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May 29, 2014

Marc Balcells on "The Case of the Muñoz Ramonet Legacy (Barcelona, Spain)" in his column "Not in the Headlines" in the Spring 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Spanish criminologist Marc Balcells holds degrees in Law, Criminology and Human Sciences, and masters both in Criminal Law, and the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. A Fulbright scholar, he is currently completing his PhD in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research revolves around criminological aspects of archaeological looting, though he has also written about other forms of art crime. He has taught both Criminal Law and Criminology courses as an associate at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Political Science department at John Jay College. He is also a criminal defense attorney whose practice is located in Barcelona. Dr. Balcells' new column in The Journal of Art Crime will "delve deep in cases that might happen in less attention-prone countries when it concerns to cultural heritage crimes." Here's an introduction to his first subject, "The Case of the Muñoz Ramonet Legacy (Barcelona, Spain)”
Allow me to show some hometown pride and start with a case that has been quite notorious in Barcelona: the disappearance of part of the legacy of Julio Muñoz Ramonet, a deceased industrialist who amassed a vast, multi-million, impressive art collection. The story has some shady characters, never-ending legal battles, and the disappearance of the artworks, which has prompted recently more legal battles, still pending resolution. 
First of all, it is interesting to see not only how the collection was amassed, but also who was the person doing it. Julio Muñoz Ramonet was a self-made man: from his humble origins he was already planning the way of becoming rich. And that he did: the starting point was for Muñoz Ramonet and some of his closest family members to save in order to buy a tiny factory devoted to cotton threading. The Spanish Civil war (1936-1939) did much of the rest for the business to prosper. He acted as a spy for Franco’s regime when he joined the republican militia: eventually all the spying would pay off when the dictator won the war, which allowed him to climb the ranks of the francoist establishment. In times were absolutely everything had to be rationed, he had, thanks to the black market, enough material for his business to operate in a situation of monopoly. His vast patrimony allowed him to acquire emblematic buildings in the best avenues of the city, like the Casa Batlló (designed by Antoni Gaudí himself), the Palau Robert, or even the Ritz Hotel. His entrance to bourgeois stardom was his marriage to the Villalonga family, which erased totally his humble origin: with her they had four daughters who will be key players in the case.
You may finish reading this column in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.