Jul 14, 2010

The 2010 ARCA Conference at Palazzo Petrignani

The 2010 ARCA Conference at Palazzo Petrignani in Amelia
I have just returned from beautiful Amelia and the second annual Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) conference.  Next year's conference will be held July 9-10th in Amelia.  A call for papers and announcement will be posted here in the coming months.

This year the conference was chaired by Founding Director Noah Charney and took place at Palazzo Petrignani at the top of Amelia—a grand setting for the discussion of art crime.  Though the Umbrian sun made the room quite warm at times, the two day conference offered a number of terrific presentations and discussions.  I'd like to draw out a few highlights.  

An International Art Crime Tribunal

Judge Arthur Tompkins delivered the first paper of the conference, discussing what he calls an International Art Crime Tribunal.  Judge Tompkins made a compelling case for the tribunal at last year's conference, and in the edited Art and Crime collection.  Judge Tompkins argued that we need a consistent and fair approach to these art disputes.  He noted that a number of prominent nations of origin like Italy, Greece or Egypt might be initial eager proponents of such a Tribunal; and Rome would perhaps be an ideal venue for the court to sit.  He gave a frank appraisal of the challenges such a Tribunal would face, but noted that the creation of such a tribunal warrants development.  Much like the other international Tribunals and developments had their own champions, and International Art Crime Tribunal would need the same—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was championed by Eleanor Roosevelt for example.  Judge Tompkins discussed the ongoing dispute over Portrait of Wally, which has stretched on since 1998, comparing it to the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce chancery decision from Dickens' Bleak House.  Perhaps a fair robust Art Crime Tribunal would be better positioned to resolve that dispute in a more timely manner.

File:Egon Schiele 069.jpg
Portrait of Wally, Egon Schiele, subject of a 12-year forfeiture dispute
It was a position challenged however by Howard Spiegler, who was honored at the conference and who also acts as counsel for the successors of Lea Bondi Jaray, who owned the work before fleeing the Nazi's.  Mr. Spiegler argued that none of these parties wanted this dispute to stretch on this long, and that much of the delay was a result of the discovery process which has been an effort to uncover the complicated history of this work since it left Ms. Bondi's possession.  Yet Judge Tompkins responded by noting that the American system of long, protracted discovery does not always promote justice.  It may in some cases, but it also leads to a soul-crushing existence for young lawyers.  Though this research and work is handsomely compensated, it can in my opinion carry a lawyer far from the true practice of law.  That of course is a more general critique, not isolated to the Wally dispute.  Judge Tompkins noted that if a legal system ties the proper adjudication of a claim to one piece of paper or one exchange that may be lost, how can we ever decide a claim?  We are left with an endless search for that one piece of evidence, while the core issues lay unresolved. Though no thinking person would deny the losses during the Second World War, there must be limits to these claims, and we may also consider the loss to the public of a beautiful work of art for nearly 12 years.  Perhaps a Tribunal might allow for future claimants like the Bondi's to pursue their claims, while also allowing for the continued movement of works of art and allowing present possessors to achieve some measure of repose. 

Other Presenters

There were a number of other fine presentations worth mentioning.  Betina Kuzmarov used the dispute of the Qianlong Bronze Heads from the Yves Saint Laurent collection to examine the difficult nature of using objective and subjective standers in cultural property disputes.  Kristen Hower higlighted the importance of histories and proper acquisition of objects by discussing the dilemma faced by art historians in detecting forgeries in Late Antique art, specifically a number of objects known as the Cleveland Marbles.  Chris Marinello discussed the work of the art loss register, pointing out that the ALR has ceased to offer certificates for certain antiquities searches, as the database is unable to effectively determine if these objects have been recently looted from their archaeology.  Jane Milosch discussed the Provenance Research initiatives at the Smithsonian.  Jennifer Kreder and Marc Masurovsky discussed nazi-era spoliation claims from the perspective of the holocaust claimants and their successors.  James Twining discussed his own use of art crime in his popular fiction.  Valerie Higgins discussed the ways in which armed conflict and identity can be remembered and created. 

ARCA Alumni

A number of participants and graduates of last year's ARCA MA program presented their work as well.  Olivia Sladen discussed the importance of due diligence in the art market as it relates to forged works.  Riikka Kongas discussed her work at the Valamo Art Conservation Institute in Finland, discussing the plague of forged Russian icon paintings which are discovered when they are brought in to be conserved.  Catherine Sezgin offered her research on the 1972 theft at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972.  John Vezeris discussed the work of his company, Annapolis Group International in protecting the works of the historical San Lio church in Venice with Venice in Peril and ARCA.  Colette Marvin analyzed the recent string of art crime exhibits being offered by museums in the United States and Europe. 

ARCA Award Winners

Howard Spiegler, recipient of the ARCA Award for Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art
Lawrence Rothfield, receiving his Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship
Dick Drent, recipient of the ARCA Award for Art Security and Protection








































Charles Hill was unable to attend, but was presented the award for Art Policing and Recovery.

 Next up I'll discuss the comments of Giovanni Pastore, former Vice-Commandant of the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, as well as the comments of Stefano Alessandrini and Maurizio Fiorilli, Italy's Advocate General, both of whom had some interesting comments on the loss of antiquities and on the ongoing dispute over the Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth currently on display at the Getty Villa. 

Photos of the Conference courtesy of Urska Charney.

(cross-posted at http://art-crime.blogspot.com/)
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