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

December 23, 2016

Visiting Florence and want to see an exhibition dedicated to art crime? The beauty of art and its appreciation can heal the wounds inflicted.

Visiting Florence between now and February 14, 2017?  

Then you should try and make time to see "La Tutela Tricolore," an exhibition dedicated to the “Custodians of Italy’s cultural identity” at the La Galleria degli Uffizi a Firenze.



The exhibition opened December 19, 2016, and is made up of eight themed sections, some of which are highlighted here.  Focusing on art crimes in general and highlighting many of the exceptional recoveries that are a result of Italy's unique investment in cultural heritage protection through its  unique-in-the-world Comando Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale dei Carabinieri, the exhibition demonstrates just how diverse "crimes against art" really are.

The event inaugurates the newly opened Aula Magliabechiana, part of a 18 million euro restoration project to overhaul two floors beneath the Biblioteca Magliabechiana.  These renovations not only provide a connection with Vasari’s original building on Piazza Castellani, but create a permanent exhibition space on the ground floor which will be dedicated to temporary exhibits such as this one.


"La Tutela Tricolore's" first section highlights art crimes by terrorism and pays homage to the city of Florence and the Uffizi's recovery from the May 27, 1993 bombing on the museum and the Accademia dei Georgofili.

Long before there was an ISIS, domestic terrorists affiliated with the Italian organised crime group Cosa Nostra placed 280 kilograms of Pentrite and T4 explosives mixed with a small quantity of TNT in a Fiat and left it parked on Via dei Georgofili, just behind the historic Uffizi Gallery's main entrance.  The resulting early morning explosion, caused when the car bomb detonated, created a ten foot wide and six foot deep crater that claimed the lives of five people, including one small, seven-week old, girl. Thirty-three people were treated in local hospitals for their injuries and the scar on the heart of the Renaissance city remains palpable in Florence's architecture and the city's collections.

Serving as a defiant symbol of "defeat through reconstruction," the opening of this Uffizi exhibition space commemorates this mournful occurrence and Florence's determination to overcome its devastating effects.  It serves as a reminder that through solidarity and hope, the beauty of art, and its appreciation and preservation, has the ability to heal wounds, even those inflicted long ago.

Section two of the exhibition highlights Florentine works of art stolen during World War II.  Some of the highlights on display include Labors of Hercules by Antonio Pollaiolo, the Madonna and Child (also called the Tickling Madonna or the Madonna Casini) by Masaccio, and Galatea by Bronzino.

Another section highlights works of art repatriated to Italy from other countries.

Some of the more recent repatriations on display are:

Photo Credit: Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
The Torlonia Peplophoros, a first-century BC sculpture depicting the body of a young goddess.  The statue is one of 15 stolen from the Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1983 which was just returned to Italy on December 7, 2016 from the United States.


An ornate parade wagon dating back to the early seventh century B.C.E., looted from the tomb of a Sabine prince laid to rest within the Colle del Forno necropolis. This wagon and other funerary objects were repatriated July 2016 following extremely difficult and protracted multi-year negotiations with the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum in Denmark's capital of Copenhagen.


A second century CE marble head, belonging to a statue of Julia Domna, the wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, the founder of the Severan dynasty.  This bust was stolen from the Museo del Canopo at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli in 2012 and was also returned to Italy earlier this month.


This 510 B.C. E Etruscan black-figure kalpis, attributed to the Micali painter or his workshop, was looted by Tombaroli passed through the now well known trafficking network of Gianfranco Becchina before being sold to the Toledo Museum of Art with only a photocopy of two paragraphs typed in German on hotel stationery by the Swiss hotel's owner, stating he had owned it since 1935 as provenance.  As the result of an incriminating polaroid and a Federal Verified Complaint in Forfeiture, the museum was eventually encouraged to return the antiquity to Italy in 2012.

The sixth section highlights the globalization of criminal networks with pieces recovered from the Castellani Goldsmith collection, stolen during a dramatic 2013 Easter weekend jewelry heist the Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia in Rome. As reported on earlier, this museum theft turned out to be a theft-to-order, involving a shady antiquarian, a drug dealer and a Russian with a penchant for gold.


Some of the last objects in the exhibit are the most poignant, and highlight art crimes in war, and the risk to the countries irreplaceable works of art which have been subject to natural disasters like Italy's recent earthquakes that continuously endanger its historic buildings and collections.  These objects remind us that fighting to protect art, against the elements and against the theft and exportation of works of art is a matter of civilisation and is a battle which warrants our full investment and engagement.

This exhibition is free of charge and runs through 14 February 2017 in Florence at:
La Galleria degli Uffizi a Firenze
Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze, Italy
Phone:+39 055 23885
Tues. – Sun. 10 am to 7 pm
(Closed on Mondays)
Entrance from door 2,
guided visits can be requested at: firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com.

July 15, 2015

Columnist Noah Charney on “Napoleon: Emperor of Art Theft” in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In his regular column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" Noah Charney writes on “Napoleon: Emperor of Art Theft” in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crimeedited by Charney (with Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis) and published by ARCA:
When Citizen Wicar, one of the key members of the art theft division of Napoleon's army, died in 1843, he bequeathed 1436 artworks as a gift to his birthplace, the city of Lille. Though most were works on papers (prints and drawings), this is an astonishing number. But there are two more facts about this bit of historical trivia that make it that much more surprising. First, almost all of these works had been stolen by him, personally, over the course of his service to the Napoleonic Army, in which he and several other officers were charged with selecting, removing, boxing up and shipping back to Paris art from the collection of those vanquished by la Grande Armee. Stealing over a thousand artworks is no small feat for a single person, even when with the sort of unrestricted access his position with the army allowed. Impressive enough, until we reach the second fact: Citizen Wicar had already sold most of the art he had stolen over the course of his post-war life, but still had those thousand odd pieces left over, to bequeath. In terms of quality, Citizen Wicar, who would serve as Keeper of Antiquities at the Louvre Museum, is the most prolific art thief in history. But it is his boss, Napoleon Bonaparte, who is often crowned with that title.
Noah Charney holds Masters degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and University of Cambridge, and a PhD from University of Ljubljana. He is Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome, a Visiting Lecturer for Brown University abroad programs, and is the founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit research group on issues of art crimes. Charney is the author of numerous academic and popular articles, including a regular column in ArtInfo called “The Secret History of Art” and a weekly interview series in The Daily Beast called “How I Write.” His first novel, The Art Thief (Atria 2007), is currently translated into seventeen languages and is a best seller in five countries. He is the editor of an academic essay collection entitled Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009) and the Museum Time series of guides to museums in Spain (Planeta 2010). His is author of a critically acclaimed work of non-fiction, Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the True History of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (PublicAffairs 2011), which is a best seller in two countries. His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Publications 2011). Upcoming books include The Art of Forgery (Phaidon 2015), The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art (Norton 2015), and Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves, an edited collection of essays on art crime (Palgrave 2014). 

Here's a link to ARCA's website about access to The Journal of Art Crime.

August 11, 2014

The Times Magazine: Alexi Mostrous writes about Julian Radcliffe and the Art Loss Register in "The murky world of the art detective"

In Britain's magazine for The Times, Alexi Mostrous discusses the controversy surrounding Art Loss Register's founder Julian Radcliffe and alleged payments to art thieves in "The murky world of the art detective" (August 9, 2014). Mostrous reports that the Art Loss Register 'claims to have returned more than £150 million worth of paintings, artefacts and sculptures to their rightful owners in the 22 years since business began' and has 'more than 400,000 objects currently listed' in its stolen art database:
Were the ALR a business built solely around this database, then Radcliffe would be a useful, if uncontroversial member of the art world, something like a particularly proactive lost property clerk. But Radcliffe is no clerk, and he and his company enjoy a far more glamorous sideline, earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year tracking down and recovering stolen art on behalf of insurers and victims of theft. It works like this: Radcliffe’s network of sources around the world tip him off about the locations of stolen paintings. For a substantial fee, they may provide “information” which somehow leads to the stolen artwork landing in Radcliffe’s hands. The ALR man has collected paintings left for him in the boot of a car and by a layby. It’s a system shrouded in mystery but then, Radcliffe claims, it gets results.
According to Mostrous, 'Thanks to a series of internal aides-memoire written by Radcliffe between 2004 to 2012, and leaked to The Times, it is possible to reveal for the first time just how far the ALR is willing to go to recover stolen masterpieces.'

Mostrous' article includes comments from two ARCA associates who previously worked for Scotland Yard: Dick Ellis (an ARCA lecturer) and Charley Hill (an ARCA advisor). You can read the article here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article4167385.ece.

Another article in May 2013 highlighted the work of Dick Ellis: Emma Jacobs writing for The Financial Times "Lessons from an old master" which you can read here: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b27c1392-c2cf-11e2-bbbd-00144feab7de.html#axzz3A5egUa3q.

July 15, 2014

ARCA '14 Art Crime Conference: Tanya Starrett on "What’s wrong with this picture? Standards and issues of connoisseurship"

Tanya Pia Starrett (left) presenting on panel chaired by
ARCA founder Noah Charney (right)
Tanya Pia Starrett, a Solicitor from Glasgow living in Umbria, presented on "What's wrong with this picture" Standards and Issues of Connoisseurship" at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Amelia on June 29. Ms. Starrett holds masters degrees in archaeology and history and is a freelance translator.

Ms. Starrett discussed issues surrounding authentication in art, restitution of cultural property, and the standards and issues on art connoisseurship (excerpts follow):
The debate is thus: The law can, to a certain extent, determine who owns a work of art but it is the art connoisseurs and scientists who will determine what you actually own. 
CONNOISSEURS AND SCIENCE – NOT A NEW DEBATE 
Within this fascinating field of study a key issue is the perception of a widening gulf in the area of authentication research between advancing scientific methods and connoisseurs who still tend to defer to the trained eye as final arbiter.... 
CONNOISSEURS AND SCIENCE – CONTINUING TENSIONS TODAY 
These tensions continue today as noted by Milko den Leeuw, painting conservator who founded the Atelier for Restoration & Research of Paintings (ARRS) in 1991 and Dr. Jane Sharp, Associated Professor of Art History at Rutgers University in their post on the AiA (Authenticationinart.org) site dated 26/09/13 where they state that this tension ‘is mainly the result of a clash between the conservative opinion-based art industry and the latest offspring of the academic fields of forensic methodology and protocols. The confrontation…has been magnified in several lawsuits in Europe and America. This is a moment of extraordinary challenge in the history of authentication research’. While science and scientific methods have indeed become valuable tools within art, there is still an ongoing debate surrounding its application and validity. These debates often flair up when high profile cases grab the attention of the media. They, in turn, raise valid issues and generate debates that often shape discussions surrounding standards and issues of connoisseurship. The following case studies serve to introduce some of these tensions and debates. 
SCIENCE YES, WILDENSTEIN’S NO 
In the case of the Monet oil painting 'Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil' , the Art Access and Research (AA&R) Centre was asked to undertake technical imaging and paint analysis. These tests showed technical details consistent with Monet’s authorship, including an extensive palette and use of a charcoal under drawing. The process was the subject of a BBC TV programme (Fake and Fortune 2011) which heightened interest in the case. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, regarded as the court of final appeal for Monet, concluded it was a fake. And at time of writing, the painting is currently in the French courts. 
In the art world, Monet means money. However, in order to make millions, paintings thought to be by Monet must have been accepted into the official register; the catalogue raisonné – a publication which lists every acknowledged Monet in existence. The catalogue is published by the Wildenstein family of art collectors and art dealers....   established by Nathan Wildenstein in the 1870’s, a tailor who became an art dealer and it continues today. On their own website they state that their aim and mission is ‘promoting knowledge in and of French art’. It could be argued that as they work with an array of French artists, not just Monet, perhaps their knowledge is just a bit too general to have a definitive expertise on one, particular artist. The Wildenstein publishers of the catalogue raisonné, and therefore the arbiters of authentication in the Monet case, have so far refused to admit the work for reasons best known to themselves, despite the agreement of other scholars that this painting is genuine. Based on this example some leading UK art experts have called for a committee of scholars to replace the high-handed authoritarianism of the Wildenstein Institute. The absolute crux of this debate, is by what authority, legitimacy or indeed legal capacity do these art committees work from? Moreover, in a wider context, why as a society do we accept this? What’s the point of having ever advanced science and effective technology, that we are forever impressed by, if the evidence it produces is not taken as legitimate or indeed, worse, simply ignored. Who has the authority over the other? And who decides that? Who is in the eyes of the law is the definitive expert? 
SCIENCE YES, CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ YES Degas – Blue Dancer This was the case of a Degas painting entitled the ‘Blue Dancer’. This had been declared a fake in the 1950s by a leading Degas expert. The turmoil of World War II served as the perfect distraction for creating art forgeries, and doubts regarding the authenticity of “Blue Dancer” came from the lack of detail in the dancer’s face, the informality of her pose, and the brushwork on the heads of the double bass that rise up in the foreground in front of the dancer. Later still Professor Theodore Reff, an expert on Degas from Columbia University in New York, had twice been asked by Christie’s, the auctioneer, to examine the piece and twice decided it was not genuine. The painting, owned by Patrick Rice, was sent to an art forensics lab to examine the pigments. Titanium in the white could have indicated a forgery, as the metal was only used in paint after Degas’s death. Favourably, however, the main elements were found to be lead. A ballerina also recreated the painted dancer’s pose, resulting in an almost exact replica of her raised first position arms. Through these findings, the “Blue Dancer” regained Degas status and was accepted into the Degas raisonné, not the Wildenstein Institute I hasten to add who do not include Degas in their repertoire, but the one by Brame, Philippe, Reiff, et all raising its value from a diminished couple of hundred pounds to about £500,000 ($813,000). Again, why do some custodians of certain catalogue raisonnés appear more open to scientific evidence than others?
MARC CHAGALL – SPOT THE DIFFERENCE? The previous examples help to illustrate how science and connoisseurship can arrive at different conclusions over authenticity while also highlighting how scientific evidence is received and acted upon. It is interesting to note, however, that equally heated debates can still be aroused when science and connoisseurship appear to reach similar conclusions over authenticity. And this was the case with a disputed painting of a nude purportedly painted by Marc Chagall in 1909/10. 
SCIENCE AND CONNOISSEURSHIP IN HARMONY However, after in depth research on the painting’s provenance and scientific testing, The Reclining Nude 1909-1910 was found to be fake. Although painted in gouache, which Chagall frequently used, the pigments of the paint were dated to be a lot later than 1909 or 1910 and its first owner, the dancer ‘Kavarska’, could not be traced either. This picture was then sent to the Chagall Committee in Paris, led by the artist’s granddaughters, who confirmed the painting was not genuine. They stated it was purely an imitation of the authentic Reclining Nude (1911) by Chagall. As a result they demanded, under French law, that it be seized and destroyed, an extremely rare occurrence in the art world. And to date at time of writing and to the best of my knowledge the painting has yet to be destroyed. 
In the case of the Chagall painting Professor Robin Clark, from UCL, (University College London) has pointed out that this Ramon Microscopy technique, used to determine it was a fake, had been known to Sotheby’s Auction House since 1992 so the painting could, in theory, have been exposed as a fake any time in the last 20 years. In the event, the confirmation that it was a fake took place in his lab in July 2013 in the presence of its owners. This showed that at least two of the key pigments used were dated to the late 1930s long after the supposed date of 1909-10. 
The publicity that this case generated prompted Robin Clark to write in a leading UK national newspaper, The Telegraph, questioning the relationship between art and science and expressing particular concern over the art world’s failures to heed the testimony of available scientific techniques. He also suggested that art historians should be encouraged to read science journals so they are informed about “significant developments in science as applied to arts”. 
In part, his pleas could be seen as reasonable. Auctioneers can only submit works for technical analysis with the owner’s permission. With the possibility that these tests could then disqualify the painting as genuine it is not surprising that many owners will not give this permission. Another key issue concerns art dealers. When dealers buy at auction and then restore or analyse a work, they are not required by law, when selling works, to disclose which, if any tests, had been carried out. That said some have begun to question how these scientific methods are being used and applied. 
Writing on the artwatch UK blog in March 2014, for instance, Michael Daley acknowledged that while Raman microscopy could certainly disprove the claimed date of the fake Chagall, it seriously misleads the public when used to present speculative and digitally manipulated reconstructions supposedly showing art in its original condition. He cites, for instance, the example of a project to restore a set of faded paintings by Mark Rothko, that were painted for the dining room of the Holyoke Centre, built by Harvard University in 1966. After just 15 years, however, they had faded so badly that they were consigned to a darkened basement for their own protection. Worse still the photos that were taken of them when new had also faded. As these photos are largely the basis for the restoration project, Daley concludes that, ‘however well intentioned the project and its scientific methodology is, it will only ever produce a varying yet, ultimately false, version of the original. There are just so many variables. 
When researching these case studies for this paper I was struck by the differences and issues each one brought to the fore. The role of connoisseurs’, competing interests within the art market, the trained eye supporting or disagreeing with science, lack of regulation etc. It’s not surprising then that Nicholas Eastaugh, a leading independent scientist (of Art Access and Research Centre), described the present climate as being both without standards and “totally unregulated. It’s a Wild West.”... 
LESSONS FROM THE CASE STUDIES Some of these high profile cases have helped to expose the absurdity of the art market, where paintings, ostensibly by famous artists, are traded almost always as speculative investments. It is not the aesthetic value of a painting which decides whether it is worth millions, but the question of whether it was produced by a known and fashionable artist. Like any free market, the art market, is based on confidence or arguably over confidence. How confident people are about a certain painting or art institute and the people who write the raisonnnés, to some extent is very similar to that of the financial market. Science, it could be suggested, has more of a foothold in the lesser valuable works of art where there are perhaps no ‘go to’ art committees or art experts. Its obviously easier for an auction house or owner if there’s a ‘go to’ art institute for one particular artist, it is more convenient and arguably cheaper if scientific tests are not seen as appropriate. There is some optimism however, that we are seeing a bridging of the gap. One good example of this is The Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association which was founded in 1994. It serves the interests of scholars and others engaged in the catalogue raisonné process. Members typically research a single artist’s body of work to establish a reliable list of authentic works, their chronology, and history (usually including provenance, bibliographic, and exhibition histories). Members include patrons, collectors, art dealers, attorneys, and software designers. Increasingly they are publishing Catalogue Raisonnés online to make accessing them easier and more widely available. This then encourages greater debate and perhaps transparency in the area of authentication.

June 26, 2014

ARCA '14 Conference, Panel VIII: Smart Collecting and Connoisseurship and When Art is Stolen

Panel VIII: Smart Collecting and Connoisseurship and When Art is Stolen

What’s wrong with this picture? Standards and issues of connoisseurship
Tanya Pia Starrett, MA HONS LLB, University of Glasgow
Solicitor

Crossborder Collecting in the XXI Century: Comparative Law Issues
Massimo Sterpi, Avvocato
Partner, Studio Legale Jacobacci & Associati 

Bicycles vs. Rembrandt
Martin Finkelnberg
Head of the Art and Antiques Crime Unit


National Criminal Intelligence Division, The Netherlands

February 18, 2014

Stolen Lucio Fontana Painting Recovered

By Lynda Albertson

A painting by Lucio Fontana that was stolen the night of February 11, 2014 while on exhibition in Milan from the Pecci Museum in Ripa di Porta Ticinese has been recovered.  

An Italian painter and sculptor, Fontana is mostly known as the founder of Spatialism and for his ties to the Arte Povera movement.  As many of the artist's works carry the same simplified title, ARCA has elected not to publish a photograph of the recovered artwork until the painting has been confirmed and authenticated by the Carabineriri TPC as the version of "Spatial Concept 1962" stolen less than one week ago.

Local Italian police and fire fighters were called to the Porche dealership located on Via Stephenson in Milan yesterday to investigate an illegally parked Nissan automobile blocking the entry gates to the facility which is located in the northern suburbs of the city.  The painting, located in the back seat of the car, was found wrapped in a blanket.

According to the reconstruction report given by the police, the theft occurred when thieves entered the courtyard forcing a motor arm of an electric gate.   Police investigators are continuing to review surveillance camera footage in hopes that the recordings can provide useful information to identify the thieves who have stolen the work or perhaps be matched the driver of the car left blocking the dealership.  

In an interview with Italian newspaper "Il Tirreno, the director of the Pecci, Stefano Pezzato said the recovery of the painting, which occured on the closing day of the exhibition, was the conclusion of "a nightmare week".  The director added that not only were they happy and relieved that the painting had been recovered but that they would be looking into improvements for their exhibitions' security. 
  
Valued at 540 thousand euros and on loan from from its anonymous collector, "Spatial Concept, 1962" is not the first Lucio Fontana painting to meet with mishap. In 2010 "Spatial Concept - Waiting, 1968", an all white painting with five vertical cuts, was reportedly vandalized while on display at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. 

Like with many stolen and well cataloged paintings, the thieves most likely abandoned the artwork when they realized that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to sell. 




January 5, 2014

Postcard from Paris: ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins on artworks on display with history of theft

Robert-Fluery's 'Last Days of Corinth', Musée d'Orsay
This post begins a four-part series written last autumn during New Zealander's Judge Tompkins sojourn to present papers at an Interpol DNA conference in Lyon. Consider it a warm-up to the ARCA blog traveling to Paris next week.

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

Friday morning the 1st of November, my first day in Paris on this trip, dawned under leaden skies drizzly rain and a cold-ish breeze. Undaunted, and drawing inspiration from the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, in which the character Gil, played by Owen Wilson, enthuses, “Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain?”, I set out on a carefully chosen Velib bike from the stand up the street, for an early morning ride around central Paris, in search both of nostalgic sights, and coffee.

My route took me across to and up the middle of Il St Louis, over to Il de la Cite (where there is a huge temporary grandstand in front of Notre Dame, apparently part of the 850 year anniversary commemorations of the cathedral – but it does somewhat spoil one of the great views in Paris, that of a deserted front of Notre Dame as the sun rises), and then across to the Left Bank and along the riverside.

My progress was punctuated by a horn being sounded and an admonitory gallic finger being waved at me by the uniformed driver of a police van, full of what looked liked dishevelled revellers who had crossed paths with the police that night and were being driven into the Conciergerie – although not to the same ultimate fate as an earlier sometime resident of that forbidding police station, Marie-Antoinette, I hoped – as I thought about, but did not, cross a pedestrian crossing on my bike against a red light right in front of his van.

I also managed two very satisfactory coffee stops, in corner cafes that were sleepily opening up in advance of the morning’s onslaught of workers and tourists.

Vincent van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet"
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
I had decided to visit the Musée d'Orsay and then in the afternoon I planned to head to the Louvre. The former was achieved after a 30 minute wait in line, in the drizzly rain, and was as rewarding as ever. An unexpected highlight was turning a corner and coming face to face with Robert-Fluery’s ‘Last Days of Corinth’ – which my students from this year will undoubtedly remember that I used in my Art Crime course when discussing Rome’s sack of Corinth in 149BC, and also two in particular of the many Van Goghs. The first was a self-portrait sold by the Nazis in 1939 at the notorious degenerate art auction held at the Fischer Gallery in Switzerland; the second a version of the infamous Portrait of Dr Gachet, acquired by Goering and traded by him to a dealer in Amsterdam, from where it eventually ended up being purchased by a Japanese industrialist [the Musée d'Orsay's Portrait of Dr. Gachet entered the state collection in 1949].

After lunch, a drizzly walk across the Tuileries Gardens, with a small detour to pay homage to Rose Valland’s memorial plaque on the corner of the Jeu de Paume, took me to the Louvre. The vast queue at the main entrance was avoided by buying my ticket in the hidden-away Tabac store in the nearby underground shopping centre, and then using the priority entry lane, and a lovely three hours followed.  Huge crowds were, as always, overlooking the largest stolen painting on public display anywhere in the world – Veronese’s "The Wedding at Cana" – by concentrating on the Mona Lisa on the opposite wall, and also largely ignoring the other da Vinci paintings in the Grand Gallery nearby, including his John the Baptist, supposedly da Vinci’s last painting, which was acquired by King Charles I but then sold to the French by Cromwell’s Commonwealth after Charles was executed.

My time in the Louvre was also marked by an entertaining vignette, which took place in front of Uccello’s Battle of Romano – one of three paintings that make up the series, the other two being in the Uffizi and London’s National Gallery. Seated on the bench in front of the painting, an American man was talking loudly and long on his cellphone, discussing for all to hear, and in some detail, the structuring of an investment “opportunity”, whilst his wife sat next to him, a look of increasing annoyance on her face, her body language speaking volumes of the way in which her husband was ruining the much-anticipated (by her) and expensive (to him, no doubt) visit to the Louvre.  My guess is they had words later …

I also hunted out the Louvre’s two Vermeers, the Lacemaker and the Astronomer. The latter, reputedly Hitler’s favourite painting, was looted by the Nazis after the occupation of Paris from the Rothschilds and hung in the Jeu de Paume for inspected there by Herman Goering, but ultimately sent to Germany and intended as the centrepiece of Hitler’s Linz Museum. In the latter part of the war, after the Normandy landings, it was stored in the Aut Ausee saltmine, and rescued from there by American troops, as a result of the work done by the Monuments Men.

May 31, 2013

Will the ashes in a stove in Romania prove to be the remains of the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation exhibit at the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Photograph of the image of the Matisse
painting from the Triton Foundation
 stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam
 on October 16, 2012.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor 

The prosecutor's office in Romania suspects the seven Triton Foundation paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October 16 may have been destroyed, Agency France-Presse reported May 29. Art Hostage blogger blames this rumor on the failure to offer a reward for the return of this and other stolen art. Two years ago, reports surfaced that the paintings stolen from the Museé d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris had been thrown in the trash.

According to AFP, investigators are examining ashes taken from the home of the mother of one of the suspects Kunsthal Rotterdam thieves to determine if they include remains of the stolen paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Seven Romanians have reportedly been charged with the theft. Destruction of the paintings would eliminate evidence in the even the stolen works could not be sold or ransomed back to the art gallery in The Netherlands.

The Dutch website NU.NL quotes the lawyer for one of the suspects as denying that the ashes are any proof that the paintings were destroyed.

Here is a link to previous posts on the ARCA blog covering the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, including information about the stolen paintings.

On the blog Art Hostage, Paul "Turbo" Hendry, a self-described former stolen art trafficker, blames destruction of stolen paintings on the lack of financial incentives to recovering or returning stolen art.

May 28, 2013

Dan Brown's fictional Robert Langdon uses the "ARCA Web site" in "Inferno" to research the Horses of St. Mark's in Venice

The Horses of St. Mark's (The Triamphal Quadriga)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In Chapter 17 of Dan Brown's Inferno published May 14 by Doubleday, (and reviewed by Janet Maslin in The New York Times), the fourth book featuring Robert Langdon, the fictional Harvard University professor of religious iconography and symbology, researches the Horses of St. Mark's: 

As it turned out, the powerful bodies of the early Friesian horses had inspired the robust aesthetic of the Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice. According to the Web site, the Horses of St. Mark’s were so beautiful that they had become “history’s most frequently stolen pieces of art.”

Langdon had always believed that this dubious honor belonged to the Ghent Altarpiece and paid a quick visit to the ARCA Web site to confirm his theory. The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art offered no definitive ranking, but they did offer a concise history of the sculptures’ troubled life as a target of pillage and plunder.

This appears to be a reference to the blog post(s) by Judge ArthurTompkins, an ARCA Lecturer, written in June of 2011: The Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, Venice (Part I); More on the History (Part II); Continued Short History (Part III); and The Four Horses Rest Inside St. Mark's Basilica in Venice After Being Plundered from Constantinople in the 13th Century (Part IV). On the ARCA blog is another post about the "The Triamphal Quadriga" in Paris Diary: Replica of Stolen Art at Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

Then Brown is a bit more definitive about what academics would question:

The four copper horses had been cast in the fourth century by an unknown Greek sculptor on the island of Chios, where they remained until Theodosius II whisked them off to Constantinople for display at the Hippodrome. Then, using the Fourth Crusade, when Venetian forces sacked Constantinople, the ruling doge demanded the four precious statues be transported via ship all the way back to Venice, a nearly impossible feat because of their size and weight. The horses arrived in Venice in 1254, and were installed in front of the façade of St. Mark’s Cathedral.

More than half a millennium later, in 1797, Napoleon conquered Venice and took the horses for himself. They were transported to Paris and prominently displayed atop the Arc de Triomphe. Finally, in 1815, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his exile, the horses were winched down from the Arc de Triomphe and shipped on a barge back to Venice, where they were reinstalled on the front balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica.

Although Langdon had been fairly familiar with the history of the horses, the ARCA site contained a passage that startled him.

The decorative collars were added to the horses’ necks in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitated their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice.

May 24, 2013

Financial Times: Emma Jacobs profiles art investigator Dick Ellis (ARCA Lecturer) in "Lessons from an old master"

Emma Jacobs interviews former Scotland Yard detective Richard Ellis in "Lessons from an old master" (Financial Times, May 23, 2013) about how he goes about recovering stolen art as a private investigator. Jacobs reports that Ellis told her that he is one his way to meet with "someone who was classified as a former terrorist" because "that is how you learn to do stuff". Jacobs relays why Ellis believes art theft is a social problem reaching beyond a personal theft because stolen art is "being used as a currency to fund criminality, arms, drugs and terrorism". You can read the full article here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b27c1392-c2cf-11e2-bbbd-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3A5hsjn6S.

May 12, 2013

The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her thief, The True Story Headed to Denver Art Museum this Friday and to the Biografilm Festival in Bologna in June

The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story, the documentary about the 1911 theft of Leonardo da Vinci's now famous portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo from the Louvre, premiered in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Film Festival on Saturday, May 11.

"We were thrilled to have The Missing Piece screen at Grauman's Chinese Theater for the Beverly Hills Film Festival," Director Joe Medeiros wrote to the ARCA Blog. "We had a very enthusiastic sold-out crowd.  It was our 9th festival and one of the best so far."

Medeiros bills the film as "the true story of how and why Vincenzo Peruggia, a simple Italian immigrant, stole the Mona Lisa and nearly got away with it".

The film will screen at the Denver Art Museum at 7 p.m. this Friday (May 17):
Come to a riveting and humorous documentary film about Vincent Peruggia, the man who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, his 84-year-old daughter who thought he did it for patriotic reasons, and the filmmaker who spent more than 30 years trying to find the truth.  Written and produced by Joe Medeiros, former head writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, this documentary combines historical photographs, animation and interviews with Peruggia’s descendants to examine how an unassuming housepainter from Italy pulled off “the greatest little-known heist in modern time.”  The producers will be present for Q&A after the film.
The international premiere of the movie will be at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna on Saturday June 15 and Sunday June 16.

Joe Medeiros, writer/director, and
Justine Medeiros, producer. 
ARCA Alum ('11) Tanya Lervik saw the movie last July in Georgetown and reviewed the movie here.

Last October Joe Medeiros weighed in on the Isleworth Mona Lisa, positioning that the painting had not been newly discovered but around for almost a century (see the ARCA blog post here).

This documentary is available for private screenings. Here are the project's links:

Twitter@monalisastolen

Updated May 15 to include information from the director Joe Medeiros.

May 10, 2013

Norway Celebrates 150 Anniversary of Munch's birth; BBC Broadcast Interviewed Charley Hill last February on the Successful Return of The Scream in 1994

Celebrating the 150 anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch, the National Museum and Munch Museum in Norway will exhibit more than 200 of the artist's paintings in "Munch 150" on June 2.

Here's a link to a BBC World Service broadcast last heard in February near the anniversary of the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Charley Hill, former undercover police officer for Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Squad (his boss was ARCA Instructor Dick Ellis), describes how he posed as Chris Roberts, a consultant with the Getty Museum to negotiate the purchase of the stolen painting. The broadcast concludes the show with the statement that three of the four convicted of the theft successfully appealed on the grounds that Mr. Hill entered Norway under a fake passport.

Here's a summary of the facts on the 1994 theft as reported by the BBC.

Theresa Veier, an art history and lawyer in Oslo, wrote for the ARCA Blog about the artist and the theft of his work more than 65 years after Edvard Munch's death.

April 3, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013 - ,, No comments

Florida Sheriff Reviving Search for Religious Paintings Stolen from Museum of the Cross in 1968

A Sarasota County sheriff's detective in Florida, Detective Kim McGrath, is reviving the search for 15 religious paintings by Saturday Evening Post illustrator Ben Stahl which were stolen from his Museum of the Cross on April 16, 1968.


Associated Press' Tamara Lush reported on the new search for the paintings stolen more than four de cades ago (Florida's Herald Tribune, "Stolen Religious Art an Enduring Mystery").
Commissioned to illustrate a Bible for the Catholic Press in the mid-1950s, Stahl painted the 14 Stations of the Cross. Later, he decided to paint larger versions, along with a 15th painting, "The Resurrection," because he wanted his work to end on a positive note. All 15 paintings were 6 feet by 9 feet, and painted in oil. In 1965, Stahl and his wife moved to Sarasota and decided to open a museum for the large-scale paintings. Called "The Museum of the Cross," it was one of the main tourist attractions in the area at the time.


One witness remembered seeing a white van near the museum that night, while Stahl recalled two visitors from South America who asked odd questions in the days prior to the theft. The trail eventually went cold, and Stahl and his family didn't think investigators were trying as hard as they could.
"It was devastating," said Regina Briskey, Ben Stahl's daughter, who was working at the museum at the time. "It was incomprehensible, because at that time in Sarasota, there was hardly any crime."
The artist's son, David Stahl, wrote on a website that he even contacted witnesses and possible informers around Florida, but claimed authorities didn't pay attention.
Keeping an old art theft case open:
McGath -- who is also investigating the cold case of a quadruple murder in 1959 in Sarasota and its possible link to the "In Cold Blood" killers in Kansas -- said she is poring over records. She wants to talk to anyone who might have information about the Stahl art heist. 
Interpol Washington is also involved. Spokeswoman Nicole Navas said this week that officials recently sent out a message to all 190 Interpol member countries in an attempt to renew interest in the case, which she said is one of 500 open art heist cases being investigated by the agency.

March 24, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Looking at the Paintings Stolen from the Triton Foundation (Provenance Information Added)

Lucian Freud, Woman with Eyes Closed
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16 remain missing. On January 21, Romanian police arrested three men in connection with the gallery heist. March 4, Dutch police arrested a Romanian woman believed to be an accomplice. On March 13, a German man who arrested for blackmail after an alleged attempt to sell the Triton stolen paintings back to the foundation. The mother of one of the defendants arrested for the theft has claimed that she destroyed two of the paintings.

Last December Yale University published Avant-Gardes 1870 to the Present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation which offers more information on the stolen paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation. This catalogue is written by Sjraar van Heugten, former head of collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and an independent art historian. Here the catalogue's information on the stolen paintings:

Lucian Freud: Woman with Eyes Closed (2002), oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25.4 cm. Provenance: Triton Foundation, acquired from the artists, 2002.


Paul Gauguin, La Fiancée 
Paul Gauguin, Woman Before a Window, 'The Fiancée, 1888, an oil on canvas. annotated in the lower right in red paint (damaged) La Fiancée; signed and dated lower right beneath annotation in black paint P Go 88, 33.8 x 41 cm. Provenance: Private collection, England; Kunsthandel (art dealer) Franz Buffa, Amsterdam; collection Allan and Nancy Miller, Solebury, Pennsylvania, 1949; auction Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 June 1960, no. 87 (unsold); auction Sotheby's, London, 4 July 1962, no. 75 (unsold); auction Christie's, Tokyo, 27 May 1969, no. 302; collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne, circa 1981; auction Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 3 April 1990, no. 58; Triton Foundation, 1997.


Matisse's Reading Woman
Matisse's Reading Woman in White and Yellow, 1919 was painted in the South of France in the suburb of Cimiez. The 31 x 33 cm work is "oil on canvas mounted on board" and "signed lower left Henri Matisse". Comment: Certificate of authenticity by Wanda de Guébriant, 12 Mar. 1996. Provenance: Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, acquired from the artists on 23 June 1919, no. 21624; Bernheim-Jeune Frères, acquired on 20 May 1931; collection Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, 1931; Bignou Gallery, New York; private collection, New York, 1947; collection Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich, 1953; collection Emil G. Bührle, Zurich, acquired from the above on 8 December 1953; Foundation Emil G. Bührle Collection, since 1960; Triton Foundation, 1999.

Jacob Meyer De Haan, Self-Portrait

Jacob Meyer De Haan (Amsterdam 1852 - Amsterdam 1895), Self-Portrait against Japonist Background, circa 1889-1891, oil on canvas, 32.4 x 24.5 cm. Provenance: Collection Marie Henry, Le Pouldu; collection Ida Cochennec, daughter of the artists and Marie Henry; auction Cochennec Collection, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 June 1959, no. 77; Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, London; collection Mr. and Mrs Arthur G. Altschul, New York, acquired in July 1961; Triton Foundation, 2002 (on long-term loan to the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2002-2004).

Sideways view of Monet's Waterloo Bridge
Claude Monet: Waterloo Bridge, London (1901), pastel on brown laid paper, signed lower right Claude Monet, 30.5 x 48.0 cm. Provenance: Collection Werner Herold, Switzerland, circa 1917; private collection, USA, 1970; Triton Foundation, 1998.

Another sideway's view: Monet's
Charing Cross Bridge, London
Claude Monet's Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1901, pastel on brown gray laid paper, annotated and signed lower right à J. Massé/au jeune chasseur/d'Afrique Claude Monet, 31.0 x 48.5 cm. Provenance: Collection J. Massè, gift from the artist; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 24 Nov. 1985, no. 39; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 18 Mar. 1989, no. 6; private collection, Triton Foundation, 1998.

Picasso's Head of a Harlequin
Painted the year before the artist's death, Picasso's Head of a Harlequin (1971) is in "pen and brush in black ink, colored pencil and pastel on thick brown wove paper" (38 x 29 cm) and is "signed and dated in the lower right Picasso/12.1./71. Provenance: Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris; private collection, Europe; Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; private collection, USA; Finartis Kunsthandels AG, Zug; private collection, USA, 2004; Triton Foundation, 2009.

September 19, 2012

Private insurer offers up to $50,000 reward for information leading to the return of a Renoir painting stolen from a Texas residence last year; FBI adds "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair" to Top 10 Art Crimes

Today the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a press release adding a stolen Renoir painting, "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair", to its list of Top 10 Art Crimes and advertising a reward for up to $50,000 to be paid by a private insurer for information leading to the picture's recovery. The 1918 painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir was stolen on September 8, 2011. According to the FBI:
The homeowner was watching television when she heard a loud noise downstairs. When she went to investigate, she was confronted by an armed man in a ski mask. ...The painting was taken with its frame intact from the stairwell where it hung. The masked robber, who forced entry through the back door of the home, is described as a white male, 18 to 26 years old, who weighs about 160 pounds and is approximately 5’-10” tall. He was armed with a large-caliber, semi-automatic handgun.
According to Anita Hassan reporting for The Houston Chronicle, the thief entered the home and demanded money and diamonds but the owner, protective of her sleeping son upstairs, offered her painting by Renoir as the most valuable monetary asset available.

The original reward was announced at $25,000, according to information released by The Art Loss Register who reported that the Houston Police Department and the FBI were working on the investigation. The FBI estimates that the stolen painting is worth $1 million. The private insurer is not identified. The painting's image has also been included in databases for The Art Loss Register (accessible for a fee) and Interpol (free access to registered users).

Stolen Renoir paintings

In addition to the Texan "Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow", Interpol's Stolen Art Database identifies 18 Renoir paintings as stolen and still missing since 1938.  The paintings have been stolen from places in Switzerland, France, Argentina, Germany, the United States, Japan, and Italy.

In mid-June 2012, $21 million worth of artwork, including a painting by Renoir and ten drawings by Picasso, were stolen from a businessman in a violent assault in Olomouc in the Czech Republic.

Recovered Renoir paintings

A Renoir stolen from Rome in 1984 re-appeared in Venice in 2009 just months after another Renoir painting stolen from Milan 33 years earlier had also been recovered.

An international law enforcement operation recovered Renoir's "Young Parisian" in Los Angeles and Rembrandt's "Self Portrait" in Copenhagen in 2005.  The two pictures, along with another Renoir, were stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in 2000 when thieves used machine guns, tire spikes, and diversionary car bombs to penetrate the museum's security. Stockholm County Police had recovered Renoir's "Conversation" four years earlier in July of 2001.

July 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Edgar Degas: Works Recovered and Still Missing


Edgar Degas.  Count Lepic and His Daughters.
 1871.  Oil on canvas. 65.5 x 81 cm.
E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich.

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA European Correspondent

 Today we honour the birthday of French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917).  Best known for his depictions of dancers, Degas was both a sculptor and painter who combined tradition with change in the 19th century art world.  Like many famous artists, his work has been admired and fallen prey to the criminal world.  One of his paintings, Count Lepic and His Daughters of 1871, was part of a four year recovery that was only recently announced upon its completion in April of this year.
   On the afternoon of Sunday, February 10, 2008, three masked gunman stole four paintings from the E.G. Bührle Collection in Zurich—one of the greatest Impressionist and Post-Impressionist museums in Europe.  The four paintings, one each by Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh, and Monet, were valued at $163 million and have all been recovered as of April 2012.[i]  Degas’ painting was actually recovered in 2009, but this information was kept quiet until the recovery of the final and most expensive painting, Cézanne’s The Boy in a Red Vest, was recovered in 2012.  There was some damage to the paintings which had been cut from their frames, including the Degas which thankfully only suffered damage to the edges of the painting.[ii] 
  Degas’ group portrait of Count Lepic and his two daughters has an entirely Impressionist look, particularly the girls who look rather Cassatt-like, though it has moments of looking far more like charcoal or watercolour rather than an oil painting on canvas.  Lepic’s face appears unfinished, his expression just shy of unreadable save for the attentive gaze of a father for his daughter.  The two girls stare out at the viewer with gazes both knowing and angelically innocent.  One can imagine even a hardened criminal becoming uneasy under such a gaze, especially after having damaged the painting during the theft.
   Thankfully for Degas, this particular theft of his artwork had a happy ending.  Five works by Degas do not have such a happy ending and are currently missing in conjunction to the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft of 1990, including Cotège aux Environs de Florence (pencil and wash on paper).  Hopefully these works will one day have their happy ending as well.

Kirsten Hower is the Academic Program Assistant for ARCA.  She is currently finishing her MLitt at Christie's Education.


[i]Uta Harnischfeger and Nicholas Kulish, “At Zurich Museum, a Theft of 4 Masterworks,” New York Times, February 12, 2008.
[ii] Swissinfo.ch, “Stolen Degas recovered damaged,” April 27, 2012.

May 14, 2012

REVISITING BOOKS: Peter Watson on the Palermo Nativity in the 1984 book "The Caravaggio Conspiracy"

The Palermo Nativity
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Part one of three

Repeated rumors of the destruction of Caravaggio's painting, Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco, reminded me of Peter Watson's telling of how an earthquake in southern Italy interupted his attempts to recover the painting ten years after it was stolen from a chapel in Sicily.

Watson's 1984 book, The Caravaggio Conspiracy (Doubleday), documents the journalist's cooperation with 'Italy's greatest art detective', Rodolfo Sievero, to recover The Nativity in 1979.  Watson, a British journalist, and Sievero, who at the time was 'an Italian diplomat' who headed 'a small section of the Italian Foreign Office exclusively concerned with the recovery of stolen art', concocted a plan to get one of Siviero's suspects in the theft of The Nativity to offer the Caravaggio or another stolen painting to Watson.

In the eighth chapter of the book, Watson sympathetically describes Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio as a maverick painter whose erratic behavior and subsequent criminal record may have been the result of an illness contracted in his early years in Rome.  "Caravaggio's approach to his art -- conveying miraculous biblical episodes through vividly real but otherwise ordinary people, revolutionized painting," Watson wrote.

As an aside, I point out that in his summary of Caravaggio's career, Watson highlights the contribution after 1590 of one of the painter's supporters who originated from Amelia, home to ARCA's summer program and its International Art Conference:
A certain Monsignor Petrignani provided him with a room -- it was hardly a studio -- and Caravaggio began to turn out many pictures.  The younger painter enjoyed this work more, but though he was prolific he was not successful.  The arrangement eventually bore fruit, however, through the good offices of an art dealer named Valentino who had exhibited paintings by Caravaggio and finally succeeded in selling several of them to Cardinal del Monte.
The 16th century Palazzo Petrignani hosted the 2010 International Art Crime Conference in Amelia.

In 1609, running from knights and friends of a man who died by the painter's sword, Caravaggio painted what Watson describes as the "Adoration of the Child with St. Francis and St. Lawrence" (also  known as the "Palermo Nativity") in the church of the Oratorio of San Lorenzo in Palermo. Watson wrote:
It is an unusual painting for Caravaggio: it almost seems that the events of the preceding months were beginning to catch up with him.  It is still a Caravaggio but it is as if he had begun to doubt his own vision.  The peasants watching the event are in the old, familiar style.  They are ordinary, balding, tired rather shabby people lost in wonder.  But Mary particularly is a more stylized figure: her features are regular, smooth, her skin is like marble.  There is even an angel descending from on high.  Some sort of change appeared to be coming over Caravaggio.... Whoever had stolen it had taken more than an object; he had deprived the world of a sign of change in the mind -- the somewhat unstable mind -- of a great man.
Caravaggio's eight foot by seven foot painting of the Nativity served as the altarpiece for the Baroque chapel of the Oratory of San Lorenzo for 359 years until it had been "hacked" "out of its splendid frame with a razor blade," Watson wrote.

A few weeks after the theft, Siviero, Watson wrote, had received a message that the theft had been revenge for what Siviero had done 'to the Mafia over the Ephebus in Foligno."

Part two continued on May 16.

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.