An art thief left behind part of his finger after cutting it off while stealing a $65,000 Frances Hodgkins painting from an Auckland gallery yesterday in what is being called a theft to order. It was the second time in a week and a half that Ferner Galleries in Parnell have been the target of burglars. Also stolen in yesterday's burglary was an Alice Whyte painting valued at $7,500. In the earlier burglary, a $15,000 Francis Huddlestone painting was taken. Gallery owner Peter Jarvis said the burglaries were thefts to order because specific paintings had been taken and the thieves had gone to lengths to also take the paintings' price labels. In yesterday's burglary, at 5am, the thief smashed in the heavy, plate-glass windows. Mr Jarvis said the noise was loud enough to wake up neighbours. The thief broke the glass on the Hodgkins' painting and it is likely the painting was damaged. He cut his finger on either the window or the painting, leaving a part behind. A witness saw the thief getting out through the smashed window and taking off in a small, red car. Mr Jarvis has owned the Ferner Galleries for the past 20 years and until last year had never been burgled, but in the past year his four galleries have been burgled six times. He said it was likely the paintings were being stolen for a private collection. "Frances Hodgkins is our most reputed artist internationally and the paintings are our heritage."
The Frances Hodgkins watercolour, October Landscape, was painted in the 1930s. The 480mm by 440mm work has recently been framed in a slim moulding, hand-gilded in gold. The Alice Whyte oil on board, Kitchen Garden, measures 372mm 496mm. The Francis Huddlestone watercolour, Glacier Creek, Kinloch, Wakatipu, measures 590mm x 445mm. Mr Jarvis has emailed images of the paintings to galleries around the country and believes it would be impossible to sell the paintings on the open market. Police will take a DNA sample from the piece of finger and hope for a match on the DNA database.
NASHVILLE (AP) -- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is asking public help in solving an East Tennessee museum burglary and recovering the stolen antiques. Someone broke into the Netherland Inn House Museum in Kingsport last fall and stole several items. They range from a muzzle loading rifle to an oil portrait. The items date from the early 1800's and have a combined value of more than $30,000.
Confidential calls about either the burglary or the location of any of the antiques can be made to 1-800-TBI-FIND.
From: "BCRPM" firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
Subject: Notes on point by point analysis of MacGregor's statement
Date sent: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 18:01:20 -0000
Notes on point by point analysis of MacGregor's statement
"I do not believe there is a case for returning the Marbles"
MacGregor here continues to evade an answer to the question of the reunification of the dismembered sculptures, or even to justify his stance beyond making a simple statement. This is indicative of his failure either to engage with the question or to provide adequate justification for his views.
"They have a purpose here because this is where they can do most good."
Again, MacGregor fails to define the terms from which he argues. To whom do the Marbles do most good? To scholars who wish to study the frieze? To Museum visitors who are only able to see half the entire picture? To students of Greek architecture who are only able to view an inverted and depleted section of the whole?
"The British Museum can situate the achievements of these Greek Sculptures in the context of the wider ancient world."
What does this argument mean, and does it have any validity? I feel that this argument of a "comparative context" is specious. The Marbles may be only be appreciated fully when they are once more a unity. Thematically and historically, Greek sculpture has no conceivable connection with, or context in, pieces of Northern, Southern, or Meso-American art, and no connection with exhibits from the Far East, indigenous Africa or Australasia. To refer to art originating from these quarters as a "context" for the Marbles is ludicrous in the extreme. The context of the Parthenon Marbles is, and was, in fifth-century Athens, as a crucial development in Athenian architectural sculpture, seen in the continuity of development from the Neolithic period, through Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman art. As the British Museum is doubtless aware, the Athenian Acropolis has been continually inhabited since the Neolithic period, being the only Mycenaean settlement left intact after the disruptions of the eleventh century BC. It seems short sighted to talk of the Marbles' "context" among pieces of Mexican and Pacific art when one is aware of their true context in the cultural development of this region. It is clear that what the British Museum wishes to do is not to provide a context for these art works, but to show samples of every area and epoch in one place. This in itself is a laudable aim: but the possibility of viewing samples of Ancient Greek material in conjunction with other cultures is not specific to the Parthenon Marbles. In other words, the British Museum's praiseworthy desire to present all the cultures of the world under one roof could just as easily be achieved were the place of the Marbles taken by other Ancient Greek antiquities. On a purely practical note, the BM is too large to be viewed adequately on one visit, and it is far more likely that patrons frequent sections of the Museum on each visit, perhaps restricting their time to pieces from one or two cultures and epochs. Taking this into account, it is highly improbable that the Marbles are ever viewed in the light of every world culture, to most of which they are unconnected, especially considering that many galleries are, and remain, closed.
"The British Museum is one of the great cultural achievements of mankind."
It is in this absurd statement that we find the underlying ideology of the Museum - that the institution, and not the artefacts within it, is paramount, and that it itself is "the great cultural achievement." Knowing this, we are more easily able to understand its position. The whole, in its eyes, is very clearly greater than the parts.
"I personally don't see any difference between Greek visual culture and the visual culture of Italy and Holland, which is spread around the world."
It is in this statement that we find the clearest evidence of MacGregor's failure to understand either the nature of the Marbles or of the debate itself. Doubtless as a result of his background in flat art, MacGregor confuses individual and naturally portable art works, such as paintings or freestanding sculpture, with the unity that consisted of the Parthenon frieze, metopes and pediments. These were conceived as a single and continuous narrative piece of architectural sculpture. Irrespective of MacGregor's views on art, he has consistently avoided comment on the dismemberment of statues and panels that are currently divided. Is it really in the best interests of a piece of art, or for its viewers and scholars, for its top half to be in London while its bottom half is in Athens? Perhaps if the debate concerned a Dutch or Italian painting that was torn in two, MacGregor might more easily grasp what is at stake.
"At the moment there is not very much middle ground between the two sides on the subject of the Marbles"
Ironically, "common ground" is exactly what has recently been offered to the British Museum by the Greek government, both figuratively and literally. Greece has offered the BM the possibility of opening an annex in the Parthenon Gallery of the New Acropolis Museum, where the two Museums could collaborate in the display and care of the Marbles. Unfortunately, the BM administration's unwillingness to accept this collaborative offer, which might have turned out to the benefit of all concerned, including the Marbles, provides clear evidence that they do not subscribe to the idea of a united and cooperative Europe, where levels of collaboration may reach new heights, but to an outdated, imperial-derived and possessive mentality.
"It is tiresome for everyone to keep saying the same things."
As mentioned in the last point, the offers from Greece have been adapting continually over time, from an outright claim to an offer of a collaborative reunification beside the Acropolis, under whose terms the British Museum could retain ownership. In fact, the only party still saying the same thing is the British Museum, and they are saying "No". No to cooperation, no to collaborative enterprise, no to the millions of Britons who support return, and no to the only opportunity to study and appreciate the Marbles as a unity for the first time in their history since their removal from the temple.
"The Parthenon can never be reconstructed."
However, its sculptures can be put back together. If the British Museum management truly had any regard for works of art rather than its status as "one of the great cultural achievements of mankind," then it would be willing to cooperate in so doing.
Campaign Manager for the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles
British Museum won't return any of its stolen cultural relics
The Dunhuang Cave relics will stay at the British Museum following its refusal to return Greece's Elgin Marbles, say officials
By Alfred Lee
LONDON - The British Museum is unlikely to return China's Dunhuang Cave treasures and other stolen cultural relics following its statement yesterday that it has decided to not give back Greece's famous Elgin Marbles.
The Marbles were looted from the Parthenon in Athens in the early 1800s by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to Greece. Historians and academic experts on cultural artefacts had said that if the museum repatriated the Parthenon masterpieces to Greece, it was almost certain that the centuries-old relics plundered from the Dunhuang Caves in China by British archaeologists would also be returned. But the director of the British Museum, Mr Neil MacGregor, announced yesterday that he had ended all talks with a powerful group of academics fighting for the return of the Marbles in time for the Athens Olympic Games next year. 'It is tiresome for everyone to keep saying the same things,' he said. The Marbles would never be returned to Greece, nor would they ever be lent, he added. The decision will infuriate the Greek government, which first called for the return of its treasures in 1829 and formally asked British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1961 to repatriate the Marbles. It has built a vast new gallery in Athens in the hope that the Marbles would be returned.
The gallery will now be kept empty and Olympic visitors will be able to read a history of the looting of the treasures and Britain's refusal to return them. British Museum officials said the decision to not repatriate the Marbles ended all chances of the Dunhuang Cave and other treasures being returned to China. 'How could we return relics to China and justify holding on to the Elgin Marbles?' one official said. 'If we sent back Chinese artefacts, it would open the floodgates of demands not only from Greece but from many other countries.' The British Museum has in its possession thousands of Buddhist and oriental paintings, manuscripts, statues, ornaments, jewellery and other cultural relics plundered and illegally smuggled out of China by archaeologists, diplomats, traders, professional looters and criminals. Many of them were passed on to another party before being 'acquired' by the museum - often for huge sums of money. That allowed the museum to say it was simply rescuing stolen artefacts for public display to present and future generations. But its China gallery is small and just a handful of its oriental treasures can be exhibited.
The rest, including many great Dunhuang relics, are kept in darkened locked storerooms, rarely seen by anybody.
Fears of Terror a Complication for Art Exhibits
By CAROL VOGEL
Concerns over terrorism are complicating the large and luscious international loan exhibitions that have long been the lifeblood of museums, especially in places like New York that are considered a prime target for attacks. Since 9/11, European institutions have become reluctant to lend their prize works of art to New York museums without new assurances of beefed-up security and increased terrorism insurance. For places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the cost of such insurance has escalated so dramatically that it threatens to break budgets just as these institutions are struggling with dwindling sponsorships and cutbacks in public funds. "The rising value of art, coupled with the escalating cost of insurance premiums, are making these large shows prohibitive," said Lisa Dennison, a deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and its chief curator. "This, along with falling attendance, has been one of the most serious repercussions of Sept. 11." Museum directors and curators are not the only ones with concerns. Collectors also have fears. Some are insisting that museums obtain extra insurance before they agree to lend their multimillion- dollar paintings. Others, like the Las Vegas casino owner Stephen A. Wynn, have simply refused to lend their art, saying the coverage offered by museums is just not good enough. Three months ago, nervous about several major future exhibitions, Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum, and Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, made a hasty trip to Paris to talk with museum officials there who were threatening to pull their loans from several major New York shows. Those include "Matisse Picasso," which opened two weeks ago at the Museum of Modern Art's temporary home in Long Island City, Queens; "Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman," which opened at the Met last month; and "Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Paintings," which opens there next week.
After much negotiation with officials at museums like the Louvre, the Picasso Museum and the Pompidou Center, Mr. de Montebello and Mr. Lowry promised to pay for additional commercial insurance that covers the effects of terrorism, including fire. They also said both museums have added security. Bénédicte Boissonnas, director of exhibitions for the National Museums in Paris, said it "might be a risk" to lend art to these New York museums. "We wouldn't do this for every museum," she said. "But we do so many exchanges with the Met and the Modern, we decided to go ahead." While no exhibitions have yet been canceled because of the new situation, museum officials say they are nervous. Loans for other big shows currently in the works are uncertain. Curators at the Met working on "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. From the Mediterranean to the Indus," which is scheduled to open on May 8, are worried about getting the loans they need. "It's nail-biting time because these loans come from parts of the world that may soon be engulfed in war," said one museum official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Harold Holzer, vice president for communications and marketing at the Met, said the museum "is maintaining constant diplomatic communications with all the lenders and potential lenders of the show." Mr. Lowry said that the problem was "a major issue" now for every museum, and that the Modern and the Met had reached an amicable but short-term solution. "This has all been a major shock to the system, and everyone's scrambling to find ways to insure works of art in this new environment," Mr. Lowry said. "The problem is the norms haven't been re-established yet." The memory of art lost in and around the World Trade Center — about $10 million worth of pieces by 20th-century masters like Calder, Nevelson, Miró and Lichtenstein along with some corporate art collections — has made collectors and European institutions particularly jittery.
After 9/11 the cost of insurance rose in some cases by as much as 500 percent, brokers say. Terrorism coverage, which had always been part of insurance packages, was suddenly dropped from regular coverage. Instead it became an additional expense that many museum officials are worried that they cannot afford. Costs aside, Mr. Wynn said the coverage just was not enough, which is the major reason that he decided not to lend his 1932 Picasso portrait to any of the three museums — the Tate Modern in London, the Grand Palais in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York — where "Matisse Picasso" has been on view. The Modern was so hopeful that he would change his mind that the museum actually put the painting on the cover of the "Matisse Picasso" catalog and then had to print a new cover without the painting. "I was too afraid," Mr. Wynn said. "There are still too many gaps in the insurance coverage. I can't replace this picture. There's not another painting like it." Mr. Wynn purchased the painting, "Le Rêve" ("The Dream"), two years ago for a reported $42 million. The painting, which depicts Marie-Thérèse Walter, one of Picasso's mistresses, asleep in an armchair, is one of his most celebrated portraits. "It's not like it's in my living room; it's on public view," Mr. Wynn said, referring to his art gallery in the lobby of what was the Desert Inn. So precious is this painting to Mr. Wynn that he is naming his new casino Le Rêve. This was the only painting withdrawn from the Matisse Picasso show, Mr. Lowry said. But convincing collectors that their paintings would be safe was not easy. He said he spent the last several months traveling around the world reassuring lenders of the additional security measures being taken by the museum, not to mention the costly insurance. Mr. de Montebello said he had done the same.
Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, said he had no loans refused to him for an Édouard Vuillard retrospective that opened there last month. "But clearly this will have an impact on the number of big shows we do in the future," he added. "Terrorism isn't the only reason insurance premiums have risen so much. The escalating value of art is another." LeConte Moore, managing director of Marsh Inc., a worldwide insurance broker, said that insurance costs had gone up only slightly in the art world for risks other than terrorism. "But terrorism insurance in what we call hot spots, places like Los Angeles or New York, that are considered targets, are where rates have increased dramatically. " "Until this fear of the next attack passes, which will take a while, the rates will not come down so it's going to be expensive," he added. In November President Bush signed the Terrorism Insurance Act stipulating that commercial insurance automatically cover terrorism. "Insurance companies state that we have to provide terrorism coverage but there are no guidelines about pricing," Mr. Moore said. In the past museums had the United States government indemnity program to rely on. With a budget of $5 billion a year to cover insurance for exhibitions, it is a big bonanza for museums because its coverage includes the effect of terrorism both in transit and on site. But since 9/11 the program has been so inundated with requests from museums all over the country that it exhausted the budget for the 2003 fiscal year in the first six months. "Obviously the cost of terrorism insurance post-Sept. 11 is a huge problem for museums," said Alice M. Whelihan, indemnity administrator for the National Endowment for the Arts, which administers the program. "We are doing the best we can to distribute indemnity coverage within the $5 billion ceiling. And we are working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress to increase the ceiling to better meet the needs of American museums." Realizing the severity of the problem, the American Association of Museum Directors passed a resolution a year ago that its members would not charge each other for terrorism insurance. Meanwhile Ms. Whelihan is trying to increase her $5 billion budget to $8 billion and allow each exhibition $750 million worth of coverage per show, up from the current $500 million. Museum officials say these large exhibitions are vital for museums. By luring large crowds into museums, they generate additional revenue from their shops, restaurants and special programs. The Leonardo exhibition has loans from nine countries. The Louvre has lent the Met 32 drawings that hang alongside works from Germany, Italy, England and Hungary. Mr. de Montebello said that he got 98 percent of the loans he asked for, but that many came to the museum late because of lenders' fears. "This is a moment when people are anxious," he said.
Of 133 works in "Matisse Picasso," 33 are from the Pompidou Center and the Picasso Museum, and 27 came from the Modern. Such generous loans are a two-way street. "Major museums that depend on loans from American institutions are going to be careful before they turn down loans," Mr. de Montebello said. "This is all about collegiality and reciprocity. And these decisions are not taken capriciously." The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has asked for works from the French museums for its "Gauguin in Tahiti" show scheduled to open in February 2004. Officials from the French museums say they are not sure whether they will lend their works to Boston. "I'm surprised to hear that," said Malcolm Rogers, the museum's director. "As far as I know, that project is going ahead." One museum curator from Paris called the situation very bad. In the case of "Matisse Picasso" and "Manet/Velázquez," she said, "the European museums were already so involved they felt they couldn't back out." But, she warned, "these insurance concerns are certainly going to change things in the future."
Antique firearms dealer pleads guilty to fraud
By DAVID B. CARUSO The Associated Press 2/24/03 8:11 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A firearms expert pleaded guilty Monday to tricking a wealthy collector into thinking he was in a bidding war for two pistols once owned by legendary Texas Ranger Samuel H. Walker. Prosecutors said there was no other buyer for the pair of .44- caliber Colt revolvers, and that the price they sold for -- $2.2 million -- was vastly inflated. Richard Ellis, of Illinois, faces prison time when he is sentenced on one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, prosecutors said. As part of the plea bargain, Ellis agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of his alleged accomplice, fellow antique weapons expert Michael Zomber, of Tennessee. A grand jury indicted the pair on charges that they sought to cash in after learning that a Pennsylvania collector was eager to amass a collection of rare guns. Investigators said Ellis bought one of the revolvers for $640,000, but sold it to James Murphy for $1 million after showing him fabricated correspondence in which a fictional buyer claimed to be willing to pay at least that much. The dealers similarly drove up the price for the second Colt, which Zomber sold to Murphy for $1.2 million, prosecutors said. The pair also sold two other antique Colts to Murphy between 1997 and 1999, the indictment said. Ellis's attorney, Francis Devine, said his client voluntarily reported what he had done to authorities in 2001. "Since then, Mr. Ellis has been cooperating with the government at every turn," Devine said. Zomber has pleaded innocent; his attorney has said the guns were worth what Murphy paid for them. The .44-caliber revolvers were given by gunsmith Samuel Colt as gifts to Walker, who had been influential in their design. Walker served during the Mexican War and was killed in 1847 while leading a charge in Mexico.
On the Net:
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum: http://www.texasranger.org/
Art wasn't thief's cup of tea --but it was his case of beer
Gordon Kent The Edmonton Journal
Tuesday, February 25, 2003 Lewis Lavoie started using a chain to lock up his art after several pieces got stolen from the downtown library last December. The thief, Charles Bastien, was sentenced Monday to eight months in jail.
EDMONTON - Charles Bastien may not know art, but he knows what he likes -- beer.
Bastien pleaded guilty Monday to a string of art thefts over the Christmas season, admitting he pinched 12 pictures worth an estimated $26,000 to fuel a drinking spree. He sold three of them for a total of $60 before being arrested a week later, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Mos said. "I just needed to drink. I just walked by and saw a painting and I thought, 'A lousy $20.' I didn't know they were worth that much money," Bastien explained to provincial court Judge Allan Lefever. "I look at them and I see a beer bottle. That's what I got for them." The unemployed pipefitter simply wandered away with prints and originals hanging at the downtown library, the Westin Hotel and the Hotel Macdonald. Posing as the artist, Bastien sold two pieces displayed at the library by St. Albert's Lewis Lavoie. Worth more than $3,000, they were sold for $20 each.
He found one customer having coffee at a Jasper Avenue donair shop. Media coverage of the thefts led the buyers to return Lavoie's work, all of which was recovered. However, two gallery paintings on loan for display at the Westin, worth about $5,000, are still missing, along with a $3,000 oil from the Hotel Macdonald, Mos said. Lavoie said later he was dismayed to see how little it fetched on the street. "When you hear that people bought it for 20 bucks, you think whoa, what a deal they got, " he said. "Now that I'm making a really good living as an artist, it still bothers me that people don't put a value on art." However, he's more concerned such incidents will make it harder to show art in public. "We're trying to beautify downtown Edmonton, put nice things up ... and one person comes along and spoils it for everyone else." Bastien, who started drinking again last year after a family death, was arrested Jan. 2 after getting $20 at a pawn shop for a piece he took from the Westin. Police found another three paintings stashed in bushes near the shop. As well as three counts of theft, he pleaded guilty to numerous minor charges of assault, fraud, mischief and breach of recognizance going back to last September, and was sentenced to eight months in jail. Bastien said he was glad the Lavoie paintings were returned. "It wasn't my intention to go there to steal them. I was basically just going there to use the washroom and this just happened." The 41-year-old man tried to take two other paintings from the Hotel Macdonald, but dropped them when a bellman saw what was happening and chased him down the street. Despite the problems Bastien caused, Lavoie has a grudging respect for the nerve he showed selling paintings he didn't own. "It takes some guts to approach people, pretending he was the artist. He might want to go into being a professional art broker or art dealer." firstname.lastname@example.org
SCA retrieves 3 artifacts stolen from Sakkara area
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Monday received three important antiquities that had been stolen from the archaeological area of Sakkara three days ago after the thieves-two security guards and two excavation workers who were working with the French Mission - were arrested. The thieves sawed the engravings of three pieces belonging to an Old Kingdom's 6th Dynasty Queen inside a funerary temple adjacent to the Bibi I Pyramid in Sakkara, said SCA Secretary General Zahi Hawas, adding engravings of the three pieces depict scenes of hunting and stars. Hawas had received a report from the Tourism Police on the theft. Meanwhile, Egypt will take part in the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee meeting early March to discuss an agreement on protection of antiquities and heritage of member states during the time of armed conflicts. Hawas said an Egyptian delegation under Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, Director of Lower Egypt Antiquities Department, will put on display the vision of Arab countries to safeguard archaeological sites in the countries anguishing under armed dispute.
War in Iraq Would Halt All Digs in Region
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
War in Iraq would halt archaeology not just in that country but across the Middle East, experts say, and could result in some of the earliest cities of Mesopotamia being bombed or looted into ruins of ruins. Researchers with long experience in Iraq say they are worried that postwar looting could cause even more damage to the antiquities than combat. They also fear that some art dealers and collectors might try to take advantage of any postwar disarray and change in government to gain access to more of Iraq's archaeological treasures. After the Persian Gulf war of 1991, ancient treasures were plundered and sold illegally in international markets. Fear of war has already had a widespread effect. All European research teams left Iraq months ago, indefinitely suspending excavations along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers at places like Uruk, Assur, Nimrud and Nineveh.
Others doubt that they will return this year to dig sites in Syria, Jordan and some places in southern Turkey. In many cases it is impossible to get insurance for staff and students. Researchers in Egypt are growing wary, and nascent plans for reviving long-suspended operations in Iran have been abandoned. Archaeology in Israel, already curtailed by internal hostilities, is expected to suffer further interruptions, with almost none of 30 American excavations likely to be operating soon. At one of the largest sites, the ruins of the old Philistine city of Ashkelon, archaeologists have not dug a pit for two years and will not return this summer. Even Israeli teams that often work through the worst of times have decided not to dig this year. "Everybody's nervous, and virtually everybody's canceled," said Dr. Rudolph Dornemann, executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research, which coordinates archaeological work in Israel, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere in the region. Even those who have not yet called off this summer's dig season say they will have to make a decision in the next few weeks. They are not optimistic. "I want to go into the field, but I don't want to walk into a war zone," said Dr. Richard Zettler of the University of Pennsylvania, who has directed excavations in Syria at Tell Sweyhat, once considered safely distant from the Iraqi border. Archaeologists have set aside their individual concerns and have tried to alert American officials to the cultural devastation that war and its aftermath could bring to the land of the oldest civilization, where urban life and the written word originated some 5,500 years ago. Leading archaeologists and representatives of cultural groups have conferred with officials of the State and Defense Departments, stressing the importance of compliance with the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The treaty obligates combatants not to target cultural sites and monuments except where military installations have been placed on or next to them. The United States signed but did not ratify the treaty. At the invitation of the Pentagon, archaeologists have provided military planners with the locations of hundreds of Iraq's outstanding ruins from antiquity. But the entire country, experts say, is an archaeological site. "We've gone about as far as we can go," said Dr. McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago, one of the archaeologists who met with Pentagon officials. "We reminded them that there are no natural hills in southern Iraq, and if you see a hill, in most cases it's the mound of a buried ancient settlement." As a legal adviser to the Archaeological Institute of America, Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, a law professor at De Paul University in Chicago, participated in some of the discussions and said the Pentagon seemed "very receptive, at least in terms of taking our information." "They realize that our attitude toward cultural and religious treasures is very important to world opinion," Dr. Gerstenblith said. "And it may be especially important in dealings with Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East." After last month's meeting with cultural and archaeological experts, including Iraqi expatriates, the State Department decided to add a panel on antiquities to the 16 working groups studying the future of Iraq. The panel is expected to begin discussions next month. "We fully subscribe to the view that this is an asset that belongs to the Iraqi people," said Greg Sullivan, spokesman for the department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. "We want some process put in place to make sure the antiquities are not squandered and sold off." Ashton Hawkins, an art lawyer in New York and former counsel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said that Middle East experts at the State Department were "interested in how to help Iraq protect its cultural heritage" after a war. Mr. Hawkins participated in the meetings as president of the American Council for Cultural Policy, a New York-based group of museum officials and prominent art collectors. Some archaeologists said they were suspicious of the council's motives because it represents the interests of private art collectors and museums and has advocated less restrictive laws governing international trade in antiquities.
"That's absurd," Mr. Hawkins said of accusations that he had a hidden agenda in his meetings with government officials over Iraq. He said he thought Iraq's strict laws on antiquities should not be changed. In a recent article in the journal Science, William Pearlstein, the council's treasurer, was quoted as saying that the group favored "a rational and balanced approach to cultural heritage issues" and that if war came it hoped to encourage the American government to establish "a sensible post-Saddam cultural administration" and relax some of Iraq's strict antiquities laws. Archaeologists and art collectors alike agreed that their greatest concern is looting after a war. In the Persian Gulf war of 1991, damage to known ancient sites was slight, but looting afterward left museums and excavations in a shambles. Assyrian sculptures in northern Iraq were sawed up so the pieces could be taken out of the country, archaeologists said. Unexcavated sites in the south were bulldozed by plunderers, who hauled away artifacts in dump trucks. One expert said a diplomat's car was stopped crossing the border from Iraq into Jordan with 80 illicit artifacts. The expert would not say what country the diplomat was from. Although some looters were poor people in need, experts said, others could have been part of organized international operations. Dr. John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston said that in the last decade "a flood of many thousands of undocumented Iraqi antiquities has been surfacing on the market, visible at every level of the market from the big auction houses to eBay." Dr. Russell concluded, "They can't all come from Granny's attic and old Swiss collections." Fearing that looting could be worse after another war, the Archaeological Institute of America has called on the "appropriate governments" to help protect museums and sites and to help the Iraqi authorities rebuild museums and enforce laws against plundering.
The experience in Afghanistan has been sobering, Dr. Russell said. The United States has provided little money for cultural reconstruction and protection there, he said, adding, "Afghanistan must be like a gold field for looters."
Police arrest four for Antwerp diamond heist
By RAF CASERT The Associated Press 2/25/03 7:36 AM
ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) -- Four people were arrested in connection with a massive heist from diamond trading center that has been described as the biggest robbery ever in the diamond-cutting capital of the world, police said Tuesday. The three Italian men and a Dutch woman were arrested over the weekend and were put in solitary confinement until a court decides on their detention Thursday, said Leen Nuyts, a magistrate at the prosecutor's office in this port city. She declined to give more information on the four besides saying they were arrested based on "developments in the ongoing investigation." The daily De Morgen said the four had rented office space only a few months ago in the building where the vaults are located. Thieves cleared out over two thirds of the 160 vaults during the weekend of Feb. 15 at Antwerp's Diamond Center, a trade office at the heart of the old diamond district where police and surveillance cameras are highly visible around the clock. Even 10 days after the theft, police could not give an estimate of the losses, since many of the traders and cutters who were abroad had not provided information on the content of their vaults, said Nuyts. A decade ago, robbers looted just five vaults in the cellar where cutters and dealers traditionally store their wares, taking an estimated $4.55 million worth of goods.
special: Dublin man admits Russborough House theft
In this month's IFAR Journal a report was published about the Russborough House burglaries:
"Four thefts in 20 years: The saga of the Beit Collection"
A 26-year-old Dublin man has admitted trespassing at Russborough House and stealing two paintings worth €2.5m.
John Kearns, with an address at Corrib Road in Terenure, pleaded guilty at Wicklow Circuit Court yesterday to stealing the two paintings on 26 June 2001. Two years ago a jeep was driven up the steps and rammed through the front door of the stately home. The thieves ran in and stole paintings which the National Gallery described as priceless.
Bernardo Bellotto's 'View of Florence', and 'Madame Baccelli' by Thomas Gainsborough, were the paintings taken on this occasion. Both have since been recovered.
Judge Raymond Grourke remanded Kearns on continuing bail for sentencing next week.
Only days after the recovery of these paintings, another five pictures, valued at up to €50million, were stolen from Russborough House last September.
It was the fourth time that paintings were stolen from the stately house.