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June 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - ,, No comments

Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies: Week 2

The following was contributed by Renée D., a member of ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime studies Class of 2010. The ARCA staff has enlisted her to provide updates on the program's progress as well as to, hopefully, convey some of the intimate nuances and intricacies of life in Amelia to those of us outside its medieval walls. The program runs June 1 through August 13. 

Before the second week of the postgraduate program started, ARCA arranged our first field trip to the medieval city of Orvieto. Narrow and winding, the roads lead up the hills and through picturesque countryside to get to the top of a plateau where Orvieto is situated. Noah met us at the top of the plateau to finish off his week of teaching by giving us a full walk through of Orvieto’s medieval gothic church or duomo, as it is called in Italian. The duomo was truly breath-taking as we took in the same structure that even inspired Michelangelo. It was yet another unexpected reminder that we are in fact walking around in the shadows of the Renaissance masters who once roamed over Orvieto’s cobblestones. Noah challenged us at the church to put to use some of the skills we had learned over the past week and do a little hostile surveillance, which entailed identifying security measures and exits as if we were planning to take something from the church. This is a useful exercise to help prevent potential thefts before they occur from any institution. After, as a special treat, we went around to the back of the church to a separate attached chapel to see the skeleton remains of a Catholic female martyr, who had been speared to death. Over the course of the day, you could see in everyone’s face a sense of delight. Perhaps it was the view from the plateau over the expansive countryside, or the ceiling paintings within the church, or even the taste of gelato on a hot Saturday, but it was impossible not to feel it. 

Back in the classroom in week two, we have been learning about the art world from London-based art historian, Tom Flynn. Although many of the students have art history backgrounds, it is always refreshing to listen to a different point of view on the subject as Tom literally keeps switching between his two sets of glasses throughout his lectures. While Noah shared stories about the Ghent Altarpiece, Tom has already shared interesting anecdotes about collectors such as Albert Barnes and Edward Perry Warren. Flynn, the sculpture scholar, can be spotted among the students watching the World Cup matches in his breezy linen shirts, as well as discussing various topics in the art field at Bar Leonardi. Easy to talk to and extremely knowledgeable, Tom maintains his own art-related blog among his many projects:

The contemporary English gentleman, Flynn has challenged us this week to present to the class our own thirty minute manifesto for the art world. The topic could range from our personal issues with the art market to our expertise within the art world. Ultimately, it is daunting to tackle such an assignment because how does one really go about chipping away the issues of a world whose existence is kept shroud in mystery to even those who play a part within it? It is somewhat intimidating to stand in front of your peers to talk about your opinions on aspects of a world we all wish to join in some way, but we are all in Amelia to learn how to protect the currency of this world, which is art. To pinpoint an area that we find contention with in the end is to pinpoint where our own passions lie. This exercise really is to our benefit because as we move full speed ahead on the bumpy winding roads within the world of Art, we must overcome our romantic views and weak stomachs to be able to stand in front of anyone to explain the important cultural value of the art we all want to protect.

June 11, 2010

June 8, 2010

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - , No comments

Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies: Week 1

The following was contributed by Renée D., a member of ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime studies Class of 2010. The ARCA staff has enlisted her to provide updates on the program's progress as well as to, hopefully, convey some of the intimate nuances and intricacies of life in Amelia to those of us outside its medieval walls. The program runs June 1 through August 13. 

The bells start ringing signaling that its noon and we are all in summer school. I briefly gaze out the side window from my seat and all you can see is the clay rooftops, the old buildings, and blue sky. Suddenly reality hits, we are not just in summer school, we are in Italy.

ARCA’s postgraduate program in International Art Crime Studies, class of 2010, is double the size of last year’s premiere group and rumor has it that interest for next summer’s program is already in record numbers. The program attracts people from all walks of life and all different backgrounds. This summer we are curators, conservators, lawyers, law students, appraisers, art historians, private investigators, gallerists, mapmakers, and archeologists. We are inquisitive. We are intelligent. We are the Art World.

As a group, we have already started to acclimate ourselves to this small beautiful Italian town called Amelia. Lunch ultimately sends us to Bar Leonardi, a local hot spot bar at the cross section of all the main roads in town. The staff of Leonardi tolerates our broken Italian as we sip our cappuccinos and snack on our sandwiches. The local older men sit under the overhang in the shade discussing various topics, but mostly they are studying the ARCA students with curiosity as if we ourselves are an exhibit at a museum.

For others, Punto Di Vino has become a home away from home. Luciano, the wine bar’s owner, and his family are so accommodating to our program as they offer us a glass of wine, a warm meal of risotto, and a piece of chocolate as we catch up with our families back home through Luciano’s free wireless connection.

The elusive Noah Charney, founder and president of ARCA, is finally extremely accessible to us this first week as he leads our lectures, which address topics ranging from forgeries to vandalism. He shares his personal love for Il Bronzino and the Ghent Altarpiece with us, and for the importance of churches needing better security systems. Noah sports a wallet chain and hair that until recently sported a ponytail. He also has been spotted smoking a Sherlock Holmes-esque pipe during lunch. Noah captures our attention with his vast knowledge and his way of engaging us by asking us questions that range from how we would define art to how we would handle security when a potential vandal enters our hypothetical museum.

This first week has allowed us to revisit issues that many of us have thought about extensively before but now perhaps can rethink in a different light. It is a great preview for the rest of the program. We are still in summer school, but while our shared passion to learn about this understudied yet relevant field keeps us going to class, we know that when class breaks for lunch, the Italian sun will be waiting for us.

June 3, 2010

ARCA's Colette Marvin at the Scene of the Crime at musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris

Recently, ARCA's Colette Marvin, Director of Public and Institutional Relations, visited the scene of the crime while on business in Paris. Colette spent the past fall and winter organizing and curating a special exhibit on art crime at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Currently, she is engaged in a documentary project focused on the career of the infamous forger, Elmyr de Hory.

May 26, 2010

Traficantes de drogas y armas, tras el robo del museo de París

Belén Palanco (Efe) | París

El robo de obras de Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque y Léger la madrugada del día 20 en el Museo de Arte Moderno de París, "tiene todas las marcas del crimen organizado", es obra de "traficantes de armas y droga", según Noah Charney, uno de los más reputados expertos en robo de obras de arte.

"El crimen organizado, desde los años 60, ha sido el responsable de la mayoría de los delitos con obras de arte en todo el mundo" y, sobre todo, de robos de cuadros de Pablo Picasso, "el artista con gran diferencia más robado y falsificado en la Historia", dijo Charney.

En la pinacoteca parisina los ladrones se apropiaron de cinco lienzos. El robo de esos óleos, valorados "en cientos de millones de dólares", está en "segundo puesto", aunque "próximo", respecto del mayor robo de la Historia, de unos 500 millones de dólares, que "la mafia corsa perpetró en el museo de Isabella Stewart Gardner (Boston) en 1990", afirmó Charney, fundador de la asociación ARCA, que colabora con organizaciones internacionales para resolver casos delictivos con obras de arte.

"Las piezas robadas en París son del mismo tipo que las que eran sustraídas en la década de los 60 en la Riviera francesa por miembros de la mafia de Córcega (sur de Francia)", señaló este experto. "La mafia corsa, entre 1961 y 1962, tuvo fijación por los cuadros de Picasso y Cézanne, que marcaban récords de ventas en las subastas, lo que culminó en el macrorrobo de 118 Picassos en una sola noche en el Palacio Papal de Avignon (Francia)".
Sorprendente 'modus operandi'

Sin embargo, Noah Charney declaró que el caso del Museo del Arte Moderno le sorprende por el 'modus operandi': el robo fue "limpio" y "sigiloso" y, además, por la noche.

Ello sugiere, a su entender, "que estuvo bien organizado, coninformación desde dentro del museo sobre lagunas jurídicas y gestiones", y "que los ladrones, que no son trigo limpio, tienen un destinatario en mente" para su botín.

A pesar de los sistemas de alarma, los autores, añade Charney, "contaron con algo contundente para burlarlos". Y este es un problema actual de las pinacotecas, en las que, a pesar de que cada vez disponen de más medidas de seguridad, "el robo va en aumento", sobre todo en las horas de apertura al público, como ocurrió recientemente en el Museo Munch, de Oslo.

En opinión de Charney (New Haven, Connecticut, 1979), "la mayoría del arte conocido es robado para chantajear a la víctima o a la compañía de seguros, o como moneda de cambio en negociaciones entre bandas delictivas" por drogas y armas, e incluso en casos de terrorismo.

Del robo de París ha pasado una semana y los lienzos "ni han sido recuperados, ni se ha negociado ningún chantaje, por lo que su destino más probable es, como en el caso de tantas otras obras de arte famosas, que, al ser bienes fácilmente transportables, sirvan para negociaciones entre los grupos del crimen organizado", concluyó.

May 21, 2010

Time Magazine on the Paris Heist

ARCA commentary was featured in a variety of publications and news programs on the recent Paris art theft. These include the following:

ARCA Trustee Dick Ellis was interviewed for the BBC:

ARCA President Noah Charney was interviewed for TIME Magazine:

May 20, 2010

Musée d'art modern de la ville de Paris robbed of five paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani, and Leger estimated at 100 million euros

Rear entrance to musée d'art modern de la ville de Paris
By Catherine Sezgin ARCA MA '09

Correction: The original version assumed that the window's metal accordion shutters were exterior; a visit to the museum in July 2010 showed that the metal shutters were on the inside of the windows. 

For six weeks, the Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris has waited for parts to fix their security system. Last night, five paintings valued at 100 million euros were stolen between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning from the building in one of the most fashionable districts in Paris, just blocks from the Pont de l’Alma where Princess Diana died in 1997 and north of the Eiffel Tour.

Time Magazine reported in "The French Art Heist: Who Would Steal Unsaleable Picassos?":
According to officials, the thief cut through a gate padlock and broke a window to gain access to the museum, all without alerting the security guards or triggering the museum's alarm system. A security camera filmed the intruder making off with five paintings, but the works were only discovered missing during morning rounds just before 7 a.m. on May 20.
The thief accessed the collection though a rear window of the east wing of the Palais de Tokyo.

No further details have been submitted by museum or law enforcement officials.  One likely scenario is that the thief may have driven a scooter along the Avenue du New York that runs parallel to the Seine where the street has signs posted forbidding parking and heavy black gates that separate the road from the wide sidewalk as is common in central Paris.

Underneath the balcony terrace of the rear portion of the ground floor of the museum, a recessed doorway marked #14 may have provided excellent cover for a parked scooter. The doorway is located about eight to ten feet from the road. Although a barrier exists between the street and the sidewalk,  the openings are wide enough for a scooter to exit onto the sidewalk and then re-enter the traffic later.

After hopping up to the balcony, the thief may have taken out – probably from a bag slung over his shoulder – a tool that would have broken the window and then sawed-off the padlock (Time Magazine) that secured the window’s metal accordion shutters inside the full-story windows. Opening these metal shutters would have created a loud and persistent screeching sound as the metal rubbed against the sliders in the window casements.

Once the glass window was exposed, the intruder may have used the handle of the cutter to smash open the middle panel of the window and to climb into the building. The thief may have known that the security alarm would not alert the security guards, the police, or even notify anyone that the building had been broken into. He would also have known that no security guard would have been patrolling nearby the area of the stolen paintings.

A security video camera caught a masked man entering through the window. The thief may have decided it was too difficult to turn off the security camera and just wore a covering to obscure his identity.

Inside, the intruder selected five paintings from the same period that were most likely located in either the same room or close to one another, removed the works from their frames, and left without disturbing the three night security guards.

The thief broke open a gate, smashed the glass in a window, and had time to remove five paintings from their frames? Why did not one of the guards hear or see any of this activity, especially since the security patrol was aware that the alarm was disabled?

The thief may have removed the paintings from their frames so that they would be easier to carry while he drove away on his scooter. All the paintings, without frames, were of small to mid-size and could easily be carried.

A thief with an automobile and a second driver – who would be waiting in the car since there was no place to park legally – would have saved time by taking the paintings with their frames down from the walls and just thrown the paintings into the back seat of the car. 

The empty frames were finally discovered Thursday morning by 6 or 6.30 a.m. by the one of the three security museum guards.

The Brigade de Répression du Banditsme, the elite police unit that fights organized crime and art theft, was in charge of the investigation.

The day of the theft, the police had littered the terrace with yellow evidence markers around the frames leaning against the balcony. The police officers were measuring the frames and various locations on the patio. 

Chritophe Girard, deputy culture secretary in Paris, estimated the value of the stolen paintings at 100 Euros ($123 million). The five missing paintings are reported as:

“Le pigeon aux petits-pois” (The Pidgeon with the Peas), an ochre and brown Cubist oil painting by Pablo Picasso worth an estimated 23 million euros;

“La Pastorale”, an oil painting of nudes on a hillside by Henri Matisse about 15 million euros. Matisse, the leader, of Fauvism, was a rival and friend of Pablo Picasso. Matisse painted this oil on a 46 x 55 centimeter canvas in 1905.

“L’olivier prés de l’Estaque” by Georges Braque;

“La femme a l’eventail” (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani;

and “Nature-more aux chandeliers” (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger.

According to Paris’ mayor Betrand Delanoe, the museum’s security system, including some of the surveillance cameras, has not worked since March 30 and has not been fixed since the security company is waiting for parts from a supplier (, “Picasso, Matisse Paintings Stolen From Paris Museum”, May 20, 2010).

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is located at 11, avenue du Président Wilson in the 16th arrondisement in Paris, just three blocks west of the Alma Metro station and one block east of the Place d’Iéna and another metro station. The museum, closed on Mondays, is free to visitors for the permanent collection. All five paintings belonged to the permanent collection gathered from private collectors’ generous gifts to Paris’ city museum of modern art.

The 1911 Picasso still life was a gift from Dr. Girardin in 1953. It was featured in the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Modern Life in 1937.

The building for the museum was constructed in 1937 and officially opened in 1961 with a collection built from donations from private collectors, especially that from Dr. Girardin. The stolen works were from the oldest part of the collection.

April 8, 2010