Thu Jan 30, 8:37 PM ET
By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela - For more than two decades, Matisse's "Odalisque in Red Pants" graced the walls of the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum, helping to make the museum envy of the Latin American art world.
But for at least the past three years, the painting that hung in the Caracas museum wasn't a Matisse, but an elaborate forgery. Embarrassed museum officials announced Thursday that the 1925 painting, worth an estimated US$3 million, was stolen as long as two years ago and replaced by a forgery.
The original's whereabouts are the subject of a search involving Interpol, the FBI, Venezuelan, British, Spanish and French police. "You can't just make the switch freely inside the museum," director Rita Salvestrini said Thursday. "There had to be inside complicity." The painting of a seminude, raven-haired woman kneeling on a floor is one of Matisse's "odalisques," paintings of Arab dancers in which he expressed his fascination with North African and Islamic culture. The Sofia Imber museum purchased the painting from the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 1981 for US$400,000. It was on display ever since, except for a brief loan for a Spanish exhibition in 1997. In November, Miami art collector Genaro Ambrosino, a Venezuela native, sent an e-mail to Salvestrini expressing indignation that he heard the piece was up for sale. Salvestrini quickly denied it. The painting was in the museum, she said. On Dec. 1, however, experts discovered that the painting the museum was a forgery. Salvestrini said the Sotheby's office in Miami sent her a copy of a document supposedly authorizing its sale on behalf of museum founder Sofia Imber, who was forced to resign in 2001 as part of a people's "cultural revolution" by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez. The document was signed by Agueda Hernandez and Edmundo Diquez, museum employees who quit with Imber. Officials now believe the document was forged, Salvestrini said. In mid-December, the FBI confirmed that a Venezuelan woman who lived in Miami Beach, Florida, had stored the painting at Fortress Art Storage in Miami. The FBI suspects the woman then smuggled it to Spain, although French police are investigating leads that a collector brought it to France. The woman's identity was withheld pending the investigation. "That's the last thing we know" about the original, Salvestrini said, adding the theft was reported to the Art Loss Register in New York.
The Caracas newspaper El Mundo speculated that the Matisse may have been swapped during the 1997 Spanish exhibition loan. Other clues suggest the painting was stolen as far back as 2000. French police interrogated Wanda de Guebriant, a French Matisse expert. Guebriant told them that a New York gallery owner informed her in October 2000 that "Odalisque in Red Pants" was being offered for sale in New York. Investigators have refused to identify the gallery owner. Guebriant told police at the time she believed the one in New York must be a fake and that the original was in the Caracas museum. In February 2001, she said, she was approached by French gallery owners saying they had been offered the painting.
"The people who knew that the piece was being circulated around the world never informed us," Salvestrini said. "The thing is, it didn't occur to anyone the piece could have been authentic." There are notable differences between the original and the replica, which Salvestrini displayed at a news conference. The fake has a dark shadow behind the dancer; the original doesn't. In the lower right hand corner, the genuine one has seven green stripes. The fake has six. The scandal has embarrassed museum officials, who can't say how long the roughly 15,000 people who visit the museum each month have been admiring a fake Matisse. The museum has more than 4,000 other pieces, including other Matisses, Picassos and works by renowned Venezuelan kinetic sculptor Jesus Soto.
Salvestrini insists there's no reason to suspect other pieces are fake, but she's having them examined anyway.
On the Net:
Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art: http://www.maccsi.org.ve
Art Loss Register: http://www.artloss.com
Roman coins worth 100,000 euros (dollars) stolen from Utrecht museum
Mon Feb 3,12:04 PM ET
UTRECHT, Netherlands - Thieves stole 19 Roman gold coins worth an estimated 100,000 euros (dollars) from the Utrecht city museum over the weekend, a spokeswoman said Monday. Errol van der Werdt said the culprits apparently made off with the coins during the crowded opening of another exhibition. He said police had made no arrests but were reviewing videotapes and searching for fingerprints. The heist was the third high-profile burglary at a Dutch museum in two months. In the first week of December, unknown culprits made off with two Van Gogh paintings in Amsterdam and millions of dollars worth of diamonds from a museum in The Hague. Police haven't made any arrests in either case. Van der Werdt said that while there is a market for ancient artifacts, dealers had been alerted to keep an eye out for the stolen coins. "Their condition is extremely well-documented, and we have photos of both the front and back sides, which will make them more difficult to sell," he said. The missing coins were part of a 50-coin treasure uncovered in 1933 during an excavation of Utrecht's central square, the Domplein, once the site of a Roman fort. They are believed to have been hidden by a Roman officer during a rebellion by a local Dutch tribe called the Batavians in 69 A.D.
From: P Boylan P.Boylan@city.ac.uk
Subject: Re: War in Iraq and Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
Re the USA and the 1954 Hague Convention:
The position is rather more complicated. The USA was in fact one of the strongest supporters of the aims and indeed details of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which followed to a very large extent existing US military law and practice, and in fact signed the Convention on the closing date of the Diplomatic Conference which drafted Hague 1954. However, even strong support from President Eisenhower could not overcome those elements in the US Senate and military opposed to international measures, particularly in the face of strong opposition from the nuclear weapons lobby, (determined to "nuke the Kremlin in the first 10 minutes of World War III even though it's an important historic monument" according to one of the Pentagon "hawks of that time).
In 1995 a further review of the position was requested by Congress, and as a result ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention was formally recommended to the President by both the State Department and the Department of Defense. President Clinton subsequently submitted the 1954 Convention to Senate in 1998, requesting that Senate should approve its ratification. (In the USA treaties can only be adopted with the approval of the Senate.)
Unfortunately, despite the military and diplomatic support, Hague 1954 seems to have fallen foul of an atmosphere of what seems to be a long-standing determination among certain parts of the US political establishment to block international treaties and agreements almost as a matter of principle e.g. (Kyoto Treaty and the International Criminal Court. (The USA - along with Iraq & Afghanistan - has even failed to ratify the current - 1977 - version of the Geneva Conventions, so their interpretation of these are different from that of almost 150 other countries).
On the other hand, the US military regards the principles, if not the exact wording, of the Hague Convention as part of "customary international law" and therefore binding whether or not a country has formally ratified it. They do have extensive measures, military rules and orders, and military training, aimed at minimising the risk to the heritage in the event of an armed conflict. For example in 1990-1991 a working group with around 70 top international experts on the archaeological and historical heritage of Iraq worked with the Pentagon in drawing up detailed maps of areas to be excluded from targeting in air (including cruise missile) strikes, and to be avoided by ground troops.
Patrick Boylan (Professor of Heritage Policy & Management, City University London, and UNESCO Consultant onn the Hague Convention & Protocols)
A Lesson on Iraq From a Classicist
By DINITIA SMITH
If you want a preview of what might occur if the United States were to invade Iraq, Elaine Fantham suggests looking at what happened in 53 B.C. when the Romans marched into the territory that is now Iraq. Ms. Fantham, 69, is National Public Radio's mischievous, fruity- voiced classics commentator on "Weekend Edition," and her specialty is drawing parallels between the ancient world and us. As she explained to listeners of her occasional broadcasts, the territory was ruled by the Parthians, who are related to modern-day Iranians. The power-hungry Roman general Crassus set out for the Parthian territory with seven legions. He marched his army into the middle of the desert where, parched, hungry and unused to the terrain, he was roundly defeated by the entrenched Parthians. Crassus' and his son's heads were cut off and used as props by a Greek acting troupe to entertain the Parthian and Armenian kings at a dinner party. Not a particularly inviting prospect, but as Ms. Fantham, president-elect of the American Philological Association, explained in a recent phone interview, one Americans should pay attention to. "You, George Bush!" said Ms. Fantham in her English accent with a slight speech impediment that turns all her "r's" into "w's." "You, Donald Rumsfeld and your advisers, you don't know what you are letting yourself in for!" Just as there was no act of aggression against Rome to prompt an attack against the Parthians, Ms. Fantham argued, there has been no act of aggression by Iraq against the United States. Still, Ms. Fantham, who has also recorded commentaries for NPR on the Greek goddess of spring, the feast of Saturnalia, the Roman calendar, the vestal virgins and the Roman god of mildew, is wary of drawing too exact parallels between past and present.
"My great teacher used to get upset with me when I made historical parallels," she said. "You cannot help your heart making parallels and then you have to use your mind to say, `Yes, but . . .' " Ms. Fantham's interest in ancient Rome began when she was a child in Liverpool, England, she said. Her father was employed in local government, her mother was a teacher who stopped working because married women were not allowed to teach. But she saved money to send her daughter to a private girls' school. "She wanted me to have what she hadn't," Ms. Fantham said. Ms. Fantham began studying Latin at 9, she said, and loved it. Later, at Oxford, she focused on the period of the Roman Republic from 264 B.C., the First Punic War, to 44 B.C., the death of Julius Caesar. Rome was under attack and part of the time fighting the Punic wars against Carthage. "Hannibal brought his army right up to the gates of Rome," she said. "Rome was a war city. We used to compare it with Hitler crossing the British Channel. Rome almost didn't survive. When I was a little kid, the whole of Europe was occupied by Germany. Britain stood alone. I remember it all. I've always been sympathetic with the underdogs." At Oxford and later in graduate school at the University of Liverpool, she grew interested in social history, the new movement to study ordinary people: for the classical period this meant women and slaves instead of great men, as was the fashion. She explained that she was able to learn about the Roman underclass by studying the Roman comedies. "They were like sitcoms," she said. "In the comedies, the slaves were the heroes. They were the intriguers, who helped the young master marry the girl he loved, rather than the person his father wanted him to marry. The slaves had at least that power." Ms. Fantham's dissertation was "A Commentary on the Curculio of Plautus," the Roman playwright whose work became the basis for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." In 1958 she married Peter Fantham, a mathematician. She followed her husband to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he taught. She, too, applied for a full-time teaching job. "I was warned by my teachers that the professor who had the power to appoint would never appoint a woman, let alone a married woman," Ms. Fantham said. "I was the only candidate. I had all the qualifications, but he wrote to Oxford to ask for a young man."
The man Oxford recommended "didn't have the qualifications," she said. "I had a summa cum laude; he had a magna. I had a graduate degree, and he didn't." Even so, she did not get the job.
Mr. Fantham grew tired of university politics, she said, and the family, which by now included a daughter, Julia, moved to Bloomington, Ind., where Mr. Fantham had a job at Indiana University, and Ms. Fantham also taught. In 1971 the Fanthams, who also had a son, Roy, moved again, to the University of Toronto in Canada, where both taught. In 1982, Ms. Fantham's book "Seneca's `Troades,' " a groundbreaking study of the influence Virgil, Euripides and Ovid had on Seneca's "Trojan Women," caught the attention of Princeton. She was hired there, at age 53. Her husband remained in Toronto and she commuted. "By the time I was a full professor, at Toronto, being a woman was an asset," she said. At Princeton, Ms. Fantham was often called on to write Latin inscriptions for university events. She became involved with NPR about six years ago, she said, when the classics department received a phone call from the organization asking about the origin of the term "halcyon days." "They had a habit of phoning up Princeton when they wanted information," she said. Well, Ms. Fantham had the answer. "Halcyon days" means days of peace and tranquillity. The term is from the myth of Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus, and wife of Ceyx. When Ceyx drowned, Alcyone threw herself into the sea. The gods took pity on her, changed her and her husband into kingfishers, and forbade the winds to blow for seven days before and after the winter solstice so that the birds could breed on the ocean's surface. In 1992, Ms. Fantham's husband died suddenly, and in 1999 she retired from Princeton. Today she lives part of the year in Toronto, surrounded by her collection of some 140 frog figures. She also spends time doing research in Cambridge, England. She is writing an introduction to Ovid's "Metamorphoses." She is also working on another, longer book, "The Roman World of Cicero's `De Oratore,' " contrasting Cicero's recommendations for the training of the ideal statesman to the political realities of his time. "The republican constitution was increasingly overridden and violated by men of military power," she said. And Cicero's ideals were impossible to achieve.
Any parallels to today? If anything, Ms. Fantham said, the problem is the reverse. Today, "the chief executive has too much power." She continued: "Why the Founding Fathers were dumb enough to have a president, I don't know. It worked while they were highly educated people, but they are getting worse all the time."
From: Medical Assoc. for Prevention of War, Australia [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 4:32 PM To: no war on iraq Subject: [no_war_on_iraq] Guernica outside the UN Security Council - covered
UN COVERS UP PICASSO'S GUERNICA TO AVOID OFFENDING THE REGIME'S WAR CRIMINALS
by Art Daily Mon, Feb 3 2003, 5:31pm
Picasso's Guernica Covered at UN Security Council Entrance The "Guernica" work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain. The reason for covering this work is that this is the place where diplomats make statements to the press and have this work as the background. The Picasso work features the horrors of war. On January 27 a large blue curtain was placed to cover the work. A diplomat stated that it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N. John Negroponte, or Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings.
UN COVERS UP PICASSO'S GUERNICA TO AVOID OFFENDING THE REGIME'S WAR CRIMINALS
Guernica Reproduction Covered at UN Art Daily
February 2, 2003 http://www.artdaily.com/news.asp?not=11
NEW YORK.- The "Guernica" work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain. The reason for covering this work is that this is the place where diplomats make statements to the press and have this work as the background. The Picasso work features the horrors of war. On January 27 a large blue curtain was placed to cover the work. Fred Eckhard, press secretary of the U.N. said: "It is an appropriate background for the cameras." He was questioned as to why the work had been covered. A diplomat stated that it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N. John Negroponte, or Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings. This work is a reproduction of the Guernica that was donated by Nelson A. Rockefeller to the U.N. in 1985. http://www.artdaily.com/news.asp?not=11 related link: www.artdaily.com/news.asp?not=11
------------------------------------- Ms. Giji Gya Executive Officer, Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW - Australian affiliate of IPPNW) email@example.com www.mapw.org.au --------------------------------- Ph: +61 (0) 413 594 717 Fax: +61 3 9427 7920 --------------------------------- PO Box 1379 Carlton (Melbourne) VIC 3053, Australia MAPW on Iraq - plus the "Collateral Damage" report from Medact, "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios" from the UN and "Our Common Responsiblity" report from War Child http://www.mapw.org.au/iraq/iraq-index.html
Tom Flynn says that anti-restitution museum directors are out of step with both the public and museum ethics
We have all now had an opportunity to digest the recent declaration by 18 leading museum directors seeking to reinforce the value of 'universal museums' while discouraging the repatriation of cultural objects. The central message is clear enough. Modern museum policies must not be influenced by the sort of historical revisionism which recommends the repatriation of artefacts acquired during the era of colonial adventure, no matter how nefarious the circumstances of those acquisitions might appear in hindsight. One either believes that modern museums have a moral and humanitarian duty to confront those historical issues - particularly within the context of a greater 'global' awareness and growing sensitivity towards developing nations - or one does not. But leaving that question aside, what has been most striking about this Declaration is the autocratic tone of its language and the implied sense that its 18 signatories speak for the entire museum community - 'The international museum community shares the conviction…' runs the opening line of the text. The fact that not a single leading museum director has chosen to speak out publicly against this declaration - or even to clarify its fuzzy terminology - denotes a tacit endorsement by the silent members of that implied universal coalition. Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, did not sign the declaration but published it through the British Museum press office. According to The New York Times, the declaration was initiated in response to a 'call for help' from MacGregor, following fresh claims by the Greek Government for the return of the Parthenon Marbles in time for the 2004 Olympics. Is there not a single dissenting voice among our top museum directors in Europe and North America over this issue? Is modern museology now so doctrinal that an informal poll elicits a watertight consensus across international museum heads? Or has museum culture become so beleaguered that, like the Catholic Church, it now feels the need to patrol its ideological borders so strictly that no dissenting voices dare make themselves heard? The reason a consensus seems to have emerged against repatriation is because museum heads have tended to place strategic emphasis on the concept of 'wholesale repatriation'. By focusing on the spectre of wholesale restitution, a consensus is virtually guaranteed for it raises the nightmare scenario of denuded museums. But demands for restitution are, almost by definition, selective. Once one opens the door to 'selective' repatriation (the argument goes), the 'wholesale' will follow as surely as night follows day. This is misleading and obscures other more critical issues. The acknowledgement within the declaration that 'each case [of repatriation] has to be judged individually' suggests divisions within the informal group that drafted the text. But that phrase will offer a chink of light to groups seeking to mount a claim. Interestingly, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), while supporting the declaration's general thrust against the illegal traffic in archaeological, artistic and ethnic objects, did see fit to quote its own code of ethics in response to the declaration, to the effect that museums should 'be prepared to initiate dialogues with an open-minded attitude based on scientific and professional principles.' The logical extension of this would be the consideration of 'selective' claims for repatriation, which is essentially what we have been witnessing with growing frequency - and which would include the Parthenon Marbles. Instead, we have an intransigent edict from museum chiefs that appears to contravene ICOM recommendations that, 'unnecessarily strong judgements or declarations should in any case be avoided.' What is so scandalous about this recent declaration is the extent to which it flies in the face of popular opinion. The majority of the British public now favours the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles, which are the real subtext of this declaration. Museum directors will continue to argue that the general public is ill-equipped to make a judgement on the issue. But for most people this is an ethical issue and one does not need to be academically informed to hold an ethical opinion; one simply needs one's own ethical code. Furthermore, with fresh waves of neo-colonialism sweeping the globe in almost every area of economic and political life through the imbrication of corporate and military power and high government, it is hardly surprising that the public seeks to oppose the further extension of those processes into cultural life. The declaration might not be so unpalatable to some of us were it not for the fact that British national and regional museums are unable to manage their collections or maintain their buildings because of mounting debts - the British Museum alone has a deficit of £6 million. The museum establishment always chooses to play the universal heritage card on these occasions - 'The universal admiration for ancient civilisations would not be so deeply established today were it not for the influence exercised by the artefacts of these cultures, widely available to an international public in major museums' (sic). Before we get all dewy-eyed in gratitude, however, we should remember that these ideas are a product of a western Enlightenment tradition that has no relevance to non- western, non-capitalist social systems. Moreover, that Enlightenment project has often conspicuously failed to manage, control or properly conserve the material objects so central to its purpose. No less than 95 per cent of British national museum collections are not 'widely available' as the Declaration states, but in storage - a lot of artefacts have never been properly catalogued or made publicly available since their acquisition. With this in mind, can anyone blame minority heritage groups and governments from pressing for greater openness about museum holdings? Here again, however, forces seem to be at work to confound their efforts. Only this week, according to the leading Melbourne daily newspaper The Age, members of the Working Group on Human Remains, an independent British group compiling a report on human remains in leading British museums, 'were warned against recommending law reforms that might indirectly assist the Greeks'. Many of these human remains are of inestimable cultural value to the nations from which they originate. They lose any 'influence', any sacred or culturally signifying power, when languishing in the oblivion of a cardboard crate in a museum basement. Perhaps if our great universal museums were a little more self-critical rather than self-congratulatory, better progress might be made on these issues. Cultural heritage groups need a more united voice to oppose the hegemony of the international museum establishment. However, that edifice is now crumbling. The now notorious 'declaration' is not the shout of defiance it appears to be. It is the whimper of an army in retreat as a broader and more enlightened international consensus - one grounded in humanitarianism and greater cross-cultural awareness - grows in power and influence. Museums are changing, despite what a dozen or so well-placed directors may tell us. There have been isolated cases of restitution, something which would have been unheard of twenty years ago. On these occasions - such as that of the Lakota Ghost Dance Shirt returned to its people by Glasgow Museums in 1999 - the arguments in favour of repatriation far outweighed those against and the outcome was therefore unavoidable. This did not, however, lead to a flood of subsequent claims from the peoples of North Dakota. Instead it elevated Glasgow Museum's profile in the eyes of its immediate local community, the majority of whom, when consulted, were in favour of repatriation. The declaration stresses that: 'Objects acquired in earlier times must be viewed in the light of different sensitivities and values.' It is not a case of winding the clock back and weeping tears of post-colonial tristesse at past transgressions. It is about altering attitudes in the here and now for the benefit of future generations. The 'that was then, this is now' argument simply will not hold while the illicit traffic in cultural objects continues, particularly as museums are often, albeit sometimes unwittingly, the end recipients of these unprovenanced treasures. The classical collections at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts were largely assembled with the help of the British-based American collector Edward Perry Warren in the 1880s and '90s, whose collecting strategies were often far from ethical. As with the case of Bernard Berenson - many of whose acquisitions on behalf of Isabella Stewart Gardner were conducted, in the words of one biographer, "on the razor's edge of probity" - that was then and this is now. But until museums make their voices heard more effectively in calling for the eradication of the modern traffic in antiquities and cultural treasures - instead of conflating the issue with that of repatriation in a confusing press release - the demands for wholesale reform of museum policy will intensify. It would be advisable for opponents of this declaration not to surrender in the face of its spurious patrician authority. Instead they should redouble their opposition and increase pressure on governments and museum chiefs to debate the issue more broadly and openly, as ICOM recommends. That strategy worked very well for Jewish groups pressing for greater museum responsibility over Holocaust restitution issues, but perhaps the economic and social consequences of ignoring those claims were considered more profound. Building soaring postmodern museum extensions certainly guarantees greater kudos for the museum directors concerned, but it also disguises an inability (or unwillingness?) to conceive of enlightened solutions to more deep-seated problems, until prompted to do so by some external agency. Paradoxically, it will ultimately be economics that forces a wholesale root-and-branch restructuring of museum policy for the next millennium. Selective, but ongoing repatriation and de-accessioning will surely follow. The alternative is for museums to continue to lose the trust of the public with whom they currently seem so lamentably out of step.
Dr Tom Flynn is a writer and broadcaster on art and cultural heritage issues and co-editor of Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum (Routledge, 1997).
February 4, 2003 National Briefing: Mid-Atlantic By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PENNSYLVANIA: FIRE DAMAGES LANDMARK
An early-morning fire severely damaged the historic United States Naval Home, a national landmark in Philadelphia that once was the home of the Naval Academy. More than 135 firefighters battled the blaze in the vacant structure for about two hours, and an arson investigation was under way. Authorized by an act of Congress in 1811, the Philadelphia Naval Home became a hospital and retirement home for sailors. It briefly was the home of the Naval Academy before the academy moved to Annapolis, Md., in 1845. (AP)
From: EACSandberg@sandberg-cs.nl To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: RE: Chinese Experts Demand Return of Cultural Relics
Date sent: Mon, 3 Feb 2003 17:28:55 +0100
Re:Chinese Experts Demand Return of Cultural Relics
The article by Li Heng, published in your mail of the 29th of januari 2003, is not very clear to me. As an attorney at law with special interest in the law regarding cultural objects, I would like to make some remarks. The UNESCO treaty mentioned in the article could not be dated 1995. I suspect the writer whises to refer to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, done at Paris 14 november 1970. The Convention does not work for objects that were removed from their country of origin before the entry into force, the 24th of april 1972 and will only work for countries which have ratified the Convention. The Peoples Republic of China has ratified the Convention and it came into force february 20th 1990. The Unidroit Convention of 1995 is named: Unidroit Convention on the International Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, done at Rome, june 24 1995. This treaty does not work for objects stolen or illegally exported before the entry into force also. I cannot help to think that the author does not have sufficient knowledge from the matters concerned and that the sole purpose of the publication is politics. I am happy to receive information seemingly from the Chinese government, that it has taken another turn to cultural objects. However, I consider it rather peculiar for a state that has had a formal policy regarding the obligatory destruction of cultural objects during the "Cultural Revolution" to make claims as mentioned in the article by Mr or Mrs Li Heng. I would not consider it unlikely, that the extent of the damage by the "Cultural" revolution was very much larger than the numbers of cultural objects mentioned in the article..... Further I would like to point out that it is not very uncommon, that the fact that the cultural objects in the museums still exist, is only because of the fact that they once, long ago, before the first treaty regarding culural objects, were taken into the collections of those museums.
Edwin AC Sandberg, attorney at law Jhr Mr E.A.C. Sandberg Sandberg CS Advocaten Postbus 23130 3001 KC ROTTERDAM The NETHERLANDS tel: +31- 10-4402300 fax: +31-10-4402399
From: PeterFWatson@aol.com Date sent: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 20:00:07 EST
Subject: Missing Masterpieces
The Peter Watson versus Tom Flynn discussion about Flick's book
To whoever is in charge
Dear Sir or Madame
Thick or Flynn?
Boy, is this guy Flynn dumb! I don't think I have ever read such a stupid article as the one you released yesterday, by Tom Flynn, on Dr Flick's book, 'Missing Masterpieces.' Flynn takes Dr Flick to task for not including any of the paintings or other works of art looted by the Nazis.
Oh dear. 'Looted' works of art are not 'missing' works of art in the sense that is intended in the book. The paintings in Dr Flick's book have gone missing, in the sense that they have dropped out of history, slipped through the records of families, lost their attribution and their identity in the course of time. So far as anyone knows, they haven't been stolen. The point about the paintings in 'Missing Masterpieces' is that, were you to come across one of them tomorrow, in a junk yard, or a street market, or a provincial auctionhouse, and you bought it, it would be yours. If you inherited it, it would be yours. The point about Nazi loot, which is why none is in the book, is that looted paintings do not fall into this category. Nazi loot is, and will always remain, loot. No honest person would wish to own it.
When Dr Flick and I originally discussed the idea, we used as a model two journalistic articles I had written, both entitled 'Missing Masterpieces', and both of which used the same understand of 'missing' as Dr Flick uses in his book. His research has been vastly more thorough, and imaginative, than mine ever was, to produce a beautiful book - beautiful intellectually, and beautiful physically.
This distinction, between 'looted' and 'missing' is so elementary, so obvious a point, that I am tempted to think that Tom Flynn, who, after all, insists on 'Dr' before his name, has employed that most shameful of journalistic tricks: he has deliberately misunderstood the concept of the book, simply so that he can re-hash an old story about Dr Flick's antecedents.
This makes Tom Flynn either stupid, or venal, or both. Not an attractive sight.
I think an apology is in order. Yours sincerely Peter Watson
[Please note: you may publish this letter either in full, or not at all.]
Dear Ton Cremers,
Thank you for forwarding me the extremely rude letter from Peter Watson regarding my critical review of Dr Gert-Rudolf Flick's book, 'Missing Masterpieces' and thank you for offering me a chance to reply. Interesting that a review that was intended as a genuine, albeit hard-hitting, critique of what I saw as a serious omission should elicit such a venomous tirade from Mr Watson, whose career, as far as I am aware, has been devoted to critical perspectives on art and cultural heritage. More interesting still that Dr Flick himself acknowledged to me in conversation that, on reflection, the Cracow Raphael should have been included in the book. Peter Watson may not see it, but there are millions of people out there who do see Nazi Holocaust looted art as 'missing', in a very real sense. Mr Watson may argue as long and as pedantically as he wishes over terminology, but works that disappeared as a result of political upheaval - whether because of political zeal during the French Revolution or as a consequence of Nazi looting during the Second World War - are still, for all practical purposes, 'missing'. If Dr Flick intended some highly nuanced definition of the term, or some highly specific qualification for inclusion in the book - at any rate as highly specific as the one cited by Peter Watson - then why did he not make this clear in his introduction? Instead, he merely states that "I wanted to concentrate on works the fate of which remains uncertain, and which might even, conceivably, survive." He goes on: "Another condition for the inclusion of a masterpiece in this account is that there should be substantial visual evidence of its appearance, whether in the form of a preliminary design, or some other record such as a copy or engraving." Many works looted by the Nazis - and which are still 'missing' - qualify for inclusion on all these counts. Furthermore, while Dr Flick does point out that "the most common form of a 'missing' painting is probably the misattributed or the miscatalogued", he specifically does not use this as a defining criterion for a work's inclusion in his book. Hence all Mr Watson's attempts to supply a post facto distinction between 'Looted' and 'Missing' for the purposes of inclusion in the book and for attacking my review, fall down on the available evidence. In his letter Mr Watson says that Dr Flick's research "has been vastly more thorough, and imaginative, than mine ever was, to produce a beautiful book - beautiful intellectually, and beautiful physically." I agreed. My review described Dr Flick's book as "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." So clearly something else is bothering Mr Watson. If he has a problem with my contextualising of Dr Flick's biographical bckground vis a vis a project of this nature, then I can live with that. Muck Flick's family history (i.e. the source of his wealth) troubled Oxford dons enough for them to refuse the endowment of a chair. Mick Flick's family history troubled the people of Zurich sufficiently for them to oppose his plans for a museum. I am merely troubled by a book's failure to offer a proper contextual background or at least to accurately define the parameters of the project and its terminology. And for this I receive an aggressive and unjustified personal attack from Peter Watson. In his letter he says that a qualifying characteristic for inclusion in the book was that 'missing' works needed to "have dropped out of history, slipped through the records of families, lost their attribution and their identity in the course of time". It is impossible to say how many works looted by the Nazis have already suffered in that way and it is too early to tell how many more will ultimately succomb to a similar fate. Certainly many, perhaps thousands, have already "dropped out of history", slipped through the record books and lost their provenance (witness the many Holocaust art research projects aimed at resurrecting them). Many of the rightful owners of those works were wiped out by the Nazis or, if they or their offspring survived, are unaware of the whereabouts of their family patrimony. Not everything looted was as famous or as well-documented as the Cracow Raphael and thousands more already qualify as 'missing' in any rational sense of the word. I note that 'Dr' Flick is permitted the use of his doctorate initial, whereas Mr Watson takes issue with mine. Again, unnecessary and insulting, but perhaps he has a chip on his shoulder. In conclusion, then, I cannot fathom the source of his bile. But if he is really riled by my drawing attention to Dr Flick's background (although most disinterested readers would probably agree that I did so in a balanced and fair way), then perhaps he should begin railing against all journalists everywhere who continue on a daily basis to remind the world of the source of the untold riches generated by Nazi forced labour and bestowed on their progeny. Now that is what I call 'venal'.
Finally, this, recently received from a New York journalist fully up to speed with such controversies: "Tom Flynn's piece on 'Missing Masterpieces' is a terrific corrective to the unincisive reviews that preceded it. Bravo!" (Jason Edward Kaufman, New York Correspondent, The Art Newspaper).
I think an apology from Mr Watson is in order.
Tom Flynn email@example.com
From the introductory pages of Gert-Rudolf Flick's book "Missing Masterpieces, lost works of art 1450 - 1900":
"Works of art and paintings ("Works of art AND paintings" ?, TC) go missing at all times, as a result of changes in taste or neglect. There are also 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. One such period was around the middle of the 17th century, when the English Civil War and the Thrirty Years War in Central Europe helped to break up such fabled collections as those of Charles I, Rudolf II, and the Earl of Arundel, the Duke of Buckingham and the Duke of Hamilton. Another key period was that of the French Revolution and the Napoleontic Wars, the prolonged after-effects of which continued well into the middle of the 19th century."
Mr. Flick is not responsible for actions by his family during WW.II, but he can neither deny nor escape the fact that his family's name is linked to the nazi period. It would have been wiser to not only refer to pre 20th century wars, but also include the history and war his family is an integral part of, and played an important role in. It seems the art period Flick selected for his most impressive study ends anything but by coincidence 1900. There is a thunderous silence concerning WW.II. A few comments about 20th century wars in the introduction of his most interesting and valuable book would have been justified, and could have evaded the unpleasant discussion that was generated by Flick's silence.
Peter Watson's comments,and Tom Flynn's reply are the last about this that I will allow on the MSN mailinglist, apart from comments exclusively aimed at the contents of the book, and not at the person of Gert-Rudolf Flick, Thom Flynn, or Peter Watson.
Nathalie Ogi in Bulle Friday February 7, 2003 The Guardian
A French waiter accused of stealing hundreds of old masters and other works of art worth millions of pounds from European museums was jailed for four years yesterday by a Swiss court. The sentence applies only to the Swiss portion of Stephane Breitwieser's crimes: the theft of 69 items. Once he has served his time in Switzerland, he faces trial in France. He is also forbidden to return to Switzerland for 15 years. Breitwieser, 32, also confessed to a staggering number of thefts in Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Austria over seven years, including taking works by Antoine Watteau, Peter Bruegel and Francois Boucher. The court was told he took a total of 232 items from 139 European museums. Many were destroyed by his mother after his arrest in an attempt to get rid of the evidence. Breitwieser maintained during a three-day trial in Bulle that he was holding exhibits worth tens of millions of pounds in his bedroom only for "safekeeping". Swiss authorities at the trial said the objects he took in Switzerland were mainly from the 16th and 17th century and were worth an estimated 1.65m Swiss francs. He was arrested in November 2001 in Lucerne, shortly after the theft of a hunting bugle from a local museum. It took months of detailed investigations for the extent of his crime spree to be revealed. He displayed his memory for detail during the trial, correcting descriptions of the art objects, back to his first theft in 1995: a small, 17th century oil portrait of a woman by Christian Wilhelm Dietrich, which he took from Gruyeres Castle. He hid paintings and museum pieces, including statuettes, goblets and dishes, in his rucksack or beneath his coat. Occasionally he threw them out of the window. He targeted small establishments where security was weak.
He told investigators that he developed his passion from his father, Roland, who inherited 19th century furniture and other antiques, and took his collection of old weapons with him upon divorce, leaving nothing behind for his son. He blamed the separation for triggering his habitual stealing. He told the Swiss court it was then that he took a pistol from a museum in France and found himself trapped. "It became a compulsion. I wanted more and more and I couldn't stop myself," he said. Prosecutors in France, from where the more valuable works were stolen, estimated the value of the haul at up to half a billion pounds. Experts estimated that the most valuable piece stolen was the 16th century Sybille, Princess of Cleves, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, worth up to $9m, reported stolen from a Baden-Baden museum in 1995. A psychiatric report quoted Breitwieser as saying: "I need these objects and they need me. I was nearly a slave." He also apologised for his mother's destruction of many of the art works; she shredded many objects and threw them into a canal. "Today I have lost everything that I love in life, my girlfriend and my collection," he said. Breitwieser's former companion, Anne-Catherine Kleinklauss, and his mother, Mireille Breitwieser, face charges in France. Ms Kleinklauss has admitted accompanying Breitwieser on numerous expeditions, serving as a lookout. Breitwieser maintained that he had intended to return everything one day. He also said he was ready to work with European museums to help them improve their security.
05.02.2003: Connoisseur turned crook who plundered Europe's galleries for the simple love of art:
ATHENS, Greece (AP)--A book with rare illustrations and text by the French artist Henri Matisse was stolen from a museum on the Greek island of Lesvos, an official said Wednesday. The illustrated pages from the limited edition book ``Jazz'' were removed and only the cover left behind, said Costas Maniatopoulos, director of the Teriade Museum on the Aegean Sea island. The publisher made 250 numbered copies of the 1947 book, which had an estimated value of about $150,000. It was discovered missing Sunday but may have been stolen earlier. Maniatopoulos said the book's cover was left behind and replaced with an art magazine that contained images of the French master. Because of its identifying number and missing cover, the stolen material would be difficult to sell at auction, he added. ``This, I believe, means its price has fallen significantly,'' he said. In 1981, thieves stole other illustrated books, including works by Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti, from the Teriade Museum, which has 18 rooms and two guards. The stolen works were part of a series, with contributions by Marc Chagall and others, commissioned by Stratis Eleftheriades-Teriade, a publisher and resident of the island. The books are the most important exhibit in the museum, located in Mytilene, the main town on Lesvos. The stolen Matisse included 15 two-page color illustrations and 18 single pictures with handwritten text, Maniatopoulos said. There was no sign of a break in--suggesting the theft may have occurred while the museum was open. ``I believe ... it could happen again,'' said Maniatopoulos, who has been director for three years. ``Some steps at modernization should take place.''
see also last week's MSN report about a Matisse theft in Venezuela
Iraq returns artifacts to Kuwait
KUWAIT CITY (Agence France-Presse) — Kuwait got back this week artwork, swords and documents stolen during Iraq's 1990-91 occupation of the emirate in a handover at the border coordinated by the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). "They finished the handover process at 11:30 a.m." on Monday, UNIKOM spokesman Daljeet Bagga told AFP. "It was mostly documents, a painting, some files and papers, a couple of swords and small guns." The restitution ceremony took place at Um Qasr on the Iraqi side of the U.N.-monitored demilitarized zone, Mr. Bagga said. "Everything went well and smoothly," he added. Baghdad had announced a day earlier that it would return old swords and paintings belonging to Kuwait's ruling family that were recently seized in Iraq, which invaded Kuwait in August 1990. "Iraqi customs guards recently seized five swords of the emir's Honor Guards, a painting and other objects belonging to the ruling family" in Kuwait, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The implication was that they were seized from individuals. On Dec. 22, Iraq returned to Kuwait similar artifacts stolen during its seven-month occupation.
From: Mark_Isaksen@nps.gov Date sent: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 14:14:53 -0500
San Juan National Historic Site (PR) ARPA Conviction Sentencing
On January 30, James Fralick, 57, of Callahan, Florida, was sentenced in federal court following his previous conviction for stealing artifacts from Castillo de San Felipe Del Morro (or El Morro), a 16th century fort located in the park. Fralick was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $10,061.89, with minimum payments of $50 per month. He was also ordered to pay $200 in special assessments. El Morro is considered one of the world's most important cultural sites and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. Fralick was hired as a contractor to clean vegetation away from the fort in 1995. He entered a little-known passageway, where he found a number of artifacts, some dating back 400 or more years. Fralick removed several of them, including bullets and a lead bar with carved inscriptions on one side. He returned to Florida with the stolen artifacts and sold the lead bar to co-defendant Danny Macon for $1,000 in 2000. Fralick later counseled Macon on how to access the site to find more artifacts and helped Macon arrange a trip back to Puerto Rico to steal some of them. On June 7, 2000, Fralick and Macon broke into the fort after park hours and attempted to locate artifacts. Macon was arrested by FBI agents on January 14 and remains in custody in Tampa awaiting further court proceedings on a six-count criminal indictment, including three ARPA violations, theft of government property, malicious mischief and forfeiture. This is a very important case because it's the first conviction for a violation of ARPA at a World Heritage Site in the United States. The case was investigated by ranger/LES Eric Lugo and NPS archeologist Margo Schwardon and prosecuted by AUSA Carlos Martinez (Puerto Rico) and AUSA Kathleen O'Malley (Jacksonville, Florida). Additional assistance was provided by the US Postal Inspection Service and FBI.
[Submitted by Office of the US Attorney, Middle District of Florida]
From: "Claire M. Cecil" firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
Subject: automatic defibrillators
Date sent: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 10:49:27 -0800
Hi. Was wondering how many museums out there have these life-saving automatic defibrillation devices on hand? And if so, which brand? Comments pro and con having these in a medium sized museum are welcome.
Send reply to: "rob layne" firstname.lastname@example.org From: "rob layne" email@example.com
Subject: Job Announcement
Date sent: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 10:03:30 -0700
Associate Director; Protection Services
THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO is recruiting for an experienced professional with the leadership capabilities and strong credentials to direct the Department of Protection Services.
The Associate Director of Operations is the principle assistant to the Executive Director of Protection Services. In this capacity, the incumbent is responsible to the Executive Director for the management of all museum guards and managers, finances, and all guard equipment. Duties also include the development and implementation of programs, policies, and procedures related to the day-to-day operations at the Art Institute of Chicago and all facilities (7 days per week, 24 hours per day operation). Assists the Executive Director in making decisions and formulating policies. Evaluates departmental policies, procedures, and goals. Makes daily round of museum galleries, corridors and entrances. Discusses issues with supervisors and guards and ensure adequate staffing. Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice, Loss Prevention Management or Private Security preferred. Three to five years in security management is required. Must have budget management, supervision, and training program development experience. Must also have excellent communication skills and be able to professionally interact with diverse staff. Must be able to manage multiple tasks simultaneously. Experience in cultural property protection is a plus.
SEND cover letter, resume and salary history to:
The Art Institute of Chicago Employment Services, MC3947 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60603 Fax: (312) 857-0141 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org EOE
Sri Lanka's destroyed Tamil library raised from ashes
Sun Feb 2,10:36 AM ET
By KRISHAN FRANCIS, Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - In a bid to win back the confidence of Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, the government has renovated the public library in war-torn city of Jaffna, nearly 22 years after it was burned down by anti-Tamil mobs. The library lost its entire collection of 97,000 books and about 150 centuries-old Tamil scripts on herbal medicine when the original two-story building was destroyed in June 1981, librarian Sabaratnam Thanabalasingam said Sunday. The destruction disillusioned many young Tamils, who later joined militant groups to fight against the government, which is dominated by the majority Sinhalese. The Tamil Tiger rebels launched their armed insurgency for a separate Tamil state in 1983, and only stopped fighting after reaching a cease-fire with the government last February. The government began renovation work on the library in 1999 with a campaign dubbed "a book and a brick" to win public support in collecting books and building materials. Thanabalasingam said the new library has about 25,000 books in the Tamil and English languages. The predominant language in Sri Lanka is Sinhalese. The rebuilding cost more than 120 million rupees (US$1.26 million) and is now complete. The library will be declared open on Feb.14, Jaffna mayor Sellan Kandaian told The Associated Press. The original library was completed in 1959 through the efforts of the then-mayor and head of a Catholic missionary school in the town. "The old library was considered a treasure by the people. It cannot be brought back to its former state," said Veerasingham Anandasangaree, a Tamil lawmaker from Jaffna. But he said the new library was a cause for rejoicing.
Tamil-dominated Jaffna is 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of the capital, Colombo. It has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the bitter civil war that killed more than 65,000 people and displaced 1.6 million. The Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam, as the rebels are formally known, have held four rounds of peace talks with the government since September and another round is expected to begin this Friday in Berlin. The rebels have agreed to abandon their earlier demand for secession and accept self-rule in Tamil-dominated areas. They say Tamils suffer discrimination by Sinhalese in jobs and education.
Police catch man charged with stealing historical documents
Police apprehended a man charged with taking rare Revolutionary War- era documents that were later found being offered for sale on the Internet. Michael John Williams ran from police as they converged on a house where he was hiding Thursday night, but was caught nearby, police said. Williams, 36, faced one count of felony theft and one count of receiving stolen property. He was ordered held in York County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail. Police said their investigation of the theft of the documents from the York County Heritage Trust led them to a Baltimore antiques dealer, who told them Williams sold him the documents. The dealer, who faces no charges, had posted the items for sale on the eBay auction Web site. Police tracked Williams to an alcohol-treatment facility in Hummelstown on Jan. 29, but he was apparently tipped off and fled. The documents were reported missing from the trust on Jan. 17 and have since been returned. They included a handwritten German birth certificate known as a fraktur; a July 1, 1775, letter to the Continental Congress from Col. James Smith, one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence; a 1775 blank enlistment form used by the Minute Men of York County Battalion; and a public notice concerning the register of British prisoners of war, dated June 27, 1782. It was not immediately clear whether Williams had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.
Williams was not affiliated with the museum, officials with the York County Heritage Trust have said. Williams was on parole for a conviction in a similar theft in Somerset County, police have said.
Information from: The York Dispatch
Book-theft suspect posed as transient
By John Woolfolk Mercury News
Staking out the lobby of Palo Alto's upscale Westin hotel, San Jose police officer Ken Munson waited to see who would approach the front desk and ask for an overnight package from Massachusetts. Inside was a rare first-edition copy of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning ``The Grapes of Wrath,'' purchased by phone for nearly $6,000. But police say the rumpled fellow in slacks and a baseball cap who claimed the package was not a rare-book connoisseur in town for this weekend's Antiquarian Booksellers Association fair in San Francisco. He was a thief who allegedly used a stolen credit card number to buy the original bestseller and reserve a room at the hotel where he planned to pick it up, police say. Now investigators say they have connected the man, John Charles Gilkey, to at least one other similar rare-book theft in the Bay Area and are looking into whether he is linked to $50,000 worth of others over the last two years. ``It may be very hard to prove some of these,'' said Munson, an officer with San Jose's high-tech crime unit. ``But I think we can show he did several of them.'' Gilkey, 34, was booked into the county jail Jan. 29 on charges of grand theft and credit card fraud. He had told police he was a transient unwittingly sent to pick up the package for a guy who gave him $20 at the Palo Alto Caltrain station. ``He was a little dirty,'' Munson said. ``He looked like a transient.'' But when police followed him to the Caltrain station and told Gilkey to hand off the book, they waited on the platform for 40 minutes and finally arrested him when nobody showed up. ``His story changed, and it was pretty obvious he was making it up as he went along,'' Munson said. Gilkey, who was on probation out of Los Angeles for writing bad checks, told police he was unemployed and living on the streets of San Francisco. So officers were surprised when he promptly posted $15,000 bail. They don't know where he is, and are waiting to see if he shows up for his Feb. 18 court hearing in Palo Alto.
Rare-book theft has been a growing concern as the Internet gives thieves greater access to buyers and bogus credit card numbers, said Ken Sanders, security chairman of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, which represents about 500 stores. An estimated $1 million worth of books were stolen in the past year, many with fraudulently obtained credit card numbers, and then resold, he said. ``The degree to which that is being done is mind-boggling,'' Sanders said. ``There are more and more all time. We only know the tip of the iceberg.'' San Jose police had been investigating a similar theft since November when a Maryland bookseller reported that a $4,500 book sent in July to the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose had been purchased with a stolen credit card, Munson said. The cardholder did not notice the unauthorized charge until four months later, and by then the trail was cold, Munson said. But last week, the booksellers' association alerted San Jose police that a similar scam was possibly in the works. On Jan. 28, a man ordered a first-edition copy of Steinbeck's 1939 classic hardship tale of Dust Bowl migrants from Massachusetts bookseller Ken Lopez, the Antiquarian Booksellers' president. The 50,000 first-edition copies are worth $2,000 to $10,000, depending on condition and whether they are signed, Sanders said. The buyer appeared to know something about books. He talked the price down from $6,500 to $5,850, and had the book sent overnight to the Westin Palo Alto, Munson said. ``He seemed kind of minimally knowledgeable, engaged and interested,'' Lopez recalled. But the cardholder in New York denied the charge when American Express called to verify the sale, Munson said. The booksellers called San Jose police, knowing that officers were working on a similar case. Police told Lopez to send the book anyway so they could stake out the hotel. Police said Gilkey, whom they detained, had reserved a room at the hotel using the same credit card number, but never checked in. Police said a witness has also identified Gilkey in connection with a rare- book theft on March 2, 2001, in Marin County. In that case, which police have referred to the state Attorney General's Office, the buyer paid $1,250 for a copy of L. Frank Baum's ``Patchwork Girl of Oz'' and $850 for Thomas Mann's ``Joseph in Egypt,'' Munson said.
Police are not sure how Gilkey allegedly obtained credit card numbers. There does not appear to be a common link to any of the stolen cards. The antiquarian booksellers are hosting their annual book fair through Sunday at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco. Lopez said he found it unsettling that Gilkey roams free.
Library book thief jailed
Saturday February 8, 2003 The Guardian
A heroin addict who stole priceless books from a library at the heart of Britain's legal system was jailed for nine months yesterday. Neil Winstanley, 45, took antique books - including the first ever Bible printed in Spanish - while working as a casual paper conservator at the Middle Temple law library in London. He ripped out vital pages, some depicting detailed maps of the ancient world. Some were then auctioned off to collectors, Inner London crown court heard. It was estimated that Winstanley, from Leith, Edinburgh, caused £40,000 damage, and that he had received £6,000 from the sale of the books. The recorder, Charles Atkins, told him: "You abused a position of trust placed in you. The items were valuable and rare. The offences are so serious I sentence you to nine months' imprisonment." Winstanley was convicted on six counts of theft between January 1 1997 and March 2 2000. He claimed he had bought the books from an antiques fair. Volumes stolen included two texts by Italian cartographer Giuseppe Rosaccio, dating back to 1595 and 1606, and valued at £4,500 each. Winstanley's employers at the law library grew suspicious when he browsed through antique works and then took special editions into an office for no reason. In March 2000 he was sacked. His dishonesty came to light when police were searching for maps stolen from the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. They raided a collector's home and traced some of the items back to Winstanley.
At his home officers found the front page of the 1569 La Biblia, the first Bible to be printed in Spanish, along with an 1897 book containing maps and three maps taken from a book from 1634. All the volumes recovered have been returned to the Middle Temple library, but many are too damaged to be restored. Timothy Cray, prosecuting, said: "It is a familiar story, an employee who takes advantage of his position to steal." Winstanley's defence lawyer, Francis Lloyd, said that Winstanley was found guilty of stealing similar items from a library in Greenwich, London, in June 2001 for which he did community service. Mr Lloyd also told the court that Winstanley had been spending £60 a day on his heroin habit, but was now on a course of methadone and attending a drugs rehabilitation clinic in Edinburgh.
LOOTING OF HISTORIC SITES SHOULD BE CRIME
Richard Allan MP will today have the second reading of his Private Members Bill to safeguard historic buildings and archaeological sites, Mr Allan, said:
"It is unacceptable that legal action often cannot be taken against someone who knowingly sells a cultural object which has been looted from a historic building or archaeological site.
"It is time to close the loophole in the law and protect the world’s heritage from cultural vandals.
"There is a worldwide market for this trade, and it must be closed down. If we could prosecute those who operate unscrupulously on the fringes of the market it would act as a great deterrent. Reputable dealers want nothing to do with this black market. "This bill is supported by relevant bodies from archaeology, museums and dealers. It follows recommendations from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and a panel of experts convened by the DCMS."
Notes to Editors
Purpose of the bill
1. Richard Allan’s Private Members Bill ‘Dealing in Cultural Object (Offences) Bill’ will have its second reading today.
i. This bill will introduce a new criminal offence of dealing in a cultural object knowing or believing it to be tainted. The offence is designed to combat traffic in unlawfully removed cultural objects and, thereby, to assist in maintaining the integrity of buildings, structures and monuments (including wrecks) worldwide by removing the commercial incentive to those involved in the looting of such sites. The bill will cover objects, which, although not stolen, have been illicitly excavated or removed from a monument. The offence will apply irrespective to the place where the cultural object was illicitly excavated or removed and thus will apply equally to objects illegally excavated or removed in the UK and objects illegally excavated or removed outside the UK.
ii. A cultural object is an object of historical, architectural or archaeological interest and it is tainted if it is removed from a building, structure or monument of historical, architectural or archaeological interest and it is excavated, provided the removal or excavation constituted a criminal offence at the time it was done.
Background to the bill
2. The DCMS Select Committee reported in July 2000 on "Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade" and recommended that the criminal law of the United Kingdom (UK) should be changed in relation to the illicit trade of items illegally excavated or illegally exported from the country of origin.
3. The Secretary of State established the Ministerial Advisory Panel on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects in May 2000 under the Chairmanship of Norman Palmer, Barrister and Professor of Commercial Law at University College London to advise her on the Select Committees’ recommendations. ITAP reported in December 2000 and made a number of recommendations. Included in its report was the recommendation that a new criminal offence be created in the following terms: "We propose that, to the extent it is not covered by existing criminal law, it be a criminal offence dishonestly to import, deal in, or be in possession of any cultural object, knowing or believing that the object was stolen, illegally excavated, or removed from any monument or wreck contrary to local law".
4. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property would be complemented by making such trade new criminal offence and this would reinforce its implementation in the UK.
Supporters of the bill
5. This bill is supported by Mark Fisher MP, Mr Edward Garnier MP, Shona McIsaac MP, Ross Cranston MP, Robert Key MP.
6. The bill is supported by almost all the relevant bodies from the sectors of trade, archaeology and museums. The principal organisations include:
1. The All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group which currently has a membership of 137 parliamentarians
2. The Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities, chaired by the Council for British Archaeology and comprising 37 archaeological and museums bodies including the British Museum, the Museums Association, and the National Trust
3. The Institute of Historic Building Conservation, this represents conservation professionals in the private sector in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It has around 1400 members.
4. This Bill is a recommendation of Illicit Trade Advisory Panel which has members from: a. The Museums Association
b. British Museum
c. Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities
d. British Art Market Federation
e. Antiquities Dealers Association
f. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge
Italy rules out selling art treasures
By Shasta Darlington
ROME (Reuters) - Could Italy put the Colosseum, once the site of bloody battles between gladiators and wild beasts, up for auction? Could Michelangelo's David come under the hammer? As far-fetched as it may sound, these are questions Italians have been asking as the government rolls out the red carpet for the private sector to step into the cherished realm of Italy's millenniums-old cultural heritage. But the man who reigns supreme in this kingdom has a simple answer. "That's ridiculous," Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani told Reuters in an interview. "I hope to inspire an authentic revolution in arts management, but nobody is privatising the Colosseum," said the bespectacled minister as he took a break from signing copies of his new book "Italians' Treasure" at a book launch. Not surprisingly, the former minister of public administration's "revolution" is more about number crunching than grandiose art expositions. "Considering the size of its enormous cultural heritage, Italy spends too little of its GDP to protect it," he said. As a result, the ministry is putting on the pressure for more state funds, clearing the way for more private investment through tax breaks and even trying to launch a lottery that would finance only cultural projects. But it is Urbani's plan to put some sites under private management and a broader government proposal to sell off some state assets -- including those belonging to the Culture Ministry -- that have grabbed headlines.
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE...
"Italy is like a person with many houses but also with many debts. So we have to look at which houses are dispensable," Urbani said of plans to auction some property. Public outcry grew when the government issued a decree last year that transfers all state property -- from ancient Roman temples to modern office buildings -- into a new holding called Patrimonio SpA, controlled by the Economy Ministry. Some of these assets will be sold to reduce Italy's ballooning deficit while others can be used as financial guarantees for large public works. Now, the government is drawing up a list of those assets which it deems should be offered for sale. "This could happen in the next six months," Urbani said. "They'll be mostly ancient palazzi, military barracks and 18th century jails...but nothing of artistic value." Italy boasts more than 3,000 museums, 2,000 archaeological sites and countless castles, gardens and historical buildings. Urbani insists the government has no intention of including the Trevi fountain or Colosseum in its firesale, but critics say he should have made that clearer in the vaguely-worded decree. "The law is very dangerous," said Salvatore Settis, an Italian art historian and a former director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. "I believe the minister, but in theory, the law allows the government to sell whatever it wants, and who knows who will be minister in five years."
PRIVATE SECTOR TO THE RESCUE
The Culture Ministry is also awaiting approval of a proposal that would allow private firms to manage cultural sites, taking the burden off the government and providing concession fees. "This is a question of two months," Urbani said. Currently, private companies can manage services like bookshops and cafes, but not the sites themselves. "I confess, my reasoning is that having our cultural heritage in public hands has not guaranteed its protection. The public sector has tolerated devastating activities," he added. Indeed, up to a third of Italy's most valued cultural sites are in a state of emergency, according to one independent study. It says pollution, illegal building and pressure from tourism, combined with insufficient funding, are destroying treasures like the fragile floating city of Venice and the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. "I don't think the real risk is privatising, it's undervaluing what we've got," said Silvia Dell'Orso, author of a book on managing Italy's cultural sites. "In some cases, private management can be more enthusiastic and effective."
Urbani's argument is more financial.
Until recently, the state has earmarked 0.17 percent of gross domestic product for the preservation and maintenance of its cultural heritage, but Urbani sees funding rising to as high as 0.8 percent of GDP with public and private help. One of his first measures was securing a portion of Italy's infrastructure budget for the Culture Ministry. Now, three percent of funding for infrastructure will go towards the protection of cultural heritage. The minister said the next step was seeking approval for private concessions to manage sites, but insists the state will be responsible for their protection. "The concession won't be allowed to do whatever it wants, the state is there to guarantee the heritage is maintained and protected," he said. But the problem, according to Settis, is that there is no incentive for private companies to get involved since museums -- which are largely financed by the state in places like Italy and by donations in places like the United States -- simply do not turn a profit. "The first thing a private company would have to do is close some galleries and stop funding for research and restoration, it wouldn't work," he said. But apparently Urbani believes that "when you can't beat 'em, join 'em". In the face of mounting protests against his market-friendly policies, the minister took Settis and a handful of critics on board at the beginning of the year to try to redraft the law on the management of cultural heritage to make sure the country's treasures are protected.
"I don't necessarily think I have the answers, but I do think these are things we have to debate," Urbani said.