March 27, 2015

French court convicts electrician and his wife for stealing Picasso artworks that the couple claimed were gifts from the elderly artist

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Five years ago a retired electrician and his wife presented unsigned artworks allegedly obtained as gifts from Pablo Picasso for authentication to Claude Picasso, the administrator for the Picasso foundation

This month, a court in the south of France found Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec guilty of possessing stolen goods.

Vincent Noce for The Art Newspaper reported March 20 that the 75-year-old electrician received a suspended two-year jail sentence:
The works will be returned to the members of the Picasso family. Catherine Hutin, the daughter of Jacqueline Picasso, has told The Art Newspaper that she intends to donate her part of the collection to a museum, but has not yet decided which one.
Additional reading on Picasso's legacy: "Nightmare at the Picasso Museum"

Application Deadline Extended - ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection is extending its application period through April 30, 2015. 

For a detailed prospectus and information on the application process interested individuals should contact us at: education@artcrimeresearch.org 
Inside the historical center of Amelia
(Photo by Catherine Sezgin)

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection program will be held from May 29 through August 15, 2015 in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy.

In its seventh year, this academically intensive ten week program provides in-depth, postgraduate level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements related to art and heritage crime. By examining art crime’s interconnected world, students experience an integrated curriculum in an interactive, participatory setting. The programs' courses include comprehensive multidisciplinary lectures, class discussions and presentations as well as field classes, which serve as the backdrop for exploring art crime, its nature, and impact.  

Each course associated with the program has been selected to underscore the value of, and necessity for, a longitudinal multidisciplinary approach to the study of this type of criminal behavior and enterprise.

This program has been designed to expose participants to an integrated curriculum occurring in a highly interactive, participatory, student-centered setting. Instructional modules include both lectures and “hands-on” learning in the form of case studies, presentations, in situ field classes and group discussions. At the end of the program, participants will have a solid mastery of a broad array of concepts pertaining to cultural property protection, preservation, conservation, and security.

Students explore such topics as:

                art crime and its history
                art and heritage law
                criminology
                art crime in war
                the art trade
                art insurance
                museum security
                law enforcement methods
                archaeological looting and policy
                heritage looting
                art forgery

Target:

This interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history as well as art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade.

Important Dates

November 15, 2014 - Early Application Deadline
January 01, 2015 - General Application Deadline
April 30, 2015 - Late Application Deadline
April 2015 - Advance Reading Assigned
May 29, 2015 - Students Arrive in Italy
May 30-31, 2015 - Program Orientation
June 1, 2015 - Classes Begin
June 26-28 - Annual Art Crime conference
August 7, 2015 - Classes End
August 8-15, 2015 - Students Housing Check-out **
Nov. 15, 2015 - Thesis Submission Deadline

**Some students stay a few days to one week longer to participate in the August Palio dei Colombi, Notte Bianca and Ferragosto festivities.

For questions about programming, costs, and census availability, please write to us for a complete prospectus and application at:  education@artcrimeresearch.org.

March 18, 2015

Tunis, Tunisia: Museum attack ends with death of 17 foreign tourists and 2 Tunisians at National Bardo Museum of Carthage artifacts and Roman mosaics

Image is from the BBC website
Update: CBC News: "Tunisian PM: 17 foreign tourists, 2 Tunisians killed in attack" at the National Bardo Museum. This is also confirmed by the International Business Times and other sources on Twitter (search #Bardoattack).

Italian tourists on cruise of Mediterranean were reportedly inside the museum at the time of the attack.

Radio Mosaique FM reported the death of 15 people: 13 tourists of various nationalities and two Tunisians.

Leila Fadel, Cairo Bureau Chief for NPR is on the scene and has tweeted: "Stand off at bardo museum over. Police killed two of the gunmen and captured one. #Bardoattack"

BBC reported earlier here:
At least seven foreign tourists and a Tunisian have been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the the Tunisian capital, officials say. Tourists from several European countries were taken hostage, a local radio station reported. The shooting happened at the Bardo Museum, which is next to the parliament building in central Tunis.
The National Bardo Museum has artifacts from Carthage and a large collection of Roman mosaics. The museum's website describes its "101 masterpieces" in both French and English.

CBC has reported that "Tunisian officials say museum siege is over; 2 gunmen killed" (breaking news via CBC's mobile application for news).

The Associated Press (AP) reported the death of two gunmen, a security officer, and several tourists.

March 14, 2015

Prize-winning Boston journalist Steve Kurkjian looks at the investigation of the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in his book "Master Thieves"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Boston journalist Steve Kurkjian, author of another book on the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft  in 1990 ("Master Thieves, Public Affairs), is interviewed by Dan Rea on Nightside. 

The Christian Science Monitor's book editor Majorie Kehe interviews Kurkjian here about his 2015 book.

Art Taylor for The Washington Post includes this in his review of Kurkjian's "Master Thieves":
Kurkjian clearly knows how to work his beat — he won three Pulitzer Prizes while at the Boston Globe. For this book, he interviewed low-level criminals long suspected of the crime and he reached out to mob bosses for answers. And most impressive, he delivers the story of Louis Royce, who discovered the museum’s security lapses while sneaking into the galleries during his troubled teen years. Royce claims that he passed that information along to his criminal connections and that someone picked up his tip and carried out the heist. 
Placing the theft in historical context, Kurkjian charts the evolution of Boston’s gang wars in the 1980s and details how criminals have used stolen art to bargain plea deals. He also looks at the Gardner’s security issues, everything from troubles with the museum’s board to personnel lapses, and he examines failures in the FBI’s treatment of art crimes, building stark comparisons to more-successful European approaches. Notorious gangster Whitey Bulger’s story lurks along the edges of the narrative, and Kurkjian argues that Bulger’s capture in 2011 and the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013 provide models for how crowdsourcing might be used to locate the missing Gardner masterpieces. Kurkjian has gathered so much information that explaining the smallest bit of it leads to a spate of cross-references, qualifications and digressions.
William McKeen for the Boston Globe reviews "Master Thieves" here.

And here are previous posts on the ARCA Blog related to Kurkjian's reporting on the still unsolved Boston art theft: "Tip to Authorities ..."; Kurkjian's interview with security guard; and the FBI's awareness campaign.

Kurkjian's book is available in print and can be electronically downloaded on iBooks.

March 7, 2015

Open Letter to New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the Security Council, and New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs

8 March, 2015 
Dear Ambassador Jim McLay and The Honourable Murray McCully,
Destruction of Cultural Heritage by ISIS
I address this open letter to you in your capacities as the New Zealand's representative on the United Nation's Security Council, and as New Zealand's Foreign Minister respectively. 

Given New Zealand's independent voice as a member of the Security Council, I believe that you should use the opportunity now afforded New Zealand to seek an immediate and urgent debate by the Security Council concerning the war crimes being committed in Syria by the Islamic State group, as they relate to the wanton destruction of irreplaceable cultural heritage and antiquities by ISIS.  

Whilst not for a moment overlooking or minimising the horrific crimes being committed, it seems daily, by ISIS against civilians, refugees, displaced persons, peoples of other faiths and fellow Muslims, the offences ISIS is committing against the world's irreplaceable cultural heritage are appalling, irreversible and, it seems increasing in both frequency and seriousness. The United Nations generally, and the Security Council itself, must take real and effective action.

In just the last few days it was, first, the museum at Mosul. Then the destruction of Nimrud, the ancient city of the Kings of the Assyrians. Just today, news is filtering out of the likely additional and tragic destruction of Hatra.

A golden thread runs through all the efforts that have, over decades, been made to protect the cultural heritage of all humankind from the ravages of war.  Two out of many examples will suffice. The Preamble to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict records:

“Being convinced that damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind...”

When the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established by the United Nations Resolution 827 on 25 May 1993, specific jurisdiction was conferred to prosecute violations of the Laws or Customs of War, and in particular:

“seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works of art and science.”

I urge New Zealand to call for a immediate and urgent debate in the Security Council, and for the Council thereafter to request or direct the International Criminal Court that immediate indictments be issued to bring those responsible for cultural heritage war crimes in and around Syria and Iraq, or alternatively for the Security Council to mandate the immediate establishment of an Ad Hoc War Crimes Tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed during the Syrian/Iraq/ISIS conflict, including (but of course not limited to) crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed, by the destruction of humankind's shared and irreplaceable cultural heritage both within Syria and Iraq, and within the territory controlled by ISIS.
Yours sincerely,

Judge Arthur Tompkins.

District Court Judge

Trustee and Faculty Member, Association for Research into Crimes against Art

February 26, 2015

Pompeii frescos found in garage in Southern California to be returned to Italy

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Editor

San Diego, California - The 10News Digital Team for ABC's 10 News reported yesterday "Stolen art recovered in Del Mar among objects being returned to Italian government". Three frescos and an asks from a private collector (the Allen E. Paulson Trust" were discovered by the U.S. Immigration and Custom's Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in 2012: the current owner "forfeited the items" to the US government to be returned to the Italian government, Channel 10 reported. The items were likely illegally dug up in Pompeii and then sold to an American buyer, according to the US government.


A Museum in Mosul That Needs a Break, Not Breaking

Today we have discouraging information on the fate of the collection of the Mosul Museum.  The museum which opened in 1951 specializes in antiquities from the Assyrian empire which flourished within the provincial borders of present-day Province of Nineveh.  It also houses a significant collection of sculptures and other stone relics from Hatra – the capital of the first Arab Kingdom.  By most estimates it is the most important museum in Iraq outside of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

In June 2014 it was rumored that militants had destroyed parts of the museum collection.  This rumor was then briefly dispelled by journalists speaking with Iraqi's museum authorities saying that miltants had entered to the museum but left its contents untouched, but not before adding that it had been marked for destruction.  Afterwards they set about attacking and destroying one Shia mosque and shrine after another but verifiable news on the fate of museum's collection was not forthcoming despite whispers in late 2014 and early 2015.

February 27, 2015 the Islamic State group released a video showing militants using sledge hammers, pneumatic equipment and their bare hands to topple or smash antiquities and plaster casts of objects housed within the museum as well as outside at the Nirgal Gate of the Assyrian city of Nineveh on the Tigris River opposite the modern city. 

Eleanor Robson, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History at University College London and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq's voluntary Chair of Council was the first to confirm that the video is authentic. ARCA has elected to remove its original link to the video in an effort not to franchise the caliphate's corporatized terror.

A speaker on the video is seen standing in front a partial relief of a lamassu (a winged bull) saying that "These ruins that are behind me, they are idols and statues that people in the past used to worship instead of Allah." Citing that the Prophet Mohammed took down idols with his bare hands when he conquered Mecca, apparently in reference to the Muslim prophet's destruction of 360 idols in the the Ka'b, the team of insurgents is then filmed destroying numerous objects from within the collection in what looks to be its four ground-floor galleries.

The Mosul Museum sits on the west side of the city not far from the Provincial Governor's Office. Located on grounds that once were the gardens of the former palace of King Faisal, the museum has been shuttered since April 2003 plagued by both looting in 2003 and ongoing security concerns.   

At that time of the museums closing staff removed approximately 1,500 of the more portable objects in the collection transferring them to the Baghdad Museum for safekeeping.   Unfortunately shortly thereafter both the Mosul Museum and the Baghdad Museum were hit with looting and vandalism.  

During the April 2003 looting 30 bronze panels that once decorated the gate leading into the Assyrian city of Balawat were taken.  Other pieces that were left behind were heavily damaged, including a life-size stone lion from the Hellenistic site of Hatra.  It is unclear at this time which part of the Mosul collection inventory was lost from the 2003 looting incidents and which part survived.  It is also not clear if the transferred pieces of the Mosul collection were returned from Baghdad in advance of the museum's anticipated reopening,  which was anticipated to occur in 2014 before insurgents took over the city. An UNESCO report from 2009 seems to show that the museum was in  a state of preparatory transition, but ARCA has identified no imagery from the interim period of 2009 to 2015 which would demonstrate if an opening was in fact in the works.

What is known is that when the museum was shuttered in 2003 heavier objects, including several pieces of cuneiform-inscribed brick; stone reliefs from Hatra kings; and the Mihrab (prayer niche) of the Mosque of Banal al Hasan in Mosul were left behind as they were either too heavy or too delicate to be relocated, as were several of the heavier statues one can see in the propaganda video. Analysis of the video also shows that museum authorities had made preparatory attempts to protect objects from potential damage and dust by wrapping statuary and reliefs in plastic sheeting.

The galleries in the museum are organized into four sections.  One gallery is dedicated to Assyrian antiquities (Nimrud), one to artifacts from the ruins at Hatra, one to Islamic artifacts, and a fourth to prehistoric artifacts excavated by archaeologists at Hassuna and other sites around Mosul. The images to the right of this blog post, taken from a 2009 UNESCO report on the Preliminary Assessment of Mosul Cultural Museum Mosul, match video footage seen at 2.54 and 3.35 minutes into the destruction propaganda video.

For further image stills of the video, please see the excellent report by Dr. Sam Hardy here. 

Not being a stone mason, it looks like the objects at minute marks 1.21, 1.28. 1.51, 2.47, 2.49, 2.54 2,56 and 3.55 are casts or partially consolidated cast and stone artifacts.  Objects at 2.44, 2.53, 3.24, 3.50, 4.26, 4.33, and 4.45 appear to be original. 

Mosul sits in the middle of 1,791 registered archeological sites, including four capitals of the Assyrian empire.

     By Lynda Albertson



February 25, 2015

Faculty and Course Schedule for the 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection


 The Faculty and Course Schedule for the 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in Amelia, Italy has been confirmed** and  the general application period has been extended through March 30, 2015.



For a copy of this year's prospectus and application materials please write to ARCA at education (at) artcrimeresearch.org

For more information on this year's program please see this earlier blog posting.

June 2015

Course I  - “The International Art Market and Associated Risk”
Dr. Tom Flynn, Art Historian and London Art Lecturer,
Adjunct Assistant Professor Richmond The American International University in London
Senior Lecturer and Visiting Lecturer Kingston College and Christie's Education

Course II - “Art Policing, Protection and Investigation”

Richard Ellis, Law Enforcement
Detective and Founder of The Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard Art and Antiquities Squad (retired),
Director, Art Management Group

Course III - “Breitwiesers, Medicis, Beltracchis, Gurlitts and Other Shady Artsy Characters:  How to Analyze their Crimes Empirically”
Marc Balcells, Criminologist; Criminal Defense Attorney
Doctoral Fellow at The City University of New York - John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Professor, Universidad Miguel Hernandez de Elche
Consultant, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Course IV - “Art Forgers and Thieves”
Dr. Noah Charney, Author, Founding Director of ARCA
Adjunct Professor of Art History, American University of Rome 

Course V - “Insurance Claims and the Art Trade”

Dorit Straus, Insurance Industry Expert
Insurance Industry Consultant, Art Recovery Group PLC
Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Company  (retired)

July 2015

Courses VI - “Art Crime in War”
Judge Arthur Tompkins, Forensic Expert
District Court Judge in New Zealand

Courses VII - “Art and Heritage Law”
Dr. Duncan Chappell, Professor
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney,
Former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology (1987-1994)

Courses VIII - “Risk Assessment and Museum Security”
Dick Drent, Security and Risk Management
Omnirisk, Director
Corporate Security Manager, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam  (retired)

Course IX - “TBA”

August 2015

Course X - “Looting, Theft, Destruction, and Repatriation of Cultural Property: Community Impacts”
Dr. Laurie Rush, Cultural Property Protection Expert
Board Member, United States Committee of the Blue Shield

Course XI - “Antiquities and Identity”

Dr. Valerie Higgins, Archaeologist
Associate Professor and Chair of Archaeology and Classics at the American University of Rome





**While the 2015 course listing has been confirmed as of January 13, 2015, the 2015 course listing and instructor line-up may change,in the event unforeseen circumstances affect the assigned instructor’s availability. 


Provenance Research Training Program To Be Held in New York This Spring


In Washington, DC: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric (00) 1 212 260 6090, pciric@ciriclawfirm.com


The Holocaust Art Restitution Project, (“HARP”), based in Washington, DC, chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, and the Ciric LawFirm, PLLC, a law firm based in New York City, has announced the first art-related provenance research training program to be held in the New York area between April 16, 2015 and May 01, 2015 at New York Law School.  This unique professional training program, a collaboration effort between HARP and the Center for International Law at New York Law School will be held on:

     April 16-17 2015
     April 23-24, 2015
     April 30-May 1, 2015

The training program, taught by Ori Z. Soltes and Marc Masurovsky, has been designed to assist the legal community and art market professionals who are currently affected by the presence of artistic, cultural, and ritual objects which have been displaced through acts of war and genocide between 1933 and 1945, with an emphasis on those items misappropriated during the Third Reich, the Holocaust, and the Second World War. Led by experts in the fields of historical and provenance research, this training program will assist participants in assessing the lawful or illicit ownership of these objects. 

A detailed program flier of the three, 2-day workshops can be found below. The cost of the program is $3500. 

Applications can be submitted here.

February 22, 2015

Dick Ellis returns to Amelia this summer to teach "Art Policing, Protection and Investigating" at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad, will be returning to Amelia to teach “Art Policing, Protection and Investigation” at ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Mr. Ellis ran the Art & Antiquities Squad for New Scotland Yard from 1989 until his retirement from the police in 1999. After working for Christie’s Fine Art Security Services and Trace recovery services, in 2005 he joined with security and conservation specialists to form the Art Management Group. He is also director of Art Resolve and Art Retrieval International Ltd.

As a specialist art crime investigator both in the police and in the private sector, Mr. Ellis has been involved in many notable recoveries such as ‘The Scream’ stolen from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994; Audobon’s ‘Birds of America’ stolen from the State Library in St. Petersburg; antiquities looted from China and Egypt; and the recovery of numerous items of art and antiquities stolen from private residences throughout the United Kingdom and abroad including in 2005 the silver stolen Stanton Harcourt and in 2006 paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard and Duffy stolen in London.

What might students learn on a given day?

Students would learn from case studies how stolen art is recovered today both by law enforcement and in the private sector. They would learn how organised crime utilizes stolen art to fund other areas of crime through a study of the Beit collection robberies in Ireland, and would how covert sting operations can recover such stolen masterpieces as Munch's "The Scream". They would also learn how private sector interventions recovered paintings by Picasso and Delacroix from international criminal organisations and how to detect fakes and forgeries.

Books to read?

The Irish Game by Mathew Hart, which gives a clear insight in to why iconic works of art are stolen by organised crime groups and how criminals convert the art in to a tangible benefit.

Here's a link to Mr. Ellis' profile and interview in 2011 and a link to more information about the Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.