Jan 27, 2012

Footnotes


"Le Marché" 

Jan 26, 2012

ARCA Annual Conference June 23-24, Amelia Italy

I am very pleased to announce the call for presenters for ARCA's Annual conference, to be held in Amelia in conjunction with the summer postgraduate certificate program. I hope you will consider attending or presenting at the event.Call for Presenters 2012 ARCA

Jan 25, 2012

"Chasing Aphrodite" at the National Press Club

ARCA Alum 2011 Tanya Lervik has a summary of the Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino event this week at the National Press Club:


The discussion covered a wide range of topics – from the basics of international law and the ethical responsibility of museums to the specifics of various transgressions that occurred at the Getty. Felch and Frammolino described the scope of the problem and how they came upon the antiquities story while researching the lavish spending of a Getty executive, Barry Munitz. In the course of their investigation, they were approached by a “Greek chorus of Deep Throats” who informed them that the executive’s indiscretions paled in comparison. Arthur Houghton commented on his experience at the Getty and recruited members of the audience (including yours truly) to illustrate the donation tax fraud scheme that he discovered was being perpetrated by one-time curator, Jiri Frel. Houghton was instrumental in putting an end to that practice, but he was also the author of the “smoking gun” memo often cited as evidence that the Getty Museum management was aware they were acquiring looted works in contravention of the 1970 UNESCO convention. Houghton also suffered some uncomfortable moments when the conversation turned to his role as the originator of the Getty’s controversial policy of “optical due diligence” wherein they would generally accept an antiquity’s provenance as provided by dealers without stringently investigating its validity.

continue reading 

Jan 18, 2012

Hecht Trial Ends With a Whimper as Well

“I am not proud to say that Italian justice is slow. It is mortifying.”

So says Paolo Grigio Ferri, the prosecutor who helped build the case against Marion True and Robert Hecht, and also helped secure the return of many objects looted from Italy in recent decades. He was referencing the trial of antiquities dealer Hecht which has ended in Rome as a panel of three judges ruled the five-year statute of limitations expired. This was the same anticlimactic result which ended the trial of Marion. True and Hecht will not have the courtroom certainty of guilt or innocence attached to their names, though many of the important objects they acquired and exchanged have been returned to Italy.

From Elisabetta Povoledo's report:

The court ruling, issued Monday, came in response to a request from Mr. Hecht’s lawyer to dismiss the case because the statute of limitations on the charges had elapsed in 2011. The lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci, said he had hoped the trial would fully exonerate his client, who has always maintained his innocence, “but it was cut short.” This decision “does not do Bob justice,” he said, using Mr. Hecht’s nickname. The judges did not express an opinion on culpability or innocence. But they ruled that a series of objects that had been confiscated from Mr. Hecht’s homes should return to their “rightful owner,” which was identified as the Italian state, a decision Mr. Vannucci said he would contest.
  1. Elisabetta Povoledo, Italian Trial of American Antiquities Dealer Comes to an End, ArtsBeat, January 18, 2012, http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/italian-trial-of-american-antiquities-dealer-comes-to-an-end/ (last visited Jan 18, 2012).

Update on the Athens Theft

This Picasso was given to Greece in 1949, because the Greeks resisted the Nazis


The Ink Drawing by Caccia 
No recovery or arrests yet, but there has been a little new information to shed light on the recent theft from the Athens' National Gallery. Police have said that one man entered the National Gallery through a small balcony door, after he had deliberately and repeatedly set off alarms the night before, which led to a guard disabling one of the alarms. There has been speculation that Greek austerity and budget cuts contributed to the theft, which seems overblown and a bit unfair to the Greeks. Whenever a security breach or theft takes place, the museum looks bad. And whether budget cuts and poorly paid security played a role remains to be seen.

Greek authorities have said that the theft was probably done to benefit a private collector. That seems at this point to be speculation, and is an attractive, if unlikely motive for the theft. There just aren't that many real-life versions of Dr. Julius No.

But there is a good idea about what uses these stolen works may be put to:

A 20th Century landscape by Piet Mondrian


 Dick Ellis, director of Art Management Group in England, who set up the art theft division for Scotland Yard more than 20 years ago, said there's a good chance they will be recovered and, if not, used as collateral to fund other criminal enterprises. "Government indemnity doesn't cover theft. They [thieves] are looking for a ransom route that is not going to be forthcoming. We'll have to see the caliber of the criminal," he told SETimes. "It's obviously an important Picasso, and it adds to its prominence that it was given by the artist himself," said Ellis, who recovered in Serbia two Picassos stolen from a Swiss museum five years ago. 

When a theft like this takes place, security is front and center, and the Greeks are noting that security was robust at the museum:

Niki Katsantonis, a spokeswoman for the culture ministry, told SETimes that "The National Gallery, as well as all the other museums and archaeological sites, are equipped with modern security systems," and pointed out that there have been thefts at many other museums around the world. She said the gallery will build a 46.5m-euro extension this year with EU funds, an addition that "won't just improve the grounds, but it will fortify them as well". Police spokesman Athanassios Kokkalakis said, "These were no amateurs. Their moves and operation together were very well calculated. With the publicity this heist has received, it's unlikely these works will ever make their way into the black market." 

 Robert Wittman noted, "You can't judge art only on the dollar value, but what it means to civilisation. Your biggest agony is if it is destroyed or damaged. . . . About 99.99% of the time they are not stolen to order, but on the ability of the thieves to go in and get them. Most of the time they will take what's easy to get and carry. . . . If they get caught in an armed robbery or something else, they can use it to negotiate."

  1. Andy Dabilis, Greek investigators search for missing masterpiece, January 13, 2012, http://setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2012/01/13/feature-03 (last visited Jan 18, 2012).


Jan 17, 2012

"Cultural Heritage and African Art" at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford

This Saturday January 21, from 9.30-4.30 the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University will present the Ruth K. Franklin Symposium on the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Our topic will be “Cultural Heritage and African Art: Negotiating the Rise of Ethical and Legal Collecting Concerns.” More details and background are available here.

 The speakers are:

  •  George Okello Abungu, Ph.D., founding director, Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants, Nairobi, Kenya 
  • Derek Fincham, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, South Texas College of Law, Houston 
  • Kate Fitz Gibbon, J.D., attorney, Kate Fitz Gibbon Law Office, Santa Fe, N.M. 
  • Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University 
  • John Henry Merryman, J.D., LL.M., professor of law emeritus and affiliated professor emeritus in the Department of Art, Stanford University 
  • Sylvester Okwunodo Ogbechie, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara
I hope to post a few thoughts on the conference early next week, and if you are in the Bay Area I hope you'll consider attending.


Jan 13, 2012

Applications Still Open for ARCA's Postgraduate program

Amelia, Italy, home to ARCA's summer program
If you are interested in learning why art theft happens (as occurred earlier this week in Athens) or understanding why antiquities are looted, or a host of other related questions, please consider ARCA's program.

We have a terrific group of folks already signed on for 2012. Each year our group of applicants gets stronger and more varied. But there is still room for a few more if you are thinking of applying. The program is an investment in time and money, but we've done our very best to keep our tuition low, and our past students say their time in Amelia helps usher them into a new career path, establishes strong friendships, and is a terrific way to spend a summer.

The interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for a whole host of related fields from art police and security professionals, to lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade.

In its fourth year, this program provides students with in-depth, master’s level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical courses examining art and heritage crime: its history, its nature, its impact, and what is currently being done to mitigate it. Students completing the program earn a professional certificate under the guidance of scholars and professionals.

Here is our tentative schedule:

Courses 1&2 - June 04 -16
Noah Charney, Founding Director of ARCA, Adjunct Professor of Art History, American University of Rome - Art Crime and Its History
Dr. Derek Fincham, Academic Director of ARCA, Assistant Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law - Art and Cultural Heritage Law

Course 3 - June 18 - 22
Dorit Straus, Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Company - Investigation, Insurance and the Art Trade


Course 4 - June 25- 29
Dr. Edgar Tijhuis, lawyer and assistant-professor of Criminology at the VU University in Amsterdam - Criminology, Art, and Transnational Organized Crime


Courses 5&6 - July 2-14
Richard Ellis, former Detective Sergeant Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad, Art Management Group Director, - Art Policing and InvestigationJudge Arthur Tompkins, District Court Judge in New Zealand - Art in War

Courses 7&8 - July 16-27
Dr. Tom Flynn, London-based writer and art historian -  Art History and the Art World
Dick Drent, Director of Security, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam - Museums, Security, and Art Protection


Courses 9&10 - July 30 - Aug. 10
Dr. Valerie Higgins, Associate Professor and Chair of Archaeology and Classics at The American University of Rome - Archaeology and Antiquities 
Dr. Erik Nemeth, Adjunct Staff at RAND Corporation, Founder and Researcher at Cultural Security - "Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy, and perceptions of security"

It is a special program, and a really exciting opportunity for folks interested in preventing art and heritage crime. A prospectus and application may be obtained by writing to Admissions at education@artcrimeresearch.org. If you have any questions at all please contact me at derek.fincham "at" gmail.com.


Jan 11, 2012

Moral Rights in the Texas Law Review

Two interesting recent discussions of Moral Rights have appeared in the Texas Law Review.

First, in a student note, Lindsey Mills (Moral Rights: Well-Intentioned Protection and Its Unintended Consequences) argues that "by taking away ownership rights that purchasers of artwork would otherwise have, [moral rights legislation] diminishes the economic value of the artwork in question and further, to the extent that artistic expression is deemed desirable, harms society as a whole. After weighing these interests against each other, she concludes that moral rights protection has no place in the United States, let alone as part of the Copyright Act."

In a follow up, Prof. Robert Bird responds (Of Geese, Ribbons, and Creative Destruction: Moral Rights and Its Consequences) with his own "misgivings based on her discussions of a Canadian moral rights case and artistic destruction. Professor Bird concludes with an appeal to pragmatism in light of "artistic doomsday rhetoric" against moral rights protections in American law."

Jan 10, 2012

Stolen Magritte Returned

Olympia by Rene Magritte, has been returned
In 2009 two armed thieves stormed the former home of Rene Magritte outside of Brussels. They held the three curators and two tourists at gunpoint while they stole the work.  Given the events yesterday at the Athens Museum, it is perhaps reminding ourselves why art thieves decide to steal. At the time I ran through some possible motives of stealing a work of art:

The first, is that a collector admires the piece, and hired a thief to take it for him. We can call this the Dr. No situation. This seems the least likely possibility, but the one that strikes a chord with the imagination. Writers in this subject frequently cite the Dr. No as being responsible for thefts, and I admit it makes for good Bond villains, but there has been no convincing evidence that thsi is why people are stealing rare objects. Another similar possibility  . . .  is that an unscrupulous dealer may have a similar piece for sale, and if he can establish some excitement around these kinds of pieces, the price for his similar work may go up. 
Second, the thief may not have known that the object was so rare as to make its subsequent sale difficult.
Third, the thief may simply be trying to kidnap the object. They could then [ensure] its safe return for a generous reward, or negotiate its return.
Finally, perhaps the market is doing such a poor job of regulating what is and is not legitimate, that it may not be all that difficult to sell this piece after all. This strikes me as the most troubling possibility, but also not very likely.

We can also add a fifth possibility, that organized criminals use these works as collateral in a kind of shadow version of the stock market.

In this case it seems the second possibility was exactly right, as now the work has been returned because the thieves were unable to find a buyer. In a report the Curator of the Magritte museum, Andre Garitte said the painting was returned after the thieves "understood they wouldn't be able to sell it because it was too well-known," he said. "It became an embarassment and they preferred to get rid of it. Luckily they didn't destroy it."

Jan 9, 2012

Art Theft from the Athens National Gallery

This Picasso was given to Greece in 1949, because the Greeks resisted the Nazis
The Ink Drawing by Caccia 

A 20th Century landscape by Piet Mondrian

Shortly before 5 am this morning in Athens thieves broke into the back of the gallery, forced open a balcony door and stole a painting by Picasso, and Mondirian painting, and a sketch by Guglielmo Caccia. The works were stripped from their frames, and might have been damaged. The museum guard heard an alarm, and saw a person running from the building. The thief dropped a painting, a landscape by Mondrian as he escaped. The thieves had distracted the guards all night by perhaps triggering alarms from outside the building, which prompted the guards to disable at least one of the alarms. Police say the theft took only seven minutes.
  1. Picasso stolen from Greek gallery, BBC, January 9, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16470459 (last visited Jan 9, 2012).
  2. Associated Press, Art thieves rob Picasso from Athens museum, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57355197/art-thieves-rob-picasso-from-athens-museum/ (last visited Jan 9, 2012).
  3. Picasso and Mondrian paintings stolen from Greece’s biggest state art museum, The Telegraph, January 9, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/9002976/Picasso-and-Mondrian-paintings-stolen-from-Greeces-biggest-state-art-museum.html (last visited Jan 9, 2012).
  4. Greek national gallery robbed of Picasso, Mondrian, CBC, http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/01/09/greece-art-theft-picasso-mondrian.html (last visited Jan 9, 2012).

Jan 6, 2012

Footnotes


Will Rome's trash follow Hadrian outside the city centuries later?

  • There are concerns over the proposed siting of a landfill near Hadrian's villa.
  • In New Orleans a man was sentenced to two years in prison and $327,000 in restitution for selling forgeries of works by Clementine Hunter.
  • Rick St. Hilaire summarizes the expected forfeiture of a painting,Cristo Portacroce Trascinato Da Un Manigoldo after the loaned work from Italy was seized, the work will be returned to the family who was dispossessed of the painting by the Nazis. 
  • Yuck: A drunk Denver woman punched, damaged and urinated near the vicinity of a $30 million Clyfford Still painting.
  • The 1866 wreck of the USS Narcissus in the mouth of Tampa Bay will become a Florida state archaeological preserve.
  • Martin Kemp found the trial of five men in connection with Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder "deeply unsatisfying". Me too. 
  • Creativity makes people feel uneasy.
  • A Manhattan art gallery has offered a reward for stolen art.Roman spintria from London

  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme, the voluntary program for reporting objects legally found in parts of the United Kingdom, has received attention for a racy brothel coin, called a spintria, or was it a game token?
  • Finally, Tom King points out an interesting article (but no link) by Raimund Karl which describes an Austrian model of heritage management. I thought about posting a longer response and discussion, but sadly I've given up hope that the heritage advocacy sites on the interwebs can offer any useful forum for discussion. I've made a peer-reviewed case for what I think is best after looking at the law, policy and results. 

Jan 5, 2012

Pompeii Still at Risk

Martin Bailey for the Art Newspaper reports on UNESCO taking the initial steps towards putting Pompeii on the World Heritage in Danger list. A report published in June (to little fanfare) found that:


Although much of Pompeii ­remains in good repair, the problems are numerous, including “inappropriate restoration ­methods and a general lack of qualified staff… restoration projects are outsourced and the quality of the work of the contractors is not being assessed. An efficient drainage system is lacking, ­leading to water infiltration and excessive moisture that gradually degrades the structural condition of the buildings as well as their decor. The mission was also concerned by the amount of plant growth, particularly ivy.” . . . Pompeii attracted more than 2.3 million visitors in 2010 and on the busiest days it had 20,000. Sheer numbers, along with careless behaviour, are causing considerable damage: “Visitors in groups rub against the decorated walls, all too often with their rucksacks, or lean against them to take the best possible photographs,” says the report.

That has been my experience on visiting Pompeii as well. Do people need to touch and scramble over everything? On visiting the site, perhaps the calls by some to just bury parts of the site, and leave open only those areas which can be properly managed and visited is the right answer. I was surprised to learn that in 1956 there were 66 restored houses open to visitors, but today only 15 are open, and these are badly damaged by ignorant tourists and inefficient security.

There has been €105m set aside by the European Union, and a UNESCO 'action plan' could enable that money to be spent. However the funding cuts at UNESCO which resulted from the unfortunate decision on the one hand by the U.S. to cut all UNESCO support, and second, but UNESCO member states and Palestine to force the political brinksmanship may put that funding in jeopardy.
  1. Martin Bailey, Italy allows Unesco into Pompeii, The Art Newspaper, January 4, 2012, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Italy+allows+Unesco+into+Pompeii/25422 (last visited Jan 5, 2012).

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