March 30, 2014

ARCA Announces Nominees for the 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship

Ballots have been sent out to the Board of Trustees for ARCA's 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship which usually goes to a professor, journalist, or author. Past winners: Norman Palmer (2009); Larry Rothfield (2010); Neil Brodie (2011); Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino (Jointly - 2012); and Duncan Chappell (2013). The Nominees for the 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship are:

Milton Esterow, Editor and publisher of ARTnews.
Nominators’ Synopsis – Author of The Art Stealers (MacMillan, 1973)
Milton Esterow is editor and publisher of ARTnews. Since he bought ARTnews from Newsweek Magazine in 1972, he has guided its growth into the most widely circulated art magazine in the world. Since 1975, ARTnews has won most of the major journalism awards presented to magazines. Its editors and reporters have been honored forty-four times for excellence in reporting, criticism, and design. Under Mr. Esterow's direction, ARTnews became the first magazine to consistently apply rigorous standards of investigative reporting to the art world. Mr. Esterow received a special award for lifetime achievement from the College Art Association, the national organization of educators, artists, art historians, curators, critics, and institutions in 2003. He was cited for “his exceptional contributions to art journalism and investigative art reporting” and for having “overseen the magazine’s financial success while enhancing its reputation and influence in the visual-arts community and beyond.”
Dr. David Gill, Professor of Archaeology, University of Suffolk

Nominators’ Synopsis – "Dr. Gill is has been a persistent and thoughtful advocate for reform in the museum community and the antiquities trade. He has done excellent work on the consequences of the sale of antiquities without history. His research has drawn attention to the impact of looting. Some highlights of his considerable scholarly output include: studying Cycladic figurines from the 3rd millennium BC; the photographic archives from Switzerland which triggered the return of looted objects to Italy; the sale of antiquities in London and New York; and the collecting history of private antiquities collections. David Gill is a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk who has a great knowledge of the cultural property debate, has published extensively against looting, and maintains Looting Matters, the internationally best-known and visited archaeological blog regarding cultural property issues. The blog, updated almost daily, offers not only detailed discussions of the issues surrounding the crime of looting, but also a platform for new evidence of antiquities trafficking, informing the world's archaeological community and helping state authorities to pursue their stolen heritage."
David Gill is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and Sir James Knott Fellow at Newcastle University. He was responsible for the Greek and Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum and was subsequently Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University. His Sifting the Soil of Greece: the Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) [2011] was published to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the School. He received the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Archaeological Institute of America (2012). Gill has published widely on cultural matters and his “Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures” (co-written with Dr Christopher Chippindale) presented a new methodological approach to studying this area. He has a regular editorial column, “Context Matters”, for the Journal of Art Crime, and runs a research blog, “Looting Matters”.
Simon Mackenzie, Trafficking Culture project at the University of Glasgow.
Nominator’s Synopsis – "Besides being a criminologist who explored art crimes since his doctoral dissertation, launched along Neil Brodie the Trafficking Culture project at the University of Glasgow."
Simon Mackenzie is Professor of Criminology, Law & Society in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow, where he is also a member of the criminological research staff at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, a cross-institutional organization conducting national and international criminological research projects. Prof Mackenzie co-ordinates the Trafficking Culture research group, which is a pioneering interdisciplinary collaboration producing research evidence on the scale and nature of the international market in looted cultural objects, including regional case studies of trafficking networks and evaluative measures of the effects of regulatory interventions which aim to control this form of trafficking. Trafficking Culture is funded with a €1m research grant from the European Research Council. The group employs a core group of researchers plus an affiliate Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, and four PhD research students, making it a world-leading center for study in this field. As well as producing research evidence, the team are developing educational resources for the next generation of scholars via a new course, run for the first time in 2014, on International Trafficking in Cultural Objects, offered as part of the three Criminology Masters pathways which Prof Mackenzie convenes at Glasgow: the MRes Criminology; the MSc Criminology & Criminal Justice; and the MSc Transnational Crime, Justice & Security. Simon’s research on the international market in illicit cultural objects began with his PhD, leading to the publication in 2005 of Going, going, gone: regulating the market in illicit antiquities, which won the British Society of Criminology Book Prize that year. The book was mainly an empirical study of attitudes and practices of high-end dealers in relation to their engagement with looted artefacts, and an analysis of the implications for regulation and control of the various neutralizing and justificatory narratives surrounding handling illicit objects at the top end of the market. 
From 2005-07, in a study with Prof Penny Green funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, Simon extended this analysis by looking at the market’s reaction to the onset of explicit criminalization in a case study of the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. This research was published in Mackenzie and Green (eds) Criminology and Archaeology: Studies in Looted Antiquities (2009), part of the Onati International Series on Law and Society and based around the proceedings of a workshop at the Onati International Institute for the Sociology of Law exploring the interdisciplinary possibilities of a field of study based both in archaeology and criminology. 
Simon has worked with a number of international organisations, providing research-based input to support initiatives to reduce the international trade in looted cultural objects: eg. he has worked with UNODC in producing briefing documents for UN member states in their 2009 enquiry into Trafficking Cultural Property, leading to policy recommendations made at the UN Commissions and Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; and he is currently on the editorial committee of ICOM’s International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods. Prof Mackenzie is a member of the Peer Review Committee of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Associate Editor of the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, and a member of the editorial board of the British Journal of Criminology. His criminological research has been supported by grants and contracts from funders including the EU, ESRC, AHRC, both the UK and Scottish Governments, and the UN.
Sandy Nairne, Director, Director, National Portrait Gallery
Nominator’s Synopsis – "His book, Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, and his outspoken transparency about rewards versus paid information for the recovery of stolen art have been refreshing and thoughtful. He’s a major public figure, head of the National Portrait Gallery, and is a good representative of what this award stands for."
Sandy Nairne is currently Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, a post he has held since 2002. As director of one of Britain’s popular national museums (visited by more than 2m each year) he has sought to combine a determined drive for research and scholarship in the understanding of collections and in making exhibitions, with a strong emphasis on education and community engagement. He has supported the wider implementation of advanced security procedures (combined with new technologies) to protect collections and loans, and the sharing of information about thefts and cases of forgery, even when this appears difficult for individual museums. 
In July 1994, as Director of Programmes for the Tate, Sandy Nairne flew to Frankfurt on the day following the shocking theft of two paintings by J.M.W.Turner, then worth £24m, and on loan to the Schirn Kunsthalle from the Tate. Nairne then spent eight and a half years coordinating the complex attempts to recover these two great masterpieces. The first was recovered in July 2000, but returned to Britain incognito in order not to disturb the connections made to those holding the second painting (with approval from the Frankfurt Prosecutors’ Office). Following an approved ‘payment for information’ the second painting was returned in December 2002. In 2011 Nairne published a detailed account of the recovery, combined with a close analysis of the issues surrounding high value art theft, from ethics, to value and to motivation. Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion) has gone into a second printing, and been published in translation in Germany and in Japan.
Professor Lyndel V. Prott, Honorary Professor, University of Queensland and Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Nominator’s Synopsis – "Professor Lyndel V. Prott (lvprott@bigpond.com) is an Honorary Professor, University of Queensland and Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of the Humanities. She is the former Head of International Standards Section, UNESCO and then Director of the Cultural Heritage Division where she was instrumental in strengthening existing international instruments and the realisation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention. Her scholarship has made contributions to the foundation of cultural heritage law scholarship. We would not perhaps even think of cultural heritage law without her important theoretical scholarship. Her work has brought attention to the plague of antiquities looting and she has been an advocate for concerted international action to combat the theft of heritage and destruction of our collective past."
Lyndel Prott AO (1991), Öst. EKWuK(i) (2000), Hon FAHA; LL.D. (honoris causa) B.A. LL.B. (University of Sydney), Licence Spéciale en Droit international (ULB Brussels), Dr. Juris (Tübingen) and member of Gray’s Inn, London, is former Director of UNESCO’s Division of Cultural Heritage and former Professor of Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Sydney. She has had a distinguished career in teaching, research and practice, including co-operation with ICOM and INTERPOL to improve co-ordination between civil and criminal law to deal with illicit traffic. At UNESCO 1990-2002 she was responsible for the administration of UNESCO’s Conventions and standard-setting Recommendations on the protection of cultural heritage and also for the negotiations on the 1999 Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1954 and the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001. She contributed as Observer for UNESCO to the negotiations for the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects 1995. She has authored, co-authored or edited over 280 books, reports or articles, written in English, French or German and translated into 9 other languages. Currently Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, she has taught at many universities including long distance learning courses on International Heritage Law.

March 29, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014 - , No comments

The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List: Dr. Tom Flynn on how new trends in wealth may affect the art market

The ARCA blog asked Dr. Tom Flynn, an ARCA Lecturer, about what trends in wealth could mean to the art market. According to “The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List” (March 3, 2014), prefaced by Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll, the 1,645 billionaires reside mostly in the United States (492), China (152) and Russia (111):
But wealth is spreading to new places. We found billionaires for the first time in Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda. Also for the first time, an African, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, breaks into the top 25. Worth $25 billion, he moves up 20 spots. Roughly two-thirds of the billionaires built their own fortunes, 13% inherited them and 21% have been adding on to fortunes they received. … Still not all countries–or tycoons–had good years. Turkey lost 19 billionaires due to soaring inflation, a sagging stock market and a declining value in its currency. Indonesia, whose currency tumbled 20% against the dollar, now has 8 fewer ten-figure fortunes. 
ARCA Blog: What does this mean for today’s art market?

Dr. Flynn: History has consistently shown that wherever wealth is generated, art markets flourish. The art market has always followed money and so the upper reaches of that market, which relies on the communicative power of high-ticket luxury goods, will continue to benefit from the presence of so-called UHNWIs — Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (those with investable liquid assets of $30 million or more). Billionaires can only display their wealth through their worldly goods and thus Thorstein Veblen’s formulation of “conspicuous consumption” remains as relevant today as it was in 1897. “In any community where an invidious comparison of persons is habitually made, visible success becomes an end sought for its own utility as a basis for self esteem.”

ARCA Blog: How have these changes already been incorporated into sales in the last few years? What trends can we expect to see?

Dr. Flynn: Prices at the very top of the art market continue to rise. Pictures realising in excess of $100 million are fast becoming a commonplace of the blue-chip market. These are price levels that bear little or no connection to the reality of most normal people’s lives. True masterpieces have always been expensive relative to mean average incomes, but they are now arguably on an altogether different scale. It is always worth reminding ourselves that an oil painting is, one level, merely a studious arrangement of pigment on a humble piece of canvas. The price of $250 million for Cézanne's Card Players is a consequence of the purchasing power of the Qatari royal family for whom money is, quite literally, no object. The evidence suggests that the owners of such wealth are proliferating across the developing world, from Nigeria to Sao Paolo, Uganda to Lithuania. How much of this new wealth in the so-called developing world has been illicitly appropriated through bribery and corruption at the expense of the common people — as was the case with the freewheeling Russian oligarchy — we may never know. One thing is for sure: much of it will gravitate towards the art market. As New York-based art dealer Richard Feigen recently predicted, it may not be long before the art market witnesses its first billion-dollar painting.

Dr Tom Flynn is Course Director at the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at Kingston University.

March 28, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announces restitution plans

On March 26, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announced in a press release his client's plans to return "stolen" works to claimants [boldface and italics added by ARCAblog editor]:
Salzburg portion of the Cornelius Gurlitt collection is larger than at first thought - 238 works of art have been secured - first work justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art about to be returned - attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged 
Munich/Salzburg, March 26, 2014. The Salzburg portion of the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt is more extensive than at first thought. It encompasses 238 works of art, including 39 oil paintings. 
Among the 39 oil paintings from the Salzburg portion of the collection, seven are by landscape painter Louis Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt's grandfather, who died as long ago as 1897. Other oil paintings and watercolors were painted by artists including Monet, Corot, Renoir, Manet, Courbet, Pissaro, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Liebermann, Cézanne, and Nolde. However, by far the largest portion of the Salzburg collection consists of drawings (by artists including Picasso and Munch). The Salzburg collection, which has since been removed from Cornelius Gurlitt's Salzburg home, also includes silver vessels, ceramic bowls, and bronze, marble, and iron sculptures (including by Rodin). All works of art are being stored in a secure location and where required are currently being professionally processed and accurately documented by restorers. 
As a next step in dealing with the Salzburg portion of the Gurlitt collection, renowned international experts will be hired to conduct provenance research in order to conclusively establish the origin of the paintings. 
"If we should succeed with this task, we will continue to pursue this approach on our own initiative. One thing is certain: we will present the results of our research to the public so that they can be verified and any claimants can come forward," explains Christoph Edel, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal guardian. 
Additional inspections of the Salzburg house led to the discovery of additional works of art 
During the inspection of the house in Salzburg on February 10, 2014, with the approval of Cornelius Gurlitt, more than 60 works were located and brought to a secure location to prevent the possibility of burglary and theft at the unoccupied house. Most of these works are oil paintings, some of them quite large. In later visits to the house on February 24 and 28, 2014, above all for the purpose of removing bulky and worthless items from both levels, a number of artworks were found in a previously inaccessible portion of the old house and were subsequently removed. These, too, were brought to the secure warehouse where the other works are already being stored. 
First work from Schwabing portion of the collection about to be returned 
"If the works in Salzburg or Schwabing should be justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art, please give them back to their Jewish owners." This is what Cornelius Gurlitt instructed his court-appointed guardian, Christoph Edel, on one of his recent visits to Cornelius Gurlitt. "Let there be no doubt that we will carry out the instructions of our client. We are about to return a work from the Schwabing portion of the collection that is justifiably suspected of being looted art. Discussions with other claimants have been constructive as well, and we expect to be returning additional works in the coming weeks," said attorney Christoph Edel. "Moreover, we are currently working on a restitution policy based on the Washington principles that we will rely on in the future as a reasonable and uniform basis for negotiating with claimants. We will apply it just as consistently in cases that likely involve looted art as in those cases that are less clear or not clear at all," says Christoph Edel. "But we would like to reiterate once more that in our opinion only a small percentage of the Gurlitt collection is suspected of being looted art. At the same time, we appeal to museums and the public sector in Germany to follow our example." 
Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged Attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung was discharged from his duties as Gurlitt's representative with effect from today. To date, he was responsible for the art law aspects of the Gurlitt case and also conducted talks with claimants. Potential claimants are kindly asked to address Mr Edel's office for the time being.

UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel Recommends Tate Gallery Return Oil Painting by John Constable, 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' to the Heirs of Hungarian Baron

Disputed painting: Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton'
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Lootedart.com, the website for The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945, posted "UK Spoliation Panel agrees return of Constable painting from the Tate to the Heirs of the Hungarian Owner" on March 26:
The UK Spoliation Panel today published its long awaited report on the claim for 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' by John Constable, currently in the Tate Gallery, which acquired it in 1966. The painting, which belonged to a Hungarian collector, was lost in 1945 together with the rest of his extensive art collection. (To read the provenance of the painting, published on this site since 2001, click here.)
Here's the information that Looted Art has posted since 2001:
Provenance: Miss Isabel Constable. Dowdeswell collection, London. Auction, Christie’s, London, 1892. Cheramy collection, Paris. Cheramy collection, Paris, auction, Georges Petit, Paris, 1908, No. 19, p. 20.+ Baron Ferenc Hatvany (rightful owner), by whom purchased at auction, 1908 (No. 52). Deposited at the Hungarian General Credit Bank, Chest No. IV or V, under the name János Horváth, 1942. Taken by the Soviet Economic Officers’ Commission, 1945. 
Additional Information: “Baron Ferenc Hatvany (who was of Jewish extraction) was the most famous Hungarian art collector of his time. His collection was one of the finest in Budapest, although not the largest, comprising as it did only some 750-800 works of art. The collection belonging to Baron Herzog was appreciably larger, with 2000-2500 pieces. Ferenc Hatvany (1881-1958) died abroad. He studied as a painter under the Hungarian artists Ármin Glatter and Sándor Bihari at the artists' colony at Szolnok, and later under Jean-Paul Lurens in Paris, at the Julian Academy. The artists he most admired were Ingres and Chasseriau. As an art collector active between about 1905 and 1942, he purchased mainly masterpieces by 19th-century French painters. The great collection has become dispersed. Some works were taken from banks by the Red Army, and others from the Hatvany house by the SS officers Wilcke, Glasen and Keppler. Baron Hatvany was a generous patron of public collections in Hungary. His home - a villa which formerly belonged to Menyhért Lónyay (a prime minister of Hungary in the period of dualism) - was an elegant building designed by the fine architect Miklós Ybl.” See Sacco di Budapest, p. 223
The Spoliation Advisory Panel "resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era, which is now held in UK national collections." Here is their March 26 report, REPORT OF THE SPOLIATION ADVISORY PANEL IN RESPECT OF AN OIL PAINTING BY JOHN CONSTABLE, ‘BEACHING A BOAT, BRIGHTON’, NOW IN THE POSSESSION OF THE TATE GALLERY" under the name of The Honourable Sir Donnell Deeny. It is noted that the panel did not specifically identify the "heirs of the Hungarian art collector" filing the claim against the Tate Gallery which opposed restitution (Introduction, Paragraph 1). Excerpts from the report:
5. John Constable (1776-1837) composed the Painting as a sketch in oil on paper laid on canvas during one of his first visits to Brighton, in 1824. The dimensions are approximately 26 x 30 cm. He later used some motifs from it for a larger painting, the Chain Pier, also in Tate Britain. 
6. The Painting was inherited by Constable’s daughter Isabel, who died in 1888. It was sold at Christie’s in 1892 to Walter Dowdeswell, a London art dealer. Dowdeswell sold it on to P. A. Chéramy in 1902, who brought it to auction at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in May 1908, when it was purchased by the Collector. 
7. The Collector was a well-known Hungarian artist and connoisseur, whose family had amassed considerable wealth through banking and industrial activities in the nineteenth century. The Collector’s life and work have been the subject of several scholarly articles, listed by the Claimants. His collection focused in particular on French artists of the nineteenth century. 
8. The Collector, as noted, purchased the Painting at auction in Paris in 1908. The purchase was documented in an article in Der Kunstsammler: Organ fur den Internationalen Kunstmarkt, 1908 by R.A. Meyer. It is not contested by the Tate. The Painting was briefly confiscated by the Hungarian state during the Communist revolution of 1919 but returned to the Collector after the revolution was suppressed. It was inventorized in 1924 and again in 1926. 
9. The Collector, who was of Jewish origin but had converted to Christianity prior to his marriage, managed to preserve his possessions and his property, principally a palatial house in Buda and a castle in the countryside, during the increasingly antisemitic atmosphere in Hungary in the late 1930s. As an ally of Nazi Germany, Hungary began to be exposed to Allied bombing raids in 1942, and the Collector, like many others, deposited most of his artworks in bank vaults in Budapest. It is not clear, however, whether the Painting was among these artworks, or whether it remained at one of the Collector’s properties, and if so, at which one. 
10. In March 1944, when Hungary threatened to terminate its alliance with Nazi Germany, the Germans invaded, and the Collector, using false papers, went into hiding in the countryside, where he remained until the Russian liberation of Hungary in February 1945. His properties were confiscated, and contemporary witness accounts noted German military trucks being loaded with effects from the castle and being driven away. Meanwhile, some 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their deaths there.
11. On its conquest of Budapest in February 1945, the Red Army conducted widespread looting of private property in the city, and, with the aid of some of its inhabitants, opened the bank vaults and carried away numerous paintings, including, according to eyewitness accounts, at least two owned by the Collector. However, there is also testimony to the effect that the vaults had already been opened by the Germans before the Red Army arrived. In any event, when he came out of hiding in March 1945, the Collector found his properties and his bank vaults empty apart from one very large painting by Courbet. 
12. Between 1946 and 1948 the Collector managed to repurchase a number of his works of art from a Soviet officer, not including the Constable Painting, which was still missing. The new Hungarian Ministry of Culture’s Commission for Artworks Looted from Public and Private Art Collections, which operated between those years, listed the Painting as number 768 on its register and recorded that it had previously been owned by the Collector. Further crates of artworks located by the Commission did not include the Painting. 
13. After the Communist takeover of Hungary in the late 1940s, the Collector and his family emigrated, taking some of their art collection with them. He died in 1958, after having sold some of his paintings in order to fund the family’s living expenses. The Constable Painting was not recorded as being among these artworks, nor did it resurface in any of the Soviet collections containing looted artworks. 
14. The Painting is recorded as being sold by a Mr. Meyer to the Leger Galleries in London in January 1962, who sold it on to the Broadway Art Gallery in Broadway, Worcestershire, where it was bought in February 1962 by Mrs. P. M. Rainsford. In 1985 she approached the Tate with a view to donating the Painting, and it was accepted by the Board of Trustees on 17 January 1986. Since that time it has been in the possession of the Tate. 
15. On 16 April 2012 the Claimants notified the Tate of their intention to bring a claim for the restitution of the Painting. The Claimants’ legal representative and a representative of the Commission for Art Recovery met with representatives of the Tate on 30 May 2012. The claim was submitted to the Panel on 18 April 2013.his family emigrated, taking some of their art collection with them. He died in 1958, after having sold some of his paintings in order to fund the family’s living expenses. The Constable Painting was not recorded as being among these artworks, nor did it resurface in any of the Soviet collections containing looted artworks.
[...] 
THE TATE’S CASE General argument 
31. The Tate argues that it is unreasonable to demand that it should have carried out provenance research at a time when Holocaust issues were not prominent in the art world. It denies that it has withheld relevant documentation from the Claimants. Far from being of major emotional significance to the Collector and his heirs, the Tate argues that the Painting was, as an English work of art, an anomaly in his otherwise almost exclusively French collection. For this reason, indeed, the Tate considers that it is possible that the Collector disposed of it voluntarily through sale or donation in his lifetime, as he did with some other works from his collection. The Tate adds that the fact that the Claimants have sold another important painting that was returned to them suggests that the value they place on the Painting is financial, not emotional. Other items from the collection would be more appropriate as symbolic reparation for the family’s sufferings during the war, which in any case, the Claimants pointed out, were not as severe as those of other Hungarian Jews until a late stage of the war. On the other hand, the Painting is of particular importance to the Tate as the major national repository of Constable’s work. On the basis of this argument, the Tate contends that even if the Panel does consider some form of redress to be appropriate, that redress should take the form of a money payment or commemoration of the history of the Painting, rather than the restitution of the Painting itself. The Painting therefore should remain in the possession of the Tate.
[...] 
40. The Tate concedes that in 2001, a researcher noticed the gap in the Painting’s provenance, including World War II, but “a decision was taken to prioritise other cases on art historical grounds”. The reason why the Painting was not included in the Tate’s List of works with incomplete provenance during the period 1933-1945 is that research on works dating from the period 1780 to 1860 had not yet been carried out, though it was in train.
THE PANEL’S CONCLUSIONS Ownership and significance of the Painting 
42. Although there are gaps and contradictions in the documentary record, the likelihood is that the Painting remained in the Collector’s possession until it was looted by the Germans in 1944 or early 1945. If it had been looted by the Red Army, it would more likely have come to light in the Soviet Union rather than being brought onto the Western European art market. The Tate itself concedes that there is no positive indication that the Collector disposed of it voluntarily, and, in connection with the issue of legal title, also makes the valid point that such issues have to be decided not on the provision of documentary proof that would provide certainty, but on the balance of probabilities. The Panel’s Constitution and Terms of Reference require it to ‘evaluate, on the balance of probability, the validity of the claimant’s original title to the object, recognising the difficulties of proving such title after the destruction of the Second World War and the Holocaust’. The documentation cited by the Claimants is extensive. All of the Collector’s donations are well documented and none includes the Painting. Nowhere is there any suggestion that the Painting was not in the Collector’s possession at the beginning of 1944. The Panel concludes that the balance of probability comes down on the side of the Collector having been in possession of the Painting until it was looted following the German invasion of Hungary in 1944. 
43. The Panel accepts the evidence presented by the Claimants as to the persecution and maltreatment of the Collector and his family following the German invasion of Hungary in 1944. However, neither the general persecution suffered by the Jewish community of Hungary in 1944/45 nor the particular suffering of the Collector and his family is directly relevant to the issue before the Panel, whose Constitution and Terms of Reference require it to give weight to the moral strength of the Claimants’ case on the basis of the circumstances under which they were deprived of the Painting, whether by theft, forced sale, sale at an undervalue, or otherwise. The Panel is not empowered to make recommendations for “symbolic restitution” on the sole grounds of the suffering of former owners. 
44. After carefully examining the art historical significance of the Painting, the Panel concludes that it was not an anomaly in the original collection. Constable was regarded as a forerunner of the Impressionists, and his paintings have been exhibited alongside theirs. The Tate’s own catalogue description of the Painting stresses this relationship, thus suggesting why the Collector acquired it as “one of the finest oil sketches by Constable then on the Continent, at a time when he was being hailed as a father figure of modern painting”. It anticipated Courbet’s marine paintings and gave “indications of everything that Manet brought into the same domain”. There is no particular reason, therefore, why the Collector should have disposed of the Painting before 1944; rather the contrary. 
45. The Panel accepts the Tate’s argument that the Painting does not possess in and of itself a particular emotional and personal significance for the Claimants, except as part of the original collection. However, the emotional significance of an object to a claimant is only one factor to be taken into account in determining whether or not to recommend restitution, though it might be relevant to the moral strength of the claim. The central issues are the strength of the moral claim and the moral obligations of the institution. 
46. Similarly, the importance of a spoliated object to a national collection is not a paramount consideration in the Panel’s view. If it were, the very principle of the restitution of important works would be called into question.
[...] 
THE PANEL’S FINAL CONCLUSION 
60. Taking into account all the above circumstances, the Panel concludes that the moral strength of the Claimants’ case, and the moral obligation on the Tate, warrant a recommendation that Beaching a Boat, Brighton, by John Constable, should be returned by the Tate to the Claimants as they desire, in accordance with the provisions of The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 and subject to the conditions outlined in paragraphs 54 and 55 above. The Panel recommends accordingly. In accordance with its earlier decisions the Panel considers that no reimbursement is due from the Claimants to the Tate for its expenditure as that is broadly balanced by income received and by the benefit that Tate and the public have derived from the work over the last four decades.
Judge Arthur Tompkins, who will be returning to Amelia to teach ARCA's Art in War course during the summer, commented that this news is important for two wider reasons, over and above the good news of the return of a looted artwork.
First, it is an illustration of the importance, when deciding what is to happen to a looted or plundered artwork, that account is taken not only of the legalities of the claim on both sides, in terms of evidence of loss and as questions of ownership and title, but also the moral dimensions, as they relate to the claim as advanced by the claimant and to the circumstances in which the present owner came into possession of the artwork. The United Kingdom's Spoliation Panel is required to weigh both the legal and the moral aspects when deciding a claim. The German Federal Government, when deciding the fate of the very many artworks found in the possession of Herr Gurlitt in Munich (for recent news concerning this, see this article in The New York Times and this article on the BBC News ), might learn much from the hybrid jurisdiction exercised by the Spoliation Panel. Secondly, this case shows yet again that resolving the myriad and sometimes difficult issues raised by the Nazi-era Looting and plundering of art continues to be a live issue today, an issue that is a real and continuing challenge that museums, galleries and other institutions should and must confront on an ongoing basis, rather than thinking of such cases as one-off, isolated and historical problems which only crop up now and again. It points up the need for permanent, properly-resourced provenance research work to be just as much an integral part of the day to day operations of institutions as paying the utilities bills, cataloging holdings and mounting exhibitions are.

March 27, 2014

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis matches two objects up for auction in London with objects identified in the Medici and Becchina archives

Medici oinochoe (Medici)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Editor-in-Chief

University of Cambridge researcher Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis has reviewed the catalogues for three upcoming London auctions and identified two objects to photos in the archives of two art dealers, Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina, confiscated by Italian and Greek police who have used them to identify objects looted and smuggled from at least 1972 until 2006.

The three auctions of antiquities will be held at Bonhams on April 1; at Christie's on April 2; and again at Bonhams on April 3 

The first object is Lot 173 in Christie's Sale 1548 described as a Greek Core-Formed Glass Oinochoe from the Eastern Mediterranean, circa 2nd-1st century B.C., with an estimated bid at £4,000 - 6,000 (US $6,604 - $9,906). Christie's "Provenance" -- or what Dr. Tsirogiannis described in his email as the collecting history -- is described as:
"Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 198".
"However, I identified the object from a Polaroid image from the Medici archive," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "We know that Medici consigned hundreds of antiquities to Sotheby's (Watson & Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy, 2007)."

The second object is Lot 22 in Bonhams April 3 sale (#21926) described as a Canosan polychrome painted lidded pottery pyxis, circa 3rd century B.C., with an estimated bid at £3,000 - 5,000 (US $5,000 - $8,300).  Bonhams' "Provenance" -- or collecting history -- of the oinochoe is:
"American private collection, New York, acquired from Ariadne Galleries, New York City in the late 1980s."
"However, I identified the pyxis in two Polaroid images from the Becchina archive (both attached, in the first the object is depicted broken and unclean, in the second the pyxis appears conserved and ready for sale)," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "I have also found documents which prove that the depicted broken pyxis IS THE SAME as the one put on sale by Bonhams. Also, the same documents prove that Becchina sold the object to Ariadne Galleries, who were involved in other cases of "unprovenanced" antiquities (e.g., see Gill 2013 http://lootingmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/icklingham-bronzes-looking-back.html), Tsirogiannis 2013:10 http://art-crime.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/the-journal-of-art-crime-spring-2013.html)."

"Why do Christie's and Bonhams still fail to supply the full and correct collecting history of the objects, especially when they advertise their due diligence before the auctions?" Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "Why are these objects depicted in the Medici and the Becchina archives?"

Becchina pyxis in pieces
Becchina pyxis conserved

March 26, 2014

Nominees for ARCA's 2014 Award for Art Protection & Recovery Announced

Here are the nominees for ARCA's 2014 Award for Art Protection & Recovery, which is usually given to a police officer, investigator, lawyer, security director or policy-maker. This year ARCA has combined two of the previous year’s awards categories as more often than not, individuals were double nominated in two award categories.

Past winners have included: Vernon Rapley and Francesco Rutelli (2009), Charlie Hill and Dick Drent (2010), Lord Colin Renfrew and Paolo Giorgio Ferri (2011), Karl von Habsburg, Dr. Joris Kila Ernst Schöller (2012), Sharon Cohen Levin and Christos Tsirogiannis (2013).

The Nominees for the 2014 Award for Art Protection & Recovery Award are:

Monica Dugot, Senior Vice President and International Director of Restitution, Christie’s Auction House. Nominator's Synopsis: "In her more than 17 years of practice in the restitution field, Ms. Dugot has been instrumental in resolving major claims and in developing international policies in this area. Under her guidance, Christie’s was one of the first auction houses to publish on its website a detailed explanation of its practices with regard to claims to artworks consigned for auction. In so doing, Ms. Dugot has led the way in prescribing for claimants and possessors alike the manner by which claims could be resolved without the need for litigation, especially in emotionally fraught cases involving Nazi-looted art. She would be a worthy addition to ARCA’s illustrious list of past recipients of this award."
Monica Dugot is responsible for coordinating Christie's restitution issues globally. She and her team of researchers vet nearly every lot Christie’s offers at auction, which means somewhere in the region of 200 sales a year, from Old Masters and Books to Impressionist and Modern Art focusing on provenance between 1933 and 1945; to identify possibly spoliated but unrestituted objects; and to help in resolving restitution claims for works consigned for sale. 
Prior to joining Christie's, Ms. Dugot served for almost eight years as Deputy Director of the New York State Banking Department's Holocaust Claims Processing Office, where she coordinated the Art Claims branch of the HCPO's work and assisted owners and heirs in seeking to recover art collections that were lost or looted during the Nazi era. She has represented New York State on art restitution matters at many venues including the 1998 Washington Forum on Holocaust-Era Assets and the International Conference on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets in Vilnius, Lithuania. Ms. Dugot is on the Advisory Board of Claremont McKenna College’s Center for Human Rights Leadership, and the Society of American Friends of the Jewish Community Vienna. She is currently a member of the Art law Commission of the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA). She also served as a member of the NYC Bar Association's Art Law Committee.
Martin Finkelnberg – Special Investigating Officer, Art and Antique Crime Unit of the Netherlands. Nominator's Synopsis: "Martin was the only art detective in the Dutch police force, and was assigned, pretty much on his own, to set up the force’s first arts unit. He runs it now with several part-time officers who are art historians, and yet he has great success in coordinating art-related cases from throughout the Netherlands and abroad."
Martin Finkelnberg is the Head of the Art and Antiques Crime Unit of the National Criminal Intelligence Division which is part of the recently reorganized National Police Force of the Netherlands. He joined the police force in 1976 as a junior intelligence officer and for roughly 30 years was mainly involved in firearms investigations and counter terrorism. 
In 2006 he was asked to build a national database on stolen works of art. At the same time he also had to restart the Art and Antiques Crime Unit that had been discontinued in 2002. Today this unit is composed of four individuals. Over the course of the years Finkelnberg also felt necessity to establish contact points within each police region. In 2013 this led to the appointment of not only ten dedicated police officers -- one in every region -- but also to a dedicated national public prosecutor. These are however not experts and they are being trained on a regular basis by Finkelnberg and others on legislation, awareness of the importance of preserving cultural heritage, and on criminal trends and activities. The unit, in principal, is not an investigating body itself but an intelligence hub for the regional police forces who are responsible for carrying out criminal investigations. 
However, because of the complexity of Dutch legislation regarding illegal trade in cultural property, Martin Finkelnberg occasionally goes out on the road himself. During several of these occasions and in close cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Inspection, he recovered more than 70 items from Iraq, some of them dating back to 5,000 B.C.. He and his unit also proved to be instrumental in solving many major museum break-ins such as the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in 2011 in which case the police recovered a 15 Million euro painting by Frans Hals; and the Museum Gouda where in 2012 the burglars used an explosive device to blow up the front door of the museum (In this case the unit was also able to establish links between these suspects and another museum break-in in 2009 and to them identifying several other museums as possible targets).
(Jointly) Dr. Daniela Rizzo and Mr Maurizio Pellegrini, Soprintendenza Beni Archeologici Etruria Meridionale. Nominator’s Synopsis: "Pellegrini and Rizzo are well known for their groundbreaking forensic work from for the Italian government. During that period, they were responsible for identifying dozens of looted and smuggled masterpieces for the Italian judicial authorities from the confiscated archives of illicit antiquities dealers Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, and Robin Symes, etc. Based on Pellegrini and Rizzo's meticulous research, the Italian state managed to repatriate numerous stolen treasures of antiquity and to have solid evidence for the prosecution of several members of the international illicit antiquities network. Their more recent work, while less well known to the general public, involves ongoing negotiation with museums around the globe encouraging them to return looted objects found in their collections."
Dott.ssa Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini are employees of Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT) who work directly for the Soprintendenza for Southern Etruria's Archeological Heritage which covers the archaeological territories of Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vulci, Veio, Lucas Feroniae, Civitavecchia, Sutri , Tuscania, Pyrgi, Volsinii and San Lorenzo Nuovo. Dr. Rizzo oversees the department of Goods Control and Circulation with the assistance of Massimo Pellegrini. Their offices are located at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia. One of the main commitments of their department and the Soprintendenza overall is the fighting of criminal activities and illegal traffic of archaeological objects from the southern territories. 
In 1985 the Soprintendenza set up a special service, "The Office of confiscation and illicit excavations" (ufficio sequestri e scavi clandestini), which constantly monitors the phenomenon of illegal excavations and the finds of illegal trafficking. To achieve this goal, their office began working closely with Italy’s National Judicial Authority and the security forces (Carabinieri TPC and Guardia di Finanza), which work together in this sector. This collaboration aims to recover Italian archaeological materials that have been taken away illegally from the national territory and often have ended up in important foreign collections. Since 1995, their work has achieved very positive results and has resulted in the identification of numerous archaeological objects taken illegally and found in a number of American and European museums or in private collections abroad. Based on the inspection of and matching between confiscated photographs and documents, their investigations have facilitated negotiations between American and European museums which have often concluded in important cultural agreements rather than lengthy judicial prosecutions. Thanks to these agreements, archaeological finds are regularly being returned to Italy from places like New York and Boston. 
Through their in-depth work, the famous Euphronios crater, now on display in the new rooms of Villa Giulia, has been recognized as property of the Italian state and was returned to Rome in 2008 from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Similar agreements have been concluded with the Princeton University Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the J.P. Getty Museum of Malibu. In cases where traffickers have been identified their work with the "Procura della Repubblica" (Italian prosecutor's office) and the Court of Rome has made it possible, in some circumstances, to try specific cases associated with illegal trafficking of antiquities within Italy. Cases of note include the exemplary punishment imposed by the Court of Rome on an Italian trafficker, who operated in Switzerland and the 2005, criminal proceedings that were initiated against Marion True, the former curator who purchased trafficked archaeological objects for The Paul Getty Museum, and cases involving Robert Hecht. As a result of their work and the recovery of objects, a room in the Villa Giulia has housed a temporary traveling exhibition to increase the public’s awareness to the impact of trafficking, the significance of the problem and what is being done to combat it. The carefully curated exhibition included numerous objects which have been repatriated from Southern Etruria as well as examples of documents used in their ongoing investigations and prosecutions by the Italian authorities.
Roma Antonio Valdés– Public Prosecutor, Carrera Fiscal, Fiscalía de Santiago de Compostela, Spain Nominator’s Synopsis – "A public Prosecutor for the Government of Spain, he is an expert in legal international cooperation and crimes against cultural heritage. He was the public prosecutor in charge of the successful recovery of the Codex Calixtinus, a 12th-century illuminated manuscript from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The Codex was stolen in July 2011, and successfully recovered in 2012 in the garage of a former employee of the Cathedral."
Roma Valdés holds a Licentiate in Law from the University of Alcalá, a PhD in Archaeology from the University de Santiago de Compostela, and a diploma in advanced studies in criminal law from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain. He has been a prosecutor since 1994 and specializing in crimes against cultural Heritage since 2004. He also serves as a professor in procedural Law at the University of A Coruña and serves as a representative to Spain in some international conventions. He is the author of 5 Law books, 48 Law papers, 7 History books, and 43 History papers. Some of these documents can be accessed at: https://coruna.academia.edu/AntonioRomaValdes.
Below are a listing of significant art crime cases he has been a part of: 
- 2011-2014 Theft and recovery of the Codex Calxtinus. Investigation and prosecution of the theft of one of the main medieval books of Europe. 
- 2008-2014 Affaire Patterson II. The collection above was exported without authorization from Spain to Germany. The case implies another precedent, in this case of use of the most recent Framework Decisions of mutual recognition of judicial resolutions principle in Europe. Other cases were open to prosecute cases of illicit trade of cultural heritage. Now, there is a non guilty decision pending appeal. 
- 2007-2009 Affaire Patterson I. The case, followed mainly by Latin American media, implies the judicial international cooperation between the Republic of Peru and the Kingdom of Spain to send more than two thousand of Pre-Columbian objects, some of the with a great historic importance. After the Republic of Peru, other Latin American states claimed successfully another pieces. The case is the main precedent in legal cooperation among judicial authorities in the field of the restitution of cultural heritage. 
- 2009 Corrubedo. During March 2009, several British divers were condemned to damage a XIX c. boat sunk in the Galician coast. Another similar case is open now. 
- 2000-2004 Os Castriños. The owner destroyed an archaeological site to build a camping site. Besides the fine, the Spanish jurisdiction for the first time prohibited developing activities not directed to the diffusion of the archaeological culture. Since then to now, more cases were open to prosecute owners of buildings and sites that destroy them to sell new buildings.

March 25, 2014

The Toronto Star: ARCA graduate Mark Collins quoted in article on "Crimes of the art"

Last summer, ARCA awarded Mark Collins, a senior officer at the Ontario Provincial Police, the Minerva Law Enforcement Scholarship to attended the Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. Murray Whyte, writing for the Toronto Star in "Crimes of the art" (March 24, 2014), reports:
Last month, thieves stole work from a collective of Toronto artists. OPP officer Mark Collins is doing what he can to get it back and build some respect for a criminal realm worth $6 billion a year.
Collins, officially assigned as an investigator to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, was in attendance at a fundraiser for Creatures:Collective, the site of a robbery on Feb. 13 of four pieces of art:
The crowd of mostly young, artfully dishevelled downtown sorts sipped bulk-quality wine and perused the offerings on the walls: small works, for the most part, were offered for auction by a dozen or so artists to help raise a little money to cover the victims’ losses and pay for what’s become, in hindsight, a glaring oversight. “A security system,” smiled Darren Leu ruefully, listing alongside it repairs to the back door and relief for the victims. Leu, the director of Creatures, chatted warmly and embraced a good many of the dozens of people who streamed in over the first hour of the event. He held a clipboard, tracking bids and handling of the auction. The gallery had a camera pointed at its front door, mounted on the wall across the street, he said. That morning, they found the camera oddly askew, directed at a storefront two doors down. “The first week of February was extremely windy,” he said. “But still, the way they came in made it seem like they knew the space.”
[...]
The Creatures: Collective case is being handled out of the Toronto Police Service’s 14 Division, with an unofficial assist from Collins based on his particular expertise. “A lot of police here just write art theft up like a stolen laptop or iPad. It’s not differentiated,” he says. “It isn’t following fingerprints; it’s getting images of the works out there and making them too hot for the thief to handle. But if you start telling police forces they don’t know what they’re doing with this stuff, you end up with a lot of hurt feelings.” Collins has always had a connection to art. “But I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler,” he said. “I might be able to do a Damien Hirst: I could pickle a shark, but it probably wouldn’t turn out as well.” Before getting involved in law enforcement, as a teen he worked as a night cleaner at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 1992, he started policing traffic, writing tickets and plotting his next move. He became an investigator in 2000, but the idea of working with art lingered in the back of his mind. Then, a couple of years ago, he read Canadian author Josh Knelman’s book Hot Art and the light went off. “I talked to everyone in that book,” he said. “It made me frustrated: art theft is recognized as a serious crime, but it’s like the drug trade. No one knows how much it actually represents.” There are guesses. The most noted one is roughly $6 billion per year. Nonetheless, Collins is willing to start small. One of Chen’s stolen works was part of a triptych, priced at $400. “It’s kind of fun, putting it on Interpol or Scotland Yard, or the FBI and the international Art Loss (Register),” Collins said. Chen lost another work, a four-by-six-foot canvas he’d made with Kevin Columbus, destined for another show. “I guess it’s the ultimate compliment,” he said. Within hours of the theft, the pair set to work to replace the stolen painting. They finished it in a week. “It was just hateful,” he said. “We couldn’t let them take anymore.”

March 24, 2014

Antique Coin Dealers Joël and Michael Creusy Robbed of their Entire Collection in France

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

As reported in Coins Weekly, the family of Joël and Michael Creusy have been selling ancient coins for forty years. Saturday, March 15, 2014, on the way home from the Bi-Annual Numismatic Exhibition in Paris, the family’s entire ancient coin collection, worth an estimated one million euros, was stolen.  Details of the theft itself have not been made available at the moment to the general media.

https://www.facebook.com/numismeo 
One of the more risky collection professions in France, the family has stated in an open letter that can be read here that insurance companies no longer provide coverage while coins are in transit.  Michael Creusy further stated that unless the coins are recovered, the family’s Lyon-based coin business, ABC Numismatique, located at 14 rue Vaubecour in Lyon, France will face bankruptcy.

A 16 page list of the 456 stolen coins with detailed images can be viewed on the ABC Numismatique website. In addition, the British Numismatic Trade Association for coins metals and banknotes also keeps a publicly posted list of recent coin and metals related thefts.  This list detailing the numerous thefts can be accessed from the BNTA website here and give a better idea of how significant the problem is for ancient coin collectors and dealers.

March 20, 2014

Essay: Why Steal a Rembrandt if They are so Difficult to Sell?

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO

French Police from the Criminal Brigade of the Judicial Police Nice and the central office of Cultural Property (OCBC) happily announced the recovery of the painting "Child with a Soap Bubble" attributed to Rembrandt yesterday.  While everyone knows that Rembrandt van Rijn was the master of the dramatic contrast of light and dark known as Chiaroscuro and unquestionably one of the world’s most beloved artists, no one quite knows why actual Rembrandt's paintings or those thought to be by Rembrandt, are repeatedly the target of thieves.

Scholars debate what was beneath his impetus to create illuminated figures that emerge from darkness.  Law enforcement officers instead question why more than 80 of Rembrandt’s paintings have been stolen over the last 100 years.  Here's a list of a six of the more disturbing cases.
Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee was painted in 1633.  The painting is the master’s singular known seascape and was snatched from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts, United States on March 18, 1990. During this exceptionally costly heist a total of three Rembrandt's were taken. 

A 1634 Rembrandt self portrait etching, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, was also stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum years earlier in 1970.  The painting had been snatched from the museum by a group of not-so-smart teenagers who created a diversion in the gallery by smashing a light bulb to make a loud noise. When the guard's attention was diverted, one of the culprits left with the small image. Unsellable, it was quickly recovered. 

Portrait of Jacob III de Gheyn

Portrait of Jacob III de Gheyn – A painting given the horrible moniker the “Takeaway Rembrandt” because it has been stolen four times since 1966.   Each time, the painting was abandoned anonymously making an indisputable statement that stolen paintings by the master are too hard to fence.  The last time this portrait was stolen thieves broke in through a seldom-used door leading into the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London.  The portrait was recovered on October 8, 1986, after being found abandoned on a luggage rack in a Münster, Germany train station.

Stolen two times in ten years, police last recovered Portrait of the Father on March 18, 2013 in the Serbian town of Sremeska Mitrovica, 40 kilometers south of the city of Novi Sad.  The portrait, attributed to Rembrandt and valued at almost $4 million had been stolen by two armed robbers who tied up a guard at the Novi Sad City Museum, making off with the Rembrandt and three other paintings.
Portrait of the Father

The second painting in a span of months to be recovered in Serbia, it seemed to prove that gangsters in the former Yugoslavia have no better luck fencing hot Rembrandts than their North American counterparts. Four accomplices were arrested as a result of the police blitz.

In December 2000 a small self-portrait, one of only five artworks carried out by Rembrandt on copper, was stolen during an spectacular armed robbery from the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.  During the heist, assailants ordered museum patrons to the floor and two car bombs were detonated on roads leading to the museum thereby allowing the thieves to make off with the Rembrandt and an additional two Renoir paintings.  All three paintings were recovered, the Rembrandt during a multinational law enforcement sting operation in Copenhagen in 2005. 
Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak

In an equally violent episode, two men strolled into the Boston Museum of Fine Arts around noon on April 14, 1975 and stole Rembrandt's portrait of Elizabeth Van Rijn titled Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak snatching it from a wall of on the second-floor.  When a guard intervened they pistol-whipped him and escaped out a rear door fleeing via a get-away car.  To add emphasis to their not to be messed with persona, the assailants fired three shots to discourage pursuit. Nine months later, notorious Boston-area art thief, Myles J. Connor Jr., used the return of this painting as a successful bargaining chip in a plea deal for another art heist and bail jumping in Maine leaving one to ponder if these thefts, when used to make a quick million, serve as a means to avoid longer prison sentences if caught for other offenses. 


**Image credits for this article include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Wikipedia, Novi Sad City Museum, and Getty Images.

March 19, 2014

French police recover painting by Rembrandt (or in the style of Rembrandt) stolen in 1999 from the municipal museum in Draguignan

"Child with a Soap Bubble" by Rembrandt?
Journalist Vincent Noce reports in the French newspaper, Liberation, that a Rembrandt painting stolen in 1999 has been recovered in Nice ("Un Rembrandt volé en 1999 e été retrouvé à nice, 19 March 2014) although the thieves may have discovered the work was not by the 'genius from Amsterdam'.

Noce reported that Tuesday afternoon French police from the unit assigned to fighting trafficking in cultural goods (OCBC) arrested two men (ages 44 and 51 years old) for trying to sell a painting stolen 15 years ago from the municipal museum in Draguignan in southeastern France. The oil painting, measuring 60 cm by 50, is attributed to Rembrandt and known as "Child with a Soap Bubble". According to Noce's article, the recovered painting has an estimated value of 4 million euros (U.S. $5.56 million) -- if it is indeed by the Dutch master and not by an artist inspired by Rembrandt. According to the article, the museum's inventory shows that the painting was taken from the Château de Valbelle [now in ruins] in Tourves during the revolution in 1794. 

Sophie Legras, writing for L'Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published in Le Figaro, reports that judicial police in Nice helped the OCBC in recovering the painting from two men known as petty criminals. Legras cites the newspaper Var Martin that the oil painting entered the municipal museum in Draguignan in 1974 as part of the original collection.

The robbery occurred on July 14th (Bastille Day). According to Legras, the 1999 theft was staged during a military parade when thieves broke into the municipal library adjacent to the museum and stole the painting and frame before police could respond to the alarm. Legras reports that "Child with Soap Bubble" was the victim of a previous robbery in February 1975.

This theft is listed in the book, Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).

Lynda Albertson contributed to this post.

March 18, 2014

Art Recovery International Announces Opening of London Office; ARCA Lecturer Dorit Straus Joins Team

Dorit Straus
Christopher Marinello, Chairman and Founder of Art Recovery International, issued a press release today announcing the opening of its new offices at Exhibition House, Kensington, London and the recruitment of several key staff, including Dorit Straus, a lecturer at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection:
Joining the team are the following: 
Mark Maurice, Executive Director Mark specialises in corporate and personal wealth preservation and acts for some of the most prestigious dealers and collectors worldwide. He has a First Class Honours Masters in Land Economy from University of Cambridge and has focused his practice on international corporate structuring, private equity and wealth protection with particular emphasis on the fine arts sector. Mark has dealt with a number of high profile restitution and cultural patrimony cases involving complex cross border disputes. 
Dorit Straus, Insurance Industry Advisor Dorit has over thirty years experience in the fine art insurance industry and served as Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager at Chubb & Son. Trained as a Middle Eastern archaeologist at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Dorit began her career at some of America’s top art institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, Peabody Museum of Ethnology and Jewish Museum, Dorit has an extensive knowledge of collection management, art shipment, exhibition loans and valuation. For the last five years Dorit has been a visiting lecturer at the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and regularly speaks about issues affecting the art market and associated insurance industry. 
Ariane Moser, Associate Director Client Relations Ariane studied Art History, Sinology and East Asian Art History at the University of Zurich and holds an MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Ariane was the Manager of European Clients at the Art Loss Register in London where she was responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with major European auction houses, insurance companies, art dealers and law enforcement agencies. Later, at ArtBanc International, Ariane served as a Research Specialist where she engaged in comprehensive provenance research projects as well as assisting the Expert Committee in preparing art valuations, market analyses and intelligence services. 
Alice Farren-Bradley, Associate Director Recoveries Alice read Ancient History and Archaeology at Durham University before completing her Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course through the University of Law. She worked for four years at the Art Loss Register in London as Recoveries Case Manager and teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules in Art Law and Professional Practice and Ethics in the Art Market, at Kingston University. In 2013 Alice was named successor to Ton Cremers as Moderator of the international Museum Security Network, which monitors and circulates information on cultural heritage crime to museums, security personnel, art market professionals and law enforcement agencies.
You may read the complete press release here.

March 10, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014 - 2 comments

'Bibliomania': Gustave Flaubert; Don Vincente, Catalan monk and Barcelona bookseller; Murder and Planas' Argument with a Legend

by A.M.C. Knutsson

In early 1837 a young promising writer published a novella called ‘Bibliomania’ in the French literary magazine Le Colibri. [1]  The young writer’s name was Gustave Flaubert and his novella was inspired by a news article that the 16-year-old had read only a few months earlier.

In October 1836 an article had appeared in La Gazette des Tribunaux accounting for the wondrous tale of Don Vincente a Catalan monk who after the dissolution of his monastery, Poblet, had become a bookseller in Barcelona. Whilst it was unknown whether Don Vincente could read, he was never seen reading a book, his passion for books was indisputable. It was described that he was very unwilling to part with all but the cheapest of his stock and once a valuable book entered his collection it would most likely never emerge again. Evil gossip circulated about the book dealer and people hinted at a dubious origin for his impressive stock. People suggested that the poor monk might have helped himself to the monastery library contents at the dissolution of Poblet.

At a book auction in the middle of 1836 a very rare book came up for sale.  The book was Furs e Orinacions, printed in 1482 in Valencia by Lamberto Palmar – the first Spanish printer, and it immediately caused a stir. No other copy of this edition was known and any book collector worthy of the name would have made ample sacrifices to be able to add this treasure to their collection. Don Vincente was no different, he is said to have bid furiously at the auction but was in the end beaten by Agustin Patxot, a fellow book dealer.

However, not even a week after the sale the residents of Barcelona woke up to find Patxot’s shop devoured by flames. When the fire had finally been tamed the body of the bookseller was recovered under the debris of burnt books. It was concluded that he had fallen asleep whilst smoking. During this time several other bodies were also found around Barcelona, they bore no trace of robbing as gold and jewels had been left on the bodies. The nine people that were found had no seeming connection apart from their love of learning and their passion for books.

An investigation was commenced and by chance a police officer noticed Furs e Orinacions, on one of Don Vincente’s shelves. Remembering the title from all the buzz around the auction, he confronted Don Vincente. The former monk claimed that the book had been sold to him but other dealers insisted that this claim was most unlikely. Further investigations of Don Vincente’s stock revealed books that had belonged to several of the dead men and Vincente was arrested. After first denying his guilt, the article tells us that he finally admitted to the murders on the understanding that his library would remain intact.

Under questioning the prosecutor asked why Vincente had left Patxot’s money behind when he had taken the Furs e Orinacons. Vincente is said to have answered, “Take money? Me? Am I a thief?" Commenting on why he committed these monstrosities, he answered calmly “Men are mortal. Sooner or later, God calls them back to him. But good books need to be conserved.” Don Vincente was condemned to death.[2]
  
Gustave Flaubert’s account of Don Vincente’s destiny would not reappear at the printing presses again until 1910 in Oeuvres de Jeunesse Inédites, Vol. 1. However, many other writers would also lace their pens with ink to cover this marvelous story.  To these count:
·     Le Voleur, no. 60 (Paris, 31 Oct 1836)
·     The Literary Gazette; and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences &c., for the year                1837, (1837)
·     Serapeum (Leipzig), no. 22 (20 Nov 1843)
·     Jules Janin, Le Livre (Paris, 1870), pp. 120-27.
·     P. Blanchemain, Miscellanees Bibliographiques, II (1879)
·     Lang, Andrew, The Library, (1881)
·     Halkett, Lord, ‘Don Vincente, the Assassin Bookseller’, in The Book-Lover, Vol IV,              Oct 1903.
·     Jackson, Holbrook, The Story of Don Vincente, (1939)
·     Sander, Max, Bibliomania, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1931-1951),                Vol. 34, No 3, (1943)
·     Roland, Charles G., ‘Bibliomania’, JAMA, Vol 212, (1970)
·  Basbanes, Nicholas A., A Gentle Madness- Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, (1995)
·     Hoover Bartlett, Allison, The man who loved books too much, (2009)
The story reached far and H.C. Watson even wrote about the case in his Statistics of Phrenology (1836).

However, already in 1928 a book had appeared in Spain written by bibliophile and author Ramon Miquel I Planas (1874-1950). The name of the book was El Llibreter assassí de Barcelona, and in it Planas sought to rectify the story of Don Vincente, arguing that the anonymous article in La Gazette des Tribunaux, which had informed the world about the existence of Don Vincente, had been fictional. Indeed, Planas argued that the article had been written by French author and librarian Charles Nodier, (1780-1844), most known for his influence on the French Romantics. Planas argued that Don Vincente’s crime does not appear in any local newspapers of the time, that there was no monk by the name of Fra Vincentes at Poblet at the time of its closure, and that the local ‘colour’ does not ring true. [3] Despite the fact that little research has been conducted into the case of Don Vincente since Planas, most scholars hold his version for true despite a disagreement about the identity of the original author. If Nodier was indeed the original author, it is interesting to note that it was rumoured that Nodier had killed a man for outbidding him at auction during one of his trips to Spain. [4]

Only 14 years short of the centenary of Plana’s book it is high time to introduce his theories also into the English accounts of book thieves and to add a scrap of skepticism into the accounts of this famous library-assassin. 

[1] Richmond Ellis, Robert, ‘The legend of Fra Vicents in European and Catalan Culture’, in Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, Vol. 56, Issue 3, (2002), p. 129-131
[2] Anonymous, Gazette des Tribunaux, (23 Oct 1836)
[3] Private correspondence with Barry Taylor at the British Library, 17-18 September 2013  & Richmond Ellis, Robert, ‘The legend of Fra Vicents in European and Catalan Culture’, in Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures,  Vol 56, Issue 3, (2002)

[4] Loving, Matthew, ‘Charles Nodier: The Romantic Librarian’, Libraries & Culture, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Spring, 2003)