police raids and deposited for trials which have yet to be published, and let allcomers mine the data for new clues. "It's all raw, unprocessed data. Researchers can use it, but we also hope the public can use it to find out a bit more about what is on display at their local museum," he said. . . .
 "We will also need a few hundred thousand dollars," added Felch, who is applying for grants, talking to universities and promoting the concept this month at the annual conference in Italy of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA). . . . 
With an estimated 500,000 artefacts looted from Italy to date, one Italian investigator – Paolo Ferri, a magistrate now working at Italy's culture ministry – said any attempt to track them down was welcome. He was cautious about aspects of the crowdsourcing concept, claiming that publishing images or descriptions of looted artefacts could push their collectors to hide them better. "They may also work harder to camouflage the origins of their pieces or even access the archive to manipulate it," Ferri said. "Why not have a password to keep traffickers out?"

Both Felch and Ferri are slated to appear at ARCA's annual conference here in Amelia in a few weeks on June 23-24. The report makes it appear as if Felch has been invited to discuss wikiloot. He is welcome of course to discuss the initiative, but the primary purpose of his invitation is to honor his writing and reporting. He and Ralph Frammolino will be honored for the terrific reporting they have done, which culminated in Chasing Aphrodite, and the blog which has continued that good work.

Conference attendees will have an opportunity to hear more about Felch's plans for wikiloot, and though Ferri and others share misgivings, the conference will allow an opportunity to listen and take into account those concerns. One of the aims for ARCA's annual conference is to bring folks together and foster a productive exchange.
  1. Tom Kington, WikiLoot aims to use crowdsourcing to track down stolen ancient artefacts, the Guardian, June 6, 2012,
ARCA's annual conference is free to attend, and open to the general public. For any questions about the conference please contact us at:

June 4, 2012

Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry Editorializes about Help Wanted Advertisement at the Guggenheim

by Virginia M. Curry, Guest Contributor and Editorial

It’s June, and the newly graduated crop  of art historians buoyant with their expectations and burdened with six digit tuition loans pour out of college nationwide seeking employment. However these students now confront a dilemma which was certainly never experienced by the original art historian, Giorgio Vasari.
Museums are no longer sanctuaries for art education and appreciation.  Museum directors are now much more likely to have a business degree than an art history or anthropology degree.  Exhibitions are now mounted as though they are infomercials for automobiles and lifestyle products such as cars and dresses.

One of the richest museums in the United States just recently fired their staff of art educators in favor of replacing them with a “robust” and free volunteer force of docents.  The prices paid by this institution for art at auction are ever record shattering while the value of the art educator is reduced to zero.  Could this possibly get worse for the art historian and educator?  Yes, it has.

This week I received a listing of positions presently available for art historians.  Frankly, most of these offer the opportunity to relocate to New York and work for free or at a salary which is less than the national poverty level.  It is absolutely appalling to think you could actually qualify to live on food stamps.

Please note below this original current job opening, posted on for an “art guide” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In this instance, the Guggenheim proposes that the art educator, who is "preferably bilingual" also perform the duties of a security guard!

This new commentary reduces the post graduate art history education to an expensive and frivolous indulgence which qualifies you to either work for free as a docent or "stand for long hours" as a sort of art informed  security guard at the Guggenheim.  Should security guards be insulted?  Will art historians be distracted?

As both an art historian and a licensed security consultant it is my opinion that this concept is wholly ridiculous and will create a new breeding ground for internal theft by employees who are both underpaid and angry and have access to exhibits.  It is my professional experience that when university and museum managers (who were far better compensated than these guards) felt that they were entitled to more compensation for their education and performance,  they exploited the weaknesses of their facilities and raped the collections.  Two examples easily come to mind: Dr. Patrick T. Houlihan former director of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles and Professor Jane Crawford, Director of Graduate Honors program at UCLA.  These individuals exploited their facilities and embezzled art and artifacts. Neither of these individuals was asked to be bilingual and stand guard for hours for menial pay in New York City. Both of these "professionals" were convicted at trial of their thefts. They explained to family and accomplices that they were motivated by anger and resentment of the poor compensation they received for their education and experience.

Current Job advertisement from
Gallery Guides

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is seeking Gallery Guides. Gallery Guides serve a dual role as both security guard and art educator.  They are responsible for the security and safety of the artwork and of visitors, and for actively encouraging visitors to discuss their questions and ideas about art.  They are trained and certified in compliance with New York State Certification regulations, and trained as a gallery educator to the standards of the museum's Education department.  They are required to attend and actively participate in all trainings (paid) in security guard procedures, education techniques and exhibition content.  As frontline staff, they are required to maintain a welcoming and professional attitude towards visitors and staff at all times.  Annual performance evaluations will be conducted jointly by the Director of Security and Senior Manager of Adult Interpretive Programs. 
* Provide security during public hours in accordance with established security procedures; keep visitors at prescribed distances from artwork; monitor the flow of visitors in the galleries and report any incident involving visitors touching or damaging art work. 
* Provide for the safety of staff and visitors on the museum's premises during public and non-public hours; assist with evacuation during emergencies; report problems, suspicious activity and safety hazards to a Supervisor and/or Assistant Supervisor.
* Thoroughly prepare for all exhibitions; actively encourage and discuss questions from visitors about current exhibitions, the collection, the Frank Lloyd Wright building, the museum and its history; respond to visitor queries about practical matters such as directions.  
* Overtime is offered but not required.
Qualifications and Requirements:
* A firm schedule of 4 or 5 days, must be available Friday and Saturday
* BA/BFA in art history, studio art, museum education or related field required; MA/MFA encouraged to apply.
* Ability to stand for multiple hours
* Ability to remain alert at all times
* Must qualify for the New York State Security Guard Certification.
* Experience with security issues preferred.
* Professional demeanor and commitment to museum policies, procedures and security/education philosophies.
* Strong interpersonal and communication skills; experience working with the public required, teaching experience preferred.
* Solid working knowledge of modern and contemporary art.
* Bilingual a plus.
* References required.
The Guggenheim offers a competitive salary and excellent medical, dental, life, disability and pension plan coverage.  Our staff also enjoys generous vacation, sick leave and personal days, access to a variety of cultural institutions, discounts to museum stores and a stimulating and collegial work environment.
Qualified applicants please send your resume, cover letter, including salary expectations, and three references to Indicate the job title "Gallery Guides" in the subject line.  Only those applicants who meet our requirements for this position will be contacted.
Sadly, it is now easier and far more lucrative to work at McDonald' s where the only educational requisite is the ability to make a hamburger from a photograph of a hamburger.  I understand that McDonald's also has great job security, health benefits,  and probably better opportunities for advancement.


June 1, 2012

Friday, June 01, 2012 - , No comments

Art Crime Documentary: "Portrait of Wally" (Part Three)

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Lea Bondi’s grand niece, Ruth Rozanek, told the filmmakers of “Portrait of Wally” that Lea Bondi would have liked to have gotten her portrait back but that in the 1950s Bondi didn’t have the financial resources for a legal fight and the value of the painting – barely worth $1,000 then – couldn’t justify a costly legal battle in a country where she could not be sure to be given fair consideration as a Jew after the war in Austria.  Lea Bondi died in 1969.  In 1972, Rudolf Leopold published a book on Schiele and obliterated Lea Bondi’s name from the list of owners of Portrait of Wally.

Director Andrew Shea’s film “Portrait of Wally” documents the legal strategies of the state of New York who wanted to establish the true ownership of the painting against the museums and art galleries who expressed their opinion and strong influence against what they considered the government’s interference.

The Museum of Modern Art, chaired by Ronald Lauder, wanted to return Portrait of Wally (and a second painting by Egon Schiele Dead City) to the Leopold Museum.  MoMA moved to quash the subpoena.  The art community had assumed that artworks were usually immune from such actions, the New York Times reported.  The Wall Street Journal said that Morgenthau had taken ‘momentary leave of his senses’.

Museums feared their ability to borrower paintings internationally would be hurt.  “Museums and the public could be severely damaged as a consequence,” Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told the New York Times.

Glenn D. Lowry, Executive Director, Museum of Modern Art., before the House Banking Committee on February 12, 1998: “The district attorney’s action of barring the return of the painting to the lender has the potential of seriously affecting the future of art loans in this country. Unless we can assure lenders that American art museums will return borrowed works of art, lenders, fearing seizures, will simply not lend.  That would be a disaster for the American public which has come to expect first class exhibitions at all art institutions across this great land.”

Ori Z. Soltes, Former Director, National Jewish Museum, Co-Founder, Holocaust Art Restitution Project: “Then the entire museum community fell in line with this perspective of don’t mess with internal museum affairs, you government and other kinds of bureaucrats because you don’t understand.”

Even Ronald Lauder, who founded the Commission on Art Recovery in 1998, wanted the painting returned to Austria.  The filmmakers discuss Lauder's various conflicts as an underwriter of the Schiele exhibition at MoMA and as former US Ambassador to Austria in 1986-1987.  Launder, a major collector of Egon Schiele’s works, also purchased Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer from Maria Altmann and her family in 2006.

This documentary discusses the controversial NPR story in 2004 on Portrait of Wally and the subsequent suspension of correspondent David D’Arcy (also co-writer of this film).

Attorneys Howard Spiegler and Larry Kaye fought for years on behalf of the Estate of Lea Bondi.  Finally, a trial date was set for July 2010.  All that was to be decided, the film said, was whether or not Leopold knew that “Portrait of Wally” had been stolen when he brought the painting into the United States for the Schiele exhibition at MoMA in 1997.

Then Dr. Leopold died weeks before the trial.  His wife, Dr. Elisabeth Leopold, offered the Estate of Lea Bondi $19 million for Portrait of Wally to return to the Leopold Museum in Vienna, to join the artist’s self-portrait painted on the same day he had immortalized his lover.  It was her husband’s wish to settle, Elisabeth Leopold said publicly.  The attorneys, who had taken the case on contingency received about one-third of the money for the painting and the rest was divided amongst the 50 family members of the Estate of Lea Bondi.

The painting was first displayed at the Jewish Heritage Museum in lower Manhattan before it was returned to Vienna and re-installed at the Leopold Museum.  This time, the story of Lea Bondi’s ownership of the Portrait of Wally is confirmed and it is clarified that she never lost title to the painting during the decades she and her family searched for the stolen painting.

The film notes at the end:
Shortly after painting Portrait of Wally Schiele left Wally for a respectable middle-class girl, Edith Harms, whom he married in 1915.  Schiele never saw Wally again. Edith died of influenza in 1918. She was six months pregnant with Schiele’s child. Schiele contracted the virus and died three days later at the age of 28. Wally volunteered to serve as a nurse.  She died of scarlet fever during World War One. 
 In 1998, the Austrian Parliament, responding to the Manhattan District Attorney’s seizure of Portrait of Wally and Dead City, passed a new restitution law. 
 In the following years the Belvedere and other Austrian museums returned hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art that had been stolen by the Nazis. 
 This restitution law does not apply to the Leopold Museum, which is considered a private foundation, not a public museum.
Directed by Andrew Shea
Written by Andrew Shea and David D’Arcy
Produced by David D’Arcy, Barbara Morgan, and Andrew Shea

This project was funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.