Showing posts with label Art Loss Register. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art Loss Register. Show all posts

December 8, 2016

Conference - Second AHRC Workshop | Art, Crime and Criminals: Art, Crime and Criminals: Painting Fresh Pictures of Art Theft, Fraud and Plunder


Organised by: Professor Duncan Chappell,  Dr. Saskia Hufnagel and Ms. Marissa Marjos.

Date: January 16, 2017

Location: Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies (RUSI)
61 Whitehall
London, United Kingdom

Workshop Fees: None, but registration is required 

Following the success of the first workshop, this second workshop aims specifically at discussions in the area of art fraud and forgeries. The following (third) workshop will focus on looting and iconoclasm (September 2017, Berlin, Ministry of Finance). 

All workshops will be structured around a number of presentations by prominent actors in the field, but the main parts are discussions around the topic between all participants.   

The aim of the workshop series is to encourage interdisciplinary research, cross-jurisdictional sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Practitioners will be invited from various backgrounds, such as, police, customs, museums, galleries, auction houses, dealerships, insurance companies, art authenticators, forensic scientists, private security companies etc.  

The proposed network not only aims at bringing the different players together, but also establishes a communication platform that will ensure their engagement beyond the three workshops. Organisations invited to the 2nd workshop include: The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Metropolitan Police, German Police (LKA Berlin), Hong Kong Police, Europol, Authenticators and Art Experts, The Art Loss Register, Art Recovery International, Private Policing Sector, Victoria and Albert Museum (Security), National Gallery, Historic England, Artists/Forgers, Insurance Sector, Journalists, Association of Chiefs of Police, MPs, Academics from various disciplines, Art Dealers and many more.

Workshop 2 will focus specifically on the subject area of art fraud and forgery. In an international art market that is currently reaching record levels of pricing and unprecedented levels of speculative sales and investment the incentives for art fraud and forgery have never been higher. Among questions to be addressed will be:

  1. What is the prevalence of this type of crime?
  2. Who are the principal participants?
  3. To what extent are existing regulatory mechanisms effective?
  4. Is self-regulation of the art market the way forward?
  5. How are forgeries placed on the market?
  6. What scientific measures can be taken to better protect the art market?
  7. How should identified fraudulent works of art be dealt with?
  8. How can the legal and financial risks in authenticating works of art be mitigated?

Workshop Schedule

9.00 am Registration

9.30 am – 10.00 am

  • Introduction by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel
10:00am – 11.30 am
1. International Case Studies

  • Dr. Noah Charney, founder, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)
  • Rene Allonge – Detective Chief Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin) and Steven Weigel – Detective Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin)
  • Saskia Hufnagel, QMUL

Coffee Break 11.30 am – 12.00 pm

12.00 pm – 1.00 pm

  • Presentation by and Dialogue with John Myatt

1.00pm - 2.00 pm Lunch

2.00 pm – 3.30 pm
2. International Law Enforcement and Security Perspectives

  • Vernon Rapley, Head of Security and Visitor Services at the Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Toby Bull, Senior Inspector, Hong Kong Police
  • Michael Will, Europol

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm Afternoon Tea

4.00 pm – 6.00 pm
3. Detection, Prosecution and other legal action

  • Professor Robyn Sloggett, Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne
  • James Ratcliffe, Art Loss Register
  • Robert A. Kugler – Barrister/Solicitor (Rechtsanwalt), Höly, Rauch & Partner - Lawyers, Berlin

Presentations from the first workshop can be found on the Queen Mary University website via the link here.

November 9, 2016

Conference - Second AHRC Workshop | Art, Crime and Criminals: Art, Crime and Criminals: Painting Fresh Pictures of Art Theft, Fraud and Plunder


Organised by Professor Duncan Chappell,  Dr Saskia Hufnagel and Ms Marissa Marjos.

Date: January 16, 2017

Workshop costs: Free, registration required 

Following the success of the first workshop, this second workshop aims specifically at discussions in the area of art fraud and forgeries. The following (third) workshop will focus on looting and iconoclasm (June 2017, Berlin, Ministry of Finance). 

All workshops will be structured around a number of presentations by prominent actors in the field, but the main parts are discussions around the topic between all participants.   

The aim of the workshop series is to encourage interdisciplinary research, cross-jurisdictional sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Practitioners will be invited from various backgrounds, such as, police, customs, museums, galleries, auction houses, dealerships, insurance companies, art authenticators, forensic scientists, private security companies etc.  

The proposed network not only aims at bringing the different players together, but also establishes a communication platform that will ensure their engagement beyond the three workshops.  Organisations invited to the 2nd workshop include:

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Metropolitan Police, German Police (LKA Berlin), Hong Kong Police, Europol, Authenticators and Art Experts, The Art Loss Register, Art Recovery International, Private Policing Sector, Victoria and Albert Museum (Security), National Gallery, Historic England, Artists/Forgers, Insurance Sector, Journalists, Association of Chiefs of Police, MPs, Academics from various disciplines, Art Dealers and many more. 

Workshop 2 will focus specifically on the subject area of art fraud and forgery. In an international art market that is currently reaching record levels of pricing and unprecedented levels of speculative sales and investment the incentives for art fraud and forgery have never been higher. Among questions to be addressed will be: 

1.What is the prevalence of this type of crime? 

2.Who are the principal participants? 

3.To what extent are existing regulatory mechanisms effective? 

4.Is self-regulation of the art market the way forward? 

5.How are forgeries placed on the market? 

6.What scientific measures can be taken to better protect the art market? 

7.How should identified fraudulent works of art be dealt with? 

8.How can the legal and financial risks in authenticating works of art be mitigated? 

9.00 am Registration

9.30 am – 10.00 am
Introduction by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel

10:00am – 11.30 am
1.           International Case Studies 
Dr. Noah Charney, founder, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)

Rene Allonge – Detective Chief Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin) and Seven Weigel – Detective Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin)

Saskia Hufnagel, QMUL

Coffee Break 11.30 am – 12.00 pm
12.00 pm – 1.00 pm
Presentation by and Dialogue with John Myatt

1.00pm - 2.00 pm Lunch

Afternoon
2.00 pm – 3.30 pm
2.          International Law Enforcement and Security Perspectives
 Vernon Rapley, Head of Security and Visitor Services at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Toby Bull, Founder, TrackArt - Art Risk Consultancy

Michael Will, Europol

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm Afternoon Tea

4.00 pm – 6.00 pm

3.        Detection, Prosecution and other legal action
Professor Robyn Sloggett, Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne

James Ratcliffe, Art Loss Register

National Gallery

Robert A. Kugler – Barrister/Solicitor (Rechtsanwalt), Höly, Rauch & Partner - Lawyers, Berlin

Presentations from the first workshop can be found on the Queen Mary University website via the link here.

April 11, 2015

Sir, how much is that (2nd Century B.C.E.) Vase in the Window? Part III

Antiquities trafficking continues to make headlines in multiple countries in 2015.  In this last of a three part series, ARCA explores one final art trafficking network that underscores that the ownership and commodification of the past continues long after the traffickers have been identified.

August 31, 1995
Europa Paestan red-figure Asteas signed calyx-krater
In a fluke summer accident, Pasquale Camera, a former captain of the Guardia di Finanza turned middle-man art dealer, lost control of his car on Italy’s Autostrada del Sole, Italy's north-south motorway, as he approached the exit for Cassino, a small town an hour and a half south of Rome.  Smashing into a guardrail and flipping his Renault on its roof, Camera’s automobile accident not only ended his life but set into motion a chain reaction that resulted in a major law enforcement breakthrough that disrupted one of Italy’s largest antiquities trafficking networks.

While the fatal traffic accident fell under the jurisdiction of Italy’s Polizia Stradale, the Commander of the Carabinieri in Cassino was also called to the scene.  The investigating officers had found numerous photographs in Camera's vehicle which substantiated what investigators had already suspected, that the objects depicted in the photos had been illegally-excavated and that Camera had been actively dealing in looted antiquities.
Tombarolo holding Asteas signed calyx-krater

The images in the car were of a hodgepodge of ancient art.  Two that stood out in particular were of a statue in the image of Artemis against the backdrop of home furnishings and a Paestan red-figure calyx-krater, signed by Asteas in what looked to be someone's garage.  

Having been previously assigned to the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, the  Commander from Cassino called the TPC’s Division General, Roberto Conforti, who requested a warrant be issued to search the premises of Camera’s apartment in Rome, near Piazza Bologna.

Investigators who carried out the search of Pasquale Camera's personal possessions discovered hundreds of photographs, fake and genuine antiquities,  reams of documentation and the now famous Medici organagram.  This org chart revealed Giacomo Medici’s central position in the organization of the antiquities trade out of Italy.  Interestingly, the wallpaper in Cameria's apartment also matched the background of the photo of the Artemide Marciante found in Camera's vehicle. 

Subsistance Looter to Middle Man

Another photo, of Antimo Cacciapuoti, showed the tombarolo holding the freshly-looted Asteas-signed Europa krater.  A copy of this photo was provided by journalist Fabio Isman for the purpose of this article.  Isman confirmed that this image was one of the Polaroids found in Camera's Renault and went on to add that during later negotiations Cacciapuoti would confess to having been paid 1 million lire plus "a suckling pig" for his work in supplying the krater.

One of the links in Italy's largest known trafficking chain had begun to crack.

Medici Organagram
As the investigation progressed authorities went on to raid Giacomo Medici’s warehouse at the Geneva Freeport in September 1995 and recovered 3,800 objects and another 4,000 photographs of ancient art that had, at one time or another, passed through Medici’s network.

1998  Identifications

Matching seized photos to looted works of art is a laborious process.  Three years after the start of the investigation Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini from the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria meridionale at the Villa Giulia, working with the Procura della Repubblica (the state prosecutor's office) and the Court of Rome on this case, identified the Artemide Marciante from the photo found at the scene of Camera's fatal auto accident.  The photo of the statue matched another found in a June 1998 issue of House and Garden Magazine and another photo seized from Giacomo Medici which showed the object unrestored and with dirt still on it.  This statue was ultimately recovered from Frieda Tchacos.

Rizzo and Pellegrini also identified the location of the Paestan red-figure calyx krater, painted and signed by Asteas.  It had been sold by the dealer Gianfranco Becchina to the John Paul Getty Museum in 1981.
2001-2005 More Seizures

In the early years of the new century law enforcement authorities investigating this trafficking cell widened their attention on Gianfranco Becchina, whose name was listed on  the organagram, placing him as head of a cordata and as a primary supplier to Robert Hecht.  This important lead convinced investigators to explore Becchina's suspected involvement in this trafficking cell. 

As the investigation continued authorities seized 140 binders containing 13,000 more documents, 8,000 additional photographs of suspect objects and 6,315 artworks from Becchina's storage facilities and gallery.

But the purpose of this article is not to rehash a 19-year old story already detailed in “The Medici Conspiracy” by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini.    It is now fairly common knowledge that an estimated 1.5 million items have been looted from Italy's myriad archaeological sites during the past four decades and a surprising number of these illicit objects have ended up in some of the world's most prestigious museums via ancient art dealers passing through the hands of Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, Robert Emanuel Hecht Jr., and Robin Symes.

Instead, this article focuses on what is happening in the present and serves to demonstrate that despite the nearly two decades that have past since Pasquale Camera's car veered off Italy's A-1 autostrada, suspect illicit antiquities, traceable to this network, continue to be sold, often openly, on the lucrative licit art market.

To underscore the conundrum of looted to legitimate Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis a Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project, housed in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow has highlighted four objects for sale at Christie’s upcoming antiquities auction in London, on Wednesday, 15 April 2015.  For the last eight years (2007-present), Tsirogiannis has been identifying looted and ‘toxic’ antiquities as they come up for sale from photographic evidence he was given by authorities from the three primary dossiers of photographs derived from the property seizures in these cases.

Each of these four objects listed below have been identified by Tsirogiannis as having corresponding photos in these archives, something potential purchasers may want to consider when bidding on antiquities that, at face value, are reported to have legitimate collection histories.

SALE 10372 Lot 83 Property of a Gentlemen
Provenance: Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1980s.
Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 12 December 2002, lot 16.
Private collection, New York, acquired at the above sale with Charles Ede Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2006.
Beazley archive no. 26090. 

SALE 10372 Lot 102 Property from a London Collection
Provenance:   Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 273, when acquired by the present owner.  

SALE 10372 Lot 108 Property from a London Collection
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 1986, lot 183, when acquired by the present owner.

SALE 10372 Lot 113: Property from a Private Collection, Canada
Provenance with Petit Musée, Montreal, from whom acquired by the present owner in 1998.

At first blush, review of Christie's sales notes on these objects seems to demonstrate a modicum of collecting history pedigree which normally would serve to comfort potential buyers.  None of the auction lot however go on to reveal where these objects were found, or whether their excavation and exportation from their country of origin were legal.  

This should be the first alarm bell to any informed collector considering a purchase on the licit antiquities market.  ARCA reminds its readers and buyers of art works that lack of this information in an object's collection history should be a strong signal that the object may be suspect and that it is better to walk away from a beautiful antiquity than purchase an object that quite possibly may have been looted or illegally exported.

Extracts from Notes by Dr. Tsirogiannis on the Christie's Auction Lots

Regarding Lot 83
Christie's catalogue does not include any collecting history of this Greek amphora before its appearance in Japan in the 1980's. Documentation in the Becchina archive links Becchina to three German professors regarding the examination of the amphora in the 1970's.

Regarding Lot 102 
From Watson's and Todeschini's book, we know that in the 1980's Medici used to consign antiquities to Sotheby's in London, through various companies and individuals.  Why does the Christies auction not include any collecting history before the 1985 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 108

Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue does not include any collecting history of this antiquity before the 1986 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 113
Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue is not precise about the collecting history of this antiquity prior to 1998.

Are these Notifications Helpful?

In the past, when Dr. Tsirogiannis or Dr. David Gill have pointed out objects with tainted collection histories, dealer association members and private collectors have countered by screaming foul. They have asked,
Others have criticized this practice saying that by outing sellers and auction houses on their tainted inventory, the objects simply get pulled from auction and proceed underground.  Detractors believe that this leaves dealers to trade illicit objects in more discreet circles, where screenshots and image capture are less accessible to investigators and researchers and where the change of hands from one collector to another adds a future layer of authenticity, especially where private collections in remote location buyers are less likely to be questioned.

I would counter these concerns by saying that researchers working on this case diligently work to not impede ongoing investigations by the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and Italy's Procura della Repubblica and to notify the appropriate legal authorities in the countries where these auctions take place.   In the case of these four antiquities INTERPOL, the Metropolitan Police and the Italian Carabinieri have been notified.

But police officers and dedicated researchers only have so many sets of eyes and the prosecution of art crime requires dedicated investigators and court hours not often available to the degree to which this complex problem warrants.   To mitigate that, it is time that we dedicate more time educating the opposite end of the looting food chain; the buyer.

The academic community needs to learn to apply persuasive, not adversarial, pressure on the end customer; the buyers and custodians of objects from our collective past.  By helping buyers become better-informed and conscientious collectors we can encourage them to demand that the pieces they collect have thorough collection histories or will not be purchased.  As discerning buyers become more selective, dealers will need to change their intentionally blind-eye practice of passing off suspect antiquities with one or two lines of legitimate buyers attached to them.  

Buyers would also be wise to apply the same pressure to auction houses that they apply to dealers, persuading them to adopt more stringent policies on accepting consignments.  Auction houses in turn should inform consignors that before accepting items for consignment that have limited collection histories they will be voluntarily checking with authorities to see if these objects appear in these suspect photo dossiers.  In this way the legitimate art market would avoid the circular drama of having their auctions blemished with reports of trafficked items going up for sale to unsuspecting buyers or to having gaps in their auction schedule when auction houses are forced to withdraw items on the eve of an upcoming sale.

In April 2014 James Ede, owner of a leading London-based gallery in the field of Ancient Art and board member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art wrote an article in defense of the antiquities trade in Apollo Magazine where he stated:

The IADAA's Code of Ethics states: "The members of IADAA undertake not to purchase or sell objects until they have established to the best of their ability that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property."

In the past Mr. Ede has stated that small dealers couldn't afford to use private stolen art databases such as those at the Art Loss Register.  I would ask Mr. Ede in the alternative how many London dealers registered with the IADAA have ever picked up the phone and asked Scotland Yard's art squad to check with INTERPOL or their Italian law enforcement colleagues when accepting a consignment where the collecting histories of an object deserved a little more scrutiny? 

Or better still, should the more than 14,000 photos of objects from these dossiers ever be released, to private stolen art databases or to a wider public audience, how would the IADAA ensure that its membership actually cross-examine the entire archival record before signing off that the object is not tainted? Mr. Ede has also indicated previously that the IADAA only requires its members to do checks on objects worth more than £2000.  Items of lessor value would take too much time or prove too costly to the dealers.

In 2015 is it correct for dealers to remain this passive and wait for law enforcement to tell them something is afoot?  Would the general public accept such an attitude from used car sellers regarding stolen cars?

Given that Mr. Ede is the former chairman and board member since the founding of the IADAA, an adviser of the British Government, a valuer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and a member of the council of the British Art Market Federation his thoughts on this matter carry considerable weight in the UK.  As such he is scheduled to speak on April 14, 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum on "The Plunder: Getting a global audience involved in the story of stolen antiquities from Iraq and Syria."

I am curious how Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director General Art and Museums, Syria  who is also speaking at this event would feel about low valued items being excluded from the IADAA's "clean or tainted" cross checks or if Mr. Ede has any workable suggestions that would actually begin to address this problem in an active, rather than passive way among the art dealing community.  

Will blood antiquities be held to a higher standard of evaluation given the public's interest while it remains business as usual for objects looted from source countries not involved in civil war or conflict?

By Lynda Albertson


References Used in This Article

Antoniutti, A., and C. Spada. "Fabio Isman, I predatori dell'arte perduta. Il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia." Economia della Cultura 19.2 (2009): 301-301.
Gill, David,   "Almagià: "It’s ridiculous Princeton didn’t do anything to fight that" Looting Matters (August 2010)

Felch, Jason, and Ralph Frammolino. "Chasing Aphrodite. The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum." (2001).

Isman, Fabio "Un milione di oggetti clandestini" Il Giornale di Arte, (May 2011)

Marconi, Clemente, ed. Greek Vases: Images, Contexts and Controversies; Proceedings of the Conference Sponsored by The Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, 23-24 March 2002. Vol. 25. Brill, 2004.
Watson, Peter, and Cecilia Todeschini. "The Medici Conspiracy: Organized Crime, Looted Antiquities, Rogue Museums." (2006).







August 11, 2014

The Times Magazine: Alexi Mostrous writes about Julian Radcliffe and the Art Loss Register in "The murky world of the art detective"

In Britain's magazine for The Times, Alexi Mostrous discusses the controversy surrounding Art Loss Register's founder Julian Radcliffe and alleged payments to art thieves in "The murky world of the art detective" (August 9, 2014). Mostrous reports that the Art Loss Register 'claims to have returned more than £150 million worth of paintings, artefacts and sculptures to their rightful owners in the 22 years since business began' and has 'more than 400,000 objects currently listed' in its stolen art database:
Were the ALR a business built solely around this database, then Radcliffe would be a useful, if uncontroversial member of the art world, something like a particularly proactive lost property clerk. But Radcliffe is no clerk, and he and his company enjoy a far more glamorous sideline, earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year tracking down and recovering stolen art on behalf of insurers and victims of theft. It works like this: Radcliffe’s network of sources around the world tip him off about the locations of stolen paintings. For a substantial fee, they may provide “information” which somehow leads to the stolen artwork landing in Radcliffe’s hands. The ALR man has collected paintings left for him in the boot of a car and by a layby. It’s a system shrouded in mystery but then, Radcliffe claims, it gets results.
According to Mostrous, 'Thanks to a series of internal aides-memoire written by Radcliffe between 2004 to 2012, and leaked to The Times, it is possible to reveal for the first time just how far the ALR is willing to go to recover stolen masterpieces.'

Mostrous' article includes comments from two ARCA associates who previously worked for Scotland Yard: Dick Ellis (an ARCA lecturer) and Charley Hill (an ARCA advisor). You can read the article here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article4167385.ece.

Another article in May 2013 highlighted the work of Dick Ellis: Emma Jacobs writing for The Financial Times "Lessons from an old master" which you can read here: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b27c1392-c2cf-11e2-bbbd-00144feab7de.html#axzz3A5egUa3q.

August 21, 2013

Museum van Bommel van Dam Theft: Arthur Brand on recovering paintings and how one stolen painting reached Sotheby's in London

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Last night art investigator Arthur Brand sent me a link to the story in Dutch News.nl ('Sotheby's London sold stolen Dutch art despite warnings') charging that Sotheby's in London had sold a painting stolen in March from the Museum van Bommel van Dam.

DutchNews.nl quotes NRC, another Dutch media agency, on the story that the Art Loss Register warned Sotheby's that the painting by Shoonhoven that eventually sold in June for 182,500 pounds had been stolen three months earlier.

Here's the brief report of the theft by DutchNews.nl on March 22 ("Thieves steal four works from modern art museum in Venlo"):
Thieves have stolen four works of art from the Museum van Bommel van Dam in Venlo forcing the front door in the early hours of Friday morning. Three of the works are by Jan Schoonhoven and one by Tomas Rajlich and they have a combined value of €1.1m, museum officials said.
Venlo is located about 180 km southeast of Amsterdam. The modern art museum opened in the province of Limburg in 1971 with 1,100 artworks collected by Maarten and Reina van Bommel-van Dam.

Via email, I asked Mr. Brand to explain how he became involved in recovering the paintings and this was his response:
As you might know, I specialize in solving museum thefts, discovering fakes, and illicitly traded antiquities. In the case of museum thefts, my main goal is to return the stolen artworks. Catching the thieves is not a priority, unless somebody was murdered or hurt during the robbery. In fact, a museum theft is a regular burglary but with a valuable loot. People like me, or Dick Ellis and Charley Hill (both former Scotland Yard), specialize in bringing these artworks back home where they belong. People who are in the possession of stolen art - mostly not the original thieves - prefer to contact us instead of going to the police. 
A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone who needed to talk to me. He had read about me in the media and knew that I had returned stolen objects to the police in various countries. I arranged a few meetings with him in Amsterdam. After I had gained his confidence, he told me that he had discovered that three works of art in his possession had been stolen from a museum in Venlo in The Netherlands. He told me that he had quite a criminal record but that he was an art lover too. He just could not burn the paintings in order to get rid of them. But, if he himself would turn them in, they would arrest him anyway, he said, although he had bought these pieces legally in some shop. He showed me a receipt.
I answered that I don’t mind what, who and when: nobody was hurt during the robbery and the main goal was to bring the pieces back. After all, the paintings from the recent Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, also in the Netherlands, might have been burned after the thieves panicked. I told him that my work is to prevent people from panicking. I also explained to him that in cases like this, recovering the pieces is the main goal. I offered to return the two works and to keep his name out which he appreciated because “that option is far better than burning the art…” 
He told me that there was one more secret. According to him, he had auctioned one of the four stolen artworks at Sotheby’s, London, before finding out that the two others in his possession were stolen. He checked the painting-numbers from the four stolen ones with the ones auctioned at Sotheby’s but they did not correspond. But he still could not believe that that one was not stolen too. So he gave me the paperwork of the auction and told me to deliver that too to the police. And then he said: “Arthur, I will go with you…” 
So he went without me to get the two stolen works, came back and we went to the police station. We smoked a cigarette outside, gave each other a hug and then went in."
Now it turns out that the Art Loss Register had warned Sotheby’s that their lot might be a stolen one but after Sotheby’s checked the numbers on the back – which did not correspond – they decided to sell it anyway. The buyer – an expert in the work of Schoonhoven, the artist – discovered that it indeed was stolen from the museum in Venlo, only three months before the auction.  How on earth could this have happened? What a shame.

August 8, 2013

Christopher Marinello on "Art Recovery: Negotiating with Criminals, Handlers, and Good Faith Purchasers" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Christopher Marinello writes on "Art Recovery: Negotiating with Criminals, Handlers, and Good Faith Purchasers" in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
There was a good deal of press coverage surrounding a recent art recovery I handled for the Museum of Modern Art in Sweden. A UK-based dealer with significant connections to the Polish art market searched Matisse's Le Jardin against the Art Loss Register database. The results showed that the work had been stolen 26 years earlier, from the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden and reported to the local police, INTERPOL, and the IFAR (later the ALR) database. 
Following confirmation of the match, my role was to ensure that the painting made its way into the UK, where I would secure the assistance of law enforcement in case a seizure of the work became necessary. I then proceeded to negotiate (with police approval) for the return of the work. 
Fortunately, I encountered a very cooperative dealer who was willing to listen to my analysis of the laws of Poland, the UK, and Sweden. (I think I might have bored him into submission). We engaged in considerable debate about what options he had available to him, knowing that he now held a stolen painting. Once obtaining his release, the painting was placed in a safe for eventual return to the museum in Stockholm. 
Many of the reporters covering the story wanted to know how much money was paid to the dealer, to obtain the release of this $1,000,000 painting. The follow-up question was just as direct, in wanting to know how much money the ALR was going to make from the recovery. The answer to both questions was, and is, zero.
Mr. Marinello's article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA (available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com). The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

June 1, 2013

Alberge for The Observer on "Art Detective warns of missing checks that let stolen works go undiscovered"

Dayla Alberge wrote for The Observer on June 1, 2013 in "Art Detective warns of missing checks that let stolen works go undiscovered: Case of 17th-century landscape highlights failure of European auction houses, dealers and collectors to carry out searches" Christopher A. Marinello of the Art Loss Register found a landscape (beach) painting at an Italian auction house.

"We do find a lot of stolen and looted artwork in civil law countries such as Italy, France and Germany. Consigners of tainted works of art often try to hide behind the good-faith purchase laws of these countries while performing little or no due diligence," Marinello told Alberge.

The 1643 work, by 17th century Dutch artist Jan van Goyen, a 'pioneer of naturalistic landscape painting' was, according to the article, stolen from: the home of Paul Mitchell, an antique picture frame specialist in London in 1979:
'The thieves forced open a window to enter his house. Mitchell assumed that the slight noise that he heard from downstairs was the family cat. "Police call these people 'creepers', night-time burglars who specialise in burgling people when they are in their house," Mitchell said. Describing waking to discover the theft, he added: "The anguish is a very long, deep-seated thing which never really goes away. Hardly a day goes by when I haven't thought about it.
'The loss of the pictures was also painful because of their sentimental value [Marinello]. They belonged to his father, but had become so valuable that Mitchell could not afford to insure them for their full worth. Back in 1979, the paintings were valued £5,000 reward for their recovery, placing advertisements in international journals and approaching a specialist art detective. But the trail went cold.
'It surfaced by chance a few weeks ago after a Dutch dealer tried to buy it in Italy. Before paying for it, he decided to check the database of the Art Loss Register (ALR), which tracks down the world's stolen art from its headquarters in London.'
'Negotiations were particularly delicate because, under Italian law, if someone buys a stolen work in good faith the buyer is sometimes entitled to keep it.'

May 11, 2013

Boston Globe's Todd Wallack on "Prized stolen art frequently resurfaces after decades"

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)
Painting of William Ponsonby,
Second Earl of Bessborough, 1790
The Boston Globe's Todd Wallack points to the increased chance of recovery stolen art years after the theft in "Prized stolen art frequently resurfaces after decades" (May 10, 2013).

Wallack recounts the recovery of John Singleton Copley's portrait of William Ponsonby stolen from Harvard University in 1971 at the 2006 Stair Gallerie's Auction of items from the William M. V. Kingsland Estate. Melvyn Kohn, who went by the name of Kingsland, was later discovered to have died with a private collection of stolen art. Alex Acevedo, owner of The Alexander Gallery, had purchased the unattributed painting for $85,000 then discovered it had likely belonged to Harvard and contacted the FBI.

Wallack writes:
Art detectives say long-lost works like the Copley are increasingly turning up after going missing for ­decades, thanks in large part to readily available information on the Internet or in electronic databases. The trend is feeding hopes of art fans that the prized pieces taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago could eventually surface as well. 
Though the vast majority of missing artwork is never recovered, stolen items are often discovered when they change hand, sometimes many years later, when brokers and buyers research the pieces online and through databases, according to brokers and others in the business.
“We’ve got recoveries happening every week,” said ­Christopher A. Marinello, an ­attorney for the Art Loss Register of London, which maintains an international database of more than 360,000 stolen, looted, disputed, or missing works around the world, including 1,000 from Massachusetts and hundreds of pieces from ­Harvard alone.
“It’s not that unusual to find artwork that has been lost for more than a quarter of a century,” Marinello said. “The valuable pieces either are recovered right away, or they go underground for a generation.”

February 1, 2013

Art Crime in the Media: "Art Cops" Highlights theft of Stradivarius, The Romanoff Heist, and the Art Loss Register's Most Wanted

Here's a link to Art Cops, "A new series dealing with the theft of works of art, antiquities, books and maps from major museums, cultural institutions and collectors" (Twitter), hosted by Burt Wolf, a public television host of Travels & Traditions.

This episode, which aired on September 1, 2012 on Iowa Public Television, tells the story of "The Missing Stradivarius", the 1995 theft of a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin stolen from the New York City Apartment of Erica Morini while the 91-year-old Viennese violinist was dying in the hospital. The rare violin remains missing today.  (You can read more about stolen Stradivarius violins on the website of violinist Joshua Bell in an article by David J. Krajicek for The New York Daily News.  Mr. Wolf interviews Mr. Bell; Christopher Marinello of The Art Loss Register (and a frequent speaker at ARCA's art crime conferences); Dorit Straus, world-wide fine arts manager at Chubb Insurance Company (and an ARCA Lecturer); Bob Wittman, former FBI agent; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, head of the FBI's Art Crime Team.

The same episode discusses "The Romanoff Heist" when thieves stole twelve art works by Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtensteins from the residence of Robert Romanoff in Manhattan's Meat Packing District on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.

Mr. Wolf also identifies three artworks Marinello and The Art Loss Register are "particularly interested in recovering": Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Dona Maar stolen in 1999 from the yacht of a Saudi Prince while anchored for repairs in the harbor at Antibes on the French Riviera; a portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud stolen when the Tate Gallery of London lent the painting to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; and the theft of a painting by Gustav Klimt in 1997 from a gallery under renovation in Italy (someone opened the skylight).

October 17, 2012

Rotterdam Art Heist: The Day After

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Questions remain the day after seven stolen paintings estimated to be worth "tens of millions" remain missing from the Kunsthal art gallery when yesterday morning the 20-year-old building's "state of the art" security system alerted private security, then the Rotterdam police, that the contemporary art space had been robbed.  A Picasso, two Monets, a Gauguin, a Matissee -- five of the paintings were attributed to artists favored by thieves for their fame and perceived value -- plus another by Lucien Freud (famous contemporary artist) and Meijer de Haan (1852-1895), whose name may not be as recognizable but the Dutch artist's paintings are in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (Meyer de Haan painted with Gauguin in Brittany).

Here are links to CBS News (video and text) on the heist and speculation as to whether or not it was an inside job because, as discussed by Chris Marinello of The Art Loss Register, the theft "just went too smoothly".   In the later segment, CBS News correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director, describes art thieves not as sophisticated urbanites (see Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair) but "knuckleheads" who put a lot of time into taking the paintings but will either seek assistance in selling the paintings that usually involves undercover agents, or will try to ransom the paintings back to the insurance company, or will keep the paintings for years as a 'get out of jail card'.

The question after an art heist is more overwhelmingly not who took the paintings but when or if they will ever be recovered.  Listing the stolen paintings into the database of The Art Loss Register, with the media, and other law enforcement agencies is meant to stop the sale of the works through legitimate art dealers and auction houses.

In Kate Connolly's piece yesterday in The Guardian ("Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist"), "security experts speculated that the thieves might have taken advantage of Rotterdam's port -- one of the largest in the world -- to swiftly move the paintings abroad" and that the paintings could have been "stolen to order" or held for ransom.

According to the Associated Press (published online here with the Winnipeg Free Press), Dutch police are following up on "15 tips from the public", "studying video surveillance images", and have "focused their attention on a rear door that thieves most likely used to get into the gallery before snatching the paintings."

Here DutchNews.nl reports that the Kunsthal reopened Wednesday and replaced the spaces formerly occupied by the stolen paintings with works from the Triton Foundation (and notes that journalists outnumbered visitors inside the museum).

May 12, 2012

Courthouse News Service: "Stolen Pissarro Turns Up with Walrus Tusks, Polar Bear Belts"

On May 3, Purna Nemani reported for the Courthouse News Service that stolen paintings had been found by an undercover wildlife agent in Anchorage, Alaska.

Five stolen works of art found include a chalk study, three watercolors,and an oil painting: "Study of Alexa Wilding," by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; "Milton" by Lucien Pissaro; "Nests at Kilmurry" by Mildred Anne Butler; "Castle and Figures in a Farmland" by William Payne; and "Landscape and Cattle on the Thames" by Henry Garland.  Nemani wrote:
All were originals and/or signed; most were produced in the 19th century and had been auctioned to private sellers at Christies and houses at museums in America and London, accordign to the police report (Bloomfield Police Report) and the federal complaints.  Three of the five works had been reported stolen by a private owner, Nicolette Wernick, and were valued at $68,000, according to the police report and complaint.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife discovered the stolen art in September 2010 in a suspect's home.  According to the forfeiture complaint:
He told the agent how the paintings were stolen by his half-brother, later identified as Mario Murphy, and some other 'cousins,' from the Wernick Collection approximately five years before.
The suspect apparently wanted the undercover agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service to find a buyer for the stolen artwork in exchange for a finder's fee.

Interpol did not list the Lucien Pissarro painting in its Stolen Art Database; the only painting by the artist identified on the list is "Fog over Herblay" stolen from France in 1999.

Nemani reports that 'three of the five paintings were confirmed as stolen through the "Art Loss Register" and are currently in custody of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

May 4, 2012

BOOK REVIEW CONCLUDED: Joshua Knelman's Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

(You may find the first two parts here and here)

In London, Julian Radcliffe, founder of the Art Loss Register, a private company originally funded by auction houses and insurers to create a database of stolen art, tells Knelman of his effort to establish a stolen art database for art dealers and auction houses.  The company also reported over $200 million in art theft recoveries by 2008, including recoveries of paintings by Cézanne, Edouard Manet, and Pablo Picasso.

“Famous paintings are just a small percentage of what is being stolen,” Radcliffe told Knelman, [adding that] most of the art on the ALR list consists of minor paintings and antiques, and fewer than 1 per cent of those are ever recovered.

Radcliffe explains that art dealers often didn’t question why they could purchase a painting cheaply.  Sometimes if art dealers found out the art was reported stolen on ALR, they would not buy the work but refer it to someone else.  Even art thieves like to search the database to see if a painting has been reported stolen.

In the over 1,000 recoveries Radcliffe has enjoyed, in only three cases was the thief not after the paycheck for the stolen art, and most of the art that wasn’t immediately passed on to a dealer or auction house was stored in a vault, a closet, an attic, or a basement.
“Transactions in the art world are often carried out anonymously … and this cult of secrecy can be taken advantage of by criminals,” said Radcliffe.  “The art trade is the least regulated and least transparent activity in the commercial world, and the portability of the times and their international market make them very attractive for moving value, unobserved.”
Radcliffe said that the average value of stolen art is under $10,000 and that thieves will pass these items off to fences, who will then move them into the outlands of the art market: to small auction houses or galleries, or across oceans…. About half of all stolen art recovered by the ALR was found in a different country from where it was originally stolen. 

In the United States, Knelmen meets Special Agent Robert K. Wittman, then a Senior Art Investigator for the Rapid Deployment Art Crime Team for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Wittman was six months away from retirement.  The 1996 law, The Theft of Major Artwork had made it a federal crime to steal from a museum or to steal a work of art worth more than $5,000 or older than 100 years.  Knelman tells how Wittman recovered a Norman Rockwell painting in Brazil just three months after helping with the recovery effort after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Knelman meets Matthew Bogdanos who had lived one block from the WTC on 9/11.  The assistant U. S. district attorney, a Marine reservist, led the art theft investigation of the National Museum of Iraq after looting in 2003, and established an amnesty program to recover the stolen antiquities.

In the fall of 2009, Knelman meets Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Art Crime Team which had reorganized in response to the looting of the Iraqi museum.  Magness-Gardiner echoes what Knelman heard in his first meeting with an art thief in Toronto six years earlier about an unregulated and undocumented art market based on secretive transactions involving millions of dollars.

I asked Magness-Gardiner if it was fair to say that no one had a handle on how large the black market in stolen art had become.  “Yes, that’s fair to say,” she answered....  “When we say ‘black market,’ really what we mean are those stolen items that are in the legitimate market and shouldn’t be there.  The black market isn’t separate.  So we’re talking about items that have no history.  The collectors, the museums, and the dealers all partake on some level.”

Magness-Gardiner explains:
“Art is one of the biggest unregulated markets in the U. S.  The business of art tends to be very closed and secretive.  It is still business done on a handshake.  Financial transactions are quite difficult to track, because you don’t have a paper trail.  How art is bought, sold, and moved is a challenge in itself to understand.  When a piece of art is bought or sold, there is the movement of the physical object from one location to another.  There is also the transfer of money from one bank account to another.  There is nothing to link those two events.”
Magness-Gardiner addressed the lack of information about the collecting history or previous ownership of an object of art or cultural property:
“Another problem built into a business-on-a-handshake model is the issue of provenance.  The first thing we tell a new agent to do is to find out whether or not the work of art that has been stolen is, in fact, real.  Where does it come from? Where are its records? We don’t know until we do a background investigation on the piece of art.”  She continued, “Looking at the authenticity of a piece is always detective work.  Unlike most other material items manufactured today, art does not have serial numbers.  Lack of a serial number is one element that really distinguishes art from other types of property theft.  The only parallel is jewellery and gems – difficult to trace because they don’t have a serial number either, and so they are particularly valuable to thieves,” she said. 

“The middlemen and the dealers don’t want other people to know their sources.  This can stem from a legitimate business concern, because if other dealers find out who their sources are, they could use those same sources.”
Knelman dedicates a chapter to the art crime investigator, Alain Lacoursière, who had worked on art thefts as part of his police job until he retired. When Knelman met the new generation of the  Quebec Art Squad they didn’t know of the work of the LAPD Art Theft Detail until Knelman told the French-speaking detectives of Hrycyk’s work.

In Hot Art, Knelman successfully brings a personal narrative navigating the disparate international world of art theft and recovery that almost unknowingly tell of the same story of theft and laundering stolen art through the legitimate market and the limited resources to combat the problem.  From England’s first art investigative team, the Sussex Police’s art and antiques squad, in 1965 to information flourishing on the internet through blogs such as Art Hostage (written by the former  Brighton Knocker Paul "Turbo" Hendry), and information dispersed by Interpol, the LAPD’S Art Theft Detail, Quebec’s Art Crime Squad, and the Museum Security Network, who in the English-speaking world will be the next law enforcement officers to continue the work of its pioneers?

January 31, 2012

Antiques Trade Gazette Reports that "iPhone Raid" Involved the Use of a Smartphone to Select Artwork in Heist in Northern Ireland

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor-in-Chief

Recently art thieves used a presumed iPhone in a robbery in Northern Ireland to select art during a robbery, and one art recovery expert expects more use of technology with even the release of the iPad 3.

Museum Security Network distributed an article yesterday from the Antiques Trade Gazette that reported "Violent Raid saw art expert direct gang by smart phone" in Northern Ireland on January 3:
"In what is being dubbed the iPhone raid, the two men with Irish accents used a third party to assist them with the robbery after forcing their way into a Co Armagh home. Beaten, bound and gagged, the victim watched as a 'smart' phone was used to film his collection. The videos were immediately sent to an apparently knowledgeable accomplice who then advised the thieves on what to steal and what to leave behind."
The unnamed victim "a retired vicar and well known at major art sales", according to the Antiques Trade Gazette, "Among the stolen items from what has been called a world-class art collection were two paintings by Canaletto, exceptional antique furniture and other chattels."

I emailed Christopher Marinello at the Art Loss Register and asked him what was the same or different about this theft. This is his response:
While it is interesting from the viewpoint of the i Phone technology used, it is, in my opinion, nothing more than the time honored practice of low level crooks doing the dirty work for a more sophisticated criminal. 
Many of the major art thefts that took place in the late 1960's and 1970's were committed by drug addicts paid by others to smash and grab their way through various galleries. The low level criminal would be paid small amounts of cash or drugs and would turn over the stolen art to a small gang leader who would then attempt to sell the items or demand a ransom for their return.

While this is the first published case of an iPhone being used, I have no doubt that the practice will continue or even expand after the release of the anticipated iPad 3. But let's not forget that any images sent via the internet or by a mobile device are traceable. Clearly, these crooks are not thinking about the big picture.

January 19, 2012

October 15, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: The Art Loss Register Recovery Update

"Portrait of a Man"
by Sir Henry Raeburn
In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Christopher A. Marinello, Executive Director and General Counsel for The Art Loss Register, answers the question "Is art ever stolen to order?"

Marinello serves as the ALR's chief negotiator and has mediated and settled numerous art related disputes for the world's largest private international database of stolen, missing, and looted artwork. In this editorial essay, he discusses the recovery of a photograph stolen from the Prague Museum; Andy Warhol's Candy Box; and a two-year dispute over Sir Henry Raeburn's 'Portrait of a Man', stolen from Joanne King Herring, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film Charlie Wilson's War.

You may read Marinello's essay by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through ARCA's website or purchasing an individual issue through Amazon.com.

September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - , No comments

Evidence of changing attitudes: The Art Loss Register recovers valuable medallion on behalf of the Castle Friedenstein Foundation in Gotha Germany

When SJ Phillips, a jewellery and art dealer, offered to sell a rare 17th century gold medallion to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts museum the institute contacted the Art Loss Register who confirmed that the item was on it's database of stolen works, and once contacted with this information, the seller offered to return the item to it's pre-World War II owners. You may read the press release on the Art Loss Register's website here.

September 20, 2011

The Art Loss Register Recovers Two Seventeenth Century Colonial Paintings Stolen from a Church in Bolivia

St. Rose Viterbo
ART LOSS REGISTER PRESS RELEASE - On Christmas Eve in 1997, more than a hundred religious artefacts were stolen from the Church (Templo) of San Andres de Machaca in La Paz, Bolivia. The church, declared a Bolivian National Monument in 1962, had been the target of thieves several years earlier before being stripped of its colonial masterpieces in 1997. The theft was reported to the Bolivian Ministry of Culture and Interpol and subsequently recorded on the Art Loss Register’s international database of stolen, missing and looted artwork.

Saint Augustin
In May 2011, over thirteen years after the theft, the Art Loss Register received a request to search its database of stolen art for two of the Bolivian colonial works. The request was submitted by a U.S. art dealer who claimed to have received the paintings on consignment from an elderly American collector. The art historians employed by the Art Loss Register were able to conclusively identify the portraits of ‘Saint Rose of Viterbo’ and ‘Saint Augustin’from several unique areas of damage thanks to the good quality archival photographs taken by the church prior to the theft.

Bolivian Ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron Crespo
 and Christopher Marinello of the Art Loss Register 
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specializes in recovering stolen art for the Art Loss Register in London, handled the complicated negotiations that brought these iconic pictures back to Bolivia. “We could not have located these paintings without the important and groundbreaking work of Interpol and the Interpol Database of Stolen Art. This case is emblematic of the cooperation between the public and the private sector, a relationship that, in my view, is crucial to the protection of cultural heritage worldwide.”

In a brief ceremony at the Bolivian Embassy in London on 12 September 2011, the paintings were returned to Ambassador Maria Beatriz Souviron Crespo on behalf of the Bolivian Ministry of Culture.

September 16, 2011

Art Loss Register Theft Alert: Renoir Stolen from Private Collection in Houston

Pierre-August Renoir's
 Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow
 with Flowers in Her Hair
 (
1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm)
September 16 - The Art Loss Register has issued a theft alert for a painting by Renoir stolen from a private collection in Houston on September 8. The alert can be found here and reads as follows:
Pierre-August Renoir's Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair (1918, 50.17 x 41.28 cm) was stolen from a private collection during the evening of the 8th of September 2011 as reported to the Houston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for information leading to the return of the painting. Anyone with information regarding this item please contact: 
Christopher A. Marinello, Executive & General Counsel, The Art Loss Register, 1st Floor, 63-66 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8LE, United Kingdom, Tel: +44 (0) 207 841 5780, email: chris.marinello@artloss.com 
or 
Robert Wittman, Robert Whittman, Inc., PO Box 653, Chester Heights, PA 19017, USA Tel: 610-361-8929, email: info@robertwittmaninc.com.

ARCA blog contacted Mr. Marinello and asked for more information. "Unfortunately, we cannot comment on the theft due to the fact that it is a pending investigation by the Houston PD and Federal Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Marinello responded in an email. "The Art Loss Register has 259 stolen Renoirs in its database of stolen, missing, and looted artwork. We are hopeful that the publicity given to this horrific crime will produce some leads that will assist with the recovery of this painting."

August 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 8, 2011

Art Loss Register's Chris Marinello Will Lead Keynote Panel on the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention at ARCA's Third Annual Art Crime Conference on Sunday July 10

The 40th Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention will be the subject of the keynote panel at ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference on Sunday, July 10th in Amelia.

Both Chris Marinello, Executive Director and General Counsel for the Art Loss Register, and Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief, attended the UNESCO meeting in March 2011 in Paris to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, an international treaty designed to promote cooperation between countries to stop the sale of illicit cultural property which was increasing the illegal excavating or plundering of archaeological sites.
Last March in Paris, UNESCO commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention which was a landmark treaty negotiated to define illegal trafficking of cultural property for the international community and provide policies for nations to adopt to stem the demand and sale of cultural property. Subjects covered included legal instruments employed for the fight against illicit trafficking of archaeological objects. The 1970 Convention has been ratified by 120 Member States and is seeking ratification by 80 more. After 40 years, effective has the 1970 convention been in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property?
In 2010, Christopher Marinello was appointed Worldwide Recoveries Manager for his success management of recoveries in North America. Before joining the Art Loss Register, Marinello worked as a litigator in the realm of the arts with clients such as museums and collectors.


Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate Certificate in ARCA's International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in the Journal of Art Crime. In the past two decades Catherine has also traveled extensively to ancient sites in modern day Turkey. Since October 2010 Catherine has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s Blog.