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July 31, 2013

Christos Tsirogiannis on "Something is Confidential in the State of Christie's" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Greek forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis writes "Something is Confidential in the State of Christie's" in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
This article is a report on the appearance of "toxic" antiquities, offered by Christie's at auctions in London and New York during 2012, which have now been identified in the confiscated archives of the convicted dealers Giacomo Medici and Robin Symes. The research aims to reconstruct the true modern story and full collecting history of seven antiquities: a bronze board, a terracotta ship, a pair of kraters, a terracotta statue of a boy, a kylix, and a marble head. New evidence in each case presents a different version of the collecting history from that offered by Christie's. This paper, going in order through the Christie's 2012 antiquities auctions, demonstrates that in many instances the market uses the term "confidentiality" to conceal the identities of its disgraced members, and to put an end to academic or other research for the truth. It also reveals that most of the dealers, galleries, collectors and auction houses listed by Christie's as previous owners have been involved in several other cases of illicit antiquities.
Christos Tsirogiannis
Christos Tsirogiannis studied archaeology and history of art in the University of Athens, then worked for the Greek Ministry of Culture from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. He voluntarily cooperated with the Greek police Art Squad on a daily basis (August 2004 – December 2008) and was a member of the Greek Task Force Team that repatriated looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities from the Getty Museum, the Shelby White/Leon Levy collection, the Jean-David Cahn AG galleries, and others. Since 2007, Tsirogiannis has been identifying antiquities in museums, galleries, auction houses, private collections and museums, depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives, notifying public prosecutor Dr Paolo Giorgio Ferri and the Greek authorities. He will shortly receive his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, on the international illicit antiquities network viewed through the Robin Symes–Christos Michaelides archive.

Mr. Tsirogiannis writes in the introduction to his article:
In 1995, the Italian and Swiss authorities confiscated the Giacomo Medici archive in the Free Port of Geneva (Watson & Todeschini 2007:20). Later, in 2002, the same authorities confiscated the Gianfranco Becchina archive in Basel (Watson & Todeschini 2007:292). In 2006, during a raid at a villa complex maintained by the Papadimitriou family (descendants of the antiquities dealer the late Christos Michaelides), the Greek authorities confiscated the archive of the top antiquities dealers of modern times, Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides (Zirganos 2006b:44, Zirganos in Watson and Todeschini 2007:316-317). These three archives -- and, especially, the combined information they include (almost exclusively after 1972) -- provide an unprecedented insight into the international antiquities market. Research in the archives uncovers the ways in which thousands of looted antiquities, from all over the world, were smuggled by middlemen and "laundered" by auction houses and dealers, before being acquired by museums and private collectors, in contravention of the guidelines of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1970 ICOM statement on Ethics of Acquisitions.
Since 2005, the Italian authorities, based on evidence from these three archives, have repatriated about 200 antiquities, from the University of Virginia (Ford 2008; Isman 2008:25, Isman 2009:87-88), Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Gill & Chippindale 2006; silver 2010:263-264), J. Paul Getty Museum (in three different occasions, for the first see Gill & Chippindale 2007; Gill:2010:105-106; Silver 2010:268; for the second and third see Gill 2012b and Ng & Felch 2013, respectively), Metropolitan Museum of Art (in two different occasions, for the first see Silver 2010:252-253; Gill 2010:106; for the second see Gill 2012a:64), Princeton University Museum of Art (in 2 different occasions, for the first see Gill and Chippindale 2007:224-225; Gill 2009a; Gill 2010:106-107; for the second see Gill 2012: Felch 2012a), Cleveland Museum of Art (Gill 2010:105), the Shelby White/Leon Levy private collection (Gill 2010:108; Silver 2010:272), Royal-Athena Galleries (dealer Jerome Eisenberg, see Gill 2010:107-108; Isman in Godart, De Caro & Gavrili 2008:24), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Padgett 1983-86 [1991]; Padgett 1984; Gill 2009b:85; Gill & Tsirogiannis 2011:32; Boehm 2011) and the Dietrich Von Bothmer private collection of vase fragments in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gill 2012a:64). Recently, Toledo Museum of Art agreed to return an Etruscan Hydria to Italy (The United States Attorney's Office 2012), while Dallas Museum of Art announced the return of 5 antiquities to Italy and 1 antiquity to Turkey (Richter 2012; Gill 2013b). From the numerous antiquities depicted in the three confiscated archives, the Greek authorities have managed to repatriate only 2 so far, both from the Getty Museum in 2007 (Gill & Chippindale 2007:205, 208; Felch & Frammolino 2011:290).
Following their repatriation, these antiquities were published and exhibited with acknowledgement of their looted past (Godart & De Caro 2007; Godart, De Caro & Gavrili 2008), revealing the true nature of most antiquities in the confiscated archives. So incriminating is the evidence in the three archives presented by the authorities during the negotiations for each object that in no case has any museum, private collection or dealer tried to defend their acquisitions in court. The reason is that the photographic evidence presents, in most cases, the oldest part of the object's modern collecting history ("provenance," its first appearance after being looted; smashed and covered with soil, or recently restored, without any previously documented legal collecting history. An attempt to defend their illicit acquisitions during a court case would have brought (apart from the inevitable surrender of the object(s)) a long-lasting negative publicity for the museums, private collectors and dealers involved, additional embarrassment, an extra financial loss and the possibility that their and others' involvement in more cases of looted antiquities would be revealed. The subsequent returns in 2012 and 2013 from the Getty Museum to Italy and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Italy in 2012 prove that point. 
Although each repatriation case attracted massive media attention (Miles, 2008:357; Felch & Frammolino 2011:284) and non-specialists around the world began to be informed about the true nature of the modern international antiquities market, the market itself reacted badly. Having missed the 1970 UNESCO opportunity to reform, the market is now losing a second chance to change its attitude, since it is continuing to offer antiquities depicted in the three confiscated archives (Gill & Tsirogiannis 2011).
The ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

July 30, 2013

The Journal of Art Crime: Issue 9, Spring 2013

The ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

The Editorial Board includes Lord Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archaeology, University of Cambridge; Petrus van Duyne, Professor of Criminology, University of Tilburg, The Netherlands; Matjaz Jager, Director, Institute of Criminology, Slovenia; Travis McDade, Professor of Library Studies, University of Illinois Law School, US; Kenneth Polk, Professor of Criminology, University of Melbourne, Australia; David Simon, Professor of Art History, Colby College, US; Erik Nemeth, RAND Group, US; Liisa van Vliet, University of Cambridge, UK; Dick Drent, Director of Security, the Van Gogh Museum, The Netherlands; Anthony Amore, Director of Security, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, US; Dennis Ahern, Director of Security, the Tate Museums, UK; Richard Ellis, Director, ArtResolve and Art Risk Consultant, UK; Col. Giovanni Pastore, Retired, Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Rome, Italy; Neil Brodie, Professor of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, UK; David Gill, Professor of Archaeology Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, UCS Ipswich, UK; A. J. G. Tijhuis, Attorney, Pontius Lawyers, and NSCR, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Benoit van Asbroeck, Attorney, Bird & Bird, Brussels, Belgium; and Howard Spiegler, Attorney, Herrick, Feinstein LLP, US. 

Design, layout and the cover design and illustration created by Urska Charney.

In the "Letter from the Editor", Noah Charney, Found of ARCA, writes:
In this issue, we present six academic articles, rather than our usual 4 or 5. We had a cornucopia of strong and timely submissions, and so chose to run extra academic articles and have slightly fewer editorials in this issue. Also unusually, we've published several papers by young Greek scholar Christos Tsirogiannis, who has uncovered some timely, breaking-news information about antiquities auctioned by Christie's, as well as new info about a statue at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. His scholarship is top level, but also fresh and current, so we felt it wise to run both of his articles now, allowing The Journal of Art Crime, to "break" his stories. We also feature a strong contribution from Anna Perl, on restitution issues in Poland, a new translation of an article on the philosophy and theory of authenticity, from Thierry Lenain, and a fine dissertation from an ARCA Program graduate, Caitlin Willis. Finally, in the Academic section, we offer the first in a series of articles by Dutch lawyer and criminologist Edgar Tijhuis, adapted from his out-of-print book, Transnational Organized Crime and the Interface between Legal and Illegal Actors. This text will be serialized in consecutive issues of the JAC.
This issue also includes a Letter from ARCA's Acting Academic Director, Crispin Corrado, PHd in Classical Archaeology from Brown University, and author of a book on ancient Roman sculpture, Merry and Jovial: Reconsidering the Effigies Immortalis and the Commemoration of Roman Boys (Oxbow Books, 2013).

Academic Articles: Christos Tsirogiannis' "Something is Confidential in the State of Christie's"; Thierry Lenain's "The Question of the Value of Doubles in Autographic Arts"; Caitlin Willis' "Graffiti in Contemporary Rome: Why Reductive Solutions will Fail and Why that's a Good Thing"; Anna A. Perl's "Poland's Restitution Efforts in the United States"; Tsirogiannis' "A Marble Statue of a Boy at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts"; and Edgar Tijhuis' "Legal and Illegal Actors around Art Crime: a Typology of Interfaces".

Regular Columns: David Gill on "Dallas Museum of Art Takes the Initiative" in Context Matters; Christopher Marinello on "Art Recovery: Negotiating with Criminals, Handlers, and Good Faith Purchasers"; and Noah Charney on "New "Intelligence" Body Will Monitor Illegal Traffic in Cultural Property" in Lessons from the History of Art Crime.

Editorial Essays: David Scott's "On Art Forgery: the History of a Modern Obsession by Thierry Lenain"; Steven D. Feldman (Herrick, Feinstein LLP) on "Highlights of Selected Criminal Cases Involving Art & Cultural Objects: 2012"; Stefano Alessandrini's "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books, and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them"; and Elizabeth Rynecki's "Lost, Forgotten, Looted, or Destroyed: A Great-Granddaughter's Search for her Art Legacy".

Reviews: Marc Balcells reviews Por amor al arte: Memorias del ladrón más famoso del mundo by Erik el Belga; Catherine Schofield Sezgin reviews The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan; Balcells reviews The Illicit Trade in Art and Antiquities by Janet Ulph and Ian Smith; and Sezgin reviews Forged: Why Fakes Are The Great Art of Our Age by Jonathon Keats.

Extras: Noah Charney's "Q&A with Ruth Godthelp" and "Q&A with Ken Perenyi"; 2013 ARCA Awards.

July 29, 2013

Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, The Netherlands: "Bling bling" museum theft and religious art

by Jacobiene Kuijpers, ARCA 2013 Student

On 29 January of 2013 at half past two in the afternoon, two young men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas drove on a moped in the city centre of Utrecht in the Netherlands. They stopped in front of the Museum Catharijneconvent, the national museum of religious art housed in a former cloister. One of the men walked towards a glass side door of the museum then smashed the door several times with a hammer until the security glass broke. The flight of stairs towards the ‘treasure room’ was right in front of him and he ran down them, focusing his attention immediately on a gold plated silver beam-monstrance adorned with numerous diamond elements and other precious stones insured at €250,000.[1] The glass case in which the vitrine was placed was not as stable as the thief thought. When trying to smash it with his hammer, he knocked over the entire base. As the entire vitrine including the object hit the floor, the glass shattered and the thief gathered the pieces of the object, putting parts of it in his too small bag and the rest under his arm and ran back up. The thief appeared clumsy, dropping the piece and picking it back up while crouching trough the glass door he smashed on his way in. [2] His conspirator was waiting for him on the same spot so he ran to the moped to take off. Before he could leave the courtyard, museum guards caught up with him and after a short wrestle they managed to confiscate the bag, which held some pieces of the monstrance. The thieves drove away with the rest, it took them less then two minutes to steal (part of) the monstrance.

The police managed to find the moped in the neighbourhood, the thieves must have had a get-away car either parked in the area or picking them up, suggesting the involvement of a third person. The moped turned out to have been stolen in Germany. During the police investigation it became known that the pieces of the monstrance in the bag that was saved by the museum guards were the most valuable, it held all of the precious stones. This was presented in Dutch media on 13 February, together with the CCTV footage. A police spokesman mentioned that the object held by the thieves was as good as worthless on the open market. The piece was incomplete and the value of the gold and silver after melting the object would hardly weigh up to the costs. The insurance company of the museum installed a reward for the tip that would lead to the return of the monstrance. That same evening the police managed to arrest three men of 21, 25 and 35 years old. They were seen placing the monstrance wrapped in plastic in a car, the police followed the car and halted it on the highway towards Belgium. The monstrance was returned to the museum, some of the adornments were missing and it was damaged. After restoration it was back on display in the museum in May. The prosecution of the three men is still in process.

Looking at circumstantial events learns that there was a theft of another monstrance from a Dutch museum a year earlier, which could have served as an example to the thieves in this case.[3] Last year, the thieves in the Museum Gouda got away with their monstrance in 30 seconds and were not prosecuted, suggesting it is an easy and fast way to make money, motivating the Utrecht thieves and giving them a suitable target, the monstrance. After the Museum Gouda theft, the Dutch media mentioned that the monstrance is worth much more than any thief can make by selling the raw materials. This statement claims that the thieves were possibly going to melt the monstrance and sell the gold and precious stones, it provides a motive for thieves.  Harvesting the raw materials of the monstrance would be easy to do for the thieves, and it is not hard or dangerous for them to cash in on, as opposed to trying to sell the object. The media may have instructed thieves on how to do an ‘easy’ crime and should perhaps have been more careful with the information they disclose and the possible consequences.

[1] A detailed description of the object and the ‘schatkamer’; the room in which the piece was exhibited, can be found on the website of the Museum Catharijne Convent.
[2] The review of the theft is made based on newspaper articles and the above cited description on the museum website as well as the footage of the security cameras.

July 28, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Facebook played a part in Romanian sting operation to identify art thieves

Andrew Higgins reporting July 26 for The New York Times from Carcaliu, Romania in "A Trail of Masterpieces and a Web of Lies Leading to Anguish", describes one of the admitted thieves as using the internet in a failed attempt to dispose of seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.

Mr. Higgins claims that Radu Dogardu used Facebook to tell alleged accomplice Mihai Alexander Bitu that he would agree to sell the stolen artworks to a local wine producer for 400,000 euro (US $531,000). However, the supposed buyer of the stolen paintings was cooperating with a Romanian prosecutor, Raluca Botea, in an "elaborate sting operation", according to Higgins who indicated that he'd seen 'a record of the exchange' on the social networking site.
Just a few hours later, however, the operation fell apart when Mr. Dogaru received a warning that the police were tapping his cellphone. Today, six months on, the fate of the paintings is still unknown, as law enforcement authorities in Romania and the Netherlands, as well as art lovers around the world, struggle to penetrate the fog of claims and counterclaims about what happened to the masterpieces, from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.
Have they been burned, as Mr. Dogaru's mother, Olga, has at times claimed? Or perhaps spirited away by a tall mystery man in a fancy black car, as she has asserted at other times? Or could they, as many in the desolate village of Carcaliu believe, simply be hidden somewhere in this rural corner of Romania?
Mr. Higgins points out that the prosecutor, Mrs. Botea, has found 'contradictory lies' in what the Dogaru mother-and-son have told her office. This article looks at the village, the personal history of the suspect, and quotes 'an official indictment' that claims that the morning after the theft of the Kunsthal Rotterdam that Dogaru took five of the stolen paintings to Brussels to sell them to a mobster known as "George the Thief" then carried them back to Rotterdam after the sale failed.
Mr. Dogaru appears to have hidden the works initially in his family home but later moved at least some of them in a suitcase to the house of his mother’s sister, Marfa Marcu. Mrs. Marcu, in an interview, said she had never opened the suitcase. She says she last saw it when her sister took it away, along with a shovel, soon after Mr. Dogaru’s arrest. 
Mrs. Dogaru has told prosecutors that, with the help of her son’s girlfriend, she buried the case in the yard of an abandoned house. After a few days, they dug it up, wrapped the paintings in plastic and buried them in a nearby cemetery. 
The trail then goes cold. In an interview with prosecutors on Feb. 27, Mrs. Dogaru said that sometime in January, this time acting alone, she dug up the paintings and, desperate to destroy the evidence of her son’s theft, brought them home and burned them all — in a stove used to heat water for the bathroom and a sauna. 
How she managed to do this is not clear. The stove in which Mrs. Dogaru claimed to have shoved all the artworks is barely a foot wide and seems far too small to contain what would have been a bulky bundle of canvas and wood. 
In a written statement on Feb. 28, Mrs. Dogaru retracted the incineration story and said she had, in fact, handed the paintings to a Russian-speaking man, about 40, who arrived at her house in a black car. She explained that her son, whom she visited in prison to get instructions, had told her to expect such a visitor and to give him the paintings.

July 27, 2013

Daniel Silva Launches "English Girl" Featuring Art Restorer Gabriel Allon at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

by Tanya K. Lervik, ARCA Alum

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday night, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva endured lighthearted ribbing and a gentle grilling by his wife, veteran journalist Jamie Gangel at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.  The event celebrated the launch of Silva's latest novel, "The English Girl."  The hero of Silva's series, Gabriel Allon, an art restorer turned Mossad covert agent, is drawn once again into a complex adventure - this time an attempt to rescue the kidnapped secret mistress of the British Prime Minister.  The packed audience welcomed several prominent guests including the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren; Newt and Callista Gingrich; and celebrated CNN  journalist Bernard Shaw.

Daniel Silva explained how his background as a journalist, first at UPI, and then as a writer at CNN helped prepare him to create his popular series of novels.  One audience member asked about how he dealt with "writer's block".  Mr. Silva replied that, though he might not always be pleased with his writing, he does not have difficulty in writing the 1000 words per day required to complete a novel.  He credits his time as a reporter with that discipline because there was no time for hesitation.  Stories had to be written to a tight deadline.

Interestingly, Daniel Silva described how his main character, Gabriel Allon, was never meant to be the main focus of his first book.  Mr. Silva does not outline his novels in advance, and they evolve as he writes. He described the character as "just taking over" as he wrote, which is fortunate for his fans now enjoying the thirteenth installment in the series.

Research plays an important role in the process, according to Daniel Silva, including library research, expert interviews, and travel.  One memorable experience Mr. Silva described was visiting with the Vatican's expert restorers.  By chance, as he walked through the workshop, he noticed an unfinished work by Leonardo da Vinci, unframed and awaiting repairs.  Astonished, Silva was treated to an up close inspection of the masterpiece by the Vatican specialist.

He said the idea for this current book coalesced as he was standing in St. Peter's in Rome.   As he stood there, he kept hearing a piece of scripture resonating in his head, "And the house which Solomon made for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high."   Silva said, "Of course it wasn't my voice I heard saying it.  It was Bernie's (Bernard Shaw),"  which brought chuckles from the audience in acknowledgment of the broadcaster's famous baritone. 

Though the character, Gabriel Allon, has aged into his sixties, Silva has no plans to retire the series anytime soon.  When asked whether the series might someday make the leap to film, Silva said he had been in negotiations, but that he was very concerned about keeping control of the end product. Regardless, the future seems bright for the author and his novels with their unlikely fusion of fine art and spy-craft.

July 26, 2013

Royal Library of Sweden celebrates the return of two rare manuscripts stolen by Anders Burius and recovered by Baltimore-based book dealer Stephan Loewentheil

by A. M. C. Knutsson, ARCA Student 2013

On Wednesday the 24th of July, the second return ceremony for books stolen from the Royal Library of Sweden took place in the office of the New York District Attorney.  Last year the Wytfliet Atlas was the first to be returned to the Royal Library after it was identified in the possession of a New York-based dealer who had purchased it in 2003 from Sotheby’s, who reimbursed the dealer before returning it to the Library.

The two new returns are the ‘Das illustrirte Mississippithal’ by Henry Lewis, which was the first book to be discovered missing from the Royal Library and a 1683 French book by Louis Hennepin on the Louisiana territory.  A full list of the books that remain missing can be found here. Both of these books were purchased by Baltimore-based dealer Stephan Loewentheil from Ketterer Kunst, a German auction house where many of the stolen books had been sold. Learning about the thefts, Loewentheil, who in turn had sold the books, bought them back and returned them to the Royal Library at his own expense. Loewentheil explained his actions in the following words, "Although as a bona fide purchaser, I didn't have any legal liability, from a moral standpoint it bothered me.”

The head librarian and CEO of the Royal Library, Gunilla Herdenberg commented on the return, saying that the return means a lot to the Library as well as the Swedish cultural heritage. It is important, she asserts, to show that these types of thefts can be resolved.

The thefts from the Royal Library took place between 1995 and 2004. They were conducted by Anders Burius, the head of the Manuscript Department, who at discovery committed suicide. More than 50 books remain missing, but it is believed that the increased publicity with the return of the resurfaced books in conjunction with further effort at identification both by the Library and the FBI might prove fruitful.

The juridical representative of the Royal Library has ensured that the Library is constantly working to localize the missing books. The economic value is irrelevant when it comes to the damage conducted to the Library and the cultural heritage of Sweden.  These books are intended for the enlightenment of mankind and the return of the books is the only right thing to do from an ethical standpoint.

Steven D. Feldman, from Herrick, Feinstein LLP, representing the Royal Library stated, “Stephan Loewentheil’s decision to return these two cultural treasures to the Royal Library of Sweden should serve as an example for ethical book dealers and collectors in the United States and around the world.  As Mr. Loewentheil demonstrated, these stolen books should be returned to the people of Sweden and the Royal Library, their true owner, and made available to the public.  They should not be secreted away in private collections.”

In the words of Stephan Loewentheil, “Our clients love books and people who love books tend to want to do the right thing, so they were happy to sell the books back to me.”

Anyone who holds any information regarding the missing books (a complete list is available at is encouraged to contact Jerker Rydén at the Royal Library of Sweden.

For more information:

July 25, 2013

Report from Amelia: Erik Nemeth lectures on Cultural Security at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program

by Yasmin Hamed, ARCA Intern

Week Seven of ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program got off to an unusual start with most of this year’s students off-site. Monday and Tuesday saw the remnants of the long weekend break where many of the students travelled both within and beyond Italy. Students enjoyed the sights around Italy such as Bari, Matera, Venice, Milan and Florence in addition to other locations beyond the borders such as Switzerland, Serbia, Marrakech and Malta.

Our slower than usual return to classes on Wednesday afternoon began our first day of a new module on Cultural Security led by Dr. Erik Nemeth. With a brief segue from art crime, our first encounter focused on the interdisciplinary nature of Cultural Security and the interactions of each discipline very thoroughly represented in our class from the three areas of physical, political and economic spheres.

With our first full day of classes we further examined the dimensions of cultural security during three main temporal spheres: the Second World War, the Cold War, and the Post-Cold War periods. The dynamics between cultural security and cultural intelligence opened up a discussion on the problems and solutions currently at play on the international field. Again, each student offered insights from their own fields. Dr. Nemeth’s presentations offered a view of cultural security through a series of well-known case studies such as the infamous destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhasin Afghanistan in 2001 and of the Samarra Mosque in Iraq in 2006.

A discussion of the great losses to cultural property could only be followed with the counter-active measures: cultural intelligence services. Dr. Nemeth’s scientific approach to this subject brought about a new way of attacking our studies through the use of statistical analysis. This data may be used to predict threatened cultural heritage sites worldwide by organizations who are tasked with the protection of cultural property in areas of conflict.

As we are getting further and further into the course, an interesting dynamic begins to arise. Having covered such significant areas such as bi-lateral agreements previously in our class on Art Crime in War with Judge Arthur Tompkins, in addition to during our class on Art and Heritage Law, we are now garnering a view of intricate subject areas such as this from a number of viewpoints. This multi-disciplinary approach to major issues within the area of art crime research is creating a solid foundation in our knowledge of this area with every new module. 

Coming off the hectic travel during the long weekend, and with no formally arranged class trips, most students took advantage of last weekend to relax. A fantastic birthday party for one of the students at the top of Amelia beside the duomo offered astounding panoramic views of Amelia. As Week Seven came to a close, some of our students even benefited from a poolside reading of Dorit Straus’ article on “Insurance Claims and the Art Market” in preparation for Week Eight in ARCA’s 2013 Postgraduate Program.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: The New Yorker blogs on Claim that Mother of Suspect Burned Stolen Paintings from the Triton Foundation

Now on blog of The New Yorker writer Betsy Morais has weighed in today with "How to Catch an Art Thief When the Evidence Has Been Torched" by quoting a chemist on the type of "screening process" likely to be used to analyzed the charred remains of what may turn out to be the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Upon arrival at a crime scene, if investigators were to find nothing more than black ash, analyzing any of it would be impossible. “But fortunately, that’s never really the case,” Tague said. “If things are charred, then you can typically identify which artist would have generated the art.” 
It’s a delicate process. The eye can only see something as small as seventy-five microns, or about the width of a strand of hair. “You’re looking for particles much smaller than that,” Tague said. “So it’s tedious, really tedious. And you don’t want to disturb a crime scene. So it could take weeks or months just to recover the particles.” Even just two or three microns of dust could be the key to identifying the signature of Picasso.
Ms. Morais reported that the director of Romania's Natural History Museum, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, 'told me by email that they also found "fragments of paintings with imprints of the canvas".'

July 23, 2013

Work of textile conservator Julia Brennan (ARCA '09) featured in new book on "The Turkish Ambassador's Residence and the Cultural History of Washington, D.C."

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The work of textile conservator Julia Brennan (ARCA '09) is one of the many features in the recently published book by Istanbul Kültür University, The Turkish Ambassador's Residence and the Cultural History of Washington, D.C., authored by Skip Moskey, Caroline Mesrobian Hickman, and John Edward Hasse.

Here are link's to Ms. Brennan's posts in 2011 on the Everett's House Ottoman-style wall fabrics in the ballroom and the project to conserve them.

The residence of the Turkish Ambassador in the American capital is a early 20th century mansion (1910-1915) buildt by Ohio-industrialist Edward Hamlin Everett (1851-1929) and designed by George Oakley Totten, Jr. The Turkish government purchased the home during the Great Depression and undertook a restoration of the residence between 2001 and 2007 under the direction of interior designer Aniko Gaal Schott and architect Belinda Reeder.

Mr. Skip Moskey writes on the 'intersection of politics, architecture, and social structure in the early history of Washington' and used primary research materials to write about Edward Hamlin Everett. Ms. Caroline Hickman wrote about the architect Totten and the interior decoration of the house using diplomatic records in the national Archives. John Edward Hasse documents the musical history of the residence, once the childhood home of the co-founder of Atlantic Records:
An important chapter in the history of the house was the decade between 1934 and 1944, when the sons of Ambassador and Mrs. Mehmet Münir Ertegün, Ahmet and Nesuhi, brought noted African-American musicians home for jazz sessions in the Embassy. There they broke racial barriers and enriched Washington's music scene through their passion for African-American music.
Ms. Brennan worked on the cleaning and conservation of the embroidered and appliqué silk architectural textiles that decorate the upper sections of the ballroom walls, as she describes here:
an extraordinary complex technique of appliqué of silk sateen cutouts (think matisse) on top of contrasting silk sateen ground, with each motif outlined with a cording that was stitched and glued on. The pattern, an architectural niche containing a tall bulbous 'vase' shape, alternates the red and gold silk, so the eye moves along as if following a series of decorative windows.
YouTube has a series of videos on the book launching at the Turkish residence in early July, including a discussion by Ms. Caroline Mesrobian Hickman.  

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Mother of Suspected Art Thief Denies Destroying Paintings to Judges in Budapest Court

The mother of a suspected art thief denied in court that she destroyed paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October, according to Andrew Higgins reporting from Bucharest, Romania, in The New York Times on July 22 ("Romanian Denies Burning Art"):
Olga Dogaru, the Romanian woman who told investigators that she had incinerated seven works of art by Matisse, Picasso and other modern masters in an effort to protect her son, denied in court on Monday that she had burned the works. 
Standing alongside her son, Radu, 29, who has admitted stealing the paintings in October from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Mrs. Dogaru, 50, told a panel of three judges that her earlier account of destroyed the works in a stove at her house in the tiny village of Carcaliu was untrue. "I did not burn them," she said in a soft voice.
Here's a link to a description of the stolen paintings. Here's a link to last week's reports on the ongoing police investigation into the ashes found in Mrs. Dogaru's stove.

And here's a link to an "exclusive" article published in Reuters by Radu Marinas, "Romanian expert believes three artworks from Dutch heist destroyed":
"We gathered overwhelming evidence that three (of the seven) paintings were destroyed by fire," said Gheorghe Niculescu, head of the team from Romania's National Research Investigation Center in Physics and Chemistry, which has been examining ashes found in the police investigation. 
However, he could not say which of the seven paintings had been destroyed and did not explain how he was certain that the remains originated from works stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum last October, rather than other paintings.
Marinas reported:
Until Niculescu spoke to Reuters on Monday, none of the experts involved in examining the ashes had given a firm view on whether any of the paintings had been destroyed.
Niculescu said he was now sufficiently confident that three had been destroyed that his department, a unit of the culture ministry, would be submitting a detailed report to prosecutors this week.
He said nails used to fasten the canvases to their wooden frames, recovered from the ashes in Dogaru's house, had been a crucial piece of evidence. "Their shape, the way in which they were manually manufactured and the metals they were made of, lead us to our conclusions," he said.
"We used X-ray fluorescence, X-Ray diffraction techniques, electronic and optical microscopy. I also got the best opinion of the national arts museum expert and there's no doubt here."
"Also Prussian Blue, a paint pigment discovered around 1715 and used on a large scale by painters from around 1750 ... which we found in very small traces of canvas, supports the case," Niculescu told Reuters.

July 20, 2013

Report from ARCA in Amelia: Dick Drent on Museum Security and Integrated Risk Management for Cultural Heritage

Le pont d'Argenteuil
by Claude Monet - damaged in 2007 by intruders
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

This past week, our course was taught by Dick Drent, the Corporate Security Manager and former Director of Security at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, who led us through the ins and outs of museum security and risk management for cultural heritage. Mr. Drent offered up his vast and unparalleled knowledge from the practical side of art crime detection and prevention -- knowledge he has gained through his eight years heading the security team at the Van Gogh Museum and 25 years working in the field of Law Enforcement in the Netherlands.  We learnt about how, during his time as Security Director at the Van Gogh Museum, he has changed and refined the security procedures of the museum to meet a standard that is truly fitting for the treasure trove that it holds.

Through the week we identified the many threats that face any art institution: theft, vandalism, violent acts, natural disasters, fire, and environmental hazards and learned the practical approaches for protecting against these.  Mr. Drent guided us through the museum security training methods he devised with some of his former colleagues from Dutch law enforcement. He has spent several years promoting this method in museums and galleries around the world and in doing so has become a leading figure in an international movement calling for greater security for cultural property.  The training focuses on the detection of risks upfront in order to minimize actual threats, his mantra being that a museum must have a proactive stance in the protection of its art works rather than a reactive one. This, he emphasizes, need not be reliant on fancy and expensive equipment, rather a shift of attitude from the management level to the floor level on the training of security personnel and museum staff.  This includes training in how to properly observe and recognize deviant behavior and the regular analysis and revaluation of risks to the museum on a daily basis, followed by assessments on the best ways to intervene if such an event were to occur.

The highlight of Dick Drent’s course was undoubtedly the field class that he led in Rome. We rose early on Monday to take a coach bus into the capital where we spent the day surveying some of Rome's greatest collections of Western European art not merely as tourists but through the eyes of a security director. Through a series of group exercises, we gained an understanding of the complexity of securing a museum while keeping the collection available to visitors.

As my classmates talked amongst themselves during the field class, walking among collections, and even on the bus ride back to Amelia, we began to realize the complex field in which a modern-day museum security director works.  His or her job requires them to not only know what is best for their particular museum and their particular collection but to also convey that information to a broad group of interested parties and decision-makers.  It is one thing to talk among colleagues from the security field about what is needed, but it is quite another thing to articulate those same concerns to a museum director, its Board of Trustees, a finance review board, or a museum's curators and conservators.

Having survived a two-week stretch of intensive studying without a pausa, we were treated to a six-day holiday. Most students decided to venture away from Amelia and the chosen destinations ranged from Rome, Sienna, Florence, and Venice to Serbia, Basel, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and Marrakesh.  During the break, many of Europe’s great galleries were visited and no doubt many of us looked vaguely suspicious as we unconsciously carried out security audits of the collections.  During my own trip to Castel S. Angelo in Rome, it became apparent to me that visits to cultural institutions will never be the same again thanks to Dick Drent’s full on and rigorous museum security training.

July 19, 2013

When is restitution a bad thing? The case of Melanesian wood carvings

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
 by Gustav Klimt. (1907).
 Neue Galerie, New York.
Source: Verity Algar

by Verity Algar, co-posting with Plundered Art

The Holocaust Art Restitution Project and other organisations aiming to restitute Holocaust-looted art to its rightful owners justifiably propose restitution to be a positive thing in this context. However, my research has shown that not all cultural groups want to re-possess their cultural heritage.

I recently spoke at the Association of Research into Crimes Against Art’s 5th Annual Conference, where I compared these two objects: the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt. (1907) and Malanggan from Northern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (collected in 1890).

Malanggan, from Northern New Ireland,
Papua New Guinea. Collected in 1890.
 Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology,

Source: Verity Algar
Why would I compare a twentieth-century European painting with a nineteenth-century wood carving from Melanesia, I hear you say?! Well, by comparing these different objects, I wanted to point out that their original owners take vastly different approaches to the restitution of these objects. Let me explain.

In Jewish communities, generally, the original owners of the cultural objects and/or their heirs, feel the need to re-claim their objects in order to gain a sense of closure on a traumatic past. As the following excerpts demonstrate, the language of restitution claims suggest that the Holocaust is not truly over until looted art objects have been restituted:

“The return of stolen art may be one of the last acts of the Shoah”
(Dellheim 2000 cited in Glass 2004: 117)

“museums … are dealing with the unfinished business of the Holocaust”
(editorial, Seattle Times 16 June 1999)

“Austria will move closer to closing the book on a somber chapter in 20th-century history”
(Czernin 1998 cited in Glass 2004: 118)

The people of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, do not wish for the malanggan which they themselves created, to be returned to them, despite malanggan being essential to their culture. This may initially seem puzzling because they can often take more than three months to carve (Küchler 2002: 1). Yet they are not made to be displayed, treasured and revered as much of the art confiscated by the Nazis was. Malanggan are displayed for a few hours during mortuary ceremonies, before being left to the elements to decompose (Küchler and Melion 1991: 29). As money became increasingly important in New Ireland, the sale of malanggan to Western collectors became an attractive alternative (Küchler and Melion 1991: 29). More than five thousand malanggan have been collected by Western museums (Küchler and Melion 1991: 27).  As other indigenous groups began to claim the objects that constituted their cultural memory from Western museums, the museums considered restituting the malanggan too.

This illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the significance of malanggan to Melanesian culture.  During the carving process, the sculpture is imbued with life force, which is “symbolically killed” when ownership of the malanggan is transferred from the deceased’s family to related kin in exchange for money (Küchler and Melion 1991: 32). The image of the malanggan, however, is preserved as cultural memory and is reproduced in future sculptures (Küchler and Melion 1991: 32). Susanne Küchler and Walter Melion refer to the conflicting status of memory surrounding malanggan practice as “strategic remembering and deliberate forgetting” (1991: 30). To restitute these objects to the people of New Ireland would be to rekindle a specific aspect of their cultural memory, thus interfering with the process of “deliberate forgetting”.

Whilst it is fundamentally important that organisations such as ARCA and HARP continue to support research into Holocaust-era looted art, it is equally important that we understand why restitution can be incredibly problematic for some groups of people. Far from interrupting or countering my pro-restitution tendency, the argument against the restitution of malanggan can run alongside this tendency. As a concept, restitution is neither good nor bad. Rather, decisions about whether or not to restitute cultural objects need to be made on a culture-specific basis.

Verity Algar is a second year BA in History of Art student at University College London, where she minors in Anthropology. She recently spoke on ‘Cultural memory and the restitution of cultural property: Comparing Nazi-looted art and Melanesian malanggan’ at the Association of Research into Crimes Against Art’s 5th Annual Conference. She is hoping to complete the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate before working in a field relating to cultural heritage protection.

July 17, 2013

SMU Announces Dick Ellis and Virginia Curry in "The World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime" at Southern Methodist University from October 14-18, 2013

Richard Ellis
Art crime investigators Richard "Dick" Ellis and Virginia Curry will present another seminar in "The World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime" at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University from October 14 - 18, 2013.
The seminar will be presented by two internationally noted art crime investigators. Richard “Dick” Ellis is a former detective with New Scotland Yard, where he founded and led the Art & Antiques Squad for more than a decade. Virginia Curry is a former FBI undercover agent and Art Crime Team member whose high-profile cases have been chronicled in such books as Chasing Aphrodite and The Medici Conspiracy (see full bios at end of release). 
Topics to be covered include the following: 
• Museums: A lecture on museum operations will be followed by a trip to a regional art museum, where participants will visit with professionals regarding exhibit curation, conservation, security and provenance issues. 
Virginia Curry
• Auction houses: A talk about the auction business is followed by a visit to an auction house, discussion with staff, preview of an upcoming auction and participation in a mock bidding experience. 
• Art galleries: A lecture on galleries’ roles in identifying tastes, finding clients and working with them to build collections is followed by visits to local galleries and meetings with owners and artists’ representatives to discuss current collecting trends in contemporary and traditional art. 
• Art crime and looted cultural heritage: From Egyptian antiquities to Native American art to Nazi thefts during World War II, issues of rightful ownership, provenance and repatriation of art works continue to challenge art organizations and governments worldwide. Current cases will be discussed by international experts.
Last summer, Mr. Ellis and Ms. Curry presented their symposium at Stonehill College.

Mr. Ellis is also a lecturer at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. Ms. Curry presented at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in 2009.

Here a link to this event on the SMU website for additional information about registering for the seminar.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Six People to be tried in Budapest for stealing 18 million Euros of art; DIOCT denies making any conclusions about the destruction of the stolen paintings

On Monday, July 15, Romanian authorities under the umbrella of "DICOT" will be prosecuting six people in a court in Bucharest for the theft of seven paintings from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012, according to

DIOCT is the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, within the Public Ministry/Romanian Police, with 280 prosecutors and another 200 administrators and 40 specialists to combat and prevent organized crime. According to a statement issued on July 17 by DIOCT related to the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft indicates (based upon a Google translation from Romanian to English) that the DIOCT is not confirming or approving any conclusions regarding the stolen paintings (alluding to the question of whether or not the paintings have been destroyed).

The DIOCT's press release dated July 15, 2013 (loosely translated by Google from Romanian into English) announces the indictment of defendants Radu Dogaru; Adrian Procop (în lipså); Eugen Darie;  Alexandru Mihai Bitu; Olga Dogaru; and Petre Condrat (still at large). The prosecutor claims to have evidence that the defendants acted as a criminal group to steal seven works of art stolen from the Kunstal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012, worth an estimated 18 million Euros. One of the defendants (Bitu) is accused of trying to sell the artworks stolen by three of the defendants (Dogaru, Darie and Procop). Condrat is accused of knowingly handling two of the stolen artworks. Defendant Olga Dogaru (mother of one of the suspects) is accused of transporting and concealing the stolen art. The trial will be held in Bucharest.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Journalists weigh in on reports of stove ashes evidence that suspects' mother destroyed stolen paintings when a buyer could not be found

Was this painting destroyed in Romania?
Alison Mutler for the Associated Press reported on July 16th in "Romania: Museum checks if paintings burned" that Romania's Natural History Museum is examining the ashes found in the stove of Olga Dogaru, the mother of Radu, one of the three suspects charged with stealing seven paintings from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Dogaru told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.
Ms. Mutler quotes prosecutor spokesman Gabriela Chiru as saying that it will take months to confirm Olga Dogaru's story.

In late May, the Agency France-Presse reported that Romanian prosecutors suspected that the paintings had been destroyed. Here's a link to that ARCA blog post and others about the art heist.

The Washington Post published an article ("Ash from the stove of woman who claims she burned stolen artworks contains canvas, paint") from the wire service the Associated Press claiming that the results from analyzing the ashes in the stove will be presented to the prosecutors next week:
A Romanian museum official said Wednesday that ash from the oven of a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-dollar paintings -- including a Matisse, a Picasso and a Monet -- contains paint, canvas and nails.
The finding is evidence that Olga Dogaru may have been telling the truth when she claimed to have burned the paintings ... Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania's National History Museum, told The Associated Press that museum forensic specialists had found "small fragments or painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint" and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century.

"We discovered a series of substances which are specific to paintings and pictures," he said, including lead, zinc and azurite.
He refused to say definitively that the ashes were those of seven paintings stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery last year, because he said it was not his postion to do so. He said justice officials would make that decision. 
He did venture, however, that if the remains were those of the paintings, it was a "crime against humanity to destroy universal art." 
"I can't believe in 2013 that we come across such acts," he said. 
Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said forensic specialists at the museum have been analyzing ashes from Dogaru's stove since March, and will hand their results to prosecutors next week.
In The Atlantic Wire, Alexander Abad-Santos speculates that the mother of one of the thieves burned the stolen paintings because the thieves could not find any buyers for the artworks:
According to Romania-Insider, an English-language news site, the suspects stashed the paintings at Olga's house because they were having trouble finding buyers. And citing a local report from Romania, the NL Times is reporting that experts have confirmed that the ashes are the burned remains of Monet and Picasso work. It should be noted, however, that the AP story conflicts with that local report, saying that the main prosecutor and officials said it could take months for the results to be confirmed.

July 16, 2013

Sept. 13 deadline for papers for the Authentication in Art in The Hague from May 7-9, 2014

Here's a link to Authentication in Art's call for papers (Sept. 13) for their conference in May 2014 at the to the announcement and call for papers for their conference at the Louwman Museum in The Hague from May 7-9, 2014.
AiA encourages all members of the art market, legal and financial community to attend the 2014 Congress. This will be the primary forum where proponents of standards of best practice in art authentication are able to come together to discuss best practices, share information about trends in the international art world and promote the concept of global standards in art authentication.
Call for Papers: Authentication in Art (AiA) invites submissions of proposals of 500–700 words (up to 3000 characters) for oral presentations, to be given at the conference in The Hague, The Netherlands, 7-9 May, 2014. The deadline for papers is Friday 13th September, 2013. Please go to to learn all about the process and the conditions.
AiA is a not-for-profit organization established in early 2012 for market, legal, and financial professionals interested in developing policies in art authentication. Partners include the Van Gogh Museum, the Frans Hal Museum, Wallraf das Museum, Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association, Deloitte, Art History Services, and Louwman Museum.

The AiA Foundation board consists of Professor Dr. Nico Schrijver, Chair of Public International Law at Leiden University, and Drs. Ingeborg de Jongh, an art-historian and painting conservator. The Advisory Board includes Dr. Chris Stolwijk, director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History; Professor Dr. Rudi Ekkart, art historian; Professor dr. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art at Trinity College, Oxford University; James Roundell, art historian (Cambridge University) and Chairman of The Society of London Art Dealers; and Lawrence M. Shindell, Chairman of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation.

July 15, 2013

BBC's Amanda Ruggeri: Exhibit in Rome showing recovered objects of stolen cultural property on display at Castel Sant'Angelo until November 5

Exhibition banner outside Castel Sant'Angelo
(Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
Here's a link to a BBC article by Amanda Ruggeri ("See the story behind the stolen treasures") on the exhibit at the National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome exhibiting objects of stolen cultural property recovered by Italy. Capolavori dell'archaeologia: Recuperi, ritrovamenti, confronti (Masterpieces of archaeology: Recovery, findings, comparisons) will be open until November 5, 2013 (closed every Monday).

Items include large pieces of a 1st Century BC Pompei villa fresco recovered from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu; the head and extremities of a Morgantina acrolith recovered from the University of Virginia's Art Museum; and the Euphronios krater recovered from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Ruggeri writes:
The exhibition, which includes dozens of works of art, serves as a sobering reminder of how widespread and damaging looting in Italy has been. One display points out that when an item is looted, the problem isn’t just that it risks disappearing into the hands of a private collector, winding up abroad or being damaged. (One popular way to transport looted vases, for example, is to deliberately break them into shards and reconstruct them later, as fragments are easier to hide and move.) The irreversible loss is the item’s context. Without knowing where the piece was found, at what depth, or near which other objects, it is all but impossible to fully reconstruct the piece’s history, use and meaning.