August 10, 2016

Reverse Smuggling - Archaeological Remains and Paintings Imported to Italy Without Proper Authority Seized

Three containers, searched by Italy's customs authorities have been seized by the Guardia di Finanza at the Port of La Spezia having been found to contain numerous smuggled works of art.  

The shipping crates, reported to be the property of a wealthy US businessman, are said to contain more than 100 objects, including several Roman era archaeological finds dating from the IV-III century BCE, 1 century CE Carrara marble statues, two large French-origin oil paintings dating back to the eighteenth century and various other antiquities and pieces of furniture. 

During the search, it was found that all the shipped items were imported without adequate proof of ownership or provenance.   

The objects, arriving from Miami, Florida, appear to have been smuggled into Italy in part, to furnish a home in the Florentine hills.  Local Italian authorities have filed a complaint against the US businessman for conduct punishable by the Italian Code of Cultural Heritage, the Italian Criminal Code and the Italian Customs Code.  

It has been estimates that the undeclared items, should proper provenance actually be established, would have an estimated import fee totalling approximately 23 thousand euros.  








August 3, 2016

Recap of the 2016 Amelia Conference

By Catherine Waldram, Guest Blogger


As ARCA's blog readership generally knows the Association for Research into Crimes against Art is a research and outreach organisation working to promote the study and research of art crime and cultural heritage protection.  One of the ways we do this is by identifying emerging and under-examined trends related to various types of art crime and in doing so work to highlight developing strategies that advocate for the responsible stewardship of our collective artistic and archaeological heritage.  In furtherance of that, each year ARCA hosts a weekend summer art crime conference in Italy, where allied professionals, academic scholars, and students across interdisciplinary fields convene within the old walls of the quiet Umbrian town of Amelia, for what has come to be known as the Amelia Conference. 

This year's event was held June 24-26, 2016. 

As with previous years, the objective of the conference was to share perspectives and approaches working to abate art crime and illicit cultural property trafficking internationally, while facilitating an atmosphere of communication and collaboration between professionals working in the sector in order to share new and emerging approaches. The conference takes place mid-way through ARCA’s ten-course Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection which in turn gives the Association's postgraduate students the opportunity to meet and speak with experts from all over the world while exchanging news, ideas and experiences.

The following report will provide a brief summary of the speakers’ messages in brief.

Photo Credit: Billie Fee
Alesia Koush, an art historian with Heritage Community Life Beyond Tourism® created by the Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation®, which has been operating for over twenty years for intercultural dialogue and peaceful coexistence in the world, gave the opening address.

Koush's research focuses on the protection of cultural heritage and she serves on the foundation’s international board of experts. In the framework of these activities, she conceived and coordinated two editions of the international workshop “Value Education for Culture, Peace and Human Development” – a theme representing the result of her multi-annual research, which she continues to develop participating at international conferences and publishing articles.

In Kouch's presentation “Without culture, there is no peace” she stressed that more recognition and legal protections for our shared, inalienable human right to culture are necessary. She reminded the audience of the teachings of Russian artist, Professor Nicholas Roerich and philosopher Swami Vivekananda who both stressed the need for protection of cultural values, stressing cultural education as a a critical component of teaching society of the necessity of preserving universal human values.

After the opening address, Saturday's first panel elaborated on the current climate of civil, national, and international law as it relates to cultural heritage protection.

Dr. Saskia Hufnagel, co-director of the Criminal Justice Centre at Queen Mary University of London, discussed the restitution of cultural heritage objects within the German context, pointing out that criminal prosecution can often be faster than civil restitution.

Ivett Paulovics and Pierfrancesco C. Fasano, Milan-based Attorneys-at-Law from FASANO Avvocati, noted the initial shortcomings and subsequent changes in the EU legal framework for unlawfully removed cultural objects and the important changes brought about by EU Directive 2014/60, involving a shift in the burden of proof onto the possessor of the object.

Lastly, Silvia Beltrametti of the University of Chicago Law School presented her study on the impact of court convictions of antiquities dealers on pricing and provenance of ancient artifacts at auction. Her analyses concluded that international treaties and legal threats correlate to a greater market demand for items with clearer and demonstrable provenance. The relationship was clearly exemplified by spikes in the price of classical and Egyptian objects accompanied by better documentation of the collecting history corresponding with the timing of high-profile prosecutions, like that of Fredrick Schultz and Giacomo Medici.

The second morning panel consisted of European and Antipodean perspectives on art and heritage crime and the trafficking of culture within the former Yugoslavia, the Balkans, and Australia.

Helen Walasek, author of Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage, formerly worked with the Bosnian Institute in London and Bosnia-Herzegovina Heritage Rescue (BHHR). Walasek brought insight into the destruction and damage of cultural buildings of significance in the region and the functioning duties of the  International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The judgments represented a growth in humanitarian pressure and response to inflict penalties on perpetrators of cultural heritage destruction that willfully inflicted harm on the morale and history with no military necessity. Walasek underlined the importance of recognizing that damages to culturally significant property reach not only those near affected areas, but also the entirety of mankind.

Elena Sciandra, a Ph.D. student in International Studies at the University of Trento School of International Studies with a M.Sc. in Criminal Justice Policy, shared her findings on illicit antiquities trafficking occurring in the Balkan region. Sciandra called for greater research dedicated to transit countries involved in trafficking activities.

Professors Kenneth Polk and Duncan Chappell examined and presented contemporary developments in the Antipodean art world. Dr. Polk is a retired Professor of Criminology at the University of Melbourne and continues to serve as a researcher on such topics as art theft, art fraud, and the illicit traffic in antiquities.  He also has been recently appointed by the Australian Government to the National Cultural Heritage Committee. Dr. Chappell is a lawyer and criminologist, currently teaching as a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and as a Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of NSW. He is also the Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence in Policing and Security and ARCA's Art and Cultural Heritage Law professor for the Postgraduate Certificate Program. Together Polk and Chappell noted that typical trafficking portals in their region include Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore and both cited multiple cases and legal instruments, including the “Head of Man” sold by Subhash Kapoor and the Australian 1986 Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act’s Section 14 on Unlawful Imports.

Saturday's first afternoon panel highlighted the current state of endangered antiquities from Mesopotamia to South Arabia via the Levant. Chaired by ARCA 2015 Alumni, Samer ABDEL GHAFOUR, the founder of the ArchaeologyIN – Archaeology Information Network, the panel focused on best practices and the positive impact of community-focused development projects in the protection of cultural heritage in politically strained regions.   Mr. Abdel Ghafour also introduced ARCA's three 2016 Minerva Scholarship students for this year's postgraduate program:  Zuhoor Khalid Ali Al-Ansi, from Yemen, Ahmed Fatima Kzzo, from Syria and Ameer Doshee Jasim from Iraq. All three students have been sponsored by individuals and organisations who want to promote the study of art crime among the professional community actively working within conflict zones. The Minerva scholarship is set aside to equip scholars with the knowledge and tools needed to build the capacity to address heritage crimes successfully when they return to their home institutions and to advance this training within their respective regions. 

Conference Icebreaker with ARCA Minerva Scholars
Ahmed Kzzo, Zuhoor Khalid Ali Al-Ansi,
Ameer Doshee Jasim and Dr. Giorgio Buccellati and 
Dr. Marilyn Kelly Buccellati
Carla Benelli, a 2015 ARCA alumna and Osama Hamdan described the politicized use of archaeology for territorial control in occupied Palestinian territories as well as the current state of poor management and neglect of archaeological sites in that region. Carla Benelli, is the Cultural Heritage Project Manager at the Associazione pro Terra Sancta (Custody of the Holy Land) at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Osama Hamdan is the Director of the Palestinian NGO Mosaic Centre and a Lecturer at the Higher Institute of Islamic Archaeology at Al-Quds University in Palestine. Both speakers encouraged greater investment in people within the region, facilitated by an improved education system and government strategy. 

As a Research Fellow at the University of Pisa, Costanza Odierna shed light on the widespread destruction of archaeological heritage at risk in Yemen and the University of Pisa’s related projects in support of Yemeni museums, including the Damār Museum and Zngibar Museum. Odierna introduced the digital archive her team has created, known as the Digital Archive for the Study of pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions (DASI), to act as a resource for study and preservation. 

Next, Professors Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati spoke of their experiences at Tell Mozan (Arabic: تل موزان‎‎, ancient Urkesh; Hasakah Governorate, Syria), in modern-day Northern Syria.  Nearly 20 years ago, the pair and their team identified the fourth millennium BCE tell located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate and have been working on the site through 17 seasons of excavations. 

Dr. Giorgio Buccellati is the Founding Director of the International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies - IIMAS and a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati serves as the Director of Excavations at the ancient city of Urkesh and is a faculty member at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Together, the Buccellati's offered practical and cost-effective solutions which they have used to harness vital community-based social-cultural infrastructures as a means of preventing site damage and the looting of their archaeological site. Their long-term project in Syria, located just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from ISIS-controlled territory, has been successfully maintained and protected despite its at-risk proximity to conflict zones in a large part because local staff are instilled with an intense loyalty to the heritage of the region and to the scientists and scientific work being conducted at Tell Mozan over the last decades.

The Buccellati's efforts to harness the cooperation of local people, who now serve as guardians of the Tell Mozan site, are documented in a report titled "In the Eye of the Storm," This report details how a plan to protect Urkesh from crumbling has inadvertantly served as a model for protecting the heritage site during and in spite of Syria's long-standing armed conflict.  

The Buccellati's challenged the audience, asking: “How can we expect stakeholders to protect the sites if we do not?”

The afternoon’s second panel discussion focused on characterizing and anticipating the trafficking of culture in and from zones of conflict.

Dr. Samuel Andrew Hardy, a specialist researching the illicit antiquities trade and the destruction of community and cultural property for various organizations including UNESCO is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Program in Sustainable Cultural Heritage at the American University of Rome.  Hardy spoke on his work “The Importance of Being Diligent” and existing trends in present-day conflict antiquities looting.

Andrew Scott DeJesse, Lieutenant Colonel and Cultural Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army, provided an overview of his work on the Collective Heritage Lab. The innovative social laboratory is being developed to track the antiquities trade and disrupt the connections between the demands of the legal antiquities market, the grey market, and the illicit trafficking of stolen artifacts.

Britta M. Redwood, J.D. candidate at Yale University, discussed museum and collector liability under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. Redwood shared perspectives on several recent cases, including Linde et al. v. Arab Bank in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The second day of the conference began with a morning panel focused on cases of art crime occurring in Italy, offering insight into the challenges of repatriation as well as how successful joint mediation efforts can be useful in developing collaborative relationships which facilitate repatriation. 

Serena Raffiotta, Archaeologist, shared the story of a blue curl that her team discovered in Morgantina, Sicily. Through her relationship with the J. Paul Getty Museum, she found that this small piece was, in fact, a perfect puzzle fit to the iconic terracotta head of Hades within the institution’s collection at the time. The Hades sculpture has since been returned to Morgantina. Stefano Alessandrini, Archaeologist and Consultant for L’Avvocatura dello Stato, Italia, brought his perspective from his efforts to repatriate illicitly trafficked works of art home to Italy.

Virginia Curry, retired FBI Special Agent and Doctoral Candidate at the University of Texas at Dallas, shed light on the long-standing history of unethical collecting methods among some collectors of ancient art. Curry told the story of Piermatteo d’Amelia’s “Annunciation”, originally from the altar of a Franciscan church located just outside the city of Amelia, not far from the Boccarini cloister where the conference was held. By examining letters between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Bernard Berenson which highlight a long succession of business transactions between Berenson and Gardner in the purchasing of art works Ms. Curry highlighted that the Boston-based collector had more than passing knowledge in the illicit nature of the stolen “Annunciation” which ultimately ended up in her private collection. 

Sunday's second group of morning panelists spoke about fakes, forgeries, and the illicit trafficking of rhino horns infiltrating the market.

James Ratcliffe, General Counsel and Director of Recoveries at The Art Loss Register, spoke about fakes and forgeries circulating in the market, as witnessed by his firm. The Art Loss Register is one of  largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques, and collectables. Their services include item registration, search and recovery services to collectors, the art trade, insurers, and worldwide law enforcement agencies. Some of the items Ratcliff covered were the corruption and manufacturing of false provenance, the use of provenance to legitimise forgeries and the difficulties that arise from the fact that so few people have any interest in revealing forgeries which results in the recycling of fakes and forgeries in the market.

Dr. Annette Hübschle-Finch, Senior Research Advisor at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, shared her studies on the market and the grey zone of regulation for rhino horns. Hübschle-Finch underscored that South Africa continues to allow recreational hunting of rhino horns for hunters with permits, resulting in abuse as well as regulatory challenges. The last speaker was Allen Olson-Urtecho, an art adjuster, investigator, and principal at Fine Arts Adjusters LLC as well as a Ph.D. student at IDSVA.  Olson-Urtecho  introduced his team’s Fine Art Forensics Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and stressed the importance of disseminating knowledge to wider audiences to curb the proliferation of fakes and forgeries within the marketplace.

In the afternoon, perspectives of art crime were shared by public sector law enforcement officers as well as private investigators.

Jordan Arnold, Senior Managing Director at K2 Intelligence, shared insight into the Panama Papers that were leaked from the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca and its impact on future regulation targeting the art market. Arnold spoke about the regulatory functions of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the responsibility of banks and financial institutions to monitor accounts for suspicious activity under the U.S. Patriot Act. 

Fons van Gessel, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Security and Justice in the Netherlands, and Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antiquities Crime Unit in the National Criminal Intelligence Division of the National Police of the Netherlands, shared findings from the 3rd meeting of the EU CULTNET held in the Hague on 25 May 2016. The EU CULTNET is the informal network of law enforcement authorities and experts in the field of cultural goods. van Gessel and Finkelnberg stressed the need for cooperation and the exchange of information and best practices.

Michael Will, Manager of the Organized Crime Networks Group and Focal Point Furtum at EUROPOL, provided an overview of EUROPOL's and Europe's involvement in the fight against cultural goods trafficking. Gonzalo Giordano, General Secretariat and Sub-Directorate of the Drugs and Organized Crime in Works of Art unit at INTERPOL, discussed initiatives and methods at INTERPOL’s Works of Art unit utilised in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

The final conference panel dealt with cultural heritage risk management approaches to effectively balance the accessibility with the protection of collections.

Judit Kata Virág, Registrar at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, called for greater stewardship and cooperation between museum professionals and law enforcement agencies in the fight against art trafficking. Dick Drent, Associate Director of SoSecure, Toby Bull, Founder of TrackArt, and Ibrahim Bulut, Business Development Manager at Meyvaert Glass Engineering, reminded the audience that in the security profession there are two basic approaches used to deal with security vulnerabilities: reactive and proactive.  Reactive approaches are those procedures that museums use once they discover that their facility has been compromised by an intruder or attack. Proactive approaches include all measures that are taken with the goal of preventing risks before they occur compromising security.   Speaking candidly with the attendees the panalists underscored that security doesn’t begin with the detection of a compromised situation resulting in a theft or damage to an art work, but with an advanced plan to minimize risk that includes many factors customized to the needs of each individual facility. The speakers on the panel pushed for change from reactive measures and fostering mew approaches which take into consideration proactive measures within the security sector, facilitated by security intelligence coupled with smarter techniques and more security focused construction.




July 28, 2016

Dali's 1941 Surrealist work "Adolescence" and Lempicka's 1929 tableau "La Musicienne" Recovered: Tied to Organized Crime

After negotiations that stretched from the UK, to the Netherlands and beyond two paintings stolen by masked gunmen during a daylight robbery have been recovered thanks to the work of private investigators. 

Snatched from the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, once located in the village of Spanbroek in northwest Holland on May 01, 2009, the robbers made off with “Adolescence,” 18 x 12 inches (45 by 30 centimeters), a 1941 gouache by Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí featuring the Catalan artist and his one-time nanny and “La Musicienne,” 46 x 29 inches (116 by 73 centimeters), a 1929 oil painting by Polish-born art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka.

In 2009 the museum closed; a direct result of the collapse of the Dutch DSB Bank owned by the Museum's founder and owner, Dirk Scheringa. Forced into liquidation by its creditors, Dutch bank ABN Amro, whose removal men can be seen in the video below, seized 130 paintings from the museum's collection, reportedly to cover a $48 million loan that the museum’s namesake owner had failed to repay. The sale of the museum's collection, both stolen and on site achieved € 2,880,075. 



In a post published on Twitter Dutch art historian Arthur Brand released a statement saying  

Brand further reported that the two artworks had been given to a criminal gang as collateral, in lieu of payment. 


Dali’s surrealist landscape painting depicts a woman’s lips and nose superimposed onto the back of a seated woman,  her eyes and eyelashes are formed by two hills in the background.  The Lempicka artwork shows a bohemian woman in a vivid blue dress, playing a mandolin against the backdrop of a cityscape. 

After an intense months-long negotiation, the two paintings have now been handed over to UK police at New Scotland Yard.  The current owners, who purchased the art as a result of the museum's sale, have yet to be identified publically. 


July 26, 2016

Illicit Antiquities Trafficking an Ongoing, Organized Enterprise in Italy

This week, in the town of Teano, 30 kilometres northwest of Caserta on the road to Rome from Naples, the Carabinieri formally placed under investigation four individuals under suspicion of having committed a series of thefts “of historical interest” and then selling their stash onward via the illegal market.  In layman's English, the men were arrested for trafficking illicit antiquities and laundering them on via middlemen on to wealthy buyers.   The archaeological areas of Teano-Calvi have long been massacred for decades by tomb raiders without scruples.


One of those arrested was Emilio Autieri, a 65 year old registered nurse with Italy's Local Health Authority Service (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, ASL) which proves that even with a decent state pension, individuals can be coaxed into a world of illicit crime where money flows freely and behind closed doors.   He and 22 year old Antonia Pane have been placed under house arrest pending further investigation.   Massimo Aversano, 43 and 19 year old Domenico De Biasio have been released on their own recognizance with reporting conditions and restrictions to not leave the territorial area.

The investigation began in January 2016 following a not-publicized theft from the Archaeological Museum of Teano.  The case serves as a good example into the minds of criminals who receive, possess, conceal, store, barter, and sell, not just antiquity, but any goods, wares, or merchandise where there is a willing buyer willing to look the other way.

Following months of observation and chasing leads on various burglaries at private residences and shops, the Teano carabinieri conducted a series of wire taps and reviewed CCTV footage related to various burglaries.  This in turn lead them to execute search warrants which uncovered what appears to be a well structured group of organized criminals who moved objects via fences working in the archaeological sector who had a supply of buyers willing to turn a blind eye to the illicit origin of the pieces they purchased. 

During the July sting operation, authorities recovered and sequestered more than 200 historical objects; antiquities which initial examination appears to date from from as early as the 9th and 8th Century BCE to as late as the 1st and 2nd century CE. Law enforcement has estimated the value of the seizure to have a combined value of €500,000.00 on the illicit market. 

The objects  brought into police custody include various sculptures in terracotta, ivory carvings, marble architectural elements, terracotta amphorae, as well as Bucchero pottery, common in pre-Roman Italy.  The team also had a stash of votive statues, and various metal and stone objects, buckles, brooches and earrings.  Interestingly, authorities also seized stolen objects not of an archaeological nature.  This shows that the ring of thieves and fences, did not restrict their dealings to stolen goods solely from antiquity. 

video

Earlier, in March of this year, a well-respected surgeon, Domenico Bova from nearby Sessa Aurunca and Gerardo Mastrostefano, an attorney from the same town as this weeks arrests, were investigated for their own related involvement to this offence and receiving stolen archaeological goods after 33 ancient finds were confiscated from their individual residences. Along with them an unnamed fence was reportedly involved as the ring's middleman.  The investigation into these prior individuals coupled with this week's formal charging of four others seem to lend credibility that the zone continues to have weaknesses that in the past have made it well adapted to the trafficking of culture.

In January 2014 an ex capo and former Camorrista of the Casalesi clan turned justice informant, Carmine Schiavone, stated that the Camorra had infiltrated the cities of Teano, Vairano, Caianello and other areas in Alto Caserta.   Schiavone, prior to his death was a former member of the Casalesi clan from Casal di Principe in the province of Caserta between Naples and Salerno and a cousin of former Camorra superboss Francesco Schiavone.  Heavily entrenched in the clan's business, he could be considered a person well informed as to the illicit activities in the region.

Is this summer's heritage crime case localized to one small group of organized bandits or part of something more sinister?







July 20, 2016

ARCA's Postgraduate Program: From the Eyes of a 2016 Student - Part II


I’m not sure whether it makes more sense to say that we’re only halfway through with the ARCA postgraduate program or that we’re already halfway through with the program. On the one hand, we have had the good fortune of hearing from six expert professors and have covered all sorts of ground—academic and professional terrain alike—in the study of art crime: from heritage law to art insurance, from art policing to forgery, and from museum security to war crimes. We’ve practically memorized most of the UNESCO conventions at this point, we’re capable of sketching out the infamous Medici trafficking organigram at the blow of a whistle, and we’re all pretty used to having revenge-fantasy dreams about prosecuting certain museums with less-than acceptable collection ethics and repatriating all of their loot.

On the other hand, however, it feels like we’ve only just arrived in Amelia and that there’s still a whole lot more for us to learn in the coming weeks about cultural heritage protection. We’ve yet to encounter the international art market or art criminology head-on, and we’re not quite sure whether we believe the Spanish or the British are more entitled to Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Moreover, we still don’t know how we would actually steal the Ghent Altarpiece or Munch’s The Scream and this makes me wonder: can anyone really fashion him or herself an art crime expert without knowing how to pull off a major museum heist? It’s probably a good thing that we’re only halfway done with the ARCA program, but I’ll share with you what we’ve covered in the courses so far since we are, after all, already halfway finished with the program.  


Following Duncan Chappell’s course our studies shifted from the subject of art law to its not-too-distant relative, art insurance. Dorit Straus, art insurance veteran and board member at AXA Art, served as the instructor for this course. Straus has had a lengthy and exciting career with all sorts of cinematic turns and climaxes. Its major plot twist: Straus began her career studying Near Eastern Archaeology and only later in life migrated into the world of art insurance. For those of us trained in the humanities—which is to say, with little to no background in the fine arts market—Straus guaranteed a convenient point of entry into the study of art insurance. Pairing her formal explanations with fascinating anecdotes, Straus shaped and colored the art insurance industry with remarkable and stunning mastery. By the end of the week Straus had students map out the entire process of acquiring art insurance coverage in role-play exercises—a form of evaluation that was, I am sure, most entertaining for Dorit herself.

We then heard from Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Squad, who covered lessons on the dark, seedy underbelly that is the black market. Ellis did a solid job explaining the ins and outs of INTERPOL and clarified the issues that police forces deal with in an event of art theft—issues that are quite distinct from the ones that insurers, collectors, or museums address. One of the recurring lessons that Ellis repeated over and over again was the importance of knowing one’s enemy.  Understanding the motives that animate an episode of art crime, Ellis stressed, is always integral to the investigation process. At the conclusion of his course Ellis held a charming cocktail gathering that was, I would hold, much needed after a tense week studying some pretty serious material.

ARCA founder Noah Charney took the reigns for our next course on forgery. Charney launched his weeklong course with an art history lesson in which students were asked to perform visual analysis on a set of Caravaggio paintings. This exercise offered an exciting opportunity for students to truly interface with the very objects that had been broached in previous courses but perhaps not formally or materially addressed. It was a delight to work through Caravaggio’s endlessly fascinating visual puzzles, and Charney’s thorough guidance and insightful explanations proved to be especially useful in our brief art historical investigation. The rest of the week was spent differentiating (conceptually) fakes from forgeries, discussing the psychological profile of art forgers, and reviewing some of the major historical cases that constitute Charney’s sector of the art crime world. With Charney still in town, ARCA held its annual interdisciplinary conference—an exciting three days of panel discussions that another student, Cate Waldram, will  be posting on in greater detail.

After a weekend of conference talks and cocktail parties ARCA students met with security pundit Dick Drent. Following 25 years in law enforcement, Drent joined the staff at Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands and continues to provide security advising through his consulting group, Omnirisk. Though Drent’s energy and countenance might feel as formidable and high-stakes as his work, the Dutch professor’s instruction was often light and playful—much like the goofy videos he would screen at the beginning of class too lighten the mood, especially since his course covers everything from everyday threats to Active Shooter incidents.

At the end of Drent’s class students carried out a security audit at a museum. In this exercise students set out to observe surveillance cameras, security guards, museum layouts, fire prevention strategies, smoke detectors, alarm systems, and so on. The exercise gave ARCA students a unique opportunity to spend a day at a museum not admiring precious artworks but instead observing the very security systems that attempt to protect these objects.

At the conclusion of Drent’s course students delved headfirst into “Art Crime During War” with Judge Arthur Tompkins. Tompkins’ hefty lesson plans and near-impeccable knowledge of world history made for an information-rich crash course in our study of art crime during conflict. At the outset of his first lesson Tompkins traced the origins of art crime all the way back to the ancient world.

The looting of what might be anachronistically termed “cultural property” often went part and parcel with military combat and imperial campaigns in the ancient world—thus giving birth to the lengthy history of what we now study as art crime. Tompkins then traversed the entire chronology of war—passing through the Middle Ages and early modernity until reaching the late twentieth century—and identified the various renditions of art crime that have plagued nation-states and peoples during times of conflict. By the end of the course students were asked to submit a paper detailing one particular episode of art crime that took place in the midst of combat. Students wrote about everything from plunders during antiquity to more recent art theft in the Middle East to the destruction of libraries in the American Civil War. 

So there you have it! We have covered vast terrain in the world art crime and are already halfway experts in the field. I’ll get back to you with more storytelling and info when we’re only a few short steps away from calling ourselves full-on, to-the-core certificate-ready professionals!

By:  Christopher Falcone

July 13, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - ,, No comments

“What light through yonder window breaks?” The Case of Corey Menafee and a stained glass window at Yale University

In history as today, vandalism is an act imbued with meaning and the gap between how heritage professionals react to deliberate damage of artworks and the perceptions of the agents of these changes and the groups they represent presents interesting food for thought.  


On June 13, 2016 a cafeteria worker, Corey Menafee, took a broomstick and smashed a historic stained glass window depicting two slaves picking cotton at Yale University's Calhoun College residence hall.  Confessing to the crime, he was arrested shortly thereafter.

Existing US criminal law does not distinguish art vandalism from vandalism in general and typically classifies the deliberate destruction of artwork under the general category of criminal mischief.  In Connecticut the offence falls under the state’s General Statutes § 53a-115a.  This law addresses persons who acted "with intent to cause damage to tangible property of another and having no reasonable ground to believe that such person has a right to do so, such person damages tangible property of another in an amount exceeding one thousand five hundred dollars."

As a result of his actions, Menafee was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, which is a felony, as well as second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.  For his actions, under Connecticut law, Manafee faces up to five years in prison on the felony charge and up to two years of incarceration on the misdemeanor offense.  

Menafee apologised for his actions and subsequently resigned. 

The residence hall's namesake, John C. Calhoun, is significant in that he was a well known 19th century American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who served as Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.  Calhoun was an outspoken supporter of slavery as well as an 1804 graduate of Yale University.  For years students concerned staffers alike have advocated against the name and imagery of the building, saying that it takes a heavy toll on all persons of color who live and work within the historic building. 

But despite the illegality of his actions, students, alumni and members of the New Haven community chose instead to rally around Menafee.  Taking to social media, they voiced their support for his actions and created a petition calling for all charges to be dropped. Other supporters established a GoFundMe account, set up to help him raise money for his defence.

Based on the sensativity of the issue, Yale University released a statement that it would not advocate for Menafee to be prosecuted and would not seek restitution for the loss of the stained glass artwork. 

Additionally, the destruction to the historic window led to a new review by Yale’s Committee on Art in Public Places of other historic windows in answer to petition created for the Yale administration which stated that artwork such as the window “conveys disrespect toward black perspectives, and serves a barrier toward racial inclusiveness.” 

On Tuesday July 12th Yale issued the following statement:

“After the window was broken in June, the Committee recommended that it and some other windows be removed from Calhoun, conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition, and replaced temporarily with tinted glass. An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from the Yale community, including students, on what should replace them.”

Acts of violence against art such as these explore and challenge society’s ideas of what constitutes “civil disobedience” or “vandalism”.  It also exemplifies why we occasionally deem some crimes against art, such as the deliberate damage to symbolical art which records painful pasts, as acceptable, while other destruction is opposed as negative.

In today’s conflict-filled world, where war is no longer about conquering territory but about changing the perceptions of those under your control ancient statues and historic sites are mutilated or smashed because they are seen as pagan idols. In the past, deliberate attacks against statues depicting Saddam, Stalin and Lenin underscored the end of dictatorial regimes. Each of these examples show how society's interpretation the destruction of art can be a political symbol, and as such, as a weapon for change.  Each shows that art vandalism can be interpreted as positive or negative depending on the eyes of the beholder.

The broken window at Yale reminds us that context authorship and intention of the vandal often play an important role in how society perceives, interprets, accepts, rejects or adjudicates an criminal act deeming one as backward, another as revolutionary, or in the case of Yale's stained class, perhaps a wrong that long since needs to be righted.  It probes the concept of when art destruction is acceptable and when it isn't and forces us to rethink the ways that we interact with art and react to its power to shock or subdue.

By Lynda Albertson

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - ,, No comments

DGAM Syria reports damage to the National Museum of Aleppo

The Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM)in Syria has issued a report with images showing recent damage to the structural integrity of the National Museum of Aleppo.  One of the images shows what appears to be a an improvised artillery device made from a propane cylinder. 


Known as a "hell cannon" these improvised explosives carry a range of approximately 1 mile/ 1.6 km depending on the payload it is firing and have been used by opposition forces during the Syrian conflict.  

The Mari display section at the National Museum of
Aleppo after the October 2012 car bombs exploded
in Aleppo city centre
In October 2012 four car bombs were reported as having exploded near the museum, injuring some workers and curators. Those earlier explosions caused notable damage to the museum's infrastructure. During the explosion, windows were destroyed, as was the artificial roof, a lighting system and some of the showcases.   At the time of the earlier incident, the museums collection was still housed within the museum. 






July 7, 2016

Thursday, July 07, 2016 - ,,, No comments

ISIS Releases Video showing its destruction of the Palmyra Museum's Artifacts.

ISIS has released a new "heritage snuff" video that shows its destruction of the Palmyra Museum's Palmyrene funerary portraiture as well as desecration of the museum's mummies which DGAM personnel had stored in a protective bricked-sealed enclosure at the museum prior to ISIS overtaking the city in May 2015.


The 57 second video shows militants lifting funerary reliefs from shelving and dropping them forcefully onto the floor.  Other historic artifacts are subjected to repeated blows with sledgehammers, filmed for cinematic effect. 


More disturbing however is the footage of the desecration of human remains that had once been stored on exhibit within the museum.  Lined up on a sandy street in Tadmur, the mummies were crushed with what appears to be a heavy military vehicle. 


On display at the Palmyra museum since August 4, 2005 thanks to a Japanese grant and the efforts of archaeologists from Italy and France who helped extract them, the mummies of two men and two women were originally found wrapped in many layers of cloth in the Palmyra valley.  Well preserved, they provided a fascinating glimpse of the area's funerary practices during the first and second century C.E.  Given their age, they were considered to be a cultural and biological patrimony of inestimable value for the Syrian city.      

Italian archaeologist Professor Paulo Matthiae once compared the find of the mummies to those found in Egypt. In a book on the ancient Syrian city of Ebla, Matthiae states

"The valley of the tombs of Palmyra is one of the most wonderful places of the region of antiquities in the Graeco-Roman world like the most famous tomb valleys in Egypt." 

ISIS considers worshipping or mourning at grave sites to be equal to idolatry and have often destroyed burial sites throughout areas under their control.

July 5, 2016

Mediation over Litigation: Looted antiquities to come back to Italy from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Like the world's ambassadors who serve as official envoys, promoting good relations between countries, cooperation between archaeologists, state attorneys, cultural ministries and museums, in furtherance of the return of plundered antiquities, sometimes serve as strange bedfellows in strengthening reciprocal relationships through acts of of cultural diplomacy. 

Over the last eight years the Italian government has successfully brokered repatriations with American museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, and the Cleveland Museum for the return of looted antiquities.  But up until yesterday, finding a way to achieve the same results with the internationally acclaimed Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum in Denmark's capital of Copenhagen, had proven anything but fruitful. 

At the heart of the Italian's case, started in 2008, is a calesse, an ornate parade wagon and other funerary objects that date back to the early seventh century B.C.E.,  The funerary objects, long on display at the Glyptotek, came from the looted tomb of a Sabine prince, laid to rest within the Colle del Forno necropolis.  


The Glyptotek purchased the funerary objects in 1970 via Swiss dealer, Robert Hecht, just before the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property entered into force. As can be seen from the letter between the museum's then management and the tainted dealer, its easy to see that those who agreed to the antiquities' purchase had more than a vague idea of the illicit nature of the material being purchased during the transaction. 
A letter from Robert E. Hecht to former Glyptotek director Mogens Gjødesen
dated 1970.  In the letter, Hecht speaks in code using the word 'children' to
describe the archaeological finds from the prince's tomb he plans
to send to Copenhagen. 
In 1970 Hecht worked closely with Giacomo Medici, the now well known Italian antiquities smuggler and art dealer who was convicted in 2004 of dealing in stolen ancient artifacts.  Medici and Hecht laundered Italian cultural property through museums all over the world.

Glyptotek ledger from the late 1970s
show deals with Giacomo Medici
and Robert E. Hecht. 
But after protracted negotiations, some civil, some bitter, the objects that make up the princely tomb from Sabina will now be returned to Italy starting in December of this year and concluding by the end of 2017.  In exchange, the Italian authorities have agreed to provide the Copenhagen museum with long term loans "of significant tomb discoveries from Italy which on a continuous, rotating basis will be featured in the Glyptotek’s forthcoming, large-scale, new exhibition of the whole museum’s collection of antiquities."

The complete joint statement of the agreement between the Italian Authorities and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek can be read in English here and in Italian here. 

The first loaned objects will arrive in Copenhagen in November 2018. The grouping will be composed of artifacts from the ’Tomb of the silver hands' from the Vulci Museum as well as additional votive objects from the necropolis of Capena, Crustumerium and Fidene.

At the time of the announcement, ARCA spoke with Stefano Alessandrini, a consultant to Italy’s public prosecutor’s office who has been working intensively on this case and other Medici and Hecht identification and repatriation cases throughout his career.  Overjoyed with the accord,  he said "finally, after years of work, negotiations, disappointments and hopes rekindled, a great success has been accomplished in the name of Italy's ‘cultural diplomacy.’ I am proud to have been part of this team".  

Alessandrini went on to add that after eight years of sometimes stormy negotiations, the cities of Sabina, Cerveteri and Pyrgi can now, at last rejoice. Speaking of the difficulty in finding an accord that satisfied all sides, Alessandrini praised the work of Italy's antiquities prosecutor, Maurizio Fiorilli, Jeanette Papadopoulos of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and State Prosecutor Lorenzo D’Ascia for their work during the mediation process with the Copenhagen museum.

Alessandrini also praised the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale who, under General Conforti, uncovered the extent of the Medici - Hecht network which ultimately led Italy to successfully bringing these objects home. 

But even as the Glyptotek has agreed to return the funerary artifacts from the tomb at Colle del Forno,  the calesse remains woefully incomplete. 

Paolo Santoro, the archaeologist who led the original licit excavations at Colle del Forno in the 1970s reminds the world, 

"There are other elements missing, who knows who bought them?"

By: Lynda Albertson

July 4, 2016

Christie's withdraws Lot 52 an Attic Black-figured Neck-Amphora, attributed to the Bucci painter, suspected of being looted

Ahead of Christie’s London July 6th sale, an Attic Black-figured Neck-Amphora, attributed to the Bucci painter, has been withdrawn from the firm's antiquities auction after forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis notified ARCA, trafficking scholars and the requisite police authorities (DS Hutcheon, Head of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit, the Greek police Art Squad, and INTERPOL) of a positive match.

Lot 52 pictured here is believed to date to Circa 540-530 B.C.E. and was apparently being sold  by a private unnamed collector, according to the auction house’s publication. While the auction house’s records list the provenance as having been acquired Los Angeles art market, prior to 1996 and to having come from a private collection in the UK, Tsirogiannis uncovered a potentially problematic past reported Saturday in an earlier blog post on the association's pages. 


Since 2003, it has been a criminal offence to deal in "tainted cultural objects", punishable by up to seven years in prison.  This is the fourth object in Christie's portfolio that Dr. Tsirogiannis has identified as likely being plundered in 2016. Two items identified in the April 12, 2016 sale were withdrawn.  A fourth item, a Roman stone mosaic panel with an estimated sale price of $200,000 - $300,000 was not withdrawn and sold for $545,000.