August 15, 2012

Q&A with Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney features "Q&A with Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Kila and Habsburg are co-winners of the 2012 ARCA Award for Art Protection and Security. For more information about them, please see the article on ARCA Award winners in this issue.  Joris Kila answered questions on behalf of both parties.

Joris Kila is chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group. He is a researcher at the Institute of Culture and History of the University of Amsterdam, and a board member for civil-military relations with the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict (WATCH), based in Rome. Additionally, he is a former community fellow of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.  He is a member of the US Commands Cultural Historical Action Group and Chair of the International Cultural Resources Working Group. Until recently he served as network manager and acting chairman of the cultural affairs dept. at the Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Group North in the Netherlands. In that capacity he undertook several cultural rescue missions in Iraq and FYROM (Macedonia).
Noah Charney: Tell me about the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Blue Shield Austria. How did these initiatives begin and what are some of their current projects?
Joris Kila: The current Austrian situation concerning the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention (1954 HC) for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, especially within the Austrian Armed Forces (AAF), is not the product of well-organized activity; it is rather the result of a number of individuals’ efforts while working in a variety of positions at the right time. A long time passed between Austria’s 1964 ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention, and its implementation and dissemination within the AAF. The first Austrian “military mission” in which cultural property protection (CPP) played a role, occurred in 1968 in the context of the “Prague Spring.” The Austrian government and military leaders expected Soviet troops to cross Austrian territory on their way to Prague, violating the country’s sovereignty and neutrality. Knowing that the Soviet troops could not be stopped by military force, Austria prepared for an invasion. By initiative of the Federal Bureau for Monuments and Sites (FBMS) and under the supervision of its provincial departments, hundreds of Blue Shields, the emblem of the 1954 HC, were distributed in districts of eastern and northern Austria and, through the active participation of gendarmerie and army officers, these were attached to historical or cultural monuments along the anticipated Soviet route through Austria. It was greatly feared that Soviet troops would not respect Austria’s rich cultural heritage, which had already suffered badly during World War II. 
The idea was that this time the enemy would at least be made aware of the fact that with every destructive step they took, they were likely to be violating international law. This form of resistance without force at the climax of the Cold War initiated the birth of some sort of “Blue Shield Movement” in Austria, which finally resulted in the foundation of the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property in 1980. This civil organization is still characterized by having many regular and militia army officers among its members who are entrusted with most of the positions on its steering board. The Society also played an initial and decisive role in setting up the Austrian National Committee of the Blue Shield in 2008. Therefore, both organizations – forming an interface between civil and military expertise as well as providing an unrivaled pool of experts within Austria – consequently have an interest and high competence in (today's) military CPP. 
You may read the rest of this interview in The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through ARCA's website.

August 14, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - No comments

Theft of Rhino head from Haslemere Educational Museum: One Year Later, A Potential Resolution

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA's European Correspondent

One year ago, I wrote about a rash of rhino horn thefts that had museums jumping to attention and, in some cases, going into overdrive to protect what horns were in their collections. There was a particular case that I had highlighted concerning the theft of a rhino head on display at the Haslemere Educational Museum in Southwest Surrey.  Now, I am very glad to report, there is a possibility of some closure for this particular case.

After the theft, which occurred in May 2011, BBC Crimewatch put out an appeal for any information connected to this particular theft. Due to information given to the authorities, two men, Tony Moore and Jamie Channon, have been charged with conspiracy to burgle in conjunction with the Haslemere theft. Both men were caught earlier in the year and charged with repeated counts of burglary, including this theft, but due to failures to appear in court, their sentencing has been pushed back until this September. Unfortunately, the rhino head has not been recovered.

August 12, 2012

Back to the Ancients: A Class Trip to Oplontis and Pompeii

 The villa at Oplontis
By Kirsten Hower,
 ARCA European Correspondent

 Last Sunday, the ARCA class of 2012 ventured south of Rome to explore two ancient Roman archaeological sites that are currently preserved and used as tourist attractions: Oplontis and Pompeii. Of the two, Pompeii is the more internationally recognized by a broader audience, whereas Oplontis is one of the best kept secrets of Torre Annunziata. Both make for practical and interesting trips for the ARCA students: both are archaeological sites that the Italian state is preserving while also keeping them open to the public for educational purposes. This was a chance for the students to see, in practice, the different circumstances of sites that are viable both scholastically and economically.

Pompeii, 1900, Brooklyn Museum Archives
We were incredibly lucky to have an amazing guide for both sites, Dr. Crispin Corrado who is the founding instructor of the Brown University program in Rome, who gave a historical background of anything and everything pertinent to both sites: a brief history of Rome and these two sites, background for each site, explanations of the architectural structures, etc. A veritable font of information, Crispin was very animated and informative, bringing the sites to life while leading the students around under the hot summer sun.

Though Pompeii is always a popular spot for students, Oplontis has, perhaps, deeper connections with what the students study during the semester. Not only is the villa important for examining practiced methodology of preserving a ‘functional’ cultural site, but it also has ties with a now famous controversy of the Medici dossier. One of the rooms at Oplontis, which features some of best preserved Roman walls paintings still in situ, had a fresco detached from the walls in the 1970s which then entered the illegal art market, where it found a place on the Medici dossier. In 2008, the same fresco was recovered by police at a private residence in Paris.

First century Roman wall paintings
 were removed from a room
much like this one at Oplontis
The trip to Oplontis and Pompeii was a great success, giving the students a day to wander through archaeological sites and to gain an on-site perspective of the pros and cons of preserving a site of historical importance for the interest of both scholars and the public. Hopefully this site visit will continue to be a success in future years of the ARCA summer certificate program.

August 10, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012 - No comments

Newly created list-serv for ARCA alum

Amelia, Umbria
by Kirsten Hower, Academic Program Assistant

We at ARCA are pleased to announce the launch of our newly created list-serv. This group will serve as an outlet of information for current ARCA students and alumni, as well as anyone interested in keeping up with ARCA. It has been created at a rather busy part of the year for us here at ARCA—as the summer certificate comes to a close and we sadly say goodbye to Amelia until next year—but our hope is that this list will serve to communicate interesting projects that we are undertaking, potential conferences and job announcements in the field, as well as a way for current students and alumni to keep in touch with ARCA and each other.

If you are interested in joining our list-serv, please follow this link: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/saveart.

August 8, 2012

Noah Charney's Q&A with Ernst Schöller in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

The Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime, Noah Charney, interviewed Ernst Schöller, the winner of the 2012 ARCA Award for Art Policing and Investigation.  Schöller is a long-standing member of the Stuttgart Fine Art and ANtiquities Squad and the German Art Unit of the police. Schöller is also a scholar, teaching about the investigation of art forgery. In addition to describing his background and how he decided to join the police force, Schöller discusses his work. You may read this article by subscribing through ARCA's website.

August 6, 2012

Classics Scholar Llewelyn Morgan and the “Buddhas of Bamiyan”: For more than 1,200 years a Buddhist icon reigned over an Islamic Trading Post

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

One of our ARCA subscribers alerted me to a book published this year by Profile Books (UK) and Harvard which tells of the long history of the gigantic Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban’s anti-artillery weapons in Afghanistan in 2001. My only knowledge of these objects is the furor created on international news of the videotape that showed the destruction of these cliff icons. YouTube has a video, “Afghanistan Taliban Muslims destroying Bamiyan Buddha Statues”, which supposedly interweaves the religious justification for this act of iconoclasm. But the destruction of the statues is not the point of Llewelyn Morgan’s book, which focuses on ‘their remarkably long lives’ (See "The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan - review" by Samantha Subramanian in The Guardian, May 18, 2012).

Via Skype and email, Llewelyn Morgan, a lecturer in Classics at Oxford University, discussed his book, which tells of the survival of these symbols of Buddhism alongside one of the major trading routes of Afghanistan, a limb of the famous “Silk Road”, for more than 12 centuries. His book is based on
the recorded impressions of travelers such as Xuanzang, journeying through Bamiyan en route elsewhere…. Writings of surveyors, soldiers and antiquarians of the Raj … texts by Muslim travelers allow Morgan to parse the surprising malleability, over the ages, of Muslim attitudes towards this Buddhist iconography. [The Guardian, Subramanian]
Buddhism arrived in the Bamiyan valley in the 1st or 2nd century AD.

A German visitor in the 1950s photographed
 another tourist's car at the foot of the Buddha.
Photo Courtesy of Edmund Mlzl.
ARCA blog: How long did it take you to write this book? And what drew you to this subject?
Dr. Morgan: It took me from starting research to submitting final proofs about 14 months. I had an interest in Afghanistan from a couple of sources. Like a lot of Classicists I was fascinated by the legacy of Alexander the Great and the Greek culture that persisted in Central Asia for centuries after him. Years ago, I was staying at my grandmother’s house (after her death), and was sifting through the antiques and knick-knacks she obsessively collected. I found a samovar and discovered that it was from Kandahar in 1881 during the Second Afghan War. Later I made friends with someone who was in charge of clearing mines in Afghanistan and he persuaded me to celebrate my 40th birthday by visiting the country.
ARCA Blog: What are your personal feelings after studying the history of these statues?
Dr. Morgan: It remains a terrible tragedy that they were destroyed. What I hadn’t realized before doing the research is what an immensely rich history that they had and what very significant monuments they had been for a variety of cultures. They were a wonder for three separate cultures, the Buddhists that created them, the Islamic peoples who followed, and then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, for the Western world. The 19th Century, when British and European travelers and spies rediscovered the statues, is a particularly fascinating period of history. The best way to compensate for an artistic crime is to fill in the proper meaning of these monuments.
ARCA Blog: Is this like the story of a murder victim?
Dr. Morgan: Indeed. Parallel to a murder victim. Rather like the Buddhas, most victims are anonymous until they are murdered. These Buddhas were very celebrated in the western world in the 1830s/1840s because so many people were writing about them. But their celebrity waxed and waned. In 2001 nobody had heard about them, their name recognition was restricted. Yet when I started talking about these statues, many people in their 50s and 60s who had visited as hippie travelers in Afghanistan brought me their photographs. The Buddhas of Bamiyan are now famous because they have been destroyed, and because of the circumstances in which they were destroyed, because their destruction was followed by the more serious events of 9/11. 
Key to the story of the Buddhas is that there were on this major route between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, not the only route through the mountains of the Hindu Kush, but one favoured for its comparative easiness. Traders, missionaries and armies moved through there. For the British in 19th century, and in this they followed armies going back centuries, Bamiyan was a critical strategic military location, occupied by them in 1839/40 (a bulwark against the threat they believed was posed by the Russians). 
The strategic location of Bamiyan and its position on the trade routes, all help to explain what made it a thriving Buddhist centre in the first place. Buddhism is a religion with very strong commercial instincts. Buddhist monasteries were banks and commercial operations as well as straightforwardly religious institutions. The gigantic Buddhas advertised the piety of this place to visitors, but also blazoned its wealth and power. The Buddhists of Bamiyan would have seen no contradiction in that, I don’t think. Buddhists and Muslims coexisted for a period at Bamiyan, we believe. But by 900 AD, there are no longer any Buddhists around. For 1100 years it has been a strictly Islamic community that surrounds it. But the statues had become an integral part of those Muslims’ home environment. The Muslims of Bamiyan are predominately Shiite, and the statues were incorporated into the Shiite mythology of the area, for example believed to be images of the last pagan king of Bamiyan and his wife, converted to Islam by Hazrat-I Ali, a kind of Islamic St George.

August 5, 2012

Stonehill Art Crime Symposium Visits Boston Museum of Fine Arts

by Virginia Curry, Stonehill Art Crime Symposium

Our class was warmly welcomed to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Professor Candice Smith-Corby from Stonehill College arranged for a private lecture presented by Victoria Reed, the Monica S. Sadler Assistant Curator for Provenance and the first Curator of Provenance in the United States. Her job is to research works with questionable histories both in the collection and on the MFA’s "shopping list". As a result, Reed’s other job is to break curators’ hearts.

The MFA, which like many museums has had to return works in recent years, took special care in creating Reed’s post in 2010. She is the first and only endowed curator of provenance at an American museum.

Ms. Reed elaborated on the practices of past acquisition management at the MFA and the steps that it now takes to ensure that the Museum exercises due diligence in acquisitions and researches any questionable provenance of exhibits already accessioned into the MFA collection, which opened its doors to the public in 1876. The class learned that the MFA, due to Ms. Reed's research, has already returned numerous accessions in the collection when she proved that the title to each of the exhibits lie elsewhere.

Rhona Macbeth the Director of MFA Painting Conservation directed our class on a private laboratory tour of her on-going conservation of the painting "Allegory of Justice" dated 1636, by Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1590–1656) on loan from the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The scale of this painting is such that the MFA uses a towering painting tube to transport the huge canvas within the Museum. 

"Allegory of Justice", 1636, Gerrit van Honthorst
This photograph of some of the members of our class with Ms. Macbeth gives a sense of the scale of the canvas, which was pieced together by the artist to present a larger than life portrait of Elisabeth, Electress Palatine and (briefly) queen of Bohemia (August 19, 1596 – February 13, 1662). She was born Lady Elizabeth Stuart, the eldest daughter to King James VI of Scotland and his Queen consort Anne of Denmark. She was thus sister to Charles I of England. With the demise of the Stuart dynasty in 1714, her direct descendants, the Hanoverian rulers, succeeded to the British throne.  In 1613, she married Frederick V, then Elector of the Palatinate, and took up her place in the court at Heidelberg. In 1619, Frederick was offered and accepted the crown of Bohemia, but his rule was brief, and Elizabeth became known as the "Winter Queen". She was also sometimes called "Queen of Hearts" because of her popularity.  Driven into exile, the couple took up residence in The Hague, and Frederick and their son drowned in 1632. Elizabeth remained in Holland even after her son, Charles I Louis, regained his father's electorship in 1648. Following the Restoration of the British monarchy, she traveled to London to visit her nephew, King Charles II, and died while there. Her daughter (illustrated in the paining as a winged figure flying above the scene, was known later as Sophia of Hanover. Her grandson became George I of the United Kingdom, thus making all her direct descendants heir to the British throne.  Honthorst depicts Elizabeth crushing Neptune, who is shown with his trident, under the bladed wheels of her carriage as her husband and son beckon from death to she and their surviving children.
Detail from "Allegory of Justice"

Our class also spoke with conservators who were preparing the severed head from the 2nd century A.D. cult statue of Juno for casting, and the conservation of the Etruscan couple sarcophagus of Larth Tetnies and Tanchvil Tarnai (approximately dated 3rd to 4th century B.C.E0.

After lunch at the MFA, we proceeded to Vose Gallery in Boston where we were met by Beth Vose, the director of the oldest family owned gallery in the United States. Ms. Vose gave our class a presentation concerning the history of collecting of the Vose Gallery, which first opened as an artist supply shop, and has been actively operated by descendents for six generations. Ms. Vose explained the role of the private gallery as collection consultants and the due diligence as they perform their acquisition and conservation of American paintings and sculpture from the northeast.

August 3, 2012

Friday, August 03, 2012 - No comments

Stonehill's Art Crime Symposium Tours Industrial History Center featuring Shovels

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog editor

This week we're providing a service to the art crime symposium at Stonehill by posting the emails Virginia Curry sends me each day. Ms. Curry and Dick Ellis have been big supporters of ARCA over the years. This is what happened yesterday as reported by Ms. Curry:
The World of Art and Fine Art of Crime class toured the Stonehill College Industrial History Center with curator Nicole Casper. Some of the class is pictured in front of the silver plated commemorative shovels. 
Donated to Stonehill College by real estate developer, Arnold Tofias, in 1973, The Arnold B. Tofias Industrial Archives are the records, artifacts and papers of 19th and 20th century Ames enterprises, in particular the O. Ames Company, manufacturers of shovels. In addition to 755 shovels, the collection includes over 1,500 linear ft. of manuscript material.  
The Ames True Temper Collection was acquired by Stonehill College from 2002 to 2006 from the current Ames Company's facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia, since closed. The collection includes some materials from the 19th century but is dominated by 20th century items. Everything for inventories and catalogs to anti-submarine depth charges ("hedgehogs") made during WWII. The collection also contains promotional films and videos. See the finding aid for a more detailed itemization of items in the collection.

August 2, 2012

Former Scotland Yard Detective Dick Ellis "Waxes Poetic on the Topic of Due Diligence"

Former Scotland Yard Detective Ellis Teaching at Stonehill
Since this week's art crime program in Massachusetts sold out and not all of us can attend, ARCA Blog asked Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry to keep us posted on the activities. This is Ms. Curry's latest note and photograph:
Here's Richard Ellis instructing class on the topic of due diligence at the "World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime" symposium at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts.

August 1, 2012

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - ,,, No comments

Noah Charney's Q&A with Geore H. O. Abungu in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

George Abungu is the winner of the 2012 ARCA Award for Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art. Dr. Abungu, a native of Kenya, has served as Chairman of the International Standing Committee on the Traffic of Illicit Antiquities since 1999, and as Director-General of the National Museums of Kenya from 1999-2002. Among his many projects, he was involved in the return to Kenya of looted vigango (traditional grave markers). For more information on him, see the article on ARCA Award winners in this issue.

1. How did you bring the vigango back to Africa from the United States?
Many greetings from Nairobi. I will now try to answer some of the questions you raised. First let me recognize the good work ARCA is doing, and to thank the membership for the award that I feel is a great privilege to me and to Africa as a whole. As an archaeologist and a heritage professional, I have spent a lot of my working life in museum and museum-related fields. I have dealt with the protection of works of art as a field archaeologist working on the Kenyan coast, as head of Coastal Museums Programmes, as Deputy Director of the National Museums of Kenya and, subsequently, from 1999-2002, as Director General of the National Museums of Kenya. The museum, apart from hosting the Gallery of East African Contemporary Art, was also in charge of all other heritage in the country, including the Mijikenda Kayas, where many of the vigango were stolen from in the past. 
I got involved with the vigango issue when I was still at the Coast of Kenya, working as the Coastal Archaeologist as well as Head of the Museums there. During that time we had to deal with thefts not only of the vigango but also the illegal sale and purchase of Swahili cultural materials such as chairs, doors and jewelry — all that qualify as works of art. With the cooperation of law enforcement agencies, we managed to apprehend a number of dealers who, unfortunately, due to the leniency of the law, often managed to get away with only small fines by way of penalty. However it was a lesson to others. 
As for the return of the vigango to Kenya, this happened after I left the museum. However I started the process of the return by working with two scholars from the USA who had worked on the Kenyan coast and knew the vigango and the families from whom they had been stolen. We basically blew the whistle, as well as contacted these institutions during my time at the museum, to inform them that we knew they had these items and, as a country, we wanted them back. As my successors at the museum continued to follow up through official channels with the institutions, I continued to write articles using these as examples of illicit and immoral acquisitions. In the end, both the Kenyan government, as well as the concerned institution, took the action to return two vigango. Since then, many have been returned.

You can continue reading this interview in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.