April 8, 2012

Statistics on European Art Crime

by Dr. Ludo Block, Senior Investigator at Grant Thornton Forensic & Investigation Services Netherlands

When Poland held the European Union (EU) Presidency in the second half of 2011, Art Crime formed one of their priorities in the field of police cooperation. Among other things, this resulted in Council Conclusions on preventing and combating crime against cultural goods, which were adopted by the EU Council on 13 December 2011.

The Polish Presidency coordinated efforts in the Law Enforcement Working Group of the EU Council to collect statistics on Art Crime and the law enforcement responses on Art Crime in different EU member states. The table below shows some of the data collected, i.e. the number of offences between 2007 and 2010 as recorded in 20 of the 27 EU member states. The exact definitions of 'Art Crime offences'  of course differ between the EU member states, but the data does give some insight in the trends. Additionally, these data have not been previously collected and published together.

Number of Art Crime offences 2007-2010 in 20 European Union Member States:

EU Member State




missing data
Czech Republic
missing data
missing data
missing data
(171 items stolen)
(222 items stolen)
(204 items stolen)
(318 items stolen)
missing data

Update:  HT to Dr. Samuel Hardy of Conflict Antiquities who linked to the PDF report in his comments below.   Full report can be found here.

April 7, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011 Features Synopsis of ARCA's 2011 International Art Crime Conference

The Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime includes a Synopsis of ARCA's Third International Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Umbria, on July 9 and 10, compiled and edited by ARCA blog Editor-in-Chief Catherine Sezgin.

The synopsis features an introduction by ARCA Intern Kirsten Hower and features summaries of the panel speakers by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central, and ARCA Interns Molly Cotter, Hower, and Jessica Graham Nielsen.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin graduated “With Distinction” from the ARCA Master’s Certificate Program in International Art Crime Studies in Amelia, Italy, in 2010. She has an undergraduate degree in Finance from San Diego State University where she was a reporter and a news editor for the daily newspaper. She is currently the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog and writing an art crime mystery set in Amelia.

April 6, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Art Guard's Bill Anderson on Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID)

Bill Anderson, Partner in Art Guard, explains radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and art security in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Radio frequency identification tags are a general term for a method of attaching radio waves to artworks with the intention to alert security personnel to any attempt to tamper or steal an artwork -- mostly paintings, Anderson writes, then continues to point out the strengths and weaknesses of such technology.

Ton Cremers of the Museum Security Network in his regular column for The Journal of Art Crime also wrote about RFID tags in the Fall 2010 issue.

You may read about RFID from Mr. Anderson's viewpoint by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime here.

You may read other articles on the subject on the Washington Post ("Museums' fine art of protecting masterpieces") and in the New York Times ("Keeping Precious Artwork Safe").

April 5, 2012

UNESCO Warns Mali's Cultural Heritage Sites Endangered

Old Towns of Djenné
On April 2, UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova "voiced concern about the risk posed by fighting posed around the World Heritage site of Timbuktu in the north of Mali and recalled the internationally recognized obligation of countries to safeguard their heritage in times of war."

According to BBC News, a recent coup in the West African country has brought fighting to Timbuktu, an important center of Islamic study with 700,000 manuscripts, many from Timbuktu's golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries, in approximately 60 private libraries.

Director-General Bokova identified Timbuktu's architectural wonders as the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahla.  Timbuktu was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1988.

In the press release, UNESCO reiterates that "according to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict and Its Protocols, armies must refrain from using or damaging cultural heritage properties during times of war."

Bokova offered UNESCO's "expertise and experience to help Mali ensure the safeguarding of Timbuktu."
According to recent news reports, rebels have entered the site and shots have been heard there.  Mali has three other world heritage sites beside Timbuktu: The Old Towns of Djenné, the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) and the Tomb of Askia.
Last year in March, Samuel Sidibé, Director of the National Museum of Mali, attended UNESCO's meeting in Paris that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

April 4, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - ,, No comments

Syrian Arab News Agency Reports Claims by Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums that World Heritage Sites in Syria Suffered Attacks by Terrorists

"The oasis where the Temple of Bel stands"/
Istanbul Archaeological Museum

On the same day, CBS News Correspondent Clarrisa War reported that U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with delegates from 70 countries at a meeting in Istanbul to "support the opposition" [or what the Syrian government calls "terrorists"] to the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.  CBS News has reported that the U. S. pledges $12 million to Syria's rebels and reports that the Syrian Regime won't back down.

According to Bloomberg News today, a "United Nations team is headed to Damascas to discuss deploying unarmed peacekeepers after the Syrian president agreed to an April 10 cease-fire."

According to SANA's online report, the world heritage sites in Damascus (the Ancient City of Damascus), Aleppo, Old Bosra, Palmyra, Citadel of Saladin, and Crac des Chevaliers were "targeted by the terrorist groups."

Palmyra also has a sacred site, The Temple of Bel, in honor of the Babylonian god Bel-Marduk.

April 3, 2012

ARCA Awarded Stuttgart Detective Ernst Schöller 2012 Art Policing and Recovery Award

Painting in the style of Max Ernst
ARCA's Board of Trustees has awarded Ernst Schöller this year's Art Policing and Recovery award in in recognition of his dedication and work within the Stuttgart Fine Art and Antiquities Squad.  The award will be presented at the fourth annual International Art Crime Conference on June 23-24 in Amelia, Umbria, Italy.

Previous year's winners include Vernon Rapley (2009), Charlie Hill (2010), and Paolo Giorgio Ferri (2011).

Kriminalhauptkommissar (translated to English as Chief Detective) Ernst Schöller works for the Landeskriminalamt Baden-Württemberg (the State Criminal Investigations Department of Baden-Württemberg).  He is also a scholar specializing in investigating forgery cases.

Last year Schöller helped in the case of the German forgery run by Wolfgang Beltracchi  (interviewed this month by Spiegel) that sold falsely attributed artworks with fake provenance internationally to buyers, including actor Steve Martin.  He worked to retrieve the fake copy of the painting, La Horde, falsely attributed to artist Max Ernst.  The forged "La Horde" was sold to a German collector in 2006 for around 3.5 million pounds.

Kriminalhauptkommissar Schöller described his other investigations:
Wolfgang LÄMMLE faked works by artists of the “south German school” and of the so-called “classic Modern Art” with over 500 paintings and prints. (1988-1990).
KonradKUJAU, the well- known as forger of the “Diaries of Adolf Hitler" in the 1980s as well as forger of paintings and drawings till his death in 2000.
Geert Jan JANSEN, alias Jan van den Bergen was searched by the Netherland authorities for 10 years. He lives as "Jan van den Bergen" in France (Orleans, Poitiers) with his girl friend. (1994-95) 
Leon AMIEL - publisher in New York, a great success of the “New York postal inspection service“ in 1992-93. On one day there were sequestered more than 83.000 faked prints (etchings, lithographs, wood cuts….) from Dali, Miro, Chagall and Picasso. 
Alexej JAWLENSKY - Exhibition at the “Folkwang Museum“ in Essen in the year 2000, 108 of 150 exhibited works were faked, totally there were nearly 600 fakes, drawings and watercolors, each described in the cataloque raisonnee (Volume 5, Beck, Munich). They were retired  2005. 
Alberto GIACOMETTI - Investigations of the LKA Stuttgart,  with the seizure of more than 1200 sculptures (bronzes and plasters) of A. Giacometti in a worth of 250-300 millions of Euros. The actors were convicted in 2011 and in 2012 received up to 9 years from District Court of Stuttgart.
Schöller wrote in an acceptance email that he is looking forward to attending ARCA's International Crime Conference in Amelia this June. 

April 2, 2012

Spain reports recovery of two first-century Roman bronzes looted from archaeological site

The Roman bronzes recovered in Spain were about 5 feet tall.
(Photo via The Archaeology News Network)
Courtesy of Museum Security Network (MSN): An English-language news website in Spain, The Olive Pressreported that a pair of looted first century Roman bronze statues were 'rescued' in southern Spain before they could be illegally sold for half of their 6 million Euro value.

The bronze statues found in Jaen, a small town near Córdoba in Andalusia, reported The Olive Press "were taken from the ancient Roman site Sacilis Marcialis and are believed to form part of the Castor and Polix sculpture in Córdoba:
The statues, 1.50m and 1.30m in size, depict two naked males, with each piece weighing about 30 kilos and in a good state of conservation, although one has lost part of his chest and the other his genitals.
The Olive Press reports that according to the police commissionar Daniel Salgado, the figures were to be sold by two brothers at an finca (estate) in Pedro Abad in Cordoba "to an Italian buyer via an intermediary".  Interpol is now hunting for the buyer, according to the article.

One of the brothers has also been arrested and two other people charged with a crime against heritage and the attempted smuggling of historic property.  The statues will now be taken to the Cordoba Museum to be restored.

April 1, 2012

Palmyra and other Syrian Cultural Heritage at Risk During Armed Conflict; UNESCO asks Syrian authorities to respect international cultural property protection conventions they have signed since 1954

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Since early March, archaeologists, government officials and Syrian expatriates have been alarmed at the threat to cultural property sites in Syria after more than a year of civil conflict.  UNESCO has issued a request to the Syrian authorities to protect their cultural heritage in accordance with the international cultural property protection conventions they have signed since 1954.

Global Heritage Fund blogged on March 5, 2012 that the Syrian army was attacking Palmyra's Roman Ruins.  According to the report, the Syrian army has set itself up in a hilltop citadel and firing into the ancient ruins. 

Palmyra, located about 200 kilometers northeast of Damascus, an ancient Roman trading center accommodating caravans between Persia and the Mediterranean countries flourished in the 1st through the 3rd centuries.  It was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.  It is a national monument and since 1980 included on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

According to the Global Heritage Network, "Protestors have made use of this UNESCO World Heritage Site during recent protests on December 30th of 2011.

On March 24, Popular Archaeology wrote in "Leaked Government Memo Warns of Organized Looting in Syria" that government is concerned that the current civil conflict in Syria will increase damage and theft from archaeological sites.  Syria has 25 antiquities museums throughout the country near the original excavation sites.

Kate Deimling for ARTINFO France reported March 27th that Syrian activists had appealed to UNESCO for financial aid to protect the country's ancient sites. One archaeologist reported that looting "takes place in the form of direct attacks on specific sites or clandestine searches of in storehouses holding historic pieces."

"The Syrian Expatriates Organization (SEO) is disturbed by the Assad regime's deliberate destruction and failure to preserve Syria's great archaeological sites and ancient antiquities," according to a press release dated March 28.  SEO asked that UNESCO issue a statement "condemning the Syrian government's actions regarding the potential loss of cultural property and for help in assessing the damage "as soon as the situation allows".

On March 30, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, appealed for protection of Syria's cultural heritage:
Earlier this year, UNESCO alerted the Syrian authorities, through their representative at UNESCO, about their responsibility to ensure the protection of cultural heritage.  'This situation is becoming more crucial by the hour,' stated the Director-General. 'I urge the Syrian authorities to respect the international conventions they have signed, in particular the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), and the 1972 World Heritage Convention. 
In the framework of the 1970 Convention, the Director-General has already contacted the World Customs Organization, INTERPOL, and the specialized heritage police of France and Italy to alert them to objects from Syria that could appear on the international antiquities market.  She has also called for the mobilization of all UNESCO's partners to ensure the safeguarding of this heritage.
The photos (by Catherine Sezgin) published here are second century funeral monuments from Palmyra on permanent display in January at Istanbul's Archaeological Museum.