December 31, 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - ,, No comments

Postcard from Turkey: The Archaeological Museum in Boğazkale

by Aaron Haines

After my visit in Uşak, I took a four hour bus ride to Ankara where I spent the night and then left early the next morning for Boğazkale. After sitting on a hot bus for three hours watching daytime Turkish TV (the bus driver was a fan of soap operas), I arrived in Sungurlu, the closest major town to Boğazkale. Upon stepping off the bus, I was immediately befriended by a nice Turkish taxi driver who offered to take me to Boğazkale for an exorbitant fare. I politely declined and started the one mile trek towards the town center of Sungurlu in hopes that I could find a minibus headed for Boğazkale. I eventually located the minibus station and sat down to wait. In Turkey, the minibus drivers don’t drive anywhere until their vehicle is full and unfortunately for me, it was noon and no one was interested in going to Boğazkale except for me. After waiting for a half hour, I decided that the 15 seater minivan was never going to fill up and decided to take a taxi.
Yard of Boğazkale museum (AH)

I finally arrived in the small town of Boğazkale and had the taxi drop me off outside the archaeology museum. It had a sizeable lawn and pavement area with a tall wrought iron fence surrounding the lot. Various archaeological artifacts were in the yard, but unlike the Uşak museum, these pieces were carefully displayed and labeled. A few of the larger pieces were even placed under wooden shelters to protect them from the elements.

Disputed sphinx (AH)
As I stepped into the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was the large pair of sphinxes flanking the doorway to the central gallery. The left sphinx had been the center of a heated debate between Turkey and Germany ever since the beginning of the 20th century when the statues had been discovered and sent to Berlin for repairs. Germany only sent back one of the sphinxes and the other remained in Berlin where it was built into the wall of the Pergamon Museum. Germany did not return the sphinx until 2011 after Turkey threatened to revoke Germany’s dig permit at Hattusha. The museum consisted of a couple of small rooms preceding a much larger central gallery. There were many text panels explaining the works displayed as well as information about the Hittites and other civilizations that inhabited the surrounding region. All of the works were well lit and beautifully displayed.

Main gallery (AH)
After passing between the sphinxes, I entered the main gallery which consisted of a ground floor and a second story balcony area. More archeological artifacts were displayed as well as replicas and explanations of the ancient city of Hattusha. The most arresting works on the ground floor were two tall ceremonial bull vases. There were fewer cameras than at Uşak, but the display cases appeared to be much more modern and secure than those at Uşak. Also, the visibility in the main gallery was excellent since it was just one main room and the guard had complete visibility of both the ground floor and the balcony level.

The bench outside the museum (AH)
After visiting the galleries, I sat on a bench outside the museum and chatted with the security guard. He spoke almost no English so we talked in Turkish. He told me that a guard was present at the museum 24/7 and that the cameras monitored both the interior of the museum as well as the surrounding yard. Each night, the fence gate as well as the main door’s outer iron grate are locked. There were also powerful motion detection lights on the exterior of the building that would turn on if a person approached the building at night.


Hattusha site (AH)
I left the museum and walked about twenty minutes to the Hattusha archaeological site where the ancient capital of the Hittites once stood. Near the entrance is a reconstruction of the city walls to give visitors an idea of how massive the walls and towers of the city were. I then spent the next three hours hiking around the ancient ruins by following the wide road that snakes its way throughout the ruined city. Except for the occasional Turkish family or group of backpackers, I had the place to myself. At the very top I found the gate where the two sphinxes had been originally discovered where a replica now stands. From the gate there was a spectacular view of the ruins and surrounding landscape.

Original site of sphinxes with replica
As the sun began to set, I made my way back into the town center of Boğazkale. On my way down the country road, I ran into the museum security guard taking an evening stroll with his family. He introduced me to his wife and young daughter and asked how I liked Hattusha. I told him that I was on my way back to Sungurlu and he warned me that it might be too late to take a taxi. I thanked him and we parted ways. As I continued walking, I thought about my chances of finding a taxi and decided that the odds were slim. So I stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked back to Sungurlu with a nice Turkish gentleman driving home from work. From there, I caught one of the last buses going back to Ankara where I wearily walked back to my hostel at midnight.

All photos taken by Aaron Haines.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

December 30, 2013

Postcard from Turkey: The Archaeological Museum at Uşak, The Lydian Hoard and Two Hippocampuses

by Aaron Haines

I rubbed my sleep-deprived eyes and stared across the abandoned parking lot at the rusty minivan that was supposedly my “shuttle” into town. It was six in the morning and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon of Uşak, a small city in the center of western Turkey. Most bus companies don’t travel to Uşak and the few that do only offer one or two bus rides from Istanbul each day. I had left Istanbul the previous night at eight and spent the next ten hours on a bus in order to see Uşak’s most famous possession: the Lydian Hoard. I walked up to the minivan, squeezed onto the front bench, and told the driver I needed to go the archaeology museum. The rest of the passengers stared me as if wondering what a young American backpacker was doing so far from any of Turkey’s usual tourist destinations. We soon reached the city center and the driver told me in Turkish that the museum was just down the street.

Photo by A. Haines
The museum did not open for another couple of hours so I took my time observing the building’s exterior. It was a small building situated on an awkward triangular corner plot of land where two streets merged. It was surrounded by a low wrought iron fence that was about three to four feet in height. The building’s small yard was littered with archaeological artifacts from various civilizations and time periods; Byzantine, Hittite, Roman, and others. The placement of these objects was haphazard, but it was clear every square inch of the yard could be surveyed by the small army of security cameras that pointed in every direction. Also, none of the objects were small enough to be lifted by hand and would have required either machinery or several people to move them. There was an abundance of exterior lighting indicating that the museum and archaeological artifacts could be sufficiently monitored at night. The museum was an older building, but fulfilled its intended purpose. The windows were single paned and old, but all well protected by the iron bars covering them. Despite the early hour, I noticed a man standing inside the museum watching me, indicating that a security guard was present at the museum both day and night.

At eight when the museum opened, I stepped inside and was greeted by the security guard. I pulled out my wallet to purchase a ticket, but the guard was already leaving his desk and leading me into the museum’s only gallery. I expected him to then return to his desk while I toured the small collection, but instead he simply followed me around. I got the feeling that not many people came into the museum. The lighting and presentation of the museum’s collection were excellent and there were many text panels explaining the significance of the objects as well as where they had been found in the surrounding countryside.

Photo of Lydian Hoard by A. Haines
I was eager to see the Lydian Hoard and quickly found it in a room in the very back of the gallery. The pieces of the collection were displayed on simple but elegant cloth with good lighting. The hippocampus still occupied its own display case, but the text panel gave no indication that the original had been stolen or that the current piece on display was a copy of the original. I noticed that the previous simple lock had been replaced by a lock, seal, and slip of paper. On this slip of paper were the signatures of four different archaeologists indicating that each had verified that the work was the legitimate original.

Photo of documented lock by A. Haines
The museum guard was still shadowing me so I decided to strike up a conversation with him. He did not speak much English so we conversed in Turkish. He explained to me that a guard was at the museum twenty four hours a day and that there was video surveillance of the entire building and the surrounding yard of antiquities. When I asked him how many patrons visited the museum, he told me that during the summer, they averaged about one hundred every day. This surprised since Uşak is a smaller city and quite far from any major tourist attractions. I asked again about the museum attendance and he repeated that they indeed averaged around one hundred patrons a day during the summer time. He explained that during the winter, attendance drops due to the decrease in tourism. He went on to explain that the city was currently constructing a new museum that is supposed to be completed next year. The new three story building will have much more storage and administration space as well as an upgraded security system.


Copy of  hippocampus in Uşak (A. Haines) 
We returned to the subject of the Lydian Hoard and after I asked a couple of questions about the hippocampus, he stopped and stared at me for a couple of seconds. He then asked if I wanted to know something and leaned in to quietly tell me that the original work had been stolen. I feigned surprise and he motioned for me to walk back over to the display case. He then told me the story about the hippocampus and confided in me that the brooch in the case was actually a fake. Thanks to Sharon Waxman’s 2008 book Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World (Times Books), I already knew this, but I doubted that most patrons to the museum did. There was no explanation of it in the text panels or in any of the other materials on display. Most patrons assumed that they were viewing the original.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Ankara, the capitol of Turkey, just a couple of days later and saw the same hippocampus on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. My immediate thought was that I had now seen two copies of the same stolen work.

Recovered hippocampus temporarily
housed in Ankara (Photo by A. Haines)
I approached two security guards chatting nearby and explained to them that I had just seen this same work in Uşak. They replied that I had seen a copy in Uşak and that the object in Ankara was the original brooch. I asked them how this could be since the work had been stolen and they explained that it had been recently recovered. Supposedly it was only on temporary display in Ankara and will be moved to Uşak next year when the new Uşak museum is complete.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

Stolen and Recovered Antiquity: The Hippocampus brooch of the Lydian Hoard ("Karun Treasure") recovered in 2012 in Germany

Constanze Letsche in Istanbul reported for The Guardian in "King Croesus' golden brooch to be returned to Turkey" that German government officials have agreed to return the Hippocampus brooch of the Lydian Hoard ("Karun Treasure"), allegedly sold by the director of the museum in Uşak and replaced with a copy sometime between 1993 and 2006.
Although details of the brooch's latest recovery are unclear, Turkish officials are delighted. "I am very happy to hear that the piece will finally return home," said a culture and tourism official, Serif Aritürk, who is responsible for the museum in Usak. "Since I was in office in 2005 and 2006 I felt personally responsible for the theft; our directorate came under a lot of pressure." He added that he had never doubted the brooch would reappear. "No collector would have dared to acquire such a well-known artefact, it was clear that the thieves would not find a buyer easily."
The Hippocampus brooch was found in Germany.

Here The History Blog provides backstory on the recovery and theft of this object.

Was the repatriation of a footless 10th century statue to Cambodia this month related to Sotheby's history of selling Khmer pieces with "no published provenance" or "weak" collecting histories?

This month's repatriation of a 10th century footless sandstone statue looted from an archaeological site in Cambodia has a backstory going back a few years. In an academic article published in July 2011, Tess Davis, then assistant director of Heritage Watch, wrote that Sotheby's Auction House had listed 377 Khmer pieces for sale between 1988 and 2010:
Seventy-one percent of the antiquities had no published provenance, or ownership history, meaning they could not be traced to previous collections, exhibitions, sales, or publications. Most of the provenances were weak, such as anonymous private collections, or even prior Sotheby’s sales. None established that any of the artifacts had entered the market legally, that is, that they initially came from archaeological excavations, colonial collections, or the Cambodian state and its institutions. While these statistics are alarming, in and of themselves, fluctuations in the sale of the unprovenanced pieces can also be linked to events that would affect the number of looted antiquities exiting Cambodia and entering the United States. This correlation suggests an illegal origin for much of the Khmer material put on the auction block by Sotheby’s
In the summer of 2011, Jane Levine of Sotheby's objected to Ms. Davis' article and demanded a retraction. About six months later, Cambodia asked that Ms. Levine be removed from a cultural panel based on perceived ethical conflicts.

At the end of February 2012, Tom Mashberg and Ralph Blumenthal wrote in The New York Times ("Mythic Warrior is Captive in Global Art Theft", February 28, 2012) that the Cambodian government had asked the U.S. for help to stop the sale of a reputedly looted 10th century Khmer Koh Ker footless sandstone statue Sotheby's intended to sell in March. This month, almost two years later, an agreement was reached to return the disputed statue, now described as a Duryodhana statue, to Cambodia ("Duryodhana statue from Prasat Chen, Cambodia: "Voluntary" Repatriation by Sotheby's and consigner").

Ms. Davis is now a Researcher in the Scottish Center for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow.

December 28, 2013

Fabio Isman reports on scholar Augusto Gentili's identification of sitter of portrait "Young Knight in Landscape" at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Carpaccio's 1515 "Young Knight in a
 Landscape", Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Investigative journalist Fabio Isman's article "Scoperto chi è il “Cavaliere Thyssen” di Carpaccio" discusses the work of scholar Augusto Gentili who has identified the mystery man in Vittorio Carpaccio's painting "Young Knight in a Landscape" (1515) at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. Gentili, a lecturer at Ca'Foscari di Venezia until his retirement, has identified the painting as a portrait of the Venetian captain Marco Gabriel decapitated by the Turks in 1501 during wartime.

Here Mar Borobia for the museum describes the difficulty in identifying painting as either a fictional knight or a portrait which would be "the first known example in which the sitter is depicted full-length":
It has been suggested that this new format can be explained if this image were a posthumous portrait of a soldier, in which case the figure would be similar to funerary images of a comparable type and date. The landscape around this enigmatic young man is as mysterious and troubling as he is, combining as it does flowers and animals that refer both to good and evil, purity and corruption.
Isman reports that Professor Gentili linked the portrait to Marco Gabriel and to Venice's Hotel Gabrielli. The English translation of Gentili's analysis will be published in The Burlington Magazine.

December 27, 2013

Link to Radio New Zealand's Interview with Penny Jackson, director of the Tauranga Art Gallery and a NZ art crime expert

Here's a link to Radio New Zealand's interview last summer with Penny Jackson, director of the Tauranga Art Gallery and a New Zealand art crime expert. Ms. Jackson was kind enough to provide a list of some of the names of artists and institutions she mentions in this podcast:

Edward Bullmore
James Jacques Joseph Tissot
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Arrowtown
Rotorua Museum
Waiouru Museum
Kermadec exhibition/John Reynolds
Dowse Art Museum
C F Goldie
University of Auckland
Karl Sim
Urewera Mural by Colin McCahon and borrowed by Tama Iti 
Sarah Hillary
Dame Jenny Gibbs
Gottfried Lindauer
Waikato Trust
Tainui
Whanau
Robert McDougall Art Gallery
Heather Straka

Ms. Jackson plans to attend the 2014 ARCA conference.

December 26, 2013

"Selling Russia's Treasures" writes about the collecting history of Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam and Eve" now at The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

Santa left a tantalizing art book under my Christmas tree, Selling Russia's Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art 1917-1938 edited by Natalya Semyonova and Nicolas V. Iljine, (MTA Publishing, November 2013), which is of particular interest to me as one of the artworks mentioned is the "Adam" and "Eve" diptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder that resides within a 15-minute walk of my home. This work is the subject of litigation in Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, which can be heard here from a court hearing in August 2013. These two paintings, purchased by the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker at an Lepke auction in 1931 and 'purchased' by Herman Göring in 1940 were returned to an heir of the Stroganoff family after World War II and subsequently sold to Norton Simon in 1971. Did Cranach's "Adam" and "Eve" ever belong to the well-documented Stroganov Collection? According to Selling Russia's Treasures:
In addition to paintings from the Stroganov collection, the Lepke auction of May 12-13, 1931, featured two Lucas Cranach paired canvases, Adam and Eve, from the Art Museum of the Ukraine Academy of Sciences in Kiev. 
Cranach paintings often included Adam and Eve, but the existence of the canvases put up for the 1931 auction was unknown well into the late 1920s. The paintings had been found under a staircase in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Kiev in 1927, then moved to the museum of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (monastery); in 1928, on the initiative of Prof. S. O. Gilyarov, the paintings were given to the Academy museum in Kiev (in 1929 Gilyarov published an article in Ukrainian about the paintings; it included a brief synopsis in French). The newly discovered Adam and Eve were sold in 1931 to Dutch collector Jacques Goudstikker, whose remarkable personal collection numbered more than a thousand old master paintings and about a hundred old master sculptures.
Here are previous ARCA posts about the painting; the Goudstikker collection's 'sale' to the Nazis; the Stroganoff Collection; and the lawsuit.

December 25, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - ,,, No comments

A flaming Swedish Christmas tradition – the annual burning of the Gävle-Goat

by A. M. C. Knutsson

On Saturday the 21st of December the Gävle-Goat was again found in flames after unknown men engaged in a 4 a.m. torching session of this enormous straw creation. The men have yet to be found but the police are searching vigorously for the culprits. If found they would be charged with inflicting gross damage to property.

The burning of the Gävle-goat is a ritual reaching back to 1966, the year when Stig Galvén prompted the first straw goat to be erected in Slottstorget in Gävle, central Sweden. The Yule time straw goat has a long tradition in the Scandinavian culture. It reaches back to pre-Christian days when the god of War, Thor, was said to have a carriage pulled by two goats; Tanngnjost and Tanngrisner.[1] The goat has long been associated with fertility and farming, as such the last wheat sheaf of the year was thought to embody the harvest spirit. As such it could be formed into a goat to boost next year’s crops.[2] As the Nordic countries were converted to Christianity, the goat became increasingly associated with darker powers. None-the-less the Yule goat maintained a prominent role in the Swedish Christmas celebrations. Long before Santa Clause’s arrival at the Swedish shore it was the Yule-Goat who was in charge of distributing gifts to children during the yuletide. He, however, was not quite as jovial as the present day Santa, and parents often threatened unruly children with the Yule-Goat.[3] As late as the end of the 19th Century when Santa Clause finally managed to navigate to the northern countries, it was the Yule-Goat who pulled his sledge. Nowadays there is little left to remind us of the goat but the straw Yule-Goats found in most Swedish homes.

When the Gävle-Goat first appeared in 1966, it was then a symbol recognisable to all Swedes, however its scale was something quite new. The goat was 13 meters (42.6 feet) high and 7 meters (23 feet) long, weighing an impressive 3 tonnes. Since then every year a gigantic straw goat has been installed on Slottstorget around the first of advent. On New Years Eve of 1966, Galvén’s goat was the first of many to feel the power of the flame.[4] As opposed to most other vandals, the first one was caught and charged with inflicting gross damage to property. This was followed by two years of peace for the goat after which it again was torched on New Years Eve 1969. Whilst many forms of vandalism have afflicted the Goat throughout the years the most common by far is arson. When the goat burnt on the 21st of Dec 2013, it was the 27th time the poor beast has met its end by the torch.

In 1985 the goat met with a new level of fame when it was included in The Guinness Book of World Records for its impressive 12.5 meter height, which was later beaten by the 1993 goat, which towered 16 meters above ground. Since 1986 two Yule-Goats have been found in Gävle, as two competing associations have been building them: the Southern Merchants (constructing the Gävle-Goat, the bigger goat, usually targeted by arsonists) and Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa (Constructing the Yule-Goat). Only two years later, the goat had met such repute that English bookmakers took up the challenge of the goat burning and ever since it has been possible to bet on whether or not the goat will burn. As the renown of the goat rose so did the police efforts to secure it. Whilst in 1990 volunteers had guarded the goat, by 1996 the first web cameras had been installed and it was now possible to follow the destiny of the goat online. The fame of the goat was such that in 2001, an American from New Orleans, having taken the burnings of the goat as a permitted tradition decided to torch it. A civilian caught him almost immediately and the police had to rescue him from the wrath of the people of Gävle.[5] The man later received a fine of 100 000 Swedish crowns (approx. $15,000) and a month in jail.[6]

Apart from the attempts at destruction by fire the most notable attack on the goat came in 2010, when two unknown men offered the goat’s guard 50 000 Swedish crowns (approx. $7,500) to leave the goat for a few minutes. The plan was to kidnap the goat and by helicopter bring it to Stureplan in Stockholm.[7]

Whilst flame-retardants have been used for some years, including this year, the goat has burnt to the ground for the last three years. In the Facebook group ‘Vi som vill bränna Gävle-bocken’ ('We who want to burn the Gävle-goat'), a comment appeared just a day before its destruction. “All who have guessed that the goat would burn today, maybe it is time to take matters into your own hands?”[8] A few hours later the goat was in flames. From its twitter account the Gävle-Goat announced “I'm so sad my friends that I have to leave you now! Thank you for this year! Take care and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”[9]

[1] "Mytologi (Nordisk)". Nordisk familjebok, 1913. Read 23 December 2013
[2] Karin Schager, Julbocken i folktro och jultradition, (1989)
[3] Caroline Lagercrantz, http://www.popularhistoria.se/artiklar/julbocken-i-maskopi-med-morka-makter/, (26 Jan 2007), Read 23 December 2013
[4] http://www2.visitgavle.se/sv/se-gora/a548364/gavlebockens-historia/detaljer
[5] Dennis Larsson, http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article10249963.ab (24 Dec 2001), Read 23 December 2013
[6] Josefin Karlsson & Niklas Eriksson, http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article18065246.ab (21 Dec 2013), Read 23 December 2013
[9] https://twitter.com/Gavlebocken, Read 23 December 2013

Further Reading:
"Mytologi (Nordisk)". Nordisk familjebok, 1913. Karin Schager, Julbocken i folktro och jultradition, (1989)
Karlsson, Josefin & Niklas Eriksson, http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article18065246.ab (21 Dec 2013)

The YouTube video above is from Gävlebocken 2012.

December 24, 2013

Christos Tsirogiannis Interviews Marc Balcells in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis interviews Marc Balcells in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:
Dear Reader, 
I would like to introduce you to my colleague at ARCA, the new co-editor the Journal of Art Crime, Marc Balcells. 
Marc started paying attention to art and cultural heritage crimes in 2009, when he moved to New York City, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. Never, in his wildest dreams, he would have imagined that, as a criminologist, his research interests would have led him there. However, the more Marc reflects about how things unfolded in his career, the more he realizes it were meant to happen. 
First of all, Marc studied Law in his city, Barcelona. In the several Criminal Law courses he took there was no mention to art crimes whatsoever, even though the Spanish Criminal Code punishes this form of crime in several of its articles. By 2001, after four years of law school, and being twenty one, he specialized in Criminal Law, but again, there was no mention of cultural heritage crimes in that Masters program. No art thieves in his list of prosecutions, either.
Christos Tsirogiannis is a Greek forensic archaeologist. He studied archaeology and history of art in the University of Athens, then worked for the Greek Ministry of Culture from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. He voluntarily cooperated with the Greek police Art Squad on a daily basis (August 2004 - December 2008) and was a member of the Greek Task Force Team that repatriated looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities from the Getty Museum, the Shelby White/Leon Levy collection, the Jean-David Cahn AG galleries, and others. Since 2007, Tsirogiannis has been identifying antiquities in museums, galleries, auction houses, private collections and museums, depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives, notifying public prosecutor Dr. Paolo Giorgio Ferri and the Greek authorities. He received his Ph.D. last October at the University of Cambridge, on the international illicit antiquities network viewed through the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides archive.

You may finish reading this interview in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 23, 2013

Marc Balcells Introduces Christos Tsirogiannis in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Associate Editor Marc Balcells introduces Christos Tsirogiannis in an article which begins:
I would like to introduce you my colleague at ARCA, the new co-editor of The Journal of Art Crime, Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge).
Christos owes his passion for fighting looting to his parents, Perikles and Athena. They were the ones who, as early as 1977, presented him with images from the discovery of Phillip II tomb, Alexander's the Great father, in Northern Greece, Macedonia. They were the first who indicated to young Christos the scale of the destruction that could have been made if the looters had come first... 
Since that day, Christos has known that he would become an archaeologist. Working as a specialized excavation technician throughout his undergraduate years at the University of Athens, he first acquired a B.A. in Archaeology and History of Art. With several years of excavation experience, he started working as an archaeologist at the ancient Agora of Athens, before becoming a reserve officer for the Greek Army. Even there, archaeology continued to be part of his life, as he discovered two ancient settlements (in Crete and on the Greek-Albanian borders) and an ancient cemetery in Macedonia. Delivery the antiquities and indicating their find spots to the Greek Archaeological Service, Christos Tsirogiannis was awarded with a medal from the Greek Army and a contract to continue his career as an archaeologist, after the completion of his army service.
You may finish reading this interview in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Marc Balcells is the Associate Editor of The Journal of Art Crime. A Spanish criminologist, he holds degrees in Law, Criminology and Human Services, and masters both in Criminal Law, and the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. A Fulbright scholar, he is currently completing his PhD in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research revolves around criminological aspects of archaeological looting, though he has also written about other forms of art crime. He has taught both Criminal Law and Criminology courses as an associate at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Political Science department at John Jay College. He is also a criminal defense attorney whose practice is located in Barcelona.

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

Ilaria Dagnini Brey's "The Venus Fixers" and Robert Edsel's "Saving Italy" Reviewed in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Associate Editor Marc Balcells reviewed Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers and Robert Edsel's Saving Italy in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Of The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009) by Ilaria Dagnini Brey, Balcells wrote:
Following in the steps of many other books depicting the loss of cultural heritage during World War II (whose examples include Lynn Nicholas' The Rape of Europa or Harclerode and Pittaway's The Lost Masters, among others), Ilaria Dagnini Brey's book traces the fate of Italian works of art that suffered during the armed conflict. An Italian journalist herself, Mrs. Dagnini Brey traces, with a complete array of documentation, the history and the impact of World War II in Italy, especially in its cities, filled with monuments, museums, historical buildings and archives. The book covers only particular cities: of course writing a book with the vast amount of information on cultural heritage in every corner of Italy would be a work fit for an encyclopedia, and not just a single volume. 
One of the assets of the book is its establishment of a very solid base setting the scene: path of Italy's entrance to the war is clearly delineated. But instead of giving only a historical account of the events, the author establishes, from the very beginning, the links to cultural heritage and the policies taken to prevent the possible damage. In order to do so, the main characters are carefully introduced, and the main cities that configure the book's landscape are clearly laid from the very beginning (Padua, Rome, Florence...). Out of these characters, for the reader who has previous knowledge of the subject, the Allied Monuments Men will echo from others (mostly Edsel's two previous books, Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men). However, without downplaying their role, the book also abounds with Italian characters who have been mostly unacknowledged, and are fully explored in it.
Of Robert M. Edsel's Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (W.W. Norton & Company, May 2013), Balcells wrote:
Followers of Robert Edsel's previous books can rejoice, as a new one has appeared on the market: after Rescuing Da Vinci and The Monuments Men, Saving Italy follows his previous books related to World War II and the destruction of cultural heritage, and the task that the Monuments Men conducted in order to save, in this case, Italy's cultural heritage. 
This book relates much to its predecessor, The Monuments Men (Rescuing Da Vinci follows a mostly illustrated, coffee table book format), as it traces the work of the Allied officers from England and the United States into Italy, as the German forces retreated. The book follows a chronological order in four parts: the inception, struggle, victory and aftermath of the Monuments Men.
Marc Balcells is the Associate Editor of The Journal of Art Crime. A Spanish criminologist, he holds degrees in Law, Criminology and Human Services, and masters both in Criminal Law, and the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. A Fulbright scholar, he is currently completing his PhD in Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research revolves around criminological aspects of archaeological looting, though he has also written about other forms of art crime. He has taught both Criminal Law and Criminology courses as an associate at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Political Science department at John Jay College. He is also a criminal defense attorney whose practice is located in Barcelona.

You may finish reading this book review in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 22, 2013

Editorial Essay: Suzette Scotti writes about "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You: the Axum Obelisk" in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In an editorial essay, Suzette Scotti writes about "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You: the Axum Obelisk" in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:
In October of 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in accordance with his plan to resurrect the ancient Roman Empire and restore dignity and prosperity to the Italian people. Emulating his imperial predecessors, who crowned their military victories by looting and plundering the sacred treasures of the conquered peoples, Mussolini personally ordered the removal of one of the monumental obelisks of Axum to Rome as war booty. The mammoth 1,700 year old monument, a potent symbol of Ethiopian independence and national identity, was inextricably linked to the Ethiopian's heritage, a cherished symbol of a sophisticated civilization that had once rivaled that of Rome. Mussolin's appropriation of this emotionally charged symbol unequivocally conveyed his message to the world that Ethiopia was now Italian. While Italy was soon forced to relinquish its brief "place in the sun" with the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, the looted obelisk would remain in Rome for another sixty-eight years, an unsettling reminder of Italy's fascist past and an ongoing insult to Ethiopian sovereignty. Delays over its restitution spawned a controversy that was only resolved in 2005, when the last segment of the obelisk was finally returned to its homeland. The saga of the restitution of the Axum obelisk reflects current debates over repatriation of artifacts seized as war booty by colonial powers, and provides an encouraging example of how, after years of injustice, the fabric of peace and friendship can be rewoven when countries respect each other's cultural heritage.
Suzette Scotti teaches Art History at Leeward Community College, a campus of the University of Hawaii. She serves on the Board of the Hawaii Museums Association and is a docent at the Honolulu Museum of Art and Bishop Museum. She taught for a decade in Rome, indulging her passion for Italian art, as well as in Spain, Switzerland, and Japan. She speaks fluent Italian, French, and Spanish. Suzette earned a B.A. in English from Vassar College, a Diploma in Legal Studies from Queen's College, Cambridge University, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Virginia, where she wrote her master's thesis on Simone Martini's St. Louis of Toulouse altarpiece. She first became interested in art crime while living in Rome, where she could see the looted obelisk of Axum from her living room window.

You may finish reading this editorial essay in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 20, 2013

Christos Tsirogiannis on "From Apulia to Virginia: An Apulian Gnathia Askos at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts" in his debut column "Nekyia" for The Journal of Art Crime

"From Apulia to Virginia: An Apulian Gnathia Askos at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts" is the subject of Christos Tsirogiannis' debut column "Nekyia" for The Journal of Art Crime in the Fall 2013 issue:
We begin this new, regular column on the underworld of antiquities trading with a follow-up to my article in the last issue of JAC (Spring 2013), 'A Marble Statue of a Boy at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts'. 
[...]
Facts and Evidence 
An Apulian Gnathia askos with a spout formed in the shape of a woman's head appears in 2 Polaroid images (nos. CD 3, racc. 82, pag. 31, foto 6 and CD 3, racc. 82, pag. 32, foto 2) from the confiscated archive of the convicted antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici. The vase is depicted uncleaned, standing on a large, creased white sheet of paper, reassembled from various fragments, missing the entire left side of its rim and various chips of clay from its neck and shoulder.
Christos Tsirogiannis is a Greek forensic archaeologist. He studied archaeology and history of art in the University of Athens, then worked for the Greek Ministry of Culture from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. He voluntarily cooperated with the Greek police Art Squad on a daily basis (August 2004 - December 2008) and was a member of the Greek Task Force Team that repatriated looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities from the Getty Museum, the Shelby White/Leon Levy collection, the Jean-David Cahn AG galleries, and others. Since 2007, Tsirogiannis has been identifying antiquities in museums, galleries, auction houses, private collections and museums, depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives, notifying public prosecutor Dr. Paolo Giorgio Ferri and the Greek authorities. He received his Ph.D. last October at the University of Cambridge, on the international illicit antiquities network viewed through the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides archive.

You may finish reading this column in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška CharneyHere's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 18, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - No comments

Columnist David Gill on "The Cleveland Apollo Goes Public" in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In his column "Context Matters" for tenth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Professor David Gill writes on “The Cleveland Apollo Goes Public”:
In September 2013, the classical bronze statue known as the Cleveland Apollo went on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, as part of a special focus exhibition, “Praxiteles: the Cleveland Apollo” (September 29, 2013-January 5, 2014). The statue had been purchased in 2004. The installation is accompanied by a fully illustrated handbook by Cleveland curator, Michael Bennett (Bennett 2013). This statue appears to represent the Apollo Sauroktonos, a work attributed to the classical sculptor Praxiteles. Its addition to the corpus of attributable works post-dates Aileen Ajootian’s study of Praxiteles (Ajootian 1996, esp. 116-22). Bennett makes a number of important art historical observations in his study, not least in the possible association of the statue with Delphi, and the more radical suggestion that Apollo is not skewering a “lizard” but rather the Delphic Python. But such points, though interesting and worth exploring, need not detain us here. (As an aside, the “lizard” is an important play of words in the ownership of a Roman marble copy of the Apollo Sauroktonos by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, a work bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam Museum: Darracott 1980, 120 [ill.]). 
Bennett has chosen to go beyond an art historical study of the statue to launch a strong-worded defence for the right of museums to acquire newly-surfaced works. There are two areas worth exploring at this point: first, the collecting history of the history and the supporting scientific analyses; second, the wider debate about collecting and archaeological ethics. 
The acquisition of the Apollo is placed by Bennett in the long tradition of collecting antiquities that can be traced back to antiquity; this is an area now explored by Margaret M. Miles (Miles 2008). The removal of cultural property from one location to another can indeed be traced to antiquity. During the second millennium BCE, looted Middle Kingdom Egyptian inscribed funerary sculpture can be found redistributed in the Sudan, Anatolia, and Crete (Gill and Padgham 2005). In modern times, Grand Tourists acquired classical sculptures in Italy and displayed them in their country houses (e.g. Haskell and Penny 1981). Thus the collection formed by Thomas Brand and Thomas Brand Hollis (and displayed at The Hyde in Essex, England) went on to become the core of the Disney bequest to the University of Cambridge (Gill 1990a; Gill 2004). The enlightenment values that placed such emphasis on classical sculptures can be found in the roots of the great encyclopaedic British Museum, the repository for world cultures (Wilson 2002). But should the “plundering” of sites like Tivoli to provide items for visitors to Rome be considered in the same way as the deliberate destruction of a temple to the Roman imperial cult in the late twentieth century, to generate bronze imperial statues for the market (see Kozloff 1987)? Is the “exploration” of tombs in the area round the Bay of Naples to yield items for the Hamilton collection (Jenkins and Sloan 1996) the same as the deliberate destruction of Apulian tombs using mechanical diggers in the late twentieth century (Graepler and Mazzei 1996; Watson 1997)?
Professor David Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, England. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and was a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was previously a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University (where he also chaired the university's e-learning sub-committee). He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. he is the holder of the 2012 Archeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award, and the 2012 SAFE Beacon Award. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He wrote a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War in Sifting the Soil of Greece: The Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886 - 1919) (Bulletin of the Institute of Classics Studies, Supplement 111; London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2011), xiv + 474 pp.

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška CharneyHere's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 17, 2013

Noah Charney in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" writes on “Art-Burning Mother & Art Loss Register Issues” in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In his column Lessons from the History of Art Crime in the tenth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Noah Charney writes on “Art-Burning Mother & Art Loss Register Issues”:
An arrest was made this summer of a Romanian thief who seems to have been behind the heist of artworks, including paintings by Matisse, from the Kunsthal Museum in the Netherlands about a year ago. The arrest would have made small headlines, but for the fact that the mother of the thief claims to have burned at least one of the stolen paintings after her son’s arrest, in an attempt to destroy evidence and help him avoid prison. Unfortunately, the mother’s statement is believable, as she described accurately the way an oil painting on canvas would have burned in her oven (“like tissues”), and charred fragments of canvas with paint on them, that could match the stolen Matisse, were found just where she said they would be.
This is not the first time that a foolish and ignorant mother has made a son’s art theft crime far worse by destroying the stolen art. The mother of Swiss waiter and art kleptomaniac Stephane Breitweiser, who stole over one-hundred paintings and kept every one, never attempting to sell them but rather adding to a compulsive private art collection, destroyed a number of the stolen works when her son was arrested. She threw some in a canal, and shoved others down her garbage disposal. When her son heard this, he tried to kill himself, so distraught was he at the grotesque stupidity of destroying art—art that he loved and cherished, albeit stole. 
There are almost no known cases in the history of art theft of thieves knowingly destroying stolen art, even when it seemed clear that they did not know how to profit from it. In the majority of known cases, thieves in such a situation have simply abandoned the stolen art, rather than destroy it—for destroying benefits no one, hurts everyone, and turns a kidnapping into a murder. This was the case for the 2004 Munch Museum theft—when thieves failed to find a buyer, and failed to secure a ransom for the stolen Munch paintings, including a version of The Scream, they simply abandoned the works in a parked car on a farm outside of Oslo. Art is sometimes damaged or destroyed inadvertently—the best information to date on the stolen Caravaggio Palermo Nativity, taken from the church of San Lorenzo in Palermo by members of Cosa Nostra in 1969 (the theft of which prompted the foundation of the world’s first art police unit, the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, in Italy), is that the Caravaggio was irrevocably damaged in an earthquake and subsequently fed to pigs, to destroy the evidence. But such stories are rare indeed, thank goodness.
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 Book of Forgery (Phaidon 2014), The Invention of Art (Norton 2015), and an as yet untitled edited collection of essays on art crime (Palgrave 2014).

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška CharneyHere's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 16, 2013

Marine Fidanyan on "Destruction of Jugha Necropolis with Armenian Khachgars (Cross-stones) in Azerbaijan in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Marine Fidanyan writes on "Destruction of Jugha Necropolis with Armenian Khachqars (Cross-stones) in Azerbaijan" in the tenth issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime. From the abstract:
The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss a specific case of the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage, namely the Jugha Necropolis, which used to be full of Armenian Khachqars (Cross-stones) in Nakhijevan, Azerbaijan. Khachqars are delicately carved stones decorated with cross/es and other unique ornaments. The Jugha Necropolis was far from the area of the armed conflict initiated by Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabakh as a result of self-determination movement. A ceasefire agreement was concluded between Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan in 1994.
From the introduction:
Every nation or ethnic group has its own unique culture which is enshrined in monuments and passed from generation to generation. Each site and historical monument constitutes a separate page of the world book of existence of humankind and its development. Every single cultural object tells us history, encompasses respect towards ancestors, and reflects invisible energy and belief in its own strengths. To have a future we need to preserve our past. Cultural Heritage is a mirror of humanity and reflects a genetic wisdom of a particular nation, it drives us forward to explore and satisfy a natural, but endless curiosity as to who we are and where we are going. Notoriously, during wartime (as well as peacetime) the objects of Cultural Heritage are easily accessible targets, which can be destroyed and simply erased from the surface of our planet at once. War, undoubtedly, is a tragedy for all of humankind irrespective of nationality, gender, political as well as religious views and beliefs. War is often started for different reasons such as territory, treasure, political regime, ideological and/or religious beliefs, etc. By the destruction of Cultural Heritage, parties to a conflict are knowingly try to harm and destroy the cultural identity of a rival as much as possible and forever. Very often, the same behaviour occurs during “pretended peace-time”, or within the so-called period of ceasefire, even in places far from the armed conflict. Tangible objects of cultural heritage can become the most vulnerable targets of destruction and realization of an opposite party’s goals. In such cases there are no winners. As a result, the heritage of the world is affected and pages of common history are lost and erased. Armenia is an ancient country with a rich and unique Cultural Heritage, dating from the 4th BC. Armenia has inherited 33.000 historical and cultural monuments, which are under state protection and are included in the State Heritage Register. What of Armenia’s cultural heritage which, due to some past historical event, is now located within the borders of another State? This too can be subject to destruction related to armed conflict.
Marine Fidanyan is an Intellectual Property (IP) Expert. She received LL.M in IP and Competition Law from Munich IP Center (MIPLC) in Germany, LL.M from American University of Armenia (AUA). She studied at the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program on Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. Marine is interested in Intellectual Property and Cultural Heritage protection issues as well as exploring intersection of these two disciplines. Majoring in Copyright and Related rights, Marine worked for the only Collective Management Organization in Armenia and has an experience of negotiating contracts with the users of copyrighted works, collecting remuneration, representing the organization in the court. While working for the European Union Advisory Group to the Government of Armenia, she was proving policy advice in the field of Intellectual Property. In addition, she was presenting IP related issues/topics to Judges, Prosecutors, Police and Customs officers during conferences, seminars and workshops, having lectures at the RA Police Academy and the RA Prosecutors’ School. Marine held a column at the monthly journal “The Pioneer”. She is the author of several publications on IP matters.

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška CharneyHere's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

December 15, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013 - ,, No comments

Brent E. Huffman Presenting Special Advance Screening of "Saving Mes Aynak" at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York on Dec. 18

Brent Huffman: "Seated Buddha"
The Rubin Museum of Art, in co-presentation with NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, will show the documentary "Saving Mes Aynak" on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18. The director Brent E. Huffman will be at the special advance screening on December 18 and talk afterward about Mes Aynak.
Brent E. Huffman’s documentary follows archaeologists from around the world as they fight to save a 2,600-year-old Buddhist city in Afghanistan from imminent destruction by a Chinese copper mining company. Under threat from the local Taliban as well as pressure from the mining consortium, the archaeologists confront great risk in seeking to document one of the great centers of the Silk Road before it is razed and erased from memory.
Additional screenings of the movie are scheduled for Dec. 20 and Dec. 27 (Huffman will not be in attendance). You may purchased tickets for $15 online.

The ARCAblog asked Professor Huffman for an update on Mes Aynak:
Unfortunately, the situation at Mes Aynak has taken a turn for the worse recently. Afghan archaeologists working at the site need international support more than ever. 
Most of the foreign archaeologists have left due to worsening security. The sites they were working at have been left abandoned and funding has dried up. 
The governor of Logar province (where Mes Aynak is located) was murdered last month - journalists speculate it was due to his support of the Chinese deal. 
Also, Karzai flew to Beijing to let MCC renegotiate the contract removing many of the benefits given tot he Afghan government. No more railway system, no smelter, no infrastructure, no $800 million dollar bonus and reduced royalties. I also fear that there are reduced regulations in this new contract. 
So Mes Aynak and those who are working there to protect the site need our help more than ever.
On the ARCA blog you may read additional posts on Mes Aynak's threatened by copper excavation; dangerous precedent; extension; and Kickstart funds usage.

December 14, 2013

Christie's New York Auction of "Antiquities" withdraws "Symes Pan" from sale: Christos Tsirogiannis says that in due course more information will be found about The Medici Pan, the Hermes-Thoth, and the Symes Pan

"Hermes-Thoth" marble once passed
through the hands of Robin Symes
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

As reported by Professor David Gill on his blog Looting Matters, Christie's New York auction house withdrew the "Symes Pan" identified by Cambridge's Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis from the Schinousa archive. Dr. Gill wrote in an email to the ARCAblog after conclusion of the three-hour "Antiquities" sale at Rockefeller Plaza today:
Buyers of antiquities are rightly concerned about buying objects that can be identified from the seized photographic archives such as the Medici Dossier and the Schinousa images that related to Robin Symes. Institutional reputation is also a factor and auction houses are wanting to distance themselves from any perception of endorsement of the illicit trade in antiquities.
The ARCAblog asked Dr. Tsirogiannis for his perspective on Sotheby's withdrawal of The Medici Pan; the sale of the Symes/Schinousa Hermes-Thoth marble by Sotheby's yesterday; and Christie's decision to not auction the Symes Pan):
The Medici Pan withdrawn by Sotheby's
The Medici Pan in Sotheby's seems to be a totally different case; it appears to lack any collecting history before 1975 and Sotheby's may have to explain when this antiquity passed through the hands of Medici and why Sotheby's did not refer to Medici as part of the collecting history of the object. I am sure that soon we will find out more interesting things about the case of The Medici Pan. 
Although the Hermes-Thoth head was sold with a collecting history before 1970, it is yet to be proved if it is still protected by any bilateral agreements between the US and other countries or breaks any national legislation. One question that Sotheby's may have to answer is when did the object pass through the hands of Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides.
Symes Pan withdrawn by Christie's
Regarding the Christie's Pan (lot 114), Christie's may have to answer why they withdrew the antiquity if it has a documented collecting history before 1970 (at least since 1968)? 
I am sure that in due course, more information will be found and will become available regarding these three cases.
The ARCAblog asked the opinion of Fabio Isman -- an Italian investigative journalist who has covered the illegal antiquities market for decades -- of how antiquities are sold in New York City with so little information about where they came from and how they got to the auction houses:
As usual, the auction houses don't quite care about the past. Important, for them, is only money. I think they are not very ethical. And, at the end, after Christos Tsirogiannis pointed out a few objects he recognized, they decided to withdraw two main objects: which was the minimum they could do.
Signore Isman, the author of "Pezzi di Medici e Symes: all'asta: fino a quando?" in the Italian Artemagazine, writes of "The Great Raid" in Italy since 1970 of the illegal excavation of 'at least one a half million artifacts' (Princeton University) that have been sold on the lucrative international market. Isman points out that of the 85 archaeological finds scheduled to be sold at Sotheby's in New York on December 12, that Christos Tsirogiannis, a Greek archaeologist working in England at Cambridge University, has identified two lots 'that are not new for anyone who has dealt with the Great Raid in Italy, from 1970 onwards.' 

Isman writes that Tsirogiannis identified a marble "Hermes-Thoth" from a photograph in the Schinousa archive, a group of photographs recovered by Greek police of objects Robin Symes and his partner Christos Michaelides sold through their gallery headquartered in London. Isman writes that according to Tsirogiannis Sotheby's acknowledges the connection to Symes but points to a private English collection as the source. Tsirogiannis also identified the Greek terracotta pan, withdrawn today from auction by Christies, from the Symes' photographic archives from the Greek island of Schiousa from where Symes and Michaelides conducted business away from the office. Christies listed the Merrin Gallery and a private New York collector as "provenance". Isman writes that Italian investigators have suspected the Merrin Gallery of conducting business with Gianfranco Becchina and Robert Hecht, art dealers allegedly transacting with Medici.  

Isman writes that the third object recognized by Tsirogiannis from one of the polaroids found in Medici's Geneva freeport warehouse is associated with the "Hydra Galerie", opened in Geneva by Medici, under a false name, in 1983.

At the end of this article, Fabio Isman laments the absence of Paolo Giorgio Ferri from the Cultural Heritage Ministry where he served two years before he returned to the Ministry of Justice -- in the past Ferri would have been the one protesting on behalf of the Italian government against the auction of these suspected artifacts.