Wat een walgelijke TV-avond. In De Wereld Draait Door en bij Pauw werd podium geboden aan ‘Okkie’ Durham, de inbreker die twee Van Gogh schilderijen roofde uit het museum aan de Paulus Potterstraat. Gelukkig bleef mijn inbreng in de door Vincent Verweij gemaakte en door Brandpunt uitgezonden documentaire over de inbraak en de terugkeer van de schilderijen beperkt tot een enkele, algemene opmerking over inbraakvertragend glas en mijn stellige overtuiging dat deals met criminelen de basis leggen voor toekomstige diefstallen. Okkie’s advocaat Bénédicte Ficq, iedere keer wanneer ik haar zie moet ik denken aan Hirsi Ali, deelde mijn mening.

De documentaire waar Verweij een jaar aan werkte, geeft een fascinerende inkijk in de wereld van ‘career criminals’ als Durham en Mink Kok. Geen heren die je graag in je kennissenkring hebt, of met wie je op wat voor manier dan ook geassocieerd wilt worden. Als documentairemaker begeef je je op glad ijs wanneer je met dergelijke heren aan de slag gaat. Het ware beter geweest wanneer Vincent Verweij de boeiende documentaire voor zichzelf had laten spreken, want zijn optreden bij met name Pauw vond ik ronduit ongelukkig. Wat mij betreft wierp dat een smet op wat een goed produkt is. Zo zie je maar: er is een aanzienlijk verschil tussen onmiskenbare professionaliteit achter de camera en beschouwingen over je product in spotlights van een babbelprogramma.

Laat het duidelijk zijn, Okkie Durham wordt in de documentaire van Verweij geenszins verheerlijkt, een valkuil waar journalisten vaak in vallen. De kijkers kregen de narcistische persoon Durham in al zijn ontluistering te zien. Daar was nauwelijks interpretatie door de documentairemaker voor nodig. De man is blijkbaar zoals hij is, een nare crimineel die jarenlang velen benadeeld heeft. Het zal voor Okkie niet prettig zijn op Twitter alle reacties op zijn persoon te lezen. Ik raad hem aan voorlopig niet op zijn bromfietsje – heel symbolisch een kinderformaat ding – door Amsterdam te zwerven, maar zich in schaamte een aantal weken achter de goed beveiligde voordeur van zijn appartement terug te trekken.

Het verhaal in de docu spitste zich toe op de winstgevende kant van schilderijendiefstal. Gestolen schilderijen zouden een ruilmiddel kunnen zijn voor criminelen om strafvermindering te krijgen. Gelukkig prikte Axel Rüger deze ballon door. De suggestie in de docu van Verweij dat een Italiaanse crimineel geen 20 maar 12 jaar straf kreeg dankzij onder andere de teruggave van de schilderijen klopte volgens Axel Rüger niet. De strafeis ging weliswaar van 20 naar 12 jaar, maar de uiteindelijke straf werd 18 jaar. Tel maar uit je winst.

Vincent Verweij leek bij Pauw alle distantie tot zijn criminele subject uit de documentaire kwijt te zijn en ging tegen Axel Rüger in de aanval omdat het Van Goghmuseum die nare Okkie niet meer in het museum wil hebben. Hij heeft immers zijn straf er al op zitten. Axel Rüger ziet dat, volkomen terecht, anders. Mensen die schade hebben aangericht mogen, geheel volgens de huisregels, het museum niet meer in. Verweij’s poging Axel Rüger de kwaaie Pier toe te spelen werd door Rüger overtuigend gecounterd.

Laten we wel wezen, een cultureel onbenul als Okkie Durham – hij had het in de docu herhaaldelijk over de ‘aardappeltelers’ en meende dat schilderijen met dikke verf meer geld waard zijn – heeft sowieso niets te zoeken in welk museum dan ook.

Was Erbin Wennemars in DWDD een verkwikkende criticus van Durham, een welkom alternatief voor de schaapachtig lachende Van Nieuwkerk, in Pauw overklaste Axel Rüger zowel Vincent Verweij als Okkie.  Rügers woede was integer en overduidelijk. Zijn ogen spuwden vuur, zijn mond sprak logica en zijn houding was die van een verontwaardigde gentleman. Hij had zijn opgekropte emotie beter onder controle dan Verweij.

De medewerkers van het Van Goghmuseum kunnen zich gelukkig prijzen met zo’n directeur. De man is blijkbaar bereid als een leeuw te vechten voor het behoud van kunst die van ons allemaal is.

Het ongeloofwaardige excuus van Okkie negeerde hij volledig en Verweij werd aan het einde van het gesprek door de directeur van het Van Goghmuseum berispt. Axel Rüger vond de afsluiting van de documentaire waarin Okkie wandelend langs het museum tegen zijn vriendin blaatte dat hij gemakkelijk via ‘die muur en dat raam’ de Zonnebloemen kon stelen, een stuitende belediging.

Geef de man eens ongelijk.

Niet Okkie of Grunberg stalen de show bij Pauw. Dat deed Axel Rüger.

Ton Cremers

 

 

March 22nd, 2017

Posted In: diefstal uit museum, Museum thefts, Ton Cremers

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Volkskrant 7 maart 2017: Neushoornstropers slaan nu zelfs toe in Franse dierentuin, ‘Nederlandse’ Vince gedood.

Neushoornstropers schrikken nergens meer voor terug. In het wild waren neushoorns al nergens meer veilig, en zelfs opgezette neushoorns in Europese natuurmusea werden van hun kostbare hoorns beroofd. Maar nu hebben de stropers voor het eerst ook toegeslagen in een Europese dierentuin.

(xxxxxx)

Daar gaan we weer. Stoorde ik mij in het verleden regelmatig aan museummanagers die zich na incidenten ontpopten als multigetalenteerden die quasi-deskundigheid over beveiliging ten toon spreidden, nu voegt zich de manager van een dierenpark zich ook al in die rij en stelt zich bovendien als sitting duck op, want ‘je kunt het als een kluis beveiligen, maar….stropers weten altijd wel een manier om binnen te komen’.

WAT?!! Stropers weten altijd wel een manier om binnen te komen, maar toch zijn volgens Wineke geen ‘strengere maatregelen nodig’? Als ze nu nog beweerde dat strengere maatregelen niet mogelijk zijn – dat kan ik niet overzien, maar betwijfel ik – maar nee: stropers kunnen binnenkomen, en toch zijn er, nogmaals volgens Wineke, geen strengere maatregelen nodig. Er is nota bene in een collega-dierenpark ingebroken, een neushoorn vermoord en beroofd van zijn hoorn en Wineke Schoo beweert doodleuk dat geen extra maatregelen nodig zijn. Doe. Normaal. Hier word ik echt heel moe van. Wat een management lamlendigheid. Volgens mij hoog tijd voor een functioneringsgesprekje.

Kromme tenen krijg ik van dergelijke prietpraat. Ik vertik het om voor de zoveelste keer een onbezoldigde cursus beveiliging en veiligheid te geven, en beperk mij tot de opmerking dat het zonder kluis – de museale collega’s van mevrouw Wineke Schoo papegaaien elkaar na en blaten dat ze van hun museum geen vesting kunnen maken (dixit o.a. Jan Reumer, voormalig directeur Natuurhistorisch Rotterdam) – heel goed mogelijk is de zes neushoorns  in Burgers’ Zoo afdoende te beveiligen. Ik heb het dan nog niet eens over de methode die in sommige Afrikaanse natuurparken wordt gehanteerd: preventief verwijderen van de hoorns (zie foto).

De hoorns van neushoorns leveren op de markt voor bijgelovigen circa $ 50.000 per kilo op. Volwassen neushoorns żeulen 5 tot 7 kilo hoorn op hun kop mee (ik ben geen deskundige, maar deze info vond ik op het internet). De totale waarde van de hoorns in Burgers Zoo komt dus neer op 6 x 5 x 50.000 = $ 1.500.000. Een bedrag interessant genoeg om met een paar man de hele neushoornpopulatie in Arnhem uit te moorden.

Mevrouw Wineke Schoo doet er verstandig aan ongeveer 5% van deze waarde bij financiers en sponsoren – denk aan de Postcodeloterij – los te peuteren op basis van een goed beveiligingsplan, in plaats van criminelen uit te dagen een nachtelijk bezoek bij haar dierentuin af te leggen.

Ik verzeker haar dat het met dat budget mogelijk is snode plannen van ‘stropers’ te verhinderen. Die moeten bij een goed beveiligingsplan in Burgers’ Zoo gedwongen nagelbijten (een gelijkwaardig alternatief voor de hoorns van neushoorns, want van exact dezelfde biologische samenstelling).

Ton Cremers

lees verder het volledige artikel in De Volkskrant: http://www.volkskrant.nl/reizen/neushoornstropers-slaan-nu-zelfs-toe-in-franse-dierentuin-nederlandse-vince-gedood~a4471388/

March 8th, 2017

Posted In: advice and tips, Ton Cremers

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‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’ – Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht kletst uit haar nek

September 21, 2015 – 14:52

“Het is niet zo dat kunst vastzit in particuliere handen.” Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht, de belangrijkste kunstbeurs ter wereld, sust de zorgen van minister Bussemaker. Die wil met de aankoop van twee Rembrandts voorkomen dat ze, in de woorden van de minister, “in handen komen van een of andere rijke oliesjeik”.

Bussemaker vreest dat het publiek de doeken nooit meer kan zien als ze in vreemde handen terechtkomen. Maar Strijbos wijst erop dat particulieren hun kunstwerken vaak uitlenen aan musea. “Ik begrijp heel goed dat het Rijksmuseum deze werken in de collectie wil hebben, maar het is niet zo zwart-wit dat kunst in particuliere handen altijd achter gesloten deuren blijft.”

lees hele artikel: ‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’

Die Madelon Strijbos lijkt haar kunsthandelarenkongsi op een prima wijze te vertegenwoordigen, maar goed beschouwd kletst ze uit haar nek. Om te beginnen worden de schatrijke Rothschilds met Nederlands belastinggeld nog rijker gemaakt dan ze al zijn. Strijbos kakelt in haar interview met de NOS lustig door dat dit soort kunst (Rembrandtschilderijen) continu in waarde stijgt en dus een goede belegging is. We hoeven ons niet ongerust te maken, want die particulieren lenen de kunst vaak weer uit aan musea zodat we er allemaal van kunnen genieten.

Dank je de koekoek: dat is zo, maar ten koste van wat/wie? Denkt deze dame nu echt dat particulieren hun kostbare schilderijen uit filantropische overwegingen aan musea uitlenen? Welnee, hun investering in kunst wordt op die manier in een beveiligde omgeving bewaard – soms schiet die beveiliging tekort, dat realiseer ik mij maar al te goed – zonder dat ze daar een cent voor hoeven uit te geven en de lenende musea draaien dan in vrijwel alle gevallen ook nog op voor de kosten van verzekering en duurzaam behoud en beheer. Aangezien alle Nederlandse musea, en met name de musea die Rembrandts tentoonstellen, afhankelijk zijn van subsidies – uit gemeenschapsgeld – draait de belastingbetaler altijd op voor de kosten, of schilderijen met hulp van belastinggeld worden aangekocht of wanneer gesubsidieeerde musea de kostbaarheden voor  particuliere investeerders-verzamelaars opslaan. Feitelijk wordt de investering in kostbare kunst op deze wijze gesubsidieerd door de belastingbetaler, zeker wanneer je je realiseert dat de winst bij verkoop van de schilderijen onbelast is. Maar wie strijkt bij verkoop, desnoods door een volgende generatie, de winst op? Juist: die toch al rijke beleggers. Een risicoloze maar, volgens Madelon, lucratieve belegging.

Als de bruiklenen uiteindelijk verkocht worden op een elitaire beurs als de TEFAF is het balletje rond en kunnen Madelon Strijbos en haar collega’s het champagneglas heffen.

Ton Cremers

 

September 21st, 2015

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs), blogwereld, Ton Cremers

Tags: , , , , ,

‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’ – Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht kletst uit haar nek

September 21, 2015 – 14:52

“Het is niet zo dat kunst vastzit in particuliere handen.” Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht, de belangrijkste kunstbeurs ter wereld, sust de zorgen van minister Bussemaker. Die wil met de aankoop van twee Rembrandts voorkomen dat ze, in de woorden van de minister, “in handen komen van een of andere rijke oliesjeik”.

Bussemaker vreest dat het publiek de doeken nooit meer kan zien als ze in vreemde handen terechtkomen. Maar Strijbos wijst erop dat particulieren hun kunstwerken vaak uitlenen aan musea. “Ik begrijp heel goed dat het Rijksmuseum deze werken in de collectie wil hebben, maar het is niet zo zwart-wit dat kunst in particuliere handen altijd achter gesloten deuren blijft.”

lees hele artikel: ‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’

Die Madelon Strijbos lijkt haar kunsthandelarenkongsi op een prima wijze te vertegenwoordigen, maar goed beschouwd kletst ze uit haar nek. Om te beginnen worden de schatrijke Rothschilds met Nederlands belastinggeld nog rijker gemaakt dan ze al zijn. Strijbos kakelt in haar interview met de NOS lustig door dat dit soort kunst (Rembrandtschilderijen) continu in waarde stijgt en dus een goede belegging is. We hoeven ons niet ongerust te maken, want die particulieren lenen de kunst vaak weer uit aan musea zodat we er allemaal van kunnen genieten.

Dank je de koekoek: dat is zo, maar ten koste van wat/wie? Denkt deze dame nu echt dat particulieren hun kostbare schilderijen uit filantropische overwegingen aan musea uitlenen? Welnee, hun investering in kunst wordt op die manier in een beveiligde omgeving bewaard – soms schiet die beveiliging tekort, dat realiseer ik mij maar al te goed – zonder dat ze daar een cent voor hoeven uit te geven en de lenende musea draaien dan in vrijwel alle gevallen ook nog op voor de kosten van verzekering en duurzaam behoud en beheer. Aangezien alle Nederlandse musea, en met name de musea die Rembrandts tentoonstellen, afhankelijk zijn van subsidies – uit gemeenschapsgeld – draait de belastingbetaler altijd op voor de kosten, of schilderijen met hulp van belastinggeld worden aangekocht of wanneer gesubsidieeerde musea de kostbaarheden voor  particuliere investeerders-verzamelaars opslaan. Feitelijk wordt de investering in kostbare kunst op deze wijze gesubsidieerd door de belastingbetaler, zeker wanneer je je realiseert dat de winst bij verkoop van de schilderijen onbelast is. Maar wie strijkt bij verkoop, desnoods door een volgende generatie, de winst op? Juist: die toch al rijke beleggers. Een risicoloze maar, volgens Madelon, lucratieve belegging.

Als de bruiklenen uiteindelijk verkocht worden op een elitaire beurs als de TEFAF is het balletje rond en kunnen Madelon Strijbos en haar collega’s het champagneglas heffen.

Ton Cremers

 

September 21st, 2015

Posted In: BLOG World (from related blogs), blogwereld, Ton Cremers

Tags: , , , , ,

Wat hebben Rudy Fuchs, Ruud Spruit, Gerard de Klein, Jelle Reumer en Emily Ansenk met elkaar gemeen?

site-iconmuseumbeveiliging.com/2014/01/27/wat-hebben-ruud-spruit-gerard-de-klein-jelle-reumer-en-emily-ansenk-met-elkaar-gemeen/
27/01/2014 – 09:47De naderende heropening van De Kunsthal te Rotterdam (1 februari 2014) na een ingrijpende verbouwing waarbij het klimaat en de beveiliging onder handen werden genomen, roept de publicitair wanstaltige toestand rondom de inbraak en diefstal van oktober 2012 weer in herinnering. Niet in het minst omdat de directrice van De Kunsthal onlangs in De Volkskrant verklaarde dat de beveiliging van De Kunsthal nu ‘goed’ is. Ansenk schaart zich in het rijtje directeuren van geslachtofferde musea die zich, nadat het fout ging, in de publiciteit ineens ontpopten als experts op het gebied van beveiliging en criminaliteit.Nog geen halve dag nadat een stelletje Roemeense losers kinderlijk eenvoudig wisten in te breken in De Kunsthal verklaarde Ansenk doodleuk dat de beveiliging van haar kunsthal ‘state of the art’ was. Een faux pas door emotie over de inbraak? Een vergeeflijke faux pas, ware het niet dat Ansenk in de dagen na die inbraak zowel in De Volkskrant als de NRC de strekking van dat ‘state of the art’ in andere woorden wederom benadrukte. In De Volkskrant werd ze geciteerd met “Er is geen aanleiding de beveiliging aan te passen”. Kan het nog zouter?Heb ik over dit gestuntel in de media al genoeg gezegd? Je zou het haast denken wanneer je de ingezonden brief van Raaskallende Ruudleest in de NRC van 23 oktober 2012. Spruit, want die Ruud is het, smeedt in zijn brief een band met de directeur van De Kunsthal, Emily Ansenk, waar – ik kan me niet anders voorstellen – Ansenk niet blij mee kan zijn. Ansenks buurman Jelle Reumer – directeur van het Rotterdamse Natuurhistorisch – sprong voor Ansenk en Raaskallende Ruud in de bres in een hysterische mail aan mij. Er ontplooit zich een trend, een trend die jaren geleden werd ingezet door Rudy Fuchs, chagrijnig fulminerend tegen een TV journalist nadat een schilderij van Picasso met een aardappelschilmesje was bewerkt door een bezoeker. Als museumdirecteur geef je na incidenten blijkbaar nooit toe dat de beveiliging gefaald heeft, of minstens kritisch onder de loep moet worden genomen, maar je schreeuwt stampvoetend uit dat die beveiliging ‘state of the art’ (Ansenk), ‘geavanceerd’ (Ruud Spruit) of zonder meer ‘goed’ (Fuchs) is. Om je woorden kracht bij te zetten, geef je desnoods de criminelen een compliment met hun ‘professionaliteit’ (Spruit). Er ligt terrein braak  voor mediatrainers..

Overigens vind ik niet dat in 1999 de beveiliging van het Stedelijk Museum onvoldoende was toen dat Picasso schilderij werd beschadigd. Niet de beveiliging faalde, maar Rudy Fuchs, niet bepaald bekend vanwege zijn bescheidenheid, faalde als woordvoerend directeur en viel als een amateur in de kuil die een volhardende journalist voor hem groef. Een pijnlijke TV vertoning.

Gerard de Klein, met in zijn kielzog conservator Yvonne Ploumen mailden mij ziedend van woede toen ik na de verwoestende brand in het Armando Museum in de pers verklaarde dat er onvoldoende afstemming was geweest tussen de gemeente Amersfoort, eigenaar van de Elleboogkerk waarin het museum gehuisvest was, en het museum. Hoe was het anders mogelijk dat men bezig ging met brandgevaarlijke dakwerkzaamheden terwijl het museum de belangrijkste tentoonstelling uit zijn bestaan had? Een tentoonstelling met kostbare bruiklenen die allemaal in de brand verloren gingen. Ik zou de relatie tussen het museum en de gemeente schade toebrengen met mijn opmerking in de pers, aldus Ploumen in een mail aan mij. Wie wat bewaart, die heeft wat. Mails als die van Ploumen zijn parels in mijn archief. Toen de gemeente Amersfoort de toezegging het museum te herbouwen heroverwoog, inmiddels sloeg ook in Nederland de financiële crisis toe, hadden De Klein noch Ploumen enige boodschap aan de relatie met de gemeente en gingen in de pers helemaal los over de onbetrouwbaarheid van de gemeente. De gemeente zou woordbreuk plegen.

Had die brand in het Armando Museum voorkomen kunnen worden? Natuurlijk. Strikt genomen kan, met uitzondering van brandstichting, iedere brand voorkomen worden. Had voorkomen kunnen worden dat de hele collectie verloren ging? Absoluut! Maar: er was vanuit het museum geen toezicht tijdens de werkzaamheden, het museum bezat geen calamiteitenplan met een onderdeel gewijd aan de collectie en er waren geen afspraken met de brandweer over het redden van de collectie, echter…De Klein en Ploumen wasten hun handen in onschuld en stelden zich als slachtoffers op. Ploumen mag nu de kar trekken bij het nieuwe, virtuele Armando Museum in Amelisweerd en Gerard de Klein vond onderdak als directeur in museumgoudA. Daar liet hij van zich spreken door de verkoop van een schilderij van Dumas en had hij in 2012 de pech dat er ingebroken werd en een kostbare monstrans gestolen. Het zit de man niet mee. Had die diefstal voorkomen kunnen worden? Ja. Treft Gerard de Klein hier blaam? Nee, maar ik ben wel nieuwsgierig wat de beste man gedaan heeft om herhaling te voorkomen.

Jelle Reumer van het Natuurhistorisch vond in zijn eerder genoemde arrogante en hysterische mail aan mij dat ik mijn pijlen niet moest richten op zijn buurvrouw van De Kunsthal, maar op de overheid die beknibbelt op budgetten waardoor de musea niet goed beveiligd kunnen worden. Het deed mij goed te lezen dat ook Jelle Reumer van mening is dat de musea niet ‘state of the art’, of geavanceerd beveiligd zijn. Echter, had de inbraak en diefstal door neushoorndieven in zijn museum iets te maken met teruglopende budgetten? Niets, helemaal niets. Het was de inertie van Reumer die deze diefstal mogelijk maakte. Vanuit zijn museum – er schort in het museum iets aan de loyaliteit met directeur Reumer – bereikte mij de informatie dat Jelle Reumer een waarschuwing door de politie terzijde had gelegd en geweigerd had de neushoorns te voorzien van replica hoorns. Een stap die in Naturalis terecht wel genomen werd toen wereldwijd een hausse aan inbraken plaatsvond in natuurhistorische musea.

Wat hebben Rudy Fuchs, Ruud Spruit, Gerard de Klein, Jelle Reumer en Emily Ansenk met elkaar gemeen?

De beveiliging van het Westfries Museum was, wat Raaskallende Ruud dan ook beweerde, ver onder de maat. Ruud verwaarloosde die beveiliging jarenlang en sloeg waarschuwingen van zijn beveiligingsinstallateur jaar na jaar in de wind. “We gaven feitelijk nooit aandacht aan de beveiliging” verklaarde zijn conservator ooit tijdens een receptie. Maar, Ruud mocht ondanks aantoonbaar falen op zijn post blijven.

De Klein verwaarloosde zijn verantwoordelijkheid als directeur van het Armando Museum en verzuimde, hoewel zijn museum deelnam aan een door het Mondriaanfonds gesubsidieerd project, te zorgen voor een calamiteitenplan voor zijn museum. Maar, Gerard mocht ondanks aantoonbaar falen op zijn post blijven.

De beveiliging van De Kunsthal, dat was geen nieuws, was onvoldoende en er werden geen aanvullende maatregelen getroffen toen er een kostbare tentoonstelling werd ingericht. Maar, Emily mocht ondanks aantoonbaar falen en domme presentaties in de publiciteit op haar post blijven.

Jelle Reumer weigerde de in zijn museum aanwezige hoorns van neushoorns te beveiligen, maar ook Jelle, het wordt eentonig, mocht ondanks aantoonbaar falen op zijn post blijven.

Werd Rudy Fuchs gecorrigeerd nadat hij zo onhandig manoeuvreerde in een TV interview? Niet dat ik weet…misschien achter de schermen?

Zo lang eindverantwoordelijken niet op hun verantwoordelijkheid worden aangesproken en aantoonbaar falen geen consequenties heeft, zal het aanmodderen blijven met de beveiliging van musea.

Ton Cremers

27 januari 2014

Museumbeveiliging, Ton Cremers » Blog Archive » Wat hebben Rudy Fuchs, Ruud Spruit, Gerard de Klein, Jelle Reumer en Emily Ansenk met elkaar gemeen?.

January 27th, 2014

Posted In: blogwereld, brand museum, Columns Ton Cremers, De Kunsthal, diefstal, diefstal uit museum, Jelle Reumer, Kunsthal, museum security, Museum thefts, Ton Cremers

SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”

“All we want here is an opportunity to get in the gate,” argued U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Sharon Swingle before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. But Patrick McInerney, attorney for the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM), told the court that he wanted finality in the government’s failed attempt to take the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask from his client.
Archaeologist Mohamed Zakaria Goneim discovered the more than 3,000 year old mask in Egypt in the 1950’s. Despite SLAM’s purchase of the mummy mask from a gallery in 1998 for approximately a half million dollars, authorities in the U.S. and Egypt say the mask remains a stolen object that was illegally removed from Egypt.
Government lawyers still want a chance to present this argument to the Missouri federal district court by filing a newly amended complaint that would restart the process to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mask from SLAM. But they first need the approval of the court of appeals.The forfeiture case known as U.S. v. Ka Nefer Nefer was first begun in 2011 by the U.S. Attorney in St. LouisHowever, the lower courtdismissed the government’s claim in 2012, saying the the complaint was deficient. The district court turned the government down againafter attorneys tried to rejuvenate the case with a newly minted complaint alleging more facts surrounding the mask’s theft. Justice Department lawyers then appealed the district court’s technical decision dismissing the proceedings, setting the stage for Monday’s oral argument before a three judge appellate panel.

Circuit Court Judge James Loken bluntly observed during yesterday’s oral argument that the government made mistakes in the eyes of the district court and now, “You now have to beg for a do-over.” But Swingle protested that the grounds for the district court’s dismissal was not based on some “fundamental legal defect.” She stressed that the law favors deciding legal cases on their merits, not simply dismissing them before they are substantively argued. In fact, the law favors granting at least one opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissing it with prejudice, she argued.

McInerney contested Swingle’s assertions. “It’s really whether the government is entitled to an advisory opinion from the district court, with the help of defense counsel here, as to what the proper pleading elements are for their claim under the Tariff Act. Because that’s really what they want.”

If the government were successful in its appeal to restart the forfeiture case, McInerney suggested that it would be the first time that happened in the Eight Circuit under the federal rules. He argued that no special exception should be made for the government in this case.

Judge Loken may have given the impression that the government was out of luck, but he also hinted that government’s case might have life left if the appeal were denied. He asked more than once whether the declaratory judgment action might still go forward if the forfeiture case were dismissed. The “DJ” case is the original and still active companion case to the forfeiture action where SLAM petitioned to quiet the title of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask, seeking a judicial determination that it is the rightful owner of the mask. The appellate court suggested that the government could still argue its forfeiture claim as a defense in the DJ case. Swingle was not so sure, however.

Judge Diana Murphy inquired about allegations surrounding the sellers of the mask, remarking to Swingle, “When did facts come out about this company in Switzerland? …which has a cloudy past I gather ….” Swingle replied by describing specific criminal complaints made against the gallery’s owners. McInerney later addressed this issue of “some illegality” by saying,  “It ought to noted … that had absolutely no connection with this case; none whatsoever.” “The facts don’t show it.” Any criminal conduct claimed by the government “post-dated by four years the acquisition of the mask” by SLAM. “This left-handed suggestion that there was some … sort of misconduct in connection with the mask doesn’t stand,” McInerney iterated.

Judge Lavenski Smith attempted to clarify the timetable of the government’s requests to the district court to reconsider the dismissal of the case. He raised a question about the many months that went by between the filing of SLAM’s petition to dismiss the government’s forfeiture complaint, the district court’s dismissal, and the “equity to the government” concerning the opportunity to amend. In other words, why didn’t the government move for leave to amend its complaint during an apparently available ten month time period? Judge Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know what specific prejudice the museum would suffer if the case were allowed to continue and not dismissed. Swingle argued that the government’s actions were timely and, even if not, there was no disadvantage to SLAM.

Swingle endeavored to demonstrate that the government had been taking the high road in this litigation by expressing, “Our preference was to reach a mediated solution to this dispute …”  “It was the museum that precipitated a judicial intervention by filing the declaratory judgment.”

McInerney countered with several critiques. He cited federal attorneys’ failure to show that the mask was stolen. “In order to get to theft in the first place you have to get to ownership.” SLAM’s legal counsel argued that it is not enough for the government to allege that the mask was in one place at one moment and another place at another moment without alleging some type of theft. “They still can’t show that the item was ever owned by the Republic of Egypt,” he exhorted.

McInerney further contended that the government could have taken the case for appeal in a timely fashion but did not. They kept the case in district court, he charged, because “…they were banking on the district court writing a recipe for an appropriate complaint ….” It was 401 days after SLAM filed its motion to dismiss when the government finally presented what it believed was a factually compelling forfeiture complaint to the district court, presenting “satisfactory allegations” that “still don’t suffice,” pressed McInerney.

Swingle particularly objected that one of the grounds the district court relied on to dismiss the forfeiture case concerned an issue not even briefed by the litigants, but raised by the district court sua sponte (on its own), specifically that the government needed to allege facts showing that the mask was imported “contrary to law,” not simply that it needed to allege that the mask was stolen. McInerney urged that “contrary to law” was not a new element raised by the district court, it was just the district court recognizing what is required for a forfeiture claim filed under 19 U.S.C. §  1595a of the customs law.

On Justice Murphy’s mind was the district court’s failure to clarify why it denied the government’s request to amend the forfeiture complaint. She asked early in the oral argument if the district court abused its discretion. Later she questioned McInerney with, “You concede … that the district court did not say much?”Whether the district court abused its discretion is the issue that the judges will ultimately decide when they issue a ruling at a future date.

The appellate argument can be heard in its entirety by clicking here.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2014 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”.

January 17th, 2014

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger, looting and illegal art traffickers

SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”

“All we want here is an opportunity to get in the gate,” argued U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Sharon Swingle before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. But Patrick McInerney, attorney for the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM), told the court that he wanted finality in the government’s failed attempt to take the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask from his client.
Archaeologist Mohamed Zakaria Goneim discovered the more than 3,000 year old mask in Egypt in the 1950’s. Despite SLAM’s purchase of the mummy mask from a gallery in 1998 for approximately a half million dollars, authorities in the U.S. and Egypt say the mask remains a stolen object that was illegally removed from Egypt.
Government lawyers still want a chance to present this argument to the Missouri federal district court by filing a newly amended complaint that would restart the process to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mask from SLAM. But they first need the approval of the court of appeals.The forfeiture case known as U.S. v. Ka Nefer Nefer was first begun in 2011 by the U.S. Attorney in St. LouisHowever, the lower courtdismissed the government’s claim in 2012, saying the the complaint was deficient. The district court turned the government down againafter attorneys tried to rejuvenate the case with a newly minted complaint alleging more facts surrounding the mask’s theft. Justice Department lawyers then appealed the district court’s technical decision dismissing the proceedings, setting the stage for Monday’s oral argument before a three judge appellate panel.

Circuit Court Judge James Loken bluntly observed during yesterday’s oral argument that the government made mistakes in the eyes of the district court and now, “You now have to beg for a do-over.” But Swingle protested that the grounds for the district court’s dismissal was not based on some “fundamental legal defect.” She stressed that the law favors deciding legal cases on their merits, not simply dismissing them before they are substantively argued. In fact, the law favors granting at least one opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissing it with prejudice, she argued.

McInerney contested Swingle’s assertions. “It’s really whether the government is entitled to an advisory opinion from the district court, with the help of defense counsel here, as to what the proper pleading elements are for their claim under the Tariff Act. Because that’s really what they want.”

If the government were successful in its appeal to restart the forfeiture case, McInerney suggested that it would be the first time that happened in the Eight Circuit under the federal rules. He argued that no special exception should be made for the government in this case.

Judge Loken may have given the impression that the government was out of luck, but he also hinted that government’s case might have life left if the appeal were denied. He asked more than once whether the declaratory judgment action might still go forward if the forfeiture case were dismissed. The “DJ” case is the original and still active companion case to the forfeiture action where SLAM petitioned to quiet the title of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask, seeking a judicial determination that it is the rightful owner of the mask. The appellate court suggested that the government could still argue its forfeiture claim as a defense in the DJ case. Swingle was not so sure, however.

Judge Diana Murphy inquired about allegations surrounding the sellers of the mask, remarking to Swingle, “When did facts come out about this company in Switzerland? …which has a cloudy past I gather ….” Swingle replied by describing specific criminal complaints made against the gallery’s owners. McInerney later addressed this issue of “some illegality” by saying,  “It ought to noted … that had absolutely no connection with this case; none whatsoever.” “The facts don’t show it.” Any criminal conduct claimed by the government “post-dated by four years the acquisition of the mask” by SLAM. “This left-handed suggestion that there was some … sort of misconduct in connection with the mask doesn’t stand,” McInerney iterated.

Judge Lavenski Smith attempted to clarify the timetable of the government’s requests to the district court to reconsider the dismissal of the case. He raised a question about the many months that went by between the filing of SLAM’s petition to dismiss the government’s forfeiture complaint, the district court’s dismissal, and the “equity to the government” concerning the opportunity to amend. In other words, why didn’t the government move for leave to amend its complaint during an apparently available ten month time period? Judge Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know what specific prejudice the museum would suffer if the case were allowed to continue and not dismissed. Swingle argued that the government’s actions were timely and, even if not, there was no disadvantage to SLAM.

Swingle endeavored to demonstrate that the government had been taking the high road in this litigation by expressing, “Our preference was to reach a mediated solution to this dispute …”  “It was the museum that precipitated a judicial intervention by filing the declaratory judgment.”

McInerney countered with several critiques. He cited federal attorneys’ failure to show that the mask was stolen. “In order to get to theft in the first place you have to get to ownership.” SLAM’s legal counsel argued that it is not enough for the government to allege that the mask was in one place at one moment and another place at another moment without alleging some type of theft. “They still can’t show that the item was ever owned by the Republic of Egypt,” he exhorted.

McInerney further contended that the government could have taken the case for appeal in a timely fashion but did not. They kept the case in district court, he charged, because “…they were banking on the district court writing a recipe for an appropriate complaint ….” It was 401 days after SLAM filed its motion to dismiss when the government finally presented what it believed was a factually compelling forfeiture complaint to the district court, presenting “satisfactory allegations” that “still don’t suffice,” pressed McInerney.

Swingle particularly objected that one of the grounds the district court relied on to dismiss the forfeiture case concerned an issue not even briefed by the litigants, but raised by the district court sua sponte (on its own), specifically that the government needed to allege facts showing that the mask was imported “contrary to law,” not simply that it needed to allege that the mask was stolen. McInerney urged that “contrary to law” was not a new element raised by the district court, it was just the district court recognizing what is required for a forfeiture claim filed under 19 U.S.C. §  1595a of the customs law.

On Justice Murphy’s mind was the district court’s failure to clarify why it denied the government’s request to amend the forfeiture complaint. She asked early in the oral argument if the district court abused its discretion. Later she questioned McInerney with, “You concede … that the district court did not say much?”Whether the district court abused its discretion is the issue that the judges will ultimately decide when they issue a ruling at a future date.

The appellate argument can be heard in its entirety by clicking here.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2014 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”.

January 17th, 2014

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger, looting and illegal art traffickers

Oral Arguments Scheduled in Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask Appeal

The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for January 13, 2013 in the case of U.S. v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer. 

The case involves federal prosecutors’ efforts to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask from the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM). Government lawyers wrote in July 2011 that SLAM’s “claim of ownership is legally impossible, and as such the Mask is effectively contraband in the hands of the Museum.” 

Prosecutors allege that the ancient burial mask, which archaeologists discovered during an authorized excavation in 1952, was stolen from Egypt. SLAM purchased the cultural object in 1998 for approximately half a million dollars. 

A Missouri federal district court brought the government’s forfeiture case to an end in April 2012, concluding that the government’s complaint failed to specifically explain how the mask was allegedly stolen or smuggled, or how it was brought into the U.S. illegally. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion to reconsider the court’s decision, and in May 2012 the government revealed new information that it said would support a proposed amended complaint. Judge Henry Autrey denied the motion to reconsider, and federal prosecutors filed a proposed amended complaint anyway. The district court rejected the government’s case a second time. 

Source: Eight Circuit Court of Appeals
Attorneys for the government appealed to the Eight Circuit, arguing that the lower court abused its discretion by not allowing them to file an amended complaint. Lawyers for SLAM rebuffed their argument by contending that there is “no basis on which to find [that] the District Court abused its discretion in denying the Government’s fatally late and insufficient submission of its Proposed Amended Complaint.” SLAM chided federal officials for “the liberties the Government takes ….” 

The appellate case is expected to be heard by Circuit Judges James Loken, Diana Murphy, and Lavenski Smith. Loken is former chief judge of the appellate court, nominated to the bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Murphy is a 1994 Clinton appointee, and Smith is a 2002 appointee nominated by George W. Bush.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited.  CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Oral Arguments Scheduled in Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask Appeal.

December 17th, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger, Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire

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October 16th, 2013

Posted In: Tom Flynn

The Parthenon Marbles: A European Concern

Tom Flynn

Paper delivered by Tom Flynn at the Round Table at the European Parliament 
in Brussels on 15 October 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, distinguished members of the European Parliament. Let me begin by thanking Professor Sidjanski for the kind invitation to contribute to today’s Round Table. It is a pleasure and an honour to be with you in Brussels. 
What can we say about the case for reunifying the Parthenon Marbles that has not been said a thousand times before? What more can we add to the numerous persuasive arguments already made for reuniting the dismembered components of Phidias’s finest achievement? How many more times must we convene to reiterate the importance of restoring coherence to a work of art whose desecration at the hands of Lord Elgin damaged one of Greece’s greatest gifts to the world?
The answer to these questions is that there will always be more to say about the case for reunifying the Marbles. There will always be new and ever more compelling arguments for reuniting them in Athens. And until that happens our generation and future generations will continue to convene and will go on reminding the British Museum of its moral duty to restore to these objects the dignity that Lord Elgin so rudely snubbed. The story the Marbles tell is of a cultural moment that is a precious and irreplaceable part of our birthright as Europeans and the bedrock of our democratic ideals. That story loses much of its narrative charge while its components remain dispersed across different locations.
more at:

via tomflynn: The Parthenon Marbles: A European Concern.

October 16th, 2013

Posted In: Tom Flynn

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June 4th, 2013

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE, looting and illegal art traffickers

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June 1st, 2013

Posted In: ARCA

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May 21st, 2013

Posted In: Looting Matters

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May 21st, 2013

Posted In: Looting Matters

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May 21st, 2013

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE, looting and illegal art traffickers

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April 23rd, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers

Failed Negotiations Put Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Case Back on the Docket

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/2013/04/failed-negotiations-put-ka-nefer-nefer.html

April 18, 2013
The U.S. Attorney in St. Louis today told the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals that negotiations have failed in the case of United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer. Federal authorities are attempting to seize and forfeit the mummy mask from the St. Louis Art Museum and hope to return it to Egypt.
The federal district court in St. Louis twice dismissed the case last year before prosecutors filed an appeal to the higher court. But prosecutors told the appeals court in a January 17, 2013 status report that negotiations might resolve the matter. “It is the hope of the parties that this meeting will result in the parties and the Republic of Egypt coming to terms that will settle this matter in its entirety, such that no further appellate proceedings will be required,” the report explained.
Today’s report, in contrast, closes the door on any negotiated settlement. It announces:
“In the interim between the United States’ last status report and the present date, the parties have continued to confer in good faith in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution of this case. Unfortunately, the parties’ attempts have so far been unsuccessful, and the United States no longer believes that a nonjudicial resolution of this case is likely in the foreseeable future.”
The case will be placed back on the court docket and proceed to litigation.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire atculturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT:www.culturalheritagelawyer.com  Photo credit woofwoof.

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Failed Negotiations Put Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Case Back on the Docket.

April 18th, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

May 11, 2003, Benvenuto Cellini’s Saliera (salt cellar) was stolen from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which was covered byscaffolding at that time due to reconstruction works. In the press one could read: Vienna’s ‘Mona Lisa of sculptures’ stolen / Cellini’s‘Saliera,’ worth $57 million, taken from museum. And: “Climbing scaffolding and smashing a window early Sunday, thieves slipped intoVienna’s Art History Museum and — despite high-tech motion sensorsand round-the-clock guards — disappeared with a 16th-century gold-plated masterpiece sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini. The stealthy andstunning heist was one of the biggest art thefts in Europe in recentyears. The intricate, 10-inch-high sculpture, known is valued at about$57 million.”

Stealthy? Thieves?

The facts appeared to be quite different. A former Scotland Yard art detective, now a private consultant, claimed that a Serbian gang was involved in this theft. Why? Because “the guard who turned off the alarm system when it was activated had recently married a Serbian lady”. Talking about sound investigativework, and rather discriminatory as well.

September 2006, the real culprit Robert Mang was jailed four years for the theft of the Cellini Saliera, which Mang called a “prank”. And a prank it must have been. Mang hardly prepared his crime. Passing one evening, a bit plastered, he just climbed the scaffolding, smashed a window, and a display case and climbed down with the Saliera under his arm.

The burglary and theft took place in 56 seconds. In those days I wrote a Museum Security Network blog that the director, Wilfried Seipel, of the museum ought to be dismissed offhand. Either his museum employed an unqualified security manager – for which the general director is responsible – or the director of the museum did just swing away all advice a qualified security manager gave. In both cases the director has the final responsibility, and in my opinion should leave.

It is by no means acceptable that a € 30 million piece de resistance, the absolute highlight of this museum, could be stolen as easily as Robert Mang did.

My blog evoked an angry reaction by the very same imaginative former Scotland Yard art sleuth. I should not be that harsh on the victimized director. Shouldn’t I?

Almost ten years after Mang’s ‘simple comme bonjour’ theft from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the De Kunsthal experienced an almost similar burglary and theft. It took three small time Romanian criminals – a child’s play – two minutes to break into De Kunsthal, and get away with seven paintings.

Maybe a well prepared – too well for they visited De Kunsthal several times, and were easily traced via CCTV – burglary, and theft. However, with a ridiculous epilogue. After the theft they hid the paintings some two weeks in Rotterdam, just two blocks away from my apartment, and took them to Romania where they very clumsily started peddling the stolen paintings. The suspects have been arrested.

While writing this (April 15, 2013) the paintings are still missing.

Criminals may always be able to break in a museum through the outershell of the building, but it is absolutely inacceptable that they can steal millions worth of objects, even a highlight as Cellini’s Saliera, within a minute, or seven paintings within two minutes.

If that happens there is something fundamentally wrong. The awkward public presentation of the De Kunsthal director, Emily Ansenk, made matters even worse. After the theft she stated at a press conference that the security of De Kunsthal ‘is state of the art’.

An embarrassing blunder.

Seven valuable paintings stolen during a two minutes burglary, but the security is ‘state of the art’…

In both thefts there is a lesson to be learned. Intruder alarm systems have a very limited value when criminals are able to get in as easily as in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and De Kunsthal in Rotterdam.

No alarm response organisation can cope with such a structural vulnerability. In another Dutch museum heist, Gouda March 21, 2012, thieves used explosives to force their way in. It is quite difficult to stop that. It can be done, but not easily, and not in all buildings. What can be done however is to prevent thieves from stealing highlights after they enter. At least not as quickly as in both mentioned museums.

Structural, burglar-proof shells must be similar to the peels of an onion. Every time one peel is removed there will be another one. These might be burglar resistant doors and roller shutters, but may also be high-end burglar-proof display cases.

Claiming that there is not enough budget to protect very valuable objects really is confession of guilt. It means that valuable objects
are displayed irresponsibly..

Ton Cremers

toncremers@museum-security.org

+31624224620

April 16th, 2013

Posted In: Ton Cremers

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April 11th, 2013

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE

Theft at Villa Giulia, Rome: Another European Museum Hit by Thieves

http://art-crime.blogspot.nl/2013/04/theft-at-villa-giulia-rome-another.html?m=1

April 5, 2013

Catherine Schofield Sezgin

by Lynda Albertson, CEO, Association of Research into Crimes against Art
ROME – In the last thirteen months several museums in Europe have been hit with dramatic thefts.
In February 2012, two men stormed the Archeological Museum of Olympia in the early morning and tied up a female guard. Wielding hammers, the robbers proceeded to smash five reinforced glass display cases, stuffing 68 pottery and bronze artifacts into their bags before making a hasty escape. 
In a less violent robbery, thieves walked into the Kunsthal in Rotterdam at 3 am on October 16, 2012 and stole seven paintings from the Triton Foundation, a private foundation of the family of the late Willem Cordia. Inside the museum for less than two minutes, the thieves’ cherry-picked valuable art works by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Lucian Freud, packing them into rucksacks before exiting the same way they came in. 
In January goal-oriented burglars struck an art museum in Bergen, Norway for the second time in less than three years. Using high-beam headlights and crowbars, the two thieves smashed display cases and stole 23 rare Chinese artifacts in just over ninety seconds.
This past weekend, over the Easter holidays, Rome’s Villa Giulia joined the list. 
Arriving around midnight, the thieves announced their presence by dramatically launching a smoke grenade. This effectively occupied the attention of the night watchmen and bought the thieves precious seconds needed to climb a garden wall and break into the museum.  It also gave them with a thick cover to obscure their movements on the museum’s close-circuit cameras. 
While the guards investigated the smoke and notified the police of the irregularity the criminals made their way through the museum.  Bypassing many of Villa Giulia’s costlier masterpieces, the robbers climbed the stairs to the first floor rooms that house the objects that make up the vast 6000- piece Castellani collection.
Stopping in Room 20, the Sala degli Ori, the thieves smashed two of the four double collection display cabinets, setting off the museum’s alarm and grabbing an as yet, unnamed number of jewelry pieces before making their escape unseen.  If their selection was random or purposeful we do not know.  What is being reported is that the shattered display cases housed 19th century Castellani jewelry reproductions based on Etruscan design, while the collection cases facing and alongside those hit contain original Etruscan pieces. 
Anyone familiar with ancient jewelry making techniques knows that the loss of these antique reproductions is likely to be quite significant. In December of 2006 Sotheby’s sold a Castellani Egyptian-revival gold, scarab and micromosaic necklace with matching brooch to a private collector for $475,200. Nine other Castellani pieces sold in that same sale for six figures each. 

To create his Etruscan replicas, Alessandro Castellani studied original Etruscan artifacts in great detail to try to unravel their method of fabrication. Experimenting with various granulation techniques, he hand-applying minute gold grain onto high-karat gold surfaces producing labor intensive and intricate jewelry pieces that were as exquisite as their ancient counterparts.
The finest examples of jewelry in this style were produced between the eighth and second centuries, B.C.E. Even with modern tools and knowledge, few goldsmiths today have sufficient skill to compete with either the Castellani jewelers or the original Etruscan masters of the craft.  The jewelry pieces in the Villa Giulia collection were created in a time when human hands were more abundant that the precious metals needed to produce an item and many of the collection’s signature pieces required hundreds of hours of painstaking workmanship.
As back history, Fortunato Castellani, opened his family’s jewelry business on Via del Corso in Rome in 1814 building it into a goldsmith dynasty. Alongside its founder, three generations of the Castellani family members and jewelry artisans based their reputations on creating what they called “Italian archaeological jewelry,” inspired by the precious Etruscan, Roman, Greek, and Byzantine antiquities being excavated at the time. 
Characterized by its thoughtfully worked gold, many Castellani revival pieces utilize labor-intensive micro mosaic insets, or were ornately paved with cameos or semi-precious stones.  The costliest pieces were purchased by well-heeled clientele, some of whom included Napoleon III; Prince Albert; Queen Victoria’s daughter, Empress Frederick of Prussia; Queen Maria Pia of Savoy; and Robert and Elizabeth Browning, who even wrote a poem about one of their rings.
For now, the authorities at the Villa Giulia and the Carabinieri TPC are remaining mum publically as to which 19th century pieces were taken, their value and what, if anything, the museum’s closed circuit surveillance tapes have revealed in terms of clues.
What we do know is that this not the first time that a burglar has made use of a cinema-worthy smokescreen to foil security cameras or to carry out a brazen museum theft on a holiday. 
In 1999 Cezanne’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise was stolen from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England during New Year celebrations.  The bandit broke through a skylight, rappelled down a rope ladder into a gallery and blinded security cameras with a smoke bomb before making off with the £3m painting.
A smoke bomb was also detonated inside the Ukraine’s Lvov Picture Gallery in 1992 during a noon-day heist.   In this violent robbery, two bandits stole three 19th century paintings and shot two museum employees – one a manager and the other a section manager – who tried to prevent their escape.
What will become of the pieces stolen from the Villa Giulia collection is subject to speculation, as is the rationale behind most modern museum thefts.  Some here in Rome think that the recent UK and European robberies highlight that austerity measures and the recession have created a financial climate that on surface value makes museum collections appealing targets.

What happens after, when the high profile goods cannot be sold, remains to be seen.

ARCAblog: Theft at Villa Giulia, Rome: Another European Museum Hit by Thieves.

April 5th, 2013

Posted In: ARCA, Museum thefts

Mum’s the word: Should we alert art thieves to the value of their haul?

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.nl/2013/04/mums-word-should-we-alert-art-thieves.html

April 5, 2013

Tom Flynn

Another day, another theft from a museum…and another tranche of media articles alerting the thieves to the market value of what they’ve just stolen. Clearly we cannot stop journalists researching the likely open market value of stolen works of art, particularly when art price databases are so widely available and high prices make juicy headlines, but what’s the industry intelligence on this? Should law enforcement authorities, art theft investigators and specialist art crime research agencies reveal values or not? 
This question occurred to me while reading ARCA CEO Lynda Albertson’s excellent and informative piece on this week’s theft of important Castellani jewellery (left) from Rome’s Villa Giulia Museum.
If you believe, as many erroneously do, that stolen works of art have no economic value whatsoever (because they cannot be sold on the open market), then it logically follows that there is no harm in revealing recent auction prices for comparable works. In doing so you’re just telling the criminals how stupid they are. However, if you believe, as I do, that thieves often derive real economic value from art theft (albeit only a fraction of legitimate market value) — through insurance ransoms, using the objects as collateral against other criminal commodities, or benefiting from “rewards for information leading to recovery”, etc. — then surely there is genuine harm in revealing recent market prices. Won’t this only encourage further thefts?

There is, of course, a difference between the theft of works by ‘blue chip’ artists, the notional values of which are more widely known, and the theft of more academic material or unique works that have no direct or obvious market equivalent. We are therefore doing ourselves — and indeed the aggrieved museums or private collections — no favours by alerting thieves to the market value of comparably rare objects or comparable objects from specialist niche categories. The objects might have been nicked on commission (whisper it) on behalf of a collector with an aesthetic passion for such things and who in any event would never sell (in which case their market value is largely irrelevant). But they might also have been stolen opportunistically, in which case why inform the thieves as to the likely black market value of their haul?

The recent theft from the Rotterdam Kunsthal immediately triggered a hail of media reports estimating the likely market value of the hoard. Almost all of these were so wide of the mark as to be laughable to anyone with specialist knowledge of the art market. But they made good headlines. More critically, they may well have served to encourage other criminals to have a go.


I don’t know the answer to this, but my instinct tells me that those who understand art’s economic value (and particularly the relationship between legitimate and black market values) would generally refrain from educating the criminal fraternity on the financial upside of art theft.
I’d be interested to hear what specialists in the ‘art crime industry’ think. Should we broadcast prices? Or keep ‘schtum’?

tomflynn: Mum’s the word: Should we alert art thieves to the value of their haul?.

April 5th, 2013

Posted In: Tom Flynn

Thieves Break Into Jbeil Museum

http://archaeolaw.com/2013/04/03/thieves-break-into-jbeil-museum/

April 4, 2013

archaeolaw

At least 30 small artifacts have been stolen from the Jbeil Archaeology Museum. Multiple thieves broke into the museum overnight, in what has been reported as a “daring” raid.

Immediately after it was discovered that objects were missing, local and government officials reported to the museum to examine the scene where the crime took place. The local police forensics team immediately began attempting to extract fingerprints.

According to Culture Minister Gaby Layoun, the thieves would have had no problems carrying the artifacts out of the museum, as all of the missing artifacts were quite small. Layoun expressed his hope that the thieves would soon be arrested, and that the artifacts would be returned. According to Layoun, the stolen artifacts have material, historical, and emotional significance.

Thieves Break Into Jbeil Museum.

April 4th, 2013

Posted In: Archeolaw

Theft at Villa Giulia, Rome: Another European Museum Hit by Thieves

http://art-crime.blogspot.nl/2013/04/theft-at-villa-giulia-rome-another.html

April 4, 2013

Catherine Schofield Sezgin

by Lynda Albertson, CEO, Association of Research into Crimes against Art
ROME – In the last thirteen months several museums in Europe have been hit with dramatic thefts.
In February 2012, two men stormed the Archeological Museum of Olympia in the early morning and tied up a female guard. Wielding hammers, the robbers proceeded to smash five reinforced glass display cases, stuffing 68 pottery and bronze artifacts into their bags before making a hasty escape. 
In a less violent robbery, thieves walked into the Kunsthal in Rotterdam at 3 am on October 16, 2012 and stole seven paintings from the Triton Foundation, a private foundation of the family of the late Willem Cordia. Inside the museum for less than two minutes, the thieves’ cherry-picked valuable art works by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Lucian Freud, packing them into rucksacks before exiting the same way they came in. 
In January goal-oriented burglars struck an art museum in Bergen, Norway for the second time in less than three years. Using high-beam headlights and crowbars, the two thieves smashed display cases and stole 23 rare Chinese artifacts in just over ninety seconds.
This past weekend, over the Easter holidays, Rome’s Villa Giulia joined the list. 
Arriving around midnight, the thieves announced their presence by dramatically launching a smoke grenade. This effectively occupied the attention of the night watchmen and bought the thieves precious seconds needed to climb a garden wall and break into the museum.  It also gave them with a thick cover to obscure their movements on the museum’s close-circuit cameras. 
While the guards investigated the smoke and notified the police of the irregularity the criminals made their way through the museum.  Bypassing many of Villa Giulia’s costlier masterpieces, the robbers climbed the stairs to the first floor rooms that house the objects that make up the vast 6000- piece Castellani collection.
Stopping in Room 20, the Sala degli Ori, the thieves smashed two of the four double collection display cabinets, setting off the museum’s alarm and grabbing an as yet, unnamed number of jewelry pieces before making their escape unseen.  If their selection was random or purposeful we do not know.  What is being reported is that the shattered display cases housed 19th century Castellani jewelry reproductions based on Etruscan design, while the collection cases facing and alongside those hit contain original Etruscan pieces. 
Anyone familiar with ancient jewelry making techniques knows that the loss of these antique reproductions is likely to be quite significant. In December of 2006 Sotheby’s sold a Castellani Egyptian-revival gold, scarab and micromosaic necklace with matching brooch to a private collector for $475,200. Nine other Castellani pieces sold in that same sale for six figures each. 

To create his Etruscan replicas, Alessandro Castellani studied original Etruscan artifacts in great detail to try to unravel their method of fabrication. Experimenting with various granulation techniques, he hand-applying minute gold grain onto high-karat gold surfaces producing labor intensive and intricate jewelry pieces that were as exquisite as their ancient counterparts.
The finest examples of jewelry in this style were produced between the eighth and second centuries, B.C.E. Even with modern tools and knowledge, few goldsmiths today have sufficient skill to compete with either the Castellani jewelers or the original Etruscan masters of the craft.  The jewelry pieces in the Villa Giulia collection were created in a time when human hands were more abundant that the precious metals needed to produce an item and many of the collection’s signature pieces required hundreds of hours of painstaking workmanship.
As back history, Fortunato Castellani, opened his family’s jewelry business on Via del Corso in Rome in 1814 building it into a goldsmith dynasty. Alongside its founder, three generations of the Castellani family members and jewelry artisans based their reputations on creating what they called “Italian archaeological jewelry,” inspired by the precious Etruscan, Roman, Greek, and Byzantine antiquities being excavated at the time. 
Characterized by its thoughtfully worked gold, many Castellani revival pieces utilize labor-intensive micro mosaic insets, or were ornately paved with cameos or semi-precious stones.  The costliest pieces were purchased by well-heeled clientele, some of whom included Napoleon III; Prince Albert; Queen Victoria’s daughter, Empress Frederick of Prussia; Queen Maria Pia of Savoy; and Robert and Elizabeth Browning, who even wrote a poem about one of their rings.
For now, the authorities at the Villa Giulia and the Carabinieri TPC are remaining mum publically as to which 19th century pieces were taken, their value and what, if anything, the museum’s closed circuit surveillance tapes have revealed in terms of clues.
What we do know is that this not the first time that a burglar has made use of a cinema-worthy smokescreen to foil security cameras or to carry out a brazen museum theft on a holiday. 
In 1999 Cezanne’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise was stolen from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England during New Year celebrations.  The bandit broke through a skylight, rappelled down a rope ladder into a gallery and blinded security cameras with a smoke bomb before making off with the £3m painting.
A smoke bomb was also detonated inside the Ukraine’s Lvov Picture Gallery in 1992 during a noon-day heist.   In this violent robbery, two bandits stole three 19th century paintings and shot two museum employees – one a manager and the other a section manager – who tried to prevent their escape.
What will become of the pieces stolen from the Villa Giulia collection is subject to speculation, as is the rationale behind most modern museum thefts.  Some here in Rome think that the recent UK and European robberies highlight that austerity measures and the recession have created a financial climate that on surface value makes museum collections appealing targets.

What happens after, when the high profile goods cannot be sold, remains to be seen.

 

ARCAblog: Theft at Villa Giulia, Rome: Another European Museum Hit by Thieves.

April 4th, 2013

Posted In: ARCA

Prosecutors Seize and Petition to Forfeit Artwork Linked to Money Laundering

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.nl/2013/04/prosecutors-seize-and-petition-to.html

April 1, 2013
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman

Federal prosecutors have seized and petitioned to forfeit 14 crates of art allegedly used to launder money. In the case of U.S. v. Various Pieces of Artwork, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman filed an in rem action in New Jersey federal district court on February 22, 2013 targeting 2,251 items, mostly photographs.Between 2007 and 2012, the CEO of Green Diesel and Fuel Streamers and associates “fraudulently created and sold credits for renewable fuels that were never produced,” declares the U.S. Attorney’s forfeiture complaint. The parties “laundered the proceeds of their fraudulent activities by layering the proceeds through multiple bank accounts and by purchasing artwork, some of which was shipped to Newark, New Jersey, as part of an effort to hide the proceeds of the fraud and remove the proceeds from the United States ….”

The purchases totaled $18 million, say prosecutors, adding that “a substantial amount of artwork” was to be moved to Spain via the Netherlands after having been transported to Houston, Texas, and Newark, New Jersey.

Federal attorneys cite financial records showing purchases from seven dealers and galleries, including Sotheby’s, Heritage Auction Galleries, and Swann Galleries. No wrongdoing is alleged to have been committed by any sellers.

The pieces targeted for forfeiture include photographs by André Kertész, Edward Weston, Eugène Atget, and Alfred Stieglitz.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire atculturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT:www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Prosecutors Seize and Petition to Forfeit Artwork Linked to Money Laundering.

April 1st, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger

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March 21st, 2013

Posted In: ARCA

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March 20th, 2013

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE

Dealer Dikman’s Stock Returns to Cyprus

http://paul-barford.blogspot.nl/2013/03/dealer-dikmans-stock-returns-to-cyprus.html

March 19, 2013

Paul Barford

Samarcheolog notes that items seized in the investigation of smuggling in the 1990s have finally been returned to Cyprus by Germany (‘Cyprus: return of tens of millions’ worth of conflict antiquities, looted from churches in occupied areas‘, Conflict Archaeology March 19th). Some 214 artefacts were found by Munich police in the possession of Turkish antiquities dealer Aydin Dikmen. They were found ‘hidden  inside the walls and under the floorboards in two apartments kept by Dikmen in Munich, under false names’

There […] were difficulties in making a criminal case: the key informant (and mastermind of and lead in the police sting operation), Dutch art smuggler-dealer Michel van Rijn, received death threats,  so he didn’t testify. Then, there were difficulties in making a civil case: the art had to be proved to have been removed from churches in Cyprus after the Turkish invasion. 

Anyway, the stuff has gone back, and the experiences of Michel van Rijn are a reminder that some not-very-nice people are involved in the trade in antiquities.  Who does your local (“trusted”) dealer know, and with whom does he in fact through his chain of supply do business?  

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Dealer Dikman’s Stock Returns to Cyprus.

March 19th, 2013

Posted In: Cyprus, Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues

Disputed cultural treasures

http://pinterest.com/elginism/disputed-cultural-treasures/

March 12, 2013

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Magdala treasures. British Museum, London, UK / Ethiopia. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Samsat Stele. British Museum, London, UK / Turkey. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Lady Ka-Nefer-Nefer mummy mask. Sl Louis Art Museum, Misouri, USA / Egypt. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Bronze head of Goddess Anahit. British Museum, London, UK / Armenia. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Gold wreath. Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA / Greece. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Gravestone fragments. Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA / Greece. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Poster collection. German Historical Museum, Berlin, Germany / Peter Sachs (descendant of original owner, New York, USA. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Gold tablet. Riven Flamenbaum (Private owner), New York, USA / Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, Germany. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Houses By the Sea painting by Egon Schiele. Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria / Descendants of original owner. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Mercedes-Benz 500K Spezial. USA (Private owners) / Germany (Descendents of original owners). More info here www.elginism.com/…

Benin ivory carvings. Museums of Fine Arts, Boston, USA / Nigeria. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Silver from wreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. Odyssey Marine (USA) / Spain. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Richard Neumann’s paintings. Louvre (Paris) / descendants of the Austrian owner. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Ghandi’s Glasses. USA (Private owner) / India. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Schneerson Collection. Moscow, Russia / Chasidei Chabad library, New York, USA. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Gordion jewelry. Pensylvania State University (USA) / Turkey. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Lewis Chessmen. UK Intranational dispute between London / Edinburgh & Isle of Lewis. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Cyrus Cylinder. British Museum (UK) / Iran. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Poundland Banksy. Miami (USA) / Haringey, London (UK). More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Codex Sinaiticus. Britain / Russia / Egypt / Germany. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Uploaded by user

The Mold Cape. Intranational Case (UK). Anglesey, Wales / British Museum, London. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Lindisfarne Gospels. Intranational case (UK). Northumbria or Durham / British Library (London). More info here www.elginism.com/…

Koh-I-Noor Diamond. Crown Jewels (UK) / India (but also Iran, Pakistan & Afghanistan have made claims). More info here www.elginism.com/…

Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus. British Museum (UK) / Turkey. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Pergamon Altar. Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany / Turkey. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Euphronios krater. Metropolitan Museum (USA) / Italy. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Rosetta Stone. British Museum, London, UK / Egypt. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Uploaded by user

Benin Bronzes. British Museum (and many other institutions), London, UK / Nigeria. More info here www.elginism.com/…

Bust of Nefertiti. Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany / Egypt. More info herewww.elginism.com/…

Fetching pins…

Disputed cultural treasures.

March 12th, 2013

Posted In: Elginism

Lots of Fakes on the Market

http://paul-barford.blogspot.nl/2013/03/lots-of-fakes-on-market.html

March 8, 2013

Paul Barford

Still on the subject of fakes, and the limitations of a collector merely ‘trusting the dealer’ in the case of ‘paperless’ objects, are also the subject of an interview published today with a dealer in Far Eastern art. According to dealer Michael Teller, founder of  TK Antiquities New York gallery, the majority of Chinese antiquities offered on the market are forgeries (‘QandA With Michael Teller, Founder of TK Asian Antiquities‘, Epoch Times March 7, 2013).

Michael Teller: The majority of antiques, particularly ancient material on offer today are forgeries, pastiches, and restructured artifacts. It is imperative to learn the appropriate scientific analytical techniques required to unveil these problems. And, importantly, the new collector must realize that virtually all artifacts require multiple disciplines for meaningful authentication. […]
Epoch Times: What advice do you give to someone hoping to sell an item from their collection?
Mr. Teller: Engaging in three procedures are of great benefit if one wishes to realize a high return in the sale of a collector’s objects: Publishing the artifacts, displaying at museums, and documentation of the authenticity of an object. […] the size of the market value and the value of the pieces will definitely be strongly affected by the artifact’s known history and verification of its authenticity

Of course the museums in the US will not be exhibiting, even temporarily, objects private collectors supply if they do not conform with the existing guidelines (“1970 rule”) applicable to such exhibitions. It beats me why collectors are still allowing sellers such as Dealer Dave to insist that they should be quite happy to buy from his fellows objects without any kind of paper trail determining where they came from and how they arrived on the market.

[It is my opinion that the Chinese coins imported by the ACCG for their test case without a London dealer fulfilling the requirements for legal import into the US under law in place at that time should be tested for authenticity, as I pointed out here a couple of years ago, the corrosion products visible in the photo they published of them look like nothing that is produced naturally in the soil. If they are shown by non-destructive analysis not to be antiquities, the whole ACCG case collapses.]  

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Lots of Fakes on the Market.

March 8th, 2013

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues

Ka Nefer Nefer Settlement Terms to be Discussed

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.nl/2013/02/ka-nefer-nefer-settlement-terms-to-be.html

February 13, 2013

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The United States Attorney’s Office has informed the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals that a settlement may be possible between the federal government, Egypt, and the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) in the Ka Nefer Nefer forfeiture case.The federal district court in St. Louis twice dismissed the case last year before prosecutors filed an appeal to the higher court.  But federal attorneys told the appeals court in a January 17 status report that “the parties are planning to meet between February 25 and 27, 2013 at a location agreed upon by the parties, where Appellant, Appellee, and the Republic of Egypt will each be represented. It is the hope of the parties that this meeting will result in the parties and the Republic of Egypt coming to terms that will settle this matter in its entirety, such that no further appellate proceedings will be required.”

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire atculturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT:www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Ka Nefer Nefer Settlement Terms to be Discussed.

February 13th, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

Latchford’s Footprints: Suspect Khmer Art at the Kimbell and the Met

http://chasingaphrodite.com/2012/12/24/latchfords-footprints-suspect-khmer-art-at-the-kimbell-and-the-met/

December 25, 2012

We’re continuing to trace suspect Cambodian antiquities linked to Douglas Latchford, the man at the center of the on-going federal looting probe that we’ve detailed in previous posts here. Last week we wrote about suspect Khmer antiquities at the Denver Art Museum. Here are our latest finds:

The Kimbell Art Museum

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 5.54.33 PM

In 1988, the Kimbell Art Museum purchased an important 7th century Khmer sculpture from Latchford.

At the time of purchase, the statue had no documented ownership history. The only record the Kimbell obtained about its origins was a signed guarantee from Latchford claiming the statue had been in his possession in Thailand since 1968 and had legally been shipped to the UK in 1987, a museum spokeswoman said.

Latchford has made similar claims about contested Khmer statues atSotheby’s and the Norton Simon Museum that are now the focus on a federal lawsuit. Federal investigators have alleged in court filings that Latchford purchased those statues after they were looted in the early 1970s and smuggled to Thailand, a claim Latchford denies. (See our previous coverage of the case here.)

The statue represents Harihara, a Hindu deity that combined the destructive force of Shiva and the creative power of Vishnu. The statue’s style suggests the piece came from the pre-Khmer ruins of Prasat Andet, in central Cambodia. The Kimbell has no evidence of legal export from Cambodian, a museum spokeswoman confirmed.

Cult Statue of a Goddess (Aphrodite)Acquiring an object based exclusively on a dealer’s warranty — rather than an actual documented ownership history that proves it was not looted — was a common tactic in the 1980s, particularly for pieces that were likely looted. As we described in Chasing Aphrodite, the J. Paul Getty Museum passed a new acquisition policy for antiquities in 1987 that called for a dealer warranty in place of an inquiry into an object’s origins. The practice allowed the Getty to continue acquiring objects it knew or suspected had been looted – including an $18 million statue of Aphrodite – while providing a modicum of legal and public relations cover if the statue were later questioned. But the policy failed: The Getty returned the Aphrodite to Italy in 2010 after our investigation in the LA Times made clear the dealer warranty was a thin cover for the truth — the statue had been looted from an archaeological site in central Sicily.

Kimbell1The Kimbell believes the Harihara is the only object in its collection with ties to Latchford, but can’t be certain, a museum spokeswoman said. It is not the only suspect piece of ancient art to surface at the museum. In February, we wrote about the Kimbell’s 5th century BC Greek cup by the Douris painter. After we noted the cup’s ownership history had been traced to Elie Borowski, a dealer who has been linked to the illicit trade in Classical antiquities, the Kimbell announced it would publish the cup on a registry of objects maintained by the Association of Art Museum Directors. The cup was never listed in the registry — likely because it was acquired prior to 2008, when the directors group began requiring suspect antiquities to be posted. (This leaves the question: where should suspect antiquities acquired before 2008 be posted publicly to encourage further provenance research? Museums should be publishing the complete known provenance of all their antiquities, but don’t. We’ve proposed our own answer.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

met.hariharaWhile researching the Kimbell’s Harihara, we noticed that The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a similar Harihara, also linked to Prasat Andet, in 1977. We’ve asked the Met for the provenance of the statue, as none is listed on their website.

The Met also has several pieces from Latchford. The New York Times has previously notedthat Cambodia will ask the museum to return its two prominently displayed Standing Attendants, which also came through Latchford from Koh Ker. As Paul Barford has noted, the knees of those statues bear clear signs of having been hacked from a base by looters. (The Met’s high resolution photos and zoom tool are quite useful here.)Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 10.50.29 PM

David Gill has also noted that the statues came to the museum in fragments from different sources acquired over several years and were reassembled at the Met.Martin Lerner, the Met’s former Asian Art curator, noted the happy coincidence in the catalog: “It is particularly gratifying that the monumental bodies join up with heads already in the collection.” This appears similar to a pattern we’ve seen in objects passed through smuggling networks that dealt in Classical antiquities, the so-called “fragments game” identified by Italian investigators and noted by Gill here.

Gill has also helpfully identified several other Latchford donations at the Met:

1983_551_232391-1A 10th century Khmer Head of Buddha acquired in 1983 as a gift from Latchford. (1983.551)

A 12th century Bodhisattva from Nepal acquired in 1989 as a gift from Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford.  (1989.237.1)

A bronze 9th century Bodhisattva Maitreya from Thailand acquired in 1989 as a gift from Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford. (1989.237.2)

A 2nd century Ghandaran plaque from Pakistan acquired as  gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford in 1989. (1989.237.3)

DT5214The gifts suggest several things: Latchford was a generous donor to the Met over several years, and dealt not just in Khmer art but also material from South Asia. It would be worth perusing the Met’s 1994 catalog of Asian Art for other examples of material from South East Asia. For example, given the history of looting at Koh Ker, we were interested in how this gilt bronze statue of a king from Kor Ker (left) ended up in the collection Walter Annenberg before being acquired by the Met in 1988.

We’ll continue looking for Latchford objects in other museums. If you’ve got any tips, drop us at line at ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com

Latchford’s Footprints: Suspect Khmer Art at the Kimbell and the Met | CHASING APHRODITE.

December 25th, 2012

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE

Latchford’s Footprints: Suspect Khmer Art at the Kimbell and the Met

http://chasingaphrodite.com/2012/12/24/latchfords-footprints-suspect-khmer-art-at-the-kimbell-and-the-met/

December 25, 2012

We’re continuing to trace suspect Cambodian antiquities linked to Douglas Latchford, the man at the center of the on-going federal looting probe that we’ve detailed in previous posts here. Last week we wrote about suspect Khmer antiquities at the Denver Art Museum. Here are our latest finds:

The Kimbell Art Museum

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 5.54.33 PM

In 1988, the Kimbell Art Museum purchased an important 7th century Khmer sculpture from Latchford.

At the time of purchase, the statue had no documented ownership history. The only record the Kimbell obtained about its origins was a signed guarantee from Latchford claiming the statue had been in his possession in Thailand since 1968 and had legally been shipped to the UK in 1987, a museum spokeswoman said.

Latchford has made similar claims about contested Khmer statues atSotheby’s and the Norton Simon Museum that are now the focus on a federal lawsuit. Federal investigators have alleged in court filings that Latchford purchased those statues after they were looted in the early 1970s and smuggled to Thailand, a claim Latchford denies. (See our previous coverage of the case here.)

The statue represents Harihara, a Hindu deity that combined the destructive force of Shiva and the creative power of Vishnu. The statue’s style suggests the piece came from the pre-Khmer ruins of Prasat Andet, in central Cambodia. The Kimbell has no evidence of legal export from Cambodian, a museum spokeswoman confirmed.

Cult Statue of a Goddess (Aphrodite)Acquiring an object based exclusively on a dealer’s warranty — rather than an actual documented ownership history that proves it was not looted — was a common tactic in the 1980s, particularly for pieces that were likely looted. As we described in Chasing Aphrodite, the J. Paul Getty Museum passed a new acquisition policy for antiquities in 1987 that called for a dealer warranty in place of an inquiry into an object’s origins. The practice allowed the Getty to continue acquiring objects it knew or suspected had been looted – including an $18 million statue of Aphrodite – while providing a modicum of legal and public relations cover if the statue were later questioned. But the policy failed: The Getty returned the Aphrodite to Italy in 2010 after our investigation in the LA Times made clear the dealer warranty was a thin cover for the truth — the statue had been looted from an archaeological site in central Sicily.

Kimbell1The Kimbell believes the Harihara is the only object in its collection with ties to Latchford, but can’t be certain, a museum spokeswoman said. It is not the only suspect piece of ancient art to surface at the museum. In February, we wrote about the Kimbell’s 5th century BC Greek cup by the Douris painter. After we noted the cup’s ownership history had been traced to Elie Borowski, a dealer who has been linked to the illicit trade in Classical antiquities, the Kimbell announced it would publish the cup on a registry of objects maintained by the Association of Art Museum Directors. The cup was never listed in the registry — likely because it was acquired prior to 2008, when the directors group began requiring suspect antiquities to be posted. (This leaves the question: where should suspect antiquities acquired before 2008 be posted publicly to encourage further provenance research? Museums should be publishing the complete known provenance of all their antiquities, but don’t. We’ve proposed our own answer.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

met.hariharaWhile researching the Kimbell’s Harihara, we noticed that The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a similar Harihara, also linked to Prasat Andet, in 1977. We’ve asked the Met for the provenance of the statue, as none is listed on their website.

The Met also has several pieces from Latchford. The New York Times has previously notedthat Cambodia will ask the museum to return its two prominently displayed Standing Attendants, which also came through Latchford from Koh Ker. As Paul Barford has noted, the knees of those statues bear clear signs of having been hacked from a base by looters. (The Met’s high resolution photos and zoom tool are quite useful here.)Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 10.50.29 PM

David Gill has also noted that the statues came to the museum in fragments from different sources acquired over several years and were reassembled at the Met.Martin Lerner, the Met’s former Asian Art curator, noted the happy coincidence in the catalog: “It is particularly gratifying that the monumental bodies join up with heads already in the collection.” This appears similar to a pattern we’ve seen in objects passed through smuggling networks that dealt in Classical antiquities, the so-called “fragments game” identified by Italian investigators and noted by Gill here.

Gill has also helpfully identified several other Latchford donations at the Met:

1983_551_232391-1A 10th century Khmer Head of Buddha acquired in 1983 as a gift from Latchford. (1983.551)

A 12th century Bodhisattva from Nepal acquired in 1989 as a gift from Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford.  (1989.237.1)

A bronze 9th century Bodhisattva Maitreya from Thailand acquired in 1989 as a gift from Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford. (1989.237.2)

A 2nd century Ghandaran plaque from Pakistan acquired as  gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A. J. Latchford in 1989. (1989.237.3)

DT5214The gifts suggest several things: Latchford was a generous donor to the Met over several years, and dealt not just in Khmer art but also material from South Asia. It would be worth perusing the Met’s 1994 catalog of Asian Art for other examples of material from South East Asia. For example, given the history of looting at Koh Ker, we were interested in how this gilt bronze statue of a king from Kor Ker (left) ended up in the collection Walter Annenberg before being acquired by the Met in 1988.

We’ll continue looking for Latchford objects in other museums. If you’ve got any tips, drop us at line at ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com

Latchford’s Footprints: Suspect Khmer Art at the Kimbell and the Met | CHASING APHRODITE.

December 25th, 2012

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Ton Cremers, Dutch security consultant

http://art-crime.blogspot.nl/2012/10/kunsthal-rotterdam-art-heist-conferring_18.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+arcablog+(ARCAblog)

October 18, 2012
Ton Cremers

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

When Tuesday’s news broke about the theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, bloggers and journalists rushed to the telephones and internet to piece together the news.  Museum Security Network‘s Ton Cremers was quiet on the internet because he was at the crime scene.
The Christian Science Monitor interviewed Mr. Cremers, former director of security for the Rijksmuseum (the website includes a video by the Associated Press that interviews Mr. Cremers outside of the Kunsthal Rotterdam):

“The size of the theft — seven paintings — is remarkable, says Ton Cremers, a consultant on museum security (though not for Kunsthal Rotterdam) who spent all day at the crime scene.  Mr. Cremers, who founded Museum Security Network, a website on “cultural property protection,” points out that the paintings were easily seen from outside through the windows — maybe too easily.  “You want works of such value in the heart of your building, in a separate space,” Cremers said.

What will this do to Kunsthal Rotterdam’s reputation? “Oh, this is not good”, said Cremers.  “This case will have a lot of international attention.”  He expects the next time Kunsthal Rotterdam is organizing an exhibition, art owners will be “very critical” toward the museum before entrusting them with their expensive works.”

Mr. Cremers told the Christian Science Monitor that recovering the art is difficult.

“For paintings, that chance is around 30 to 40 percent.  On average it takes about seven years,” he says.  But he notes that there is no guarantee of recovery, pointing to two works by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in December 2002.  Two thieves were sentenced for that crime in 2005, but the stolen paintings have need been recovered.

In Britain’s Guardian, Mr. Cremers was quoted as saying ‘that it had become easier than ever for thieves to steal paintings from even well-protected galleries like the Kunsthal.  He said some of the fault lay with its design.’

Calling the Kunsthal a wonderful museum, it was a nightmare FROM [Ton’s emphasis here] a security point of view: “As a gallery it is a gem.  But it is an awful building to have to protect.  If you hold your face up to the window at the back you have a good view of the paintings, which makes it all too easy for thieves to plot taking them from the walls,” he told DeVolkskrant.’ (Kate Connolly, Guardian, 10/16/12, Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist

In this article on De Volksrant, Mr. Cremers says that the artworks should be placed far away from the outer shell of the building (loosely translated by Google) and that the Kunsthal Rotterdam robbery may be the biggest in the last 20 years in The Netherlands.
In this article by Anna van den Breemer in Volkskrantl.nl, Ton Cremers, from the grounds of the Kunsthal, says that once the thieves were through the door, they could easily walk throughout the entire museum with no barriers or walls around the more expensive pieces.

ARCA Blog: Mr. Cremers, could you comment on the size of the works or location within the gallery of the paintings stolen from the Triton Collection at the Kunsthal Rotterdam? Were these the most expensive paintings on display or just the easiest to locate and carry out? Had any of images of the stolen paintings been included in promotional material on the “Avante-Garde” exhibit which would have made the paintings more recognizable to thieves?

Ton Cremers: It looks as if the size of the paintings motivated the thieves to steal them, because larger, and more valuable paintings remained untouched. These really were not the paintings one would use for promotional material.

ARCA Blog: Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and Gauguin — stolen artwork by these artists often make the headlines.  Are paintings by these artists taken because the thieves just recognize the artists names from the headlines associated with expensive paintings or possibly are these works by such prestigious artists a good sale on the black market? Do you even believe that there are buyers in South America, Europe or the Middle East willing to purchase these works even knowing that they have been stolen?

Ton Cremers: Too often art thieves are considered well educated experts on art. This is by no means reality. Art theft as a specialty hardly exists. One does not need to be an expert to know names as the ones mentioned above. The most stolen artis is Picasso, most likely because of the fame of his name. The is no market for these paintings, and there are no secret buyers for stolen art. In general famous art is collected to raise one’s status, and as an investment. Both of these are not possible with stolen art. Besides: when the thieves return to the buyer of stolen art, and rob him of the looted painting. What can he do? Report this to the police? Stolen art remains for a long time in the crime scene, is used as a collateral for negotiations with insurance companies, or – the worst scenario – is destroyed because the criminals do not know what to do with it.

ARCA Blog:  If you were to compare this theft to another, what would that be? The Irish gangs who stole paintings in Britain? The Serbs who were found with the two Turners stolen from The Tate Gallery?

Ton Cremers: As long as we do not know anything about the motives of the thieves or their origin it is impossible to make any comparisons. What I can say, is that this is the largest art heis in The Netherlands since some 25 years. One really must be very cautious with speculations about organized crime, or east European gangs. When the Benvenuto Celline saliera (salt cellar) was stolen Charles Hill – former Scotland Yard – stated in the press that police were close to solving this crime, and that Serbs were involved. Later on it appeared to be a drunk local who did not prepare the burglary, and theft at all, but just climbed scaffold, broke a window, smashed a display case, and grabbed the $30 million object. This burglary, and theft took less than one minute! No preparations, no organized crime, no Serbs…just a drunk local. This too, like the Kunsthal, was an example of very poor structural security.

ARCA Blog: Some headlines have suggested that inside information must have been given to the thieves about the gallery’s security.  What kind of information would this be? Are we talking about something like the fictional account in the Swedish film “Headlong” where a man working for the security firm was an accomplice in art theft?

Ton Cremers: These are just speculations, that I really do not want to participate in.

ARCA Blog: You were at the Kunsthal Rotterdam the day the theft was discovered.  How did you find out about the theft and what role, if any, did you play in the investigation?  Are the Rotterdam Police in charge of the investigation? How many officers would be assigned and how many departments would be involved?

Ton Cremers: I found out about the crime via a journalist who called me (too) early in the morning. I was at the crime scene because several TV companies wanted to interview me at the scene. I am in no way involved in the investigations. Important to know: I was not, nor am I involved in the security of the Kunsthal. Let that be quite clear. If I would be, I would not talk to journalists, or answer your questions. At the moment 25 policemen are involved in the investigations.

ARCA Blog: In this case we’ve read that a forensic team has searched for physical evidence such as fingerprints and that police have reviewed security videotapes and asked for information from potential witnesses.  Can you tell us if any information regarding the evidence of this crime has been made public? Will police want to share this information or will the investigation be conducted quietly?  Often it seems that the only news we get from an art heist is that paintings have been taken or recovered and that someone may or may not have been arrested (with or without the paintings).  What do you think we can expect as far as news from the Kunsthal Rotterdam art heist?

Ton Cremers: The Police are very secretive in this matter. However, there some minor information was broadcasted, asking for witnesses. This far police have received some 30 tips. It is not clear if any of these tips are valuable.

ARCA Blog: What role will any international law enforcement agencies have in this investigation?

Ton Cremers: The usual role: hardly any, other than that this theft will be in the databases of Interpol, Dutch police, the carabinieri (they still have the largest database, and gave some twenty people almost full time dedicated to maintaining this database), and of course the Art Loss Register.

ARCA Blog: Were the paintings insured and did you see anyone representing the insurance company in Rotterdam after the theft? Will the insurance company be part of the investigation?

Ton Cremers: The paintings were insured, as loans always are. It goes without saying that the insurance company – I have seen a representative insurance broker – at some point will be involved. What fascinates me is that this broker accepted this risk to have it insured, for the conditions under which these paintings were, and the remainder of the show is, displayed really are below standard.

There is one more, unpopular, statement I need to make. The director of the Kunsthal stated during a press conference that the security of the Kunsthal is ‘state of the art’. A very weird statement to make after this burglary, and theft of 7 paintings valued between € 50 and 100 million (some $130,000,000). Either she still is convinced the security of her kunsthal to be ‘state of the art’, or she is just trying to escape her responsibility. I am very much convinced that this statement – no matter her motives – disqualifies her as a museum director. It is my strong conviction that she should make room for a manager who is qualified to do this job.

Ton, thank you so much for taking the time to ‘speak’ with the ARCA Blog.

ARCAblog: Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Ton Cremers, Dutch security consultant.

October 18th, 2012

Posted In: ARCA, Museum thefts

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October 10th, 2012

Posted In: ARCA

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September 29th, 2012

Posted In: ARCA, Museum thefts

Art Loss Register and Jack Solomon facing lawsuit over their part in Norman Rockwell title dispute

http://tom-flynn.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/art-loss-register-and-jack-solomon.html?spref=fb

June 6, 2012
Norman Rockwell, Russian Schoolroom

It took years, and cost her a fortune in legal fees, but in 2010, US art dealer Judy Goffman Cutler finally won title to the Norman Rockwell painting which she legitimately bought and rightfully owned but which had been challenged by the painting’s former owner, Jack Solomon.Solomon, who for a time pressed his claim with the support of the Art Loss Register (ALR), was eventually described by the presiding judge in the case as “not credible.”

Now Mrs Cutler has filed an official complaint in Las Vegas Federal Court, suing Solomon, the Art Loss Register, and Christopher Marinello, executive director of the ALR, seeking “punitive damages for abuse of process and conspiracy.”

The original case was a tangled web of claim and counter-claim, but at its heart was an attempt by Solomon to claim ownership of a painting for which he had already benefited financially on two previous occasions. Courthouse News Service, the California-based nationwide news service for lawyers and news media, reported on Thursday that Christopher Marinello of the Art Loss Register was listed as one of Solomon’s attorneys in his original complaint. The Courthouse News article goes on to state: “But Marinello would later testify in a separate proceeding that he never was Solomon’s attorney and that he agreed to add his name as the attorney of record in order to ‘give it some kind of added cachet or publicity that the Art Loss Register, as an organization, was blessing [Solomon’s] cause.'” Why a connection with the ALR could be assumed to “add cachet” has never been explained.

Solomon, a Missouri-based art dealer and Rockwell specialist, bought the painting — Russian Schoolroom, (above left) — in 1971 for $5,000. Two years later, he sold it through his Arts International gallery in Clayton, Missouri to Bert Elam, a collector, for $25,000. Elam agreed to leave the picture on temporary display at the gallery for the duration of a Rockwell exhibition. A few days later, on 24 June 1973, the painting was stolen from the gallery by persons unknown. Solomon and his gallery reimbursed Elam for the loss and made an insurance claim, which was duly compensated by the gallery’s insurer, Chubb.

In 1988, the painting resurfaced at Morton M. Goldberg Auction Rooms in New Orleans, consigned for sale by “a couple” whose identity has never been established. Solomon was contacted by the auctioneer and was sent a catalogue, the front cover of which showed a colour illustration of the painting. The auction was also widely advertised in the trade press, including a page in Antiques and the Arts Weekly in October 1988, in which the painting was illustrated (right).Judy Goffman Cutler was also contacted by auctioneer Morton Goldberg, who was aware of her status as America’s pre-eminent dealer in Norman Rockwell’s work. Mrs Cutler has a New York gallery specialising in American illustration and is also co-founder, with her husband Laurence, of the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. Prior to the auction, Morton Goldberg requested Mrs Cutler’s interest in Russian Schoolroom in a price range of $90,000-100,000. She politely declined it at that price level, but made an index card to take note of it, which she filed away.

Soon after, on seeing that the painting was coming under the hammer at Goldberg’s ‘Louisiana Purchase Auction,’ where it was now estimated at $80,00-100,000, Mrs Cutler requested a catalogue for the sale (below left). She then began conducting her own extensive due diligence inquiries into the picture’s provenance. Finally satisfied that it could legitimately be bought, Mrs Cutler bid for the picture and secured it at the sale on 29 October 1988 for $64,000 ($70,400 including auctioneer’s fees).

Being the new proud owner of the painting, Mrs Cutler set about alerting the Rockwell collectors among her clients and advertising it for sale. What she was unaware of at this point, but which emerged in the subsequent court case, was that behind the scenes Solomon had cut a deal with Goldberg Auction Rooms prior to the sale. Despite having been paid out by his insurers in 1973, Solomon arranged with Goldberg that 10% of the auction proceeds would go to Goldberg, $20,000 would be paid to Chubb and that Solomon and the consignor would split the remaining proceeds 50/50. The identity of the consignor remains shrouded in mystery. What is also unclear is why the consignor — who must have acquired it in good faith — agreed to split the proceeds with Solomon, who had already been recompensed for the original theft and thus had no legitimate title to the painting. Unfortunately (one is tempted to say ‘conveniently’), Goldberg Auction Rooms long ago went out of business and its records have vanished. Who consigned the painting to auction? How, and from whom, did they acquire it?

In September 1989, Mrs Cutler sold Russian Schoolroom to her long-time client, the film director Steven Spielberg, who is also an enthusiastic Rockwell collector. Nothing further emerged until 2004 when an unknown person alerted the FBI to the 1973 theft. The FBI staff were unaware at that time that the case had been effectively resolved in 1988 when Solomon consented to the auction. In 2007, one of Steven Spielberg’s staff became aware that investigations were being conducted and contacted Judy Goffman Cutler.

Mrs Cutler then gave Steven Spielberg a Rockwell painting of comparable value and importance in order to remove him from the case and thereby save him the embarrassment. The Russian Schoolroom was placed into storage and Mrs Cutler and Solomon proceeded to argue their claims to title.

In April 2010, Judge Roger L. Hunt, presiding in the District Court for the District of Nevada, awarded title to Russian Schoolroomto Mrs Cutler.

Whether Mrs Cutler will succeed in her official complaint against Solomon and the ALR just filed in the Las Vegas Federal Court remains to be seen. However, one can understand how an honest art dealer who conducted extensive due diligence before acquiring a picture would seek recompense for the enormous sums subsequently expended in defending both her good title to the work in question and her reputation. At the very least the outcome of the case should act as a warning to all those who attach themselves to an illegitimate claim, either wilfully in order to acquire some prospective reward, or by failing to do their own due diligence into the parties involved.

As Julian Radcliffe, Chairman of the Art Loss Register himself commented recently with regard to another title dispute: “Anyone, including lawyers, who think that they can obtain rewards for the return of stolen art without providing full information on who had them and why, should be prosecuted.”

tomflynn: Art Loss Register and Jack Solomon facing lawsuit over their part in Norman Rockwell title dispute.

June 6th, 2012

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Tom Flynn

Will US Attorneys Appeal after latest Ka Nefer Nefer setback?

http://illicit-cultural-property.blogspot.nl/2012/06/will-us-attorneys-appeal-after-latest.html

June 5, 2012

A judge has dismissed the federal government’s request to reconsider an earlier ruling dismissing the government’s forfeiture request for the Ka Nefer Nefer mask currently on display at the St. Louis Art Museum. Rick St. Hilaire notes the U.S. Attorney must now make the decision whether to appeal the ruling on to the 8th Circuit.

The problem with the government’s initial case—at least in the district court’s view—was the government failed to allege the particular circumstances under which a crime took place as the mask left Egypt. This problem can be examined by referencing recent case law broadening the principle that looted and smuggled objects are considered tainted when they leave their country of origin, even in the absence of direct evidence of wrongdoing. I’m thinking for example of the Barakat ruling in the English High Court which offered claimant nations a broader platform of potential laws with which a nation of origin can claim theft.

But in this case the federal prosecutors had a difficult prospect as Egypt was unable to offer enough evidence establishing a crime had been committed. So despite the research the SLAM conducted when it acquired the mask in 1998, the government was unable to offer enough to convince a judge to forfeit the object and force SLAM to make its case. It is an open question whether the district court would have taken such rulings on board, likely not. But an appeals court is in a more favorable position to make broader inquiries in the law based on policy and foreign authority. 

Illicit Cultural Property: Will US Attorneys Appeal after latest Ka Nefer Nefer setback?.

June 5th, 2012

Posted In: Illicit Cultural Property, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art

June 5, 2012

An exciting new research effort has been launched by some of the most prominent researchers of the illicit antiquities trade.

Simon MackenzieNeil Brodie and Suzie Thomas at the University of Glasgow have received £1 million over four years from the European Research Council to deepen their pursue new research of the illicit trade in ancient art.

The program, called “Global Traffic in Cultural Objects,” will be based at Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. Here’s how the team describes their goal:

“National and international laws intended to regulate or suppress the trade have been only partially successful, and the illicit trade has been linked to further criminal problems such as corruption and physical violence…By developing new empirical approaches and drawing upon criminological theory, this project will work towards a regulatory regime that goes beyond straightforward law enforcement, allowing the legitimate exchange of cultural objects while suppressing the illicit market.”

The project’s four main endeavors are:

1. Mapping and measurement. Through a series of case studies, the project will examine publicly available sales data to establish whether they can be used to estimate flows of illicit material through the market, and therefore to assess the effectiveness of any implemented regulation.

2. Qualitative data-gathering and analysis. Through ethnographic interviews of market agents such as dealers, collectors, museum curators and university academics, the project will gather information about the trade in licit and illicit cultural objects, and opinions about suitable regulation and opportunities for novel regulatory interventions. It will also, by means of a major case study, trace the path taken by a defined category of illicit material from ground to market, thereby offering greater depth to the analysis.

3. Regulation theory and practice. There will be a comprehensive review of the academic and policy literature as regards comparable transnational criminal markets and their regulation. Regulatory successes and failures will be identified, and considered in relation to the traffic in cultural objects, utilizing information obtained through themes 1 and 2. The project will also consider whether the traffic in cultural objects is ‘knotted’ together with other criminal activities in such a way as to render it insoluble as an isolated problem.

4. Knowledge mobilization. The project will establish a website that will make available project outputs and data, and that will also contain an ‘encyclopedia’ of material relevant to the project and to the traffic in cultural objects more generally.

Simon Mackenzie

We recently interviewed Simon Mackenzie, a criminologist who has been studying the antiquities trade since 2002, about his perspective on the illicit antiquities trade. (We’ve edited a bit for clarity and length.)

Chasing Aphrodite: What is known and not known about the illicit antiquities trade? How does our knowledge of it compare with our knowledge of other types of crime?

Simon Mackenzie: Compared to the trade in narcotics, we know virtually nothing. The narcotics trade has been heavily researched. There are specialist areas within the fields — country experts, modes of regulation. There’s been all sorts of research into the people producing drugs, the mechanisms for supply and demand. For people studying cultural heritage traffic, its a good place to start. The trade wild life is more comparable to the antiquities trade in terms of the state of research. There is some research and lots of policy activity. We see a remarkably high level of NGO involvement in awareness raising around wild life trafficking.

People are always talking about the illicit antiquities trade as something that is under-researched, with a small number of people working in the field. But when you think about it, it’s not too bad. Clemency Coggins really started the field in the 1960s. The last 40 years, from UNESCO onwards, has been a period of relatively high activity compared to other criminal problems – quite a lot has happened. There’s been increasing regulation of museums and ethical codes adopted. Once you start looking into the literature — for example, ethnographic studies of markets by Morag Kersel , the work of Christopher Chippindale  and David GillRicardo EliaPatty Gerstenblith. It has been a small field, but there are a good spread of methodological approaches, with respectable and reliable researchers.

Neil Brodie (left)

CA: Estimates of the size of illicit trade range from tens of millions to as much as $2 billion annually. Why?

SM: It’s amusing, or depressing, or tragic. I teach a course on transnational criminal markets — human organ, radiological material, etc. The first largest international market is drugs. The second is arms. Third is everything else — wild life says it’s the third largest, antiquities says it’s the third largest, several others also claim to be the third largest. The evidence disappears and nobody has any idea how big it is. Part of our project is to create more accurate sizing statistics.

I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but we know there is a lot of looting going on and we have first hand accounts of widespread looting. We see regular occurrences of looted objects in Western markets, in prestigious institutions and auction houses. We know we have a serious problem here and something needs to be done about it, whether it’s $6 billion of $50 million.

CA: Is organized crime involved in antiquities trade?

SM: There is clearly organized crime in the antiquities market, as we conventionally conceive of organized crime. The more interesting question is whether antiquities trafficking is in itself an organized crime. It’s not what we would think of as organized crime on its face because the actors are often quite respectable figures. It seems counter-intuitive to say that museums and auction houses are organized crime. But look at the definition of organized crime: three or more people operating over a sustained period of time in a serious criminal way. Antiquities trafficking meets that definition. So you can make a technical argument quite easily.

The more interesting question to ask is: why do we care whether it’s organized crime? The policy response to organized crime, the regulatory response, is much greater, more of an international threat. So the distinction can be quite important on a policy basis.

The reason why organized criminals are involved in the antiquities trade is because it’s under-regulated. But you can take the organized criminal out of the antiquities trade and you’ll still have looting. It’s a story of supply and demand on an international basis. The trade attracts organized criminals, but they don’t define the shape of it because it is created and sustained by more conventional trade actors.

Suzie Thomas

CA: The trade in illicit antiquities is often seen, especially in the United States, as a victimless crime. The public sometimes has trouble grasping the harm. Your thoughts?

SM: It’s difficult. The general public is not particularly interested in the context of any particular object dug up in a far flung corner of the world. And yet, museums and cultural debates are a strong current full of voices who feel very strongly about people’s culture and human rights. So in one sense, it’s certainly true that sometimes people don’t get that broken old pots are important to mankind. But when you elevate that to a greater concern with history and culture and knowledge and civilization, what that means and how we might find our way forward, people do care quite deeply about that. These are fundamentals.

CA: What do you think of the current regulatory regimes for the antiquities trade? Your thoughts on de-criminalization?

SM: Most criminologists agree that supply-side interventions are going to be problematic, particularly on their own. The drug trade and prohibition are  pretty good examples of trying to control something where there’s a high level of demand in a globalized economy. None of these have particularly good records of success. Most of the current ideas seems to be about reducing demand or, alternatively, taking an end-to-end type solution — take both ends seriously and start to unwind the economic cultural and social forces underpinning the market. Once you see that, strict legal responses begin to look problematic. It’s very difficult for the law to seriously engage with an entrenched, large-scale global trade. The nature of regulatory intervention in the cultural heritage market has largely been legal. Mostly its been about UNESCO, passing laws in source countries, prohibition of theft, and passing laws in market countries to prevent purchase. The interesting question for regulation is how do we build up systems around these laws we have.

Some scholars, such as Paul Bator, have argued that increasing regulation produces the black-markets — that regulators are culpable for the illicit trade. I’ve never really bought into that. It’s a dead end: if you believe that, what do you do, stand back? You can talk about decriminalizing cannabis use, where the moral limitations are so widely disputed so there’s a general debate about whether it should be a crime. But not many people would seriously argue that knowingly steeling cultural property is ok. It’s reasonably clear that all sides say it’s wrong. Therefore the idea that we should decriminalize it doesn’t seem to do much except legitimate illicit stuff. It wouldn’t stop the illicit trade. It might make it worse.

 

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art | CHASING APHRODITE.

June 5th, 2012

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art

June 5, 2012

An exciting new research effort has been launched by some of the most prominent researchers of the illicit antiquities trade.

Simon MackenzieNeil Brodie and Suzie Thomas at the University of Glasgow have received £1 million over four years from the European Research Council to deepen their pursue new research of the illicit trade in ancient art.

The program, called “Global Traffic in Cultural Objects,” will be based at Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. Here’s how the team describes their goal:

“National and international laws intended to regulate or suppress the trade have been only partially successful, and the illicit trade has been linked to further criminal problems such as corruption and physical violence…By developing new empirical approaches and drawing upon criminological theory, this project will work towards a regulatory regime that goes beyond straightforward law enforcement, allowing the legitimate exchange of cultural objects while suppressing the illicit market.”

The project’s four main endeavors are:

1. Mapping and measurement. Through a series of case studies, the project will examine publicly available sales data to establish whether they can be used to estimate flows of illicit material through the market, and therefore to assess the effectiveness of any implemented regulation.

2. Qualitative data-gathering and analysis. Through ethnographic interviews of market agents such as dealers, collectors, museum curators and university academics, the project will gather information about the trade in licit and illicit cultural objects, and opinions about suitable regulation and opportunities for novel regulatory interventions. It will also, by means of a major case study, trace the path taken by a defined category of illicit material from ground to market, thereby offering greater depth to the analysis.

3. Regulation theory and practice. There will be a comprehensive review of the academic and policy literature as regards comparable transnational criminal markets and their regulation. Regulatory successes and failures will be identified, and considered in relation to the traffic in cultural objects, utilizing information obtained through themes 1 and 2. The project will also consider whether the traffic in cultural objects is ‘knotted’ together with other criminal activities in such a way as to render it insoluble as an isolated problem.

4. Knowledge mobilization. The project will establish a website that will make available project outputs and data, and that will also contain an ‘encyclopedia’ of material relevant to the project and to the traffic in cultural objects more generally.

Simon Mackenzie

We recently interviewed Simon Mackenzie, a criminologist who has been studying the antiquities trade since 2002, about his perspective on the illicit antiquities trade. (We’ve edited a bit for clarity and length.)

Chasing Aphrodite: What is known and not known about the illicit antiquities trade? How does our knowledge of it compare with our knowledge of other types of crime?

Simon Mackenzie: Compared to the trade in narcotics, we know virtually nothing. The narcotics trade has been heavily researched. There are specialist areas within the fields — country experts, modes of regulation. There’s been all sorts of research into the people producing drugs, the mechanisms for supply and demand. For people studying cultural heritage traffic, its a good place to start. The trade wild life is more comparable to the antiquities trade in terms of the state of research. There is some research and lots of policy activity. We see a remarkably high level of NGO involvement in awareness raising around wild life trafficking.

People are always talking about the illicit antiquities trade as something that is under-researched, with a small number of people working in the field. But when you think about it, it’s not too bad. Clemency Coggins really started the field in the 1960s. The last 40 years, from UNESCO onwards, has been a period of relatively high activity compared to other criminal problems – quite a lot has happened. There’s been increasing regulation of museums and ethical codes adopted. Once you start looking into the literature — for example, ethnographic studies of markets by Morag Kersel , the work of Christopher Chippindale  and David GillRicardo EliaPatty Gerstenblith. It has been a small field, but there are a good spread of methodological approaches, with respectable and reliable researchers.

Neil Brodie (left)

CA: Estimates of the size of illicit trade range from tens of millions to as much as $2 billion annually. Why?

SM: It’s amusing, or depressing, or tragic. I teach a course on transnational criminal markets — human organ, radiological material, etc. The first largest international market is drugs. The second is arms. Third is everything else — wild life says it’s the third largest, antiquities says it’s the third largest, several others also claim to be the third largest. The evidence disappears and nobody has any idea how big it is. Part of our project is to create more accurate sizing statistics.

I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but we know there is a lot of looting going on and we have first hand accounts of widespread looting. We see regular occurrences of looted objects in Western markets, in prestigious institutions and auction houses. We know we have a serious problem here and something needs to be done about it, whether it’s $6 billion of $50 million.

CA: Is organized crime involved in antiquities trade?

SM: There is clearly organized crime in the antiquities market, as we conventionally conceive of organized crime. The more interesting question is whether antiquities trafficking is in itself an organized crime. It’s not what we would think of as organized crime on its face because the actors are often quite respectable figures. It seems counter-intuitive to say that museums and auction houses are organized crime. But look at the definition of organized crime: three or more people operating over a sustained period of time in a serious criminal way. Antiquities trafficking meets that definition. So you can make a technical argument quite easily.

The more interesting question to ask is: why do we care whether it’s organized crime? The policy response to organized crime, the regulatory response, is much greater, more of an international threat. So the distinction can be quite important on a policy basis.

The reason why organized criminals are involved in the antiquities trade is because it’s under-regulated. But you can take the organized criminal out of the antiquities trade and you’ll still have looting. It’s a story of supply and demand on an international basis. The trade attracts organized criminals, but they don’t define the shape of it because it is created and sustained by more conventional trade actors.

Suzie Thomas

CA: The trade in illicit antiquities is often seen, especially in the United States, as a victimless crime. The public sometimes has trouble grasping the harm. Your thoughts?

SM: It’s difficult. The general public is not particularly interested in the context of any particular object dug up in a far flung corner of the world. And yet, museums and cultural debates are a strong current full of voices who feel very strongly about people’s culture and human rights. So in one sense, it’s certainly true that sometimes people don’t get that broken old pots are important to mankind. But when you elevate that to a greater concern with history and culture and knowledge and civilization, what that means and how we might find our way forward, people do care quite deeply about that. These are fundamentals.

CA: What do you think of the current regulatory regimes for the antiquities trade? Your thoughts on de-criminalization?

SM: Most criminologists agree that supply-side interventions are going to be problematic, particularly on their own. The drug trade and prohibition are  pretty good examples of trying to control something where there’s a high level of demand in a globalized economy. None of these have particularly good records of success. Most of the current ideas seems to be about reducing demand or, alternatively, taking an end-to-end type solution — take both ends seriously and start to unwind the economic cultural and social forces underpinning the market. Once you see that, strict legal responses begin to look problematic. It’s very difficult for the law to seriously engage with an entrenched, large-scale global trade. The nature of regulatory intervention in the cultural heritage market has largely been legal. Mostly its been about UNESCO, passing laws in source countries, prohibition of theft, and passing laws in market countries to prevent purchase. The interesting question for regulation is how do we build up systems around these laws we have.

Some scholars, such as Paul Bator, have argued that increasing regulation produces the black-markets — that regulators are culpable for the illicit trade. I’ve never really bought into that. It’s a dead end: if you believe that, what do you do, stand back? You can talk about decriminalizing cannabis use, where the moral limitations are so widely disputed so there’s a general debate about whether it should be a crime. But not many people would seriously argue that knowingly steeling cultural property is ok. It’s reasonably clear that all sides say it’s wrong. Therefore the idea that we should decriminalize it doesn’t seem to do much except legitimate illicit stuff. It wouldn’t stop the illicit trade. It might make it worse.

 

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime: Glasgow Team Digs Deep into the Market For Ancient Art | CHASING APHRODITE.

June 5th, 2012

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE