Kunstdiefstal loont: voormalig directeur Westfries Museum vertaalt boek over kunstdiefstal; DEEL 1

www.museumbeveiliging.com/2009/08/31/kunstdiefstal-loont-falend-voormalig-directeur-westfries-museum-vertaalt-boek-over-kunstdiefstal/

31/08/2009 – 14:04Januari 2005 werd ingebroken in het Westfries Museum te Hoorn. De inbrekers hadden dankzij de ondermaatse beveiliging in de nacht langdurig de tijd een aantal schilderijen uit de lijsten te halen en bovendien spijkertje voor spijkertje van de spieramen los te maken. Daarnaast werden vitrines en deuren vernietigd en enkele zilveren objecten meegenomen. Een inbraak en diefstal die in de incidentengeschiedenis van musea de afgelopen tientallen jaren zijn weerga niet kent.

Falend, en zoals keer op keer bleek liegend, toenmalig directeur Ruud Spruit verkondigde in de pers dat zijn museum een geavanceerde beveiliging had en het slachtoffer was geworden van professionele criminelen, hiermee zichzelf promoverend tot zowel expert op het gebied van beveiligingssystemen als van criminaliteit. Wie beter dan zo’n multi-getalenteerd man is de aangewezen persoon om nu een boek in te leiden en te vertalen over kunstcriminaliteit?

 Zo lijkt het tenminste, ware het niet dat deze zelfbenoemde expert op het gebied van museumbeveiliging en criminaliteit niet meer en niet minder is dan een voormalig museumdirecteur die ter maskering van zijn falen moedwillig leugens verkondigde over zijn beveiliging en de professionaliteit van de criminelen. Spruit trachtte zijn falend beveiligingsbeleid te maskeren nadat de criminelen zijn ondermaatse beveiliging kinderlijk eenvoudig onderuit wisten te halen door de bewegingsmelders in het museum te maskeren.

 Hier hadden de criminelen helemaal geen hoogprofessionele criminele kennis voor nodig.

 In alle jaren dat Spruit directeur van het Westfries Museum was bereikte de gemeente nooit enig verzoek de beveiliging van dat museum conform de norm te maken, ondanks meerdere waarschuwingen door de beveiligingsinstallateur. Wethouder Tonnaer huilde met Spruit mee in het bos en dreigde de beveiligingsinstallateur aansprakelijk te stellen voor de schade. Het bleef bij een dreigement omdat het Tonnaer ook al heel snel duidelijk werd dat die installateur niets te verwijten viel. Je kunt nu eenmaal een garagehouder niet verwijten dat een klant willens en wetens in een te oude auto blijft rijden.

 Dat Spruit de beveiliging van zijn museum verwaarloosde is tot daar aan toe, ook al is dat museum gemeentelijk bezit, maar dat hij collega musea schade toebracht door in zijn verwaarloosde museum bruiklenen tentoon te stellen is schandalig.

Enige wroeging na de inbraak en diefstal? Welnee, want na de diefstal liet Spruit de hele Nederlandse museumwereld in de kou staan door glashard te liegen over zijn beveiliging. Zijn opmerking destijds voor de radio dat hij hoopte dat de Nederlandse musea zouden leren van de inbraak in zijn museum was niet gespeend van huichelarij. Die Nederlandse musea konden helemaal niets leren van dit incident omdat Spruit vertikte de waarheid te vertellen en toe te geven dat de beveiliging van zijn museum helemaal niet geavanceerd was. Dat bleek niet alleen doordat die beveiliging zo eenvoudig te saboteren was, maar ook doordat NA de inbraak de bewegingsmelders in het museum vervangen werden.

Er bestaat blijkbaar een beveiliging die geavanceerder dan geavanceerd is.

Dat Spruit nu komt met een boek over kunstdiefstallen is brutaliteit van een beunhazende charlatan of een door de psychotherapeut opgelegde traumaverwerkingstherapie. Wie zal het zeggen.

Het is in ieder geval duidelijk dat kunstdiefstal loont, voor meneer Spruit..

De gestolen schilderijen, inclusief een bruikleen van Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, zijn nog steeds zoek.

(wordt vervolgd)

 

Ton Cremers

August 31st, 2009

Posted In: Geen categorie

Tags: , ,

Januari 2005 werd ingebroken in het Westfries Museum te Hoorn. De inbrekers hadden dankzij de ondermaatse beveiliging in de nacht langdurig de tijd een aantal schilderijen uit de lijsten te halen en bovendien spijkertje voor spijkertje van de spieramen los te maken. Daarnaast werden vitrines en deuren vernietigd en enkele zilveren objecten meegenomen. Een inbraak en diefstal die in de incidentengeschiedenis van musea de afgelopen tientallen jaren zijn weerga niet kent. 

Falend, en zoals keer op keer bleek liegend, toenmalig directeur Ruud Spruit verkondigde in de pers dat zijn museum een geavanceerde beveiliging had en het slachtoffer was geworden van professionele criminelen, hiermee zichzelf promoverend tot zowel expert op het gebied van beveiligingssystemen als van criminaliteit. Wie beter dan zo’n multi-getalenteerd man is de aangewezen persoon om nu een boek in te leiden en te vertalen over kunstcriminaliteit?

 Zo lijkt het tenminste, ware het niet dat deze zelfbenoemde expert op het gebied van museumbeveiliging en criminaliteit niet meer en niet minder is dan een voormalig museumdirecteur die ter maskering van zijn falen moedwillig leugens verkondigde over zijn beveiliging en de professionaliteit van de criminelen. Spruit trachtte zijn falend beveiligingsbeleid te maskeren nadat de criminelen zijn ondermaatse beveiliging kinderlijk eenvoudig onderuit wisten te halen door de bewegingsmelders in het museum te maskeren.

 Hier hadden de criminelen helemaal geen hoogprofessionele criminele kennis voor nodig.

 In alle jaren dat Spruit directeur van het Westfries Museum was bereikte de gemeente nooit enig verzoek de beveiliging van dat museum conform de norm te maken, ondanks meerdere waarschuwingen door de beveiligingsinstallateur. Wethouder Tonnaer huilde met Spruit mee in het bos en dreigde de beveiligingsinstallateur aansprakelijk te stellen voor de schade. Het bleef bij een dreigement omdat het Tonnaer ook al heel snel duidelijk werd dat die installateur niets te verwijten viel. Je kunt nu eenmaal een garagehouder niet verwijten dat een klant willens en wetens in een te oude auto blijft rijden.

 Dat Spruit de beveiliging van zijn museum verwaarloosde is tot daar aan toe, ook al is dat museum gemeentelijk bezit, maar dat hij collega musea schade toebracht door in zijn verwaarloosde museum bruiklenen tentoon te stellen is schandalig.

 Enige wroeging na de inbraak en diefstal? Welnee, want na de diefstal liet Spruit de hele Nederlandse museumwereld in de kou staan door glashard te liegen over zijn beveiliging. Zijn opmerking destijds voor de radio dat hij hoopte dat de Nederlandse musea zouden leren van de inbraak in zijn museum was niet gespeend van huichelarij. Die Nederlandse musea konden helemaal niets leren van dit incident omdat Spruit vertikte de waarheid te vertellen en toe te geven dat de beveiliging van zijn museum helemaal niet geavanceerd was. Dat bleek niet alleen doordat die beveiliging zo eenvoudig te saboteren was, maar ook doordat NA de inbraak de bewegingsmelders in het museum vervangen werden.

 Er bestaat blijkbaar een beveiliging die geavanceerder dan geavanceerd is.

 Dat Spruit nu komt met een boek over kunstdiefstallen is brutaliteit van een beunhazende charlatan of een door de psychotherapeut opgelegde traumaverwerkingstherapie. Wie zal het zeggen.

 Het is in ieder geval duidelijk dat kunstdiefstal loont, voor meneer Spruit..

De gestolen schilderijen, inclusief een bruikleen van Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, zijn nog steeds zoek.

 (wordt vervolgd)

 

Ton Cremers

August 31st, 2009

Posted In: Uncategorized

Artifact collectors sentenced

By Journal staff

Four men accused of trafficking in archaeological resources will forfeit more than 12,500 archaeological items as part of their federal penalties.

Three of the men were recently sentenced, and a fourth is awaiting sentencing.

A fifth man, Scott Matteson, 60, of Fort Pierre, has pleaded not guilty and will be tried in January 2010. Matteson faces up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

John Sheild, 77, of Monona, Wis., was fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit his interest in a variety of items ranging from military items to bone tools.

Brian Ekrem, 28, Selby, will spend 10 months in prison and one year on supervised release. Ekrem was ordered to forfeit 204 items.

Richard D. Geffre, 29, Pierre, was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home confinement and fined $20,000. Geffre forfeits 7,930 items including bead work, arrowheads, tools and bison skulls.

Elliot D. Hook, 52, Wessington Springs, has pleaded guilty to trafficking in resources. As part of his plea agreement, Hook will forfeit 4,369 artifacts. Hook was also ordered to forfeit his interest in 797 fossil items. His sentencing is set for January 2010.

In other federal court action:

  • Robert Leeds, 35, Pine Ridge, pleaded not guilty to a federal grand jury indictment charging him with larceny, aiding and abetting involving the theft of items from the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School. If convicted, Leeds faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
  • John Michael William Caldwell, also known as Jon Caldwell Jr., 22, has pleaded guilty to larceny for stealing a car in January in Pine Ridge. Caldwell is in the custody of the U.S. Marshal pending sentencing in November.
  • Nikolas James Berbos was sentenced to three years of probation and fined $250 for being a drug user in possession of a firearm. According to court documents, Berbos lied about using drugs when he filled out an application to buy a 20-gauge shotgun at an Aberdeen sporting goods store in 2003.

Editor’s note: The U.S. District Court generally prosecutes felonies committed on reservations, while tribal courts handle misdemeanor crimes. Felonies that happen off the reservation are prosecuted in state/circuit court and are reported separately in the Journal. Some drug and firearms cases are also prosecuted in federal court.

All charges carry the possibility of fines up to $250,000 upon conviction unless otherwise noted.

August 31st, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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TO MOST OUTSIDERS, THE MAASAI ARE FIGURES from a postcard. A warrior stands tall — the right foot hooked in the crook of the knee of the straight left leg.

He sports long ochre-dyed hair and a red shuka cloth wrapped around his waist. A spear in the right hand and a stern face complete the picture of the Maasai moran.

This is the stereotypical image the outside world, and to some extent local people, have of the Maasai.

“Sometimes we are viewed and even treated as part of Kenya’s wildlife. This is unacceptable and must stop,” says Johnson ole Kaunga, team leader of the Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (Impact).

“The Maasai are rich in culture, and have been so for thousands of years. True, times are changing, but we still follow the same lifestyle we’ve always had. What is strange about that?”

Now, Ole Kaunga and team have put all and sundry on notice: “Next time you visit Il Ngwesi, first consult with the people before you even think of taking pictures. You might end up in an Intellectual Property court for infringing the community’s rights.”

Enough is enough is the clear message; it is time the Maasai of Il Ngwesi told their own story.

Impact, together with the Maasai Cultural Heritage and the United Nations now want to document and preserve the community’s cultural heritage.

Recently, the two community-based organisations received digital recording equipment as part of a World Intellectual Property Organisation-backed pilot project aimed at helping indigenous communities document and preserve their cultural heritage.

“This is a milestone to the community. As we preserve our own cultural traditions, we will also manage our intellectual property interests,” noted Kolol Ole Tingoi, Maasai Cultural Heritage project co-ordinator.

In a community ceremony performed under an acacia tree, WIPO formally handed over digital recording equipment to Chief Kisio and other elders of Il Ngwesi community of Laikipia East. This included a digital camera, sound recording equipment and a laptop.

THE CEREMONY WAS A LANDmark event in the agency’s Creative Heritage Project, which provides indigenous communities with opportunities to digitally preserve expressions of their culture and traditions, as well as training in how to protect their intellectual property from unwanted exploitation.

“Besides stimulating creativity within the community, the programme will also promote local economic and cultural development by bridging the digital divide,” observed Ole Tingoi who together with Ann Tomme and Kiprop Lagat of the National Museums of Kenya have undertaken a three-month training programme, offered by WIPO in partnership with the American Folklife Centre at the Library of Congress and the Centre for Documentary Studies at Duke University in the US.

Apart from documenting the community’s traditions, the project will also help the community archive its heritage for future generations, and safeguard their interest in authorising use of their recordings by third parties.

According to WIPO, the new technologies will provide the communities with fresh opportunities to document and digitise expressions of its culture. However, these new forms of documentation and digitisation can leave this cultural heritage vulnerable to unwanted exploitation beyond the traditional circle.

By empowering the community to record its own traditions and creative expressions, the programme allows the community to create its own intellectual property in the form of photographs, sound recordings and databases.

WITH THE INTELLECtual property component, the community is trained to make informed decisions about how to manage intellectual property assets in a way that corresponds with its values and development goals.

The programme also stimulates creativity within the community, can promote local economic and cultural development and helps to bridge the “digital divide,” key objectives of both the Millennium Development Goals and WIPO’s Development Agenda.

It is sad, said Ole Kaunga, that when the Kenya government came up with policies such as the preservation of parks and reserves, it excluded the Maasai, whom he believes are the key stakeholders.

As if this was not bad enough, the increasing population has made the traditional Maasai way of life increasingly difficult to maintain. With poverty and migration, the traditional authority of Maasai elders has weakened.

“Anyway, who would listen to a hungry, poor old man?” Ole Kaunga asks.

Over the years, many projects have been started to help Maasai tribal leaders preserve their traditions while also balancing the education needs of their children for the modern world.

But according to Ole Kaunga, this is not enough. The emerging forms of employment among the Maasai have seen many move away from the nomadic life to responsible positions in commerce and government, in the process losing their cultural values.

The National Museums of Kenya will provide ongoing institutional support by participating as partners in evaluation. Together with the Maasai community, NMK will make recommendations for its improvement and further development.

This pilot project forms part of WIPO’s Creative Heritage Project, which is developing an integrated set of practical resources and guidelines for cultural institutions such as museums and indigenous communities on managing intellectual property options when digitising intangible cultural heritage.

ACCORDING TO WIPO DEP-uty director general to Francis Gurry, this innovative capacity-building partnership with the Laikipia Maasai addresses a pressing yet legally and practically complex question — how can indigenous and local communities record and promote their traditional cultural expressions without ceding authority over how the recordings are used by third parties?

The results of the pilot programme will be shared with other indigenous communities and depending on the feedback, WIPO may offer similar programmes to other communities and institutions from other countries, he noted.

The project stems from a request received by WIPO from the Maasai community. WIPO made an exploratory visit to the community in late 2006, together with the International Labour Office in Geneva. This visit was also facilitated by the Kenyan government taskforce appointed to develop laws and policies for the protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore.

In consultation with the community, WIPO invited the American Folklife Centre to develop this pilot training programme. AFC and the Centre for Documentary Studies then jointly developed the curriculum for the training programme. 

http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/magazine/-/434746/643526/-/15l8xtmz/-/index.html

August 30th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Lead thefts could put Kew Bridge Steam Museum ‘out of business’

7:50am Saturday 29th August 2009

Thieves who stripped £20,000 worth of lead from a Brentford museum rooftop could end up putting it out of business after a string of burglaries.

Staff at Kew Bridge Steam Museum spotted a section of the roof was missing and called police – but before officers could arrive to investigate thieves struck again the next night, stealing more lead.

Director Ernest Buchner said although the theft would not stop planned activities at the museum, staff were finding it hard to cope and the listed building could be forced to close its doors for good if thieves struck again.

He said: “I just want all these thefts to stop, last year someone raided the giftshop and we had another theft before that. If this keeps happening again and again and again we will go out of business.”

Staff at the museum believe the raid was a calculated theft with the culprits staking out the museum days before.

Mr Buchner said: “I think they were casing the joint, this was a professional job. There must have been a few of them to carry the lead and transport it away.

“I am disgusted. They have destroyed a part of England’s heritage. This roof was irreplaceable and a part of history has been lost. I feel a lot of disappointment in my fellow man right now.”

The building, in Green Dragon Lane, is owned by Thames Water, which has agreed to repair the roof, and Mr Buchner said he was looking into claiming £20,000 in insurance for the thefts on August 11 and 12.

Kew Bridge Steam Museum, has the largest collection of steam powered active pumping engines in the world, including the largest operating single cylinder Cornish beam steam engine anywhere.

Founded in 1972 by a group of volunteers in the former Kew Bridge Pumping Station of Thames Water, the museum relates the story of London’s supply of fresh water from Roman times to the late 20th century.

Mr Buchner said staff were looking into improved security measures.

A police spokesman said officers were investigating the thefts and appealing for witnesses.

Contact Hounslow CID on 020 8247 6160. 

http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/4571321.Thieves_plunder_museum_s_roof_for_lead/

August 30th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

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August 30th, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Dennis Ouma26 August 2009

Nairobi — When Kitale Museum in Kenya was closed in late July and all the 31 workers suspended after theft of the institutions most valuable collection, focus turned to the fate of a small menagerie of local and exotic animals that still needed feeding and care.

The museum, located a few metres from the town centre, boasts of two adult Nile crocodiles, three species of tortoise and a snake park, whose inhabitants are relatively harmless such as the common house snakes.

However, a few metres from the park is another set of venomous reptiles, safely kept in exhibition cases to ensure the safety of visitors. These lethal snakes kept behind glass exhibition cases include puff adder, Gabon viper, rhinoceros viper, black mamba and forest cobra.

Tiny tortoise

“Proof that typical life for these animals has not been interrupted in anyway are those tiny tortoise,” says Mr Julius Ogega, pointing at a group of young tortoise, probably a few days old, dotting the tortoise pen that houses three different species from a collection of more than 20 of the unique hard-shelled animals.

Mr Ogega is the leader of four new employee’s posted from National Museums of Kenya stations in different parts of the country to oversee operations at Kitale.

All the staff at Kitale from top management to labourers were sent home after the theft between May and mid-July of the entire museum centrepiece, 58 artifacts commonly known as the Stoneham collection.

National Museums director-general Idle Farah says that each of the stolen piece could easily fetch Sh1 million on the international antiquities market. The entire Stoneham collection, donated to the museum in 1920 by a decorated British soldier Hugh Stoneham, was stolen save for a lion skin and butterflies.

The collections, that included a military sword and a collection of scientific artefacts, including a microscope, provided the foundation upon which the museum was established.

And following the loss, NMK’s board is seriously considering changing the focus of the museum shorn of its most valuable collection.

NMK regional director for sites and monuments, Dr Mzalendo Kibunja, says this will also involve reorganising the station’s gallery. It will also involve restocking the Kitale Museum with new exhibits in place of the Stoneham collection, Mr Ogega, says.

The Kitale museum the first regional one after opening its doors to the public in 1974 — has a lot of ethnographical material collected from surrounding ethnic groups including Bukusu, Nandi, Pokot, Sabaot and early European settlers.

The skeleton staff presently on duty undertakes routine cleaning, maintenance and repair works besides feeding and caring for the animals. The team also takes care of rats reared to feed the snakes at the station, and which are conveniently kept in the same room, but behind the structure which houses the poisonous snakes.

“The snakes are fed once a week to ensure they do not grow big in size” Mr Ogega says. Ditto the two crocodiles, kept in separate ponds but which are adjacent to each other.

Other animals in the museum are two cows. The Freisian cows have their dung used to operate a biogas plant at the station, used for demonstrating how the green energy operates, to the many visitors who usually flock the museum.

The station also boasts of ornamental birds including Turkeys and crested guinea fowls as well as a variety of meticulously labelled medicinal plant species and a dense nature trail that borders Kitale club.

Emerging challenge

Mr Ogega says his team has had to deal with intruders, who sneak into the museums expansive compound to cut trees and fetch deadwood for firewood.

“These people also cut trees and other plant species, which they use in making concoctions for herbal medicine, he says. “From our observation among their favourite plant species is the Prunus Africana, which is believed to offer cure for prostate cancer, he says.

He however, adds that guards from a private security firm hired to protect the station have intensified patrols to deter the intruders.

He bemoans sewer water from Kitale Town, which loudly flows into a stream that meanders within the museum’s dense and serene nature trail, whose thick forest is also used for agroforestry.

This flow, if not checked, he warns, could endanger organisms in the station.

August 30th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Museum thefts

STAFF WRITER 18:59 HRS IST 

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 23 (PTI) Burglars broke into the palace-museum of renowned artist Raja Ravi Varma at Kilimanoor, about 30 km from here, and decamped with three ‘copies’ of the master’s paintings.

 According to police, besides the ‘copies’ of Ravi Varma paintings, an original work by a descendant of the legendary artist was also found missing.

 Police suspect that the thieves sneaked into the museum last night to take away the paintings.

 According to Biju Rama Varma, a member of the Palace Trust, the original missing painting was a work by Bhavani Thampuratti, a descendant of Ravi Varma, based on the famous ‘Hamsa Damayanthi’ of her illustrious predecessor.

 One of the best known Indian painters, Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was born in Kilimannur palace and drew many of his early works at the home studio, which has been turned into a memorial for the master by his descendants.

 http://www.ptinews.com/news/244374_Works-stolen-from-Ravi-Varma-s-home-museum

August 23rd, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

www.chinaview.cn  2009-08-23 

    NEW DELHI, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) — India’s premier probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has closed its investigation into the theft of the Nobel Prize medal of world famous Indian polymath Rabindranath Tagore, who shaped Bengali literature in the early 20th century, a senior official said Sunday.

     “The CBI has closed the probe citing absence of any further clues,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

     Tagore’s Nobel medal for literature and certificate as well as some personal possessions were stolen from a museum in Shantiniken in March 2004.

     Earlier, the CBI had temporarily closed investigation only to reopen it last year after reports of some clues surfaced.

     Tagore became the first non-Westerner to win the literature prize in 1913. He is one of modern India’s greatest poets and composer of both the Indian and Bangladeshi national anthems.

August 23rd, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

By Cnaan Liphshiz

 In accusing Israel of “robbing Palestinian identity and replacing Palestinian money,” the Netherlands’ Geldmuseum (Money Museum) has adopted propaganda that “runs contrary to the truth,” the country’s largest pro-Israel organization said this week. 

 The museum has denied any political bias. 

 The Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI) has complained on the matter to the Geldmuseum in Utrecht following reports about an exhibition on people’s attitudes toward money. 

 In the exhibition, there are cardboard characters from 50 different locations including writing on what their currencies mean to them. 

 “The first character one sees upon entering the room is of a kaffiyeh-wearing Sami Issa from Israel, or Palestine, standing near a mock Arabic shop,” a disgruntled visitor told Haaretz. 

 Issa describes old paper notes, which he calls “real Palestinian money,” which “prove that Palestine existed.” He then argues the money was replaced with notes with Hebrew text, constituting “the theft of Palestinian identity.” 

 In a complaint letter to the museum, CIDI founder Ronny Naftaniel said he was “appalled” by the Museum’s “departure from factual truth.” 

 Naftaniel also wrote that from 1900 to 1948, Arabs and Jews in the Land of Israel used Ottoman, Egyptian and British money, but never “Palestinian money.” 

 Claiming otherwise, Naftaniel said, “gives the impression that an independent Palestinian state had existed before the birth of the State of Israel. The display goes on to reinforce this impression by saying the identity of that non-existent state was stolen.” 

 “The politically motivated and historically unfounded text in the exhibition is not appropriate for any museum aspiring to be a relevant source for monetary history,” Naftaniel said yesterday. The museum has not replied to his letter. 

 One visitor, who asked that his name be withheld from the article, said the exhibit, and the absence of an Israeli voice from it, showed that the Money Museum “has joined the fight against Zionism.” 

 Susanne Fels, a spokesperson for the museum denied the claim, saying the exhibit was meant to “bring people together” and that the museum has decided not to interfere with the contributors’ texts attached to the notes on display. 

 “The reason that no Zionist Jew expressed an opinion on the Palestinian issue is that this was not the issue we were dealing with. We invited an Israeli Jew for this exposition, who declined our invitation,” she added.

 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1109431.html

August 23rd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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By Allyson Bird

The (Charleston) Post and Courier

Five dark-suited FBI agents showed up at Patriots Point on Friday with two Civil War-era Medals of Honor.

 And while the agents had few details about the investigation it took to bring the medals to their new home, they didn’t mince words when it came to describing the kind of people involved in the theft of the nation’s highest military honor.

 “I can’t imagine anything more despicable than taking away the honor of those people who earned those medals,” said David Thomas, South Carolina special agent in charge.

 The FBI investigates stolen and counterfeit Medals of Honor nationwide. A judge, a police chief and a mayor are among the those who have been arrested in these types of cases.

 Retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston accepted the star-shaped decorations Friday from Thomas at a reception in the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown.

 Neither of the two medals was recovered in South Carolina, Thomas said, but he would offer no additional information about where they were or how agents found them.

 Livingston recounted the stories behind the medals: Thomas Jenkins, a Navy seaman aboard the USS Cincinnati, continued fighting even after realizing both he and his ship were doomed. George Emmons served in two separate enlistments, each time with one of his sons.

 Livingston, a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient who lives in the Charleston area, said each star represents the spirit of service of all Americans.

 Speaking to the FBI agents, he said, “I think what you’ve done is bring back a little bit of America to the Medal of Honor Museum.”

 The FBI began pursuing stolen and counterfeit Medals of Honor even before Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act in 2006. That legislation made it a federal crime to falsely represent oneself as an award recipient and stiffened penalties for those who make or sell unauthorized military decorations.

 In 2004, the FBI busted a Canadian man suspected of selling Medals of Honor on eBay. In 2007, a Pomona, Calif., water district official faced federal charges for making a false claim that he received the Medal of Honor.

 Some of the suspects “displayed them very prominently in their offices,” Thomas said. “How do you explain something like that?”

 http://www.thesunnews.com/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: forgery

Matthew Claxton

Langley Advance

Friday, August 21, 2009

It can be quite depressing reading police press releases. Most of what they let us know about, of course, is death, injury, theft, and fraud. Someone has been hurt or killed in a car accident, someone has been assaulted, someone has been robbed.

The details of the crimes themselves are petty and stupid. A man robs a bank without wearing a mask. A car is stolen and dumped. A purse is snatched from an elderly woman.

It’s enough to make you despair for the art of crime. The average criminal is idiotic, impulsive, and either intoxicated or desperate to become intoxicated.

Organized criminals are no better. The gangsters who’ve recently been shooting up Lower Mainland streets appear to be thick-necked yahoos concerned only with getting more tattoos and bigger SUVs.

Where are the true master criminals? Where are the guys who look at a map of the Vegas strip and say “We’ll need 11 guys to pull this off”? Where are the plans to tunnel into Fort Knox, to blackmail the world with an orbital death ray? Where are the supervillains stroking white cats and saying “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”?

Great criminals do exist, maybe without the death rays and white cats. Today marks the anniversary of one of the greatest crimes in history: the theft of the Mona Lisa.

Largely forgotten today, in 1911 the theft shook the world. Someone had lifted the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci off its hook on the wall of the Louvre and walked out with it. Police searched everywhere, even questioning Pablo Picasso after a friend fingered him for the crime.

The real thief was Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian who had worked in the Louvre. He stole the painting when the museum was closed by simply hiding overnight and dressing as a staff member. He tucked the painting under his smock and walked past an unattended guard booth.

Perugia was caught three years later trying to sell the painting to an Italian art dealer; he claimed his goal was simply to return the painting to its rightful home in Italy. An Italian court gave him a lenient sentence of a little more than a year, and Perugia never had to buy his own drinks again.

So far, so mediocre. But later in the decade, an Argentinean con man named Eduardo de Valfierno told another story to a New York reporter. Valfierno claimed it was he who had put Perugia up to the job, but not because he actually wanted the painting.

Valfierno (who called himself a marquis) approached several wealthy but less-than-ethical art collectors. His question: If the Mona Lisa were for sale, what would it be worth?

He could have sold the painting to any one of them. But Valfierno had a better idea. He worked with a talented forger to create six identical copies of the Mona Lisa. Then he sold it six times as soon as the theft became public knowledge.

Valfierno had no need of the real painting, and the story goes that he and the other conspirators never even contacted Perugia after the theft. The real Mona Lisa lay under Perugia’s bed for most of the next three years.

The story might be entirely fictional. Valfierno’s story only became public in the 1930s, after his death. And none of the rich would-be buyers has ever come forward, of course.

If there has to be crime (and sadly there always will be) it would be nice if more criminals had some audacity. Future crooks take note: Petty thieves tend to get caught. Valfierno never went to prison.

http://www2.canada.com/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: forgery, Museum thefts

BY SUSAN EMERLING | AUGUST 21, 2009

The culture war between antiquities-importing countries and those whose soils harbor archaeological treasures has flared up again. This time, the battle isn’t over recently looted artifacts returned by a chastened American museum to their country of origin. Instead, it is over the June opening of Athens’ New Acropolis Museum (NAM), which, in addition to housing an eye-boggling cache of art and artifacts found on the Acropolis, was built with the wishful premise of someday housing what the British refer to as the “Elgin Marbles.” These are the late fifth-century sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th-century by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, and acquired by the British Museum in 1816.

Although there are certainly entrenched political and legal obstacles to the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece — chief among them, the British Museum’s claim of rightful ownership — the elegant, state-of-the-art concrete and glass-walled NAM, designed by Swiss-born New York-basedarchitect Bernard Tschumi has put to bed long-standing concerns over Greece’s ability to safeguard and exhibit the stones, should they ever return to its shores. Despite its persistent refusal to consider the restitution, even the British Museum seems to have tacitly acknowledged the suitability of the NAM by offering the marginally sincere three-month loan of the marbles in exchange for a renunciation of Greece’s ownership claims. (The Greeks ridiculed and rejected the offer.) But amid all this posturing, does the construction of the NAM signal the beginning of a shift in the repatriation debate, which might affect museums around the world that are caught in similar conflicts over contested objects? Although not all archaeological source countries have the resources to build such an unimpeachable museum, the issue of restitution for works of art might increasingly be decided less on whether these source countries can legally reclaim their own antiquities — but whether, ethically, they should.

The Elgin Marbles represent approximately half of the surviving works of art from the Parthenon. Almost from the time they arrived in England, the Greeks and the British have been engaged in a painful, imperial-era playground spat that goes something like this: “You took them from us. Give them back.” To which the British have replied, “No, they’re ours. The Ottoman Empire said we could have them.” Unable or unwilling to resolve the dispute by mutual agreement, the merits of the case have been loudly debated for nearly two centuries in the court of public opinion. Romantic poet Lord Byron launched the first salvo with his immensely popular narrative poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which was published almost simultaneous to the British ownership claim:

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see

Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed

By British hands, which it had best behoved

To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.

In 1982, when the Acropolis was first proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Greek superstar Melina Mercouri, an actress and politician, made an impassioned plea for the return of the marbles. Two years later, the Greek government made a formal complaint to UNESCO for restitution of the stones from Britain, with the meager result of a repeated and unactionable suggestion that the two sides come to an unspecified “amicable settlement.” Despite the fact that the Greeks have maintained their noisy bereaved posture, for whatever reason — either the lack of an appropriate venue to hear a case or uncertainty about the outcome — they have never pursued their grievance in a court of law. Instead, they built the NAM to make their architectural, aesthetic, and ethical argument for reuniting the Elgin Marbles with the other elements of Parthenon statuary that have remained in Greek hands.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: Parthenon Marbles

German Archaeologists Labor To Solve Mystery Of The Nok

2009-08-21

Posted By: Intellpuke

Some 2,500 years ago, a mysterious culture emerged in Nigeria. The Nok people left behind bizarre terracotta statues – and little else. German archaeologists are now looking for more clues to explain this obscure culture.

 Half a ton of pottery shards is piled on the tables in Peter Breunig’s workroom on the sixth floor of the University of Frankfurt am Main. There are broken pots, other storage vessels, a clay lizard and fragments of clay faces with immense nostrils.

 The chipped head of a statue depicts an African man with a moustache, a fixed glare and hair piled high up on his head. He looks gloomy, almost sinister. Just a few days ago, the ceramics traveled 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) by sea from Nigeria, where they were unearthed.

 Breunig runs an excavation near the Nigerian highlands of Jos, where the mysterious Nok culture once blossomed. Spanning more than 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles), the tropical region they lived in was larger than Ireland. Its inhabitants lived in wooden huts and ate porridge made from pearl millet. Some women subjected themselves to bloody “scar ornaments” scratched into their breasts with knives. And, as archaeologists imagine it, smoke hung in the air as people fired masterly terracotta creations in kilns heated to 700 degrees Celsius (1,300 degrees Fahrenheit).

 The most astonishing fact about what Breunig calls “a society without writing” is its age. It dates from around 2,500 years ago, a time when a wave of change in belief systems washed over other continents. Nok sculptors were contemporaries of Solon, Buddha and the early Mayans.

 For years, people have believed that Africa was left behind at that time – but Breunig knows better. “Around 500 B.C., the population exploded,” he says. People that had been living a Stone Age-like nomadic existence suddenly settled. Breunig speaks of a “cultural Big Bang.”

 This region near the equator is still largely unexplored, and the German Research Foundation has allocated sizable funding toward that task. If the researchers from Frankfurt deliver promising results, they will continue to receive state funding until 2020.

 With the help of some locals, German researchers set up their base last spring, which consists of nine mud huts in the village of Janjala. A flag with the image of Goethe, the symbol of Breunig’s university, flutters on a mast. The Germans have drilled wells, and solar panels provide electricity.

 Conditions there are hard. Murky water sloshes from the pump, and the solitary lightbulb in the main bricked-lined hut is the only one within 100 kilometers (62 miles). At night, owing to the heat, the researchers have gotten used to sleeping under the night sky, as wild dogs howl in the distance.

 Shards, Shards Everywhere

 Bathed in the light of the morning sun, the team sets forth. With shovels, pickaxes, laptops and GPS navigation devices in tow, the excavators trudge past an enchanting tree savannah and granite hilltops rising like small islands.

 In their excavations, the team encounters hardly any other traces of life. There are no skeletons preserved in the earth since the acidic soil dissolved all bones. Like their cemeteries, the temples and huts of the Nok have disappeared without a trace. No one knows what their farm animals, streets or religious ceremonies were like.

 But the shards of clay statues are everywhere – on rock slopes, in ancient refuse pits and in open spaces. Burrowing animals occasionally dislodge them from their original resting places.

 The largest of these impressive figures can stand up to one meter (3.3 feet) tall and resemble what might be kings or members of a social elite. Others wear horned helmets or carved-out gourds on their heads. A third of these figures are women.

 The clay figures are strangely uniform, almost as if they had been mass produced. The eyes are always triangular, the pupils are pierced, and the eyebrows are high and arched. They look sedate and immersed in their thoughts. Lightning-shaped tattoos adorn their cheeks.

 Scientists are puzzled about who could have created this collection of curiosities. How, they ask, could such a fanciful world emerge 10 degrees latitude south of the equator and far away from the rest of the world’s civilizations?

 Particularly perplexing is the question of how the Nok people smelted iron. Excavators have found iron bracelets, arrowheads and knives. No sub-Saharan people made anything comparable at the time.

 The German researchers, which include geologists and paleoethnobotanists, have now used state-of-the-art analytical devices to examine this area. They use X-ray fluorescence devices, for example, to detect shattered bones, and their infrared cameras should make the remnants of buildings visible. In their initial findings, they have learned that the Nok lived on millet, cowpeas and an olive-like fruit. And Breunig now believes that the statues “were made centrally in some large workshops.”

 Next winter, the high-tech caravan of researchers will move back into the bush with up to 40 excavation assistants. The project could finally shed some light on a phenomenon that is one of the biggest mysteries of early history.

 A Startling Discovery

 In 1943, the British colonial civil administrator Bernard Fagg was the first to acquire a Nok figure, which had been used as a scarecrow in a yam field. Fagg encouraged the workers in the surrounding tin mines to come forward with any similar finds. Locals from more distant regions soon began bringing Fagg other artifacts, which brought his collection up to 150 pieces. They brought him amulets and clay elephants. They brought him a figure with a gigantic phallus reaching up to its head; another had vampire-like teeth.

 For a long time, experts in Europe and the United States were largely unaware of the exciting findings. Only when a pioneer of thermoluminescent imaging presented new data in the 1970s did the archaeological community start to prick up its ears.

 These findings led the community to ask a puzzling question: Was it possible that, between 600 B.C. and 300 A.D., when the Chinese started building the Great Wall and the Romans dotted their empire with triumphal arches, African master sculptors in faraway Nigeria were making statues of the highest aesthetic order out of mud coils?

 The swiftest reaction to the sensational discovery came from people in the antiquities trade. In the late 1980s, Nok sculptures appeared sporadically in Brussels and Paris. Not only private collectors, but also state-owned museums, discreetly tapped into the fenced merchandise, and prices climbed as high as $50,000 (€35,000) per statue.

 Then, in 1996, the sculptures came to the attention of the wider public when the exhibition “Africa: the Art of a Continent” traveled to London and Berlin. Still, at that time, it was mostly photos of the Nok works that went on display. The owners of the original statues – mostly of whom were rich American collectors – did not dare lend the exhibition their dubiously acquired African sculptures.

 Interpol, the international law-enforcement agency, noted that the objects were being “systematically stolen” and that Africa’s heritage was under threat from thieves. UNESCO finally put the sculptures on a list of objects that were illegal to import or export.

 Still, these actions did little to temper the treasure-hunting fever in Nigeria. A gem mine near Kubacha, located in the tribal area of the Koro, emerged as an El Dorado for the sculptures.

 “Extremely beautiful and barely damaged statues were discovered there in the tombs of the underground shelters,” recounts one insider.

 Miners there were constantly finding new choice pieces, including a rider on a fanciful horse and a figure holding a cat in a stranglehold.

 Details about the mine are hard to come by. It is located in a semi-autonomous district ruled by Koro chief Yohanna Akaito with an iron fist. Akaito has sealed off the area with his private army, and even Nigerian government officials have no access.

 One of the few whites who has been granted access to the area is Gert Chesi, and ethnologist and Voodoo researcher.

 “The chief entertained me in his mud palace,” Chesi says. “In the morning, trumpet calls woke us up, and then we went to the mine.”

 Chesi had an ulterior motive in coming here. He runs the “House of the People,” a museum in Schwaz, Austria, which houses 50 Nok statues, the most splendid collection in the world. Once he was with Akaito, Chesi got right down to business.

 Most museums purchased Nok artifacts without certificates and now hide them in their repositories. But Chesi makes no secret of his treasures.

 “Each of our sculptures has an export license issued by Omotoso Eluyemi, the manager of the national museum,” he says. “Everything was done legally.”

 It is true that the late Nigerian antiquities official’s office could issue customs documents. But it would appear that he did this all too gladly – while stuffing his pockets in the process.

 Poison and Corpses

 Now and then, you hear mention of bodies. Eluyemi died on February 18, 2006. According to the official version of events, he choked on a glass of water at dinner and suffocated. But insiders are sure that the 58-year-old was poisoned.

 These are the circumstances in which the archeologists are operating.

 In describing the situation on the ground, Breunig says that “thieves have rummaged through many thousand square meters of ground; there’s one hole next to another.”

 Still, there is some hope for Africa’s heritage. To this day, countless Nok villages lie untouched beneath the earth. In Ungwar Kura, for example, the team recently came across more than 130 millstones, which suggests that there was once a large village there.

 The statues found there also contain new details. Some have boils and furuncles on their faces, while others appear to be high dignitaries. Foot rings, loincloths and arm chains ornament their bodies. While their hair is formed into buns and braids, twisted chains adorn necks like thick Christmas wreaths. “The social distinctions are clearly defined,” Breunig says.

 The researchers are still not sure what these peculiar adornments are supposed to indicate. Since stone pavement is often found near the statues, some have thought that they were situated in holy places or near altars. The archeologists have found remnants of deliberately deposited jewelry chains alongside them, which might lend some degree of support to this hypothesis.

 For the time being, though, the purpose of the Nok statues remains unclear. And then there’s still the question of whether these objects have anything to do with the Nok people making contact with other people. Some archeologists believe that the cultural renaissance resulted from contact with northern peoples, such as the Carthaginians, who might have arrived by desert. Still others point to the so-called “black pharaohs” of Sudan, who subjugated the whole Nile region between 750 and 670 B.C.

 But, for his part, Breunig rejects the idea of such a far-reaching transfer of ideas. “It’s 3,000 kilometers from Egypt to Abuja, and there was the obstacle of the Sahara in between,” he explains. And, he adds, Africans didn’t have camels in pre-Christian times. Instead, Breunig believes that Nok art evolved independently.

 Still, the mysteries remain. If Breunig is correct, the Nok were isolated geniuses who created a tropical civilization out of nothing.

 “There’s no doubt that the Nok will continue to baffle us,” Breunig says. “We’re unearthing a magnificent part of the history of sub-Saharan Africa.”

 Intellpuke: You can read this article by Spiegel staff writer Matthias Schulz in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,642521,00.html

 http://freeinternetpress.com/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

German Archaeologists Labor To Solve Mystery Of The Nok

2009-08-21

Posted By: Intellpuke

Some 2,500 years ago, a mysterious culture emerged in Nigeria. The Nok people left behind bizarre terracotta statues – and little else. German archaeologists are now looking for more clues to explain this obscure culture.

 Half a ton of pottery shards is piled on the tables in Peter Breunig’s workroom on the sixth floor of the University of Frankfurt am Main. There are broken pots, other storage vessels, a clay lizard and fragments of clay faces with immense nostrils.

 The chipped head of a statue depicts an African man with a moustache, a fixed glare and hair piled high up on his head. He looks gloomy, almost sinister. Just a few days ago, the ceramics traveled 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) by sea from Nigeria, where they were unearthed.

 Breunig runs an excavation near the Nigerian highlands of Jos, where the mysterious Nok culture once blossomed. Spanning more than 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles), the tropical region they lived in was larger than Ireland. Its inhabitants lived in wooden huts and ate porridge made from pearl millet. Some women subjected themselves to bloody “scar ornaments” scratched into their breasts with knives. And, as archaeologists imagine it, smoke hung in the air as people fired masterly terracotta creations in kilns heated to 700 degrees Celsius (1,300 degrees Fahrenheit).

 The most astonishing fact about what Breunig calls “a society without writing” is its age. It dates from around 2,500 years ago, a time when a wave of change in belief systems washed over other continents. Nok sculptors were contemporaries of Solon, Buddha and the early Mayans.

 For years, people have believed that Africa was left behind at that time – but Breunig knows better. “Around 500 B.C., the population exploded,” he says. People that had been living a Stone Age-like nomadic existence suddenly settled. Breunig speaks of a “cultural Big Bang.”

 This region near the equator is still largely unexplored, and the German Research Foundation has allocated sizable funding toward that task. If the researchers from Frankfurt deliver promising results, they will continue to receive state funding until 2020.

 With the help of some locals, German researchers set up their base last spring, which consists of nine mud huts in the village of Janjala. A flag with the image of Goethe, the symbol of Breunig’s university, flutters on a mast. The Germans have drilled wells, and solar panels provide electricity.

 Conditions there are hard. Murky water sloshes from the pump, and the solitary lightbulb in the main bricked-lined hut is the only one within 100 kilometers (62 miles). At night, owing to the heat, the researchers have gotten used to sleeping under the night sky, as wild dogs howl in the distance.

 Shards, Shards Everywhere

 Bathed in the light of the morning sun, the team sets forth. With shovels, pickaxes, laptops and GPS navigation devices in tow, the excavators trudge past an enchanting tree savannah and granite hilltops rising like small islands.

 In their excavations, the team encounters hardly any other traces of life. There are no skeletons preserved in the earth since the acidic soil dissolved all bones. Like their cemeteries, the temples and huts of the Nok have disappeared without a trace. No one knows what their farm animals, streets or religious ceremonies were like.

 But the shards of clay statues are everywhere – on rock slopes, in ancient refuse pits and in open spaces. Burrowing animals occasionally dislodge them from their original resting places.

 The largest of these impressive figures can stand up to one meter (3.3 feet) tall and resemble what might be kings or members of a social elite. Others wear horned helmets or carved-out gourds on their heads. A third of these figures are women.

 The clay figures are strangely uniform, almost as if they had been mass produced. The eyes are always triangular, the pupils are pierced, and the eyebrows are high and arched. They look sedate and immersed in their thoughts. Lightning-shaped tattoos adorn their cheeks.

 Scientists are puzzled about who could have created this collection of curiosities. How, they ask, could such a fanciful world emerge 10 degrees latitude south of the equator and far away from the rest of the world’s civilizations?

 Particularly perplexing is the question of how the Nok people smelted iron. Excavators have found iron bracelets, arrowheads and knives. No sub-Saharan people made anything comparable at the time.

 The German researchers, which include geologists and paleoethnobotanists, have now used state-of-the-art analytical devices to examine this area. They use X-ray fluorescence devices, for example, to detect shattered bones, and their infrared cameras should make the remnants of buildings visible. In their initial findings, they have learned that the Nok lived on millet, cowpeas and an olive-like fruit. And Breunig now believes that the statues “were made centrally in some large workshops.”

 Next winter, the high-tech caravan of researchers will move back into the bush with up to 40 excavation assistants. The project could finally shed some light on a phenomenon that is one of the biggest mysteries of early history.

 A Startling Discovery

 In 1943, the British colonial civil administrator Bernard Fagg was the first to acquire a Nok figure, which had been used as a scarecrow in a yam field. Fagg encouraged the workers in the surrounding tin mines to come forward with any similar finds. Locals from more distant regions soon began bringing Fagg other artifacts, which brought his collection up to 150 pieces. They brought him amulets and clay elephants. They brought him a figure with a gigantic phallus reaching up to its head; another had vampire-like teeth.

 For a long time, experts in Europe and the United States were largely unaware of the exciting findings. Only when a pioneer of thermoluminescent imaging presented new data in the 1970s did the archaeological community start to prick up its ears.

 These findings led the community to ask a puzzling question: Was it possible that, between 600 B.C. and 300 A.D., when the Chinese started building the Great Wall and the Romans dotted their empire with triumphal arches, African master sculptors in faraway Nigeria were making statues of the highest aesthetic order out of mud coils?

 The swiftest reaction to the sensational discovery came from people in the antiquities trade. In the late 1980s, Nok sculptures appeared sporadically in Brussels and Paris. Not only private collectors, but also state-owned museums, discreetly tapped into the fenced merchandise, and prices climbed as high as $50,000 (€35,000) per statue.

 Then, in 1996, the sculptures came to the attention of the wider public when the exhibition “Africa: the Art of a Continent” traveled to London and Berlin. Still, at that time, it was mostly photos of the Nok works that went on display. The owners of the original statues – mostly of whom were rich American collectors – did not dare lend the exhibition their dubiously acquired African sculptures.

 Interpol, the international law-enforcement agency, noted that the objects were being “systematically stolen” and that Africa’s heritage was under threat from thieves. UNESCO finally put the sculptures on a list of objects that were illegal to import or export.

 Still, these actions did little to temper the treasure-hunting fever in Nigeria. A gem mine near Kubacha, located in the tribal area of the Koro, emerged as an El Dorado for the sculptures.

 “Extremely beautiful and barely damaged statues were discovered there in the tombs of the underground shelters,” recounts one insider.

 Miners there were constantly finding new choice pieces, including a rider on a fanciful horse and a figure holding a cat in a stranglehold.

 Details about the mine are hard to come by. It is located in a semi-autonomous district ruled by Koro chief Yohanna Akaito with an iron fist. Akaito has sealed off the area with his private army, and even Nigerian government officials have no access.

 One of the few whites who has been granted access to the area is Gert Chesi, and ethnologist and Voodoo researcher.

 “The chief entertained me in his mud palace,” Chesi says. “In the morning, trumpet calls woke us up, and then we went to the mine.”

 Chesi had an ulterior motive in coming here. He runs the “House of the People,” a museum in Schwaz, Austria, which houses 50 Nok statues, the most splendid collection in the world. Once he was with Akaito, Chesi got right down to business.

 Most museums purchased Nok artifacts without certificates and now hide them in their repositories. But Chesi makes no secret of his treasures.

 “Each of our sculptures has an export license issued by Omotoso Eluyemi, the manager of the national museum,” he says. “Everything was done legally.”

 It is true that the late Nigerian antiquities official’s office could issue customs documents. But it would appear that he did this all too gladly – while stuffing his pockets in the process.

 Poison and Corpses

 Now and then, you hear mention of bodies. Eluyemi died on February 18, 2006. According to the official version of events, he choked on a glass of water at dinner and suffocated. But insiders are sure that the 58-year-old was poisoned.

 These are the circumstances in which the archeologists are operating.

 In describing the situation on the ground, Breunig says that “thieves have rummaged through many thousand square meters of ground; there’s one hole next to another.”

 Still, there is some hope for Africa’s heritage. To this day, countless Nok villages lie untouched beneath the earth. In Ungwar Kura, for example, the team recently came across more than 130 millstones, which suggests that there was once a large village there.

 The statues found there also contain new details. Some have boils and furuncles on their faces, while others appear to be high dignitaries. Foot rings, loincloths and arm chains ornament their bodies. While their hair is formed into buns and braids, twisted chains adorn necks like thick Christmas wreaths. “The social distinctions are clearly defined,” Breunig says.

 The researchers are still not sure what these peculiar adornments are supposed to indicate. Since stone pavement is often found near the statues, some have thought that they were situated in holy places or near altars. The archeologists have found remnants of deliberately deposited jewelry chains alongside them, which might lend some degree of support to this hypothesis.

 For the time being, though, the purpose of the Nok statues remains unclear. And then there’s still the question of whether these objects have anything to do with the Nok people making contact with other people. Some archeologists believe that the cultural renaissance resulted from contact with northern peoples, such as the Carthaginians, who might have arrived by desert. Still others point to the so-called “black pharaohs” of Sudan, who subjugated the whole Nile region between 750 and 670 B.C.

 But, for his part, Breunig rejects the idea of such a far-reaching transfer of ideas. “It’s 3,000 kilometers from Egypt to Abuja, and there was the obstacle of the Sahara in between,” he explains. And, he adds, Africans didn’t have camels in pre-Christian times. Instead, Breunig believes that Nok art evolved independently.

 Still, the mysteries remain. If Breunig is correct, the Nok were isolated geniuses who created a tropical civilization out of nothing.

 “There’s no doubt that the Nok will continue to baffle us,” Breunig says. “We’re unearthing a magnificent part of the history of sub-Saharan Africa.”

 Intellpuke: You can read this article by Spiegel staff writer Matthias Schulz in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,642521,00.html

 http://freeinternetpress.com/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Hurtan reloj imperial de la Casa Museo López Portillo / Imperial watch stolen from the Casa López Portillo

El robo evidencia las carencias de seguridad que padecen la mayoría de los museos en la ciudad, sentencia su director.

 Vie, 21/08/2009 – 20:19

 Guadalajara.- Un reloj valuado en doce mil pesos fue robado esta mañana de la Casa Museo López Portillo; así lo reportó el intendente que, mientras hacía sus labores de aseo, se percató de la pieza de ornamenta faltante.

La Casa Museo López Portillo cuenta con sólo un vigilante, quien a la vez debe hacer las veces de guía para los grupos de visitantes que arriban al museo. El recinto no cuenta una sola cámara que pudiera inhibir la tentación de algún ciudadano malintencionado. Según el director del museo, estos recintos podrían considerarse como “seguros”, si contaran por lo menos con tres cámaras de circuito cerrado por cada sala de exposición, alarma en los edificios y por lo menos un par de vigilantes que permanezcan en el recinto las 24 horas del día. En contraste, el recinto que dirige no cuenta con una sola cámara, no tiene alarmas y ni siquiera tiene velador que lo resguarde.

 Ignacio Dávalos/Milenio.com

 http://www.milenio.com/node/271587

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

By BETHE DUFRESNE

Special to The Courant

4:49 PM EDT, August 21, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya

Books are in short supply everywhere in Kenya, and that’s tough on a population of avid readers. But in its five years of existence, American Friends of Kenya has done more than donate 150,000 books. It has helped libraries organize and share them.

Audra Zimmermann of Colchester is president of Windsor-based Donohue Group Inc., professional librarians who provide consulting and development. She is in Kenya for the second time with AFK.

Theft and vandalism can be problems anywhere, but Zimmermann was shocked to find the books in many Kenyan libraries locked up behind glass. Kenyans treasure their books but can be afraid to lend them.

Another obstacle to overcome is that Kenyan libraries aren’t accustomed to networking and sharing resources.

Maureen Macinko of North Stonington, librarian at Wheeler Middle and High School, is AFK’s vice president for libraries and education, and the team leader for this year’s library team.

Along with setting up a library at the new Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi’s largest slum, the team has been helping to open a regional library outside Nairobi, in Thika, that will serve an estimated 900,000 people.

AFK has raised or donated about 80 percent of the $70,000 spent so far on constructing the Thika library, and donated all the books.

Buildings and books are basics. But the greatest gift may be the workshops AFK holds for librarians to find out what books they want.

Kenyans are gracious people, says Zimmermann, and will accept anything they are given. But you must send people what they actually like and need, she says, if you want results.

Sets of textbooks?

“Totally wrong,” she says, because the texts may conflict with curriculums established by the government. Better to send books that supplement or expand curriculums, not undermine or confuse them.

References and atlases?

“Always popular.”

The latest pulp romances?

Grin and send them.

And what about Reader’s Digest condensed books?

Excellent, says Zimmermann. They may always turn up at tag sales in America, “but Kenyans love them.”

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Man faces trial over alleged Shakespeare theft 

LONDON — British prosecutors say a flamboyant book dealer accused of stealing a rare First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays will face trial next summer.

Raymond Scott is accused of stealing the manuscript from Durham University’s library in northern England in 1998.

Scott denies a charge of theft and allegations of handling stolen goods. He says he bought the Shakespeare text in Cuba.

The 51-year-old suspect arrived at a court hearing Friday riding a horse-drawn carriage led by a Scots piper. He wore a kilt, and swigged from a bottle of malt whisky outside the court.

Scott was arrested in June as he carried the manuscript into the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington.

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Blinded by a fear of fakes

The art world is riddled with forgeries, terrorising experts with the threat of lost reputation and corroding our appreciation of beauty 

Jonathan Jones

oguardian.co.uk, Friday 21 August 2009 15.20 BST

 

Last month I visited an art museum in an Italian seaside town. The museum was modern and well-organised, and its treasures, from a private collection of Renaissance art, should have been just to my taste. I won’t name the museum or the town, though, because of what I’m about to say. The pride of the collection is a self-portrait by a famous Florentine artist done, unusually, on terracotta. Now I happen to know about an 18th-century forger who made “self-portraits” by Florentine masters, on terracotta, just like this. Suddenly I saw fakes everywhere. I just wanted to hit the beach. I’d fallen prey to a kind of madness – a paranoia that wrecks art. But what would I have lost, really, if I’d been taken in by a forgery or two?

The fear of fakes does far more harm than forgery itself. This terror that comes with the pride of thinking you know something about art corrodes pleasure, cripples the imagination, blinds you to what might be beautiful. Art is riddled with forgeries, misattributions and dodgy restorations. It is also bedevilled with “experts” who stake their reputations on never being fooled – when in reality everyone gets fooled. The kind of scholarship that does not add to the excitement of art, but instead makes people terrified that what they are seeing might be inauthentic, is arrogant and destructive.

Experts on the Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo who have denounced a “lost archive” of her life and work seem to me to exemplify this poisonous attitude. They accuse a book soon to be published by Princeton Architectural Press of being stuffed with fakes and forgeries – but admit they haven’t examined the archive it is based on. “If I had to jump on a plane every time somebody made a fake painting”, said one of the sceptics, “I’d never get any work done.”

Even the famous early 20th-century fake-hunter Bernard Berenson might have quailed at this pomposity. Berenson created the modern delusion of exact connoisseurship and transformed the canon of western art by establishing precise criteria of style, separating the “real” works of Renaissance artists from old fakes and misattributions. But Berenson and critics like him turned art history into a pseudoscience. One 19th-century Italian “expert” scrutinised earlobes and other physical clues in paintings – the similarity to Victorian criminological gobbledegook is no coincidence. It was pseudoscience. So is the entire edifice of modern art history when it lays claim to objective truth about who painted exactly what and when.

Today’s art experts marshal techniques such as infrared photography to make their knowledge seem all the more scientific. This makes it harder than ever to question the voice from above. But when writing and thinking about art gets reduced to a lofty denunciation of fakes and the tedious analysis of provenance that is art scholarship’s meat and drink it just fills ordinary visitors to museums with fear and insecurity. Do I actually know enough to look at this painting, you might ask yourself in front of a Rembrandt? Am I qualified to see it? The general answer implied by modern art history from Berenson to his spectroscopically equipped modern successors is a chilly “No”.

The consolation is that secretly the fake-busters are going mad. An academic once told me he’d been called to an antiques shop to examine a drawing by the artist he specialises in. He judged it a fake and suspected he’d been deliberately set up by one of his rivals who hoped to catch him out. What a world. It seems like a scene from a strange Nabokovian novel.

Has Princeton Architectural Press been caught in a trap? Or are the scholars who denounce a Kahlo archive they have never examined the true fakes? Personally I’d rather be fooled be a few fakes than reduce the glory and passion of art to such pedantry. I honestly believe that many people who spend their lives studying art in depth – and pride themselves on never being taken in by fakes fooled – find it all less rewarding than the visitor to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper whose only background reading is Dan Brown. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/

August 22nd, 2009

Posted In: forgery

SWANSEA, Wales Aug. 21 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the return of classical sculptures that were stolen from the Butrint Museum in Albania.

In May 2009 a marble head of Asklepios, the classical god of healing, was returned to Albania. It had been excavated near to the entrance of the theatre of Butrint by an Italian team under Luigi Maria Ugolini in 1932. Butrint was a Greek foundation and its historical importance has been recognized by its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Italian police had seized the Asklepios in 2005 from a private collector in Rome. The reason for the raid was that the head had been stolen with other pieces from the Butrint Museum in April 1991. The sculpture then surfaced at in a London auction-house in July 1996. The identity of the person who consigned the lot has not been disclosed though details of the transaction are said to have been passed to the Italian authorities.

The head was in effect ransomed by two Albanian footballers — one is the brother of Auron Tare, the co-founder of the Butrint National Park — who offered 20,000 euros (the sum paid by the Rome collector). Such action avoided a potentially lengthy and expensive legal fight to reclaim the sculpture.

This was not the only piece to be returned to Albania. In 2000 a marble portrait of Livia, the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus, was returned by the antiquities dealer Robert Hecht. Butrint was the site of a Roman colony and several Augustan portrait sculptures have been found in the excavations. Like Asklepios, the head of Livia had been stolen in 1991. The portrait apparently passed through Switzerland and then into the hands of Hecht. It featured as part of an exhibition of antiquities From a North American Collection of Ancient Art (c. 1995) said to have been formed ‘over the last forty years’. Livia was offered to a museum in Germany but the curatorial staff realized that the piece had been stolen.

The papers relating to the Livia portrait found their way to Albania; in 1998 they were seen by Auron Tare. A subsequent meeting with Hecht in Paris led to the dealer agreeing to return the head to Albania.

Further sculptures stolen from Butrint have been recovered in Greece; others are still missing. Where are they? Who has handled them?

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/albania-overview-of-butrint-returns.html

August 21st, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

August 19, 2009 |  6:03 pm

 A federal appeals court today struck down as unconstitutional a 2002 California law giving owners and heirs to artworks looted by the Nazis extra time — until the end of 2010 — to sue for their return.

But the 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco did not settle the specific case at hand:

Does the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena really own one of the most prized works hanging in its galleries, Lucas Cranach the Elder’s  depiction of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, moments before the Fall — or should the paintings on two wood panels be handed over to the daughter-in-law of a Jewish art dealer who left the panels in Holland when he fled the invading Germans in 1940?

The German artist painted them around 1530, and they were valued at $24 million in 2006, when the museum had them appraised for insurance purposes.

Under the appellate ruling, Connecticut resident Marei Von Saher no longer can take advantage of the special law — now overturned. But the appeals panel still opened a door for her to proceed — if she can convince the trial judge who previously dismissed her case that she sued in time to satisfy California’s regular statute of limitations, which gives victims three years to sue for the return of property, starting from the date they learn the lost items’ whereabouts.

The appeals court agreed with John F. Walter, the U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles who threw out Von Saher’s suit in October 2007 that California officials overstepped their authority when they passed the state’s Holocaust art-restitution law, because they intruded on what is strictly a federal government prerogative to shape policies on war and foreign affairs.

But the appeals court ruled that Walter should not have dismissed the case altogether, and needs to reconsider whether Von Saher has a right to sue under the regular statute of limitations, whose cutoff date in her case is unclear. Although the Norton Simon Art Foundation bought the Cranach panels from a Russian owner in 1971, the appellate court said the statute of limitations clock would not have begun to run on Von Saher until “she discovered or reasonably could have discovered” that she had an ownership claim to the Cranachs,” and that they were hanging at the Norton Simon Museum. “It is not clear that the statute of limitations has expired,” they said — and that’s now an issue for the two sides to argue, and for Walter to decide.

Von Saher’s father-in-law, Jacques Goudstikker, bought the life-size nudes of Adam and Eve in 1931 when they were put up for auction in Berlin by Josef Stalin’s financially hard-pressed Soviet regime. When Goudstikker fled Holland, his firm sold the paintings to the Nazis under duress.

After World War II, Goudstikker’s family reached a settlement with the Dutch government that left the Cranachs in Dutch hands. The Dutch government then transferred ownership to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, an heir to an old Russian family, who said the Bolsheviks had confiscated the paintings from his forebears during the Russian Revolution. Stroganoff-Scherbatoff subsequently sold them to Norton Simon, the Los Angeles industrialist who established the Norton Simon Museum.

In her 2007 suit against the museum, Saher said that she learned in late 2000 that the Cranachs were at the Norton Simon Museum; the museum contended that she first came forward with her claim in 2001. Mediation sessions in 2005 and March 2007 failed to resolve the dispute, according to a suit the Norton Simon Foundation filed in May 2007 asserting its right to the Adam and Eve paintings.

In a prepared statement, the Norton Simon Art Foundation said Wednesday that its legal title to the Cranachs is “unassailable” and that it will “defend … vigorously” its right to keep them.

“We are satisfied with today’s ruling and look forward to a quick resolution to this matter,” Norton Simon officials added.

Von Saher’s lawyer, Lawrence Kaye, said that she “is certainly gratified that … she will have her day in court” using the three-year statute of limitations. He said it’s too early to say whether Von Saher will appeal to preserve the broader deadline she clearly had met under the now-overturned state law. In its written opinion, the Ninth Circuit’s panel of judges noted that Norton Simon attorneys already have submitted news clippings and other published items to show that the Adam and Eve paintings were famous attractions at the museum decades before Von Saher came forward with her claim — evidence that the museum can use to argue that Von Saher came forward far too late to satisfy the standard, three-year statute of limitations that she must now meet.

One of the three appellate judges, Harry Pregerson, dissented from the legal opinion by Dorothy W. Nelson and David R. Thompson. Pregerson argued that the state law extending the statute of limitations for claims on Nazi-looted art does not mean California is butting in on a federal prerogative – setting policies for war reparations – but serves the state’s “legitimate interest in regulating museums and galleries.”

The state attorney general’s office filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Von Saher case, taking no position on whether the museum should turn over the paintings to her, but arguing to uphold he California law extending the statute of limitations for claims seeking the return of art allegedly looted during the Holocaust.

Antonette Cordero, the deputy attorney general who wrote the brief, said it would be up to Von Saher whether to appeal today’s decision to a larger, 15-member panel of the Ninth Circuit appeals court — and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cordero said three other California laws on Holocaust redress also have been found to be  unconstitutional intrusions into foreign affairs: in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Holocaust Victims’ Insurance Relief Act, which required insurers to disclose information about policies they sold in Europe between 1920 and 1945, and the Ninth Circuit court of appeals invalidated a law extending the statute of limitations for claims for payment for slave labor. In 2005, the California Court of Appeal found that an extension of the statute of limitations for Holocaust-era insurance claims was not valid.

— Mike Boehm

 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/

August 21st, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Art Dealer Files Slander Action Against Claire Forlani

By MILT POLICZER

    LOS ANGELES (CN) – A private art dealer has filed a libel and slander suit against actress Claire Forlani for allegedly falsely claiming that he sold her a fake photographic print and had sold other fakes to other customers.

     Paul Rusconi, in a complaint filed in Superior Court, also said Forlani falsely asserted that he charged three or four times the true price for art pieces.

     According to the suit, Forlani bought a silver gelatin photographic print by William Claxton of the actor Steve McQueen eating a doughnut in Sept., 2006 as a present for actor Dougray Scott (now Forlani’s husband). The print is one of only 15 made by Claxton and is not a forgery, the complaint said.

     On July 27 of this year, Forlani allegedly — “for some malicious reason” — sent out a mass email claiming Rusconi was selling art work that he knew had been forged “and that he routinely defrauded his clients by vastly overcharging for the works he sold to them.”

     The suit, filed by Larry Feldman and Robert Barnes of Kaye Scholer, claims at leat $25 million in damages.

August 21st, 2009

Posted In: forgery

German police seize fake artworks

CBC News 

German police say they’ve arrested an art dealer and two other people in a worldwide art forgery ring, seizing 1,000 fake works.

Authorities in southwestern Germany say they uncovered more than 1,000 phoney Alberto Giacometti bronzes and sculptures. Giacometti is an Italian artist known for his skeletal figures often featured in a walking stance.

Police arrested a 61-year-old art dealer and his wife as well as a 59-year-old man from Frankfurt.

They face charges of collaborating to sell the fake works on the international market.

Officials say the trio has been at it since 2004.

According to prosecutors, the art dealer posed as a count and the man from Frankfurt would pretend to be a friend of Giacometti’s brother, claiming to have found a secret cache of art works after the artist’s death in 1966.

Giacometti’s pieces are worth millions. Earlier this year, Giacometti’s bronze of his brother,Bust of Diego, sold at a New York auction for $7.7 million US.

August 21st, 2009

Posted In: forgery

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August 19th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Thieves steal $200,000 of equipment from train museum
19/08/2009 9:19:00 AM

POLICE are investigating the theft of more than $200,000 worth of equipment from the Richmond Vale Railway Museum.
Museum caretakers arrived at the Leggetts Drive property yesterday to discover thieves had targeted specific equipment.
It included 25 electric motors worth $50,000, five large compressors worth $60,000, a locomotive radiator worth $30,000, 24 lathe gears worth $25,000, 24 spokes of a mining wheel worth $60,000 and several tonnes of steel worth $20,000.
Police suspect the thieves would have needed a truck and taken several trips to carry the equipment away.
Central Hunter police are investigating.

http://www.theherald.com.au/

August 19th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Mini portraits taken from Liberty Hall
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Miniature portraits of Kentucky’s first U.S. senator and his wife have been stolen from Liberty Hall, a historic building that was once the couple’s home.
Portraits marking the 1799 wedding of John and Margaretta Brown were stolen from a display case at the historic site over the weekend, said Karla Nicholson, Liberty Hall’s executive director. The portraits are believed to have been taken between late Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before the first tour, Nicholson said.
“They’re very unique, very special to us, and to most of the world, they probably have less of a historical value than they have to us,” Nicholson said. “They are difficult ones to lose.”
The home, which dates back to 1796, is located on the Kentucky River banks in downtown Frankfort. A nearby home owned by John Brown’s second son, the Orlando Brown House, dates back to 1835, according to a statement.
Currently, the houses are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from spring to fall.
The portrait thefts were first reported by The State Journal.
Calls to the Frankfort Police Department regarding the portraits were not returned Tuesday.
Nicholson said the portraits are unique to the museum and are believed to have been painted in New York. They were passed down through four generations before being donated to the museum.
“The value on them probably depends on where they’re offered and what someone is willing to pay for them,” Nicholson said. “Of course, they’re more valuable to us as a piece of history than they would be as anonymous miniature portraits.”
Brown was Kentucky’s first senator and thought to be one of the most important early leaders of Kentucky, Nicholson said. He also represented Kentucky in Virginia before Kentucky became a state, and he was a member of the Continental Congress, Nicholson said.
Professor James C. Klotter, a Georgetown College history professor and Kentucky’s state historian, said Brown was among the state’s second generation of political leaders. Brown helped change Kentucky from a wilderness into a commonwealth and had influence beyond the political offices he held, Klotter said.
Historic homes typically try to have as much material as possible from the people who once lived there, Klotter said. Liberty Hall has “a pretty good collection,” Klotter said.
“Anything that’s lost, that’s gone, it’s going to end up taking away from its history,” Klotter said. “If those never surface again, you can’t tell the story the same way.”

http://www.kentucky.com/

August 19th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

SINCE the beginning of the year the National Museum, Lagos has been in the centre of intense efforts to reposition it to play its pivotal role of showcasing Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage to the world. Such recent efforts saw the director of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, US, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole visiting Nigeria in a partnership being forged by the Ford Foundation. In this interview with ANOTE AJELUOROU, she talks about the timeliness of the partnership between the two institutions and the Owo art exhibition being planned to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th Independence anniversary in the US and Nigeria.

What is the purpose of your visit to Lagos?

I came to Nigeria go spend time with a colleague of mine Dr. Christin Creamer. We came to help to move along what we think is a historic collaboration. Some might use the word ‘partnership’, that’s appropriate; some might say a cooperative effort, that too is appropriate. I’m even tempted to say it’s a blessed notion involving the National Commission on Museum and Monuments and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Ford Foundation. These are the three parts; while it would have been okay to have e-mails or periodical telephone conversation, nothing could move this project along like our coming face to face to work this out.

What does this involve? First and ever so importantly, a partnership, collaborative effort never goes in one direction alone. We will respectfully offer what we know, what can do, what we know about how to present an exhibition; what we know about how to conserve traditional works; what we know about educational outreach. But in no way do we see this as our helping the museums of Nigeria. We see it as our presenting what we know but being eager to receive what the museums of Nigeria know.

And so, the partnership, while we can sort of leap along, I guess, the two museums systems, we have a third partner that makes this very special and doable. That partner is the Ford Foundation.

An exhibition of Nigerian art is being planned for the US next year to mark Nigeria at 50. What is the level of involvement of the Smithsonian Museum?

Well, I can say to you as the director of the National Museum of African Art that we have made a decision that we wish to present not only to the American public but to all our international visitors the importance that’s expressed through art, the importance of the independent movement in Africa.

But we are going to spotlight, we’re also going to lift up in particular the fiftieth anniversary of the Independence of Nigeria. We have wonderful plans. For example, we’re are going to present a retrospective of art of the art of one your country’s most famous contemporary artists; he’s Yinka Shonibare. We also are now planning with Prof. Ekpo Eyo to present what we call the ‘Jewel Box’; we’re thinking of a small but exquisite exhibition of Owo art.

Not the art of Ife; not the art of Benin although we all know the time line. But this will focus on Owo. I have to tell you I just left the home of Prof. Ekpo Eyo. Can you imagine what that was like to sit there with world’s scholar in general and Nigerian art but specifically on the art of Owo? Now we are exceedingly pleased that the first lady of Nigeria will be one of our honourary chairs. So too will be Dr. Camil Olivia Cosby, who is the wife of Bill Cosby. So, it was a grand celebration. Again the independent movement in Africa will be focused on Nigeria.

Has the Smithsonian Museum of African Art had any contact with museum system in Nigeria before now?

Let me explain something. There are 19 different museums under the rubric of the Smithsonian Institution. 19 museums, nine research centres and a national zoo. And so, the Smithsonian is the largest complex of museums in the world. Among the 19 is the museum that I’m honoured to serve as a director, and that is the Museum of African Art. While the Smithsonian has been since the 1800s, the Museum of African Art, we have only existed under the Smithsonian for only 30 years. Which means over the cause of those 30 years, you know we have contact with Nigeria; you do not African art unless you do Nigeria.

And, in the cause of those 30 years, we have had exhibitions that focus on Nigeria art. Let me explain though; what is different about now is that the Ford Foundation is helping us to create what I’m going to call a Model Partnership. A model partnership in the sense that we want, for example to take this Owo exhibition. And from the beginning of the exhibition and after we will be a partnership exploring, how do you choose works for the exhibition. We will be in partnership in talking about how do we conserve pieces; do we need to conservation on art pieces. We’ll be in partnership in research and in launching of the exhibition. Importantly, this exhibition must not only open in Washington, it must come back to Nigeria.

Will this be partnership and exhibition be confined only to Owo art or will it be extended to other parts of Nigeria?

I think it’s a mistake to talk about this period of art is better than that period of art. It’s a tendency that we have to always want to put things in a hierarchy. What is important to me is that the art of Owo is not well-known as Nok; it’s certainly not as known as the Ife and it comes nowhere near known as Benin art.

But if you were to understand the extraordinary timeline in Nigerian history and in the expressions of Nigerian art, you cannot leave out Owo.

There’s this perception about African art, that it does not enjoy the status of mainstream art in world art discourse like European or American art. Is there a way African can be made to rise beyond the margin of historical narratives?

That’s an outstanding question; I love the question. You know, we cannot separate, in my view, African culture, from African history, and from the current social, economic and political realities on this continent. And, I’m going to say to you quite candidly and quite boldly; it’s not Africa’s fault that she is marginalised. She has been put there, first in historical terms by the process of colonialisation. She has been put there by those who say they control notions of quality, whether it’s Europeans or people in the United States. This is not the doings of Africa. But I do think, to correct the marginalisation, Africa must be a full partner in doing so.

Our museum is dedicated to challenging that notion. That if you want the best of art, you must go to the root. I have been in Nigeria for two days. I have seen art that I think it’s silly to talk like that. It’s a different art in the sense that it comes out of a different reality. And so, it’s a process now to correct so many misconceptions. I need to tell you how many people in my country still have this outrageous notion about what Africa as a continent is like and about what its visual and other art are.

What is your view about the repatriation of African, particularly Nigerian art, especially the one in the British Museum?

I most comfortable talking about the museum where I’m director. There’s a certain currency associated with UNESCO having to do with repatriation. We follow those currencies to the letter. I’m speaking in particular; recently a gift that came to the museum, a gift of great value. But we could not absolutely prove that that piece has not been stolen. And so, we sent it back to Liberia. I can give my word that in the National Museum of African Art we do not have stolen objects.

Now, what is my position beyond my own museum? It is that the government and the National Commission on Museums and Monuments of Nigeria must engage in conversations with governments and museums all over the world about these Nigerian treasures.

Relationships come and go. How long will the one between the Smithsonian and Nigerian museums persist, and what benefit will it bring Nigerian museums?

Individuals are important; we know that. People make things happen but when we institutionalise a partnership that is chiseled between the two systems, the Smithsonian and museums commission, then the better.

You have a great adire outfit on you, how do you feel wearing a Nigerian dress?

Today I worked throughout the museum, and I cannot help but be impressed and inspired. When I look at the collection of the art of Nigeria, I was literally overwhelmed not only by the quantity and the quality. The moment when I, a former educator, a former college president, was literally moved was when I met with the education department. Their enthusiasm, their sense of mission, their dedication to using whatever resources that they have in the best way possible.

So we had a wonderful exchange, and I thought that’s it. When we were ready to go, I was presented with this gift. All I can tell you is that I was like a child at Christmas, who can’t wait. You got a wonderful new gift, you’ve got to wear it! So, immediately after receiving it, asked a simple question. Who will tie my gele? Six women educators came forward. That’s why I’m wearing this. I hope it is received well by Nigerian people. I feel good in it.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

August 18th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

INTERPOL creates online access to global stolen works of art database to reduce illicit trade*

LYON, France – INTERPOL has established direct online access to authorized
users via a secure website to its international database on stolen works as
part of its fight against the illicit trade of stolen cultural property.

Online access will not be limited to the law enforcement community but will
be open to all interested users who first have to apply for access to the
database, which features the latest information on some 34,000 works of art
stolen worldwide. Interested parties wishing to access the database will
first have to complete an application form available online at
www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/dbaccess.asp in order to obtain an
individual password for database access.

With direct access to the database, which will be continuously updated as
and when the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon receives new
information on stolen works of art worldwide, authorized users of the
database will be provided with real time access to the latest information
recorded in the database. The available information will not include nominal
data, but strictly object-related information such as descriptions and
photographs of stolen cultural goods.

The co-ordinator of INTERPOL’s Works of Art (WOA) department, Karl Heinz
Kind, said contribution and access to the database represented ‘an important
tool to counter the traffic in cultural property effectively’.  He said that
increased reporting activities by INTERPOL’s 187 member countries would be
expected so that all member countries could take full advantage of the
benefits of information sharing, as with all types of crime reporting.

“Accessibility to stolen art information is a vital contribution to creating
public awareness on the protection of cultural property,” said Mr Kind.

“The inclusion of a stolen cultural property item into INTERPOL’s stolen
works of art database, and extensive online access to the database,
therefore represent an important barrier to the illicit trafficking of a
stolen cultural object by making its sale more difficult,” added Mr Kind.

As access to the database will not be limited to law enforcement agencies,
but will also be offered to all concerned cultural and professional bodies
(including Ministries of Culture, museums, auction houses, art galleries,
foundations, collectors), it will also be made that much more difficult for
a seller or purchaser to claim not having had the opportunity to check
whether an item was recorded as stolen.

Online access to the database replaces the “INTERPOL – Stolen Works of Art”
DVD previously made available upon application.

August 18th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

 Corruption, like tango, requires two partners. 

A seminal study by Peju Layiwola, dealt with the question of the cultural memory of a people whose development has been brutally interrupted and their cultural objects seized by a foreign invader. (1) In the specific case of Benin, the British seized more than 3000 artefacts during their nefarious invasion in 1879. (2) This date and the invasion have remained memorable for the people of Benin, Nigeria and the continent of Africa.

read full text

August 18th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Roban arma histórica de Museo de Placilla

De madrugada dos sujetos ingresaron a las dependencias del lugar, burlando al guardia de seguridad. COMENTE ESTA NOTICIA 

Dos sujetos con el rostro descubierto ingresaron pasadas las cuatro de la madrugada del domingo al Museo Histórico de Placilla, ubicado en calle Tranque con calle Cuarta en dicha localidad, y sustrajeron un arma del siglo XIX.

Así lo informó la coordinadora del museo placillano, Alejandra Arévalo, especificando que “una persona ingresó rápidamente y tomó el arma, mientras el otro sujeto vigilaba”.

Puntualizó que el guardia de seguridad del recinto Bernardo Pérez no tuvo tiempo de reaccionar al ingreso del instruso, pero “igual forcejeó y le dio cuatro palos en la espalda, aunque no logró impedir que arrancara”.

 PIEZA ÚNICA

 Todas las armas que se encuentran en el lugar son del siglo XIX, pero justamente la robada -una Eagle calibre 42- era la única utilizable.

“Es lamentable porque para nosotros la pieza era única, puede que algún coleccionista o museo la tenga, pero para el equipo de trabajo tiene un valor incalculable, patrimonial”, declaró la coordinadora Alejandra Arévalo.

Ante esta penosa situación, los encargados presentaron la denuncia a Carabineros, y ahora la seguirá la Fiscalía.

El Museo Histórico de Placilla se construyó en el año 2006, gracias al aporte regional de 10 millones de pesos, en el marco del programa Quiero Mi Barrio.

El Centro Cultural de Placilla lleva seis años exponiendo armamento y piezas de todo tipo relacionadas con la Batalla de Placilla, ocurrida el 28 de agosto de 1891. Es justamente en honor a la fecha que el Museo Histórico será inaugurado el próximo 28 de agosto.

Bajo estas circunstancias es que “recién estamos inventareando y clasificando las armas y piezas de batalla a exploren”, explicó la coordinadora.

 INICIATIVA DE LOS VECINOS

 Los vecinos que trabajan en las exposiciones para el Museo Histórico de Placilla, llevan años de organización. “Partimos con exposiciones básicas en vitrinas, con participación de la gente, de familias que iban donando los objetos”, cuenta Arévalo. Además, se coordinaban con el Museo Histórico y Arqueológico de Concón.

Es por esto que su trabajo se concreta con la inauguración del museo. Actualmente trabajan arqueólogos, conservadoras, diseñadores y carpinteros refinando los detalles.

La representante del museo especificó que “la seguridad interna de Placilla es pésima. Sólo contamos con un Retén de Carabineros, siendo que por la población que bordea los 40 mil habitantes, deberíamos tener una comisaría”.

Agregó que “tenemos a disposición 21 carabineros, pero no todos resguardan”. Ejemplificó que la madrugada del robo, hubo otros hechos delictuales que demuestran la inseguridad con que viven los vecinos de Placilla.

August 17th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Security of every book’ is one of the first concerns of libraries across the US. Thus they deploy scalable and reliable security systems that help librarians manage books and inventory. The average rate of book loss in the US libraries in a year is a mere 4%, whereas in India due to the lack of proper security systems and staff, book loss at libraries is close to 10% to 15%. Poorly managed universities in the interior part of India face even greater book losses. Experts say 4% loss of books is considered to be a genuine rate and is inevitable. In India, due to lack of proper systems, theft of books and frisking of students is commonly seen in a number of educational institutes and libraries. Books that are stolen from libraries are normally of high value or are not available easily outside. While the range is between Rs 250 to Rs 5,000, the average rate of a book lost from libraries is estimated at Rs 2,000.

To overcome these problems a number of companies such as 3M and Checkpoint have come up with security systems to ensure the security of books and also to catch hold of any theft. These systems help protect people and assets and facilitate the merchandising, tracking and securing of books at key checkpoints and have been used in the US for the past 30 years.

According to Ravi Chandwani, General Manager, 3M India Ltd, “In addition to giving a world-class image, the measurable benefits of using library security systems are reduced loss of books and less expenses on the security staff, whereas the non-measurable benefits are faster checkout of visitors and more time for librarians to help the patrons search for quality material.”

With product costs between Rs 2,00,000 to Rs 10,00,000 for a library of 10,000 books, depending on the functionality of the device, these devices are ideal for large libraries. Some early adopters have been IIT Mumbai and ISB Hyderabad that have been using these systems from 2000 and 2003 respectively. With a collection of over a lakh books and thousands of daily visitors, these libraries are effectively managing their inventories with library security products that help the librarians in stock taking, faster issue and return, by using electronically charged RFID tags which do not fail and help in case the library wants to operate 24/7.

However, as it is said, no technology is foolproof, so, the library security system guarantees 80% reduction in book loss but does not ensure safety of individual pages of books. At NIFT Delhi, a 70% reduction in book loss has been seen. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai on the other hand with over 1,00,000 books, now face a loss of only 0.3%. Muthia, chief librarian of Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai says, “When students find books in the library which are otherwise not easily available they want to have it and it leads to stealing and hiding. The electrically charged radio frequency identification (RFID) tags help us in tracking the misplaced book.”

Other than books being stolen, libraries also face loss due to pages being torn from books. “If the ‘tattle tape’ security strip does not touch the pages properly, they can be torn and stolen. This is why we recommend pasting the tape at the spine of the book,” said Chandwani. Muthia adds, “Students or readers in the absence of sufficient staff might steal books, this is where the 3M system helps us,” Muthia added. So as India is moving towards improving the infrastructure at its colleges and universities and focusing on technological advancement, a desired outcome would be more secure libraries with world-class facilities.

The author is pursuing BA in journalism from Delhi University and did a summer internship with The Financial Express

 http://www.financialexpress.com/

August 17th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

 

The guardians of Scotland’s buried treasures have entered a deal with internet auction site eBay to halt the sale of the country’s ancient artefacts.

The move over items covered by the Treasure Trove system comes after unscrupulous attempts to sell a number of the items online were uncovered.

The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel said eBay has agreed to alert museums experts to attempts to sell artefacts from Scotland online.

The National Museums of Scotland and eBay last year stopped the sale of a Viking enamelled horse harness believed to have been found on Lewis by a treasure hunter using a metal detector following a tip-off.

It is only when treasure trove assessors at museums reject artefacts that finders can become keepers who may then do as they wish with the items they have recovered.

The link with eBay was revealed yesterday in the fourth annual Report on Treasure Trove, which has been presented to the Scottish Parliament. Report author Professor Ian Ralston, of Edinburgh University’s Archaeology Department said: “The development of the internet brings both advantages, and potentially disadvantages, to the operation of TreasureTrove in Scotland. A disadvantage previously noted is the internet’s potential to be a conduit for selling Scottish artefacts which have not been duly processed through the Treasure Trove system.”

He said it was “very satisfactory” to be able to confirm the agreement with eBay.

The report also raises concerns over what to do with artefacts that are not judged significant enough to be stored in the limited space available to museums. It is recommended that the archaeological community seeks ways to prevent them from being lost to academia forever.

It also reveals a number of finds in Scotland, including a Neolithic stone axehead from Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway. This artefact was made not from local stone, but from Langdale tuff, a Cumbrian stone which was quarried extensively in the Neolithic period.

The discovery of these axeheads so far from Cumbria is described as an indication of the network of long-distance contacts underpinning prehistoric societies.

An Early Bronze Age flanged axehead from Cardross, West Dunbartonshire, dating from around 1700-1800BC, was also discovered. Like Neolithic stone axeheads, Bronze Age axeheads also had both ritual and practical purposes and the detailed decoration on this example suggests it was a ceremonial or ritual object.

Amateur and professional archeologists also found two Late Bronze Age spearheads from Cademuir Hill in the Borders, dating from 1000-800BC, which are typical examples of Late Bronze Age weaponry; a hoard of 155 medieval silver coins from Dumfries, comprising a mixture of English and Scottish coins issued in the 13th and 14th centuries; and a double-sided medieval pilgrim badge from Crail, Fife, which depicts the crucifixion on one side while the other shows the Virgin and Child.

Under Scots law Treasure Trove belongs to the Crown.

 

 

http://www.theherald.co.uk/

August 17th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Urknall in den Tropen. 

6MB PDF file available at: http://www.museum-security.org/nok_urknall.pdf

August 16th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Hitler Album could shed light on missing looted art

A newly discovered catalogue of artworks stolen by Nazis compiled for Adolf Hitler could help unravel the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of lost materpieces seized during the Second World War.

 By Roya Nikkhah, Arts Correspondent 

Published: 9:00PM BST 15 Aug 2009

 

Two more albums, marked ‘6’ and ‘8’, were recently uncovered by Robert Edsel, an author and art historian based in Texas

As they marched through Europe, Adolf Hitler’s Nazis pillaged the world’s finest art collections. Thousands of art works were stolen for the Führer’s personal enjoyment, many of which are still missing.

Now, a newly discovered document could unravel the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of lost masterpieces.

 

The “Hitler Album” contains details of art works stolen by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), an organisation established by the Nazis in 1940 to confiscate works of art from territories under occupation.

The leather-bound book includes lists and photographs of 78 paintings by prominent artists including the French masters Nicolas de Largillière, Antoine Watteau and Hyacinthe Rigaud, whose works sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The fate of many of the works, which were stolen from France during the occupation, is still unknown.

It is thought that some may have been destroyed during the Second World War and others salvaged by Allied troops and retained as keepsakes.

But the emergence of the album, which was discovered in Texas and is being held at Sotheby’s in London, could enable some paintings thought to be missing to be located and returned to their rightful owners.

Lucian Simmons, the head of Sotheby’s Restitution Department, said the album was “a very important and valuable find”.

“A number of looted art works were not given back after the war and it is certainly possible that some of the items in this album are outstanding,” he said.

“Its discovery brings back lost information which enables us to piece together the jigsaw of works that are missing.”

Allen Weinstein, the former Archivist of the United States, described the album’s discovery as “one of the most significant finds” related to the Nazi looting of art works since the Nuremberg Trials.

He said: “It is exciting to know that original documents shedding light on this important aspect of World War Two are still being located, especially so because of the hundreds of thousands of cultural items stolen from victims of Hitler and the Nazis that are still missing.”

The finest artworks stolen from Europe’s collections were photographed and compiled into albums from which Hitler selected works to display in the Führermuseum, his private art gallery in his home town of Linz, Austria, which was under construction when the War ended.

Until recently, there were believed to be only 39 such albums, all unearthed at the castle of Neuschwanstein in southern Bavaria in May 1945 by the Monuments Men, a group of artists, curators and museum directors who helped the Allies locate, and where possible return, works looted by the Nazis to their owners.

These albums were used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials and later stored in the National Archives in Washington.

But two more albums, marked “6” and “8”, were recently uncovered by Robert Edsel, an author and art historian based in Texas.

Mr Edsel was contacted by the nephew of an American soldier who had discovered the albums in May 1945 at the Berghof, Hitler’s residence in the Bavarian Alps, close to where the other 39 were found.

Unaware of their importance, he brought them back to America, where they remained in his attic for more than 50 years until they were acquired by Mr Edsel.

He has donated Album 8 to the National Archives in America and has brought Album 6 to London this week, ahead of the publication of his book, Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History on Thursday (Aug 20).

He said: “This Hitler Album and the one I have donated were in the hands of the Führer and we know, on occasion, he would peruse through them at his leisure when he was deciding which iconic works of art he wished to place in the Führermuseum.

“There’s no doubt that there are people around the world who are unaware that their works of art hanging on the walls at home may have a Nazi provenance.

“Hopefully, this album might prompt some to realise that their paintings have this historical importance and may belong elsewhere.”

The initials R and W which regularly appear next to the inventory numbers in the album’s index show that many of the paintings were stolen from the Rothschilds and Wildensteins, prominent Jewish families at the time of the occupation of France.

Under the orders of Hermann Göring, they were targeted by the ERR because of their valuable art collections.

One painting in the album is listed as “R437, Largillière, Bildinis einer dame”. Largillière’s “Portrait of a Lady” was the 437th work of art stolen from the Rothschilds.

Confiscated by the Nazis in 1940, the painting was recovered in 1945 by James Rorimer, a prominent member of the Monuments Men.

It is thought that the painting was returned to the Rothschild family in 1945, and records show that the painting was sold at auction in 1978.

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

August 16th, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Detienen a cinco personas tras robar en el museo de la plaza de toros de Inca 

mallorcadiario.com   

viernes, 14 de agosto de 2009

PALMA.- La Guardia Civil de Inca detuvo a cinco personas de entre 24 y 46 años-una mujer y cuatro hombres- tras haber robado diversos objetos, como ordenadores o herramientas, en el museo de la plaza de Toros de este municipio mallorquín.

 En esta misma localidad, se detuvo a un joven marroquí de 18 años tras haber robado ropa, presuntamente, en un establecimiento tras haber roto su sistema dealarma. Por otra parte, la Benemérita de San Antonio arrestó a un portugués de 21 años tras haberle robado la cadena a un británico durante el transcurso de una pelea, informó en un comunicado la Dirección General de la Policía y de laGuardia Civil.

 También por el mismo delito se detuvo a un hombre de 63 años en Manacor por, presuntamente, haber sustraído documentación, un bolso y un teléfono móvil de un vehículo.

 Por otra parte, se procedió a la detención de tres personas por supuestos malos tratos en el ámbito familiar -una en Santa Eulàlia, otra en Maó y otra en Sa Pobla-, de un ciudadano de 27 años en Llucmajor por un delito contra la salud pública y de un joven de 19 años como presunto autor de un delito de lesiones a raíz de una pelea, tras la que fue necesario el traslado de la otra persona al centro hospitalario de Son Dureta.

August 15th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

 KOMO Staff

Originally printed at http://www.komonews.com/news/local/53260992.html

SEATTLE — A slice of Seattle aviation history is missing from the Museum of Flight.

In the 1920s and 30s, Ken Houseolder lived his dream, flying in an open cockpit delivering airmail, transporting movie crews, and he was one of the first commercial pilots for United Airlines.

Until, ice on the wings brought his plane down.

Kevin Fitz loaned his grandfather’s flight wings and pins to the Museum of Flight for their Northwest Aviation history exhibit.

“His entire life from a very young age was spent trying to earn those wings,” Fitz said.

But somebody stole the wings.

“It was like a punch to the stomach,” Fitz said. “It’s not something I can go to Fred Meyer and replace. Doesn’t have monetary value, has emotional value to me.”

Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, the president of the Museum of Flight, says the thief only had to lift up a small part of the cover and slip it out, using some sort of pry tool.

“We’ve removed all those designs from the exhibits,” she said.

But there’s now a bare spot where the missing wings were once displayed. The theft prompted the museum to add cameras, motion censors to displays, and step up foot patrols.

Museum curators have spread the word to watch for the missing memorabilia, contacting the Smithsonian, pawn shops, and collectors.

“They’re not just something someone can readily find,” Fitz said. “Obviously someone was trying to fill up a collection.”

Fitz is offering a $1,000 reward.

“I’d really would love to have them returned to our family where they belong,” he said.

He says the wings really aren’t worth much, but the history and memories that come with them are priceless.

Dunbar, a former astronaut, said she can relate to the anguish. Someone stole her NASA medals from her home and they were never returned.

http://www.komonews.com/

August 15th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Call For Papers

Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture
Fall 2010

WHO OWNS AFRICA’S CULTURAL PATRIMONY?

Critical Interventions invites submissions for a special issue on the question of Africa’s cultural patrimony in Western museums, especially in the context of recent international debates about repatriation of historical artworks relocated from one culture to another through conquest, colonization or looting. In the first decade of the 21st Century, demands by various countries for repatriations of significant artworks and cultural objects have shaken up established ideas about the ownership and location of historical cultural objects. While many Western museums have been willing to reach agreements about repatriating or compensating for culturally important artworks in their collections claimed by other Western countries, there has been no acknowledgment of the right of Africans to ownership of African artworks looted from Africa during colonialism, which are now held in the so-called “Universal Museums” of the West. Aside from the fact that Western museums hold large quantities of looted African artworks (the case of the British Museum’s holding of the Benin bronzes being a canonical case in point), these museums also appear to claim ownership of the cultural patrimony of these objects by enforcing copyright claims to the artworks. Since African artworks emerged as part of complex knowledge systems in various indigenous African cultures, such claims deprive Africans of any share in the economic value produced by these objects as a result of their redefinition as a canon of artworks with discursive and financial value. Western countries also routinely deny Africans access to these artworks through enforced localization (no Western country will grant an African a visa merely to visit any museum in Europe or America), which invalidates their claim of housing the artworks in “universal museums”. 

To paraphrase Ivan Karp (1991) demands for recognition of Africa’s ownership of its cultural patrimony in Western museums assert the social, political, and economic claims of African producers in the larger world and challenge the right of established Western institutions to control representation of African cultures. In this regard, the proposed issue of Critical Interventions posits a fundamental question: who owns Africa’s cultural patrimony and why are African claims to their looted cultural objects held in Western museums denied in contemporary discourses of repatriation and reparations? 

We seek papers that posit or contest African ownership of its cultural patrimony in the dual contexts of the relationship between African artworks in their contemporary locations (Western museums, Western private collections, the art historical construction of meanings), and the history of their origins as part of communities of objects, whose use in religious, ritual, secular, and social space formed part of knowledge systems and cultural heritage of particular African peoples. We particularly encourage submissions that interrogate the commodification of African cultural patrimony and cultural identities in the context of global capital, and examine the representational, legal, political, and cultural positions that support or deny African claims to ownership of historical art objects as relevant aspects of contemporary African cultural patrimony. 

Please send 300 word abstracts and CV, by December 10, 2009, to the editors: 
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie (ogbechie@arthistory.ucsb.edu)
John Peffer (j_peffer@yahoo.com) 

Critical Interventions
 is a peer-reviewed journal of advanced research and writing on African art history and visual culture. Submission and subscription information can be found atwww.criticalinterventions.com.

August 15th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

 

Cultural Property and Africa

Posted: 14 Aug 2009 03:07 AM PDT

There is a call for papers, “Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture“, on Cultural Property from Africa:

We seek papers that posit or contest African ownership of its cultural patrimony in the dual contexts of the relationship between African artworks in their contemporary locations (Western museums, Western private collections, the art historical construction of meanings), and the history of their origins as part of communities of objects, whose use in religious, ritual, secular, and social space formed part of knowledge systems and cultural heritage of particular African peoples. We particularly encourage submissions that interrogate the commodification of African cultural patrimony and cultural identities in the context of global capital, and examine the representational, legal, political, and cultural positions that support or deny African claims to ownership of historical art objects as relevant aspects of contemporary African cultural patrimony.

Details:

http://www.aachron.com/editions/critical_interventions/index.php 

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/cultural-property-and-africa.html

August 15th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

 

Cultural Property and Africa

Posted: 14 Aug 2009 03:07 AM PDT

There is a call for papers, “Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture“, on Cultural Property from Africa:

We seek papers that posit or contest African ownership of its cultural patrimony in the dual contexts of the relationship between African artworks in their contemporary locations (Western museums, Western private collections, the art historical construction of meanings), and the history of their origins as part of communities of objects, whose use in religious, ritual, secular, and social space formed part of knowledge systems and cultural heritage of particular African peoples. We particularly encourage submissions that interrogate the commodification of African cultural patrimony and cultural identities in the context of global capital, and examine the representational, legal, political, and cultural positions that support or deny African claims to ownership of historical art objects as relevant aspects of contemporary African cultural patrimony.

Details:

http://www.aachron.com/editions/critical_interventions/index.php 

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/cultural-property-and-africa.html

August 15th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

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August 14th, 2009

Posted In: Book reviews

Fears stolen Natural History Museum birds will be used as fishing lures

Sam Jones

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 August 2009 18.19 BST

Rare tropical birdskins similar to the selection stolen from the Natural History Museum’s ornithological collection at Tring. Photograph: PA/Natural History Museum

Detectives fear that almost 300 rare and “irreplaceable” tropical birds stolen from the Natural History Museum’s ornithological collection could be ripped to shreds for use as fishing lures, dress adornments and costume jewellery.

Curators at the museum’s bird collection in Tring, Hertfordshire, noticed that dozens of specimens had gone missing following a break-in on 24 June.

Although the thieves left behind more than 8,000 “specimen types”, including the finches collected by Charles Darwin in the Galápagos, they took 299 birds.

The gang, which could have stolen the birds to order, removed quetzal and cotinga birds, animals that had originated in Central and South America, and birds of paradise from Papua New Guinea.

Police believe those responsible had detailed knowledge of the birds since the cabinets were labelled with Latin names organised in evolutionary order and only a small number of birds were disturbed.

Detective Inspector Fraser Wylie, leading the inquiry, said that besides collectors, the fishing market could be a suspect “because of the nature of the features and colour of [the] feathers”. Dress and jewellery makers were also a possibility.

Some of the missing birds were more than a century old.

Professor Richard Lane, director of science at the Natural History Museum, said the animals had played a key role in the study of the history of their species and could prove impossible to replace.

August 13th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Sculpture thieves caught on CCTV

Thieves have been captured on CCTV stealing a life-size carving of a horse valued at £7,000 from a house in Leeds.

Brannan Tempest had two of the sculptures made in the form of horses owned by his girlfriend.

He gave them to her after she was hurt in a car crash earlier this year. It is feared that she may never ride again.

One of the sculptures was stolen on Sunday. Mr Tempest has released CCTV footage of the theft and urged anyone with information to contact police.

The footage shows the thieves loading the sculpture into a van. They tried to take the second horse but gave up after it was damaged.

Mr Tempest said: “I expect that it would be maybe a stables or a riding school that it would be sold on to.

“It’s very, very unique – 2.45m high 750kg wooden horses are not often found.”

Mr Tempest said his girlfriend “felt very sick” after the sculpture was stolen.

He said: “Physically she’s coming on quite well after the accident. Emotionally it’s very, very difficult.”

West Yorkshire Police have appealed for anyone with information about the theft to come forward.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_yorkshire/8198028.stm

watch video at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_yorkshire/8198028.stm

August 13th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

Multiple map thief behind bars 

By: thinkSpain , Wednesday, August 12, 2009  

A thief, who has already made off with nearly 70 priceless maps and documents from a number of Spanish libraries, and who was arrested by the Guardia Civil on Friday, had planned a route of robberies across the rest of Spain and abroad.

Z.V., a 47-year-old Hungarian, had marked all the libraries he planned to ‘visit’ on a road map, continuing the journey he started in the north of Spain, passing through another 30 or so Spanish cities before moving into Portugal, France and then Italy. 

His ‘visits’ to libraries in Soria, Toledo, Valladolid, Logroño and Pamplona had already netted him 67 historic maps and cartographic documents dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries as well as several from the Ptolemaic dynasty of ancient Greece.

All the stolen documents have been recovered from the hotel room in Pamplona, where Z.V. was arrested on Friday.

The thief has no previous criminal record and is currently resident in the Dominican Republic where he works as a second-hand car salesman.  Apparently the man had no intention of selling the documents, that he wanted for his own private collection.

The man was prompted to steal historic documents after learning that ten Ptolemaic maps had been stolen from the National Library in Spain in August 2007, believing that if someone else had done it, he could too.

After getting hold of false documentation accrediting him as a historical investigator, he set about manufacturing plastic cutting tools, using credit cards and shirt collar stiffeners to get around the metal detectors at the library entrances. 

Once inside the map rooms, he cut the documents out and smuggled them out in home-made folders with false bottoms.

 

The man, who is now in prison, was accompanied by his Dominican partner, who has not been arrested because there is no evidence that she was involved in the robberies.

The police operation, codenamed ‘Operación Biblión’ began in March 2008, when a map dating back to 1537 was stolen from the  Real Biblioteca in the San Lorenzo Monastery in Escorial (Madrid).  The thief was eventually tracked down thanks to hotel records in the towns where he had stolen. 

http://www.thinkspain.com/

August 13th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Biro de la PDI investiga robo en museo de Villa Ortega
     
En la imagen: Peritos del Laboratorio de Criminalística (Lacrim) efectúan el levantamiento de evidencias desde el sitio del suceso.

Google translation: http://snipurl.com/ppmio

  El ilícito se habría registrado en horas de la madrugada del lunes.
Detectives de la Brigada Investigadora de Robos (Biro) de la Policía de Investigaciones de Coyhaique, se trasladaron hasta la localidad de Villa Ortega en virtud de una denuncia por el delito de robo en lugar no habitado que afectó al museo, diligencia que es desarrollada en conjunto con el fiscal del Ministerio Público de esta ciudad, Miguel Riquelme. 
El hecho se habría registrado en horas de la madrugada del lunes en las instalaciones del museo ubicadas en el camino público S/N de dicha localidad, lugar hasta el que también se trasladaron peritos del Laboratorio de Criminalística (Lacrim). 
En el sitio del suceso según lo expresado por el inspector Fabián Contreras, oficial a cargo del procedimiento, se determinó que en horas de la madrugada del lunes, desconocidos procedieron a fracturar la ventana del vidrio posterior del Museo, lugar por donde ingresaron, sustrayendo desde el interior un equipo amplificador el cual es utilizado para el funcionamiento de la radio local, avaluado en 100 mil pesos. 
Tras lo anterior, el personal recabó diversas declaraciones de testigos, junto con efectuar el empadronamiento del lugar, junto con levantar huellas y/o evidencias de interés criminal que permitan revelar alguna pista sobre la identidad de los antisociales.

August 12th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

El ladrón de mapas antiguos robó páginas de ocho libros de Navarra

 

Google translation: http://snipurl.com/ppm7j

– Siete de los libros se conservan en el Archivo General, que visitó en dos ocasiones, y el octavo en la Biblioteca de la UN 

– Entre los ejemplares incautados por la Guardia Civil está el primer atlas moderno, “Theatrum orbis terrarum” (1579)

NEREA ALEJOS . PAMPLONAMiércoles, 12 de agosto de 2009 – 04:00 h.

El presunto ladrón de mapas históricos que fue detenido el viernes en Pamplona sustrajo mapas de siete libros del Archivo General de Navarra y de otro ejemplar que se encontraba en la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra. Precisamente, su última actuación antes de ser detenido tuvo lugar en el Archivo General, que visitó en dos ocasiones: el 31 de julio y el 7 de agosto.

El ladrón, de nacionalidad húngara, sustraía mapas del siglo XVI con la simple ayuda de un cúter y ocultando los documentos en sobres de doble fondo que él mismo fabricaba. Según reconoció ayer el director del Archivo General de Navarra, Juan José Martinena, no es fácil detectar este tipo de robo.

Martinena, que no confirmó el robo hasta ayer, especificó que los siete libros proceden de la Biblioteca General de Navarra pero permanecen depositados en el Archivo hasta que finalicen las obras del nuevo edificio.

Según los datos facilitados por la Guardia Civil al Archivo General, ayer pudieron comprobar en el fichero de usuarios que el detenido, identificado como Z.V., de 47 años, había solicitado la consulta de los mismos ejemplares, un total de siete, en las dos visitas que realizó a la biblioteca del Archivo. Entre ellos se encuentra el Theatrum orbis terrarum, considerado el primer atlas moderno. Lo realizó Abraham Ortelius y se publicó por primera vez en 1570 en Amberes, aunque la edición que se conserva en el Archivo pertenece a 1579. Martinena destaca el atractivo de estos atlas del siglo XVI. “Pertenecen a la época dorada de las publicaciones impresas con mapas. Muchas veces se coloreaban a mano, por lo que tienen una cierta belleza plástica y eso los hace más “vendibles” en el mercado negro”, explica.

Así, detalla que los catálogos de las casas de subastas suelen incluir un apartado de cartografía y que él mismo ha adquirido obras para el Archivo por esta vía. A modo orientativo, Martinena recuerda que el valor de sus últimas adquisiciones por catálogo oscilaba entre los 360 y los 500 euros, pero no se trataba de piezas tan antiguas como las que han sido robadas.

Durante la mañana de ayer, varios técnicos que trabajan tanto en el fondo antiguo de la biblioteca como en el área de restauración se encargaron de examinar folio a folio los ejemplares afectados. Martinena, que desconoce el número exacto de páginas sustraídas, espera que la Guardia Civil pueda devolverles los documentos en breve, probablemente la semana que viene.

“Probablemente, este robo hubiera pasado desapercibido. Podíamos haberlo detectado más adelante, con motivo de alguna exposición o de algún recuento”, reconoce el responsable del Archivo.

Otro ejemplar de la UN

El ladrón también sustrajo mapas de otro ejemplar que se conserva en la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra, Speculum orbis terrarum,según concretó ayer su director, Víctor Sanz. La obra la realizó Gerard de Jode y se imprimió en Amberes en 1593. Sanz explicó que disponen de un dvd digitalizado que les permitirá comprobar el número de páginas sustraídas. “El ladrón venía acreditado con un carné de investigador y solamente pidió ese libro”, detalló.

La colección de libros del siglo XVI representa el 10% del fondo antiguo de esta biblioteca. Este tipo de documentos históricos se pueden localizar en los catálogos que están disponibles en Internet para consultar los ejemplares del Archivo General de Navarra (http://www.navarra.es/AppsExt/opac/) y de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra (http://www.unav.es/biblioteca).

   

August 12th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

El ladrón de mapas antiguos robó páginas de ocho libros de Navarra

 

Google translation: http://snipurl.com/ppm7j

– Siete de los libros se conservan en el Archivo General, que visitó en dos ocasiones, y el octavo en la Biblioteca de la UN 

– Entre los ejemplares incautados por la Guardia Civil está el primer atlas moderno, “Theatrum orbis terrarum” (1579)

NEREA ALEJOS . PAMPLONAMiércoles, 12 de agosto de 2009 – 04:00 h.

El presunto ladrón de mapas históricos que fue detenido el viernes en Pamplona sustrajo mapas de siete libros del Archivo General de Navarra y de otro ejemplar que se encontraba en la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra. Precisamente, su última actuación antes de ser detenido tuvo lugar en el Archivo General, que visitó en dos ocasiones: el 31 de julio y el 7 de agosto.

El ladrón, de nacionalidad húngara, sustraía mapas del siglo XVI con la simple ayuda de un cúter y ocultando los documentos en sobres de doble fondo que él mismo fabricaba. Según reconoció ayer el director del Archivo General de Navarra, Juan José Martinena, no es fácil detectar este tipo de robo.

Martinena, que no confirmó el robo hasta ayer, especificó que los siete libros proceden de la Biblioteca General de Navarra pero permanecen depositados en el Archivo hasta que finalicen las obras del nuevo edificio.

Según los datos facilitados por la Guardia Civil al Archivo General, ayer pudieron comprobar en el fichero de usuarios que el detenido, identificado como Z.V., de 47 años, había solicitado la consulta de los mismos ejemplares, un total de siete, en las dos visitas que realizó a la biblioteca del Archivo. Entre ellos se encuentra el Theatrum orbis terrarum, considerado el primer atlas moderno. Lo realizó Abraham Ortelius y se publicó por primera vez en 1570 en Amberes, aunque la edición que se conserva en el Archivo pertenece a 1579. Martinena destaca el atractivo de estos atlas del siglo XVI. “Pertenecen a la época dorada de las publicaciones impresas con mapas. Muchas veces se coloreaban a mano, por lo que tienen una cierta belleza plástica y eso los hace más “vendibles” en el mercado negro”, explica.

Así, detalla que los catálogos de las casas de subastas suelen incluir un apartado de cartografía y que él mismo ha adquirido obras para el Archivo por esta vía. A modo orientativo, Martinena recuerda que el valor de sus últimas adquisiciones por catálogo oscilaba entre los 360 y los 500 euros, pero no se trataba de piezas tan antiguas como las que han sido robadas.

Durante la mañana de ayer, varios técnicos que trabajan tanto en el fondo antiguo de la biblioteca como en el área de restauración se encargaron de examinar folio a folio los ejemplares afectados. Martinena, que desconoce el número exacto de páginas sustraídas, espera que la Guardia Civil pueda devolverles los documentos en breve, probablemente la semana que viene.

“Probablemente, este robo hubiera pasado desapercibido. Podíamos haberlo detectado más adelante, con motivo de alguna exposición o de algún recuento”, reconoce el responsable del Archivo.

Otro ejemplar de la UN

El ladrón también sustrajo mapas de otro ejemplar que se conserva en la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra, Speculum orbis terrarum,según concretó ayer su director, Víctor Sanz. La obra la realizó Gerard de Jode y se imprimió en Amberes en 1593. Sanz explicó que disponen de un dvd digitalizado que les permitirá comprobar el número de páginas sustraídas. “El ladrón venía acreditado con un carné de investigador y solamente pidió ese libro”, detalló.

La colección de libros del siglo XVI representa el 10% del fondo antiguo de esta biblioteca. Este tipo de documentos históricos se pueden localizar en los catálogos que están disponibles en Internet para consultar los ejemplares del Archivo General de Navarra (http://www.navarra.es/AppsExt/opac/) y de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Navarra (http://www.unav.es/biblioteca).

   

August 12th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Weapons stolen during monument break-in
By Richard Wilson, Staff Writer
Updated 8:24 PM Tuesday, August 11, 2009
HAMILTON — A brazen thief showed little respect for the founders and veterans of Butler County when he broke in and stole money and historical weaponry from the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
The break-in at 1 S. Monument Ave., which occurred between Aug. 1 and Aug. 5, was captured on a security video.
Police released the video Tuesday, Aug. 11, in hopes that someone will come forward to identify the thief.
The video clearly shows a man dressed in jeans shorts, white tennis shoes, a dark T-shirt and ball cap using a fire extinguisher to break open a Civil War display case. Based on what appears to be natural light on the video, police said the break-in may have occurred around 9 a.m.
The unidentified suspect stole an unknown amount of money and at least two Civil War era swords, two rifles and a model of a 1928 Thompson sub-machine gun, according to police records.
The swords were later recovered in the bushes behind the monument close to where the suspect broke a window to gain entry, said Hamilton police spokesman Rich Burkhardt.
One of the rifles was taken from a pioneer statue that stands near the front entrance, said Don Shollenbarger, curator and manager.
The monument is open only two days a week after the business hours were changed because of budget cuts in the MetroParks of Butler County, said Shollenbarger.
“The monument was built to honor all the veterans of Butler County, Ohio,” said Shollenbarger, a Vietnam veteran. “He’s really dishonored the veterans that have served this country.”
If you have information about this crime, you are asked to call the Hamilton police public affairs office at (513) 868-5811, ext. 2007.

August 12th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

Mona Lisa in English breakfast tea attack
Peter Allen, in Paris
11.08.09
A woman was being held in Paris today after attacking the Mona Lisa with a cup of English breakfast tea.
A ceramic mug full of the steaming brew was emptied all over the most famous work of art in the world in front of stunned security guards at the French capital’s Louvre Museum.
They wrestled the Russian to the ground following the attack on August 2nd a Sunday – which has only just been reported.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s priceless masterpiece, which is known at La Joconde in France, is surrounded by bullet-proof glass which is also designed to resist heat, humidity and vibrations.
‘The painting is intact and unharmed, but this violent attack was hugely worrying,’ said a source at the museum.
‘The woman ordered a cup of English breakfast tea in a museum cafi before heading for La Joconde and flinging the liquid all over it.
‘She was arrested by security guards immediately and the police were called. She is still being held while enquiries continue.’
The Mona Lisa, which portrays an enigmatic 16th Century Italian woman, was visited by 8.5 million people last year.
Its fame is often attributed to its troubled history, with theft and vandalism often carried out by people with a mental disorder known as Stendhal syndrome – confusion and irrational behaviour caused by being exposed to fine art.
In 1956 acid was thrown at the painting and in a second attack in the same year it was further damaged when a rock was thrown at it.
The Mona Lisa had also suffered superficial damage when an Italian museum employee stole it from the Louvre in 1911 before being caught two years later when he tried to sell it back to his home country.
Cleaning and re-varnishing has taken place ever since Da Vinci finished working on the painting in around 1507.
In 2005 the Mona Lisa was moved to a supposedly secure, climate controlled location in the Louvre’s Salle des Etats.
The last major attack on a Paris masterpieces came in October 2007 when Claude Monet’s Bridge at Argenteuil was punched by a drunk youth who had broken into the Orsay museum.
And in January 2008 a Mathematics professor broke a statue of the classical philosopher Seneque in the Louvre.
Following the latest attack on the Mona Lisa, a Paris police spokesman said: ‘A woman was immediately arrested on August 2nd. She is still being held and questioned following psychiatric tests.
‘The attack took place on the first Sunday of the month, when works of art at the Louvre are open to the public for free. Crowds are naturally far larger, and everything is done to prevent these types of attack.’

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/

August 11th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

Detenido un húngaro en Pamplona por robar 67 documentos muy valiosos

– Sustrajo mapas de gran valor histórico con un cúter, y uno de los robos se cometió en Pamplona

AGENCIAS. TOLEDO .Martes, 11 de agosto de 2009 – 04:00 h.

La Guardia Civil detuvo ayer en un hotel de Pamplona a un ciudadano de origen húngaro que había sustraído 67 documentos de gran valor histórico de bibliotecas y archivos públicos de diversos puntos de España. La agencia Europa Press afirmaba ayer que el detenido sustrajo documentos del Archivo Real y General de Navarra y de la biblioteca pública de Soria.

 

Entre los artículos robados se encuentran dos mapas plegables de la edición deGeografía y Atlas, de Ptolomeo, fechada en la primera mitad del siglo XVI, que fue robado la pasada semana en la Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha, situada en el Alcázar de Toledo.

El ladrón, de mediana edad, se llevó dos láminas de este incunable que había consultado en un espacio de la biblioteca reservado a investigadores y conocido como “Sala de Castilla-La Mancha”.

El autor de este expolio burló las cámaras de seguridad y se llevó los dos mapas, de gran valor histórico, sin que los vigilantes se percataran de lo que acababa de ocurrir. Una funcionaria, que sospechó de este hombre, puso en alerta al resto del personal, que confirmó el robo de los mapas días después cuando el autor de la sustracción ya había cometido el robo.

El detenido, especialista en mapas y manuscritos de los siglos XVI y XVII, entraba en las bibliotecas citadas con su carné falso y con un cúter escondido entre la ropa, a veces en dobles fondos, con el que extraía los mapas con cuidado para evitar que sufrieran daños.

Los agentes de la Unidad Central Operativa de Patrimonio de la Guardia Civil encargados de la investigación de este caso creen que este hombre, que se encontraba de paso por Pamplona, podría formar parte de una red internacional dedicada a la compraventa de este tipo de objetos que podría estar relacionada con robos de mapas de Ptolomeo de otros incunables de las bibliotecas de El Escorial (Madrid), la Universidad de Salamanca y la Colombina de Sevilla.

Mercado negro

Según declaró ayer el portavoz de la Guardia Civil en Castilla-La Mancha, José Luis González Capilla, este ladrón ha actuado “porque hay un mercado negro en el que este producto tiene salida”. En el mismo sentido se expresó el director general de Patrimonio Cultural de la Junta de Castilla-La Mancha, Luis Martínez, quien indicó que “estos libros son muy escasos”.

Luis Martínez subrayó que la sala donde se robaron estas láminas cuentan con medidas de seguridad y que “hay un protocolo de actuación que ha funcionado en el momento en que este robo se ha detectado”.

El detenido, a quien se buscaba desde la primavera de 2007, está acusado de los presuntos delitos de robo, falsificación de documento público, tenencia de documentación falsa y contra el Patrimonio Histórico.

Los mapas antiguos son un objetivo muy codiciado por los ladrones de bibliotecas; en octubre del año pasado se recuperaron diez páginas de libros antiguos sustraídas en la Biblioteca Nacional, entre ellas dos mapamundis pertenecientes a la Cosmografía de Ptolomeo de 1482.

August 11th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Italy Cracks Down On Raiders Of Lost Art

LISTEN NOW: http://snipurl.com/pmvhi

By Sylvia Poggioli

— All Things Considered

Published August 10, 2009 5:19 PM 

The story of the theft — and ultimate return — of a magnificent ancient vase painted by Euphronios, the greatest Greek vase artist of antiquity, is a gripping tale that has helped to cripple the illicit international art trade.

In 2008, after long and difficult international negotiations, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art handed the “hot pot” back to Italy, the land where it was dug up.

A new book, The Lost Chalice, traces the story of the looted vase’s travels from a tomb in Italy to Switzerland to New York and back to Italy through the labyrinthine world of smugglers and shady dealers in an illicit trade that fed a network of American collectors and institutions.

In its new home, Rome’s Villa Giulia museum, the Euphronios vase has been given a place of honor in a glass case with special cool lighting.

Maurizio Pellegrini, an art expert, says the scene painted on the vessel was described by Homer.

“It’s the battlefield of the Trojan War, the death of the warrior Sarpedon, son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman. With blood oozing from its wounds, the body is carried off by the angels of death and sleep,” he says.

Pellegrini has helped prosecutors track down numerous stolen works of antiquity. “I told my bosses, ‘I will not stop until we get the Euphronios back,’ ” he says.

Tomb Raiders By Night

Francesco Bartocci, a 70-year-old farmer, remembers the cold night in 1971 when he and his fellow tomb robbers discovered a vase that had been buried for 2,500 years. “I will never forget it,” Bartocci says. “A warrior thrusting a sword into another warrior, and you could see the drops of blood spurting out, you could see every single vein on his arm. It’s printed on my brain, too beautiful, too perfect, a great work.”

Bartocci is the last living member of the gang of tomb raiders who nabbed the Euphronios. They lived in Cerveteri, a once-great Etruscan city an hour’s drive north of Rome. It took almost an entire winter for them to excavate the tomb, which was on the edge of town.

The expert who helped nail down the exact spot where the pot was found is Vernon Silver, an American journalist with a degree in archaeology from Oxford University and author of The Lost Chalice. He says many of the Cerveteri townsfolk used to be tomb robbers by night.

“They started coming out and poking the ground with a spillo, a long pole, that could probe into the ground until they found something,” he says.

Silver says the ancient Etruscans bought and collected imported Greek vases. Euphronios was among the artists in Athens who made many of those objects specifically for export.

Silver says that when the tomb robbers carted off the Euphronios masterpiece, they destroyed many clues that would help archaeologists understand the history and culture of the people buried in the Cerveteri tomb. “It’s like a page being ripped out of a book of Etruscan history and Greek history and world history, when you have the opportunity to see what was buried with what, and who those people were, and who they were friends with, and who they traded with, and you don’t have that anymore,” Silver says. “It’s a finite resource; there aren’t an infinite number of these tombs sitting around.”

Vase Triggers Crackdown

When news came that the Metropolitan Museum had spent a record $1 million for a pot of mysterious provenance, rumors started circulating that it had been looted from Cerveteri. Italian authorities began cracking down on tomb robbers and illicit archaeological digs. Through a combination of luck and tedious investigations, Italy succeeded in bringing to trial key art dealers and even the former director of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Over the past few years, American museums have started returning many works of art proved to have been looted.

Silver says the Euphronios pot’s return to Italy has had a major impact on the illicit antiquities market. “Certainly, the act of museums having to hand stuff back to Italy as a crime prevention exercise has probably worked. There are no museums that are going to buy this stuff now,” he says.

Italian authorities confirm that there has been a sharp decline in the underground art trade. But they stress that the theft has been massive.

Over the past few decades, the art theft police squad has recovered some 800,000 artworks from antiquity, but authorities estimate that’s only about 40 percent of the total looted by the raiders of lost art.

Source: NPR

August 11th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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August 11th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

The Parthenon sculptures: Hitchens and Cuno in debate

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/parthenon-sculptures-hitchens-and-cuno.html

At the end of July Christopher Hitchens and James Cuno were in debate over the Parthenon sculptures.

Hitchens argues for the reunification of the sculptures that were intended to be seen as a unity. These would be displayed in the Acropolis Museum adjacent to the acropolis.

Cuno suggests that the sculptures could be ‘reunified anywhere’, and that London was just as good as Athens. (Hitchens can be heard saying, ‘What about Glasgow?’). Cuno observes that the Parthenon sculptures in London are displayed in the context of world cultures. He also argues for the changing role of the Parthenon through time as Greece became part of the Roman Empire and then the building itself was converted in a church and then a mosque. He talks about the Pericleian temple as a ‘fantasy of a building’ and at times speaks as if it was the Parthenon itself that was to be restored.

Hitchens responded with a reminder that the Parthenon sculptures are a ‘narrative in stone’ that at the moment are displayed at ‘opposite ends of the European Union’.

Cuno returned to his well used them of the Encyclopedic Museum and the theme of nationalism. He talks about the clearing – he uses the word ‘cleansing’ – of the Athenian acropolis in the early decades of the Greek state as an example of ‘nationalist ambitions of a modern nation state’. He even suggests that such tidying up of the acropolis was ‘desecration’. At times Cuno seemed to be speaking as if he he was a spokesperson for the British Museum.

In my view Hitchens was the more convincing speaker especially with his case for the reunification of the sculptures. 

At http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/08/parthenon-sculptures-hitchens-and-cuno.html is a sound file available of the discussion between Hitchens and Cuno.

August 11th, 2009

Posted In: Parthenon Marbles

At the Museum Security Network site we only publish a small selection of Museum Security Network list messages. If you want to receive all – if you wish in a daily digest format – I advise that you join http://groups.google.com/group/museum_security_network

Ton Cremers

August 11th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

The Elgin Marbles: Where do they belong?
August 7, 12:49 PM – Archeological Travel Examiner
Gwynneth Anderson

…And so it happened that the Lapith peoples celebrated the wedding of the brave warrior Perithous to his fair maiden, Hippodame. All were invited to the nuptial feast – even the cloud-begotten race of Centaurs, those half men, half beasts. But when a bevy of glittering nymphs finally brought forth the lovely bride, the brutish centaur Eurytus, half crazed from wine and lust, rose from his place and attacked her, inciting his fellow centaurs to do the same.

Greatly angered, the mighty warrior Theseus snatched the bride free from her ghastly assaulter, smashing a heavy goblet against the head of Eurytus who fell thunderously to the floor, choking on his own blood, brains and teeth.

Roaring with fury, the remaining centaurs leapt into the fray, seeking to redeem the honor of their fallen brother. The fight is brutal – clubs, stones, hooves, tree branches, fingers – anything that gained an advantage is used to the other’s detriment. The once beautiful feasting tables become red with blood, littered with smashed dishes and other unimaginable horrors as the battle rages on.

Finally, a desperate thrust to an exposed navel disembowels the last standing centaur. It is now over. 

At one time, the outside of walls of the Parthenon were decorated with 92 sculpted panels (called metopes) depicting various topics in triumphant Greek history. The Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs was one of them.

The eastern wall holds the desperate battle between the Greek gods and giants. The western wall depicts the Amazonian invasion of Athens while the northern wall shows scenes from the Trojan War. The southern wall was reserved for man versus centaur. Over time, weather, battles and hundreds of years of tourism, wreaked their own havoc.

As seen below, the west and eastern walls have fallen victim to centuries of atmospheric pollution while the southern side shows the damage from an 1687 explosion after Venetians scored a direct hit on the Parthenon-cum-Ottoman-munitions-depot.

The southern metopes, however, remain in excellent condition because they are no longer there.

From 1801 – 1812, The Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selim III, Sultan of Turkey, otherwise known as Lord Elgin, removed the metopes and other statues from the Athenian Acropolis for shipment back to England.

How he managed to do this when never receiving specific permission to do so, is still unclear.

Initially, Elgin had requested government funds to pay for a project to cast and draw various Parthenon statuary. He was turned down. Deciding to use his own funds (or rather his wife’s, since he had recently married a wealthy heiress) he hired a Neapolitan court painter to supervise this task and eventually received written permission from the Ottoman government to:

“Fix scaffolding, make drawings, make moldings in chalk or gypsum, measure the remains of the ruined buildings and excavate the foundations which may have become covered and that when they wish to take away pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon, that no opposition be made thereto.”

Since the original grant corroborating this has never been located in Ottoman archives, scholars still debate whether Elgin simply stretched the boundaries of what he was allowed to encompass what he really wanted – the originals.

British public reaction to Elgin’s “gift” was initially negative while Parliament was reluctant to pay his purchase price. Eventually, the marbles were accepted and since 1816, have become an integral part of the British Museum.

Over the years, Greek requests for their return have been denied, the Museum citing some of the following reasons:

• Returning the marbles would condemn them to inevitable disintegration from Athenian air pollution;
• The marbles are a global influence, entitled for all to enjoy, whereas the Greek government will charge a fee for the privilege of viewing them;
• Fulfilling restitution claims would simply empty world class museums of their collections to countries that do not have the facilities or the local interest in maintaining them;
• The museum is barred by its charter from returning any of its collection.

The Greeks counter by pointing out that:

• Returning the marbles to Athens would not initiate a restitution domino effect as the Parthenon is considered a world cultural phenomenon;
• Precedent for return has already been established as other well-known museums contribute their pieces to the overall reunification;
• The newly opened Acropolis Museum was specifically built to hold these structures in an environmentally controlled climate also designed to show them off in a natural light – something the British Museum does not do.

Seven years ago, an Ipsos MORI poll showed 56% of Britons supporting the return of the marbles (if certain conditions were met) while 7% said no. 37% of those asked were undecided. Perhaps it’s time for another look at determining just where these stones really belong.

Possibly related articles

(adapted from Metamorphoses, Book XII ): August 16, 2004
http://www.elginism.com/20090810/2325/

August 10th, 2009

Posted In: Parthenon Marbles

Los hechos tuvieron lugar el 28 de julio. La Guardia Civil estrecha el cerco al presunto ladrón

Tras la pista de ‘los Ptolomeos’ que robaron en la Biblioteca

HOY. REGIÓN
Confirmado. Se trata de dos mapas plegables de la edición incunable “Geografía y Atlas” de Ptolomeo, fechada en 1531. El robo tenía lugar en la Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha, con sede en el Alcázar de Toledo, el pasado día 28 de julio. El Día de Toledo tenía conocimiento de los hechos dos días después, el 30 de julio, pero es ahora cuando podemos relatar este expolio de nuestro patrimonio cultural que llega incluso a tener ramificaciones internacionales.

Tanto es así que la operación para detener a este ladrón de “guante blanco” lleva abierta dos años y en ella interviene hasta la misma Interpol. En España es la Unidad Central Operativa de Patrimonio de la Guardia Civil, con sede en Madrid, la que está trabajando tanto en la recuperación de los documentos sustraídos como en la detención del presunto o presuntos expoliadores. Y es que, según fuentes cercanas al caso, el robo que se ha cometido en la Biblioteca de Toledo no es el único. También han desaparecido en los últimos tiempos  mapas de Ptolomeo de otras ediciones incunables guardadas en la Biblioteca de El Escorial, en  la de Castilla y León, en la Biblioteca Universitaria de Salamanca y en la Colombina de Sevilla. Es precisamente el juez de El Escorial el encargado de esclarecer esta trama en la que también se ha visto envuelta nuestra Comunidad Autónoma. Aunque, ha sido el robo cometido en Toledo el que más frutos ha dado a los investigadores, gracias a la rapidez y la actuación desarrollada desde la Administración regional. Una investigación, que este diario tampoco ha querido entorpecer en aras de las responsabilidad y que podría ofrecer resultados en próximas fechas.

Ha sido en Toledo donde más cerca ha estado la Guardia Civil de este ladrón, que utiliza varias identidades para acceder a los fondos bibliográficos y cuyo aspecto y formas de actuar no levanta sospechas. En esta ocasión, sin embargo, no contaba con una funcionaria que actuó de inmediato en base a una “sensación extraña” que la llevó a pensar que algo no funcionaba bien.

Fue ese “olfato bibliotecario” el que la llevó a dar la voz de alarma y tras comprobar la sustracción se presentó la correspondiente denuncia. En pocas horas la Unidad de Patrimonio de la Guardia Civil se presentaba en la Biblioteca. Habían desaparecido dos mapas plegables de Ptolemeo, pero también el ladrón.

La inmediatez con la que se produjeron los hechos facilitó a lo agentes seguirle la pista. En otros casos el robo de este tipo de documentos históricos no se detecta al instante; ya que, pueden pasar semanas e incluso meses. Sin embargo, los controles que se realizan en la Biblioteca de Toledo y la audacia de esta funcionaria han permitido a los agentes acercarse más a este falso investigador, hasta el punto de tenerlo vigilado muy de cerca. Aún así no se ha podido proceder a su detención, al menos hasta el día de ayer. Y es que cabe la posibilidad de que no actúe solo y de ahí la necesidad de actuar con prudencia. El principal objetivo es que los mapas no salgan del país a través del mercado negro.

http://www.eldiadeciudadreal.com/noticia.php/15620

August 10th, 2009

Posted In: library theft

Worldwide Iraqi treasure hunt

AP FILE PHOTO
U.S. Special Forces officers guard items at the Iraqi national museum in Baghdad, May 16, 2003. The items were recovered after the museum was looted a month earlier.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN ANCIENT BABYLON

 

U.S. troops inflicted serious damage on the site of ancient Babylon in the early days of the war, says an exhaustive damage assessment released by UNESCO last month.

In setting up Camp Alpha, they drove heavy machinery over ancient pavements and bulldozed artefact-laden hills. Helicopters landing caused structural damage to several excavated buildings

Built 5,000 years ago on the Euphrates River, Babylon became one of the greatest cities of antiquity. It was home to Hammurabi, creator of the world’s first written code of law, and Nebuchadnezzar, who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.

Its use “as a military base was a grave encroachment on this internationally known archaeological site,” said the UN cultural agency.

The U.S. position remains the same as it was at the time: it could have been worse. Without the troops on site, Babylon’s remains would have been torn apart by looters.

– Lynda Hurst

U of T expert helps track priceless artifacts looted in 2003 invasion and scattered worldwide
August 09, 2009

LYNDA HURST
FEATURE WRITER
The looting of Iraq’s National Museum was one of the greatest scandals of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Archaeologists had repeatedly warned Washington that, without protection, the Baghdad museum – which held the priceless cultural heritage of not just of Mesopotamia, but of mankind – would be ransacked by looters.

And it was.

But U.S. troops didn’t react when Iraqis ravenously tore through the galleries for two straight days, carrying off 15,000 precious artifacts from the first 7,000 years of civilization.

The oldest known sculpture of a natural human face, the Warka Head, known as the Sumerian Mona Lisa, gone. A 4,500-year-old bronze figure of an Akkadian king, gone. At least 5,000 Sumerian cylinder seals engraved with the earliest form of writing, all gone.

“Stuff happens” was the notorious reaction of then-U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the world’s reaction was swift and furious.

The International Council on Monuments accused the U.S. of committing a “crime against humanity.” Interpol immediately set up a task force to track the stolen property. Scholars flinched.

Even before the dust settled, it became clear that the most valuable artifacts, hidden a month before in basement lockers, had been targeted by organized thieves.

“I knew it was organized crime when I saw the storerooms had been unlocked and certain items removed,” said then-museum director Donny George. “They knew where these items had been put.”

And they knew where they were going – into the rapacious hands of unprincipled dealers and private collectors who didn’t care how they’d been obtained. “People with no scruples but a lust for possession,” says Edward Keall, a Royal Ontario Museum senior curator who is periodically called by Canada Customs to check incoming Mid-Eastern antiquities.

Five to seven years is the average lag time for famous stolen art or antiquities to surface and it’s now six years since the museum’s plunder. But despite an ongoing international crackdown on smuggled Iraqi artifacts, fewer than half the stolen treasures have been recovered.

Many were returned in the first few months, after the U.S. snapped into action and appointed Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a Manhattan district attorney in private life, to head a 13-member investigation team.

Bogdanos announced an amnesty, and by the fall of 2003 more than 3,000 items were returned voluntarily by locals, including the famed alabaster Warka Vase, albeit brought back in 14 pieces in a plastic bag. Another 900 objects were seized in raids and at checkpoints, among them 10 of the 42 most valuable artifacts. They included the Warka Head, found buried at a farmhouse, and the Bassetki statue, a 4,300-year-old copper lower torso and legs of a seated male figure. It had been hidden in a cesspool, submerged.

In the first few years, most of the still-missing objects were too hot to handle internationally. But in time, they began to emerge:

  • In 2006, the headless stone statue of the Sumerian king, Entemena, was recovered after it was offered for sale to a dealer in New York. A year later, a 4,000-year-old inscribed clay tablet was pulled from eBay’s Swiss website minutes before the close of bidding.
  • In 2008, 11 cylinder seals, made of agate and alabaster, were found by customs agents in Philadelphia.
  • Also last year, more than 700 items – ranging from gold necklaces and daggers to clay statues and pots and collectively worth millions of dollars – were returned by Syria after being seized from traffickers. It was the first mass return of artifacts. But not the last.
  • Four months ago, Iraqi government officials handed over 531 items, including ancient coins and 165 statues and cylinder seals, which had been in the possession of two unidentified members of parliament.
  • Last month, 69 artifacts were surrendered by Dutch art dealers after Interpol disclosed their illegal origin; among them, a terracotta relief of a bearded man praying, believed to be more than 2,000 years old.

Symbolically handed back, that is. The Dutch will display them until they can be safely returned to Iraq’s museum. Further looting remains a threat, which is why the museum opened on Feb. 23 this year, only to be shut down again within hours.

As horrific, however, as the original ransacking was, “it was only the initial catastrophe,” says Clemens Reichel, a Mesopotamian archaeologist at the University of Toronto and a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum. In the years since, industrial-scale pillaging of thousands of southern Iraq’s unprotected excavation sites has resulted in the disappearance of another 500,000 artifacts, he says.

“Most of the big sites have been hacked to pieces. You can see the destruction from satellite pictures taken before and since the war.”

The looters not only steal, but destroy items of inestimable value, he says: “In retrieving one object, they’ll throw away 50,000 smaller pieces that would be greatly important to archaeologists.”

Before his recent move to Toronto, Reichel was at the University of Chicago’s eminent Oriental Institute. Within a day of the museum rampage, he immediately became head of a unique project – to create a computerized database of the precise objects taken and track their status in the coming years.

No mean feat. Not all of the museum’s collection had been catalogued or photographed. Though the official holdings count was 150,000, the full tally was closer to 500,000. A complete list of the losses could only be drawn up after an inventory of all the remaining items were compiled. With the help of other museums and scholars who’d photographed in the museum, Reichel painstakingly put together images of as many objects as possible.

The terrible irony is, he says, that for all his other sins, Saddam Hussein enforced a strict anti-smuggling policy. Looters were executed. “There was no market for Iraqi antiquities until the first Gulf War in 1990.”

Now the market is flooded with them and there are collectors known in the U.S. and Europe, especially Germany, Switzerland and Norway. “That’s the ‘visible’ market, where things are tightening up. But there’s also the ‘invisible’ market, Japan and the wealthy Gulf states. Who knows what’s there.”

Reichel often sees objects on auction house websites that are suspicious. But suspicion, he sighs, isn’t proof.

http://www.thestar.com/

August 10th, 2009

Posted In: War in Irag

DO DIRECTORS OF “UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS” EVER LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE?

 It appears legitimate to question whether the directors of “universal museums” ever learn from experience. When we read the books and articles of James Cuno, Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, Neal MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and Philippe de Montebello, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, we cannot escape the conclusion that, as far as restitution is concerned, these directors have not learnt anything from recent history and events. (1) This impression has been confirmed by statements made by Philippe de Montebello at Rockland, Maine, United States. (2)

FULL TEXT with photo and links

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August 9th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

August 8, 2009

Art Collection Burns, and Officials Offer Reasons

By IAN URBINA

WASHINGTON — Although water pressure in two city fire hydrants was less than 20 percent of what it should have been, city officials said Friday that that was not the reason firefighters could not save a home that contained one of the country’s largest private collections of African-American art.

The fire on July 29 gutted the home of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a political activist, former school board president and one of the founders of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, the lack of water pressure forced them to go five blocks to find a hydrant with sufficient pressure. Nearly 100 firefighters battled the blaze, but when they made it to the second floor of the home, the water pressure was still so low that they had to back out and attack the fire from the exterior.

The two hydrants first used by firefighters produced only 323 and 296 gallons per minute of water during subsequent testing, well short of the 1,643 gallons needed to battle a fire of that size, city officials said Friday.

But fire officials added, in a preliminary report on the fire, “While low water flow unquestionably impacted the time needed to put out the fire, it is not clear that higher water pressure would have saved the house.” In the last two years Washington has had a spate of fires that have leveled major landmarks, including the historic Eastern Market, the Georgetown Library and a large condominium in the city’s popular Adams Morgan neighborhood, raising questions about the preparedness of the city’s fire department and the local water authority.

Ms. Cafritz’s eight-bedroom home on Chain Bridge Road in Northwest Washington was a common site for political fund-raisers and soirées. For the last two decades, Ms. Cafritz also had amassed a collection of works by important artists, including Kara WalkerKerry James MarshallCarrie Mae WeemsEl AnatsuiShinique Smith and Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian artist who will be the subject of a major exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art beginning in November.

The report sought to reassure city residents by pointing out that the Cafritz fire, whose cause is unknown, involved a unique set of circumstances and challenges.

The unusually large house, about 15,000 square feet, was mostly engulfed when firefighters arrived, and it was at the top of a steep hill, making water pressure weaker. The house was also relatively remote, making it impossible to pull water from multiple water mains as firefighters prefer to do, according to the report.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty echoed that view.

Mr. Fenty said the water main serving Ms. Cafritz’s neighborhood was too small to deliver enough water.

“Now, should the government have known that and made changes?” the mayor said. “That may be a criticism that has merit, but there are age issues in this system, there are topography issues on Chain Bridge Road, there are isolation issues on Chain Bridge Road, which makes this an exception.”

The City Council is expected to hold a hearing on the fire in mid-September.

http://www.nytimes.com/

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August 8th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Fire in cultural institutions

$300G in art stolen in ruse

Friday, August 07, 2009

Roughly $300,000 worth of framed artwork was stolen from a Jersey City warehouse yesterday when a man posing as the truck driver sent to pick up the containers simply drove away with the art pieces, reports said.

The heist took place at 12:50 a.m. at a warehouse at 400 Duncan Ave., reports said.

 

The impostor truck driver was asked to fill out paperwork at the warehouse and did so, reports said.

But when the California-based container company realized the artworks were missing and asked the warehouse to check the paperwork, workers there realized that what the thief wrote down was illegible, reports said.

http://www.nj.com/

August 8th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Police: State AG probing case of stolen hospital art worksMan had Rockport artwork in his home, investigators say

By Paul Tennant
Staff Writer

 

Police said the state attorney general is investigating Paul Galzerano, the former Beverly Hospital official who was arrested after investigators found thousands of dollars worth of antiques, including a painting by a Rockport artist, from the hospital in his Groveland house.

However, no one is saying why the case has moved to that level.

Jeffrey Gillen, deputy police chief in Groveland, said the Attorney General’s office has taken over the case. He would say nothing further.

Scott Gleason of Haverhill, who represents Galzerano, also refused to say why the case has changed.

“I have no comment,” Gleason said this week when asked about the investigation.

Jill Butterworth, spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said the office does not confirm or deny whether a person is being investigated.

Groveland police searched Galzerano’s Groveland house at 281 Main St. on Sept. 30 of last year. They arrested Galzerano and seized thousands of dollars worth of art works and antiques that had been reported missing from Northeast Health System, investigators said. Northeast is the parent corporation of both Beverly Hospital and Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital.

The stolen items included three paintings, a large grandfather clock worth $10,000, several oriental-style, carved wooden room dividers valued at $3,000 total, and assorted furniture, said Gillen, who oversaw the investigation.

The stolen paintings recovered from Galzerano’s home included a seascape by Rockport artist Stanley Wingate Woodward (1890-1970). The incident sparked concern among many in the Cape Ann arts community regarding the status of works that had been donated to Addison Gilbert and were once displayed in the halls of the Gloucester hospital.

Galzerano, 57, was once employed as associate vice president of staff services at Beverly Hospital, but had left that job by the time of his arrest. During his tenure there, he supervised a major renovation, police said.

The receiving stolen property case against Galzerano in Haverhill District Court has been dismissed at the request of the Essex County district attorney’s office. Law enforcement officials have refused to say why the case was dropped in Haverhill court but is now being investigated by the attorney general.

Galzerano faces another criminal case that is unrelated to the items taken from Beverly Hospital. Next Tuesday, he is scheduled to begin a jury trial in Haverhill District Court on charges that he threatened two women who reside near him with a handgun.

Police never found a handgun on Galzerano or in his house. But last Aug. 6, he was arrested and charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and threatening to commit a crime.

Police said he pointed a gun at a woman who went to his home to complain about loud music he was playing. When the woman’s sister approached him, he allegedly threatened that “he’d take care of her, too,” Gillen said.

Paul Tennant may be contacted at ptennant@gloucestertimes.com.

August 8th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

 

La ética de la adquisición
Alexis Figueredo
Rebelión
En el año 1970 se reunió en París un grupo de expertos, con el objetivo de hacer un estudio “consciente” relacionado con los museos y “las reglas éticas de adquisición”. Del resultado de este encuentro salió la adopción de resoluciones basadas en los siguientes principios: “Whatever the subject matter or discipline of the museum and wherever it may be situated in the world, certain principles of ethics and professional integrity in relation to acquisition can be presumed to be applicable. Briefly, this means there must be a full, clear and satisfactory documentation in relation to the origin of any object to be acquired. This is quite as important for an object generally classified in the category of art as for an object of archaeology, of ethnology, or of national and natural history.” Leer “Code of professional Ethics” (Código de Deontología Profesional aprobado por unanimidad en la 15ª Asamblea General del ICOM, que tuvo lugar en Buenos Aires (Argentina) el 4 de noviembre de 1986.)

Sin embargo, una cosa es el 

Documento y otra lo que ha sucedido y continúa sucediendo en el plano concreto de la implementación y el respeto de dicho código. No voy (aquí) a referirme a los recientes sucesos de hurto, despojo y contrabando de objetos y obras de arte en el Medio Oriente y Asia Central, y que se están llevando a cabo por parte de los actuales invasores de Irak y Afganistán. El objetivo (en este caso) es llamarles la atención respecto al Musée de l’Homme de París.

El Continente africano, ha sido y sigue siendo un triste ejemplo del saqueo y el expolio -no sólo- de sus recursos minerales, naturales y humanos. Africa ha sido víctima -colonialismo mediante- del despojo de su patrimonio cultural y su identidad artística. Un ejemplo específico de esto es el Museo del Hombre de París (Musée l’ Homme). Este museo de antropología creado en 1937 por Paul Riveten su galería sobre prehistoria posee la mayor colección de fósiles humanos del Paleolítico con más de 500 mil objetos. Sus colecciones provienen de objetos reunidos desde el siglo XVI, que integraban el Gabinete de Curiosidades y el Gabinete Real, enriquecidas con objetos provenientes de las colonias francesas en sigo XIX. Un ejemplo concreto, es que Nelson Mandela tuvo que reclamarle a este Museo, los restos de Saartjie Baartman para que fueran regresados a su natal Sudáfrica [1]

Los interesados en constatar el defalco perpetrado por el colonialismo francés en cuanto a la cultura africana, les recomiendo consultar el magnífico Diccionario de la Civilización Negra Africana (Dictionary of Black African Civilization); un excelente muestrario hecho por Georges Balander y Jacques Maquet. Balander es Director de los Estudios Sociológicos en el French National Center for Scientific Research (C.N.R.S) y Profesor at the Sorbonne; autor de Ambiguos Africa: Cultures in Collision, Daily Life in the Kingdom of the Kongo, Political Anthropology y The Sociology of Black Africa. Jacques Maquet, es Profesor de Antropología de La Universidad de Los Angeles, California y ha escrito, entre otros libros: Power and Society in Africa, Civilizations of Black Africa and Africanity: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa.

El Diccionario ilustrado de marras, que fue recientemente traducido del francés al inglés, apareció por primera vez en 1968 y en él colaboraron otros estudiosos africanos-franceses que, con sus artículos claros y precisos, contribuyeron al enriquecimiento y actualización de lo que es- sin duda- un extraordinario libro que nos permite comprobar como gran parte de la riqueza cultural africana fue robada con impunidad por el colonialismo francés.

Nota

[1] Leer la historia (síntesis) de Saartjie Baartman: http://www.nathanielturner.com/sarastory.htm

http://niafunkeblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2009/07/la-etica-de-la-adquisicion.html

August 7th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Mailing list reports

Tags:

Conservation Online database is saved

American Institute for Conservation to take it over after Stanford University could no longer afford to run it

By Robert Curran | Web only
Published online 5 Aug 09 (Conservation)

 CoOL has proven to be a useful resource for conservation professionals and the institute’s decision to sustain the database has been met with great relief from the conservation community. The forum is used by nearly 10,000 conservators in more than 90 countries and is most valued for the open discussions that occur in its “DistList” section. The institute has recognised the need for a brisk and seamless transition and hopes to return the DistList to full operation as soon as possible. According to the institute: “Our goal is to keep CoOL and the DistList safe, viable, objective and accessible for the conservation community worldwide.”

 The California university hosted CoOL for 22 years, since its conception in 1987. It stated that it is with “deep regret” that it is no longer able to support the database and that it would continue to do so “were the world in just a little better shape than it is now”.

The American Institute for Conservation has announced that it will host Conservation Online (CoOL) after Stanford University was forced to relinquish responsibility for the database due to economic pressures.

August 7th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Police: State AG probing case of antiques stolen from Beverly HospitalGroveland man had items in his home, investigators say

By Paul Tennant
ptennant@eagletribune.com

GROVELAND — Police said the state attorney general is investigating Paul Galzerano, the former Beverly Hospital official who was arrested after investigators found thousands of dollars worth of antiques from the hospital in his house.

However, no one is saying why the case has moved to that level.

Jeffrey Gillen, deputy police chief in Groveland, said the attorney general has taken over the case. He would say nothing further.

Scott Gleason of Haverhill, who represents Galzerano, also refused to say why the case has changed.

“I have no comment,” Gleason said this week when asked about the investigation.

Jill Butterworth, spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said the office does not confirm or deny whether a person is being investigated.

Groveland police searched Galzerano’s house at 281 Main St. on Sept. 30 of last year. They arrested Galzerano and seized thousands of dollars worth of antiques that were missing from Beverly Hospital, investigators said.

The antiques included three paintings, a large grandfather clock worth $10,000, several oriental-style, carved wooden room dividers valued at $3,000 total, and assorted furniture, said Gillen, who oversaw the investigation.

Galzerano, 57, was once employed as associate vice president of staff services at Beverly Hospital, but had left that job by the time of his arrest. During his tenure there, he supervised a major renovation, police said.

The receiving stolen property case against Galzerano in Haverhill District Court has been dismissed at the request of the Essex County district attorney’s office.

Law enforcement officials have refused to say why the case was dropped in Haverhill court but is now being investigated by the attorney general.

Galzerano faces another criminal case that is unrelated to the items taken from Beverly Hospital. Next Tuesday, he is scheduled to begin a jury trial in Haverhill District Court on charges that he threatened two women who reside near him with a handgun.

Police never found a handgun on Galzerano or in his house.

On Aug. 6, 2008, he was arrested and charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and threatening to commit a crime. Police said he pointed a gun at a woman who went to his home to complain about loud music he was playing. When the woman’s sister approached him, he allegedly threatened that “he’d take care of her, too,” Gillen said.

http://www.eagletribune.com/

August 6th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

Bronze R30000 statue stolen from KWT

FLASHBACK: Three-times former world boxing champion Vuyani Bhungu with the statue of his great grandmother, Prophetess Nonthetha Nkwenke, which is now missing. Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA

2009/08/06
 
A STATUE of Prophetess Nonthetha Nkwenke has disappeared from outside the King William’s Town Magistrates Court – and police didn’t even know it was missing.

 

 

The statue, which portrayed the prophetess looking up at the sky, with a scarf at her feet, was erected in 2007 as part of the Sunday Times Heritage Project.

 

 

 

Senior Superintendent Thembinkosi Manentsa of the King William’s Town police said that he “did not know anything about it”.

“I don’t even know when the statue went missing,” he told the Daily Dispatch yesterday.

 Sunday Times Heritage Project team member Mantombi Makhubele said they had been told but but had not yet decided whether or not to replace it.

 Somine van der Merwe , assistant director of King William’s Town’s Amathole Museum, said they were “very upset” but had “feared it would happen”.

“We heard earlier this year that the statue was in danger of going missing but we remained hopeful that, since this is part of history that affects all the residents of King, it would not happen.”

 In 1922, King William’s Town magistrates committed Nkwenkwe to Fort Beaufort mental hospital for “medical observation” as hundreds of her followers sang hymns outside.

Nkwenkwe had begun having visions and preaching after surviving the 1918 flu epidemic. Authorities feared her growing popularity would threaten white rule and the established churches.

Nkwenkwe died in 1935.

 Artist Lynnley Watson , who was commissioned to make the R30000 statue, said: “It’s really sad, especially if it’s just going to be melted down. People have no respect for public property.”

 Last year, in East London, the statue of Desmond Tutu , which stands in front of the city hall, had its head chopped off. It has recently been restored.

Two other statues – at Eastern Beach and Duncan Village – were also vandalised. – By ZISANDA NKONKOBE

August 6th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Geroofd kunstwerk na 28 jaar opgespoord

dinsdag 04 augustus 2009

 BRUSSEL – Een zilveren relikwiehouder die in 1980 bij een kunstdiefstal werd ontvreemd, is weer boven water.

 Anderhalf miljoen euro was de buit waard die onbekenden in de nacht van 25juni 1980 uit de Sint-Pieterskerk in Lessines roofden.

 Ze gingen toen aan de haal met 28 stukken religieus zilverwerk die werden tentoongesteld naar aanleiding van de honderdvijftigste verjaardag van België. De vernissage had nog maar de avond voordien plaatsgehad.

 Nadat in 2002 al een processiekruis was teruggevonden, zijn speurders er nu in geslaagd een tweede stuk te recupereren. Ze waren er drie jaar naar op zoek, nadat het in 2006 via het internet aan het veilinghuis Sotheby’s te koop was aangeboden. Sotheby’s ging niet op het aanbod in omdat het stuk geseind stond als gestolen goed.

 De voorbije dagen konden speurders van de federale politie het stuk lokaliseren in de provincie Limburg. Het was in het bezit van een verzamelaar die het te goeder trouw had gekocht.

 Het gaat om een zilveren cilindrische relikwiehouder van 31 centimeter hoog. Het smeedwerk is gedetailleerd uitgewerkt en bevat afbeeldingen van Sint-Pieter en Sint-Paulus. Experten van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Kunstpatrimonium schatten de ouderdom tussen 1490 en 1530. De waarde wordt geschat op ruim 150.000 euro.

 Het stuk werd indertijd uitgeleend door het museum van het voormalige hospitaal Notre Dame à la Rose. Adjunct-curator Marc Vuidar weet nog niet waar het werk bij zijn terugkeer naartoe gaat. ‘Daar moeten we met de stad, het museum en de verscheidene parochies nog over praten’, zegt hij. ‘Er wachten nog heel wat administratieve stappen voor we het werk effectief weer in ons bezit hebben.’

 Zijn museum is alleszins kandidaat. ‘Het zou een mooi geheel vormen met een werk dat wij in onze collectie hebben’, zegt Vuidar. ‘We hebben hier zestig historische stukken die in goede omstandigheden gepresenteerd worden. Het belangrijkste lijkt me dat ze beveiligd zijn, zodat we niet nog eens zo’n voorval meemaken.’

 Van de dieven is er nog steeds geen spoor. (gse)

August 5th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags:

‘Guilty’ plea from woman charged with stealing nearly $1M

Posted: Aug 4, 2009 12:16 AM 

Source: TucsonGrowUp.com

By Brian White – email

 TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – A 65-year-old woman charged with embezzling nearly $1 million from the Tucson Museum of Art has pleaded guilty.

 Ruth Sons pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, both felonies.

 She faces up to 12.5 years in prison followed by seven years probation at her sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 3.

 She must also pay $973,010 in restitution, Attorney General Terry Goddard said Monday.

 Between 2003 and 2008, Sons allegedly embezzled $973,010 from the Tucson Museum of Art, where she was employed as a bookkeeper and accountant.

 According to investigators, Sons’ position as an accountant gave her access to the museum’s payroll, museum shop deposits and petty cash accounts.

 For more than five years she allegedly conducted the elaborate embezzlement scheme, which included:

 Forging the signatures of the museum’s CFO and Director

Stealing cash intended for deposit from sales at the museum shop

Manipulating the museum’s general accounting ledger to conceal the embezzlement

The defendant began her employment at TMA in 1990 as a bookkeeper. She was indicted in May after the scheme was discovered during an internal audit conducted by the museum last year.

 The museum turned the case over to the Tucson Police Department for investigation.

August 5th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Main Library hit hard by flooding

By Sheldon S. Shafer
sshafer@courier-journal.com

Louisville’s Main Library at York and Third streets was damaged by flooding Tuesday, with thousands of books damaged and the building’s mechanical systems knocked out along with all of the computers at branches system-wide.

“Everything’s under water,” Mayor Jerry Abramson said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Main Library after he and Gov. Steve Beshear surveyed the damage in the building.

Abramson gave a preliminary damage estimate of $1 million at the Main Library alone, and it will remain closed until further notice. The Shawnee and Iroquois branches were also closed Tuesday because of flooding and several other branches were damaged but remained open, said Library Director Craig Buthod.

Buthod said up to 4 feet of water had poured into the basement of the Main Library, much of which is used for operations. Buthod said at least 10,000 books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs were damaged. Many of the items were new and awaiting distribution to the branches. Buthod said the average cost per item was conservatively $20.

All three Bookmobiles parked at the Main Library were damaged by floodwaters, and water pressure blew out some basement windows. Conference and meeting rooms and offices located in the basement and their furnishings and finishings also were damaged.

Perhaps more seriously, all the Main Library’s boilers, air-conditioning controls, chillers and air-handling equipment were water logged, with the extent of the damage impossible to assess until the water is pumped out, Buthod said. Some of the mechanical equipment was less than 10 years old, but some of it is much older, he said.

All the computers at all the branches were rendered inoperative when flood damaged the central computer unit and wiring n the Main Library’s basement.

Also ruined, officials said, were about 40 new computers awaiting delivery to the new Newburg branch, which will be dedicated Aug. 15. Buthod said the dedication will go ahead as planned, with or without computers. The Newburg computers cost about $50,000.

Buthod said library officials will begin to assess the damage at the Main Library Wednesday. He said the location will be closed on Wednesday, and he declined to speculate on when it might reopen. He said the damage was worse than when the Main Library had a fire about 10 years ago; afterward, it was closed for a week.

Buthod said the library’s Web site is down and that notice will be provided through the media when the Main Library and the closed branches will reopen.

He said people who want to donate to help pay for the damage can mail checks to: The Library Foundation, 301 York St., Louisville, Ky. 40203, Attn: Flood. Or they can call, 574-1709 for information.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.

August 5th, 2009

Posted In: Flooding and waterdamage

 

 

 

Historic museum near Kavarna looted

Tue, Aug 04 2009 14:39 CETbyNick Iliev288 Views

 

The museum of history near the seaside town of Kavarna has been robbed, with thieves making their way out with a one-metre ancient Greek statue and a Turkish naval gun dating from the Ottoman empire, a press statement from Dobrich police has informed.

Museum director Darina Mircheva told Dnevnik daily that the cannon dated back to the reign of Mahmud I, and it was the only one of its kind in northeastern Bulgaria. It had been discovered in 1997 during an underwater research operation conducted in the area; it was about 50 kg in weight and had an Arabic inscription on the barrel.

Mircheva has said that she will “cover any financial resources necessary for the recovery of the artifacts”.

The gang who robbed the museum appeared well organised and briefed. There were two other cannons next to the Turkish one but no interest was shown in them. Mircheva hopes that the artifacts have not been smuggled out of the country.

Police are currently deployed at all routes leading in and out of the town, checking vehicles.

August 5th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

 Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 11:42

 A COLLECTION of rare spoons worth about £20,000 has been stolen from the museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

 Police said the silver spoons, which had been on display for seven years, were taken from a display cabinet on Friday between 9.30am and 4.15pm when the museum was packed with holidaymakers.

 A pane of glass was removed to get to the valuable cutlery, which was made in Barnstaple in the 17th century.

 PC Shaunaugh Cobb said: “This is a particular upsetting crime, particularly for the staff and volunteers at the museum, and this thief has taken a little piece of history away from the residents of Barnstaple.

 “I would urge anyone with information to contact the police to help us return the items so that everyone can enjoy them in their rightful place.”

 There is CCTV in the museum, but it is not known if anyone witnessed the theft.

 Alison Mills, the museum’s development manager, said: “These spoons were generously donated to the museum by a local man so that everyone could appreciate their beauty and the skills of Barnstaple craftsmen.

 “It’s really upsetting that we can no longer use them to help the many local schoolchildren who visit to learn how wealthy and important Barnstaple was in the 17th century – these are the only examples of Barnstaple silver in our collections.”

 A 40 year-old Barnstaple man was arrested in connection with the incident. He has been released on police bail to return to Barnstaple police station on September 1.

 The spoons are still missing.

 Police have asked any witnesses or anyone with any information to phone 08452 777444.

 http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/

August 4th, 2009

Posted In: Museum thefts

L’archeologia rubata

Perde di carattere “etico” l’azione di diplomazia culturale avviata da Rutelli

Nell’Italia tombarola che scambia lucciole poco pudiche per lanterne chissà quanto puniche anche il dibattito sul rientro delle opere d’arte nel Belpaese non potrebbe essere più deprimente.
Qualche giorno fa aveva fatto scalpore dalle nostre parti un articolo del 
Filippo Sensi

New York Times che lamentava l’italica noncuranza per il vaso di Eufronio, forse il simbolo della stagione dei “nostoi”, dei capolavori recuperati da musei stranieri (che li avevano comprati con una certa disinvoltura). Il quotidiano americano si sorprendeva della scarsa attenzione riservata al cratere, una volta rientrato in patria ed esposto al museo di Villa Giulia, tra cocci e coccetti. In realtà, non era quello il punto dell’articolo di Michael Kimmelman, che recensiva, invece, un libro sull’azione di diplomazia culturale messa in campo dall’Italia, in particolare dal governo Prodi, quando era ministro Francesco Rutelli: The Lost Chalice del giornalista americano Vernon Silver.
Ma tant’è. Il rimbalzo a casa nostra ha innescato piuttosto una polemica, frettolosamente chiusa da una nota di Mario Resca, il manager della McDonald’s che si dovrà occupare dei musei, che prometteva futuribili progetti di valorizzazione per il vaso. Che, intanto, sarà a Castel Sant’Angelo fino a inizio 2010 per una provvidenziale mostra sul quarantennale del mai troppo celebrato Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, un corpo d’élite che ci invidia il mondo intero (perfino i segugi dell’Fbi stanno cercando di mettersi al passo in questo campo, a quando una serie tv sul recupero delle opere d’arte sul modello dei vari Ncis o Csi?).
Se pare innegabile finora un allentamento di tensione nella politica di rimpatrio delle opere d’arte trafugate, avvilisce il fatto che non venga rivendicato il punto di fondo che aveva mosso il precedente governo; e cioè il carattere “etico” di una azione che aveva avuto il pregio peraltro di mettere a sistema le diverse competenze in materia sviluppate nel nostro paese (studiosi, magistrati, forze di polizia, istituzioni, civil servants). Le ricadute in termini di dibattito internazionale sui crimini legati all’arte, dal punto di vista giuridico e culturale, sono state enormi, anche se non pare che siano in molti a ricordarselo dalle nostre parti.
Ecco, ad esempio, che i rilievi del New York Times su Eufronio siano stati discussi molto all’estero, a riprova della correttezza dell’iniziativa presa dall’Italia negli anni scorsi. Il critico del Los Angeles Times – Christopher Knight, che all’epoca della contesa col Getty era stato assai poco tenero nei nostri confronti – oggi confessa che, anche quando era esposto al Metropolitan di New York, il vaso era ammirato da pochi appassionati.
E che, anzi, se anche a Villa Giulia non c’è la calca, ben venga, perché «l’arte non è per tutti, ma per ciascuno di noi». Troppo elitario? Sarà, ma anche l’esperto di Time, Richard Lacayo, non si è scandalizzato per il ritorno alla normalità del cratere dei record («Era merce rubata, doveva tornare, punto»).
A dire, insomma, che il punto etico di quella battaglia è ormai acquisito a livello internazionale, e costituisce un precedente che viene studiato ed evocato ogni qual volta si riparla di patrimonio e identità culturale.
Così dobbiamo aspettare la stampa estera – fatta eccezione per qualche “rara avis” – per sapere che la Corte d’Appello di Roma ha recentemente condannato a otto anni uno dei più celebri trafficanti di archeologia. O che ad Amelia si sia da poco chiuso un master interdisciplinare sui reati d’arte, organizzato da Arca (acronimo perAssociation for research into crimes against art), una associazione guidata da un giovane talentoso, Noah Charney, alla quale collaborano archeologi, criminologi, storici dell’arte, conservatori provenienti da tutto il mondo.
Possibile che a farci giustamente la lezione sull’importanza del “contesto” di un’opera d’arte debba essere sul suo blog il professor Derek Fincham, docente per il master Arca, prendendo a pretesto una statua bronzea di Germanico, collocata come si conviene al museo archeologico di Amelia? Non viene in mente a nessuno la correlazione coll’atleta di Fano, ancora al Getty? Ci si appassiona, sacrosanto, alle pretese greche sul Partenone, dimenticandosi però che i termini di quel dibattito sono stati fissati – anche, per carità – da quanto ha saputo fare negli anni scorsi l’Italia. Si lascia che le richieste avanzate da tempo a musei come il danese Ny Carlsberg o il giapponese Miho di Kyoto si illanguidiscano, ravvivate di volta in volta solo dagli esiti dei processi in corso su intere collezioni trafugate dal Belpaese per arricchire trafficanti e commercianti senza scrupoli. O che continuino ad essere battuti da case d’asta internazionali oggetti preziosi dalla incerta, anzi certissima, origine. A che punto sono, tanto per dire, i negoziati sulla eredità di Robin Symes? Quella, insomma, che era fino a ieri una frontiera su cui il precedente governo aveva attestato non un riflesso nazionalistico, ma al contrario una istanza etica contro gli scavi illeciti e la spregiudicata spoliazione del patrimonio culturale, non solo in Italia, oggi pare lasciata invigilata, deserta come una fortezza Bastiani (e sì che il prossimo anno tornerà la Venere di Morgantina). O come una spettrale necropoli. Fenicia, magari.

http://www.europaquotidiano.it/

August 4th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Bookkeeper embezzled $1M from Tucson museum

By Christian Palmer – 

 

Published: August 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

The Attorney General’s Office announced a 65-year-old Tucson woman faces up to 12-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to charges stemming from her theft of almost $1 million from a southern Arizona museum.

According to Attorney General Terry Goddard, Ruth Sons began working as a bookkeeper for the Tucson Museum of Art in 1990, but an internal audit of the institution completed last year found that Sons had embezzled $975,000 over the course of a five-year span ending in 2008.

Sons pleaded guilty to a single count of theft and fraud before a Pima County Superior Court judge on Aug.3. She was indicted in May on three counts of theft and fraud, as well as a single count of illegally conducting an enterprise.

Prosecutors and police contend Sons operated an “elaborate embezzlement scheme” that involved forging the signatures of museum’s management personnel and falsifying financial records to cover theft from the museum’s payroll, petty cash accounts and the museum shop.

christian.palmer@azcapitoltimes.com 

August 4th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

Stolen $15,000 violin spotted at flea market

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Categories: News

SOLON — Two sharp-eyed Plain Dealer readers tipped off police on Saturday and helped in the recovery of a treasured violin that was stolen one week earlier from a Michigan teen during an overnight stay here.

The readers called Solon police separately after spotting the specially crafted instrument at a flea market at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea. They told police they suspected the violin could be the stolen one described in Plain Dealer stories because it seemed out of place being sold, next to a snowblower and hand tools, from the back of a shirtless man’s van.

According to police reports, the man in the van was arrested in the theft. He told police he traded two drills and $35 for the violin. Police later found a video game and purse in the van that were stolen with the violin, plus other items reportedly stolen from hotel parking lots in Orange and Solon. 

Police had put the value of the instrument at $15,000.

“I’m really grateful to everyone,” said Olivia Schieber, 17, on Monday. She was given the violin last year as a birthday gift commissioned by her grandparents.

The Plain Dealer followed up its initial report about the theft with a story on Saturday saying a local man wanted to lend another violin to the girl.

Olivia’s mother, Anne, said on Monday, “The right people read the article, and the wrong people did not.”

Olivia and her mom were returning home to Grand Rapids, Mich., from a trip to visit colleges when the violin was stolen from the trunk of their car outside the SpringHill Suites on Aurora Road. Olivia said she thought the instrument would be safe in a box in the trunk of the car that was protected with an alarm. The teen said the temperature and humidity levels were better in the trunk than inside the building.

She said she is so careful of the instrument that she brought it on the trip partly because she worried about a break-in if she left it at home.

“I have to be more wary,” she said. “It’s a relief I don’t have to live with that guilt.”

Tom Feran/Plain Dealer Reporter August 03, 2009 21:25PM

August 4th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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By MIKE STARK (AP) – 

SALT LAKE CITY — Looters who plundered one of Utah’s newest troves of dinosaur bones got away with ribs, vertebrae and part of an ancient legbone they had to bust apart to remove. They also stole hidden scientific clues about the life of a young diplodocus dinosaur that roamed the area some 150 million years ago.

“It’s like pieces of a puzzle that are now gone,” said Scott Williams, collections and exhibits manager at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, the Rockford, Ill.-based institution that has been digging at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management-owned site.

The bones — and the thieves — from the site near Hanksville haven’t been seen since the theft last fall. And, odds are, they won’t. Stolen dinosaur bones and other fossils snatched illegally from federally owned land often disappear into living rooms, lucrative underground markets or expensive private collections.

But a new forensic technique — something akin to DNA fingerprinting — could give investigators a long-sought tool to track fossil thieves.

Researchers are testing methods designed to match chemical signatures of naturally occuring elements that seep into bones during fossilization with surrounding soil.

The process — which analyzes a group known as rare earth elements — could someday lead to a database of site “fingerprints” used to link bones to looted areas. More work is needed, but early signs are encouraging that the technique could be useful in nabbing those capitalizing on looted fossils, said Dennis Terry, a researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“I really hope we can make use of this to deter the ones out there really trying to make a profit from this,” said Terry, who is working on the project with fellow Temple researcher David Grandstaff.

Testing on the technique continues in Wyoming this summer. It has been honed since 2005 at Nebraska National Forest, another hotspot for fossil thieves. So far, results indicate the analysis could tie 85 percent to 98 percent of fossil samples back to their original sites. Terry is also speaking with officials at South Dakota’s Badlands National Park about starting a database of the park’s most poached sites.

“So often we catch people with fossils in their car or something like that but we can’t prove they were collected in the park,” said Rachel Benton, a paleontologist at Badlands, which has a long history of fossil poaching.

Fossil theft is a frustrating and all-too-common reality for paleontologists working on federal land who say the objects — aside from being government property — hold irreplaceable information in trying to piece together the story of ancient life.

“We’re not making T-rexes any more,” said Vincent Santucci, who heads the National Park Service’s paleontology programs.

That rarity also feeds high prices. There are legitimately collected fossils taken from private land with permission from the land owner. The complete skeleton of a 150-million-year-old dryosaurus found on private land in Wyoming was put up for auction earlier this year with a minimum price of $300,000.

Illicit artifacts can also fetch a high price, especially complete skulls and teeth.

“People are making a living off of selling resources that belong to the American public,” said Scott Foss, who oversees BLM’s paleontological operations in Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

In Utah, which is rife with dinosaur quarries and regularly the source of newly found species, the losses to scientific knowledge can be dramatic, said Jim Kirkland, the state paleontologist. He said he’s terrified that vandals will hit a significant site before scientists can meticulously go through it.

“I lose sleep over stuff like that,” said Kirkland, who, like other paleontologists, is cautiously optimistic about the new method.

The last survey in national parks found more than 700 instances of fossil theft or vandalism in 1995-98. Similar estimates aren’t available for national forests or the BLM.

For paleontologists, there’s a sense of inevitability that, once word trickles out about a rich fossil site, it’ll be hit by vandals or thieves.

“You can’t live there 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” said Brooks Britt, a paleontologist with Brigham Young University who has had several of his sites vandalized.

That’s part of the reason why agencies tend not to disclose all of the paleontological sites they know about.

Looters run the gamut from casual visitors who pocket a few chipped fossils to sophisticated operators using professional power tools to swipe items for a lucrative underground market.

Methods differ too. Some are brazen, like three men who yanked a bone out of a visitor center display at Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado-Utah border or those who tried to dig up 180-million-year-old dinosaur tracks at a BLM site in Wyoming. Several years ago, thieves at Badlands reported a false emergency in another part of the park so they could load up with fossils without fear of a patrolling ranger.

For law enforcement officers, fossil thefts pose a difficult problem. Many are responsible for patrolling millions of acres of public land where dinosaur quarries are remote and the odds of catching someone in the act are exceedingly rare.

At Badlands, rangers are relying more and more on remote cameras and sensors, said Mark Gorman, the chief law enforcement officer.

He and others are also hoping a new law signed by President Obama in March that toughened penalties for fossil thieves will have an effect.

Barbara Beasley, a paleontologist at the forest, said she’d welcome any help to fight poaching.

“Anytime anyone uncovers a fossil, they are very first human to every to see that and attached to that is a major responsibility making sure we do justice to the specimen,” she said.

http://www.google.com/

August 4th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Artist Illegally Hangs Work in Guggenheim

 

Remember when, in 2005, Banksy snuck in to museums and illegally hung his own work (video!)? Well, another artist has just done the same, catching up four years later—but at least he hit a different museum: the Guggenheim (Banksy got the Met, MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum, and American Museum of Natural History).

Over the weekend Mat Benote walked in during normal business hours and hung one of his own pieces on the famous walls, something the artist describes as “Fine Art Graffiti.” He stated: “I want to illustrate that graffiti can be a positive influence in a community when applied properly, and as an art form, has as much right to be displayed in a museum as any other form of art.”

We’ve contacted the Guggenheim to find out what happened to the work, and will update once we hear back. In the meantime, what say thee: vandalism or art?

August 3rd, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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August 3rd, 2009

Posted In: forgery

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August 3rd, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Hurdles in Eastern Europe Thwart Restitution Claims

 

PRAGUE — Seventy years have passed since members of the Thorsch family fled German-occupied Czech lands in 1939. They left behind a lucrative oil refinery business that was seized by the Nazis, nationalized after World War II and then taken over by the Communist government.

Marie Warburg — granddaughter of Alfons and Marie Thorsch, who owned the Privoz refinery and escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to Canada — laments that her family has received no compensation for its loss. She says the Thorsches are blocked by a law under which only Czech citizens can qualify for restitution of businesses or homes.

Twenty years after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, restitution experts say the countries of Eastern and Central Europe are still lagging in compensating for private property seized during the Holocaust. For example, Poland, home to the largest prewar Jewish population in Europe, has not enforced legislation on private property restitution, fearful that it would prompt tens of thousands of claims.

Efforts at restitution in other countries, like the Czech Republic, remain hampered by the reluctance of governments to relax requirements the way Germany has in an effort to remove daunting or unfair legal obstacles.

“Providing proof of citizenship is a problem for the heirs of Holocaust victims, whose families were expelled or fled from Czechoslovakia or ended up in a chimney at Auschwitz,” said Ms. Warburg, an American citizen who lives in Berlin and whose German-born father was a member of the Warburg banking dynasty.

Czech officials declined to comment on the specifics of Ms. Warburg’s case. Jiri Cistecky, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that in the last 20 years alone, the Czech Republic distributed roughly $185 million to Nazi victims, including money to care for elderly Holocaust survivors. Still, Mr. Cistecky acknowledged that Czech laws could complicate restitution efforts in some cases.

As part of an effort to improve the system, the Czech Republic held a conference in late June in Prague in which 46 countries backed the formation of an institute in a former Nazi camp, Terezin, aimed at tracking the return of Jewish property stolen by the Nazis. While the conference ended with a declaration calling for restitution, Holocaust education and improved provenance research, critics complained that it had no legal enforcement mechanism to prod recalcitrant nations to take action.

A number of Western European countries, led by Germany, carried out far-reaching measures to provide restitution of Nazi-looted properties in the aftermath of World War II, including setting up commissions to deal with heirless property and communal property illegally seized during the war. But similar efforts were stymied in Eastern Europe, where, by the end of the 1940s, the very basis of property ownership had been supplanted by socialist ideology and the nationalization efforts of Communist regimes.

Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, restitution experts say, establishing moral and legal certainties of claims has proved elusive in a region where not only citizens but also governments view themselves as victims of Nazism and Communism.

“They say, ‘Let the Germans or Austrians do it, they were the bad guys,’ ” said Stuart E. Eizenstat, who was deputy treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and has led the international restitution drive. “It is hard to create the political will for restitution to take place.”

Another major hurdle, many experts say, is a visceral fear among governments that citizens who had nothing to do with past crimes will be thrust out of homes or businesses or face financial liabilities for properties they acquired legally. Some countries are loath to part with artistic treasures said to have been looted by the Nazis that were long ago incorporated into national museums.

Michal Klepetar, the great-nephew of Richard Popper, a Czech who was killed in the Holocaust, said that a few years ago he learned that several pieces of his great-uncle’s old masters art collection were in the hands of the National Gallery in Prague. But according to the Holocaust Act of 2000, he does not qualify for restitution, because he is not a direct heir, even though Mr. Popper’s wife and daughter were also killed by the Nazis. His disqualification, Mr. Klepetar asserted, conflicts with Czech inheritance law, which allows nephews and nieces to claim property. The National Gallery declined to comment.

Ms. Warburg said her efforts were a matter of principle as well as a responsibility toward her mother’s family, the Thorsches, who have roots in the Czech Republic dating from the 16th century, when family lore suggests that they emigrated to Prague from Toledo, Spain, during the Inquisition.

In the 1880s, the Thorsch family provided financing for the establishment of Privoz, the refinery eventually bought out by her grandfather, Alfons Thorsch. The family had moved to Vienna from Prague in the 1870s, when Jews were being persecuted, and became prominent bankers.

By the 1930s, Privoz had 10 percent of the Czech energy market and owned 202 rail cars to export oil.

One month before Austria was incorporated into Nazi Germany in March 1938, Alfons Thorsch, his wife and one of their five daughters, Marie’s mother, fled from Vienna to Canada. Her uncle, a Czechoslovak who was living in Prague and had been director of Privoz, fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia one year later.

Within weeks of her family’s escape, Ms. Warburg said, the oil refinery in Moravia — a region east of Prague with important industries — was occupied by the Nazis, who fired all of its directors, some of whom ended up in concentration camps. The Nazis then invested tens of millions of dollars in refurbishing the plant to help fuel the German war effort.

When World War II ended, Ms. Warburg said, the refinery was nationalized under the Czechoslovak government of President Eduard Benes.

Ms. Warburg said the family’s efforts to gain restitution during the Communist era had proved fruitless because the state was ideologically opposed to private property. In the early 1990s, after the fall of Communism, the Czech Republic established restitution laws that required those seeking compensation for homes or businesses to be citizens of the Czech Republic, effectively pre-empting Ms. Warburg from making any legal claim.

Legal experts say she could file a case in a Czech court under the so-called Benes Decrees of 1945, which are still legally valid and stipulate that those whose property was nationalized by the state and were victims of National Socialism should receive compensation.

Yet experts say the Czech government has thus far proved ill disposed to enforce the decrees for fear of unleashing a torrent of claims from Sudeten Germans, millions of whom were driven from their homes in Czechoslovakia after the war.

http://www.nytimes.com/

August 2nd, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Par Delphine Saubaber, Tangi Salaün, publié le 01/08/2009 10:00 – mis à jour le 01/08/2009 18:46

Gardien d’une civilisation perdue et star médiatique, le tout-puissant patron du Conseil suprême des antiquités a la haute main sur les fouilles archéologiques. Il s’est juré de rendre l’égyptologie aux Egyptiens. Ses détracteurs l’accusent de manquer de rigueur scientifique. Portrait d’un homme redouté.

Le sujet, qui touche aux merveilles du monde, s’annonce sous les meilleurs auspices. Un portrait de Zahi Hawass? “Ce type est un fou furieux, mais je vous interdis de l’écrire.”; “Navré, je tiens à garder mon chantier.”; “No, too sensitive [trop sensible].” Rendez-vous déclinés. Sourires confus. A l’évidence, comme aux temps antiques, le pharaon d’Egypte se commente peu en public, nettement plus en privé. Zahi Hawass, 62 ans: le taulier des pyramides, de la Vallée des Rois, du Sphinx de Gizeh, d’Abou-Simbel, des trésors ensevelis d’Egypte. Et un ego à la mesure de l’ensemble.

Taillé pour la castagne, éternellement coiffé d’un Stetson à la Indiana Jones, cet enfant de fermiers né à Damiette, dans le delta du Nil, a le droit de vie et de mort sur les chantiers de fouille, une aura de movie star internationale, des talents de conteur, scribe d’une odyssée qu’il voudrait faire sienne. En 2006, le magazine Time l’a classé parmi les 100 personnalités les plus influentes du monde – le président Hosni Moubarak n’y figurait pas.

Avec Hawass à la tête du Conseil suprême des antiquités (CSA), jamais l’égyptologie ne s’est autant mise à la portée des non-initiés, en mondovision. En 2002, il avait tenu la planète en haleine, dans un show sur la chaîne américaine National Geographic, en introduisant un robot dans un couloir de la Grande Pyramide, à la recherche de la chambre funéraire de Kheops. Le mystère de la Pyramide, en direct. Il n’avait rien trouvé, qu’importe. On l’accuse parfois de trahir l’éternité et la science. Lui mène un combat politique, rêve sa vie et ambitionne de réveiller les morts.

Le 4 juin 2009, Zahi Hawass sert de guide personnel à Barack Obama, venu visiter la Grande Pyramide de Gizeh, l’une des sept merveilles du monde.

Il y a quelques semaines, en juin, quand Barack Obama est venu faire un tour aux pyramides, après son discours du Caire, l’interprète a demandé, pour rire, à un employé qui passait s’il savait qui était l’illustre visiteur. L’évidence a fusé: “C’est Doctor Zahi ! – Non, l’autre ! – Ben l’ami de Doctor Zahi!” Comme souvent, donc, la vérité est venue du souk. Il y a dix ans, personne ou presque, en Egypte, ne connaissait Doctor Zahi. Et encore moins l’histoire des anciens Egyptiens, associée au paganisme polythéiste, mal vu en pays musulman.

Aujourd’hui, si la chronologie des Thoutmosis et la métaphysique du Livre des morts échappent encore aux Egyptiens, tout le monde, dans le bazar, apostrophe le “Monsieur au chapeau”. “Me and my famous hat”, comme dit Hawass. Ce Stetson, acheté dans une boutique américaine il y a des années, c’est le genre d’accessoire qui érige un personnage. On se demande si c’est le chapeau qui a fait l’homme ou l’inverse. Aujourd’hui vendu dans toutes les expositions pharaoniques du monde, il foisonne à chaque page de sa biographie, en chantier perpétuel, et de son site Internet -qui affiche une case “Devenez fan”: “Vous avez déjà vu un seul savant au monde avec un fan-club?” s’étrangle un égyptologue renommé. Hawass s’en fout: “45 dollars mon chapeau avec ma signature et ma photo”, dit-il. Le bénéfice est reversé au musée des enfants de la Fondation Suzanne Moubarak – son soutien.

Il découvre et redécouvre énormément

Ce matin de juin, il a donné rendez-vous au pied du Sphinx. Pour la photo. A l’heure dite, sous un ciel de calcaire, il attend, bougon, en jeans, entre les pattes monumentales. Un flot de rides lui monte au front. Une énième demande de percement de la Grande Pyramide rejetée? Il en a 500 sur le bureau.

L’homme administre 4 millénaires et 30 000 employés au CSA. Il travaille sur le lancement de 19 musées, d’Assouan à Charm el-Cheikh, dont le futur grand musée du Caire. Il prépare une exposition sur les 5 000 pièces volées récupérées à l’étranger, livre bataille au musée de Berlin pour “son” buste de Néfertiti, flattant la fibre nationaliste: “Je peux prouver qu’il est sorti illégalement d’Egypte!” tonne-t-il, regard noir d’encre, tout en réservant une salve au directeur du musée de Saint Louis, aux Etats-Unis, “indigne” au motif qu’il lui refuse le masque de Ka-Nefer-Nefer. Et il réclame toujours à Londres et au Louvre ses frises du Parthénon à lui: la pierre de Rosette et le zodiaque de Dendérah.

C’est que depuis son arrivée, en 2002, à la tête du CSA, l’homme qui a fait de l’ombre à Obama et rebaptise Kheops en “Kufu”, à l’égyptienne, a dynamité l’ancien régime. Les écoles étrangères qui auparavant débarquaient en terrain conquis, servies par leur prestige, et fouillaient le sable à leur guise, doivent désormais demander des autorisations. Et pratiquer le baisemain.

Il est loin, le temps où le Boulonnais Auguste-Edouard Mariette créait, en 1858, l’ancêtre du CSA, dirigé par un Français jusqu’en 1952, et où l’Anglais Howard Carter crevait la nuit de Toutankhamon, en 1922. “Quand je préparais ma thèse et que je voulais prendre des photos au musée, je devais faire des cadeaux à tout le monde, alors qu’on donnait tout aux étrangers!” se souvient l’ex-doyenne de la fac d’archéologie, Ola El-Aguizy.

Hawass s’est juré de délivrer les Egyptiens de leur béatitude de figurants colonisés, de les rendre fiers d’une histoire que la religion maudit et l’école enseigne si peu. Et ça ne plaît pas à tout le monde. “Nous assistons simplement à la réappropriation de son patrimoine par l’Egypte, observe Guillemette Andreu, la conservatrice du département des antiquités égyptiennes au musée du Louvre. Mariette et Maspero ont légiféré sur le territoire égyptien. Et c’est sûr que, dans les années 1970, on avait les clefs des tombes… Mais Hawass a remis de l’ordre sur les chantiers, il exige des publications systématiques, et en arabe, là où nous avons pris du retard ; nous devons lui proposer des coopérations…”

Et désormais, donc, le CSA _ ou le ministère de la Culture _ sont les seuls habilités à annoncer les trouvailles. “Dès que le moindre coléoptère momifié est retrouvé, Hawass prend la parole devant des charters de journalistes. Et si je faisais une annonce moi, je courrais le risque de perdre mon chantier”, soupire un égyptologue. Qui avoue avoir cacheté certains projets de fouille chez le notaire, plutôt que de les voir récupérés – y compris par des collègues ou par les dollars des Américains.

Du coup, Hawass découvre énormément. Il redécouvre, aussi. Notamment après les attentats. Quand le tourisme, première rente du pays, pique du nez, la politique sort son joker de l’Egypte éternelle.

Quatre-vingt-cinq ans après la découverte du tombeau de Toutankhamon, Zahi Hawass et son équipe extirpent la si fragile momie de son sarcophage pour l’exposer au public dans un cercueil à température constante en Plexiglas, dans la Vallée des Rois.

Exemple, en 1997 – Hawass n’est pas encore au sommet. A Louxor, un attentat cause 62 morts. En quelques jours, le pays se vide. Au Caire, l’égyptologue Alain Zivie, qui a découvert, un an avant, la très belle tombe de Maïa, la nourrice de Toutankhamon, reçoit un appel: “On va faire l’annonce…” Conférence de presse sous tutelle diplomatique. Echo mondial. Branle-bas de combat dans la tombe, où la sécurité débarque, en pleine nuit, flingue au poing, en prévision d’une visite de Moubarak… C’est dire les enjeux. Sur la personne d’Hawass, se dessine, ou se consume, l’avenir d’une civilisation perdue et des chiffres du tourisme _ fixés à 15 millions en 2012. Toute la question est de savoir si ça va ensemble.

On l’écoute rouler les “r” en des trémolos caverneux

 Ce matin, donc, le pharaon s’avance sous le soleil. Se déride, charmeur, dans sa Jeep, direction son bureau du Caire, orné des photos dédicacées de Céline Dion et de la reine d’Espagne. Et là, il s’abandonne à son auditoire. Comme dans ses conférences, de Dallas à Rome en passant par San Francisco, où l’on voit affluer 10000 personnes, pour 5000 places assises. On l’écoute, saisi de frisson et de mystère, rouler les r en des trémolos caverneux sur “Secrrrrets of the pharrraohs”. On le suit un pied dans la tombe. “A Atlanta, en début d’année, des gamines m’ont demandé, à la fin, de les serrer dans mes bras. J’en ai pleuré”, confie-t-il. La salle était debout. 10 000 à 15 000 dollars la prestation. “Je crois que je suis le conférencier le plus cher du monde [sic]”, commente-t-il.

Il peut étaler ses cartes de crédit au bar du Mena House, un hôtel mythique du Caire, devant un parterre de copains, et partager la purée de fèves populaire dans un tripot miteux d’Assouan. Il peut menacer un collègue de destruction et se radoucir dans la minute. Mais il hait la critique: “Au CSA, on voit des gens défiler dans son bureau comme des agneaux en partance pour l’Aïd, observe un proche. Il est craint, il peut hurler. Il n’a peur de rien et il aime la bagarre.”

Polémique

Le journal Al-Dostour a publié une proposition de contrat de la chaîne américaine National Geographic à Zahi Hawass, en 2004, pour un projet d’étude de momies royales. L’article 5 stipulait: “Le CSA reconnaît qu’il peut y avoir des risques à étudier les momies avec cet équipement [ndlr : le scan], et décharge par la présente National Geographic et ses employés de toute responsabilité dans d’éventuels dégâts occasionnés aux momies par l’usage de cet équipement.” Interrogé par le journal, Hawass dit avoir modifié ce contrat. La même année, le Dr Saleh Badeir, ex-chef de l’équipe scientifique chargée du projet, a démissionné “pour des raisons morales”, a-t-il confié à un ami.

C’est chez les Américains, du temps de sa thèse à Philadelphie, dans les années 1960, qu’il a appris à conquérir le monde et rafler l’or de la notoriété. C’est là qu’il envoie les jeunes, autour de lui, se former. “Il est pragmatique, comme eux, et ils le caressent dans le sens du poil, quand les mandarins de la vieille Europe vont lui parler de son manque de rigueur…, soupire un ami. Vous, les Français, vous n’avez pas la manière. Et il faut toujours ménager un tel, un tel… C’est aussi un fossé culturel.”

D’où sa réputation d'”homme des Américains”, qui livre ses “scoops”, au prix fort et en échange d’un Scan ou d’un laboratoire ADN, aux chaînes National Geographic et Discovery Channel. “Les Américains en ont fait une telle star qu’en Europe on n’a toujours pas les moyens de suivre, soupire un conservateur de musée. Hawass prête très cher les objets, au point qu’on renonce à les lui demander, il réclame des notes de frais effrayantes…” A l’issue du Congrès d’égyptologie de Grenoble, en 2004, la grand-messe annuelle, il aurait ainsi laissé une ardoise de 95 000 euros à l’association organisatrice, citée dans le Dauphiné Libéré, et correspondant à l’accueil de 54 congressistes égyptiens.

Et puis il sait se bâtir des relations, comme en témoigne la journaliste Hala Fares, à Al-Ahram Hebdo: “A chaque expo internationale, il choisit quelques journalistes égyptiens pour aller la couvrir et fait signer aux organisateurs un contrat certifiant qu’ils seront payés: il se construit un réseau.” 250 euros la journée, pendant cinq jours, pour aller voir, en France, une expo au Grand Palais, c’est l’assurance de jolis titres…

Justement: Hawass vient d’annoncer la découverte de la 123e pyramide d’Egypte; il fera bientôt, grâce aux tests ADN, “des annonces majeures” sur Toutankhamon, dont on ignore s’il est le fils de l’hérétique Akhenaton ou d’Aménophis III. “J’attends qu’un deuxième laboratoire ADN confirme les résultats d’un premier”, dit-il. Il creuse la Vallée des Rois en espérant y trouver une 64e tombe inviolée – une découverte qui serait, enfin, l’oeuvre des Egyptiens, et non des étrangers.

Car elle tiraille toujours, la blessure originelle… Ola El-Aguizy s’en félicite: “Hawass a beaucoup fait pour rehausser le prestige du métier d’archéologue, ici.” Lequel, il faut bien le dire, n’a jamais attiré les meilleurs, qui préfèrent toujours, après le bac, les filières du commerce ou de la médecine. “Il a aussi instauré un salaire fixe (1 500 livres par mois) pour les inspecteurs égyptiens des sites, avant rémunérés de façon informelle, désormais payés dans la transparence par nous, les missions étrangères, explique Laure Pantalacci, la directrice de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale (Ifao). Zahi vise une vraie professionnalisation des membres du CSA. Nous y aidons en les prenant en formation sur plusieurs de nos chantiers.”

Reste la grande cohorte des inspecteurs contractuels, qui manifestaient le 15 juin au Caire: “En dix ans, mon salaire est passé de 7 à 8 livres par jour”, tempête Amal Sadeq. Ce qui lui fait 160 livres, soit 20 euros par mois. “Les titulaires, eux, ont droit à un bonus de 200% (les 1500 livres) en plus de leur salaire de 700 livres par mois, payés par le CSA”, renchérit un collègue. “ça crée forcément de la jalousie…” Hawass réplique: “C’est le gouvernement qui décide des salaires et peut titulariser, pas moi!”

Il brandit son Emmy Award, l’oscar de la télé américaine

Alors si seulement il pouvait trouver Ramsès VIII ou la perle… “Nous pensons que l’une des deux momies retrouvées dans la KV61 pourrait être celle de Nefertiti”, lâche-t-il. Diable ! Le gamin du Nil se revoit, jeune archéologue, gonflé de rêves, grimper la rocaille brûlante de la Vallée des Rois. Et écouter le vieux cheikh Ali, descendant de la famille Abdel Rassoul qui avait découvert la cachette des momies royales en 1871, lui raconter le tunnel caché dans la fabuleuse tombe de Séti Ier. Ce goulet de 155 mètres que Hawass creuse depuis un an… “Je pense qu’il y a, au bout, une chambre secrète”, dit-il, les yeux brillants de promesse.

Rappel, à l’ancienne, du Pr Gaballa Ali Gaballa, le prédécesseur de Hawass au Conseil suprême: “En archéologie, on ne parle pas de ce qu’on va découvrir mais de ce qu’on a découvert.” Mais chez Hawass le coeur exulte et les “secrets” sont l’opium du peuple. Son robot aussi devait explorer, en 2002, les “portes secrètes” de la Grande pyramide.

Interrogé sur l’opération, l’Allemand Rainer Stadelmann, l’un des meilleurs spécialistes des pyramides, dit simplement: “Je n’ai jamais pensé qu’on trouverait quelque chose derrière ces “portes” _ en fait des blocs de revêtement. Dans les pyramides de l’Ancien Empire, il y a toujours eu un système de trois chambres, dont l’une est la chambre funéraire. C’est ce que l’on retrouve dans Kheops, où il n’y a donc pas de chambre cachée. A fortiori derrière un conduit de 20 cm par 20 cm, débouchant sur l’extérieur, qui était a priori fait pour permettre à l’âme du roi de s’élever, de rejoindre les étoiles”. 

Avant de la passer au scan, Zahi Hawass inspecte la momie de Toutankhamon, dont le visage a été reconstitué par trois équipes, égyptienne, française, américaine.

Mais quand l’Egypte se lève la nuit pour contempler la progression du robot – car National Geographic assure la diffusion à l’heure du jour aux Etats-Unis – Hawass fait son devoir. “C’est pour le pays, répète-t-il. Je lui ai rapporté 1,5 milliard de livres (200 millions d’euros) avec mes expos à l’étranger. J’ai ramené de l’argent aux Antiquités comme personne.”

Hourig Sourouzian, une figure de l’égyptologie au Caire, spécialisée dans la statuaire (l’an prochain, elle remontera un colosse voisin de Memnon de 17 m de haut), appuie: “Zahi est un vrai moteur. Il a créé une dynamique. Par exemple, avec l’argent de ses interventions à l’étranger, il a sondé le Nil, ce qui n’avait jamais été fait. Par le passé, on a connu un chef du CSA qui a entièrement rendu le budget au ministre sans l’avoir dépensé.” Gihane Zaki, directrice à l’international au CSA, résume: “Le poste de Zahi est avant tout politique. Il a nationalisé l’égyptologie, un peu, toutes proportions gardées, comme l’a fait Nasser pour le canal de Suez. Nous lui devons cela”.

La vérité est l’horizon des scientifiques et des philosophes. La folie empressée du siècle et des médias charrie d’autres appétits. Et Hawass aime bien faire semblant de découvrir une momie en direct. En 2002, il n’avait pas hésité à faire sauter sous les caméras le couvercle d’un sarcophage avec une barre à mine – “ça m’a rendu fou! suffoque un égyptologue. Comme quand il prend une momie sans gants…” Il n’empêche : Hawass brandit fièrement son Emmy Award, l’oscar de la télé américaine, décroché après un documentaire. “Il pourrait briguer le ministère du Tourisme, en fait”, résume Ahmed Saleh, ancien directeur de la momification à Louxor.

Alors ils peuvent bien douter, à voix basse, les égyptologues, de l’authenticité du tombeau de Cléopâtre, “découvert” récemment. “Tout le monde sait qu’il est à Alexandrie!”, s’emporte  l’un d’eux. Ou bien de la fascinante reine-pharaon Hatshepsout de la XVIIIe dynastie, que Hawass a authentifiée en 2007 – encore sur Discovery Channel, qui a payé le matériel. Un fragment de dent découvert dans la boîte à viscères – le vase canope – de la reine avait été relié à une molaire brisée de la momie. Ahmed Saleh assène: “Ce n’est pas elle.” Il est l’un des rares au CSA à parler dans le micro. Pour avoir osé critiquer le transfert de la fragile momie de Toutankhamon de Louxor au Caire, pour le Scan, il avait subi quelques rétentions de salaire…

Auteur d’un ouvrage sur Les Reines du Nil au Nouvel Empire, à paraître en septembre (ed. Molière), l’égyptologue français Christian Leblanc, directeur de recherche au CNRS, qui travaille depuis 36 ans à Louxor, livre, lui, un autre éclairage: “Il aurait certainement été utile de mener un complément d’enquête. On aurait pu prendre en considération le fait que le coffret à canope avait été réutilisé pour une princesse de la XXIe dynastie, dont la momie est au musée du Caire. Et dont on aurait pu, aussi, radiographier la dentition…” Mais pour Christian Leblanc, Hawass a le mérite d’avoir “modernisé le CSA qui était un capharnaüm et rendu une dignité à l’égyptologie égyptienne”.

Un Egyptien à l’Unesco ?

Zahi Hawass suit avec intérêt la campagne de son supérieur Farouk Hosni, candidat à la direction de l’Unesco, à Paris. Hosni Moubarak a fait du choix de son ministre de la Culture depuis vingt-deux ans une question de prestige national pour l’Egypte. Au point, dit-on, d’avoir lié son investissement dans l’Union pour la Méditerranée, chère à Nicolas Sarkozy, au soutien de la France au sort de Farouk Hosni. Une gêne pour Paris, depuis que Hosni, dans les couloirs du Parlement, a promis de “brûler lui-même les livres israéliens” s’il en trouvait dans la bibliothèque d’Alexandrie… Déjà vilipendé par nombre d’intellectuels égyptiens, qui lui reprochent d’avoir renforcé la censure culturelle, et par les islamistes, car il a qualifié de “rétrograde” le port du voile, Farouk Hosni n’en reste pas moins l’un des favoris pour l’Unesco. Au Caire, on murmure que Hawass pourrait lui succéder, même si ce dernier semble rêver davantage d’un vrai ministère des Antiquités.

Tangi Salaün

Tous les Français ne sont pas de cet avis. Le camp tricolore s’était déchiré lors du congrès d’égyptologie de 2004, à Grenoble. Des Français avaient osé défier le pharaon, en empiétant sur son domaine: Kheops. Deux passionnés, Gilles Dormion et Jean-Yves Verd’hurt, ont relevé, dans les pyramides de l’Ancien Empire, dont Kheops, des “anomalies architecturales”, disent-ils, qu’ils ont fait confirmer au radar et à la microgravimétrie. Ces mesures démontrent l’existence d’une cavité qui, selon eux, mènerait à une chambre funéraire inviolée.

Leur soutien: Nicolas Grimal, titulaire de la chaire d’égyptologie au Collège de France et ancien directeur de l’Ifao. La bête noire de Hawass, qui estime avoir été évincé par Grimal d’un chantier, dans sa jeunesse _ ce dernier n’a pas souhaité répondre à L’Express. La demande de percement, de 16 millimètres de diamètre, est encore rejetée: “Conneries!” rugit Hawass, qui n’a pas supporté le battage médiatique avant son arrivée. Il écrase son poing sur la table: “On ne me fait pas ça! Vous imaginez si j’allais faire un trou dans Notre-Dame?”

L’affaire devient politique. “Kheops, c’est un terrain sur lequel Zahi ne permettrait aucune découverte qui ne soit pas de son fait”, souffle un journaliste. Et un Français dit lui-même: “En égyptologie, les dossiers sont souvent pourris par l’arrogance française… L’égyptologie, aujourd’hui, n’est plus “une passion française”, comme on avait coutume de le dire: il y a l’Egypte et des partenaires. Et un jour, si la logique à la Hawass continue, il n’y aura peut-être plus que des missions égyptiennes avec des experts étrangers…”

En décembre 2007, le Centre franco-égyptien de Karnak, dont les héritiers de Mariette en réalité étaient les seuls maîtres à bord depuis 1967, célèbre son 40e anniversaire. Ce jour-là, Hawass a décidé de jouer son meilleur rôle, le méchant: en tournage télé, il fait poireauter deux heures les sommités françaises, dont l’ambassadeur et le Pfr Grimal. La tension est à son comble. Finalement, un nouveau protocole pour Karnak est signé. C’est l’armistice. Le lion ronronne: “On dit que je suis contre les Français, c’est faux.”

“Je ne vois personne pour me remplacer”

Et à l’Ifao, au Caire, durement secouée par la crise, Laure Pantalacci gère le retour au calme: “Hawass a un rôle de manager de l’égyptologie en Egypte et il fait ça très bien. Il y a peu de convergences entre ce sur quoi il travaille et nos recherches, qui se déroulent dans le désert, loin des sites des pyramides qui l’intéressent. Il y a beaucoup d’autres choses à étudier en Egypte que les détails de la construction des pyramides! Aujourd’hui, nous tentons surtout de comprendre plus précisément comment vivaient les Egyptiens anciens, à travers, par exemple, la découverte de leur système d’irrigation dans le désert dont on n’avait aucune idée il y a vingt ans, ou grâce aux ressources de l’archéométrie…” Ne pas chevaucher les intérêts du pharaon, donc.

Ce soir de juin, Zahi Hawass est en lévitation. Au Mohamed Ali Palace, sous les ors du plafond et les caméras, il entame un tango avec des danseuses thaïes. L’ambassadeur de Thaïlande vient de remettre au “top expert en égyptologie” le titre de docteur en philosophie. L’assistance s’enroule autour de Doctor Zahi, qui devrait quitter son poste en 2010, contraint par l’âge. On lui prête des ambitions secrètes de ministre. Et au CSA, qui? “Je ne vois personne pour me remplacer, sourit-il, comme un gosse qui vient d’arracher les ailes d’une mouche. Il y a beaucoup de gens bien autour, mais je n’en vois aucun qui ait ma personnalité, ma vision, ma passion.”

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August 2nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

African artists poor unlike their cousins
 
The failure of African artists to cash in on the current international windfall cannot be blamed on machinations by ‘blood sucking western capitalists’ but on Africans’ own failure to cotton on to a good thing – even when it stares us in the face, writes  Osei G. Kofi.

Among the many godchildren of Globalization is the art business. It has grown from several hundred million dollars a year into a multi-billion dollar industry in a little over a decade. Bad news is that Africa is missing out on this bonanza.
 
Today art, especially contemporary art, brings together a vast, growing community of savvy artists, dealers, curators, galleries, museums, auction houses, publishers, film makers and internet designers in an exciting new marketplace where everyone seems to gain enormously. Unfortunately Africa and Africans are sadly locked out of this burgeoning business.
And this time it is not due to any machination by “blood sucking western capitalists” of the post-colonial order but by Africans’ own failure to cotton on to a good thing — even when it stares us in the face.
 
The just-ended Art Basel, the world’s biggest art fair, held every June in the Swiss industrial city of Basel, is a case in point. For five action-packed days last month the three hanger-size exhibition halls at Messeplatz on the banks of the sleepy Rhine, throbbed with feverish activity as the who-and-who of global art cut deals over an array of eye popping, heart thumping goodies.
 

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A piece by Yinka Shonibare. PHOTO BY OSEI KOFI

There were fine samples from the usual suspects — Klimt, Picasso, Modigliani, Giacometti, Warhol, Kandinsky, Dali, Picabia, Pollock, Jasper Johns, Chagall, Calder, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Bacon and many more.
 
There were fresh offerings from the latter-day gang – Jeff Koons, Hockney, Niki Saint Phalle, Lucian Freud, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge and the tragic Haitian prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose just after hitting the big time. There were mirthful splashes from post-Mao Chinese warriors, including the irrepressible Yue Minjun. There were modern-day Samurais, such as Takashi Murakami.

Art Basel 2009 hosted 300 tightly vetted art galleries showcasing some 2,500 artists. It drew 61,000 visitors and attracted 50 state museum groups on the hunt for additions to their collections. It was covered by 280 media representatives from Rio de Janeiro to Wellington; from Reykjavik to Johannesburg.
 
Showbiz personalities, fashion icons or moneyed folks who came to the annual feast in the plush carpeted booths included Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, Pharrell Williams, Roman Abramovich, Larry Gagosian, Christian Boros and super collector, Eli Broad of California — the man who moves the global art market like no one does. The last three personalities, for instance, plus London’s Charles Saatchi and Hong Kong’s David Tang are the Warren Buffetts of the art world.
 
Towering over the throngs of rich and perfumed glitterati in his signature faded slacks and polo shirt was Michel Pigozzi, the Swiss entrepreneur who, with curator Andre Magnin, are the forecourt of the enterprise to bring African contemporary art to western palates via their Africa Remix project. Pigozzi owns one of the largest collections of African contemporary art and has loaned several pieces to the UNAIDS to enliven the corridors of the Geneva headquarters.

Despite the global credit crunch, business was brisk in Basel.  Martin Kippenberger’s I Am Too Political sold for $1.4 million (Sh106 million). Two of Paul McCarthy’s stainless steel sculptures, Piggies, sold for $1.5 million (Sh117 million) each. The bargains included Kirchner’s Two Reclining Female Nudes which bagged a buyer at $200,000 (Sh15.2 million).

Mickalene Thomas’s canvas, Kerry On, a gravity-defying bosomy woman in a yellow blouse, went for $65,000 (Sh4.9 million).
The Chinese, Japanese and Latinos are all said to have done well. The thing with art fairs is that many moneyed buyers insist on anonymity and only a fraction of the sales are released to the press by the galleries.

Now, where is Africa in all this? Nowhere. So much of western contemporary art, as showcased in Art Basel, Venice Biennale, Berlin Forum, Frieze London and New York  or on the walls of many an American or European gallery today bear the DNA of African classicism. That Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Calder and the other cubists, surrealists or post modernists owe a huge debt to Mother Africa is now a cliché.

At the risk of sounding a tad chauvinist, I dare say African artists beavering away in their modest studios or lean-to shanty homes in Kampala, Ile Ife, Kinshasa, Nairobi, Maputo, Dakar or Khartoum are the most innovative, accessible, refreshing and prodigious among their generation worldwide. And yet hardly any African artist was found in an important market such as Art Basel. Artists like Uganda’s Jak Katarikawe, dubbed “Africa’s Chagall”, South African Charles Sekano, Rwandan Sekajugo or Kenyans Kivuthu Mbuno, Sebastian Kiare and Tabitha Mburu all eke out a living on the margins of poverty after decades of dedication to their craft. Why?
 
Putting money on the wall?
The reasons are quite banal. Africa has been slow, too slow, in professionalising art. Our colleges offer art degrees but how many of the graduates can make a living as professional curators, gallerists, dealers or even understand the concept of an auction house? The entire East and Central African region has two commercial galleries of international standards, the venerable Gallery Watatu and its comely upstart, Ramoma, both in Nairobi.
 
A crucial factor is that Africans, rich Africans, refuse to buy art. The concept of “putting money on the wall” is alien to them. A while ago a major US business magazine did a cover spread on one of the newly minted billionaires of the Black Economic Empowerment class of post Apartheid South Africa. The paintings on the walls of the sumptuously appointed homes were distinctly run of the mill. There were no Jak Katarikawes, Marlene Dumas, William Kentridges, E. Saidi Tingatingas, Lilangas, Malangatanas, or Cheri Sambas. And yet these are some of the African artists slated to join the Rothkos, Modiglianis and Picassos of posterity.

Anyone who thinks that only frivolous people fork out thousands of dollars to acquire an art piece to adorn the home or litter the garden should think again. More than at any time since our ancestors drew fanciful images on cave walls and the Medicis were patrons of Florentine or greater European artistic creations, art, today, is gilt-edged investment, in fact the ultimate redoubt of a global financial system gone haywire.

Gallery Watatu’s hard times
Take for instance the Lauders, of the American cosmetics industry fame. Three years ago scion of the family plunked down $135 million (Sh10.3 billion)for Gustaf Klimt’s  1907 portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer at auction at Christie’s, New York. That painting today has a market value of at least $150 million (Sh11.4 billion). Seriously.

Just imagine if the Lauders had put the cash into Bernard L Madoff Investment (In)Securities, Lehman Brothers, or in AIG.
 Take the case of Adama Diawara, owner of Gallery Watatu. The self-taught wily art supremo from Cote d’Ivoire is a veteran among the handful promoters of art in Africa. His Nairobi gallery, the oldest private gallery in sub-Sahara Africa, with impeccable pedigree, has fallen on hard times, largely due to the drop in the art buying expatriates visiting Kenya, failure of local patrons to make up the gap and, above all, the crippling rent charged by Lonrho House, downtown Nairobi.
 
However, Diawara is the proud owner of the largest single collection of the works of Tanzanians Lilanga and E. Saidi Tingatinga, the latter being the only African to have found an international art movement that now bears his name. If Diawara’s gallery was located in London, New York or Tokyo, banks and financial houses would not only pay him a monthly fee to hire some of his paintings to display in their premise.

They would also accept his Tingatingas and Lilangas as collateral for loans that would allow Diawara to construct his own gallery and buy advertising space in the Daily Nation and specialised art magazines abroad – all being the window to international art sales.

August 2nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

In the second and final part of his essay on African art and the international scene, art consultant and gallerist Osei G.Kofi says all is not lost as the continent has its fair share of Picassos and Rembrandts

Despite its negligible presence in I the multi-billion dollar global 1 art market, all is not lost for Africa. On the contrary, the continent is making steady progress breaking out of what Ghanaian artist El Anatsui describes as the “invisibility syndrome.”

Predictably, the inroads began not in contemporary art but in the classical or antiques; what was earlier referred in the trade as “primitive art” and lately given the lesser offensive tag of “primary art,” namely, the artifacts in wood, bronze or terra cotta that for centuries had been seen as the sole vestiges of Africa’s artistic expression.

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Some of the art pieces at an art exhibition in Kampala. FILE PHOTO.

The 1990s date the actual breakthrough into the world art market. In 1990 a 32-inch wooden sculpture depicting the earth cult priestess Queen Bangwa of Cameroon was offered for auction by the Harry A Franklin family of California. It fetched $3.5 million (Sh273 million) at Sotheby’s, New York. Modest by world market sales for unique antiques, it was nonetheless the highest ever paid for an African plastic art, breaking the record of $2.08 million (Shl62million) set the previous year for a Benin bronze.

After the Queen Bangwa and Benin bronze it took more than a decade for another sensational sale to come by. In 2005 a 19th-century writing slate from northern Angola fetched $1.1 million (Shll7 million) in Paris. The following year was an African gold rush. Drouot of Paris auctioned several stunning pieces from the Verite Family, including a Fang-Gabon mask that sold for $5.8 million (Sh620 million), and a Chokwe-Angola wooden statue of a hunter for $3.8 million (Sh406 million). Sotheby’s Paris also sold a Luba-Congo headrest for (Shl39million) $1.3 million.

Not a cent from these fabulous sales enriched any African. The pieces were from the hundreds of thousands of treasures looted by the colonial authorities or bought for a song by adventurers and missionaries and crated out of the continent. The North American and European families who,.sold these specimens are enjoying the fruits of their parents’ and grandparents’ “investments” – or is it the rape of a continent?

If the great auction houses — Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Drouot, Phillips de Pury, Artcurial, Bonhams — are drivers of the surge in art as investment, the contemporary fairs are congresses where captains of the industry gather to do business, by invitation-only. The European Fine Art Fair or “Tefaf” held in the southern Netherlands city of Maastricht every March is the world’s richest, and understandably, it’s the most exclusive among the dozen-plus “majors,” in a highly competitive annual calendar. Tefaf is where you go if you want to find a Rembrandt, a Canaletto or a Tang Dynasty porcelain to acquire or .invest in.

The Dutch showcase is followed by America’s biggest, the Armory Show, New York, also held in March. Then there is Beijing’s CIGE, in April, followed by Art Basel, the world’s biggest, in early June, and by the Venice Biennale, also in June every second year. Summit India is in August, Shanghai Contemporary is in September, followed by a trio of fairs under the Berlin Forum during September-October. Frieze London, FIAC Paris and Art Singapore are in October, Pan Amsterdam is in November, and lastly, Art Basel-Miami, in December.

Next year the Johannesburg Art Fair marks its third anniversary, a pivotal time, for it will show whether all the hard work by founder Ross Douglas has finally paid off and that the event not only has legs but can also join the majors. The newest kid on the block, Gulf Art Fair-Dubai, like everything the Al-Makhtoum royal family set out to do, is fated to be a hit.

It’s a costly business, creating a world class art fair. Fortunately, a number of banks and financial houses vie to provide sponsorship – in exchange of all sorts of benefits that accrue to them. In China the government and state corporations provided substantial start-up support to the four main fairs.

When will the banks and media houses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda cotton on to the exciting new world of the global art market, and the fact that corporate art collection or sponsorship for fairs and galleries can be good business? They are late getting on board. If they don’t know how to proceed, there is ample expertise around they can hire.

Leading Africa’s entrance in the world market where a piece of art is not only the creator’s pride and joy but also a potential store of traded value — a financial investment — is a group of talented artists and their savvy agents.

African Renaissance

This Renaissance pack includes Ghanaian El Anatsui, Nigerian-British Yinka Shonibare, South Africans Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge, Gerard Sekoto, Gregoire Boonzaier, Maggie Laubser and Irma Stern, Mozambican Ngwenya Malangatana, Tanzanians Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga and Lilanga Nyama, Ugandan Jak Katarikawe, Congolese Cheri Samba, Bodo Pambu, Monsenguro Moke, Kenyans Wangechi Mutu, Magdalene Odundo, Kivuthi Mbuno… among others.

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A curator does his thing in Kampala. FILE PHOTO.

Nyarko “El Anatsui” is the most successful of Africa’s living artists. He is also the most culturally resonant, visually sumptuous and eco-friendly among his contemporaries, having connected brilliantly with the Zeitgeist of carbon footprints, environmental protection, etc.
Years of quiet toil as a professor of art in a Nigerian university paid off when a few years back The Smithsonian, Washington, acquired a stunning spread of one of his intricately wrought tapestries which are based on the Asante Kente cloth, and recycled from bottle tops, scraps of aluminum from discarded cans, all held together by copper wire.

El Anatsui now works by commission only as every national museum and every reputed gallery on the planet outside Africa pounds on the door of his Dutch agent, wanting to place an order. The price per large size tapestry is between couple hundred thousand to a million dollars – in the re-sale prices, that is. I know of no African national museum or gallery that has acquired or placed an order for an El Anatsui. Shame.

The world’s highest selling living female artist is Marlene Dumas, a South African resident in Amsterdam. A graduate of Cape Town University, Dumas jolted the art world in 2004 when her portrait Jule, de Vrou, of a bright-eyed Afrikaner girl, fetched $1.2 million (Sh93.6 million) at Christie’s.

The following year The Teacher romped in at $1.8 million (SM40 million), again at Christie’s. How many South Africans bought a Dumas in the 1980s when she was a struggling artist selling for $200 (Shl5.6 million) or so per canvas?

Dumas is closely followed in the top league by compatriot William Kentridge, described as a “virtuoso artist.” His publicists describe his work as offering “a depth of engagement, a wealth of interpretability and unmistakable aesthetic integrity… a fusion of experience, fiction and imagination.” Hmnnn.

Ensconced in his large property not far from Nelson Mandela’s residence in Houghton, Johannesburg, the prolific Kentridge churns out work in mixed media, sculpture, printmaking, ink drawings, animation and short movies that are largely cerebral but mirthful and accessible. Kentridge enjoys distinction among art dealers and serious connoisseurs. He has exhibited widely, mainly in Europe and North America and is featured in several publications.

London-based Nigerian Yinka Shonibari has been widely successful too lately, if not as much in the bank account stakes as El Anatsui, Marlene Dumas or William Kentridge, then in sheer exposure. His installations of headless mannequins dressed in “Dutch wax” cloths of colourful African motifs and harking on colonial themes, the Rococo era, European royal courts, etc, have brought another gust of fresh air into contemporary art. Shonibare is in the more cerebral wing and is feted and bought as much for his lavish productions, including photography and film, as for the intellectualisms he expounds. His Prospero’s Monsters at the James Cohan Gallery, London, in May last year was a feast of the senses.

Let’s pay homage to Mozambican MalangatanaNgwenya, a doyen among the continent’s talents who smashed the glass ceiling in price paid for a contemporary African artist on the international market. Anyone who bought one of Malangatana’s Makonde inspired Garden of Eden or Catacombs of Hell renditions in the seventies must have a big smile pasted on their face. This writer was introduced to Malangatana in the late 1970s but didn’t buy him, simply because I was an impoverished student then. And today I can’t afford him either – not with the sort of money that would cover four years of college education.

For nearly four decades Kenyans have had a gem hidden among them but only the most savvy have actually invested in his work: Ugandan-born Jak Katarikawe, dubbed “Africa’s Chagall.”
The self-taught, illiterate “Professor Jak” was the first African to have his work hang in the Kremlin and has exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. Katarikawe has fallen off the strobe lights of world publicity in recent years; since the death of his mentor, Ruth Shaffner of the Gallery Watatu, Nairobi. But he is still there, a near recluse though, still painting, still steadily being acquired by those in the know – that, this man is slated to join the Picassos and Matisses in posterity.

Let me conclude with a story which has a singular pathos and is linked to the perennial frustration of Africans who too often allow outsiders to seize and enjoy fruits from the trees we plant – and later shed tears for our loss. In the alchemy of discerning who among the thousands of African contemporary artists will join the ranks of the world’s greats, and of the advice that a family that created a trust fund for their children with a canvas or sculpture or two by any of the artists could be on to something, the name of Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga stands out.

The Tanzanian-born Tingatinga (1936-1972) is the only African to have found, even if accidentally, an international art movement that now bears his name. Tingatinga produced, perhaps, not more than 200 pieces of work before his life was tragically cut short by a police bullet in Dar es Salaam in a mistaken identity cock up.

Now, two collectors in Frankfurt and Nairobi hold about 80 per cent of the Tingatingaoriginals between them. The Nairobi owner has tried to keep his collection intact, and on the African soul. Years ago he enlisted the support of an agent to sound out the Tanzanian government to see if the state would be interested in acquiring the collection for posterity. The answer was no; the pressing need was in finding water, food and shelter for the population, not art.

Now and then, in need of cash the dealer in Nairobi is forced to put a piece from the collection on the international market. A decade or two from now when all the Tingatinga originals will have found a home in Washington, Frankfurt, Stockholm or Tokyo, Tanzanians, all Africans for that matter, will be up in arms – clamouring for the repatriation of their lost treasure.
By the way, there is a Belgian expat in Kenya who now owns what experts consider the Number One masterpiece of ES Tingatinga. That piece will one day be in Brussels. Go figure.

Africa Insight is an initiative of the Nation Media Group’s Africa Media

August 2nd, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt dies at 86; Auschwitz survivor fought to regain portraits she painted there

Dina Babbitt

Dina Gottliebova Babbit, then 25, works on a sculpture in her Hollywood apartment. At Auschwitz, Josef Mengele ordered her to paint portraits of her fellow prisoners as mementos of his racist theories.
Her long and unsuccessful campaign to retrieve the seven paintings of doomed Gypsy prisoners from a Polish state museum at Auschwitz became a rallying point for other artists and Holocaust survivors.
By Larry Gordon
August 1, 2009

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, an artist who had been forced to paint portraits of fellow prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp and later sought to recover the artworks from a museum there, died Wednesday in Northern California.

Babbitt, 86, died of cancer at her home in Felton, near Santa Cruz, her daughter Michele Kane said.

 
Babbitt’s long and unsuccessful campaign to retrieve the seven paintings of doomed Gypsy prisoners from a Polish state museum at Auschwitz became a rallying point for many other artists and Holocaust survivors. Although the museum recently sent Babbitt reproductions in what Kane acknowledged as “a kind gesture,” that was not enough, Kane said.

Babbitt “was terribly sad and upset and so despondent that she never got her pictures back. ‘Heartbroken’ is the right word,” Kane said.

The family pledged to continue fighting for the paintings, which Babbitt said helped save her life.

From her childhood in a Czech-Jewish family to her later success as a Hollywood animator, Babbitt was a witty, upbeat woman whose personality belied some of the tragedies she endured, said U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, the Nevada Democrat and Babbitt family friend who worked on her cause.

“For her to continue this quest took not only a certain strength of character, but a very optimistic view of life, rather than a pessimistic view,” Berkley said Friday.

Babbitt’s wry humor was evident during a 2006 interview, when she showed the forearm scar where her concentration camp number had been tattooed. (She had it removed during an unrelated surgery.) The number, 61016, had a symmetry that she sometimes used to play the California Lottery. “It doesn’t work,” she quipped.

A young art student when she was deported to Auschwitz, Babbitt drew a “Snow White” scene on a wall of a children’s barracks to help soothe the youngsters. Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed hideous experiments on prisoners, heard of her talents and ordered her to paint portraits as mementos for his racist theories.

Babbitt said she told Mengele she would rather die if her mother was not also let out of a group of Jews scheduled to be gassed. Her mother was allowed to live. Her father and her fiance died elsewhere in the Holocaust.

Babbitt said she wanted to briefly hold the paintings, which bear her signature, and then lend them to a museum of her choice. “I wouldn’t be alive if it hadn’t been for those paintings, and my kids wouldn’t be here,” said Babbitt, who is also survived by another daughter, Karin Babbitt, and three grandchildren.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum insists it is the rightful home of the paintings, which it says it bought from camp survivors in the 1960s and ’70s. Artifacts proving Holocaust history should be in their original setting, museum officials say.

Babbitt and her mother managed to survive Auschwitz and evacuation marches. After liberation, Babbitt went to Paris and became an assistant to American cartoonist Art Babbitt, one of Disney’s “Snow White” animators. They married and moved to Hollywood and later divorced. Dina Babbitt worked in animation at various Hollywood studios.

Then, out of the blue in 1973, the Auschwitz museum notified her that it had the paintings. An official had noticed that the signatures matched those on Babbitt illustrations in an unrelated book. Stunned, she began her campaign, traveling to Poland and winning a supportive U.S. congressional resolution.

Babbitt’s efforts represented “an important aspect” of Holocaust survivors’ struggles for restitution and to regain property stolen from them, said Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a Washington-based organization active in her cause.

Medoff and celebrated comic book artist Neal Adams helped produce a six-page cartoon version of Babbitt’s life that was published this year. Adams said Babbitt symbolized the struggle of an individual against an immoral state. “Now the woman has died and she doesn’t have her paintings. That’s the very worst part,” Adams said.

After cremation, private services for Babbitt were held Friday and plans are pending for a public memorial.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

August 1st, 2009

Posted In: WWII