Showing posts with label looted art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label looted art. Show all posts

March 15, 2017

Fighting Art Trafficking and Art Crime in Bosnia: the work of CPKU


By: Helen Walasek

The importance of South East Europe as a major route for the illicit trafficking of looted and stolen art and antiquities, as well as a source region itself is recognised by international art crime researchers and professionals. However, the activities of the Tuzla-based Center Against Trafficking in Works of Art (Centar Protiv Krijumčarenja Umjetninama – CPKU), the only organisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina dedicated to documenting and fighting art crime, is not as well-known as it should be. 

CPKU is also playing a role in focusing attention on one of the great unanswered questions of the 1992–1995 Bosnian War: that of the enormous amount of cultural property looted during the conflict. This has never been adequately addressed, either with regard to the detailed documentation of missing objects, or investigation of the movement, destination and whereabouts of looted cultural property. Nor (so far as the author is aware) have any formal claims for restitution of looted cultural property been made by governmental or institutional authorities. 

Since the centre was established in December 2014, CPKU has worked to establish a national system of coordination and cooperation on art crime between national and international agencies and owners of cultural property (both public and private). Yet despite being the only state-wide organisation working in the field, the centre is often told by international bodies that as an NGO it does not have the authority to deal with these issues. However, as CPKU’s founder-director Dženan Jusufović has pointed out, official bodies which should be dealing with such issues, simply aren’t. Nevertheless, CPKU is having a significant impact in creating a greater awareness of the issue in official bodies and continues to forge a growing number of links with law enforcement and judicial agencies in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In October 2015 CPKU convened its first major event, a roundtable conference on the illicit traffic in art in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which brought together over 40 representatives from key stakeholders engaged in the fight against organised crime and war crimes, including international, national and entity agencies and law enforcement bodies, as well as from cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, alongside private collectors and NGOs.

Growing out of the conference were calls for the creation of a national database of missing works of art and other cultural property, for training in art crime for law enforcement officers, prosecutors and the judiciary, and for the formation of specialised art crimes units. Parallel with this, the holders of cultural goods (whether public or private) were urged to assist in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property by regularly updating their documentation of objects (including making good quality photographic documentation). 

Since then CPKU has produced guidelines for documenting works of art and reporting thefts, as well as providing detailed instructions on the best ways of photographing objects for documentation purposes (both downloadable from the CPKU website). Last year it published the first manual (also downloadable ) on the illicit art trade in Bosnia-Herzegovina which incorporates information on the legal international and national legal framework, how art is trafficked across the country and the region, and suggested preventive measures, as well as reproducing the sample documentation instructions.

A public awareness-raising event/performance, Giants of Art (Velikani Likovne Umjetnosti), was held in partnership with the National Gallery of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Association of Artists of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Sarajevo-based gallery in April 2016 to alert the wider public to the issue of missing works of art – some of which had no photographic documentation.

All these initiatives have been supported by CPKU’s principal partner, the French Embassy in Sarajevo. The embassy was also instrumental in bringing Corinne Chartrelle, Deputy Head of France’s L'Office Central de Lutte Contre le Trafic de Biens Culturels (OCBC), to speak at a recent CPKU seminar on the illicit art market at the headquarters of the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (CEST).

By May 2017 CPKU hopes to release a database of artworks missing or stolen from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dženan Jusufović has noted that only thirteen cases of stolen artwork from Bosnia are registered on Interpol’s database of stolen art, despite that thousands of items of cultural property disappeared during or in the aftermath of the 1992–1995 war.

In addition to ongoing support from the French Embassy, CPKU also has partnerships or cooperation with national and international bodies and institutions, including ICOM Observatory, Interpol, UNESCO, ICOM Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (CEST), the British Council, the National Gallery of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Historical Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Association of Artists of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Faculty of Law at University of Tuzla, the NGO Akcija, and other museums, galleries, heritage institutions and legal-judicial bodies. 

For further information contact:
Centar Protiv Krijumčarenja Umjetninama (CPKU)
Atelje Ismet Mujezinović
Klosterska 19
75000 Tuzla 
Bosnia-Herzegovina

Email: cpkubih [at] gmail [dot] com
Phone: +387 61 185 733
Website: www.cpku.org
Facebook: Centar-protiv-krijumčarenja-umjetninama

December 5, 2014

Opinion: More Questions Than Solutions from the Auction Houses

By Lynda Albertson

Following the successful identification and the subsequent withdrawal of the Sardinian idol, Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist and Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project has forwarded ARCA four additional images of antiquities that match photos from the Symes-Michaelides archive.  

Tsirogiannis and Italian heritage professionals have been working diligently for years to make sense of a lengthy catalog photo and forensic documentation, that paint a vivid picture of the complexity of the network of dealers, middlemen, and tombaroli involved in the looting and smuggling of antiquities.

These four identified objects match auction items that are to be included in two December sales events; one held by Christie's New York scheduled for December 11, 2014 and another with Sotheby's New York to be held the following day.

Christies LOT 51: AN EGYPTIAN ALABASTER FIGURAL JUG, estimated at $150,000 -$250,000


 




The object appears in the same condition in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.









Christies LOT 95: AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED COLUMN KRATER, estimated at $60,000 -$90,000





The object is depicted in the same condition in the images that have been confiscated by the American authorities from the antiquities dealer David Swingler, among hundreds of antiquities which were repatriated to Italy after it was found that they were smuggled. Swingler's name is not included in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.


The object appears in the auction catalog with its surface cleaned, unlike its appearance in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by auction house.






Sotheby's: LOT 6: An Egyptian Diorite Figure of a Priest of the Temple of Mut, late 25th/early 26th Dynasty, circa 670-610 B.C., estimated at $400,000 - 600,000






The object appears in the same condition in the Symes-Michaelides archive.  The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.








Note: These suspect objects have been brought to the attention of authorities in the United States, Italy and Egypt.

More than  four decades have passed since the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Despite greater public awareness of the problems posed by looting, suspect antiquities are still finding their way into auction houses through methods embedded within the licit antiquities trade.  By whitening a tainted object's illicit background through legitimate or contrived collection histories, laundered objects, be they from Italy, Egypt, Iraq or Syria, will continue to find their way into the glassy catalogs of licit objects being sold on the art market.

Unless tighter sanctions are imposed by governments or unless the art market itself voluntarily polices itself better, at the behest of culturally aware collectors or the general public, the problem will continue.  Predatory and subsistence looters will continue to supply the demand for materials needed and by proxy encourage the parasitical relationship between them, the middlemen suppliers and the auction houses.

November 27, 2014

Christie's Auction House Withdraws Sardinian Marble Female Idol from Upcoming New York City Sale

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor and Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Last week Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis pointed to a Sardinian marble female idol that Christie's planned to sell in New York City on December 11, 2014 -- an image of the idol had been identified previously in the Medici archive (see ARCA post here).  Further information on the background of this object's less than optimal collection history was later posted on Professor David Gill's blog Looting Matters and on Nord Wennerstrom's website Nord on Art

In protest of this sale Italian Camera Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili from the Regione of Sardinia wrote to Italy's ministro dei Beni culturali Dario Franceschini, Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Esteri Gentiloni and to the US Ambassador of the United States to Italy, John Phillips demanding that immediate action be taken to stop the sale and to return the stolen goods to Sardinia.

Shortly thereafter, archaeologists in and around Italy formed a virtual protest group via social media provider Facebook also demanding the objects return.  This and other local interest action groups attracted more than 1000 followers. 

A few short minutes ago Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili released the following message. 
Poco fa la casa d'aste Christie's ha bloccato la vendita della Dea Madre ritirando dall'asta dell'11 dicembre prossimo il pezzo pregiatissimo della civiltà nuragica della Sardegna. Si tratta di un risultato importantissimo che segna un punto decisivo nella lotta ai furti d'opere archeologiche della Sardegna. Ora occorre andare sino in fondo per far restituire il maltolto alla Sardegna. Questo dimostra che la mobilitazione dell'opinione pubblica, dei media, e delle azioni parlamentari è utile ad accendere i riflettori su queste vergogne e bloccare queste vere proprie rapine al patrimonio della civiltà dei sardi.
The message indicates that Christie's has blocked the sale of the Mother Goddess, withdrawing it from its December 11th auction.  Deputy Pili further added that the blocking of this sale is a major achievement that marks a decisive point in the fight against theft of archaeological works of Sardinia.

A check of the Christie's New York auction side indicates the object has been removed from the online catalog for the upcoming sale proving that pressure at the state and local level can and does apply sufficient pressure to auction houses to lead them to do the right thing.  


September 15, 2014

The European Shoah Legacy Institute and its Mission to Recover Looted Art

By Halyna Senyk, Executive Director

The Holocaust-Era Assets Conference of June 2009 in Prague and the resulting Terezin Declaration endorsed by forty-seven countries reaffirmed the crying need for addressing issues surround the restitution and compensation of looted art. Beginning in the 1930’s, the Nazi regime was responsible for the confiscation, theft, and sale of hundreds of thousands – and potentially millions - of objects of art and other items of cultural property from public and private collections throughout the occupied territories of Europe. The scale and scope of such systematic looting was unprecedented in history. Many of these items were either stolen or otherwise obtained through duress from the private collections of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. A significant number of important objects were also looted from public and private museum collections.

Some of the stolen works eventually entered the personal collections of high-ranking Nazi officials; many others were destined for Hitler’s unrealised Führermuseum complex in Linz; countless more were simply sold for hard currency to be used to support the Nazi war effort. Although Allied policy after the war called for the return of these stolen artworks, an untold number were not returned and instead remained in governments collections. Many were resold or otherwise dispersed; others still have never been found.

Legal claims by the heirs and descendants of Holocaust victims whose art and other cultural objects were looted by the Nazis, along with analogous claims by foreign ‘source’ countries for objects similarly misappropriated, have significantly contributed to the importance of provenance research as it relates to the due diligence and legality involved in acquiring artworks that are known or suspected of having originated out of Nazi Germany or occupied Europe. 

Provenance research has long been a pivotal facet of the private art market with auction houses, major galleries, and private collectors all recognising the need for accurate and reliable provenance on artworks and other cultural objects offered for sale. This is almost exclusively due to the fact that complete and precise provenance is necessary for establishing the authenticity of a piece available for sale, which in turn influences valuation for both vending and insurance purposes. Little regard or interest is paid to the question of whether the current possessor of a piece has the right to pass title in said piece to a third party purchaser. This small but potentially damaging oversight – given the international nature of the private art market – can result in significant financial, legal, and reputational damage to both the inculpable seller and the good faith purchaser. As a multi-billion dollar industry, the art market can no longer afford to neglect its onerous duty to be ethical, accountable, and transparent when it comes to analysing the full and complete provenance of individual objects offered for private sale.

The European Shoah LegacyInstitute (ESLI) strives to actualise the objectives of the Terezin Declaration through a variety of activities (including training workshops, international conferences, and research) relating to looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property illegally misappropriated during the Second World War. To ensure that appropriate international regard is paid to the importance of the ongoing development of provenance, ESLI has been engaged in the following activities:
·      Organizing training programs in Europe and the Americas that develop and refine critical research and analytical skills in the emerging discipline of provenance research (the documentation of the ownership history of an art object from creation to the present day);
·    Organizing national conferences in cooperation with relevant Ministries of Culture on restitution of cultural property and provenance research at the national level;
·    Facilitating the creation of an independent, international association of provenance researchers and allied professionals; and
·      Promoting provenance research as a mandatory component of collection management practices across all forty-seven Terezin Declaration countries.
The Provenance Research TrainingProgram (PRTP) – created by ESLI in 2011 with the support of the Jewish Claims Conference – aims to empower professionals working within provenance research and its related fields to connect and cooperate in the proliferation of relevant skills and knowledge; the development of professional standards and an industry code of conduct; and the furtherance of provenance as an independent, respected, and self-regulating professional industry. Each year the program offers several week-long workshops taught by internationally renowned specialists with expertise in provenance research and related fields, structured around the complementary themes of research, history, and ethics. In addition to facilitating research and providing access to a vast array of information, the program will promote the establishment of international networks of provenance researchers that will bring together experts in all relevant fields and countries.

Through post-workshop analysis and reviews, ESLI discovered that a regrettable lack of appropriate funding for provenance research across state museums, private galleries, and other institutions has resulted in significant difficulties for PRTP alumni in adequately applying their new skills productively and effectively.  For this reason, ESLI intends to address the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education – along with relevant federal Ministries of Culture – to advocate for the increased availability of funding and the establishment of provenance research as a mandatory aspect of collection management practices at the national level. Furthermore, ESLI is planning to work with legislators to raise awareness about the importance of provenance and the necessity of supporting provenance research across both existing and potential future collections.

Through the PRTP, ESLI is hoping to address the concern that provenance research, as an emerging industry, is a highly unregulated and improvised field with minimal regulatory oversight and no established code of conduct or professional standards. Institutions working within this field operate independently and without inter-organisational coordination resulting in a significant duplication of work, whilst the lack of structured and established professional standards frequently results in the production of work to inconsistent levels of quality and detail. Such extensive incongruence amongst so many professionals within a single field severely hampers any real advancement towards the development of a unified community of experts and the establishment of a recognised and respected professional industry.

These projects are vital to facilitating the continued advancement of full and complete provenance research as an obligatory benchmark of professional progress for museums, auction houses, and private galleries. ESLI is an important facilitator of the establishment of an international, independent professional association capable of creating a framework for self-regulation that will enhance development in this field. As inaccurate provenance may potentially result in a transmutation of title, impartiality and independence are absolutely vital in securing confidence and respectability.

ESLI believes this will be achieved by providing professional staff from these institutions - through the Provenance Research Training Program - with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the importance and techniques of provenance research, whilst simultaneously encouraging the development of a professional body of provenance researchers by facilitating dialogue and networking amongst professionals working in this field.

Last but not least, ESLI has been monitoring adherence to the principles espoused in the Terezin Declaration by creating a database on relevant legislation and its implementation across all five fields covered by the Declaration in the forty-seven member countries. It is our intention to cooperate with analogous organizations similarly engaged in the collection and collation of pertinent data to ensure a constant stream of up-to-date information.

The European Shoah Legacy Institute believes in synergy, cooperation, mutual understanding, and consensus. Our organization was founded on the consensus of forty-seven governments and will continue cooperating with governments, as well as national and intergovernmental organizations on promoting provenance.

June 6, 2014

Tess "Indiana Jane" Davis credited with helping return looted Hindu statues to Cambodia in the case of the Looted Temples of Koh ker

In a June 6th article in The Diplomat, journalist Luke Hunt points to the "critical" efforts of American researcher Tess Davis in the successful restitution of three looted Hindu statues returned to Cambodia this week:
Critical to their return was Tess Davis, a U.S. art lawyer and affiliate researcher at the University of Glasgow, who stressed Cambodia had only won the first in a series of battles, in what could prove to be a protracted war over the return of looted art. “The kingdom has taken on the art market, an entire industry, and a powerful one at that,” Davis told The Diplomat. “Collectors, dealers, museums, auction houses, they have deep pockets and top lawyers on their side. But Cambodia has something even more important: the truth and the law. And that’s something no amount of money can buy.”
[...]
Davis, dubbed by some as ‘Indiana Jane,’ said the looting and trafficking of antiquities was a crime that would no longer be tolerated, “not by governments, not by law enforcement, and not by the leaders in the art world itself.” The thefts have also been seen as a symbol of Cambodia’s perennial problems, ranging from corruption to a culture of impunity among the country’s well-heeled and politically connected. Davis said Cambodia had given the art world a simple choice, “to do the right thing or not.” She said the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Christie’s had stepped up and fulfilled their obligations, but others like the Cleveland Museum of Art and Sotheby’s have been more reluctant. “They are fighting with everything they have to stay in the past, a past where they could do whatever they wanted. They act like antiquated colonial relics, while their competitors have entered the 21st-century, and are thriving in it,” Davis said.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt [and you can follow Tess Davis @Terressa_davis.

Ms. Davis taught the course, Cultural Property Law, at ARCA's postgraduate certificate program in art crime in 2009.

March 28, 2014

UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel Recommends Tate Gallery Return Oil Painting by John Constable, 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' to the Heirs of Hungarian Baron

Disputed painting: Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton'
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Lootedart.com, the website for The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945, posted "UK Spoliation Panel agrees return of Constable painting from the Tate to the Heirs of the Hungarian Owner" on March 26:
The UK Spoliation Panel today published its long awaited report on the claim for 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' by John Constable, currently in the Tate Gallery, which acquired it in 1966. The painting, which belonged to a Hungarian collector, was lost in 1945 together with the rest of his extensive art collection. (To read the provenance of the painting, published on this site since 2001, click here.)
Here's the information that Looted Art has posted since 2001:
Provenance: Miss Isabel Constable. Dowdeswell collection, London. Auction, Christie’s, London, 1892. Cheramy collection, Paris. Cheramy collection, Paris, auction, Georges Petit, Paris, 1908, No. 19, p. 20.+ Baron Ferenc Hatvany (rightful owner), by whom purchased at auction, 1908 (No. 52). Deposited at the Hungarian General Credit Bank, Chest No. IV or V, under the name János Horváth, 1942. Taken by the Soviet Economic Officers’ Commission, 1945. 
Additional Information: “Baron Ferenc Hatvany (who was of Jewish extraction) was the most famous Hungarian art collector of his time. His collection was one of the finest in Budapest, although not the largest, comprising as it did only some 750-800 works of art. The collection belonging to Baron Herzog was appreciably larger, with 2000-2500 pieces. Ferenc Hatvany (1881-1958) died abroad. He studied as a painter under the Hungarian artists Ármin Glatter and Sándor Bihari at the artists' colony at Szolnok, and later under Jean-Paul Lurens in Paris, at the Julian Academy. The artists he most admired were Ingres and Chasseriau. As an art collector active between about 1905 and 1942, he purchased mainly masterpieces by 19th-century French painters. The great collection has become dispersed. Some works were taken from banks by the Red Army, and others from the Hatvany house by the SS officers Wilcke, Glasen and Keppler. Baron Hatvany was a generous patron of public collections in Hungary. His home - a villa which formerly belonged to Menyhért Lónyay (a prime minister of Hungary in the period of dualism) - was an elegant building designed by the fine architect Miklós Ybl.” See Sacco di Budapest, p. 223
The Spoliation Advisory Panel "resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era, which is now held in UK national collections." Here is their March 26 report, REPORT OF THE SPOLIATION ADVISORY PANEL IN RESPECT OF AN OIL PAINTING BY JOHN CONSTABLE, ‘BEACHING A BOAT, BRIGHTON’, NOW IN THE POSSESSION OF THE TATE GALLERY" under the name of The Honourable Sir Donnell Deeny. It is noted that the panel did not specifically identify the "heirs of the Hungarian art collector" filing the claim against the Tate Gallery which opposed restitution (Introduction, Paragraph 1). Excerpts from the report:
5. John Constable (1776-1837) composed the Painting as a sketch in oil on paper laid on canvas during one of his first visits to Brighton, in 1824. The dimensions are approximately 26 x 30 cm. He later used some motifs from it for a larger painting, the Chain Pier, also in Tate Britain. 
6. The Painting was inherited by Constable’s daughter Isabel, who died in 1888. It was sold at Christie’s in 1892 to Walter Dowdeswell, a London art dealer. Dowdeswell sold it on to P. A. Chéramy in 1902, who brought it to auction at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in May 1908, when it was purchased by the Collector. 
7. The Collector was a well-known Hungarian artist and connoisseur, whose family had amassed considerable wealth through banking and industrial activities in the nineteenth century. The Collector’s life and work have been the subject of several scholarly articles, listed by the Claimants. His collection focused in particular on French artists of the nineteenth century. 
8. The Collector, as noted, purchased the Painting at auction in Paris in 1908. The purchase was documented in an article in Der Kunstsammler: Organ fur den Internationalen Kunstmarkt, 1908 by R.A. Meyer. It is not contested by the Tate. The Painting was briefly confiscated by the Hungarian state during the Communist revolution of 1919 but returned to the Collector after the revolution was suppressed. It was inventorized in 1924 and again in 1926. 
9. The Collector, who was of Jewish origin but had converted to Christianity prior to his marriage, managed to preserve his possessions and his property, principally a palatial house in Buda and a castle in the countryside, during the increasingly antisemitic atmosphere in Hungary in the late 1930s. As an ally of Nazi Germany, Hungary began to be exposed to Allied bombing raids in 1942, and the Collector, like many others, deposited most of his artworks in bank vaults in Budapest. It is not clear, however, whether the Painting was among these artworks, or whether it remained at one of the Collector’s properties, and if so, at which one. 
10. In March 1944, when Hungary threatened to terminate its alliance with Nazi Germany, the Germans invaded, and the Collector, using false papers, went into hiding in the countryside, where he remained until the Russian liberation of Hungary in February 1945. His properties were confiscated, and contemporary witness accounts noted German military trucks being loaded with effects from the castle and being driven away. Meanwhile, some 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their deaths there.
11. On its conquest of Budapest in February 1945, the Red Army conducted widespread looting of private property in the city, and, with the aid of some of its inhabitants, opened the bank vaults and carried away numerous paintings, including, according to eyewitness accounts, at least two owned by the Collector. However, there is also testimony to the effect that the vaults had already been opened by the Germans before the Red Army arrived. In any event, when he came out of hiding in March 1945, the Collector found his properties and his bank vaults empty apart from one very large painting by Courbet. 
12. Between 1946 and 1948 the Collector managed to repurchase a number of his works of art from a Soviet officer, not including the Constable Painting, which was still missing. The new Hungarian Ministry of Culture’s Commission for Artworks Looted from Public and Private Art Collections, which operated between those years, listed the Painting as number 768 on its register and recorded that it had previously been owned by the Collector. Further crates of artworks located by the Commission did not include the Painting. 
13. After the Communist takeover of Hungary in the late 1940s, the Collector and his family emigrated, taking some of their art collection with them. He died in 1958, after having sold some of his paintings in order to fund the family’s living expenses. The Constable Painting was not recorded as being among these artworks, nor did it resurface in any of the Soviet collections containing looted artworks. 
14. The Painting is recorded as being sold by a Mr. Meyer to the Leger Galleries in London in January 1962, who sold it on to the Broadway Art Gallery in Broadway, Worcestershire, where it was bought in February 1962 by Mrs. P. M. Rainsford. In 1985 she approached the Tate with a view to donating the Painting, and it was accepted by the Board of Trustees on 17 January 1986. Since that time it has been in the possession of the Tate. 
15. On 16 April 2012 the Claimants notified the Tate of their intention to bring a claim for the restitution of the Painting. The Claimants’ legal representative and a representative of the Commission for Art Recovery met with representatives of the Tate on 30 May 2012. The claim was submitted to the Panel on 18 April 2013.his family emigrated, taking some of their art collection with them. He died in 1958, after having sold some of his paintings in order to fund the family’s living expenses. The Constable Painting was not recorded as being among these artworks, nor did it resurface in any of the Soviet collections containing looted artworks.
[...] 
THE TATE’S CASE General argument 
31. The Tate argues that it is unreasonable to demand that it should have carried out provenance research at a time when Holocaust issues were not prominent in the art world. It denies that it has withheld relevant documentation from the Claimants. Far from being of major emotional significance to the Collector and his heirs, the Tate argues that the Painting was, as an English work of art, an anomaly in his otherwise almost exclusively French collection. For this reason, indeed, the Tate considers that it is possible that the Collector disposed of it voluntarily through sale or donation in his lifetime, as he did with some other works from his collection. The Tate adds that the fact that the Claimants have sold another important painting that was returned to them suggests that the value they place on the Painting is financial, not emotional. Other items from the collection would be more appropriate as symbolic reparation for the family’s sufferings during the war, which in any case, the Claimants pointed out, were not as severe as those of other Hungarian Jews until a late stage of the war. On the other hand, the Painting is of particular importance to the Tate as the major national repository of Constable’s work. On the basis of this argument, the Tate contends that even if the Panel does consider some form of redress to be appropriate, that redress should take the form of a money payment or commemoration of the history of the Painting, rather than the restitution of the Painting itself. The Painting therefore should remain in the possession of the Tate.
[...] 
40. The Tate concedes that in 2001, a researcher noticed the gap in the Painting’s provenance, including World War II, but “a decision was taken to prioritise other cases on art historical grounds”. The reason why the Painting was not included in the Tate’s List of works with incomplete provenance during the period 1933-1945 is that research on works dating from the period 1780 to 1860 had not yet been carried out, though it was in train.
THE PANEL’S CONCLUSIONS Ownership and significance of the Painting 
42. Although there are gaps and contradictions in the documentary record, the likelihood is that the Painting remained in the Collector’s possession until it was looted by the Germans in 1944 or early 1945. If it had been looted by the Red Army, it would more likely have come to light in the Soviet Union rather than being brought onto the Western European art market. The Tate itself concedes that there is no positive indication that the Collector disposed of it voluntarily, and, in connection with the issue of legal title, also makes the valid point that such issues have to be decided not on the provision of documentary proof that would provide certainty, but on the balance of probabilities. The Panel’s Constitution and Terms of Reference require it to ‘evaluate, on the balance of probability, the validity of the claimant’s original title to the object, recognising the difficulties of proving such title after the destruction of the Second World War and the Holocaust’. The documentation cited by the Claimants is extensive. All of the Collector’s donations are well documented and none includes the Painting. Nowhere is there any suggestion that the Painting was not in the Collector’s possession at the beginning of 1944. The Panel concludes that the balance of probability comes down on the side of the Collector having been in possession of the Painting until it was looted following the German invasion of Hungary in 1944. 
43. The Panel accepts the evidence presented by the Claimants as to the persecution and maltreatment of the Collector and his family following the German invasion of Hungary in 1944. However, neither the general persecution suffered by the Jewish community of Hungary in 1944/45 nor the particular suffering of the Collector and his family is directly relevant to the issue before the Panel, whose Constitution and Terms of Reference require it to give weight to the moral strength of the Claimants’ case on the basis of the circumstances under which they were deprived of the Painting, whether by theft, forced sale, sale at an undervalue, or otherwise. The Panel is not empowered to make recommendations for “symbolic restitution” on the sole grounds of the suffering of former owners. 
44. After carefully examining the art historical significance of the Painting, the Panel concludes that it was not an anomaly in the original collection. Constable was regarded as a forerunner of the Impressionists, and his paintings have been exhibited alongside theirs. The Tate’s own catalogue description of the Painting stresses this relationship, thus suggesting why the Collector acquired it as “one of the finest oil sketches by Constable then on the Continent, at a time when he was being hailed as a father figure of modern painting”. It anticipated Courbet’s marine paintings and gave “indications of everything that Manet brought into the same domain”. There is no particular reason, therefore, why the Collector should have disposed of the Painting before 1944; rather the contrary. 
45. The Panel accepts the Tate’s argument that the Painting does not possess in and of itself a particular emotional and personal significance for the Claimants, except as part of the original collection. However, the emotional significance of an object to a claimant is only one factor to be taken into account in determining whether or not to recommend restitution, though it might be relevant to the moral strength of the claim. The central issues are the strength of the moral claim and the moral obligations of the institution. 
46. Similarly, the importance of a spoliated object to a national collection is not a paramount consideration in the Panel’s view. If it were, the very principle of the restitution of important works would be called into question.
[...] 
THE PANEL’S FINAL CONCLUSION 
60. Taking into account all the above circumstances, the Panel concludes that the moral strength of the Claimants’ case, and the moral obligation on the Tate, warrant a recommendation that Beaching a Boat, Brighton, by John Constable, should be returned by the Tate to the Claimants as they desire, in accordance with the provisions of The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 and subject to the conditions outlined in paragraphs 54 and 55 above. The Panel recommends accordingly. In accordance with its earlier decisions the Panel considers that no reimbursement is due from the Claimants to the Tate for its expenditure as that is broadly balanced by income received and by the benefit that Tate and the public have derived from the work over the last four decades.
Judge Arthur Tompkins, who will be returning to Amelia to teach ARCA's Art in War course during the summer, commented that this news is important for two wider reasons, over and above the good news of the return of a looted artwork.
First, it is an illustration of the importance, when deciding what is to happen to a looted or plundered artwork, that account is taken not only of the legalities of the claim on both sides, in terms of evidence of loss and as questions of ownership and title, but also the moral dimensions, as they relate to the claim as advanced by the claimant and to the circumstances in which the present owner came into possession of the artwork. The United Kingdom's Spoliation Panel is required to weigh both the legal and the moral aspects when deciding a claim. The German Federal Government, when deciding the fate of the very many artworks found in the possession of Herr Gurlitt in Munich (for recent news concerning this, see this article in The New York Times and this article on the BBC News ), might learn much from the hybrid jurisdiction exercised by the Spoliation Panel. Secondly, this case shows yet again that resolving the myriad and sometimes difficult issues raised by the Nazi-era Looting and plundering of art continues to be a live issue today, an issue that is a real and continuing challenge that museums, galleries and other institutions should and must confront on an ongoing basis, rather than thinking of such cases as one-off, isolated and historical problems which only crop up now and again. It points up the need for permanent, properly-resourced provenance research work to be just as much an integral part of the day to day operations of institutions as paying the utilities bills, cataloging holdings and mounting exhibitions are.

January 27, 2013

Recapping the Villa Giulia Symposium - Italy’s Archaeological Looting, Then and Now

By Lynda Albertson,  ARCA 's  CEO

Waking this morning and checking the news bureaus I came across the January 26th New York Times editorial piece The Great Giveback by Hugh Eakin.

Before proceeding further, let me state that despite the almost 2,000 words of commentary by the senior editor of the New York Review of Books of his personal opinion as to what the motives are in countries like Italy in seeking restitution of their looted art, Eakin doesn’t seem to be talking thoughtfully with anyone in Rome at the present time.   If he is, he certainly isn’t attentive to what people closely involved in these cases are saying.

Having just spent last Thursday, January 24th at the round table symposium at the Villa Giulia hosted by Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent Archaeologist for Southern Etruria, in reviewing the work conducted in these contentious cases over the last 15+ years I can assure you that extortion is not, nor has it ever been, a nefarious motive in seeking the return of Italy’s looted antiquities.

Italy’s motive, if it can be summed-up in a simple statement, is to preserve and protect the country’s antiquities for all its generations and in doing so, by recording objects in their discovered contexts, expanding upon our knowledge of the ancient world.

While not as intimately informed about the impetuses for reinstatement of looted art in Greece or Turkey, I think I can speak fairly knowledgeably that like Italy, their objectives are not to strip foreign museums bare of their collections but to protect what is legally defined as theirs.  While at times it can seem prosecutorial, these countries, like Italy, seek to right past wrongs, intentionally malicious or not, and to uphold current international law.  Ancillary to that is to examine preventative measures so that the illicit trade in antiquities doesn’t merely shift to alternate buying markets.

Last Thursday’s meeting in Rome was a chance for people directly involved in the Italian looting cases of which Mr. Eakin speaks to see how far their country has come in working for the return of works of art stolen or exported illegally.  Knowing that as recently as 3 weeks ago a tomborolo in Vulci,  Alberto Sorbera, from Montalto di Castro, suffocated while looting an Etruscan tomb, they are faced with daily evidence which starkly highlights that the country has a long way to go in eliminating its looting problem.

The Villa Giulia meeting was a solemn one.  Thursday’s talks started with an introduction by the Director General for Antiquities Luigi Malnati, who spoke of the continuing difficulties Italy has in terms of manpower and financial potency in securing cultural heritage sites, especially those in remote areas. His exact words were “Senza il controllo del territorio, non si fa nulla”.

Italy’s law enforcement also spoke.  I listened to the thoughtful words of retired General Roberto Conforti, former Commander of the Carabinieri TPC (Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale) who spoke  about the early days of the TPC.  He explained how Italy’s Ministry of Culture trained officers on the intricacies of the art world and how, during his tenure, the collaborative efforts of judges, consultants and museum personnel culminated in much of what we know today of the illegal trade dealings of the principal suppliers involved in these US and foreign museum related cases.

Major Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection and Major Massimo Rossi, Commander of the Cultural Heritage Protection Group of the Guardia di Finanza each spoke about current and ongoing investigations involving recent incidents of plundered art.  Their statistics emphasized that despite growing public awareness, international focus from the archeaological world and cooperation between nations and museums in requesting the return of pillaged objects, the number of looting sites throughout Italian territories are still significant.  Their statistics and images of recent looting served to highlight that the problem with trafficking is ongoing, even if current buyers do not appear to be museum heads.

Maurizio Fiorilli, Attorney General of the State; Guglielmo Muntoni, President of the Court of Review of Rome; and Paolo Giorgio Ferri, former magistrate for the Getty and Met cases and now a judicial advisor to the Directorate General for Antiquities, also spoke of the complexity of Italy’s antiquities trafficking problem.  Fiorilli voiced his opinion that it is necessary for Italy to apply not just judicial pressure, but political pressure as well if Italy is to uphold seizure orders such as the one for The Getty Bronze.  This statue known in Italy as l’Atleta di Fano, the signature piece of The Getty's embattled antiquities collection, was, according to Italian court records, illegally exported before the museum purchased it for $4 million in 1976.

Muntoni spoke about the horror investigators felt when viewing the hundreds of polaroid photos Tomboroli took of Italy’s looted artwork, seen broken and stuffed into the trunks of cars with dirt still clinging to them. He also mentioned his personal disappointment that professional archaeologists and museum curators used U.S. tax laws to inflate the value of donated objects in a rush to have wealthy patrons collude with them to add to their collections.

Paolo Girogio Ferri listened to me thoughtfully as I talked about the continued need to find compromises that neither destroy US museum reputations nor allow them to indefinitely delay the return of objects they know should be returned.  We discussed the lock system of illicit trafficking, and how at the end of the day antiquities should be perceived not just as cultural heritage but as merchandise, and that as long as there are buyers and unprotected territories with objects the buyer wants, looting will continue to represent a problem for safeguarding Italy’s cultural patrimony.

Italian journalists Fabio Isman and Cecilia Todeschini spoke first-hand about current looting cases and the tireless archaeologists in small regional museums who try their best, despite limited funding, to protect what they can.  Daily though, these front-line soldiers take photos of their battle scarred regions as evidence that Italy’s battle against the theft of antiquities has not been won.

Isman highlighted the facts surrounding a very recent article he published in Il Messagero, I predatori dell'arte perduta:due leoni alla corte del Getty, where he brought Italy’s attention to two 1912 archive photographs from the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) taken of the front of the Palazzo Spaventa in Pretùro near Aquila. The photos show two lions, originating from the ancient Sabine city of Amiternum, which flank an entrance to the building as sentinels.  The fact that they are there is not surprising.   This area of the Abruzzo and surrounding territory are known to have been an important zone where Roman funerary lions were carved. What is puzzling is when they were removed and how and when they were trafficked out of Italy.

What we do know though is where they are at present.  Acquired by The Getty in 1958 through some of the same trafficking channels made famous by the more public cases Mr. Eakin has written about, the two statues languish in the museum’s storage.  Not even on display, the Getty's records attribute the lions' provenance to an old Parisian collection and place their origins as Asia Minor.

The topics of these speakers at Thursday’s symposium are just a selection of some of the vocal Italian voices heard at the Villa Giulia this past week.  Their focus is not strong-arm tactic or hostile threat but an honest effort on the part of those involved and who have spent thousands of hours pouring over more than 70,000 pages of evidence to locate the currently-known 1500 trafficked pieces at 40 identified museums.

Trophy hunting?  I think not.  I think Italy is trying to find the head of the snake when so far it had only just started to uncover its tail.

October 18, 2010

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume

By Catherine Sezgin

During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, more than 20,000 art objects were systematically looted from over 200 Jewish families, and either sold or transported to Germany. Seventy years later, at least half of the objects have not yet been restituted to the owners, or their heirs, in accordance with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference and the United State Holocaust Museum have just released an online database of art objects that were processed from 1940 to 1944 in the center of Paris at the Jeu de Paume on the Place de la Concorde.

As the Nazis’s special task force the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) confiscated paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiquities from private collections. More than sixty people at the Jeu de Paume inventoried, photographed, and arranged for the transportation of the artworks on 120 railways coaches from France to Germany. Every looted painting was registered and stamped by the Nazis. The French national, Rose Volland, a volunteer at the museum before the war who observed the operation, kept a secret account of everything the Nazis stole and where they planned to deliver the art. Using secret couriers during the war, she notified the Allied Forces of the Nazis’s activities. After the defeat of the Third Reich, much of the stolen art was found and returned to their countries of origin to be reunited with their owners. However, many families, who were devastated by the Holocaust, did not have the records to identify or claim artworks.

Now the Claims Conference, working with the technical support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has transferred the information from the index cards, or inventory lists, to a database “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume.”

“Decades after the greatest mass theft in history, families robbed of their prize artworks can now search this list to help them locate long-lost treasures,” said Julius Berman, Claims Conference Chairman [in a press release]. “It is now the responsibility of museums, art dealers, and auction houses to check their holdings against these records to determine whether they might be in possession of art stolen from Holocaust victims. Organizing Nazi art-looting records is an important step in righting a historical wrong. It is not too late to restore art that should have been passed down within Jewish families instead of decorating Nazi homes or stored at Nazi sites.”

The public can access the newly released online database on Nazi looted art from Paris through the URL: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. Users can search by collection, owner, artist, and type of art object (paintings, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts or antiquities). Information in the database will be regularly updated, according to Project Director Marc Masurovsky, a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Masurovsky used some ARCA graduates to assist in the inputting of the datasets.

Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), which began in 1997, spoke about documenting and recovering Nazi looted art last March at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment for ARCA’s exhibit “The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb Raiders” in Washington, DC this past February. He also spoke about “Nazi Plunder of Looted Cultural Property and Its Impact on Today’s Art Market” at ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July in Amelia, Italy.

In the future, users will be able to find individual datasets through Google by typing specific artists’ names in the search box, Masurovsky wrote in an email. Each object in the database is described based on the information from the card that the Nazis filled out and includes any images that may have been taken. The database also provides information about whether or not the artwork was returned to France and if it was restituted to its owner. For example, Arthur Levy’s collection of 125 artworks has not been returned to the family. Database users can even search by Artist. For example, a landscape by Vincent van Gogh from the collection of Alfred Weinberger in Paris was photographed and measured (60 x 100 cm) when it was brought to the Jeu de Paume in 1941 on December 4.

The Jeu de Paume as a looted art center was of particular interest to the German army’s second-in-command, Hermann Göring who spent two days there during the war looking at the art. He then asked that photographs of the art be sent to Hitler for him to make selections from the spoils of war. Unfortunately, in July 1942, the Jeu de Paume collection center was overburdened. Paintings declared unfit for German collections and too degenerate to be sold on the art market were burned in the garden. Rose Volland was said to have cried at the destruction of works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Míro and Salvador Dali.