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July 31st, 2011

Posted In: religious artifact theft, theft religious objects

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July 31st, 2011

Posted In: African Affairs

 

TICNOLOGY

Met enige trots presenteren wij u TICNOLOGY Archief Monitoring.
De synergie tussen de diverse bedrijven waar wij zeer nauw mee samenwerken, heeft geleid tot het zoeken naar en het vinden van innovatieve oplossingen voor vraagstukken over archiefmonitoring, die de  instandhouding van het nationaal cultureel erfgoed preventief kunnen waarborgen.  Onze stelling is dan ook “voorkomen is beter dan genezen”.
TICNOLOGY richt zich hierom primair op kostenbesparende, duurzame oplossingen en toepassingen voor archieven, depots en opslagruimtes.

Naast deze producten bieden wij ook oplossingen voor andere markten, zoals automotive, marine, utiliteitsbouw (domotica) en AudioVideo systemen (presentatieruimtes).
Wij kunnen indien gewenst ook maatgerichte oplossingen voor u zoeken en deze aanbieden voor uitdagingen waar u zelf de tijd niet voor heeft.

Wat is TICNOLOGY?

TICNOLOGY is een nieuwe technologie die staat voor “Totally In Control”.
Door middel van het TICNOLOGY- systeem worden alle risicofactoren in museumdepots en tentoonstellingsruimten 24 uur per dag, 7 dagen per week gemonitord. De metingen kunnen via een internet- of netwerkverbinding vanaf iedere PC, Ipad, tablet of smartphone op ieder moment van de dag en overal vandaan bekeken worden. Het is dé totaaloplossing voor uw archiefruimte of depot. Het TICNOLOGY-systeem bestaat uit controle- en monitoring apparatuur.

De belangrijkste waarden die gemonitord worden zijn uiteraard de temperatuur en de luchtvochtigheid. Deze zijn uiterst belangrijk voor het in goede orde bewaren van objecten. Naast deze twee belangrijke factoren worden ook watermelders, rookmelders, alarmlicht en sirene op het systeem aangesloten.
De gebruiker kan hierdoor op ieder gewenst moment de gegevens bekijken. Bij afwijkende waarden krijgt hij een alarmmelding via een e-mail of een SMS-alert.
Bovendien heeft TICNOLOGY ook nog eens een meldkamer achter het monitoringsysteem, zodat er van diverse kanten adequaat en snel op de meldingen gereageerd kan worden.

Op een overzichtelijk scherm kan de gebruiker in één oogopslag zien of alle waarden in orde zijn. Een knipperende meter betekent dat waarden afwijken en dat aandacht wordt vereist.

TICNOLOGY.

July 30th, 2011

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July 30th, 2011

Posted In: Museum thefts, religious artifact theft, theft religious objects

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July 30th, 2011

Posted In: theft religious objects

The Art Newspaper’s New York office is looking for a qualified intern interested in gaining work experience in art publishing. The internship will run from September to December. You must be available to work at least 2 days per week. Responsibilities include working on exhibition preview texts, entering exhibition information into FileMaker Pro, attending art fairs, assistance with general office duties, images requests, etc. Knowledge of FileMaker and Photoshop is a plus. A daily stipend of $15 will be provided for food and travel. Please send an email with resume, cover letter and writing sample to Bonnie Rosenberg, b.rosenberg@theartnewspaper.com. Subject line should read: “Editorial intern”.

July 30th, 2011

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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July 30th, 2011

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Author and Historian Peter Watson Discussed What He Called “Some Unpublished and Un-pulishable Details about Recent Art Crimes”

Peter Watson (Photo by Urska Charney)

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Peter Watson, author of numerous books including “The Medici Conspiracy” and “Sotheby’s the Inside Story”, leaned back in his chair in front of the audience and like an practiced storyteller, said that he would talk about “some unpublished and unpublishable” details about recent art crimes.

He asked the audience to question about how much they knew about the truth of art theft. “Museums lie about provenance and experts are not experts,” he said.

Watson spoke about the stories in his books, of how the priest with the Vatican’s mission trafficked in stolen paintings, pleaded for mercy on the court, and after the judge suspended his sentence, went on to trafficking in drugs.

John Drew, the forger, was once suspected of burning down a house that killed a Hungarian lodger and two months ago was sentenced for defrauding a widow.

When Robin Symes partner Kristos died, Symes went to jail. The judge changed the case from a civil to a criminal case. Symes was sentenced to two years in jail and only served 10 months. He made enemies with Kristo’s family. A month after Robin came out of jail, a BMW was deliberately set on fire and a yacht went up in flames. “Nothing was ever proved, but this is underlining the idea that we are not dealing with nice people,” Watson said.

In regards to the Sevso silver, a strange murder in the late 1970s in a wine cellar showed three sets of footprints going into the wine cellar, and two going away. People accused of these crimes are “too dangerous”, Watson said. His friend Charley Hill, who recovered one of the Munch paintings while working for Scotland Yard, said that his children were threatened in a case.

“This is a very unpleasant world so watch where you’re going,” Watson told the audience.

ARCAblog: Author and Historian Peter Watson Discussed What He Called “Some Unpublished and Un-pulishable Details about Recent Art Crimes”.

July 30th, 2011

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July 29th, 2011

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July 29th, 2011

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July 29th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

Posted In: Museum thefts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 26, 2011

PRESS RELEASE


PHILADELPHIA SHOP OWNER CHARGED IN AFRICAN ELEPHANT IVORY SMUGGLING INVESTIGATION

Federal Agents Seize Approximately One Ton of Elephant Ivory


BROOKLYN, NY – The owner of a Philadelphia African art store, Victor Gordon, was arrested earlier today on charges of conspiracy, smuggling and Lacey Act violations related to the illegal importation and sale of African elephant ivory. As part of the government’s investigation, federal agents seized approximately one ton of elephant ivory – one of the largest U.S. seizures of elephant ivory on record. Gordon is scheduled to have his initial appearance and arraignment today before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

The criminal charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Salvatore Amato, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region Office of Law Enforcement.

As alleged in the ten-count felony indictment, Gordon paid a co-conspirator to travel to Africa to purchase raw elephant ivory and have it carved to Gordon’s specifications. In advance of the trips, Gordon provided the co-conspirator with photographs or other depictions of ivory carvings, which served as templates for the ivory carvers in Africa, and directed the co-conspirator to stain or dye the elephant ivory so that the specimens would appear old. Gordon then planned and financed the illegal importation of the ivory from Africa to the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport and sold the carvings to customers at his store in Philadelphia.

Illegal trade in African elephant ivory is a major threat to elephant populations in Africa, particularly in the hardest hit poaching regions of West and Central Africa, where the ivory in this investigation originated. African elephants are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”), an international treaty that entered into force in 1975 to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct due to international trade. The African elephant is also listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The global demand for elephant ivory led to devastating declines in the number of these giant animals, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite international efforts to control the ivory trade and stop the decline of elephant populations, prices and demand remain high, causing continued elephant poaching and illegal ivory finding its way into international and domestic markets.

“The amount of the elephant ivory allegedly plundered in this case is staggering and highlights the seriousness of the charged crimes. We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who illegally engage in trade involving endangered and threatened species.” Ms. Lynch commended the agents and inspectors of the Fish and Wildlife Service for their outstanding efforts in leading this investigation and expressed her grateful appreciation to the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for its cooperation and assistance.

“Illegal ivory trafficking jeopardizes the survival of an imperiled species and undermines decades worth of efforts to conserve African elephants. With this investigation, we’ve shown our commitment to tracking down profiteers who deal in black market ivory in the United States,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent-in-Charge Amato.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. The indictment also seeks forfeiture all the seized and sold ivory.

The government’s ongoing investigation into the importation of elephant ivory from Africa into the United States has already resulted in the convictions of eight defendants for federal smuggling and/or Lacey Act violations.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vamshi Reddy and Claire Kedeshian.

The Defendant:

VICTOR GORDON
Age: 68

via Eastern District of New York.

July 28th, 2011

Posted In: African Affairs

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 28th, 2011

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July 27th, 2011

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July 27th, 2011

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July 27th, 2011

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July 27th, 2011

Posted In: African Affairs

Burgling Metal Detectorist Offers Relic to Pay Back Damage Debt

.I thought I’d written about this before, but it seems not (Portsmouth News,‘Burglar offers relic to pay back damage debt’, Saturday 23 July 2011):

Drunken burglar William Wilson, who caused thousands of pounds of damage by trashing a pub, will pay off his debts with a valuable piece of medieval jewellery he found on the beach. The 29-year-old smashed up Lily Sugars pub in Creek Road, Hayling Island, after spending an evening there drinking and then deciding to go back and burgle it after it had closed. During his sentencing hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Wilson offered a bronze and gold Anglo-Saxon bracelet he found while metal detecting on a beach as compensation for the damage caused. The piece has been valued at £3,000 by an expert.

read more at: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Burgling Metal Detectorist Offers Relic to Pay Back Damage Debt.

July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

Posted In: Auction Houses and stolen objects

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

Posted In: insider theft

Only Intrested in the ‘Istry? Largest metal detecting forum admits major cover-up

.

Over on Heritage Action’s webpage is an interesting text on the flip-flopping of the ethos of the UK’s oldest and largest metal detecting forum. In the old days when some of us thought it was worth talking to artefact hunters, the UKDN was a place where only the thick-skinned archie would venture unless he was prepared to abandon all principles and simply fawn to them. It was on the basis of the reception met mainly there to ideas about “conservation of the resource” and the big no-phrase “common resource” that several of us formed our opinions of the milieu.

more via: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Only Intrested in the ‘Istry? Largest metal detecting forum admits major cover-up.

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

Looting Matters: “This is a revolution”: Turkey and Cultural Property

Today’s

Times

 (London) had a report of Turkey’s recently claims on cultural property (Alexander Christie-Miller, “Victory in campaign to seize back priceless artefacts lost to the world”,

The Times

 July 22, 2011 [pay to view]). The prompt relates to the return of the “Weary Herakles” from Boston.

more via: Looting Matters: .

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

Looting Matters: “This is a revolution”: Turkey and Cultural Property

Today’s

Times

 (London) had a report of Turkey’s recently claims on cultural property (Alexander Christie-Miller, “Victory in campaign to seize back priceless artefacts lost to the world”,

The Times

 July 22, 2011 [pay to view]). The prompt relates to the return of the “Weary Herakles” from Boston.

more via: Looting Matters: .

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

Unprovenanced Athenian Decadrachms in Greek National Coin Collection and Alpha Bank Collection

As set forth below, Greek cultural bureaucrats and their allies in the archaeological community have lobbied for the inclusion of coins in the newly announced MOU with Greece.

Yet, why should the US Government preclude American citizens from importing unprovenanced Greek coins when both the Greek National Coin Collection and the private Alpha Bank collection recently accessioned valuable Athenian Decadrachms that also lack a provenance?

more via: Cultural Property Observer: Double Standards: Unprovenanced Athenian Decadrachms in Greek National Coin Collection and Alpha Bank Collection.

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

Bail Set, Lawyers File Appearances in Khouli Antiquities Smuggling Case

A multiple count felony indictment against Moussa “Morris” Khouli, Joseph A. Lewis II, Salem Alshdaifat, and Ayman Ramadan charges the defendants with antiquities smuggling crimes. Three defendants are now actively engaged in their cases that are before the federal court of the Eastern District of New York. Ramadan remains at large.

Khouli has been released on a $250,000 bond. Lewis has been released on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. Meanwhile, the prosecution and the defense agreed to place Alshdaifat on a $500,000 bond along with conditions that include house arrest, electronic monitoring, and a waiver of extradition from Canada.

more via: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Bail Set, Lawyers File Appearances in Khouli Antiquities Smuggling Case.

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

Is Zahi Hawass Ever NOT In the News?

Posted on July 21, 2011 by 

0


When normal people lose their jobs, they go home, tell their spouses, have a drink, and hope they find work before friends and family catch on.  Not Zahi Hawass.  As a long-time media darling, he was already positioned for a fantastic, well-publicized fall.

With the recent regime change in Egypt, Hawass has gone being a national hero and the preeminent Lord of All Things Egyptian Archaeology (the “pyramid whisperer“), to a villain, to a criminal, to (now) fired.  The Associated Press explains:

Egypt’s antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country’s best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

more via Is Zahi Hawass Ever NOT In the News? « Cultural Property.

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

“Much attention has been paid to the forces at work against the foundation, but in fact the seeds of destruction were sown by the hands of Barnes himself.”

James Panero has the cover story in the new issue of Philanthropymagazine on the Barnes Foundation.  He says it’s “been a case study in how an institution . . . can become irrevocably damaged through overly restrictive operating guidelines, unanticipated leadership problems, and the competing missions of other organizations and institutions.”

more via The Art Law Blog: .

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

“Much attention has been paid to the forces at work against the foundation, but in fact the seeds of destruction were sown by the hands of Barnes himself.”

James Panero has the cover story in the new issue of Philanthropymagazine on the Barnes Foundation.  He says it’s “been a case study in how an institution . . . can become irrevocably damaged through overly restrictive operating guidelines, unanticipated leadership problems, and the competing missions of other organizations and institutions.”

more via The Art Law Blog: .

July 26th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 26th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

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July 25th, 2011

Posted In: Mailing list reports

tomflynn: When is a ransom not a ransom? Why, when its “a fee for information leading to recovery”, of course!

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-is-ransom-not-ransom-why-when-its.html%23

July 25, 2011

One senses that National Portrait Gallery director and former Tate employee Sandy Nairne might have been wiser to leave the case of the stolen Turner paintings alone instead of writing a book about it. The two pictures (

left

), stolen from the Kunsthalle Schirn in 1994, were eventually recovered in a shady deal engineered by the Tate with a little help from its friends on both sides of the ethical divide.

But this is semantics. Everyone knows that a ransom was paid. It’s just that neither Sandy Nairne, nor Nicholas Serota, or anyone else involved in the case, could possibly step up and admit that. It would be tantamount to encouraging further art thefts. And yet that’s the exact outcome of the whole affair. Gangsters from Oldham to Odessa will have looked at that deal and thought “Yes, art theft DOES pay after all.”

read on at:

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-is-ransom-not-ransom-why-when-its.html#

.

July 25th, 2011

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs)

tomflynn: When is a ransom not a ransom? Why, when its “a fee for information leading to recovery”, of course!

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-is-ransom-not-ransom-why-when-its.html%23

July 25, 2011

One senses that National Portrait Gallery director and former Tate employee Sandy Nairne might have been wiser to leave the case of the stolen Turner paintings alone instead of writing a book about it. The two pictures (

left

), stolen from the Kunsthalle Schirn in 1994, were eventually recovered in a shady deal engineered by the Tate with a little help from its friends on both sides of the ethical divide.

But this is semantics. Everyone knows that a ransom was paid. It’s just that neither Sandy Nairne, nor Nicholas Serota, or anyone else involved in the case, could possibly step up and admit that. It would be tantamount to encouraging further art thefts. And yet that’s the exact outcome of the whole affair. Gangsters from Oldham to Odessa will have looked at that deal and thought “Yes, art theft DOES pay after all.”

read on at:

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-is-ransom-not-ransom-why-when-its.html#

.

July 25th, 2011

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July 21st, 2011

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July 21st, 2011

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July 20th, 2011

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July 20th, 2011

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July 20th, 2011

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July 19th, 2011

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July 19th, 2011

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July 19th, 2011

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July 19th, 2011

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July 18th, 2011

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July 18th, 2011

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July 18th, 2011

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July 18th, 2011

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July 18th, 2011

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July 17th, 2011

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July 17th, 2011

Posted In: Book reviews, Museum thefts

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July 16th, 2011

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July 16th, 2011

Posted In: diefstal uit museum

museumwacht.nl

Nieuwsbrief CHV trainingen

Vanaf het najaar 2010 al 200 medewerkers van collectiebeheerders getraind 

Collectie Hulpverlenings(CHV)-trainingen van MuseumWacht en Museum Security Network een groot succes!

Naar aanleiding van een nog steeds zeer lezenswaardig rapport door toenmalig Erfgoedinspecteur Hanna Pennock – Het risicobeheer in twintig verzelfstandigde rijksmusea; een inventarisatie (Den Haag, 2000) – besloot het Instituut Collectie Nederland onder de enthousiaste leiding van Antoinette Visser (tegenwoordig directeur van het Haags Historisch Museum) aandacht te besteden aan het  calamiteitenbeheer bij Nederlandse erfgoedbeheerders en dan met name aan de zorg voor de collectie bij incidenten en calamiteiten. Als eerste werd in 2002 een pilotproject opgezet met achttien Haagse musea, bibliotheken en archieven. Voor de inhoudelijke expertise werd gebruik gemaakt van Ton Cremers, voormalig Hoofd Bewaking, Beveiliging en Veiligheid van het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam en oprichter van het internationaal zeer gewaardeerde Museum Security Network. Parallel aan de Haagse Pilot, inmiddels zelfs over onze landsgrenzen een begrip, schreven Marja Peek en Ton Cremers de Handleiding voor het maken van calamiteitenplannen voor collectiebeherende instellingen; uitgave ICN, inmiddels uitverkocht maar als PDF te downloaden op:
http://icn.nl/nl/bibliotheek/publicaties/pub-handleiding-maken-calamiteitenplan.

De Haagse Pilot werd november 2003 afgesloten met een zeer druk bezocht congres in het Zuid-Hollandse provinciehuis onder de titel Glamor for Safety and Security(http://www.icn.nl/bibliotheek/publicaties-medewerkers-icn/peek-m-pub-glamour-safety-security).
Uit de Haagse Pilot ontstond het Haags Preventienetwerk waaraan onder andere de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, het Nationaal Archief, het Koninklijk Huisarchief, het Haags Gemeentearchief, het Museon en het Gemeentemuseum, het Mauritshuis, de Tweede Kamer, Museum Bredius, het
Eschermuseum, Meermanno Westreenianum / Huis van het Boek en Beelden aan Zee aan deelnemen.
De Haagse Pilot en het Haags Preventienetwerk dienden als voorbeeld voor overeenkomstige projecten in Leiden, Delft en Rotterdam. Inmiddels hebben honderden erfgoedbeheerders in heel Nederland – als laatste is nu de provincie Friesland aan zet – deelgenomen aan projecten waarbij gezamenlijk werd gewerkt aan calamiteitenplannen met bijzondere aandacht voor de collectie. Het format van die projecten ontstond uit een door Ton Cremers begin jaren 2000 gemaakt calamiteitenplan voor museum Boijmans Van Beuningen en de door Peek en Cremers geschreven publicatie over dit onderwerp. Daarnaast werd gebruik gemaakt van een werkmap en digitale informatie samengesteld door het ICN en Ton Cremers. Al met al was Ton Cremers – in vrijwel alle projecten ondersteund door Jeroen Jochems van de DocumentenWacht / MuseumWacht – inhoudelijk deskundige voor projecten waar de afgelopen acht jaar ruim 500 collectiebeheerders aan deelnamen. Hierdoor is bij Cremers en Jochems zeer veel ervaring opgedaan in de organisatie van collectiebescherming bij incidenten en calamiteiten. Jeroen Jochems was daarnaast betrokken bij vele kleine en soms zelfs zeer grote (TU Delft) collectiebedreigende calamiteiten. Cremers en Jochems vormen daar waar het gaat om bescherming van collectie bij incidenten een “winning team”.

 
     

Vanaf najaar 2010 hebben Cremers en Jochems hun ervaring ingezet bij het geven van collectiehulpverleningstrainingen (CHV) op locatie bij collectiebeheerders of in Beekbergen bij de DocumentenWacht / MuseumWacht. In de voorbije maanden werden meer dan 200 medewerkers
van collectiebeheerders getraind in het redden van collectie bij incidenten. De komende maanden zullen er nog velen volgen. De cursisten worden – naast een kort theoretisch deel – vooral getraind in de praktijk van het redden waarbij schades als zuuraanval op een schilderij, vandalisme, onopzettelijke beschadiging, brand-, roet- en waterschade aan bod komen. Uitgangspunt is: adequaat praktisch handelen daar waar de situatie dat eist om vervolgschade te voorkomen en stabiliseren in afwachting van deskundige ondersteuning. Voor de deelnemers een inspannende en enerverende dag. Uit de evaluaties blijkt keer op keer weer dat de cursisten deze dag als leerzaam en nuttig ervaren, waarbij ook de sfeer waarin de training plaatsvindt zeer gewaardeerd wordt.

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July 16th, 2011

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July 16th, 2011

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July 16th, 2011

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HENK SCHUTTEN

AMSTERDAM – De Amsterdamse politie is een omvangrijke smokkel op het
spoor gekomen van Griekse iconen. Een bende stal de iconen uit kerken
en kloosters in het noorden van Griekenland.

Het onderzoek is het eerste succes in de strijd die de Amsterdamse
politie wil aanbinden tegen de illegale kunsthandel. Een jaar geleden besloot
Amsterdam als eerste korps in Nederland iemand speciaal hiervoor vrij
te maken.
De Griekse bende bood de religieuze kunstwerken, sommigen meer dan 300
jaar oud, aan bij handelaren in Londen, Berlijn en Amsterdam. Zeven
iconen doken op bij een Amsterdamse handelaar. De man beweerde de
iconen in goed vertrouwen te hebben gekocht en heeft ze vrijwillig
afgestaan.
Verzoeken van buitenlandse collega’s om bijstand bij de jacht op
gestolen kunst, bleven vroeger vaak liggen, zegt de Amsterdamse
recherchekundige Ruth Godthelp. Zij deed twee jaar geleden onderzoek
naar de aard van kunstcriminaliteit. Daaruit bleek dat
Nederland op het gebied van de illegale handel in kunst een uiterst
dubieuze reputatie geniet. Volgens een topfunctionaris van Interpol,
de internationale politieorganisatie in Lyon, dreigt Nederland vanwege
zijn lakse opsporingsbeleid een vrijstaat voor kunstcriminelen te
worden.
Pas de afgelopen jaren is het besef ontstaan dat het zo niet langer
kon, zegt Godthelp. “De afgelopen jaren hebben we ingezien dat de
kunstwereld kwetsbaar is voor misdaad. Ook vanuit de politiek werd er
steeds meer op aangedrongen dat kunst binnen de opsporing een plek
moet krijgen. Het kan toch niet zo zijn dat we bij onderzoek naar
vermogenscriminaliteit wel achter een gestolen fiets aan gaan maar
vanwege gebrek aan kennis de diefstal van schilderijen niet aanpakken.”
Amsterdam hoopt in de strijd tegen kunstmisdaad een voortrekkersrol te
kunnen vervullen. Met de opsporing van de iconen is een bedrag van
tussen de 50.000 en 100.000 euro gemoeid. “Maar dat is niet de reden
dat we hiermee aan de slag gaan,” verduidelijkt Godthelp: “Het gaat om
objecten die een belangrijk onderdeel vormen van de Griekse cultuur.
Voor dat land zijn ze van onschatbare waarde.”
Nederland lijkt de handel in illegale kunst jarenlang ernstig te
hebben onderschat. Godthelp durft nog steeds geen schatting te doen
over de omvang van de Nederlandse kunstmisdaad. “Het laatste half jaar
krijgen we heel veel interessante informatie aangedragen. Wat we nu
zien is slechts het topje van de ijsberg.”

 

_________________________________________________________

De afdeling zware criminaliteit van de Amsterdamse politie kreeg begin dit jaar een telefoontje van Griekse collega’s. Die waren een omvangrijke smokkel van iconen op het spoor. Een bende stal de religieuze kunstwerken, soms meer dan driehonderd jaar oud, uit kerken en kloosters en bood ze aan bij handelaren in Londen, Berlijn en Amsterdam. Zeven waren opgedoken op de site van een Amsterdamse handelaar.
Dergelijke verzoeken komen regelmatig voor, zegt de Amsterdamse recherchekundige Ruth Godthelp. Maar in het verleden werden de buitenlandse collega’s beleefd aangehoord en daar bleef het dan meestal bij. “Internationaal zijn we weliswaar verplicht mee te werken, maar als je niet over de juiste mensen beschikt, is het maar de vraag of zo’n verzoek adequaat wordt opgepakt.”
Dit keer gebeurde dat wel. Een jaar geleden had de Amsterdamse politie als eerste korps in Nederland besloten iemand speciaal vrij te maken voor de strijd tegen kunstcriminelen. Amsterdamse rechercheurs begonnen een formeel onderzoek en benaderden de handelaar. De man, wiens naam Godthelp niet wil noemen, werkte meteen mee. “Hij had de iconen in goed vertrouwen aangekocht en deed er vrijwillig afstand van.”
Godthelp raakte in 2007 bij toeval betrokken bij kunstcriminaliteit. Ze maakte deel uit van een rechercheteam dat op zoek ging naar vier verduisterde werken van Jozef Israëls (1824-1911). De schilderijen bleken in het bezit van een Amsterdamse handelaar bij wie nog meer verdachte kunst in huis werd aangetroffen. Natrekken of deze werken ook gestolen waren, bleek bepaald niet eenvoudig. “Een databank van gestolen kunst ontbrak. Ook stond er een Karel Appel waarvan we geen idee hadden of het een echte was. Wij hadden naar nauwelijks enige kennis over in huis.”
Godthelp, een voormalig strafrechtadvocaat die enkele jaren geleden overstapte naar de afdeling Zware Criminaliteit van de regionale recherche, volgde indertijd een opleiding aan de politieacademie en besloot zich in het onderwerp te verdiepen. Uit een rondgang langs internationale experts bleek dat Nederland op het gebied van de illegale handel in kunst een uiterst dubieuze reputatie genoot. Een topfunctionaris van Interpol, de internationale politieorganisatie in Lyon, zei  dat Nederland vanwege zijn lakse opsporingsbeleid een vrijstaat voor kunstcriminelen begon te worden.
Godthelp: “Tot 2002 was er een klein team bij het Korps Landelijke Politiediensten dat zich met dit soort zaken bezighield, maar dat werd opgeheven.” Kunstmisdrijven werden nauwelijks meer aangegeven, omdat er niets aan werd gedaan. Een directielid van Christie’s zei zelfs te betwijfelen of het zinvol was de politie te informeren op het moment dat het veilinghuis een kunstobject weigerde in te nemen op basis van het vermoeden dat de herkomst niet zuiver is, zegt Godthelp. Volgens haar kon het zo gebeuren dat in een jaar uit een woning in Zuid een waardevolle oude meester werd gestolen, deze vervolgens werd aangeboden bij het veilinghuis, daar niet werd geaccepteerd en zo, zonder medeweten van de politie, weer de illegaliteit in kon verdwijnen.
De geringe belangstelling staat in schril contrast met de voorname positie die Nederland, en vooral Amsterdam, nog steeds op de internationale kunstmarkt inneemt. Nederland telt naar schatting tussen de vierduizend en 6500 instellingen in de kunst- en antiekhandel. De gezamenlijke jaarlijkse omzet wordt geschat op vijf- tot zevenhonderd miljoen euro, hoewel het werkelijke bedrag volgens deskundigen waarschijnlijk veel hoger is aangezien veel transacties om fiscale reden over de grens worden afgesloten.
Kunstdieven, helers, witwassers, vervalsers en handelaren in illegale oudheden ontspringen vaak de dans, werd in 2007 al geconcludeerd in het rapport Schone kunsten van het ministerie van Justitie. Het onderzoek richtte zich alleen op het toplaag van de kunstmarkt. Ten onrechte denkt Godthelp: “De verdachte kunsthandelaar in de zaak rond de verduisterde schilderijen van Jozef Israëls was bij voorbeeld niet erg bekend. Het is heel makkelijk om je als kleine kunsthandelaar ergens te vestigen. De belastingdienst controleert nauwelijks, je kunt makkelijk anoniem zaken doen en vanwege de ondoorzichtige prijsvorming is de handel kwetsbaar voor witwaspraktijken.”
Bij de politie bleek nauwelijks enige informatie te vinden over de omvang van het probleem. Godthelp doorzocht alle politiesystemen op kunstgerelateerde zaken, maar dat bleek niet mee te vallen. “Als ik het woord kunst intikte, kwam ik vaak terecht bij kunstgebitten of kunstlederen portemonnees.”
Van een deugdelijke registratie van gestolen kunst was evenmin sprake. “Met de omschrijving ‘Schilderij met zeegezicht’ kom je niet veel verder. Het gaat om welk materiaal er is gebruikt, welke afmetingen, enzovoorts. Vaak is dat ook de verantwoordelijkheid van de mensen zelf. Dan komen ze aangifte doen van diefstal met een verdwaalde foto van oma waarop nog net ergens in een hoekje een puntje van het gestolen schilderij te zien is.”

In de zeldzame gevallen dat een gestolen kunstobject wel met behulp van de Nederlandse autoriteiten wel kon worden opgespoord, viste de rechtmatige eigenaar vaak achter het net. Want als het voorwerp in goed vertrouwen was aangekocht, hoefde het van de Nederlandse wetgever niet te worden teruggegeven. Sinds twee jaar, toen Nederland het Unesco-verdrag ter bescherming van cultuurgoederen ratificeerde, is dat anders. “Handelaren in cultureel erfgoed moeten de herkomst nu voortaan zelf verifiëren. Gestolen of illegaal uitgevoerde objecten gaan nu, als de staat van herkomst een verzoek indient, onherroepelijk terug.”
Het Unesco-verdrag dateert van 1970. Dat het veertig jaar heeft geduurd voordat het werd bekrachtigd, toont volgens haar aan welke grote economische belangen op het spel staan. “Vanuit de kunsthandel is lang gelobbyd om de ondertekening tegen te houden.”
De afgelopen jaren is het besef ontstaan dat het zo niet langer kon, zegt Godthelp. “Ook vanuit de politiek werd er op aangedrongen dat kunst binnen de opsporing een plek moet krijgen. Het kan toch niet zo zijn dat we bij onderzoek naar vermogenscriminaliteit wel achter een gestolen fiets aan gaan maar vanwege gebrek aan kennis de diefstal van schilderijen niet aanpakken.”
Het afgelopen jaar sprak Godthelp met handelaren, veilinghuizen, belastingdienst, beurzen, musea, verzekeraars en internationale collega’s. Op basis daarvan werd een strategie uitgestippeld. “Bij kunstcriminaliteit denkt iedereen meteen aan diefstal, veel minder aan witwassen en fraude. Wij denken dat je dat moet omdraaien. Witwassen is een veel groter probleem. Hetzelfde geldt voor fraude, of dat nu om vervalsingen, oplichting van de verzekering of subsidiefraude gaat. Die zaken bleven vroeger vaak liggen. Als we nu in onderzoeken naar grote criminelen iets tegenkomen op het gebied van kunst, gaan we dat uitzoeken. Vroeger liepen we er met een boog omheen.”
Godthelp werkt in samenwerking met de faculteit strafrecht en criminologie van de VU aan een promotieonderzoek naar de aard van kunstgerelateerde criminaliteit. De markt voor gestolen is kunst is volgens haar waarschijnlijk veel groter dan lang werd gedacht: “Topstukken die bij grote verzamelaars of uit musea werden gestolen, kon je nergens kwijt, doordat ze makkelijk te identificeren zijn. Maar nu begint langzaam het vermoeden te ontstaan dat criminelen wel degelijk belangstelling voor deze werken hebben. Ze hebben alleen geen zin daar zulke hoge bedragen voor te betalen. We raken er steeds meer van overtuigd dat er in Europa een netwerk van verzamelaars bestaat, waarbinnen veel gestolen werken circuleren. Kunst is allang niet meer alleen interessant voor een elite. Je kunt er status mee kopen en het gaat om waardevolle objecten die sinds de crisis steeds aantrekkelijker worden om in te investeren.”
Met de opsporing van de iconen is  50.000 toto100.000 euro gemoeid. “Maar dat is niet de reden dat we hiermee aan de slag gaan. Het gaat om objecten die een belangrijk onderdeel vormen van de Griekse cultuur. Voor dat land zijn ze van onschatbare waarde.”
Godthelp durft nog steeds geen schatting te doen van de omvang van de Nederlandse kunstmisdaad. “Het laatste halfjaar krijgen we heel veel interessante informatie aangedragen. Wat we nu zien, is slechts het topje van de ijsberg.”

July 16th, 2011

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July 16th, 2011

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July 16th, 2011

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

 

FRANCO-NIGERIAN AGREEMENT ON LOOTED/STOLEN NOK SCULPTURE

REVISITING LOOTED NIGERIAN NOK TERRACOTTA  SCULPTURES IN LOUVRE / MUSÉE DU QUAI BRANLY, PARIS

His attitude is dishonourable. I regret that Nigeria was weak enough to accept to sign an agreement in order to give an appearance of legality to this acquisition. But above all, the fault lies with the French president who made the request. The responsible officials of the museum should be ashamed to have placed their Head of State and their own country in such a deplorable situation.”

 Lord Renfrew (1)

Figure of a seated male. One of the looted Nigerian Nok terracotta bought by the French, now in the possession of the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France, with post factum Nigerian consent.

After reviewing the great Ekpo Eyo’s last book, Masterpieces of Nigerian Art

which included images of the looted Nok sculptures, I felt the need to revisit these  remarkable pieces that the French were allowed to keep by the Nigerian government. (2)

Readers will no doubt recall the circumstances under which the French acquired three impressive Nok terracotta sculptures. Briefly, the French bought the three sculptures from a  Belgian  dealer in 1998 for 2.5 million francs even though they were fully aware that  under  Nigerian  law no antiquities may be exported from the country without the permission of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and that the three objects were on the ICOM Red List of items that are prohibited for export from Nigeria. It took the intervention of ICOM to bring the matter to discussion and to the embarrassment of the French who had bought the pieces in 1999 for the planned museum, Musée du Quai Branly(3)  Finally, the French acknowledged the ownership of Nigeria in those pieces and signed an agreement by which Nigeria loaned the pieces to France for a period of twenty-five years which was renewable. The agreement with France shocked those interested in the preservation of African heritage insofar as it sent a wrong message to looters and dampened attempts to prevent looting. Prof. Shyllon, a leading Nigerian expert, described the agreement as an “unrighteous conclusion.” (4)

It should be added though that the French may well have been under the impression that despite the provisions of the law forbidding such exports, there would be no objections from the Nigerian government. After all, at least one of the Nok sculptures had appeared in 1998 in an exhibition in Brussels entitled The Birth of Art in Africa – Nok Statuary in Nigeria, organized by the Banque Générale du Luxembourg. In the catalogue of the exhibition, the Chairman of the Board of Directors thanked the Nigerian government for its support:

The government of Nigeria offered its support to our bank for the organization of this exhibition. We wish to thank their representatives for their precious help and their open-mindedness”. (5) In the introduction to the catalogue, written by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nigeria, we read: “Therefore, let me, on behalf of my government and the business communities in Nigeria, register my sincere appreciation for organizing the exhibition”. (6)  There was here no objection from the government of a State from which some of the exhibited artefacts were considered to have been looted.

 

 Terra cotta piece with figures in low-relief. One of the looted Nigerian Nok terracotta bought by the French, now in the possession of the Musée du Quai Branly/Louvre, Paris, France, with  post factum Nigerian consent.

The text of the strange Franco-Nigerian agreement was never published but we know from discussion in ICOM that the organization recommended that“visitors should be clearly informed of the precise status of these objects and the way in which they were discovered.” (7)

We visited first the main building of the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, where most of the looted African artworks are kept and then proceeded to the part of the Louvre Museum, called the Pavillion de Sessions where the looted Nigerian

terracotta  as well as other artefacts are to be found.  The Pavillon des Sessions was inaugurated in April 2000 and was to be part of the future Musée du

Quai Branly which was scheduled to open in 2006. The Pavillon is a wing of the Louvre which is dedicated to the arts of Africa, Oceania, Asia and America. This annex to the Musée du Quai Branly exhibits some 120 masterpieces from those continents. (8)

Unlike African artefacts in the main building at Quai Branly which are presented in semi-obscurity or dim light, we noted with satisfaction that the three objects were presented in a well-lit hall under the same conditions as objects from America, Asia and Oceania. (9) What surprised us though was that even though there are written notes indicating that the three objects came from Nigeria, there is no express mention that they were there by virtue of the consent of the Nigerian government to the French purchase. The history of the objects was also not recounted in such a way that the average museum visitor would know how these Nigerian sculptures came to the French museum. It is stated in a notice on each of the three objects that it was “Deposit of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. What can this mean to the average visitor? A museum visitor might think that Nigeria had deposited the object there for safekeeping because of fear of rampant burglary in Nigeria. Another visitor might consider the “Deposit” as some sort of security presented by Nigeria for a loan from France. There is no where a specific statement that these objects which France bought from the illegal market are acknowledged as property of Nigeria and the history of the purchase by France disappears. Nigeria has an embassy in Paris and several Nigerian officials visit Paris each month. We assume that some of them would have visited the Pavilion des sessions and would report back home on the observance or the non-observance of the agreement between France and Nigeria relating to the Nok sculptures. But how does one evaluate an agreement that was never published?

Figure of a bearded male. One of the looted Nigerian Nok terracotta bought by the French, now in the possession of the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France, with  post factum Nigerian consent.

Did the recommendation of ICOM that “visitors should be clearly informed of the precise status of these objects and the way in which they were discovered” become part of the Franco-Nigerian agreement or did it remain a mere recommendation?   We know from various statements and sources what items were dealt with in the agreement even though the text of the agreement was not published. For example, a statement from the French Culture Minister, Catherine Tasca, announced the signing of an agreement between France and Nigeria adding that an agreement on cooperation will be signed dealing with training, technical assistance, inventory of collections and research on dating of archaeological objects. http://www.culture.gouv.fr

The expiration of the twenty-five years term of the unpublished treaty would  no doubt be occasion for  Nigerians to consider various actions connected to the looted Nok artefacts and to renew or not to renew what Prof. Shyllon has rightly described as an “unrighteous conclusion.” Lord Renfrew and others quite correctly criticised sharply the French for buying objects they knew to have been looted. The main blame seems to have been put on the French. However, many accounts also underline the Nigerian role in the whole affair(10)

Trophy Head,  Benin, Nigeria, now in the Palais des Sessions, Paris, France. Part of the objects looted by the British in 1897 from Benin, Nigeria.This artefact was sold to the Musée du Quai Branly by Musée Barbier-Mueller.

Should Nigerians wait for the expiration of the 25 years term of the agreement before seeking the return of the looted Nok objects?  Some might think that given the patently illegal manner in which the French procured these objects, the flagrant disrespect of Nigerian laws and all the circumstances surrounding these objects, the best thing will be to start now (what should have been done long ago) by telling the French to return them. The French knew perfectly well that it was illegal to export Nok objects from Nigeria. The pretence they sometimes make that they bought the objects in good faith from the free market should not be taken seriously. But the conduct of the Nigerian President Obasanjo in giving approval to the nefarious agreement also deserves clear condemnation. Nigerian officials responsible for preserving the nation’s cultural heritage had advised against approving such an arrangement with the French since it was a clear violation of Nigerian law but the President went ahead.

Warriors holding ceremonial swords, Benin, Nigeria, now at the Palais des Sessions, Louvre, Paris, France. Part of the objects looted by the British in 1897 from Benin, Nigeria. This artefact was sold to the Musée du Quai Branly by Musée Barbier-Mueller.

The present government of Nigeria, headed by President Jonathan Goodluck, has declared its intention of setting up a body that will have the mandate of bringing back to Nigeria the artefacts that have been looted/stolen from the country and are now outside(11) Nok artefacts should be on the list of items that should return home. Nigeria should augment its list of artefacts she seeks to recover to include Nok artefacts. (12)

Nigeria should reclaim not only artefacts stolen/looted long ago but also those stolen recently and bought by States that should be discouraging looting of artefacts. A request for the return of the Nok objects given away by a former President and others in violation of the law will send the right message to the peoples of the world that Nigeria is serious about recovering her looted heritage. It would also demonstrate that everyone is subject to the law even if he is a high official or president.  One of the basic rules of democracy is the observance of the law, starting with the constitutional law. African governments must not only subscribe to this principle but should enforce it and demonstrate its application in all matters of the Stateincluding cultural matters. The present government is not bound by acts done in clear violation of Nigerian law and International Law in circumstances where all concerned knew that their actions were in violation of well-established rules for the protection of the national heritage of Nigeria. In this connection, Nigeria should also formally ask Great Britain to return the Nigerian artefact that Yakubu Gowan, then military dictator of Nigeria, took to the British Queen on a visit to Britain in 1973(13) It should not be accepted that Western countries encourage African dictators in their patent violations of laws, encouraging them to illegally transfer wealth of their countries and sometime later bomb them, as it were, back into democracy. A nation that prides itself of being democratic cannot encourage dictators in their violations of laws.

The actions of the two Nigerian presidents are so unconscionable that some might be tempted to assume they acted in ignorance of the serious violation of the law. However, they must have been advised by officials charged with preserving Nigeria’s cultural heritage that these actions were wrong. In any case, do we need any specialists to advise that giving away national treasures is clearly a betrayal of national interest? But what about officials who write forewords or introductions to catalogues or books in which the stolen or looted

Nigerian artefacts are proudly displayed? Should Nigerian scholars take part at all in an enterprise where the highlights are constituted by looted artefacts such as Nok sculptures?  Can we assume that where a high official or scholar participates in such enterprise that consent had been given to export the artefacts discussed? (14)  There is here a need for clear rules of guidance, at least for government officials, as to how Nigerians and other Africans should act in connection with projects that involve one way or other, looted/stolen national treasures. Dealing with stolen items cannot simply be left to individual conscience or to indifference.

In trying to secure the participation of African officials, scholars and others in exhibitions where the main highlights are constituted by stolen/looted artefacts from their countries, organizers seek to obtain some legitimacy for an enterprise that may be subject to legal and moral objections. The display of looted or stolen objects risks criticism from several quarters. To some extent, the participation of Africans in such exhibitions, for whatever reason, lends to the show some legitimacy even if the African official indicates that his participation does not imply approval or connivance at the earlier brutal invasion or other crime. In any case, the mere presence of African participants lessens the moral revulsion and objection that might otherwise arise. African collaboration also lessens the pressure on the Western holders of looted artefacts to return the objects or at least to seek some form of accommodation with those deprived of their cultural artefacts.  African participation in major exhibitions organized in the last decades has not resulted in any restitution of looted objects or in any significant modifications in the attitude of the position of Western holders of looted African artefacts. On the contrary, they have emboldened Western museums in their refusals and encouraged the conception that African artefacts do not belong to Africans alone but to the whole of mankind; that the relevant question is not who owns what but who can best look after the significant cultural artefacts of humankind. But nobody is discussing whether European artefacts belong to Europeans or to humankind. Britain and Greece are still disputing the ownership of the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles.

Our French and the British contemporaries could have been supporters of the recovery of African artefacts that had been looted/stolen in the colonial and post Independence periods. As inheritors to colonial loot, they are best informed about the state and status of cultural artefacts in the former colonies. Unfortunately, the acts and policies of French and British museums and authorities clearly indicate that they are not willing to help in matters of restitution. On the contrary, they are fighting to keep what the colonialists looted or carted away from the colonies as well as objects recently looted. In this process, they have managed to involve Africans, even if violations of the law have to be committed. Thus the case of the three looted Nok sculptures now in Paris can serve as a good example for the implications of restitution of cultural artefacts from the African continent and African complicity in the plundering of the cultural heritage of the continent.

“It is indeed unfortunate that so much Nok material has been looted over time to supply the international market. Properly excavated, such pieces might have shed valuable light on the Nok culture.”  Ekpo Eyo. (15)

                                                                            Kwame Opoku. 14 July. 2011

Among the impressive African objects in the Pavillon des Sessions is this sculpture of Gou, God of war that the French looted in 1892 from the former French colony, Dahomey, now Republic of Benin.

NOTES

1. Lord Renfrew in interview with Noce Vincent in Liberationentitled«L’attitude de Chirac est déshonorante»        http://www.liberation.fr  

« Je trouve son attitude déshonorante. Je regrette que le Nigeria ait eu la faiblesse d’accepter de signer un accord pour donner une apparence légale à cette acquisition. Mais, par-dessus tout, la faute en incombe au président français, qui en a fait la demande. Les responsables du musée devraient avoir honte d’avoir placé leur chef d’Etat et leur propre pays dans une position aussi déplorable.»  Translation from  the French by K.Opoku.

See the following articles in  Liberation: “Paris conforte l’archeo-trafic”.  http://www.liberation.fr      Des pillages alignés sur le marché.  http://www.liberation.fr

See also, John Henley, “Louvre hit by looted art row”, The Observer, April 23, 2000

http://www.arcl.ed.ac.uk

2. K. Opoku, “Excellence and Erudition: Ekpo Eyo’s Masterpieces of Nigerian

Art”, www.modernghana.com

4. F.Shyllon. “Negotiations for the Return of Nok Sculptures from Nigeria – An unrighteous Conclusion.”http://portal.unesco.org See also the account of French

purchase of the Nok sculptures in Sally Price, op. cit pp .6780

 5. Bernard de Grunne, The Birth of Art in Africa – Nok Statuary in Nigeria,

1998Editions Adam Biro, Paris, p.10.

6. Ibid. p.11

7.  ICOM Press Releases; 5 March 2002.
Nigeria’s
 Ownership of Nok and Sokoto Objects Recognized.
 
http://archives.icom.museum/press

8. On the Pavillon des Sessions, see inter alia, Constantine Petridis, “Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas – recent exhibitions”,

http://findarticles.com

The New York Times, Chirac Exalts African Art, Legal and (Maybe) Illegal”, http://www.nytimes.com

Raymond Corbey, “Arts premiers in the Louvre”, http://www.google.

Anthropology Today Vol 16 No 4, August 2000.

See also the excellent photos in Lessing Photo Archive,

http://www.lessing-photo.com

Wikimedia,      http://commons.wikimedia.org

Also of great interest is the DVD, Chefs-d’oeuvre et civilisations

Arts Premiers au LouvreLe Cd officiel.

10. The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (http://www.mcdonald.cam. reported: “Controversy continues concerning the Louvre’s decision to exhibit two recently purchased Nok terracottas in their new gallery for art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas (see In the News CWC Issue 6), opened by PresidenChirac in April. The Art Newspaper (June) reports that, according to an unpublished account by an official in the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments,President Chirac first approached the then Nigerian president, seeking approval to buy the pieces (on sale in Brussels for a reported $360,000  2 years ago). Approval was not forthcoming since the Commission believed such a deal would ‘confer legality . . . and encourage further looting’. Apparently, in May 1999 President Chirac raised the matter again with the new Nigerian government; the National Commission’s reservations were overturned and an agreement reached whereby the French would acquire the pieces (and one other Sokoto sculpture) with government blessing in return for technical assistance to Nigerian museums. The Nigerian president presented them personally when the deal was signed in February.

However, in April, the Nigerian embassy in Paris issued a statement which referred to the Nok pieces in the Louvre, warned ‘individuals or groups against the purchase, sale or export’ of such items, explaining that sale, export or transfer violates various Nigerian laws and has been condemned by ICOM (see In The New CWC Issue 6). Following fresh controversy over the case, generated by archaeologist Lord Renfrew’s comments that Chirac had displayed a ‘dishonourable attitude’, Nigeria’s ambassador to Paris, Abiodun Aina, has denied that his government reached an agreement with France and called for the pieces to be repatriated. The case is now being investigated by art crime specialists in the French police. The Louvre has emphasized that it had no role in the acquisition of the contested statues”.

See also an interview of the Director of the Musée du Quai Branly who stated that Obasanjo came personally to the Pavillon des sessions and gave approval:

 « Nous avons acheté ces statues nok dans des conditions parfaitement légales au regard de la législation française de l’époque. Notre prise de risque était éthique mais pas juridique. Nous avons demandé au gouvernement nigérian sa position. Le président Obasanjo est venu en personne au pavillon des sessions, avant que nous ayons acheté les objets, et nous a donné son aval pour l’acquisition de ces statues. Nous avons donc estimé que le risque valait la peine au regard du message que nous voulions faire passer.
      Ces acquisitions ont déclenché une double protestation. D’une part, la colère de l’ambassadeur du Nigeria en France, adversaire du président Obasanjo, qui n’appréciait pas d’avoir été tenu à l’écart de la décision. D’autre part, une protestation politique de la part de journalistes qui ont fait valoir, à juste titre d’ailleurs, que ces objets avaient été pillés au Nigeria et que nous n’aurions jamais dû les acheter même si nous étions juridiquement en droit de le faire.
      Face à ce double mouvement de contestation – le président Obasanjo ayant été également critiqué au Nigeria -, nous avons décidé de faire machine arrière. Nous avons fait amende honorable et avons décidé de les restituer, de les offrir au Nigeria. Dans le cadre d’un accord, ce pays en est donc propriétaire mais il a accepté de laisser ces pièces en dépôt au musée du Louvre pour une durée de vingt-cinq ans renouvelables.

http://www.africultures.com

Stanley Nkwazema,  ‘Missing Artefact, Gift to Britain’, all Africa.com http://allafrica.com

15.  Ekpo  Eyo, op. cit. p.23.  The preamble to ICOM Redlist Africa reads as follows:  “The looting of archaeological items and the destruction of archaeological sites in Africa are a cause of irreparable damage to African history and hence to the history of humankind. Whole sections of our history have been wiped out and can never be reconstituted. These objects cannot be understood once they have been removed from their archaeological context and divorced from the whole to which they belong. Only professional archaeological excavations can help recover their identity, their date and their location. But so long as there is demand from the international art market these objects will be looted and offered for sale.”    http://archives.icom.museum/redlist

K.Opoku, “Let Others Loot for You: Looting of African Artefacts for Western Museums “,http://www.modernghana.com;   Patrick  J. Darling, “The Rape of Nok and Kwatakwashi:  the crisis in Nigerian Antiquities” http://www.mcdonald.cam

Last week I informed the Museum Security Mailinglist about illicitly excavated and exported NOK statues presently in the Louvre museu, Paris. In newspaper reports the source of these statues supposedly was a Belgium dealer.
Michel van Rijn ( http://www.michelvanrijn.com/) has been able to trace this /dealer via a Le Monde contact: Comte de Grune’s son, who used to be with Sotheby’s but now looks after the family business given the “grand age” of his father, was indeed involved in the deal leading to the sale of one of the Nok’s pieces to the Louvre.
Mr. Van Rijn also was the one who discovered possibly looted NOK statues at the European fine Art fair in Maastricht, The Netherlands (TEFAF). These statues were offered for sale by another Belgium dealer: Deletaille.

The following report: Out of Africa, gives insight in the consequences of the trade in looted African antiquities.

Ton Cremers

Out of Africa

“The looting of archaeological items and the destruction of archaeological sites in Africa are a cause of irreparable damage to African history and hence to the history of humankind. Whole sections of our history have been wiped out and can never be reconstituted.” The introduction to the Red List of African archaeological and ethnological objects, published by the International Council

of Museums (ICOM), should be sounding alarm bells everywhere. Unfortunately the trafficking in such goods is booming and Africa is being bled dry of its cultural heritage. In Mali and Burkina Faso, ICOM reports, “all the archaeological sites are systematically looted.” This means that despite the large numbers of objects now available on the art market very little is known about the cultures which produced them. And their exact provenance and date will remain forever unknown. Items from the Côte d’Ivoire for example, “are identified as such only by chance discoveries made during illegal excavations and left in the Abidjan museum. Nothing is known about the societies that made these objects, and the current extent of looting gives every reason to fear that everything will be destroyed,” reports ICOM. Those responsible are not only looting national treasures, they are violating that which is sacred to Africa’s peoples. In the Wajir area of northern Kenya, collectors are contracting locals to dig up cemented graves for rare and unique antiques, antiques even the Kenya Museums had never encountered before. When George Abungu, the director of Kenya’s National Museums last visited Wajir he found the excavated remains of the dead scattered over the ground. “And the Vigan-gus, the grave yards of the Mijikenda tribe at the Kenyan Coast, are no lon-ger found in that area, but easily found in museums all over Europe and Ame-rica,” he adds. While unprotected archaeological sites are easy targets, Africa’s museums have also suffered heavy losses in raids by often heavily armed bandits, who’re ready to assault and even kill any guards who dare to oppose them. This is especially true in those countries hit by political turmoil. Nigeria’s museums, for example, have been hit by “violence and robbery on a massive scale”, reports ICOM. “The headquarters of the traffickers is reputed to be Bamako, the capital of Mali,” says Professor Folarin Shyllon from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. “There is also a thriving business in Cotonou (Benin Republic). Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire are staging posts from where goods are sent to Paris or sold to local dealers who ship them to the US and European art capitals.” Objects from Uganda, Congo Brazzaville and Kenya are smuggled out of Kenya from the port of Mombasa, often concealed in containers transporting coffee. Dr Abungu accuses financially powerful collectors, diplomats, and museums in Europe and America for promoting the trafficking by promising what seem to be fabulous sums to impoverished African communities and unscrupulous local middlemen. However, he adds, African govern-ments are also very much to blame for the trade. They have not considered protection, conservation or preservation of cultural heritage a priority. Stopping, or even diminishing such traffic will require a massive effort: to make local populations aware of what is happening, to sensitise them to the need to conserve or preserve their heritage, and to provide them with alternative ways to make a decent living. However, dealers and collectors also need to make an effort. They need to be more vigilant, honest and aware of the terrible impact the loss of such objects can have on their traditional owners … and their children, who may well only have access to their cultural heritage if they can afford a trip to Europe or the United States.
Wandera Ojanji in Nairobi with Sue Williams From:
http://www.unescosources.org/

FRANCO-NIGERIAN AGREEMENT ON LOOTED/STOLEN NOK SCULPTURE.

July 15th, 2011

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