Blog Subscription via

January 30, 2015

Breaking News: Will the Real Owners of the Stolen Paul Gauguin Painting Please Stand Up? A Case for Mediation.

In April 2014 the stolen art world ignited when a press conference conducted by General Mariano Mossa of Italy’s Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale art crime squad and the country’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, announced that Italy had recovered two stolen paintings worth more than 33 million euros.

Originally owned by philanthropist Mathilda Marks, daughter of Michael Marks, who founded the Marks and Spencer retail empire and her husband, Terence Kennedy, the two paintings, Fruits sur une table ou nature au petit chien (Still Life with a Small Dog) by Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard’s La femme aux deux fauteuils (Woman with Two Armchairs) had been stolen from a opulent London flat in Chester Terrace in 1970.  The art thieves, posing as burglar alarm repairmen, gained access to the house on the pretext of verifying the owner’s alarm system.  Pretending to go about their work, the criminals quickly removed the artworks from their original frames and bolted while the housekeeper was distracted preparing tea.

After their theft, the art works were smuggled out of England and on to France where they were later abandoned on a Turin-bound train arriving from Paris.  The culprits were never identified though police speculate that whoever was transporting the paintings may have abandoned them when they were spooked by customs officials on the train.

Found by railway inspectors, the two paintings languished for more than a year in the Turin train system’s lost property section before being auctioned off by Italy's national railway network in 1975 as unrecovered lost property.  This time period is significant because the sale occurred five years before the Carabinieri's famous art crime tracking database came into existence.  Unaware of their importance, the pictures were sold for a mere 45,000 lire – €26 in today's money, to a Fiat employee identified only as Nicolò, who later moved back to Siracusa, Sicily when he retired from the auto industry job as a metal mechanic in Turin. 

The Antiques Trade Gazette, reported that Rome’s public prosecutor Marcello Cascini, has stated that the Carabinieri TPC had been alerted to the paintings when a friend of the Italian buyer tried to sell them.  Other news services have reported that the autoworker’s son, Salvatore voluntarily contacted the Carabineri TPC directly when he began to suspect that his father’s paintings where not merely bargain basement knock-off’s.  In either case, the family members have been cooperative and have avoided the lime-light while the paintings were sequestered in 2014 until rightful ownership could be established.

Who is entitled to proceed for restitution and is possession really 9/10ths of the law?

Despite EU efforts to reach uniformity, each domestic law system in the EC provides specific regulations that may vary between Common Law and Civil Code approaches in determining who the rightful owner of a stolen object is. 

Following Art.1153 of the Italian Code, "Effects of the acquisition of possession”, in order to resist a forfeiture claim and protect his interests, the bona fides Sicilian buyer first would have to establish that he acquired the artworks and currently holds the items under dispute.  Second he would need to prove that he had a "valid" title upon which the goods have been acquired and third he would need to show that he was acting on good faith when he purchased the paintings.

Based on Italian civil code criteria the paintings would have had to have been owned by the Fiat worker for 10 years if he was unaware they were stolen goods or twenty years if he had any knowledge that the artworks he had purchased were hot art.

On the basis of the civil code in Italy,  information provided by the Carabinieri TPC that specializes in art and antiquities and given more than forty years had passed since the time of the London theft and subsequent purchase, the Italian courts ruled in the autoworker’s favor last month.  The property was returned to its Italian owner who reported that he planned to sell the Gauguin.

His victory proves there is some truth to the old adage, ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something and difficult to enforce if one does not.

Italian law. UK law. Swiss Law. 

But while Mrs. Marks and her American husband, Terence Kennedy, had no children they did have heirs to their vast fortune.

Terence Frank Kennedy met Mathilda Marks in Paris and were married shortly thereafter on 23 August 1951.  A flashy couple, they travelled frequently and spent their money on jewellery, cars, dogs and art. They would buy the Guaguin painting in 1962 from Sotheby’s in New York.

Speaking with Richard Ellis, director of the Art Management Group and a former head of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad, ARCA learned that when Mathilda Marks died 01 September 1964 she left her widower as the principal beneficiary to her personal estate, leaving him the pictures, which remained in his Chester Terrace home in Regents Park until the high profile art theft in June 1970.

Later he would close the house and travel between Switzerland, London and the South of France where he met John Henderson, then a young actor, who would go on to serve as his personal assistant after he suffered from a major stroke.  Henderson would become Kennedy's lifelong friend, support person  and constant companion for the next twenty years.

When Mr. Kennedy died in 1997 he made Mr. Henderson his sole heir under a will administered in Switzerland. In addition to a will, Mr. Henderson can produce the complete provenance of the paintings and their original frames, complete with exhibition history.

According to Ellis, the terms of Kennedy’s will means that all of Mr Kennedy's possessions, whether in his keeping at the time or not, now belong to John Henderson, inclusive of the now contested stolen pictures and the paintings' frames which he still has. The fact that investigations revealed no insurance payout having been made on the pictures, means that at least under UK law, Mr. Henderson retains clear title to the art works.

Where do the “owners” go from here?

Mr. Ellis reported that he is attempting to schedule a meeting with Roberto Matarazzo, Italian legal counsel to the 70-year-old retired Fiat factory worker arguing that this evidence seems to dictate that the Carabineri TPC and Italian Courts may not have satisfactorily investigated the claim to ownership with regards to these valuable artworks prior to their ruling in the retiree’s favor.  Ellis would like to set up an appointment to discuss the matter in Naples as soon as possible but definitely before any potentially, controversial sale.

This may be a perfect opportunity for all parties to consider the advantages of extra-judicial methods of dispute resolution through the use of a mediator. By sitting down to talk and finding an agreement via mediation on this matter, both parties may be able to arrive at a satisfactory resolution for all parties via Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008.  This directive is specifically intended to encourage amicable dispute resolution vs. long litigious drawn out battles, particularly in civil and commercial matters.

Its the appropriate recourse for art and cultural heritage dispute in the event of an art theft where both the heirs and the purchasing party have vested interests, financial or emotional, in the artworks.

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA

References used in this article:

Italian Studies in Law: A Review of Legal Problems, edited by Alessandro Pizzorusso

January 26, 2015

Policeman, Antiquities Smuggler, Black Market Cigarette Bootlegger, Arms Trafficker, Terrorist: A Snapshot of the Many Faces of One, Greek, Organized Crime Cell

Investigating organized crime links with art crimes components is complicated. Sometimes researchers are able to draw detailed maps of criminal enterprise that fuels the illicit art and antiquities trade and other times investigations lead us down windy roads to nowhere, or at least to places where gathering further evidence is not likely and possibly dangerous.

Earlier this month Greek news bureaus hit the wires reporting on a series of startling arrests, some involving suspects who liked to mix a little art and culture with their organized crime activities.

Image Credit - Yahoo News
On Saturday, January 3, 2015 Greece’s anti-terrorism unit captured Christodoulos Xiros; an on-the-run associate of the once-powerful and ultra-violent 17N group (Greek: Επαναστατική Οργάνωση 17 Νοέμβρη ).  Xiros had walked away from his prison sentence in January 2014 while on furlough visiting his family during the Christmas holidays.

Tracked to the town of Anavyssos in southeast of Athens, Christodoulos Xiros had changed his appearance, let his hair grow out and dyed it blonde.  But instead of lying low and enjoying his freedom while on the lam, the escapee chose to taunt Greek authorities; releasing ominous statements that implied he intended to pick up where he left off before his original incarceration for murder began.

Less than one month into his escape, Xiros submitted a long-winded manifesto along with a four-minute video to the website Independent Media Center. His untraceable statements, posted online at Indymedia/IMC were laced with violent innuendo alongside governmental and civil rights complaints. 

Speaking in front of images of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, two heroes of Greece's war of independence and a communist World War II resistance fighter, Xiros promised to wage war against those he believed were responsible for the destruction of Greece.  He vowed to “fight to the bitter end" and went so far as to dedicate lyrics from a song by V. Papakostantinou called 'Karaiskakis' emphasizing the phrase “When I return I will f**k you up.”

Image Credit:
Police Chief Dimitris Tsaknakis informed the press that Greek authorities had been searching for Christodoulos Xiros in and around the Athens’ suburbs for three months.  Investigators traced him via informant tips relayed to police, possibly in hopes of receiving part of the reward money being offered for information leading to his capture and arrest.

These tips, along with information gleaned from intercepted phone calls and solid gumshoe policing helped track the fugitive and set the stage for his organized apprehension.  Xiros had been hiding in relatively plain sight, going by the name “Manolis”.

At the time of his recapture, he was armed with a fully loaded Belgian or Hungarian-constructed Browning P35 9mm pistol.  News agencies reported that the gun’s serial number and make were scratched out, an action that impeded its traceability.

Image Credit:
A search of the house where he had been holed up contained an extensive cache of weaponry.  Law enforcement authorities inventoried assault rifles, Magtech 9mm ammunition, a rocket-propelled launcher, RPGs, grenades, six kilograms of explosive-making materials and a plethora of parts used for the manufacture of explosive devices including fuse wire, detonators and ignition wicks.

For a complete list of the evidence seized, please click here.
Image Credit:

After examining the evidence confiscated from the house in Anavyssos, Public Safety Minister, Vassilis Kikilias told reporters "Greek police prevented a major attack against the heart of the Greek prison system."  It seems that alongside the weaponry, police had found a well-developed diagram of the Korydallos prison complex.  Authorities believe that in stockpiling arms, Christodoulos Xiros was preparing for an armed assault and possible break-out on the western Athens prison, most likely to occur during Greece’s recent lead-up to the election that was held this weekend.

As a maximum-security facility, Korydallos Prison Complex has a notorious reputation.  In addition to housing other 17N convicts, it’s also has had its share of movie-worthy prison escapes.  Not only did Christodoulos Xiros vanish while on furlough but inmate/kidnapper Vasilis Paleokostas escaped twice, each time using a hijacked helicopter, first in June 2006 and again in February 2009.  During the second breakout a nearby resident captured the get-away chopper on amateur video. The grainy footage on this film shows the helicopter rising from the prison grounds and shots can be heard firing in the background while the amateur video maker comments.

Korydallos prison is also an over-crowded penal facility that has had substantial civil rights issues, many of which Christodoulos Xiros written manifesto outlined in Robin Hood-esque detail. Plagued by riots, overcrowding, poor health and sanitation conditions and a purported thriving black economy, the prison facility has been criticized not only by its convicts, but by Amnesty International and human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture. On occasion things have been so bad that inmates have staged hunger and medicine strikes to demand better living conditions and more immediate access to medical care.

But before Christodoulos Xiros, became a murdering guerrilla anarchist he was once a musical instrument maker and lived on the Aegean island of Ikaria.  Born to a retired priest, Triantafyllos Xiros, and his wife Moschoula, three of their ten children would later be condemned for participation in the 17 November group: Christodoulos, Savvas, and Vasilis.

Savvas Xiros was a painter of Greek religious icons.  He came to the attention of police following a botched bombing attack on June 29, 2002.  Whether from faulty fusing or poor execution, the IED he was handling detonated prematurely.  The explosion blinded him in one eye and caused partial vision loss in the other, blew off three fingers from his right hand, burst an eardrum and collapsed one of his lungs.  In total, he would spend 65 days at the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens recuperating from his debilitating injuries.
Savvas (L) and Vasilis (R) Xiros - Image Credit

Unconscious for four days, when Savvas Xiros came to he started cooperating with authorities, possibly encouraged by Greece’s rulings that enabled terrorists to receive lighter prison sentences in return for cooperation.  Later he would recant his statements and imply that his confession was made under extreme duress, while under the influence of psychotropic drugs or "truth serums" administered without his consent.  No evidence has been presented which collaborates this allegation, nor his later claims that prison inmates at Korydallos are routinely administered chemical restraints for non-therapeutic reasons.

Whether or not his confessions were self-preserving or influenced by state persuasion, Savvas Xiros’ testimony proved pivotal in Greece’s case against 17N and in dismantling the organized crime group. His testimony detailed the history of the cell from its nascent birth in 1975 as a Marxist-leaning domestic terrorism organization to its fateful decision to murder British defense attaché, Brigadier Stephen Saunders June 8, 2000.

As a result of Savvas Xiros’ testimony and the testimony of others, including his own brother, Christodoulos Xiros, ten members of 17N would be convicted for their rolls in 23 murders and sent to prison.   Prior to his escape from justice, Christodoulos Xiros was serving six life terms, plus 25 years. Savvas received five life sentences plus 25 years for his own role in 5 assassinations and Vasilis Xiros, the youngest of the three siblings, was condemned to 25 years for simple collusion to assassinate.

But this article’s publication in in ARCA’s blog is not solely to outline the life-cycle of one of Greece’s grimmest terrorist groups. Its purpose is to illustrate that organized criminal enterprise has many diverse elements and sometimes significantly and sometimes casually art crime plays its own part.

Theocharis Chrysakis -Image Credit -
Following Christodoulos Xiros capture, on January 3, 2015 police have begun identifying additional co-conspirators.  One has been listed as a 37-year-old Albanian who posed as a Coast Guard officer using the pseudonym “Theocharis Chrysakis” or "Hari Koka". Police have indicated that this accomplice had prior arrest records for gun and narcotics possession.  There has also been speculation that Xiros’ stash of weapons and explosives may have been acquired via Greek criminals with Albanian supplier connections, possibly affiliated with this ally.

Christos Patoucheas - Image Credit -
A second accomplice has been reported to be a 54-year-old former law enforcement officer.  Greek news wire reports have separately listed the individual as “unnamed” “Christos P” and “Christos Patoucheas” describing him as an ex police officer, dismissed from the EKAM, Special Counter-Terrorist Unit of the Hellenic Police twelve years ago.

The reason for his dismissal: involvement in antiquities smuggling and links to extortion rackets.  Patoucheas also seems to be involved in a functioning extortion ring operating from within the 6th wing of Korydallos prison which allegedly orchestrated additional bombings.

As abettors to Christodoulos Xiros these men now face graver charges than simple gun possession and antiquities trafficking.   Each can be charged as a member of a terrorist organization, as well as with contributing to the manufacturing, supply and possession of common explosives and bombs.  All of these offenses can be tried under Greece’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

But despite the successes of preventing further armed attacks and the recapture of a fugitive from justice, many questions remain regarding this organized crime group.

How is it that prison authorities felt it appropriate to grant furlough to a convicted terrorist despite his direct and indirect involvement in the deaths of 23 people?  How long has Christodoulos Xiros had this relationship with the former officer of Greece’s EKAM?  What are the details of this accomplice’s prior involvement in antiquities smuggling and extortion and is there any correlation between Accomplice One's Albanian arms channels and Accomplice Two's earlier involvement in art trafficking?

But before any of our readers jumps to premature conclusions, I am not implying that Christodoulos Xiros’ organization was in any way funded by antiquities smuggling.  None of my research, in looking for antiquities smuggling connections to this escapee or his associates has uncovered evidence that would substantiate such a claim. Given the more lucrative profitability of extortion and arms and cigarette trafficking, it would also seem superfluous at best as a potential revenue stream to fund Greek terrorism.

My point is merely to underscore, in a thought provoking way, the complexity of criminal behavior and that traffickers, especially art traffickers, are not always tie-wearing antiquities dealers with glossy Geneva free ports and warehouses.

Some art criminals are simply opportunistic criminals. They are incentivized to smuggle whatever illicit commodity has a willing buyer.  The type of “merchandise” isn’t important.  The contraband could be art and antiquities, or drugs and weaponry.  The sole criterion is that the enterprising criminal has access to a willing buyer and a steady supply stream of merchandise that supports his market’s demand.

I mention this because I think it is important, when examining organized crime and terrorism and its potential connection to antiquities smuggling, that researchers not to fall into the trap of feeding the media’s insatiable desire to see actuarial percentages that calculate the risk, size, percentage, threat, motivation or impact of a specific subset of organized crime, be it terrorism, arms trafficking, cigarette bootlegging or antiquities looting.  When we do, we allow the media to skim over the complexity of the subject in exchange for scary headlines that superficially skim the surface and are often based on estimates.

By the same toke art crime researchers should be more comfortable with admitting to journalists “I can’t answer that” or "there is not enough evidence to confirm links between art smuggling and terrorism" in cases like the Xiros investigation, when there is not enough proof available to satisfy the hypothesis.   In most cases, the mere mention of the words ‘organized crime’ and the circumstances of real life cases, as complex as this Greek terrorism cell, already have sufficiently powerful details on which journalists can draw readership without the need for supposition.

For those that want to take a closer look at organized crime and the difficult problem of assessing its scope, I suggest starting with this 2004 academic article.  Produced by criminologists, it gives readers a far greater understanding of the complexity of quantifying organized criminal behavior than I can within the scope of this already overly-long blog post.   The article also sadly underscores that despite having been written more than ten years ago, we are still wrestling with the same problems where organized crime information gathering is concerned.

The sad truth is that even today conclusions are too-often drawn based on too few cases and estimates rather than harder-to-actually-substantiate data giving the media tantalizing conjecture rather than providing much in the way of concrete evidence regarding a specific subset of criminal enterprise.

Part of the reason for this is that researching the mechanisms behind organized crime and any illicit trafficking market is a potentially risky endeavor. Global Initiative estimates that 35% of the journalists killed in the last ten years were reporting on organized crime or corruption.  And no matter how firmly experts researching organized crime disclaim unrealistic estimates or over-reaching assumptions it will always be, at best, an imprecise science by its very nature.

Measuring something as complex and elusive as organized crime, or specifically organized crime with art-related offenses would require law enforcement to develop a conceptual and theoretical framework that permits the police to gather data on and then measure the types of art crimes in a more meaningful way.

Unfortunately we aren't there yet, despite what some media headlines tell you.

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA

References used in this article:,6856359
Inside Greek Terrorism, by George Kassimeris, Oxford University Press (October 1, 2013)
Organized Crime, Corruption and Crime Prevention, Editors: Stefano Caneppele and Francesco Calderoni
Race Against Terror, By Nicholas Gage, Vanity Fair, Jan 2007 Issue 557, p64, 9p
The Faces of Terrorism: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, edited by David Canter
‘Threats and Phantoms of Organised Crime, Corruption and Terrorism’ (Critical European Perspectives), June 1, 2004 by Petrus C. Van Duyne (Author, Editor), Matjaz Jager (Editor), Klaus Von Lampe (Editor), James L. Newell (Editor)

January 21, 2015

Once Upon a Time in Five Secure Vaults in Switzerland

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

ARCA’s blog readers have followed the cases of Italian antiquities trafficking for practically as long as there has been an ARCA blog.  Antiquities dealers, suspected of art crimes with names like Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes, Robert Hecht, Christo Michaelides, and Gianfranco Becchina are names you can search on and who each have pages of blog posts dedicated to them.

For those that want to delve further, books like The Medici Conspiracy and Chasing Aphrodite give English language accounts of the cases and investigations surrounding these dealers and for those who read Italian, Fabio Isman’s multi-year investigation I predatori dell’arte perduta explains why Italy has fought so hard to have its stolen antiquities returned home.

But in the background of all this, were the artworks themselves; artwork large and small, artworks looted and sold, and artworks looted and almost sold, had it not been for the quick thinking of investigators who diligently worked, in some cases for years, to put the pieces of this one puzzle together.

Those who have worked on these cases know how hard it is to identify suspect antiquities, especially when snapped on crumpled Polaroids.  Matching smashed pot fragments in photos taken in a darkened basement or the boot of a car with professional-quality photos of finally restored masterpieces on sale in auction catalogs takes a sharp eye.  More than that, it takes a considerable amount of patience, cooperation and collaboration with legal and law enforcement authorities to bring these articles home.

How did these objects get from an unknown archaeological site to a middleman? Who were the individual tombaroli?  Who were the intermediaries who physically transported these objects to dealer warehouses in Switzerland?  Why were museums and art collectors so quick to turn a blind eye to these objects' lack of collection history?  All of these are questions we may never be able to fully answer, but which have been speculated on in minute detail.

What maybe hasn’t been examined, or at least not in such a visually dramatic way is the amount of work behind this laborious investigation.  The work of the Carabinieri TPC, the work of Italy’s state prosecutors and expert consultants, and the work of Italy’s Ministry of Culture.   But instead of trying to tell their story in this blog post, perhaps its best to let photos of what they have recovered speak for themselves.

The imagery you see here comes from one singular organized crime investigation presented  today at the National Roman Museum at The Baths of Diocletian (Museo Nazionale Romano alle Terme di Diocleziano). 

5,361 archaeological objects, each ripped from their context, giving us no known site of origin to tell us about the place where they were taken from.  The objects date from the eighth century BC to the third century AD., all looted, all displayed together in one place.

Each piece represents an artwork stolen from  Campania, Lazio, Calabria, Puglia, Sicily or Sardinia.

One trafficking enterprise.  How many more are there?  


Note:  The accompanying photographs and video in this blog post represent approximately half of the 5,361 antiquities confiscated in Basel, Switzerland in 2001 as part of Operation Teseo.  Italy’s court reached its final and lasting verdict of confiscation via the Italian Supreme Court in 2013, which was then validated and confirmed by Switzerland.  These objects have been in Italy since 2004 and do not represent a “new” seizure as has been indicated by some journalists not familiar with the cases history.  The antiquities on display during the press conference are objects well known to researchers in the field of Italian antiquities looting and have been held as part of the ongoing investigation in Rome so that researchers and investigators had access to them as part of the investigation and for cataloging purposes.

The collection may gone on temporary display in Italy as a group but will then be disbursed to museums in the regional areas where the objects were likely looted.

January 17, 2015

Retired insurance executive Dorit Straus returns to teach "Insurance Claims and the Art Trade" in Amelia this summer

Dorit Straus, retired insurance executive
Dorit Straus, retired Chubb Insurance executive specializing in fine art, will be returning to Amelia to teach "Insurance Claims and the Art Trade":
My academic training was at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the department of Archeology - at that time the head of the department was Yigael Yadin, whose father was known for the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He himself was famous for the excavations at the breathtaking desert palace of King Herod at Masada. During my studies, Yadin was involved in Hazor, another major excavation in Northern Israel. It was exciting to participate in such high profile digs. My career moved into the museum field and I worked at the Jewish Museum in New York and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. At one point, I decided to make a 360 degree shift and somehow came towards fine art insurance, which started a 30 year career with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. It may seem unlikely to take that kind of a career path, but ultimately it was a completely rational progression whereby the skills that I acquired in the academic and the museum world matched the corporate needs of the insurance company. It was a very good partnership whereby I benefited from learning about the business world and applied those skills to fine art clients, whether they were private collectors, galleries or cultural institutions. 
In the insurance process the key to profitability means choosing the right customers, at the right premium and then providing them with means to protect and preserve their property - analyzing these variables can make the difference between making a profit or having a loss. Providing the risk management and risk prevention is an essential benefit to the art community. In my role as an insurance executive I made sure that there was an equal balance between these demands and that the art community would benefit from an innovative approach to risk prevention. During my tenure at Chubb, we developed specific products to benefit the art community such as the Museum and Cultural institution program and an art gallery program. We came up with software products to help museums and cultural institutions manage their collection as well as infra red testing to detect hot spots in the walls that may mean that there was an electrical problem which could lead eventually to a fire. Preventing losses meant that one had to analyze the risk to make sure of the integrity of the insured - quite often I came across potential insureds who had questionable reputation or they were out right criminals. Many times it was a question of fraudulent valuations, either inflating values or trying to pass on a fake as the genuine item - catching these types of bad risks can be thrilling!
Almost everyone has some sort of a involvement with insurance, but most people do not understand the insurance transaction and have all kinds of misunderstandings of the process. In my course, I will cover the fundamentals of art insurance, the relationship between the different players and how the process actually works! We will address the different needs of the private collectors, museums and commercial galleries and focus on actual cases of art fraud and how the insurance transaction will or will not respond. We will also look at ways in which bad risks can be improved and we will demonstrate that through case studies in which theoretical and practical approaches will be taken. Those students who plan to move into positions in the art industry will find the course to be very useful in their future career. With so much in the news about art theft, fraud and fakes, and residual WWII issues, the course will be both relevant and timely. 
On the final days students will be divided into 4 teams in which they will create scenarios including role plays to reflect what they have learned during the course. These scenarios will be judged on their originality, reality and creativity of presenting an insurance risk, a claim situation and determine if its a covered loss, and if not, why not. 
There are several films that I would recommend: “How to Steal a Million" with Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn is a fun movie that touches on many points that are relevant ( but not necessarily realistic) to the insurance course, also "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Entrapment" and -- a very good documentary about art theft -- is “Stolen” by Rebecca Dreyfus.

Ms. Straus serves on the board of directors of AXA Art and Crozier Fine Art. She is also an insurance consultant for Art Recovery International.

Ms. Straus recently wrote in an email: "I started a project working with artists in the Hudson Valley in New York State called Art Hudson/Farm to Frame, bringing collectors and artists together, to support the arts and preserve farmlands. In 2014, we visited studios of Judy Pfaff; the private gallery of Steven Holt "T Space" with Carole Schneeman; and a visit to the new space of Jack Shainman "The School".  Each event included a sumptuous farm to table lunch by top local chefs - and the events also support the great works of Scenic Hudson a not for profit environmental Advocacy organization!
Exciting events are planned for spring and fall of 2015 - stay tuned!" 

January 16, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015 - , No comments

Introducing ARCA Lecturer Dr. Tom Flynn — ‘The International Art Market and Associated Risk’

Dr. Tom Flynn at Terni Waterfall
Tom will be returning to Amelia this year to teach ‘The International Art Market and Associated Risk’. The course provides a comprehensive overview of the art market’s historical evolution as well as an insight into its diverse business practices today. Students are introduced to the market’s key institutions, public and private, in order to develop a critical awareness of the inherent risks and rewards of art commerce. The lecture program seeks to create a relaxed space of intellectual inquiry and exchange in which students are able to ask testing questions of the status quo and to challenge received wisdom about the market and its institutions. Discussions usually continue beyond the classroom to create a continuous forum for debate and informal exchange of ideas. 

The course interweaves historical and contemporary strands with a view to understanding the evolution of the market’s core relationships and business practices and how these often inadvertently create an environment in which a range of unethical activities can occur. We explore how the European art market developed out of the princely and royal collections of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; its emergence as a commercial activity during the eighteenth century; the rise of the professional art dealer in the nineteenth century; and culminating in the globalization and ‘financialisation’ of the market during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Throughout, students are prompted to explore the relationship between the aesthetic and economic spheres in the creation of value and to develop an understanding of the art market as a nexus of socio-economic activity.

The teaching introduces students to: • a historical view of the economic, social, political and cultural forces that have contributed to the development of the art market. • the concept of connoisseurship and its relationship to a fast developing culture of scientific and forensic analysis. • the broad range of objects and ‘commodities’ that constitute the art market’s multiple categories and specialist sub-markets • the sociological make-up of the art market’s key actors and institutions, embracing artists, auction houses, art dealerships, museums, contemporary art consultants, insurance agents, investment fund managers, fair organisers, public relations specialists, legal advisors, art critics, and the commercial interdependence of market participants • the increasing importance of finance and investment strategies in the global art market, including the growing prominence of art funds, arbitrage activities, art finance, portfolio diversification, etc. • the increasingly global nature of the twenty-first century art market and the forces propelling the markets of the ‘emerging’ BRIC economies and beyond • new communication and information technologies and their impact on art business
What will be the focus in your course? As in past years, the main aim is to create a relaxed, interactive environment in which students can help each other learn through dialogue and creative exchange. The content is built around understanding the relationships between the key actors and institutions constituting today’s market. At every point, we seek to explore the complex interchange of price and value, and how these concepts are created and negotiated.
Do you have a recommended reading list that students can read before the course? I would recommend that students start keeping an eye on the online market reports from Bloomberg, the International New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Art Newspaper. A comprehensive reading list will be provided closer to the course commencing, but meanwhile any of the following titles would be worth looking at: Dempster, A., (Ed), (2014) Risk & Uncertainty in the Art World, Boomsbury, London; 
Gould, C. & Mesplède, S. (Eds) (2012) Marketing Art in the British Isles, 1800 to the Present: A Cultural History, London, Ashgate; 
Fletcher, P. & Helmreich, A. (Eds) (2011) The Rise of the Modern Art Market in London: 1850-1939, Manchester University Press; 
Degen, N. (Ed) (2013) The Market: Documents of Contemporary Art, London, Whitechapel; 
Barragán, P. (2008) The Art Fair Age, Milan, Charta; Flynn, T. & Barringer, T. (Eds) (1997) Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum, London, Routledge
The deadline for the 2014 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection is March 30, 2014. Late applications will continue through April 30, 2014 subject to census and housing availability. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until census is full so apply early. You may send inquiries to

Dr Tom Flynn, FRICS — Professional background
Tom is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at Kingston University, London where he directs the Masters course in Art & Business, and is Adjunct Associate Professor in the International Art Market at Richmond, the American International University in London. A former auctioneer and art market journalist, Tom writes and and lectures widely on the art market, art crime, art & technology, museums, cultural heritage and historical and contemporary sculpture. He holds degrees from Sussex University and the Royal College of Art and wrote his doctorate on nineteenth century critical attitudes to the chryselephantine sculpture of antiquity.

January 13, 2015

Sheila Dillon, Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Archaeology, publishes letter on the AJA's publishing policy on its "commitment to protecting archaeological heritage"

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

Sheila Dillon, Editor-in-Chief for the American Journal of Archaeology, has published a letter in the January 2015 issue (which can be found here on which thanks "all the peer reviewers who contribute their time and expertise to vetting manuscripts to the AJA." Ms. Dillon also concludes with the following positions on scholarship and collecting history:
Finally, in light of recent events in both this country [USA] and abroad, it is important to restate that the AJA maintains its commitment to protecting archaeological heritage. In keeping with the 2004 policy of the AIA [Archaeological Institute of America], the AJA will not accept any article that serves as the primary publication of any object or archaeological material in a private or public collection acquired after 30 December 1973 unless its existence is documented before that date or it was legally exported from the country of origin. 
In addition, given the recent and continuing threats to the archaeological sites and material culture of countries such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Libya, the Editor-in-chief and members of the Advisory Board condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent sale of Egyptian artifacts and the scheduled sale of Mesoamerican artifacts by the AIA St. Louis Society through the auction house Bonhams. While technically not illegal, the sale of the Egyptian antiquities certainly violated the spirit if not the letter of the agreement that brought the objects to St. Louis in the first place. The selling off of archaeological artifacts in the society's possession not only contravenes the ethical standards current in archaeology but also reinforces the commodification of archaeological material and in effect condones the traffic in antiquities, which is in opposition to the AIA's principal missions of research and education. As stewards of the past, no one associated with the AIA should be incentivizing the illicit trade in antiquities, which is a global criminal activity. High-profile sales such as these can have the unintended consequence of putting further at risk the archaeological heritage that the AIA has vowed to protect. 
SHEILA DILLON, Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Archaeology

January 11, 2015

FBI Agents and LAPD officer discuss the recovery of 3/4 of the paintings stolen from Encino residence in 2008

Press Conference at FBI building in Westwood, CA
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
  ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Here's a holiday-delayed follow up post to the press conference on the recovery by the LAPD and the FBI of paintings stolen from an Encino residence. All comments quoted below were reviewed and approved by both the FBI and the LAPD officers involved. I would like to thank retired FBI agent Virginia Curry who made a phone call to get me into the press conference.

The FBI's Public Affairs Specialist Laura Eimiller, who organized the news conference, provided in an email dated December 20 the 'gist of the remarks made by Mr. Lewis.' With her permission, his comments at the press conference are published here:
Hello, my name is Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.   I’m joined here today by…. 
On August 23rd, 2008, the LAPD initiated an investigation into a residential theft of nine pieces of artwork that are valued at up to $12 million, though that number may change when experts further evaluate the paintings.  At that time, the company which insured the paintings had offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artwork.   This past September, that reward offer generated a lead overseas.  From that point, the FBI’s Art Crime Team members here in Los Angeles worked jointly with the LAPD. 
Raul Espinoza
An undercover investigation led to an individual believed to be a fence conducting the sale of the artwork.   On October 23, 2014, a meeting was arranged in West Los Angeles with undercover agents posing as potential buyers and an individual believed to be in possession of the stolen artwork, now identified as Raul Espinoza.   By the end of the meeting, nine pieces of artwork were recovered and Espinoza was taken into custody. On October 27, 2014, a felony complaint was filed by the District Attorney in Los Angeles charging Espinoza with receiving stolen property.   
Art theft is multi-billion dollar industry and something the Bureau takes seriously to protect America’s culture and national treasures.  The Art Crime Team has also recovered art and cultural artifacts from other nations when it’s found or fenced through the United States.  If you’ll notice, much of the art on display was painted in the 20s and 30s so the rich history recovered here cannot be overstated. 
Investigators believe that others are associated with this crime and know that someone has valuable information.  We are offering a reward of up to $25,000 in exchange for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for this crime. 
I’d like to point out that this is still very much an ongoing investigation and, because we still have work to do, we aren’t able to go into detail on much of this, nor speculate on theories.  We wanted to give you an opportunity to see the paintings while they’re in our possession as evidence, and we hope that the publicity will turn into solid leads.  I’d like to turn this over to ... 
LAPD's Hrycyk at podium with FBI's Rivas (right)
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Art Theft Detail Detective Don Hrycyk described art theft as unprofitable, noting that after six years, the stolen art had still not been sold. Hrycyk said law enforcement speculated that whoever stole the paintings either knew the elderly owners or someone who worked in the household. The husband died within four months of the crime and the wife died this year, Hrycyk said. [Here's a link to the LAPD's announcement of the recovery.]

Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said that the FBI and the LAPD would not give up on an investigation until they recover the artifacts.

As to the condition of the returned paintings, Hrycyk said that some of the frames had been removed and that the paintings were in “not that bad” of condition (the artworks had been examined by a professional conservator).

FBI Agent Elizabeth Robert speaks to Spanish-speaking press
At the end of the press conference, Elizabeth Robert, Assistant Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, spoke in Spanish for Spanish-speaking media correspondents (the suspect, Raul Espinosa, is a Mexican national).

Elizabeth Rivas, Special Agent for the FBI, has also worked on the Mathew Taylor fraud case and assisted the Santa Monica Police in the art theft of the works of Jeffrey Gundlach. I asked her if she had any surprises in working this case. “I was surprised at how quickly we recovered the artworks when the case reopened in September 2014,” Agent Rivas said. “We had good tips and good undercover agents.”

FBI Agent Elizabeth Rivas stands next to
recovered painting by Lyonel Feininger
I also asked Don Hrycyk who has handled more than 800 cases over 20 years for the LAPD, what surprised him about this case. “It’s surprising to walk into a home and realize that there were millions of dollars of art on the wall without proper security meaning the security precautions were inadequate for the protection of a multi-million dollar art collection," Detective Hrycyk said. "This is a common problem I have seen over the years - either inadequate security or adequate security that is not consistently used (not setting the alarm, leaving doors unlocked, surveillance cameras that don't work, etc.)."

What about when the art is recovered? Any surprises?

“One painting was brought to a location strapped to the roof of a car," Detective Hrycyk said. "The thieves did not know how to care for art.”

What is the end goal of the reward?

“We want to recover the other three pieces of stolen art,” Hrycyk said. “We also want to see the link between the original burglary and the defendant (Espinosa). These people may still be connected to someone still employed in a household.”

Here are other photos of the press conference and the recovered paintings as displayed there:

Painting by Marc Chagall

Painting by Chaim Soutine

Painting by Arshile Gorky

Painting by Diego Rivera

Painting by Chaim Soutine

Painting by Kees van Dongan

Painting by Emile Nolde

Painting by Hans Hofmann

FBI's Elizabeth Rivas at podium