March 21, 2012

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 2012: Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kieberg on Art Theft

"Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft" is an article by Noah Charney, Paul Denton and John Kleberg recently released in the March 2012 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
When someone thinks of art crime, a Hollywood image is conjured, one of black-clad cat burglars and thieves in top hats and white gloves. But, the truth behind art crime, one misunderstood by the general public and professionals alike, is far more sinister and intriguing. Art crime has its share of cinematic thefts and larger-than-life characters, but it also is the realm of international organized crime syndicates, the involvement of which results in art crime funding all manner of other serious offenses, including those pertaining to the drug trade and terrorism. Art crime has shifted from a relatively innocuous, ideological crime into a major international plague. 
Over the last 50 years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has ranked art crime behind only drugs and arms in terms of highest-grossing criminal trades.1 There are hundreds of thousands of art crimes reported per year, but, despite this fact, the general public only hears about the handful of big-name museum heists that make international headlines. In Italy alone there are 20,000 to 30,000 thefts reported annually, and many more go unreported.2 In fact, even though reported art crime ranks third in the list of criminal trades, many more such incidents go unreported worldwide, rather than coming to the attention of authorities, making its true scale much broader and more difficult to estimate.
You may read the remainder of the article online here which includes a discussion of art police squads around the world (Scotland Yard Art and Antiquities Unit, Italy's Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and the Dutch Art Crime Team).

March 20, 2012

Art Fraudster John Drewe Jailed for 8 Years Following Real Estate Fraud Trial in Norwich

Christine Cunningham reported for the Evening News on March 12 that John Drewe, 64, convicted in 1999 of art fraud, was jailed for eight years after his conviction for fraud by the Norwich Crown Court for stealing 240,000 sterling pounds from a retired music teacher in an attempt to steal her home and life savings.  You can read the article here.

Ms. Cunningham writes that the court heard that Drewe had been convicted more than a dozen years ago of "conspiracy to defraud, forgery and theft, involving a major art fraud and was jailed for six years."

Andrew Levy for the Daily Mail reports that Drewe used the stolen money to purchase luxury cars and "to pay off his son's debts":

Drewe had been jailed in 1999 for masterminding one of the biggest art frauds of the century. He made £1.8million by commissioning paintings and passing them off as rediscovered works by major artists.
Using the forgeries made by John Myatt, Drewe sold 200 fake original artworks. John Myatt, who's own website claims Myatt "was involved in the biggest art con in the UK", now sells "legitimate fakes" and claims his life will be the subject of movies and television shows.

Noah Charney wrote about John Drewe's activities in the Fall 2010 Journal of Art Crime in his column Lessons from the History of Art Crime "The Art World Wants to be Deceived: Issues in Authentication and Inauthentication":
John Myatt and John Drewe created false documents to act as provenance for the forged paintings they created, and then inserted them into real archives, so that diligent researchers would "discover" them and link them to the forged paintings.

At ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia last summer (2011), Peter Watson, author of numerous books including The Medici Conspiracy and Sotheby's the Inside Story, in a discussion titled "Some Unpublished and Unpalatable Details about Recent Art Crimes", said that John Drewe had once been suspected of burning down a house that killed a Hungarian lodger.

If John Drewe serves his full jail sentence, he will be able to pursue other opportunities at the age of 72.

March 19, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012 - No comments

Greece, ARCA and the Art Market

Vanja Stojanovic, a terrific student at the University of Guelph put together this short interview after the ARTHattack! conference where I talk a bit about ARCA, the current situation in Greece and the art market:

March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations Provided Distraction for the Robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990

Rembrandt's The Storm on the
 Sea of Galilee
is his only seascape.
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCABlog Editor

The Boston Globe highlighted the 15th anniversary.  PBS News hour noted the 20th anniversary (along with numerous other media outlets). Anthony Amore, the security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, has his contact information plastered on the museum's website to collect the lastest leads on the masterpieces stolen from Boston on St. Patrick's Day weekend in 1990.  Despite all these efforts and a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of stolen paintings by such recognizable artists as Rembrant and Vermeer, empty frames continue to save the spaces on the walls from where these masterpieces were hung by their benefactor.

In 2009, Ulrich Boster published a book, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Art Theft and a year later the Federal Bureau of Investigation used billboards to get the public to help solve the mystery of the largest art theft in American history.  The thieves removed works of art highlighted by Vermeer's The Concert; Rembrandt's A Lady and Gentleman in Black; Rembrant's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee; Rembrandt's Self-Portrait; and Govaert Flinck's Landscape with Obelisk, and Manet's Chez Tortoni. You may view the images of the missing art on the website of Stolen the Film, Rebecca Dreyfus' documentary highlighting art detective Harold Smith's efforts and obsession to find the paintings.

Just after midnight, St. Patrick's Day celebrations in America's most Irish of cities provided cover for two unarmed men to enter the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum dressed as police officers and to leave 90 minutes later with 13 stolen items worth more than $300 million.  Unconditional immunity offered to anyone who helps locate or recover these paintings.

March 17, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Q&A with Sandy Nairne, author of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners"

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor Noah Charney reviews Sandy Nairne's book, Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion 2011):
Sandy Nairne is a busy man. He is director of London’s National Portrait Gallery, lectures widely on art history and his latest area of interest, art theft, and has a new book out, Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion, 2011). And the subject of his book will show you just how busy he was—for he is largely responsible for the recovery of two J.M.W. Turner paintings from the Tate collection that were stolen while on loan at an exhibition in Frankfurt. 
Sometime before 10pm on 28 July 1994, thieves broke into the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and grabbed two Turner paintings (Shade and Darkness and Light and Color) as well as a Caspar David Friedrich painting (Nebelschwaden) as they hung on display. The thieves waited for the security staff to leave the gallery, closing it for the night. They bound and gagged the night watchman, but he managed to struggle free and alert the police around 10:45pm. 
It is not clear if the primary motivation was ransom or whether that was secondary after a failed attempt to find a buyer, but in October 1999, five years after the theft, a lawyer was contacted to act as a go-between in an attempt to negotiate the return of the pictures. Links to the Balkan Mafia were strongly suggested. Two members of the Metropolitan police force were involved in the ultimate recovery of the paintings, nicknamed “Operation Cobalt.” Four individuals were arrested one year after the theft, but it took many years to recover the paintings.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome. He is the editor of ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009). His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (ARCA Publications 2011).

You may read the entire review by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

March 16, 2012

CNBC's "American Greed" on "Fine Art: Portrait of Fraud -- the story of Kristine Eubanks, Jimmy Mobley and "Fine Art Treasures Gallery" and Certificates of Authentication

By Angela Kumar, ARCA Class of 2011

CNBC’s American Greed aired Fine Art: Portrait of Fraud at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night.   This episode told the story of Los Angeles entrepreneur Kristine Eubanks, owner of Finer Image Editions, who in 1995 used the then-new technology, the glicée printer, to reproduce artworks and sell them to Princess Cruise Lines. Eubanks later launched “Fine Art Treasures Gallery”, a nationally televised auction of “rare” and “authentic” artworks advertised as signed by artists such as Rembrandt, Picasso, Chagall and Dali, all offered at a fraction of their market value. Eubanks along with her husband and auctioneer, Jimmy Mobley, duped thousands of viewers and scored millions on fake artworks.

Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Detail Detective Don Hrycyk and the FBI’s Art Crime Team Special Agent Christopher Calarco are interviewed.

A preview of the program, as well as “extras” including videos of Detective Hrycyk speaking about forged Certificates of Authenticity and Special Agent Calarco explaining how the Bureau’s Art Crime Team was created, can be found here.

Additional episodes related to art crime can be found on CNBC’s website and include the following:

Season 1
Two Maxfield Parrish paintings -- worth $4 million -- vanish into the night!
A museum quality art collection worth more than $4 million dollars is stolen!

Season 2
A dark night. A clever plan. $300 million in art is stolen from a Boston museum. Paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Manuet disappear into the night!
Enter the mysterious world of art fraud. An elaborate sting operation exposes Dr. Vilas Likhite....a doctor stripped of his medical license who begins a new career as a con man selling fake art treasures!
He's an art collector, the former chairman of Sotheby's and a convicted felon. Alfred Taubman takes us inside the price-fixing scandal at Christie's and Sotheby's.

March 15, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Noah Charney on The Art We Must Protect: Top Ten Must-See Artworks in Florence

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney features 10 artworks to protect in Florence: Michelangelo's David; Verrochio's David; Donatello's Mary Magdalene; Pontorno's Capponi Altarpiece; Bronzino's Chapel of Eleonora di Toledo; Giambologna's The Appenine; Michelangelo's Laurentian Library Steps; Masaccio's Holy Trinity; Cellini's Perseus; and Perugino's Pazzi Chapel Altarpiece.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome. He is the editor of ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009). His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (ARCA Publications 2011).

March 14, 2012

Joshua Knelman Launching "Hot Art" at The Flag Art Foundation in New York on March 22

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

"Interpol and UNESCO listed art theft as the fourth-largest black market in the world (after drugs, money-laundering, and weapons).  But what did that mean? ... one point was clear: don't look at the Hollywood versions of art theft -- the Myth.  This is a bigger game, with more players, and the legitimate business of art is directly implicated.  A lot of the crimes are hidden in the open.  Stealing art is just the beginning.  Then the art is laundered up into the legitimate market, into private collections, into the world's most renowned museums." -- excerpt from Joshua Knelman's Hot Art

Toronto journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detective Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books, 2012), will launch the American Trade Paper version of his  book from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 22 at The Flag Art Foundation in New York.

Knelman’s four year investigation of stolen art began with a local story about a burglary at a gallery in Toronto and ended with an international perspective. His nonfiction book begins in Hollywood in 2008 with the Art Theft Detail of the Los Angeles Police Department in a ride along with Detectives Don Hrycyk and Stephanie Lazarus who are investigating the robbery of an antiques store on La Cienega Boulevard.  Knelman immediately contrasts the meticulous and steady work of the police (he describes Hrycyk working art theft cases "with the patience of a scientist") with the images of glamorous heist movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair (1999).

In the first two chapters ("Hollywood" and "Law and Disorder") he links organized crime with art theft: the Los Angeles District Attorney's office had identified an Armenian gang for the antique-store job on La Cienega. In the second chapter, Knelman describes his coverage for The Walrus, a Canadian magazine, on a burglary at a small art gallery in 2003 and how the thief threatened him, tried to hand over stolen property to him, and then tries to educate him "about how art theft worked as an industry" as a way of distracting Knelman for the thief's own crimes:
He discussed how poor the security systems were at most of the major cultural institutions and of course at mid-sized and smaller galleries.  That made his job easier.  So there was that angle -- art galleries and museums weren't adequately protecting themselves against pros like him. 
Then he veered in another direction. 
"Okay, this is how it works," he said.  "It's like a big shell game.  All the antique and art dealers, they just pass it around from one to another."  He moved his fingers around the table in circles and then looked up.  "Do you understand?" He looked very intense, as if he had just handed me a top-secret piece of information, but I had no idea what he meant.  What did art dealers have to do with stealing art?  But our meeting was over.
Knelman published an article in The Walrus in 2005, "Artful Crimes", about international art theft.

In his book, Hot Art, Knelman meets cultural property attorney Bonnie Czegledi (author of Crimes Against Art: International Art and Cultural Heritage Law (Carswell, 2010) who introduces him to the roles of Interpol; the International Council of Museums; the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) and the Art Loss Register.  Knelman traveled with Czegledi to an International Council of Museums conference in Cairo, at his own expense, getting shaken down by a conference organizer for additional hotel fees above and beyond what he had agreed to pay the hotel manager.  Knelman meets Canadian police officer Alain Lacoursière and speaker Rick St. Hilaire, then a county prosecutor in New Hampshire who lectured on the impact of art theft in the United States and "knew a lot about the impact of art theft on Egypt." He visits the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with St. Hilaire and provides a great history of the collection and Napoleon's visit in the 19th century.

Knelman provides a personal account, both thrilling and dangerous, and admirable.  The book contains primary information for research into the black market of art, including a few chapters with an art thief, Paul Hendry, in England.

The book also provides a detailed profile of Don Hrycyk at the LAPD and the history of the Art Theft Detail, beginning with the work of Detective Bill Martin and includes information about Hryck's investigation of a residential art robbery in Encino in 2008; other cases ("his work was the most detailed example I found of a North American city interacting with the global black market"); a tour of the evidence warehouse which included fake art that had been the subject of a string operation into a Dr. Vilas Likhite; and an anecdote of an attempted theft at an unnamed major museum under renovation in Los Angeles.  In 2008, Knelman also interviewed artist June Wayne, founder of Tamarind Lithography Workshop (now the Tamarind Institute), who had a tapestry stolen in 1975; Leslie Sacks, owner of Leslie Sacks Fine Art in Brentwood, who discusses security measures and two burglaries; and Bob Combs, director of security at The Getty Center.

Both Hrycyk and Czegledi reference art historian Laurie Adams' book, Art Cop, about New York Police Detective Robert Volpe, the first detective in North America to investigate art theft full-time (1971 to 1983) after his role as a undercover narcotics cop in the late 1960s in a famous case memorialized in the film The French Connection about a ring of heroin dealers importing the drug from France.

Knelman also interviewed Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London when a Rembrandt was stolen in 1981; Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad; and Robert K. Wittman, the first FBI agent to investigate art theft full-time, when Wittman was six months away from retirement; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner from the Art Crime Team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alain Lacoursière, Montreal police officer investigating art crimes in Quebec, including the unsolved 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The book features the anonymous blogger Art Hostage (Paul Hendry) that turns out to be Knelman's source on art theft; Jonathan Sazonoff and his website The World's Most Wanted Art; and Ton Cremers and The Museum Security Network (MSN).

Joshua Knelman will also be speaking at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

March 13, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Diane Joy Charney reviews Terence M. Russell's "The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon's Travels with Napoleon's Army" and Denon's erotic novel "No Tomorrow"

In the Fall 2011 Issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Diane Joy Charney reviews Terence M. Russell's The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon's Travels with Napoleon's Army (Sutton Publishing Limited, 2005) and Viviant Denon's No Tomorrow (Translated from the French Point de Lendemain by Lydia Davis with an introduction by Peter Brooks, New York Review Books, 2009):
Does the name “Denon” ring a bell? Perhaps it would if you are the sort of Louvre visitor who has gazed up at the inscription “Pavillon Denon” on the Louvre’s façade, or who notices, en route to the “Mona Lisa,” to “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” and to Michelangelo’s Slave sculptures, that you are walking in the museum’s “Denon Wing”. Or maybe you are a connaisseur of erotic literature who knows about the new dual-language edition of “No Tomorrow,” a work attributed to Denon that has recently garnered attention in literary circles. Just who could this chameleon-like Denon fellow be? 
Known as “Napoleon’s Eye,” as well as a lover of the Empress Josephine and eventual director of the Louvre, Denon was a man of many talents. Writer, artist, collector, adventurer, archeologist, tastemaker, and charming courtier, he could metamorphose into whatever role was required of him. 
Readers of Terence Russell’s scholarly, authoritative text will get to know the colorful Denon as an intrepid artist able to sketch rapidly under fire who was selected to accompany the French troops on their Egyptian campaign. In addition to his drawing skills, however, Denon paints with his words keen observations about the land and culture he encounters. Denon’s illustrated record of what he saw in Egypt is here made available to the non-speaker of French, through Russell’s well-chosen quotes and drawings. Russell’s paraphrasing and commentary, although sometimes more dry than Denon’s own words, add a necessary framework to the story. 
It is thanks to Denon that so many Egyptian artifacts made it safely to Paris, where as a result of his efforts, the wonders of Ancient Egypt began to be known and appreciated. Without Denon, today’s Louvre would not be the treasure house that it is. To those interested in art crime, however, there is another facet to Denon’s far-reaching influence and collecting style. 
As an immensely likeable master courtier, Denon was able to put a positive spin on what amounted to Napoleon’s looting of the art of countries where he waged war. Under Bonaparte, the appropriation of art became standard policy. In praising Napoleon for his heroic efforts to “conserve” great art in the face of “the torment of war,” Denon lauds a policy that would later be copied by Hitler, whose wholesale confiscation of art was touted as an effort to “protect” it. 
Now how does the reader put together the Denon who drew for sixteen hours straight through eyelids bleeding from the windblown sand, with the author of the 30-page erotic classic, “No Tomorrow,” which according to one reader, should be next to “titillating” in the dictionary? Although Denon was known to have talent for pornographic art, it may be quite a leap from that to authoring what Good Reads calls “one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century literature, a book to set beside Laclos’ ‘Les Liasons Dangereuses.’”
Diane Joy Charney teaches French Literature at Yale University, where she is also Tutor-in-Writing and the Mellon Forum Fellow of Timothy Dwight College.

You may read the entire review by purchasing a subscription to The Journal of Art Crime.

March 12, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Q&A with Stuart George, expert on fine wines

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney interviewed Stuart George, a UK-based writer, art historian, and expert on fine wines -- one of his recent articles was an analysis of what wines appear in Vermeer paintings.  The Journal of Art Crime interviewed him about the art of wine, and the crimes committed in the wine world.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome. He is the editor of ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009). His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (ARCA Publications 2011).