Showing posts with label International Art Crime Conference. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Art Crime Conference. Show all posts

November 11, 2012

Interpol’s International Conference on Counterfeit Art


By Colette Loll Marvin

Recently, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the first ever International Conference on Counterfeit Art, sponsored by Interpol and held in Lyon, France.  The two-day meeting (October 23 and 24), gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from 22 countries, and focused on the need for increased information exchange and for enhanced public and government awareness of art forgery and related crimes. This global trade in illicit art runs into the billions of Euros each year.  Link to press release.

The most exciting part about participating in this conference was meeting law enforcement officials from all over the world, many presenting specific case studies about organized art forgery rings they have been successful in stopping and prosecuting. The German police summary of their work on the Beltracchi case was especially impressive! Also, it was important to hear from several artist foundations and artist right’s holders about their ongoing challenge to protect the cultural legacy of modern masters from the dilution caused by the massive influx of forgeries, many from online sources. The economic, legal, aesthetic and scholarly implications of this crime are far reaching.  I presented a lecture entitled “Fakes, Forgeries and EBay” detailing some of the challenges of investigating Internet art fraud.  I was joined by a materials scientist and an art historian from an art forensic laboratory.

This cultural heritage conference culminated with a collective draft of a very specific set of conclusions that the delegates worked together to create and refine.  Ultimately, the collective hope of the delegates is that this rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and intentional misattributions of art and objects of cultural heritage can be reversed with increased educational awareness and corresponding increases in law enforcement resources dedicated to this specific criminal phenomenon.

March 29, 2012

Catching up with Judge Tompkins About his "Art Crime during Armed Conflict" course at the University of Waikato's Law School


University of Waikato's Law School
Judge Arthur Tompkins, an instructor at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, also taught a course in February in his home country.  ARCA Blog caught up with him to see how it went in New Zealand.

Tell us about the Art Crime course you presented earlier this year at the University of Waikato?

The University of Waikato's Law School hosted the course and offered it as a credit course to their own students.  It was also offered as a non-credit coruse through the Continuing Education arm of the University. The course was entitled "Art Crime during Armed Conflict", and, similarly to the course I teach in Amelia as part of the ARCA Postgraduate, it was a five-day intensive course, comprising 5 hours of teaching each day for a week during the height of our Southern Hemisphere summer. We cover two thousand years of the history of art crime during war, and the international and private law responses to it. And all in five fun-filled and fascinating days! 

We ended up with 16 students in the group, from three countries and two hemispheres, with the largest sub-group being law students (I was teaching the course within a Law School, after all!). But the class also included a working artist, two art historians, a police officer, a doctor, an art gallery director, a cultural heritage worker, and others.  It all made for a vibrant and energetic group, and we had some spirited discussions!  And on the last day, ARCA's Noah Charney was able to join us, via Skype, from Slovenia, which was a real highlight.

University of Waikato's campus
At least two of the group will be in Amelia for this year's Art Crime Conference on 23/24 June, and in addition, in the last few days, I have learnt that one of the group has been accepted into the full ARCA Postgraduate Program, so will get to spend the entire Italian summer living and studying in Amelia.

It is likely that the course will be offered every second year at Waikato University, so the next occasion will be in February 2014. I am presently investigating offering a similar course elsewhere in New Zealand in the intervening year.

What time period do students seem most interested in? Nazi theft?

The students were from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, as I said, and I think that as a result no one area or era stood out.  They have written (or are writing - the assignments from the for-credit students are due soon!) assignments on an equally wide range or topics - which is, I think, a testament to the breadth of scholarship that falls under the art crime umbrella.  And because the course covers not only the historical background to art crimes during wars over the centuries, but also the international and national legal responses, there is something of real interest there for everyone.

What do you think are the most contentious legal issues involved in conflict art?

Two difficult issues continue stand out for me - first, the return of objects taken during past armed conflict, that are held currently by a state or national institution, and where there is a call for return.  In that context no issue of private ownership arises, but rather the issue revolves around often contentious questions of the principles underlying the legal structures around the state's continued retention of the object, and the ability or willingness of a state, or its politicians, to relinquish possession. Secondly, the spectrum of responses by legal systems around the world to the bona fide purchaser rule - where someone has paid a reasonable price without knowledge of the fact that the item had in the past been stolen, do they or should they prevail over the original, dispossessed owner's rights? Different legal systems around the world adopt often mutually exclusive positions on this issue, and despite decades of work, the gulf remains unbridged.  We need to find some way of reconciling the irreconcilable!

In 2009 you spoke at the International Art Crime Conference in Amelia about a proposed International Art Crime Tribunal.  As you have now taught this course three times, how have your ideas about an IACT evolved? What would it take to make it happen and what do you think would be some of the first cases that you would like to see be dealt with?

I would still love to see such a Tribunal established, and nothing that I have seen or read or heard over the last three years has changed that view - to the contrary, there is still much to recommend it.  The United Kingdom's Spoliation Panel has shown that a tribunal can effectively apply both legal and moral criteria when resolving claims to disputed art, and, whilst effective in some cases, the litigation experience in the United States shows that the resolution of such disputes by "traditional" adversarial litigation brings with it inevitable constraints, in terms of access to justice, the restrictions inherent in the rules of evidence a court applies, and a likely win/lose result paradigm.  

What would it need to make this happen? As I said to the ARCA Conference in 2010, it needs a champion on the world stage, and a real commitment by a group of states with a single voice in the forums of international law - particularly the United Nations and within that, UNESCO - to make it happen.  Where either of those might be found, I do not know.  Until then, it will remain a lonely idea wandering at large in the world, although I was very heartened to hear Pablo Ferri support the idea at last year's ARCA Conference!  

By the way, I still think, for a whole lot of reasons, that Florence would be a very suitable seat for such a Tribunal!

January 23, 2012

August 7, 2011

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Features Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Register

Paolo Ferri and Chris Marinello
By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Chris Marinello, Executive Director & General Counsel of the Art Loss Register, delivered a lecture on the role of private and public stolen art databases in the recovery of lost art. In March 2011, Marinello along with ARCA’s Catherine Sezgin attended the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris France.

As of 2011, the ALR’s database contained over 300,000 stolen works of art. The ALR offers its registration services on a pro bono basis to countries that are currently engaged in armed conflict or that have endured through natural disasters. For example, upon hearing news of the looting and theft of objects from sites and institutions across Egypt, the ALR reached out to Zahi Hawass to assist in the swift recovery of its missing objects.

Marinello continued with a discussion of a number of the more intriguing recoveries the ALR had made in recent years. For example, in cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ALR returned a portrait of a young girl by famous Belgian artist Antoine (Anto) Carte to its owner 69 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. During the World War II, the work’s original owners fled their Brussels home and the Nazis eventually confiscated their art. In November 2008, the ALR notified ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office that a Long Island art gallery had possession of the work. Fortunately, in this case owner forfeited the painting upon hearing that it had been stolen during the war. However, as Marinello alluded to, few cases are resolved as quickly. As illustrated in the Carte case, the ALR frequently works closely with domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Scotland Yard, the Carabinieri, and Interpol.

Upon conclusion of Marinello’s lecture, former Italian state prosecutor Paolo Ferri, provided a few insights into the Carabinieri’s lost art database, which now contains over a million registered objects.

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention

Catherine Schofield Sezgin reports on her participation at the 40th anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO convention at the at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy July 10

by Jessica Nielsen, ARCA Intern

November 14, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. ARCA blog editor-in-chief, Catherine Sezgin, reported on her participation in a celebration of the 40th anniversary held in Paris last March from her notes on the event. She mentioned that she had seen Annika Kuhn and Prosecutor Paolo Ferri at the event and invited them and many of her other fellow presenters at the ARCA conference (who she deferred to as having greater knowledge of the history and successes of the treaty), to engage in a lively discussion following her presentation.

"The Fight against the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property: The 1970 Convention: Past and Future" The conference was an opportunity for UNESCO to look at the history of the Convention, evaluate its accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses and examine its main challenges. Sezgin noted that there was a speaker who brought up the similarities in the implementation of the 1970 Convention of UNESCO on illicit traffic to the experiences of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna 1973 (CITES). She also sat in on a public debate covering various issues among representatives from “source and destination” countries, the art market, museums and international organizations. Sezgin was most impressed by the Mexican representative, Dr. Jorge A. Sánchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; who spoke about Mexico’s active participation in the forming of the treaty and that it was the eighth country to ratify it. Mr. Cordero said:
We are in a situation that we cannot tolerate. Many countries are being plundered through clandestine excavations. Despite all our efforts, criminals operate on sites and in the trafficking of cultural and archeological objects.
Dr. Sanchez-Codero also talked about the ‘international community experiencing a rise of a new consciousness regarding the need of protecting cultural heritage, which is not linked to cultural nationalism, but rather to the need of safeguarding universal knowledge.’ Sezgin reported that he urged UNESCO to ‘play a prominent role in the new cultural order' and said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list,’ this was a perfect introduction to the next speaker at the ARCA conference, Chris Marinello, from the Art Loss Registry, who described his company’s database.

More from Sezgin’s report on the event can be read on the ARCA blog here and here.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate certificate in ARCA’s International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in The Journal of Art Crime. She has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog since 2010.

August 6, 2011

Mark Durney, Founder of the website “Art Theft Central” and moderator of Museum Security Network, on “Collection Inventories”

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Collection Inventories account for works in the event of disaster, transition or conservation treatment and are a proactive effort to protect and secure art collections, Mark Durney, ARCA’s Business and Admissions Director, told the audience at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on July 10.

Accurate and well-audited inventories may increase the likelihood of recovering missing items. In 2008, an inventory of Russian museums discovered 242,000 pieces missing of which only 24,500 were officially registered as stolen.

In 1980, the Dutch Institute for Social Policy Research’s Condition Survey reported a backlog of 70,000 “men years” to inventory 16 national museums.

Many collections in Egypt don’t have inventories, Durney told the audience. And when 56 objects were reported missing from Egypt as published by the Supreme Council, the description of such items as a ‘wooden model vase’ were incomplete as to claim or recognize the object.

In France, 2002 legislation required all museums to create inventories of their collections and calls for them to be reviewed every ten years. The Joconde: catalogue des Collections des Musees de France” is an online inventory from 328 museums.

“More information, better results,” Mark Durney said. “Collection inventories hold institutions accountable for objects in the public trust; motivates more accurate theft reporting; and increases likelihood of recovery.”

“Law enforcement claims a recovery rate of 5-10 percent,” Mark Durney said. “But looking at the numbers over a ten year period, only 1.9% of objects registered stolen were recovered. The confidence interval is 95% and you can quote me on that.”

August 5, 2011

Katharyn Hanson on “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study”

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Katharyn Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, concentrating her studies in Mesopotamian Archaeology. Her archaeological experience has helped her to examine the dangers that archaeological sites face and what can be done to prevent the looting and destruction of these sites. In her presentation, “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study,” Hanson examined the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq and stressed the tools with which these sites can be protected in the future.

Opening her talk with the devastation of the Iraqi National Museum, Hanson highlighted the difficulties entailed in even knowing how much has been stolen from a museum—let alone from an archaeological site. In addition, the lack of recoveries made is even more depressing than not knowing how much was lost in the first place. After opening with this sad tale, Hanson used the same basis to talk about two archaeological sites in Iraq that have been devastated by looters: Umma and Umm al Aqarib. As she stated in her presentation, “By far, the majority of artifacts stolen from Iraq come from archaeological sites.” Using aerial and satellite photos, she was able to show the extreme addition of looter’s holes to archaeological sites from 2003 to 2008. The result was depressing and mind-numbing, with an increase of nearly 5,000 or more looter’s holes at each site over the course of five years.

Hanson also stressed that certain artifacts had been recovered after being found in the presence of weapons, such as AK-47s—marking a tie between the arms market and the black antiquities market. In a really somber moment, she stated that we do not really know where these works go after they have been dug up: “We don’t have a great answer. I don’t know.” Hanson then stated what measures are out there, legally, for protecting sites, such as CIPA, Customs Enforcement, and the Hague Convention which calls for sites to be protected during wartime. However, it was pointed out that sadly, these are more measures for protecting what is looted from sites in the hopes of recovering them. Hanson brought a very somber topic to the conference, but it was certainly one worth hearing and will, hopefully, advocate more work towards protecting archaeological sites in Iraq and around the world.

August 4, 2011

Larry Rothfield on What Museums and Archaeological Sites can to do protect themselves during times of upheaval and lessons learned from Cairo

by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Larry Rothfield, a writer-in-residence during the ARCA postgraduate program in Art and Crime Studies this year, presented his thoughts on the recent looting during the revolution in Cairo at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

"The recent revolution in Egypt provided a natural experiment or stress test of the security system that normally protects antiquities, whether in museums, or on sites or remote storerooms. What can we learn from the looting of the Cairo Museum (and from storerooms and archaeological sites around the country) about how other heritage professionals could and should be planning ahead to cope with similar situations of political instability that might strike their country?"

Rothfield described the failings of security during the recent revolution in Cairo that “allow us to see important things about the structure of heritage protection.” The lack of foresight to establish a contingency plan in the wake of the Tunisian revolution essentially left the Cairo museum unguarded and allowed a mob of one thousand people to break in to the gift shop of the museum, a very few of whom were able to then penetrate the galleries and steal a small number of artifacts. Some of these looters were apprehended by citizens who formed a human chain around the museum to protect it from further thefts.

Rothfield questioned why the “Pharoah of Antiquities,” Zahi Hawass, was not better prepared for the eventuality of the looting, the timeline involving his resignation and subsequent re-instatement after Mubarak’s toppling, the inaccurate reporting on the series of events surrounding the looting, and due to some strange coincidences, whether the thefts could have possibly been an inside job. He went on to list six lessons learned:
1. Contingency plans are needed to assure the safety of museums and cultural heritage sites during times of normal security breakdown.
2. Antiquities ministries are interested in scholarship and excavations and aren’t particularly interested in site security.
3. Well-conserved sites that are not armed are not protected.
4. Sites and museums can be protected by a mobilized public and dedicated civil servants.
5. There is no substitution for police, or militarized police, in general lawlessness.
6. Tourism revenue alone will not provide locals with enough incentive to protect heritage if doing so become too dangerous.
In response to questions regarding the arming of guards he said that he did not believe in simply handing out guns and that a contingency plan, training and an “all hands on deck” approach would have prevented the little looting that did occur. He also stressed that the situation in Cairo was very different than the issues that Donny George at the Baghdad Museum faced during wartime. An article in the Guardian published during the conference discussed Mr. Rothfield’s views in more detail.

Larry Rothfield is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, where he co-founded and directed the Cultural Policy Center from 1999-2008. He has published on a wide array of subjects in cultural policy. His last book, The Rape of Mesopotamia (University of Chicago Press, 2009) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the causes for the failure of US forces to secure the Iraq National Museum and the country's archaeological sites from looters in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

August 3, 2011

Courtney McWhorter on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art”

by Jessica Graham Nielsen

ARCA welcomed one of the newest scholars to the field, Courtney McWhorter, as she presented her paper on the “Perception of Forgery According to the Role of Art” in the “Fresh Perspectives” panel at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

McWhorter described the different and changing ways we have valued art over time: from placing a high value on the aesthetic experience; to subsequently valuing its specific place in history; to the current trend of appreciating it more in economic terms. She proposed that as the perceptions of the value of art have changed, so has our acceptance and tolerance for copies and forgeries:
"I will show how art is valued today according to its historicity, rather than its aesthetic capabilities. Such a claim explains why forgeries could have once been acceptable, but now are not because they falsify history."
McWhorter explained that in the Renaissance, art was valued for the aesthetic experience it could impart. Scholars looked to the Ancients for inspiration on how to think about art and embraced Plato and Aristotle’s theories. The Greek philosophers considered art to be a mere copy of the ideal, and that its primary objective should be to evoke a feeling. Thus, when the Duke of Mantua was told that the “Raphael” he had coveted and that had been (reluctantly) given to him by Ottavio de Medici was in reality a copy by Andrea del Sarto, he reportedly said that he “valued it no less than if it were by the hand of Raphael.” In his mind the genius was in Sarto’s perfect copy – an improvement on the original. The copy had artistic merit in its own right.

McWhorter then discussed the 20th century and used Van Meegeren’s “Vermeers” as an example of how the value of art has shifted to one of historicity. Originally esteemed as some of Vermeer’s greatest masterpieces when they were “discovered,” they were disparaged by critics as worthless fakes once Van Meegeren was forced to admit (and prove) that he had actually painted them. The career of the connoisseur who had enthusiastically welcomed them as the long hoped for missing link between Vermeer’s earliest religious work and the small domestic scenes he became associated with later, was ruined. It was the great value placed on art’s historical relevance that Van Meegeren had exploited for the conception and acceptance of his Vermeer pastiches.

Lastly McWhorter turned to the current obsession of valuing art as an economic asset. She showed several images of editorial headlines proclaiming the monetary losses various collectors, including the actor Steve Martin, had suffered by being duped by fakes and forgers such as the “German Ring.” She blamed the auction houses for the current commodification of art and although she did not expand on it, she alluded to a developing phenomenon of fakes becoming just as economically valuable as some of the works they imitate.

Courtney McWhorter is currently completing her final year as an Honors student at Brigham Young University, working towards a Bachelors in Art History.

August 2, 2011

Michelle D’Ippolito on “Discrepancies in Data: The Role of Museums in Recovering Stolen Works of Art”

By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Aspiring art crime researcher, Michelle D’Ippolito, who currently is completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland at College Park, discussed the role museums play in reporting and recovering stolen art. Many museums are reluctant to report art thefts due to their “concern for their public image and a persistent lack of funding.” According to D’Ippolito, the public’s opinion of a museum greatly affects its ability to attract visitors and donations, which in turn impacts its likelihood of receiving government grants. Unfortunately, in the event of a theft, the media frequently focuses its headlines on museums’ security shortcomings rather than on the possible factors that may have contributed to its loss. For example, after it was reported that 1,800 historic artifacts were missing from Pennsylvania’s state collections, the media published headlines, such as “PA. Auditor Says State Has Lost Treasure Trove of Artifacts” and “Audit: Pennsylvania museums’ artifacts ‘likely lost forever.’”

Alternatively, the media could have examined how the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission’s recent budget cuts and staff reductions may have contributed to its ability to accurately account for its collections. Funding is critical to a museum’s basic operations and its effort to preserve and protect cultural heritage. For example, it enables a museum to purchase current collections management software, which streamlines the inventory process, and it provides financing for the specialized training of museum personnel.

D’Ippolito continued her panel lecture with a discussion of the variety of national, international, and private stolen art databases available to art theft victims. While such databases are helpful to ensuring a quicker recovery of stolen art, their true potential has not yet been realized. Many countries do not consistently report museum theft due to their inability to register accurate statistics. According to D’Ippolito, this element coupled with the fact that many museums are reluctant to report theft has given rise to a situation that has little effect on deterrence.

In conclusion, D’Ippolito offered a few tactics in order to increase the reporting and recovery of stolen art. She identified eliminating discrepancies in the information required to report a theft; interfacing the current databases; creating a database related to the objects recovered with details of the investigation; and increasing museums’ participation in reporting theft.

August 1, 2011

Sarah Zimmer on “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print”

By Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Sarah Zimmer is a part-time faculty member at the Art Institute of Michigan’s Photography department and teaches both art history and studio art. Her experience ranges from fine art exhibitions to art history to museum work, on which her presentation, “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print,” is based. While working in the archive of a museum, Zimmer discovered that an etching by Rembrandt was missing and then proceeded to investigate its disappearance. Her investigation, which included emailing former directors of the museum and anyone that may have an idea of where the print disappeared to, led to an interesting turn when she was asked to halt all investigation into this mystery.

Rather than completely forgetting the project, Zimmer was driven to investigate the value of this particular print and the value of works to museums. A contemporary artist with no prior knowledge of Rembrandt’s “worth,” she was intrigued by the question of: “What is the value of this museum protecting this secret when the value of the work may be minimal?” Using her artistic training, Zimmer delved into the realms of forgery to recreate the Rembrandt print along with provenance documents for an exhibition examining the value of a work and where the value lies. “I’m attempting to understand the value of the work, whether it’s monetary value or assigned value. Whether it’s the name that counts or the functional value of depicting a story.” Zimmer’s exhibition was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit in 2010 and also in Chicago.

Not inclined to completely let go of the project, Zimmer is still interested in examining the value that museums place on works and what value society places on works of art, such as “How we’ve made Rembrandt, the name, a commodity.” Though she no longer works for the museum, from which this print went missing, Sarah stated that, “the true crime was the institution depriving us of information and not allowing us to continue our investigation.” Of the multiple missing works that Zimmer investigated while working at this museum, the Rembrandt is the only one that raised the attention of the institution to cease research into its whereabouts. Zimmer is still pursuing research into the value that is placed on works by museums and the art community.

July 31, 2011

Leila Amineddoleh on “The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside”

Leila Amineddoleh
By Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

Leila Amineddoleh, a 2010 alumnus of ARCA’s postgraduate program and Boston College Law School, presented her latest research titled “The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside” on the panel “Fresh Perspectives on Art and Heritage Crime”.

Many towns in the Spanish countryside have been abandoned. Since the towns operate on tax dollars and people have fled to bigger, more industrial cities, rural houses and churches become vulnerable to pillaging. Leila’s presentation even included an astonishing ad in a Spanish newspaper that advertised for an entire “Town for Sale” for 189,000 Euro.

One very unfortunate issue with these depopulated cities is the fate of the art and cultural objects left behind. Though some construction companies have permission to remove Roman ruins and Visigoth remnants from the abandoned homes and churches, much of the forgotten art is eventually ripped from its context and sold.

Unbeknownst to many Spanish citizens, the hidden works have incredible cultural and historical value for the nation’s identity. Municipalities receive 1% of tax revenue for art restoration but in many cases without a sufficient number of people in the town paying taxes, there is little money for protection.

Leila strongly believes that for Spain to protect its patrimony it must create an extensive catalogue that encompasses both State and Church property. She believes working with a database modeled after the Italian ICCD catalogue, which receives donations and revenue, would be ideal for keeping track of and protecting Spain’s cultural treasures.

July 28, 2011

Art Crime Writer Fabio Isman on "The Biggest Looting: an awful story that will never end" and his latest book "Il predatori dell’arte perduta: il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia"

Fabio Isman (Photo by Urska Charney)
by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Fabio Isman, a celebrated investigative journalist in Rome, who contributes to The Art Newspaper and writes regular columns for Il Messaggero and Arte e Dossier, took part in ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, July 9. Through an English-speaking interpreter, Mr. Isman talked passionately about the immense scope of illegal excavations, the illicit trade in Italian antiquities, and the yet unpunished main characters in a drama of tomb robbers, dealers, antiquities collectors, auction houses and the world’s major museums.

In his presentation, which he called: “The Biggest Looting: an awful story that will never end,” he shared pictures and information he found while researching his book, Il predatori dell’arte perduta: il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia (Raiders of the Lost Art: the Looting of Archaeology in Italy), which is the first written on the subject in Italian. He described his book as following Peter Watson’s fundamental work in The Medici Conspiracy, thanked him, and added that the depth of the issue has not been discovered until recently.
I will talk of a phenomenon: one million antiquities shipped from Italian soil from 1970 on, the most important [of which] was sold to the world’s greatest museums and big collectors…I wrote it because Italy is a great source of antiquities and I realized that few [here] are aware…
He went on to describe a story of 10,000 people, involved in the systematic looting and sale of one million illicit objects sold to 36 museums and 12 private collectors through specialist dealers from 1970 to 2004 in a business that is still ongoing – items having just come up at auction a few months ago.

Isman traced the beginning of the Grande Razzia to the Metropolitan Museum’s purchase of the illegally excavated Euphronius Krater for $1,000,000 in 1972, which made the market and established a record for an ancient object. As the market hungered for more objects, it was fed by looter/dealers Giacomo Medici and his secret depositories discovered in Geneva in 1995; four rooms filled with vases and recently excavated objects and 4,000 polaroid pictures of artifacts, some of which were already in major museum’s collections, and Gianfranco Becchina’s four warehouses discovered in Basel in 2001 containing more than $6 billion worth of antiquities. He referred to these men and other nefarious characters as “murderers of antiquities” who had scattered important objects around the world, leaving them out of context and thus “destroyed.” He underscored his words with images of a villa excavated in an unknown location at Pompei, its frescoes buried yet still intact, and those same frescoes cut into pieces so that they could be taken to Medici’s storehouses.

Isman thanked the State, and particularly Prosecutor Ferri and the Carabinieri (which increased from 16 personnel to 300 during that period) for helping to curb the flood of antiquities leaving Italy and helping many find their way back home. But he lamented that “no police dog is at the airport sniffing for ancient vases and [that] one-third of the people in prison have something to do with drugs and not one [of them is there] for illegal art.”

Mr. Isman has published 24 books, 18 of which are dedicated to art and culture in Italy.

July 27, 2011

Neil Brodie Awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship

Neil Brodie receiving his award
by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

At ARCA’s third annual international art crime conference, Neil Brodie was awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship. Brodie is an archaeologist and former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Brodie has studied and written extensively on the illicit antiquities trade. His publications include Stealing History: the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material (Cambridge: McDonald Institute, 2000), Trade in Illicit Antiquities: the Destruction of the World's Archaeological Heritage (Cambridge: McDonald Institute, 2001), Illicit Antiquities: the Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology (London: Routledge, 2002), and Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006) among over thirty other academic papers. In January 2008, Brodie received a Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) Beacon Award for his significant role in raising awareness of illicit antiquities.

During his acceptance speech, Brodie offered his thanks to Noah Charney for developing an organization that educates students in the many issues related to art crime. Through its conference, academic program, and various publications, ARCA continues to inspire new research and projects aimed at combatting the growing problem. Brodie served as a writer-in-residence during the first six weeks of ARCA’s international art crime and heritage protection studies program.

July 26, 2011

South African Lawyer Specializing in art law, shares his experiences with conferences in Milan and Amelia

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The ARCA blog has been running a series of posts about the speakers who presented at ARCA's third annual Art Crime Conference on July 9th and 10th. Toby Orford, a lawyer specializing in art law in South Africa, attended ARCA's conference in Amelia this year. He also attended a conference in Milan. We decided to share his experiences with readers of our blog. During the conference, Mr. Orford stayed at Palazzo Farrattini, a Renaissance building within the walls of this medieval town.

ARCA Blog: Toby, what conference did you attend in Milan and what was your perception?
Toby: Speakers at Christie's Holocaust Art Looting and Restitution Symposium included eminent international lawyers, academics and activists. The choice of Milan was deliberate. Italy's inconsistent track record of restitution "requires a more extensive explanation" and some of the speakers - notably Charles Goldstein from the Commission for Art Recovery - pointed out inter alia that missing art works taken from Italian Jews is probably still in Italian museums, institutions and private collections. The lack of serious research or restitution in Italy (and indeed instances where restitution has been revoked and export licenses blocked) is in contrast to Italy's recent campaigns for the recovery of its own cultural property. Other countries have made greater efforts. Norman Palmer spoke about the work of the UK's restitution commission - the Spoliation Advisory Panel. He and the other experts highlighted the on-going and unresolved moral and legal aspects of restitution - as well as changes in government policy and (post the Washington Conference) the development of changing legal principles and claims procedures. All in all the Milan conference was a thought-provoking precursor to ARCA's Amelia conference.
ARCA Blog: This is the first time you attended the ARCA art crime conference. What had you expected and did the conference meet your expectations?
Toby: The focus of ARCA goes beyond World War II restitution. The conference dealt with all kinds of present-day threats to cultural property, including looting, theft, fraud and destruction. Not surprisingly, as a lawyer I appreciated the legal discussions. I think that there is scope for some more "law" next time - with reference to the achievements noted during the Milan conference. But the other disciplines created new insights into the practical and theoretical aspects of heritage protection. The more academic topics were usefully balanced at the end of the proceedings by Chris Maranello's matter-of-fact talk on the day to day work of the Art Loss Register. He reminded us that it is vital to translate words into action. So, yes, the conference met all of my expectations and expanded my understanding considerably. I am also finding the ARCA blog's talk summaries very useful.
ARCA Blog: What do you think will most be carried back with you to South Africa as far as knowledge and experience?
Toby: Restitution is much talked about in Africa but in a confused and undisciplined way. This is mostly due to misunderstanding and misinformation. And, thanks to colonial complications, frustration. The hard won and piecemeal progress, and the on-going challenges in other parts of the world, explain the nature and scope of the problem - and identify some of the solutions. And so both of these disciplined and focused conferences - in their different ways - helped me to understand what has happened, and what still must happen. Others should benefit too and, for example, I am recommending the work of ARCA to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Perhaps ARCA will benefit from closer ties with similar agencies in other countries?

July 25, 2011

ARCA Award for Art Policing & Recovery Given to Paolo Ferri at International Art Crime Conference

Paolo Ferri and Noah Charney (Photo by Urska Charney)
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Paolo Giorgio Ferri received ARCA’s Award for Art Policing and Recovery for his work as a former Italian State Prosecutor and his role in the return of many looted antiquities from North American public and private collections. He was the lead attorney in Italy’s cases against The Getty Museum, Marion True, and other American museums for the return of looted antiquities. He now serves as an expert in international relations and recovery of works of art for the Italian Culture Ministry.

Dr. Ferri told the audience, in Italian and through the use of an English translator, that he was delighted to receive the ARCA award, his first major award recognizing his professional accomplishments.

Years ago, Ferri said, exporting of looted antiquities was a fiscal misdemeanor and assisted by the ease with which the items could be cleared through Switzerland. He credited the work of Peter Watson, the author of The Medici Conspiracy, for his investigation into Giacomo Medici that enabled the return of many objects. In addition, the subsequent media coverage increased awareness of the problem of selling cultural heritage.

Regarding resolution of these matters of allegations of stolen antiquities, Dr. Ferri would prefer an international court that would provide more uniform judgments. “This court could possibly be under the offices of UNESCO which recently started offices for mediation and restitution,” Dr. Ferri told the audience.

He proposes that arbitration would expedite these matters and that inexpensive working groups in each state could provide spontaneous information that could ease the return of cultural objects. “The Washington Agreement should help people who hold title in ‘good faith’ and return objects to the original state,” Dr. Ferri said. “The necessity of proof should come from the buyer of good faith.”

The object should be returned to the country of origin who claims it if there is any doubt, Dr. Ferri said. “Cooperation in marco-regions is of extreme importance,” he said.

July 24, 2011

Elena Franchi on “Under the Protection of the Holy See: The Florentine Works of Art and Their Moving to Alto Adige in 1944”

Elena Franchi
Update: This is post has been republished with corrections.

On July 9, at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference, Elena Franchi presented her latest research on the protection of art in Florence during the Second World War, "Under the protection of the Holy See": the Florentine works of art and their moving to Alto Adige in 1944."

Ms. Franchi is the author of two books on the protection Italian cultural heritage during the Second World War: I viaggi dell’Assunta: La protezione del patrimonio artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali, and Arte in assetto di guerra: Protezione e distruzione del patrimonio artistico a Pisa durante la seconda guerra mondiale. She has also been involved in a project on the study of the “Kunstschutz” unit. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award – “Research” for the American documentary The Rape of Europa, 2006, on the spoils of works of art in Europe during the Second World War.

"In Italy, at the beginning of the war in 1940, the movable works of art were subdivided into three classes of importance and sent to castles and villas in the countryside to protect them from the only danger to be expected: the air raids," Ms. Franchi told the audience. "The most important Florentine works of art were gathered in three deposits: Villa reale in Poggio a Caiano sheltered masterpieces from the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti; Villa reale della Petraia housed precious sculptures; and Palazzo Pretorio in Scarperia protected the main works of art coming from churches and private collections."

At the end of the first year of the war, Ms. Franchi said, Poggio a Caiano was filled up and other deposit sites needed to be set up to shelter the important works. By 1943, Florence's mobile patrimony resided protectively in more than 20 storage sites.

On July 10, 1943, the Allied Forces landed in Sicily in "Operation Husky", and launched the Italian Campaign. "A frenetic moving of works of art from one deposit to another suddenly started, under heavy bombardment, even though fuel and means of transportation were hard to find," Ms. Franchi said.

Fifteen days later, Benito Mussolini was dismissed and Marshal Pietro Badoglio was appointed to head the government in his place. After the Armistice declared on September 8th between Italy and the Allied armed forces, the situation of the deposits became increasingly risky, Ms. Franchi said. In those days two military units began to operate in Italy for the protection of cultural property: the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (MFAA) by the Allied Commission for Italy and the German Kunstschutz. Frederick Hartt, responsible for the MFAA in Tuscany, declared at the end of the war: "Italian authorities had done almost everything possible to protect their country's treasure against bombardment."

According to Franchi, and contrary to what many believe, the Nazis did not always steal the art work around them. Franchi argued that in the case of Florence, the Kunstschutz unit, the German military unit created to protect cultural property, worked with Italians Carlo Anti, the General Arts Director in the Ministry of Education, and Carlo Alberti Biggini, the Minister of Education, to move as much as possible to the north of Italy (controlled by the Italian Social Republic with Mussolini and the German occupation).

In June 1944, Biggini ordered to move the main works of art of Florence and Siena to the north of Italy, far from the battle line. But the difficulties of his journey made it clear that it was impossible to carry such precious shipment to the north.

Despite this order, at the beginning of July, the German Army evacuated the precious works of art belonging to Florentine Galleries from the deposit of Montagnana, since the battle line was approaching. The German Army also evacuated the deposit of Oliveto, unbeknownst to the Kunstschutz, the Italian Ministry and the Superintendency.

Kunstschutz got on the trail of the missing works of art and removed the works of art from the deposit of Poggio a Caiano, that was under the protection of the Holy See.

At the end, the Florentine works of art removed by German Army and Kunstschutz were all moved to two deposits to Alto Adige, that were entrusted to the local Superintendent and to German Kunstschutz until the arrival of the Allies in 1945.

July 23, 2011

Annika Kuhn on “The Looting of Cultural Property: A View from Classical Antiquity”


Update: This post has been republished with corrections.

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Annika B. Kuhn, currently a Fellow of the Mercator Kolleg on International Affairs (German Academic Foundation / Federal Foreign Office), conducting research on the illicit trafficking and repatriation of antiquities, presented “The Looting of Cultural Property: A View from Classical Antiquity” at ARCA’s Third International Art Crime Conference in Amelia on July 9, 2011.

Dr. Kuhn, who holds a PhD in Ancient History from the University of Oxford, discussed how the destruction and pillage of cultural property in times of war and peace reach far back in history to the Greek and Roman periods. She selected several historical examples and examined the different forms of ancient responses to the loss of significant religious and cultural artifacts, which ranged from the diplomatic negotiation of returns, the repatriation of looted property as symbolic political acts, or the restoration of the religious and cultural order by the use of replicas.

Dr Kuhn referred to cases of plunder during the Persian Wars (e.g. Xerxes’ looting of the statue group of the Tyrannicides Harmodius and Aristogeiton after the sack of Athens in 480 BCE), the capture of war booty by Roman generals and soldiers, which was displayed in the triumphal parades at Rome, as well as excessive art thefts committed by provincial governors and emperors. Thus, the Sicilian governor C. Verres, one of the earliest art thieves, conducted “forced sales” in the province and used slaves to rob residences and temples in a systematic theft of art. Verres looted statues, furniture, vases, jewelry, carpets and paintings from sites throughout Sicily. The Julio-Claudian emperors Caligula (37-41 CE) and Nero (54-68 CE) were art thieves on the throne and plundered statues to decorate the rooms of their palaces. However, Greek and Roman contemporaries not only criticized the plunder of art, but actively tried to protect or recover commemorative artifacts, and there are already antecedents of the ‘codification’ of norms to respect the inviolability of religious and cultural sites and prohibit the illicit appropriation of art.

July 22, 2011

Laurie Rush on "Art Crime: Effects of a Global Issue at the Community Level"

by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

At ARCA’s third annual international art crime conference in mid-July, Dr. Laurie Rush, the Booth Family Rome Prize Winner in Historic Preservation at the American Academy in Rome, presented on “Art Crime: Effects of a Global Issue at the Community Level.”

Dr. Rush’s lecture featured discussions of the role of military archaeologists in preventing the inadvertent damage and destruction of cultural heritage as well as limiting the illicit traffic in antiquities during the most recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. For example, academic archaeologists in cooperation with military and NATO personnel were able to develop a 'no strike list' of 'at risk sites' in Libya within 36 hours after US participation was announced.

During the most recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt, Dr. Rush worked with the Legacy Resource Management Program to create decks of playing cards inspired by the US military’s tradition of using playing cards as educational tools. However, rather than depict images of the most-wanted Iraqis like a previous deck, the Heritage Resource Preservation playing cards depict the challenges of preserving heritage during military operations as well as provide useful archaeological site preservation advice.

According to Dr. Rush, the constant rotation of military officers and the flux in standard practices that it creates can make it difficult to effectively maintain efforts to protect cultural heritage sites and institutions during conflicts. During the US-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Garrison Commander  at the military base in Talil developed a strategy to protect Ur, the biblical birthplace of Abraham, by incorporating it within the installation fences. While it was a simple risk mitigation strategy, it enabled the US to effectively secure the site and protect it from potential looting. In 2009, the US returned control of the ancient site, which had been preserved in pristine condition, to the Iraqi authorities.

Rush believes that the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, which has been sent into numerous conflict zones in order to train local leaders and military personnel in the protection of cultural sites and institutions, should serve as a model for other countries that seek to develop similar cultural heritage preservation efforts. Currently, while based in Rome, Rush is working closely with the Carabinieri and examining their best practices. In addition to working with the military to protect sites during conflict, Dr. Rush stressed the need to focus attention and resources on developing strategies to maintain cultural heritage sites in the immediate aftermath of conflicts. Managing sites as community assets and rebuilding tourist attractions are critical to attracting local and international investment and attention. Dr. Rush believes that such efforts can be spearheaded by partnerships between academic institutions and government organizations.

July 20, 2011

ARCA's 2011 IACC: Charlotte Woodhead on “Assessing the Moral Strength of Holocaust Art Restitution Claims”

By Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

At ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia on July 9, Charlotte Woodhead, Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, shared her analysis of the numerous moral considerations of the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel, which hears claims relating to World War II thefts of cultural objects.

Founded only in the year 2000 and keeping in mind the time bars involved in civil suits, the panel assesses and resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era which is now held in UK national collections. Members of the panel, including lawyers, judges, professors, an art dealer and a baroness are appointed by the Secretary of State and consider both legal and non-legal obligations, such as the moral strength of the claimant’s case, and whether any moral obligation rests on the holding institution. In cases where the claimants received post-war compensation, the panel also considers any potential unjust enrichment were the object to be returned or a monetary reward offered. The public interest of a piece is also a factor in deciding whether to simply return the item or offer a reward.

The panel’s proceedings are an alternative to litigation, and its recommendations are not legally binding on any parties. However, if a claimant accepts the recommendation of the Panel, and the recommendation is implemented, the claimant is expected to accept this as full and final settlement of the claim.

Woodhead also discussed the difference between UK claim resolution and those of the Restitution Committee of the Netherlands. The British panel seeks restitution for art lost or stolen during the Nazi era (1933-1945) whereas the Dutch committee focuses on art lost in direct relation to the Nazi regime. Regardless of their differences, Woodhead stressed the importance of the existence of these panels saying “Nazi stolen art is different from stolen art as there is a wider cultural goal to right the wrongs of the past.”