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August 31, 2013

The New Yorker: Mark Landis as forger or con artist? Alec Wilkinson quotes ARCA Founder Noah Charney

The August 26, 2013 issue of The New Yorker magazine includes an article on Mark Landis in an article by Alec Wilkinson "The Giveaway: Who was the mysterious man donating all the valuable art?"
Matthew Leininger, of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, was the first person to pursue Mark Landis, but Landis had been suspected as a forger by at least one museum, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, in Laurel, Mississippi. In 2003, five years before Everett Shinn called "Nymph on the Rocks." Landis had promised other works, which the museum tried for a year to obtain; which he didn't provide the pieces, the staff grew suspicious of him.
The article includes a quote by art historian Noah Charney, founder of ARCA:
Some people consider Landis to be not so much a forger as a con artists which is the epithet Leininger most often employs. Noah Charney, an art historian who is the founder of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, in Rome, wrote me that he thinks of Landis as an adept impostor "more akin to identity fraudsters, like Clark Rockefeller." Money isn't what such people desire. They want to be treated as substantial citizens. "Social status and a feeling of belonging is their reward," Charney wrote. In this context, the painting or drawing Landis spends an hour making is ephemeral: it needs to last only long enough to admit him to a sympathetic haven.   

August 29, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - ,,, 1 comment

John Pollini on "The Bronze Statue of Germanicus from Ameria (Amelia)"

Professor Pollini lectures on Germanicus
John Pollini, Professor of Classical Art & Archaeology at the University of Southern California, delivered a talk, “The Bronze Statue of Germanicus from Ameria (Amelia)”, at the Museo Archeologico di Amelia for the Rome Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Here's a link to the summary of the talk (posted on with this introduction:
The statue of Germanicus with its travertine base was discovered in 1963 outside the Porta Romana of the town along the ancient via Amerina. That the statue was found smashed into a number of fragments indicates that it did not fall accidentally from its base but was attacked, quite likely by Christians in the Late Antique period. The statue had probably been set up originally in an imperial shrine in connection with the ludi iuvenum (games of the local pre- or para-military youth organization known as the luventus) that would have taken place in the campus of America outside the city walls. 
Because it is a work of high quality, the statue was undoubtedly produced in a workshop in Rome and then transported to Ameria, where it was set up.
In his lecture, Professor Pollini describes the figures, pointing to the symbols of legal command and that of a supreme military commander and ‘a military tunic and high-laced boots, the calcei patricii, symbolic of patrician status. This is Professor Pollini’s description of the cuirass decoration:
The muscle breastplate is decorated with a plethora of appliqué figures symbolizing various aspects of victory. The central figures depict the ambush of the Trojan youth Troilos, son of King Priam, by the Greek hero Achilles. Represented above and rising out of a series of stylized sea waves is the winged sea monster Scylla hurling a rock in her upraised right hand. Flanking either side of the central scene of Troilos and Achilles and located just under the cuirass’s arm-openings are winged Victories. On the back of the cuirass is represented an incense-burner (thymiaterion), on either side of which are posed two Spartan female dancers (Lacaenae Saltantes), who celebrate a victory dance with baskets (kalathiskoi) on their heads. Circling the bottom of the cuirass are two rows of lambrequins (pteryges), that is, decorated leather straps. The upper row of straps features apotropaic motifs (symbols used to ward off evil), consisting of alternating heads of lions and bearded satyrs; the lower row, stylized victory palmettes.
And his interpretation of the program of the cuirass:
All the figurative and decorative elements represented on the cuirass have reference to military victory. The sea monster Scylla, who also serves an apotropaic function, may refer to victorious battles fought in the context of the sea or rivers. Since Roman commanders enjoyed emulating great Greek military personalities of the past, the representation of the legendary hero Achilles in the central composition would have been a suitable model, even though he slays here one of Rome’s ancestors, the Trojan prince Troilos. Although this might seem an odd subject to celebrate on the cuirass of a Roman commander, it should be remembered that without the fall of Troy there would be no Rome; and it was one of the prophecies that Troy would not fall if Troilos reached the age of 20 (Plaut. Bacch. 951-954; Mythographi Vaticani. I. 210). Therefore, this was all part of the divine plan! Achilles, moreover, was a model for great Roman leaders in Latin literature. In his famous messianic Eclogue (4.35-36), Vergil foretells the birth of a child (most likely the future Augustus), who as savior of Rome would bring peace to the world after military victories on land and sea. In the context of the wars that preceded the advent of this new Golden Age of peace, Vergil likened the great future Roman leader to Achilles: Erunt etiam altera bella atque iterum ad Troiam magnus mittetur Achilles (“There will also be other wars and a great Achilles will be sent again to Troy”). Therefore, the Achillean imagery on the cuirass has a dual meaning. The figural program of the statue’s cuirass referencing victory would also have been suitable for an original portrait statue of Caligula. Despite his aborted invasion of Britain in 39, Caligula celebrated a triumph in Rome for a sea victory over the sea-god Oceanus (Suetonius, Vita Tib. 46-47; Cassius Dio 59.27.1-4). This statue with cuirass heralding military victory could also have conveniently served to honor Germanicus, who won battles against the Germans on the Rhine and Weser and along the coast of the North Sea, for which he was awarded a triumph, as already noted. A transformation from an image of Caligula to one of Germanicus would have taken place after Caligula’s death in 41 A.D., at which time Claudius (10 B.C. - 54 A.D.), the uncle of Caligula and the brother of Germanicus, became emperor.
Also attending Professor Pollini's lecture in Amelia was Guilia Rocco, the Italian scholar and author of La Statua Bronze con Rittratto di Germanico (Roma 2008, Bardi Editore Commerciale) in which she proposes that the thorax was made around the first century BC in a Greek workshop in Pergamene for Mithradates VI, King of Pontus.

August 28, 2013

ARCA 2013 Conference: Presenting the Awards to this year's ARCA Award Winners

by Marc Balcells

After five years of meeting annually in beautiful Amelia, it is a fait accompli that ARCA’s conference is an established forum that reunites researchers and practitioners alike for the discussion of the latest advances in research on art crimes and cultural heritage protection. The good health of the conference year after year and the positive outcomes and feedback received year after year are motives of celebration; however, if there is a real moment for celebration in the conference is in the afternoon of the first day, when we award four outstanding persons regarding their efforts in saving and protecting cultural heritage.

This year’s award winners were Christos Tsirogiannis, an archaeologist conducting research in illicit antiquities trade at the University of Cambridge and former member of the Hellenic Ministry of Justice; Duncan Chappell, Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney; Blanca Niño Norton, Consultant at the Petén Development Project for the conservation of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, depending from the Ministry of Environment of Natural Resources, and member of ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) and ICCROM (the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property); and Sharon Cohen Levin, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Dr. Edgar Tijhuis, professor at the Postgraduate Program and a trustee of the organization, introduced Mr. Tsirogiannis’ award, on art protection and security. The awarded presented on his work, based on the illicit trade of looted archaeological goods. His presentation became an interesting and valuable who’s who of the characters of the gran razzia that happened recently in Italy: names like Marion True, Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes or Christos Michaelides became pivotal points of Mr. Tsirogiannis’ presentation, compiling stories of pieces recuperated by Italian law enforcement worldwide.

Ms. Lynda Albertson, ARCA’s CEO,  presented the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship to Dr. Duncan Chappell, who heartily thanked the organization for the honor bestowed upon him. Dr. Chappell greatly deserves this award, as he has written extensively on the topic of art crime from a criminological perspective. To everybody, but especially to us criminologists, his work is invaluable. He has written articles for ARCA’s Journal of Art Crime, and along with Stefano Manacorda edited Crime in the Art and Antiquities World: Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property (Springer 2011).

I had the honor to present the Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art to Mrs. Niño Norton. A true contemporary renaissance woman (besides being an architect she is a sculptor and a painter), Mrs. Niño Norton delivered a presentation based on Guatemala’s different forms of cultural heritage, its threats, and the different projects she spearheads for its protection, which range from architecture to the copying of Guatemalan statues in the middle of the jungle (so the originals can be properly preserved in cultural institutions) or the restoration of looted tombs by locals.    

Finally, HRH Ravivaddhana Sisowath, Prince of Cambodia, introduced the Art Policing and Recovery Award to Mrs. Sharon Cohen Levin; and accordingly, provided Mrs. Cohen Levin’s office fights for the 10th-century Khmer statue that Sotheby’s hopes to sell at auction. Mrs. Cohen Levin presented on art related asset forfeitures in recent cases she has dealt with. In her very lively presentation, the awarded prosecutor showed to the audience important cases like the forfeiture of the Portrait of Wally, by Egon Schiele, along more original cases like the prosecution of dealer Eric Prokopi and the forfeiture of… a dinosaur!

In sum, a feast for the arts, and a celebration for all of us who care about the protection of cultural heritage. These awards are small tokens to great works of love done by even greater people. Congratulations!

August 27, 2013

ARCA's Fifth Annual International Art Crime Conference: Third Panel featured Nicholas M. O’Donnell, Jerker Rydén, Joris Kila

Judge Tompkins (left) with Nicholas O'Donnell, Jerker
Rydén, and Joris Kila (right)
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

After a delicious lunch served by the staff of La Locanda in the beautiful chiostro everyone settled back into their seats to listen to Panel Three. Moderating the panel was Judge Arthur Tompkins, a District Court Judge in New Zealand and a professor on ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate program.

The first panelist was Nicholas M. O’Donnell, a litigation partner with Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston and New York, whose practice focuses primarily on complex civil litigation, representing collectors, dealers, artists and museums. O'Donnell is also the editor of The Art LawReport. O’Donnell’s presentation, “American Wartime Art Restitution Litigation in the 1990s and Beyond—Has it All Been Worth It?” looked at the difficult subject of art restitution, specifically its reception in America since the 1998 Washington Conference, when awareness of the problem was ignited.

O'Donnell used a number of case studies to understand if there has been a shift in how restitution cases are being addressed in courts. He said that the Portrait of Wally affair, and the case of Maria Atlmann and her claim of five paintings by Gustav Klimt, seemed to infer that a change had occurred, however the use of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the fact that courts are regularly dismissing claims based on statutes of limitations seems to indicate that courts are still very much against the claimants in art restitution cases.

O’Donnell emphasized that in almost all cases the battleground is the statute of limitations but he also pointed out that the FSIA has its own issues. To demonstrate his point he spoke of the Chabad Lubavitch library dispute. Currently Russia is being fined $50,000 for every day it defies the judgment held by US District Court for the District of Columbia on January 16 2013. Charges will be halted once Russia returns thelibrary of the late Menachem Schneerson to the plaintiffs, the current leadership of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement, which they seem unlikely to do. O’Donnell spoke of the impact of this case on international relations and the art world and in his closing slides he reviewed what the future litigation, legislation, and diplomacy in cases of wartime restitution in the United States might consequently look like.

The second presentation was given by Jerker Rydén, the Senior Legal Advisor of the Royal Library of Sweden. Rydén has worked as a judge, a lawyer in private practice, and a national delegate to international copyright proceedings as well as senior legal advisor of the National Heritage Board of Sweden. In the recent past he has worked closely with assistant United States attorney Sharon Cohen Levin of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help track and recover unique and valuable historical works that had been stolen from the library collections. In his presentation, “Skullduggery in the Stacks: Recovering stolen books for the Royal Library of Sweden” he discussed the legal and practical issues that faces the Royal Library of Sweden as it attempts to recover the 62 books that were stolen by Anders Burius, a former director of the Royal Library Manuscript Department, who was arrested in 2004 and who later committed suicide. [More details provided here by A.M.C. Knutsson]

Rydén used this case to explain the many techniques that are used by book thieves, such as breaking books into sub-parts and stealing and erasing finding aides (i.e., card catalogue entries) which means that such thefts can go undiscovered for decades. He spoke of the role of auction houses and booksellers in aiding book thieves by not doing their due diligence on the sellers and by not asking for provenance on the items. He went on to describe the book recovery efforts of the law enforcement in the United States and in Europe and the recovery efforts of industry organisations, such as international databases. At the end of his presentation Rydén made a point of saying that the effects of such thefts can damage the collective memory of a nation, which he described as ‘just like permanent brain damage’. 

The panel was brought to a close with a presentation by Joris Kila who is a senior researcher at the University of Vienna and reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Dutch army. He is board member of the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict in Rome, chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group and a member of the Research Forum on the Law of Armed Conflict and Peace Operations in the Netherlands as well as being a guest lecturer and researcher at the Netherlands and Austrian Defense Academies.

Dr. Kila's presentation, “An update on Armed Conflict and Heritage”, focused on the status of cultural property in recent areas of conflict. He described how cultural heritage has always been available for damage and manipulation thanks to its place in museums and other public spaces and its incontestable link to glorified and idealized pasts and as such it will continue to be heavily disputed and contested in future wartime conflicts as well as in pre- and post conflict phases. The damaging or destruction of cultural property is attacking the identity of the opponent while at the same time looting of cultural objects can be beneficial for the opposing forces such as insurgents for financial reasons thus generating a security issue to be taken into account by military organizations. Because of these issues it is clear that cultural property needs protecting in areas of conflict. Kila pointed out that research into current conflict and heritage aspects is lacking and is in desperate need of funding.

Dr. Kila's presentation covered a number of new developments and dilemmas in the international heritage discourse such as heritage and identity, trauma scapes, issues of increasing iconoclasm and debates about selecting what to preserve. Finally he spoke of today's situations in Egypt, Libya and Syria, as he has experienced and witnessed it in person, and emphasized that the situations in these war zones must be factored into these discussions.

August 26, 2013

Nevine El-Aref of reports the recovery of 16 objects looted from the Malawi National Museum (Update: Gold Coins Recovered)

Statues recovered from Malawi National Museum (
Nevine El-Aref reported in the English version of that 16 items have been recovered from the objects looted from the Malawi National Museum in Egypt:
On Saturday night, 24 August, five ancient Egyptian and Graeco-Roman artefacts were recovered by police. The objects include three Graeco-Roman reliefs made of marble and limestone. The first is broken into two parts and features a painting of a rabbit. The second has Graeco-Roman text while the third bears a deep engraving of two rabbits — the sign of Al-Minya in Graeco-Roman times. 
The other two artefacts are carved in bronze, featuring Djehuti, the goddess of wisdom.
On Friday, 11 objects were recovered, among them two Graeco-Roman papyri found by chance in a corner of the museum’s garden. Ahmed Sharaf, head of the museum section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities, explained that one of the papyri bears 23 lines written in Demotic while the second bears seven lines written in Demotic. 
The rescued objects include three clay pots, a limestone statue of the god Thot in the shape of a sitting baboon, two bronze statues of the god Osiris and a rectangular relief bearing a drawing of an Ibis bird and the palm of goddess Maat. 
Minister of State of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim is happy for the return of some of the museum’s collection, he told Ahram Online. The objects were restituted after the ministry promised Al-Minya inhabitants that no legal procedures would be taken against anyone returning a looted artefact. 
Ibrahim asserted that security has been tightened at Al-Ashmounein archaeological site and galleries, to stop any illicit excavations there.
UPDATE:  The Tourism and Antiquities Police recovered a collection of 25 cold coins looted from Malawai National Museum, reports Nevine El-Aref for 'Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that with the return of these coins, 125 objects reporting missing from the Malawi Museums are now restituted'.
Ahmed Sharaf, head of the museum section at the MSA explained that the coins all depict the features of a Roman emperor called Valdese in his battle suit, left hand clutching a bunch of flowers while the right one holds a cross.

August 25, 2013

UNESCO posts listing of looted objects from the Malawi National Museum in the Upper Egypt city of Minya

'The Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities informed UNESCO of the looting of the Malawi National Museum on August 14, 2013,' UNESCO reports on its website:
The damages caused by the looters are catastrophic. Most of the artefacts have been stolen, destroyed or burned. Around one thousand cultural objects, dated from the beginning of the Egyptian history to the Islamic period, have disappeared (coins, jewels, statues, etc).
UNESCO has posted a list of stolen objects in Arabic from the Malawi National Museum in Minya, about 150 miles south of Cairo.  Minya is the birthplace of Suzanne Mubarak, the former First Lady of Egypt (1981 - 2011). A copy of this listing, including photos of the looted objects can be downloaded from the ARCA website here.

Egyptian cultural heritage professionals are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to bring public awareness to the damages that have occurred during this recent period of unrest.   Because of awareness antiquities police have succeeded in returning 71 stolen objects from the museum in addition to the 19 returned shortly after the initial looting.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has a list of museums in Egypt. The only institution with the name 'Malawi' is the Malawi Monuments Museum:
The Malawi Monuments Museum houses a collection of artefacts from the nearby sites of Tuna al-Gebel and Hermopolis. Among the objects on display are a number of animal mummies and statues associated with the worship of the god Thoth.
Tuna al-Gebel (Supreme Council of Antiquities):
Hermopolis West, on the modern site of Tuna al-Gebel near Minya, was the necropolis of the city of Hermopolis, sacred to the Greek god Hermes and his Egyptian counterpart Thoth. It is best known for the sprawling catacombs at the foot of the western cliffs, where thousands of ibises (dedicated to Thoth) and other sacred animals were buried from the New Kingdom through Roman times. Besides multitudes of ibises and baboons, the galleries were also used for the burials of fish, pigs, dogs, cats, goats, pelicans, monkeys, falcons, larks, and kestrels, all mummified and placed into pottery jars. Potsherds and torn and broken mummies are still strewn in the passages today.
Another major attraction of the site is the early Ptolemaic tomb of a high priest of Thoth named Petosiris, decorated with reliefs in a blend of Greek and Egyptian styles. Petosiris's wooden coffin, exquisitely inlaid with colored glass hieroglyphs, can be seen in the Egyptian Museum.
A number of Roman-era tombs lie to the south. The most famous of these belongs to Isadora, a young woman who drowned in the second century BC. Her mummy lies in a glass case in her tomb.
The oldest monument at Tuna al-Gebel is a stele marking the northwest boundary of Akhenaten’s city at Amarna, partway up a slope north of Hermopolis West. It bears scenes of Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshipping the sun disk (the Aten) and is carved with an extensive text describing the founding of the city.

ARCA 2013 Conference: James Moore on the stolen Palermo Nativity by Caravaggio; James Bond on the book theft from the Biltmore House; and Judith Harris on the private collecting appetite for looted antiquities

James "Alex" Bond (left), Rene Du Terroil (rear),
 Judith Harris (center), and James Moore (right)
by Laura Fandino, ARCA Intern
In the second panel of ARCA’s  5th conference, presenters James Moore and James "Alex" Bond walked us through two events that made their way into the art crime world: The mysterious theft of Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence, and  the successful recovery of 90 books from the Biltmore’s House in Ashville, North Carolina. Following their presentations and discussions, journalist Judith Harris spoke on the continuing of private collecting of illicit art and archaeology, despite - and in part consequent to - today's more rigorous policies of provenance in acquisitions at auctions and by museums. The panel was moderated by Rene M. du Terroil who currently directs the internationalization initiative for the Italian and Spanish campuses of the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED).
James Moore opened up the panel with an illustrated discussion in which he narrated the events which led to the second most famous theft in the history of art crime, the theft of The Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence in 1969 in Palermo, Sicily. He began his presentation speaking about Caravaggio, the artist who gave life to the stunning painting of the Nativity. Caravaggio is a well-known Italian artist who at very early age managed to achieve artistic success and fame. At the age of twenty Caravaggio began a career as an artist and then went on to produce many now-famous masterpieces.
Caravaggio’s successful artistic career, emphasized Moore, was the product of his refusal to follow the conventional artistic styles of the time, focusing rather on realistic, naturalistic and symbolist detail condensed into the most vivid biblical scenes.  His artistic fame, regrettably, was always accompanied by his “irascibility and an unpredictable and violent temper,” which eventually led to a homicide in Rome for which he was found guilty. Caravaggio escaped gaol, however, and fled to Naples, Malta and Sicily.  In 1609, while he was in Sicily he painted the Saint Lawrence Nativity for the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo.

The theft of the Nativity took place in October 1969. On the day of the heist, the thieves entered the oratory through what Moore called a “poorly locked side door” and then cut the painting out of its frame.  After 44 years of waiting for the return of one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces, Moore wondered, “Is there any hope that the painting will be found?” Sadly, none of explanations for the crime have produced any significant information on the whereabouts of the painting that today is valued at more than $20 million, yet Moore remains hopeful as he invites us to recall the recovery of The Taking of Christ, another of Caravaggio’s master works, after 100 years of absence.

In the presentation, "Heritage Collecting: Image, Passion and the Law,"  Journalist Judith Harris described the act of collecting as an “innately human passion” initially performed as a  “sport of kings,” whose prestige later placed it on the agenda of merchants and bankers, among others. Such activity, say sociologists who have analyzed the passion for collecting, is shaped by the surrounding cultural processes, which increase the collectors' desire for the halo prestige which ownership brings.
The theft oft Bellini's 15th C. Madonna with Child  in 1993,  the purchase of important Italian antiquities by an unknown New York collector, and the recent mysterious discovery near Rome of an ancient Egyptian sphinx in an abandoned greenhouse, ready for shipment, exemplify the essential but problematic question of “Who is buying it?” According to Harris, the dark side of collecting is that the passion of the private collector continues to foster looting despite the security measures of museums and auction houses.

According to experts in the field, stated Harris, this continuing illegal traffic in antiquities for private collections reflects in part the lack of a census of minor pieces of art, including in many public collections. In addition, the mediocre and rather incomplete inventories of many libraries and public museum storage areas in Italy have contributed to the disappearance of valuable works. The Bibliotecadei Girolamini, an important library in Naples, was looted of some 4,000 books; its director is blamed for the theft. Altogether, circa 1,500 books - some dating from the Middle Ages - were sold or given to private collectors. Among them was an Italian politician, Marcello Dell’Utri.  

Finally, Harris directed us towards the Art Collecting Legal Handbook, a compendium of comparative legislation on collecting in twenty-eight different countries. Particularly interesting are the Handbook's comparisons of legal norms for “due diligence.” Authors Bruno Boesch and Massimo Sterpi underscore the importance of this today: “Collectors, private and public, need to know where they stand in law... Private collectors need to grapple with the complexity of the eventual transfer of collections of far greater financial value than ever before.”

August 24, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - , No comments

Book thefts and recovery: How the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers Use

by A. M. C. Knutsson

Reporting and retracing stolen books might to the uninitiated seem like an herculean mission, with vast edition runs and reproductions it can seem impossible to identify a stolen copy even if it would re-emerge on the market. However, as with most objects years of love and use have set their marks also on these once indistinguishable edition copies and the people involved with the books can often recognize ‘their’ copy at a glance. Here we shall consider the leading stolen book database, which works with the venerable task of reuniting books with their owners. is the largest specialized stolen book database currently in existence and most dealers and major auction houses rely on their email alerts in order to keep up with stolen printed material and manuscripts. There are some smaller, national lost-book databases but with their limited scope and their haphazard maintenance they do not pose a considerable competition to was instigated as part of the main ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) website in 2010 when that website was redesigned and the older version of stolen-book was restructured. This worldwide database covers maps and documents as well as full books. It builds on information submitted by ILAB affiliates, currently over 1850 members all over the globe. Members can submit information on stolen books through a private section on the site. A basic template is provided, which included sections for specifics of binding, ex libris or provenance characteristics. The editor reviews the submitted forms and frequently updates the database, either daily or several times a day. Usually an email is issued to all affiliates a few minutes after a new stolen book posting informing of newly conducted thefts.

Public access to is free access for basic details of stolen goods. However, the bookseller’s section, which contains more in-depth information, requires a login and is available only to affiliates.

In addition to bookseller’s loss reports, includes thefts from public libraries and other book and document holding institutions.

Last November ILAB was invited to the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) security conference with the aim to strengthen ties between institutional libraries and to make librarians realize that the main motive behind library thefts is to make a monetary profit. Therefore, quick co-operation and interchange of information between libraries and law-enforcement agencies through ILAB and would improve chances of fast returns of stolen property.

With Special thanks to Gonzalo Fernandez Pontes, ILAB Security Chair, for supplying the information about

August 23, 2013

2013 ARCA Art & Cultural Heritage Conference: Saskia Hufnagel Presented “Shifting Responsibilities – The Intersection of Public and Private Policing in the Area of Art Crime”

Dr. Saskia Hufnagel
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Criminal lawyer Dr. Saskia Hufnagel spoke on public and private policing in the area of art crime in her presentation “Shifting Responsibilities – the Intersection of Public and Private Policing in the Area of Art Crime” at ARCA’s Art & Cultural Heritage Conference on June 22, 2013.

Art crime is not always a ‘special’ type of crime. Most common forms encompass theft, fraud and forgery offenses and are, or should be, policed by local police agencies. However, most art crime is not detected without special knowledge. Whether a stolen painting or statue qualifies as ‘art’, needs to be discovered either by the victim, or the investigator. In fraud cases, police need to be able to determine the actual author of a particular artwork. Many officers would not be able to make these distinctions, having no specialized training on these matters and –in the case of Australia – not even a special national unit to refer these cases to. Art crime is hence often referred to ‘experts’ with special knowledge and even their own ‘intelligence’ databases. A prominent example for the privatization of intelligence in this field is the Art Loss Register, which investigates predominately art theft cases, either commissioned by private institutions or working together with police all over the world. The present paper will examine historically the interaction between public and private policing in the area of art crime intelligence with a view to common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom. It will be assessed whether a shift toward private intelligence has actually occurred, why a shift might have been necessary, and what dangers private intelligence brings for the art market.

Dr. Hufnagel, a Research Fellow at CEPS, Griffith University, Australia and a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Leeds, is the author of Policing Cooperation Across Borders: Comparative Perspectives on Law Enforcement within the EU and Australia (Ashgate, 2013). Together with Duncan Chappell, she is currently editing Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation and Prosecution of Art Crime (Ashgate, 2013).

In working on the book with Professor Chappell, Dr. Hufnagel found that a private policing component was involved in nearly every case in art crime – from the use of the private database of stolen art operated by the Art Loss Register to security in museums and the use of private investigators in theft and fraud cases. “Problems arise where interests between public and private policing of art crimes oppose one another,” Dr. Hufnagel said. “It can be an overlap of competences and different interests. For example, private companies may want to recover paintings to give them back to the owners while police officers are more interested in arresting the offenders than in recovering the art.”

Rising values of art in the 1970s created a need to secure it using private means. “We want a free market of and access to art all over the world, yet this needs to be policed and self-regulated,” Dr. Hufnagel said. “With art increasing in value, the need for protection and the fear of loss became more prominent.” Dr. Hufnagel continued:

In the area of art crime prevention it can be observed that museums have to develop security mechanisms to protect their collections -- some imposed by government regulation, other required by insurances -- but not all museums have the means to do so. With regard to detection and investigation of art crime, private policing became prominent as overburdened police forces have limited resources and the criminal justice system can be too bureaucratic. Art crime is low on the priority list of most national police forces, which is why private security providers could close a gap in the market. A major problem for public police in the field is that the art community does not trust their ability and expertise. Police are not part of the art market and quite distant from this very unique community. They are supposed to help, but the art community doesn’t even expect them to. Furthermore, many actors in the market want to remain anonymous and therefore prefer private investigators.

In forgery cases, victims often do not want to report cases as they might face losing their property. If a forged work of art is not reported, it always risks being sold as an authentic piece.

Private firms can fill the gap between the art market’s expectations and the police’s experience. Experts often assist police in determining forgeries. However, experts can be corrupted and if, as it happened in the Beltrachi case in Germany, experts get paid not for their time, but receive a percentage of what the painting is sold for the risk of unreliable certificates of authenticity is high.

A way of closing the gap between public and private policing aims is to rely on security providers with knowledge of both sides. Many experts in private investigation are former police officers and understand the economic interests of the art market and the public safety interests of the police.

August 22, 2013

2013 ARCA Art & Cultural Heritage Conference: Dutch Police Officer Ruth Godthelp Presented "The nature of crimes against Arts, Antiques and Cultural Heritage: A description of art-related crime in the Netherlands based on police registrations"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Criminology doctoral candidate and Senior Amsterdam Police Officer (at the serious and organized crime department at the Amsterdam Police in The Netherlands), Ruth Godthelp looked at more than 4,000 police reports to study art crime in The Netherlands in her presentation "The nature of crimes against Arts, Antiques and Cultural Heritage: A description of art related crime in the Netherlands based on police registrations" at ARCA's Art & Cultural Heritage Conference on June 22, 2013.

After a legal career as both a judicial assistant of the Public Prosecutor and as a lawyer, Ms. Godthelp joined the police and became the first official national police officer combating art-related crime. She recently started a PhD in Criminology (VU University Amsterdam) purely based on police registrations to purify the basic discussion about the actual scope and nature of art-related crime in the Netherlands.

Although the last decade art-related crime acquired increased attention within the policing and academic field, a description of the phenomenon is often made based on theoretical possibilities and only a few case studies. The question therefore arises whether these limited sources of information give an accurate reproduction of the actual nature and scope of art-related crime. This presentation presents provisional outcomes of an ongoing research project uniquely using police registrations of art-related crime in the Netherlands from 2007 through 2012 and aims to provide more insight into the offense itself (1) the suspect (2) and (3) the victims of art-related crime.

For this study 4,000 registered art-related crimes were extracted from the Dutch national police database and submitted to set definitions and operational approaches which narrowed the dataset down to 1,100 registrations. These were analyzed from the aforementioned angles (offense, suspect and victim).

A first finding showed that a large number of registrations were registered in such a restricted way that, although valuable art, antiques or (international) cultural heritage were involved, any indication regarding further investigation was lacking, which led to limited useful information. Further, the paper discusses the type of offense occurring in the dataset. It showed us mainly (targeted) burglaries from private houses, involving quite a share of modern art-objects. But also cases with constructions of money laundering within the commercial world of art, museum thefts, illegal import of cultural heritage, fraud and high quality forgeries and recurring suspects are discussed.

Although research based purely on police-registrations also has restraints (such as the effects of black number and priority based information) this innovative survey offers the possibility to purify the basic discussion about the actual scope and nature of art-related crime. In addition it could serve as a starting-point for further required empirical research and priority setting within law enforcement.

"The characteristics of the majority of suspects in art-related crimes in the survey were male, average age of 40-45 years old, and 30% were employed in the art market," Ms. Godthelp told the audience. "In one case, two paintings stolen from a private residence changed hands three times and all three dealers admitted that they didn't verify provenance but trusted the person they had bought the painting from. This shows how the painting moves to the licit art market."

In addition, the cases involved people known to the police and selling art for financial gain. "Three-quarters of the cases, from theft to recovery, operated within 100 kilometers," Ms. Godthelp said. "The majority of the motives appeared to be financial -- and in some cases -- that the art was stolen to sell for cash or for drugs. Sixty percent of the suspects had police records, including art dealers with multiple records."

August 21, 2013

Museum van Bommel van Dam Theft: Arthur Brand on recovering paintings and how one stolen painting reached Sotheby's in London

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Last night art investigator Arthur Brand sent me a link to the story in Dutch ('Sotheby's London sold stolen Dutch art despite warnings') charging that Sotheby's in London had sold a painting stolen in March from the Museum van Bommel van Dam. quotes NRC, another Dutch media agency, on the story that the Art Loss Register warned Sotheby's that the painting by Shoonhoven that eventually sold in June for 182,500 pounds had been stolen three months earlier.

Here's the brief report of the theft by on March 22 ("Thieves steal four works from modern art museum in Venlo"):
Thieves have stolen four works of art from the Museum van Bommel van Dam in Venlo forcing the front door in the early hours of Friday morning. Three of the works are by Jan Schoonhoven and one by Tomas Rajlich and they have a combined value of €1.1m, museum officials said.
Venlo is located about 180 km southeast of Amsterdam. The modern art museum opened in the province of Limburg in 1971 with 1,100 artworks collected by Maarten and Reina van Bommel-van Dam.

Via email, I asked Mr. Brand to explain how he became involved in recovering the paintings and this was his response:
As you might know, I specialize in solving museum thefts, discovering fakes, and illicitly traded antiquities. In the case of museum thefts, my main goal is to return the stolen artworks. Catching the thieves is not a priority, unless somebody was murdered or hurt during the robbery. In fact, a museum theft is a regular burglary but with a valuable loot. People like me, or Dick Ellis and Charley Hill (both former Scotland Yard), specialize in bringing these artworks back home where they belong. People who are in the possession of stolen art - mostly not the original thieves - prefer to contact us instead of going to the police. 
A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone who needed to talk to me. He had read about me in the media and knew that I had returned stolen objects to the police in various countries. I arranged a few meetings with him in Amsterdam. After I had gained his confidence, he told me that he had discovered that three works of art in his possession had been stolen from a museum in Venlo in The Netherlands. He told me that he had quite a criminal record but that he was an art lover too. He just could not burn the paintings in order to get rid of them. But, if he himself would turn them in, they would arrest him anyway, he said, although he had bought these pieces legally in some shop. He showed me a receipt.
I answered that I don’t mind what, who and when: nobody was hurt during the robbery and the main goal was to bring the pieces back. After all, the paintings from the recent Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, also in the Netherlands, might have been burned after the thieves panicked. I told him that my work is to prevent people from panicking. I also explained to him that in cases like this, recovering the pieces is the main goal. I offered to return the two works and to keep his name out which he appreciated because “that option is far better than burning the art…” 
He told me that there was one more secret. According to him, he had auctioned one of the four stolen artworks at Sotheby’s, London, before finding out that the two others in his possession were stolen. He checked the painting-numbers from the four stolen ones with the ones auctioned at Sotheby’s but they did not correspond. But he still could not believe that that one was not stolen too. So he gave me the paperwork of the auction and told me to deliver that too to the police. And then he said: “Arthur, I will go with you…” 
So he went without me to get the two stolen works, came back and we went to the police station. We smoked a cigarette outside, gave each other a hug and then went in."
Now it turns out that the Art Loss Register had warned Sotheby’s that their lot might be a stolen one but after Sotheby’s checked the numbers on the back – which did not correspond – they decided to sell it anyway. The buyer – an expert in the work of Schoonhoven, the artist – discovered that it indeed was stolen from the museum in Venlo, only three months before the auction.  How on earth could this have happened? What a shame.

2013 ARCA Art and Cultural Heritage Conference: Senior Police Inspector Toby Bull on “Property of a Hong Kong Gentleman, Art Crime in Hong Kong – Buyer Beware”

Toby Bull
ARCA’s Art and Cultural Heritage Conference (June 21-23, 2013), held in the ancient Umbrian town of Amelia, began with cocktails for presenters and students at Palazzo Farrattini on Friday evening. The next morning, The conference opened at the Chiostro Boccarini with an introduction to a panel moderated by Marc Balcells Magrans, a Fulbright scholar and criminal lawyer.

Toby Bull, a Senior Inspector with the Hong Kong Police Force since 1993, presented “Property of a Hong Kong Gentleman, Art Crime in Hong Kong – Buyer Beware”. Mr. Bull, a Fine Arts graduate, art historian and a qualified art authentication expert, recently founded TrackArt, an Art Risk Consultancy based in Hong Kong. In 1996, he attained detective status and is currently working within the Marine Police, whose role in the main is in dealing with anti-smuggling. The Hong Kong Police Force has no art crime squad, but has given Mr. Bull permission to lecture and do art consultancy work through his private consulting firm. Mr. Bull has been one of ARCA’s longest supporters and, like many of the lecturers & presenters on the course, was one of the contributors to ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the dark side of the art world edited, by Noah Charney.

Inspector Bull discussed the black-market antiquities trade and the free port of Hong Kong, often used as a ‘way station for much of China’s exported artifacts on their journey to collections abroad:

Looted antiquities are typically smuggled across porous borders, often acquiring fictitious provenance along the way. Documents claiming false authenticity and providing assurances that the items have not been looted, as well as outright fakes of antiquities are also common occurrences.

The worldwide popularity and high prices for Chinese archaeological artifacts have encouraged illegal excavation and smuggling of cultural property. Although Chinese authorities have intensified their efforts to crack down on smuggling and illicit excavation, it continues practically unabated. This huge demand for Chinese cultural artifacts has caused serious damaged to China’s cultural heritage.

Inspector Bull described the extent of the problem of looted artifacts in Hong Kong and the issue of fakes. He also raised the question as to whether or not “greater due diligence or some form of regulation amongst the local dealers could be brought in to help diminish and eventually stop the trade in illicit antiquities.”

According to Inspector Bull, criminal networks know how to move stolen art or illicitly dug-up antiquities because they already have the knowledge of the best ‘routes’ to get the illicit merchandise across the HK border, thanks in large part to their experience from drug trafficking.

"The idea that these are art-loving criminals is risible, as they are only interested in the money that comes from their various nefarious activities," Inspector Bull said. "The trade in antiquities (be they real or fake) is part of highly organized criminal enterprise structures. The people perpetrating these crimes are your commonplace criminals – no more, no less, but businessmen too, as they have realized that there is still a lot of money to be made in this type of trafficking and far less harsh penalties if caught than with drugs, for example. China is a source nation, bleeding its cultural heritage to the rich market nations. Tomb robbing in China involving diggers, equipment, and fences (middleman to sell the objects) and requires a multi-layered network.

High priced art is even used as a tool in bribing officials in China, according to Bull. "In 1997, many art dealers fled Hong Kong fearing the change of sovereignty, believing the harsh and strict export embargo of the Chinese system would be applied to Hong Kong and kill the trade," he said. "Once the announcement was made that Chinese laws on the protection of art relics would not be applied to Hong Kong (the world’s 3rd busiest cargo port), business carried on unabated with the reputation for Hong Kong being the place to buy Chinese artifacts and antiquities solidified.

However, that brings with it the problems of Hong Kong being a Freeport: “If it’s (the artifact) not proven to be stolen, objects can be legally exported, changing from illicit to licit,” Inspector Bull said. “Once entered into auction catalogues, the objects are often shown to be from a private collection in Hong Kong.”

Inspector Bull highlighted the problematical way that the police regard art crime and their lack of proper referencing within databases, making true statistics nigh on impossible to get; a frustrating fact for any criminologist looking to study this subject. Other incidents of art crime involve fake authenticity certificates for objects; smuggling paintings back into China to avoid taxes; and smuggling of fake objects. Inspector Bull also explained the correlation between art crime and money laundering and "the surprising, but sad fact", of how Hong Kong was woefully under prepared and at risk – despite its reputation as a top international finance sector with very tough anti-money laundering measures in place for the financial sector (just not for the totally unregulated art sector).

Inspector Bull conducted some of his own original research: “Out of 25 mainstream galleries in the main antiques area of Hollywood Road in Hong Kong, only four returned a 14-question survey questionnaire about the condition of the art market – and even those four that did answer did so with rather spurious replies,” Inspector Bull said. “There is absolutely no interest from the art trade to self-regulate, nor is there any lead from the Government to clamp down (or even recognize) the problem. There is simply too much money at stake. The Hong Kong Government is now looking to make the city an ‘art hub’ – seen by the recent arrival of the mega Art Basel exhibition in May. There is a real danger that more genuine smuggled pieces will find their way in Hong Kong, as well as more fakes flooding the market”.

With this in mind, one of the aims of TrackArt  is education to the art market & those closely tied to it to highlight the problems that were addressed in Inspector Bull’s insightful and entertaining presentation : he had brought with him from Hong Kong a “1st Class Fake” of a Tang Dynasty ceramic horse bought especially for its inconsistencies by Bull to be used as a lecture prop and which was passed around the audience – showing, indeed, the dangers of buying Chinese antiquities in Hong Kong. "Buyer Beware! Yes, most definitely."

August 20, 2013

Noah Charney's "Q&A with Ken Perenyi" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Noah Charney, ARCA Founder and Editor of The Journal of Art Crime, interviews Ken Perenyi, American art forger and author of Caveat Emptor, in the Spring 2013 issue.
Noah Charney: Could you begin by telling me about the very first work that you forged, the process of making it, and what made you turn to creating a work that would be passed off as something it was not? 
Ken Perenyi: The first one was a matter of circumstance that led me to it. I found myself in a great need of money when I was 18, and I had already started painting. I had worked under the direction of a well-known commercial artist from New York called Tom Bailey, and I discovered that I had a real natural talent for oil painting. It impressed my mentor, Tom, and I learned to paint simply by looking at Old Masters in museums. I never had lessons or formal training, it was just looking at paintings, studying them, and figuring out how the artists achieved their effects. 
I started painting in 1967, with no intention of creating fakes. I wanted to paint surrealistic pictures to impress my friends at the time. The hippy era was big, and my friends from New York City were all avant-garde, they were all older than me. They leased a crumbling old mansion on the Palisade cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, and so I began hanging out there with them. I wanted to fit in and impress them, so I started painting a number of surrealistic pictures. But everyone who looked at them said that they seem to be influenced by the Old Masters -- that wasn't a criticism, just an observation. And that's the way I understood how to paint, to layer and make things appear like the Old Masters.
I spent a lot of time in museums, studying painting. When I found myself in desperate need of cash, an artist friend joked that I should try forging a painting. He gave me a book about the forger [Han] van Meegeren, that he had just finished reading. I was impressed, and in the brashness of youth, I figured, maybe I can do this?
On my next trip to the museum, I visited the Dutch section and was looking at the portraits. I looked at these little portraits, and thought that they've got to be simple. I thought, why don't I try something like this? So I painted one on a small wooden panel that I scavenged, it was the bottom of an early piece of furniture. I managed to make a fine little portrait on the panel, and was able to sell it to a gallery on 57th Street [in New York]. I got $800 for it -- that was my first fake. From that point on, it wasn't a matter of if I would paint another one, but when I would paint another one. It was the beginning of a career -- I didn't look upon it as a career at that point, I saw it as something I could always fall back on, to raise some quick cash, until a turning point came later in life.
This interview is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. It is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.