Museum camera thieves exhibit their own artlessness
Stefano Esposito; The News Tribune
Call them dumb, if you like, but don't call them unhelpful.
The three thieves who snatched a security camera from outside the Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art on Saturday night were caught on camera moments before the theft. The grainy color videotape Tacoma police released Tuesday shows the trio strolling casually in front of the camera. They're almost posing. Perhaps they didn't realize the video recorder was running? Maybe they didn't know where to buy stocking masks? At one point, one of the thieves moves in for a close-up, full-on mug shot. "I'm sure it's a picture that when his parents see it, it's not one they're going to be proud of and want to frame," said Tacoma police spokesman Jim Mattheis. Police said they don't have any leads yet in the theft, which occurred about 9 p.m. Saturday. The camera was mounted on the rooftop and pointed at an elevator. It's the fourth act of vandalism or theft at or near the museum since it opened last summer.
Anyone with information about Saturday's theft is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County at 253-591-5959.
photo at: http://www.tribnet.com/entertainment/story/2534774p-2586632c.html
From: "wyxhsz" email@example.com To: "Museum Security Network" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: CHW weekly observation of Jan 29,2003
Date sent: Wed, 29 Jan 2003 23:06:45 +0800
Acknowledgement in China is brewing about the problems it faces in protecting its cultural heritage, but solutions are still very much unclear.
Since the fall of the Qing dynasty, China's cultural inheritance has been constantly under severe degradation. However, people are now waking up to the fact that there may not be more of these left for generations of the future. What they have discovered is the fear and panic of the lack of knowledge in dealing with treasures that have for centuries defined China.
This situation was apparent even amongst the guardians of these inheritances. When the director of the Museum of Shanghai was trying his best to organize a prominent showcase of Chinese art that would have an international impact, some directors from other museums were being accused of illicit excavating and smuggling national treasures, some other directors were under the impression that there is an overabundance of these works of art and wanted to sell some of them, even more of others did not have any idea of what they should do with all these works in the future. In the outskirts of Shanghai, an ultra- modern central storage warehouse for works of art of museums is being completed. However, the manager of the warehouse tell us that the building located at the right side of the first line of the warehouse would be an antiquity sales room. The Chinese government is preparing to issue licenses to better control the quality of these museum directors, but questions such as what exactly is the mission of museums and should these works be marketable is still very much unanswered.
Archaeologists in China are fortunate because they get to take part in many diggings and archeological investigation. However, the thing that most interest them is not these opportunities. Under the law, under numerous circumstances, they can get funds to complete their work. Due to a lack of control and scrutiny, this has almost become a privilege of archaeologists. Besides corruption and criminal activities, there are at least two other problems that have raised concerns. Many of these archaeologist are now starring in reality shows of excavation on television and no longer focused on their work and even more of them are refusing to hand over the artifacts that they found. Solving these problems are not easy; factions within the archaeologists are constantly fighting among themselves but when it comes to discussing these pressing issues, they are united in their answer and their entrenched benefits. The tolerance of traditional Chinese architecture and building techniques against environmental impact is low. Even without damages from people, the maintenance of these buildings still require a large amount of effort from its community, involving the dedication and patience of many experts who must be willing to increase their professional knowledge by learning continually. Of course, it also requires a huge amount of investment and attention from the government. Yet, in the past few years, more and more these 'experts' are excluding assistance by over emphasizing that they don't only protect building and maintain them; they are also artists and historians in charge of a civilization. They insist that given the importance of their work, a deep understanding of Chinese history and culture and past accomplishments in maintenance is a must. Hence, they contend, foremen, engineers and other professional in construction should not be allowed into the art of maintaining these historic buildings. A lot of people see this as essentially as a very pessimistic stance of self-protection. After many of these 'experts' get their licenses from the government to protect these traditional and historic buildings, they do not devote all their energies to old buildings. In order to make much money, they often put their attention to new building. They would try to convince real estate developers that traditional architecture techniques would make new buildings higher value. In the meanwhile, some important old buildings were changed beyond recognition because of poor maintenance, and many people are losing their interesting in traditional Chinese architectures due to more and more coarse imitations of old buildings designed by 'experts'. This issue has upset many concerned citizens. The government agency in charged of giving out licenses did in fact request these 'experts' explain in details the ways of restoring old buildings. But the reply from most of these 'experts' was that it was too difficult to explain.
Moving along, another problem that China is facing is the sales of antiques and other artifacts of historic and artistic value. This is an area that many people would rather not talk about. The buying and selling of these artifacts had been under the sole management and control of the government, yet the activity in the marketplace had never stopped. During the end of the 20th century, greedy merchants began to take advantage of the uninformed government officials to set up auction houses to sell artifacts in a large scale for profits. Their friends within the government argue that auctions are not dealings but merely intermediate activities. Since the last decade of the 20th century, the market has lost control. Every major population center in China had large scaled antiques markets selling many illegally acquired artifacts. This business was so lucrative that soon imitations flooded the market in hopes of a quick profit. To make the matter worse, even auction lists were full of illegally acquired artifacts and imitations. There were two characteristics during that time. One of it was that branches in the government agency in charged of these sales were very profitable due to the fact that they kept close contact with big antique dealers. The second one was that even though China had entered several international conventions to protect its heritage, most of its laws governing it are still simple and vague. When the new 'Law of Protection on Cultural Heritage' went into effect in October 2002 after 7 years of revising and debating it was noted as being the most controversial piece of legislation ever in contemporary China legal history. Most of the arguments were focused on the management of the sales of artifacts: Is the presence of many buyers ('collectors') indicates that the appreciation in society for these goods is profound? Or is the interest in trading these artifacts suggests that the movement to protect them is successful? Furthermore, do we need to control these sales at all? And are sales of artifacts encouraging more criminal activities? The questions that raised during discussion and debate period reflected the ignorance of management knowledge the entire country has on these issues. The Law relinquished the rule that government agencies hold the sole management of antique sales and instead allowed individuals to set up their own private stores to conduct these sales under certain conditions. A significant advance has been made in the law that antique stores and auction houses must record their trades and report it to the government. This may be the most direct effect of China's enrollment in four international conventions on protecting cultural heritage. Nobody expected order in the marketplace with a revision of law and in the two months after this law went into effect, the situation still has not changed much, with an acute lack of knowledge and capability on management. For example, controversies over the law were raised: Are the mandated reports to the government infringing privacy? Is it lawful and reasonable for the government agency to determine the amount and distribution of antique stores and auctions? The government agency understands fully that the chaos in the marketplace leads to many smuggling and illicit excavations every day and they are now realizing the value of the advice that renowned consultants all over the world have offered against these unscrupulous merchants.
The problem China is facing now is ultimately the consequences of the actions of these various professionals. Increasing amount of criminal cases are now linked with government officials and experts of cultural heritage. A code of conduct stress moral responsibilities introduced 5 years ago was never properly adhered to. Other than corruption and criminal offences, the general incompetence of these individuals both in the government and in the profession is arousing the displeasure of the upper levels of the country. Since the start of year 2000, the police had arrested over 4000 thieves and robbers of artifacts and since January of 1998 Custom officials have apprehended over 25000 pieces of illegal export artifacts heading for the international markets. These are encouraging results, but if the problems mentioned above remain unsolved, this may prove to be very inadequate.
Too hot to handle? A new book about missing masterpieces totally ignores Second World War losses
By Tom Flynn
Missing Masterpieces: Lost Works of Art, 1450-1900, by Gert-Rudolf Flick, Merrell, £40, pp344, ISBN 1858941970
Even before its official launch yesterday at the London offices of auctioneers Phillips, De Pury & Luxemburg, Gert-Rudolf Flick's first book Missing Masterpieces: Lost Works of Art, 1450-1900 had garnered enthusiastic column inches from a number of critics. The book focuses on a selection of the most famous lost masterpieces, from Rembrandt's The Circumcision to Michelangelo's bronze David, which went missing during the French Revolution. Dr Flick's book is therefore a series of 'biographies' of lost works of art, his only criterion for a work's inclusion having been the existence of some surviving pictorial representation of the work - a painted copy, a drawing, an engraving or print - so that the reader might see what the missing object looked like.
This not only makes the book more interesting and visually engaging, but also offers a slim chance that one or two of the missing masterpieces might one day be rediscovered. The result is a fascinating, studiously-researched, and beautifully illustrated volume that has immediately become required reading for anyone interested in the art market and the history of collecting. There are, however, serious problems with this project and they stem from its refusal to include works lost during the Holocaust. Few, if any, reviewers have bothered to draw attention to this. Philip Hensher heaped praise on the book in The Spectator, calling it "a strange, tantalizing book of unintentional poetry" and went on to point out that art never belongs to anyone: "It is not ours to lose or destroy, and to do so is an act of peculiar wickedness," wrote Hensher. Had the book included twentieth century losses, Hensher's condemnation would doubtless have extended to those responsible for looting art during the Holocaust, when thousands of objects disappeared, never to be seen again.
Richard Cork's assessment of the book in The Times on January 27 opened with a reference to the James Bond film, 'Dr No', in which Sean Connery spots Goya's Portrait of the Duke Wellington on the wall of the villain's lair and comments: 'So that's where it went!' It might have been just as relevant if Cork had quoted instead from the vintage BBC comedy series 'Allo 'Allo!, which, coincidentally, featured a Nazi Gestapo officer, Herr Otto Flick. A running gag throughout the series was Herr Flick's dogged pursuit of a priceless painting, 'The Madonna of the Big Boobies', which café proprietor Rene had concealed in a sausage. Of course, the author of Missing Masterpieces, the London-based millionaire collector Dr Gert-Rudolf 'Muck' Flick, has no personal connections with the Nazi party, but his grandfather, Friedrich Flick (1883-1972) was one of the richest industrialists in Nazi Germany and a member of Himmler's exclusive 'Circle of Friends'. Indeed, for historians of the Holocaust, Friedrich Flick's name is inextricably associated with the rise of the Nazis. A self-made millionaire from Westphalia and a pillar of the German military-industrial complex, Friedrich Flick gained notoriety by effectively bankrolling Nazi racial persecution. At the Nuremberg Trials in 1947, he faced charges of plundering occupied countries, of using forced labour in his steel and armaments factories, of funding the SS and of the expropriation and 'Aryanisation' of Jewish property. He was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison, but in 1950 was granted clemency and released. When sentenced, Friedrich Flick was permitted to retain one-third of his industrial holdings and as a result was able, following his release, to rebuild his business empire. At his death in 1972 he left $1 billion to his playboy son. Dr Gert-Rudolf 'Muck' Flick's highly selective book concentrates on just 24 masterpieces that have gone missing over a 450-year period up to 1900. The world is indeed missing the two dozen works he itemizes so diligently, but arguably not quite so much as the countless thousands that went missing after 1900. Flick's strategically selective dateline entirely apostrophises the single most significant historical instance in which works of art went 'missing' - the Holocaust - to which his grandfather indirectly contributed. In his introduction, Dr Flick refers to discussions with his friend Peter Watson (the same Peter Watson who exposed Sotheby's antiquities scandal in 1997) about producing a compendium of all important missing works of art. Such a book would have had to include twentieth century material, including looted and still missing Holocaust art, but according to Flick, "It soon became clear that such a book was neither feasible nor maybe desirable." Flick's decision to narrow the scope of the research clearly obviated the need to embark on an undesirable inquiry closer to home, but had he broadened his horizons into the twentieth century he might have made a good book a far better one. A project like this deserved some contextual background, at the very least outlining the reasons for pulling up short at 1900. Instead, the introduction states that there are "certain periods of history when wars or revolutions force an exceptional number of works of art on to the market, and it is especially in these circumstances that works of art seem more likely to vanish." The Second World War did not so much force an exceptional number of works on to the market as into a black hole of Nazi appropriation. Flick refers to the French Revolution as a 'key period' in which works went missing, "the prolonged after-effects of which continued well into the middle of the nineteenth century." Flick is quite right in this, but more pertinently the Terror, which Flick's research holds responsible for the disappearance of Michelangelo's bronze David, was to all intents and purposes an earlier manifestation of the process of 'Gleischschaltung' - the systematic elimination of all opposition within the political, economic and cultural institutions of the state - that characterised the Nazis' rise to power. To produce a book on missing works of art that entirely ignores the most notable instance of that process is at best bad scholarship and at worst a distortion of history that insults the victims of the Holocaust. As Hector Feliciano and others have shown, by August 1944 France was the most looted country in Western Europe, with one-third of all the art in private collections having been pillaged by the Nazis. Tens of thousands of works stolen during that period are still missing today, including, most noticeably, Portrait of a Young Man (1515) by Raphael, looted from the Czartorsyki Collection in Poland in October 1939 along with Leonardo's famous Lady with the Ermine. Although the Leonardo was later recovered, the Raphael remains the most important painting lost in the war. According to Peter Harclerode and Brendan Pittaway's The Lost Masters, the painting was last seen in the possession of Reichskommissar Hans Frank in January 1945 but disappeared thereafter.
At the launch of his book, I asked Dr Flick why he had not included the Raphael in his book, nor indeed any works looted during the Holocaust. "As a German, I was reluctant to deal with this period," he said, "although I wanted to include the Raphael. If I had been able to secure the Wildenstein file on the picture - and they must have a file - I might have included it." What did he believe happened to the Raphael? "I don't know," he shrugged. "Maybe an American GI got it and took it back to Texas." Would his book not have had more scholarly credibility if it had dealt with the Holocaust, I asked. "Maybe," he replied. "If I do a second edition, I'll certainly consider including the twentieth-century material." In all fairness, Gert-Rudolf Flick should not be expected to suffer in perpetuity for the crimes of his forebears and any discussion of those issues should avoid suggesting guilt by association. Moreover, given his family background, it is hard to see how Dr Flick - a former proprietor of Apollo magazine and a significant collector of Old Master paintings himself - could have addressed the issue of Holocaust art.
However, the book should at the very least have offered a humble acknowledgment that the twentieth-century bore witness to the worst art-losses in history, the significance of which arguably require an altogether different book. Its failure to do so merely invites more unwanted critical attention as the past continues to haunt the Flick family. Recently, Gert-Rudolf's brother Friedrich Christian 'Mick' Flick attempted to establish his own Rem Koolhaas-designed museum in Zurich to house his collection of 2500 works of contemporary art, but the project was scuppered because of opposition to the source of his wealth. He has recently been trying to find a home for the collection in Berlin. The difficulties he has faced are not dissimilar to those Gert-Rudolf encountered in 1997 when Oxford dons objected on similar grounds to his attempts to endow the Flick chair of European Thought at Oxford University. After a fierce campaign, the university returned his £350,000 and removed Flick's name from the chair, which is attached to Balliol College. Will the Flick family ever be able to enjoy the fruits of the wealth endowed by their grandfather without inviting censure?
Dr Tom Flynn is a London-based art historian and journalist and the founder of Artnose http://www.artnose.com/ , the UK's only satirical website devoted to the art market
Date sent: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 16:35:52 +0100
From: Pierre Dumont email@example.com To: security network firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who are either involved or only interested in the Breitwieser affair, they will find the french compilation on the bilingual (english/french) Codine's web site at http://www.codine.be compilation was made by Pierre Dumont, a leading specialist in diurnal alarm solutions, specialised in this field for more than 20 years and then fluent with this kind of crime.
Stephane Breitwieser will be judged early february in Switzerland before being extraded to France for a new judgment relative to his European crimes direct link for Breitwieser affair at the following adress http://users.swing.be/sw299151/CONFERENCES2002/Z0BREITF.ZIP
Z0BREITF - Le cas Breiwieser étude de cas - Voleur strasbourgeois (72tpi) (PDF)
some interessant files on the way to improove the security within museums during the opening hours may also be found on the site (see the download section of the Codine's web site)
Feel free to contact the author at email@example.com for comments, amendments or information exchange about such Breitwieser affair
Pierre Dumont Director
firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.codine.be tel: 0032 10 22 62 67 fax: 0032 10 22 62 69
Two years after devastating quake, noted museum in India's Gujarat state remains unrepaired
Wed Jan 29,10:07 PM ET
By MICHAEL KOHN, Associated Press Writer
BHUJ, India - With birds flitting from room to room and a light drizzle dampening the floor, the Aina Mahal is disturbing in its incarnation as an "open air museum." Still without a roof nearly two years after an earthquake smashed this city in western Gujarat state, the best known museum in the Rann of Kutch region remains vulnerable to sun, wind and rain. The Aina Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors, was once a pleasure palace for maharajahs who spent their time writing poetry and watching dancing girls in rooms whose design — a mix of East and West — were the happy result of an 18th century shipwreck. The chief architect was an Indian seafarer who studied art and design for 17 years in Europe after being rescued by Dutch sailors from a wreck off the African coast. Mirrors sparkled in a great hall of white marble, interspersed with etchings and drawings of Hindu gods, European women and Kutch landscapes. Before the quake, an average of more than 200 people came every day to view the splendors of the former ruling class. Now the curator, Pramod Jethi, can count a week's visitors on his fingers. M.K.S. Hanvantsinhji, chairman of the palace trust and the son of the last prince who lived in the palace, said the building at first appeared totally devastated after the quake of Jan. 26, 2001. "It looked like the entire collection had been destroyed," he said. "But as we groped through the debris, we found it was not so bad." The quake caused extensive damage to the building and its furnishings. Yet, amazingly, the mirrors in the main Hall of Mirrors on the ground floor survived the collapse of the upper story, and 80 percent of the Venetian glass candelabras were intact, said Jethi.
Items that survived have been carted off to a warehouse, so the main draw of the palace is no longer apparent to tourists. "I can't see that anything has been done," said Karsan Hirani, an Indian-born British businessman who brought his children to see his hometown. "This is the main place of Bhuj and it should be protected to bring back tourists and culture." Because most aid money has been used to rebuild homes, schools and businesses, there has been little help for the museum. "It has been slow in coming because the priority was to rehabilitate people first," Jethi says. An Indian government grant of 200,000 rupees (US$4,200) paid for removal of debris. A further 1 million rupees (US$21,000), raised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, allowed a Gujarat heritage specialist to survey and prop up most precarious walls. Jethi is putting his hopes on soliciting donations, and while no funds have yet been received from companies or individuals, the National Trust has nominated the palace as an endangered monument and sent a US$20 million rehabilitation proposal to the World Monument Fund in Washington, D.C. Noting that the building has come a long way, Jethi recalled the days after the quake with a mix of emotion and pride. His staff worked for 15 days to recover damaged artifacts, delicately sifting by hand through fallen red ceiling tiles by the light of gas lanterns. Almost daily aftershocks dropped more plaster and tiles on them. Antique furniture, stuffed wild animals, precious jewelry, costumes and manuscripts were cataloged and stored in a concrete warehouse at another palace across the now dry, manmade lake that dominates old Bhuj. "We worked without electricity or phones and only had the most basic food. But the hardest part was the worry we had for our family and friends, almost helpless in the city around us," Jethi said. The rebuilding of the mirrored walls, tiled floors and hand-carved gilded ceilings to their original form will require more than a cleanup job.
"This is not just cosmetic surgery," said Siddharth Majumdar, a U.N. Development Program architect who has inspected the site. "There needs to be a slow and proper background study with historical basis. The builders should refer to the original blueprints or notes, which are usually not easy to find." While the museum's future remains in limbo, aid agencies and local officials have worked at a furious pace to restore the town itself. The process of compensating tens of thousands of families is now in its late stages and city planners are looking to redevelop the ancient walled city that fell around the Aina Mahal. The plan calls for wide streets, gardens and spacious homes with inner courtyards. No new building will exceed two stories and the population within the walls is expected to drop to around 50,000 from 100,000 — a contrast to the overcrowded, poorly constructed buildings that were blamed for the 4,000 deaths in the city. "Bhuj will be vastly different," said Jethi. "People agree that the city should be expanded and opened up so the same problem does not occur again." But he said the city's heritage, ancient gates and palaces must be preserved in the process. "What is the point of Bhuj without the Aina Mahal?" he asked.