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February 11, 2014

A.J.G. "Edgar" Tijhuis Returns to Amelia to Teach "Transnational Organized Crime and Art'

Edgar Tijhuis, lawyer and assistant-professor of Criminology at the VU University in Amsterdam, in The Netherlands, will return to Amelia for the sixth year to teach “Transnational Organized Crime and Art” (June 16-20) for ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

Tijhuis, the author of Transnational Crime and the Interface between Legal and Illegal Actors – The Case of the Illicit Art and Antiquities Trade (Nijmegen, Wolf Legal Publishers, 2006), published a chapter in Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger, 2009), “Who Is Stealing All Those Paintings?” He is also associated with the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Amsterdam.

What makes your course relevant in the study of art crime?

The current literature on art crime gives us some idea of art crimes that are committed all over the world. However, it is far less clear who is involved and how these crimes are organized. In this course we will look at art crime from a criminological perspective and focus on these issues. What kind of people are actually involved in specific types of art crime: organized crime, insiders, petty thieves, quaint characters, terrorists or all of them? And how can we explain their involvement in these crimes? Criminological theories and models help to answer these questions. This approach makes the course very relevant as it tries to fill the gap that is left between research from lawyers, archaeologists and others. Finally, trying to figure out who is involved and why, helps to define criteria for the most fruitful policies to deal with the problem of art crime.

Do you have a recommended reading list that students can read before the course?

A good starter would be "The Medici Conspiracy" by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini. This landmark study touches upon many very important issues that we will deal with in this course.

Please give us a snapshot of a day in your classroom about what students might learn on a given day.  

Students will learn about a wide array of topics. Among other things, students will get a crash course of criminological theories spanning over 200 years and apply these theories to cases of art crime. We will dive into the world of transnational crime, from the trade in blood diamonds to arms trafficking and terrorism. And we will look at the process of "laundering" hot art and integrating it in the legitimate market.

What is your current area of focus as related to art crime?

At VU University I'm supervising a Phd study by Ruth Godthelp. She is analysing the nature of art crimes in the Netherlands. She is also a member of the heavy crimes (or serious and organised crime) unit of the Amsterdam Police Department (where she's combatting art crimes on a daily basis) and has built a unique database of over 4000 art crimes. Furthermore, I'm working with Jasper van der Kemp, who is specialising in profiling) We search for ways to profile art crimes, both big museum thefts as well as series of thefts from churches, libraries etc. Finally, I'm working on a book on histories of transnational crime, which will include an overview of over 2000 years of art crimes by Noah Charney.