Three overseas travellers - an Israeli and two Chileans - have
escaped conviction for falsely representing paintings they were
selling in Dunedin as originals. Described by counsel Jim Large as
"minnows" in the nationwide scam, Roy Yehiyeh Watan Gresario, 23, an
Israeli, and Chileans, Orlando Carlos Trivelli-Sporke, 29, and Pablo
Guillermo Zelmanovitis, 30, were each discharged without conviction
by Judge John Strettell in the Dunedin District Court yesterday. The
judge ordered each to pay $527 reparation plus $300 towards the costs
of prosecution, the money to come from $2775 recovered by the police
from the defendants and from a fourth person yet to appear in court.
Gresario, Trivelli-Sporke and Zelmanovitis each admitted that between
February 17 and March 6, they obtained about $15,000 in cash and
cheques by the false pretence of representing pictures they were
selling were originals painted by them or international art students
Prosecutor Sergeant Paul Knox said police believed the paintings had
originated from Indonesia or Asia, were mainly mass-produced by
painters of varying skills, some of the works being prints or screen
prints which might have been re-touched after printing. Gresario, the
first of the group located on March 6, had a folder of 18 paintings,
each for sale for either $190 or $200. Through his co-operation,
police spoke with Trivelli-Sporke, Zelmanovitis and a fourth person,
who was the organiser of the group operating in Dunedin. Three other
foreign sellers had left the city the previous day.
Police believed the group sold 30 paintings, with an approximate
value of $6000, in Dunedin between March 2 and 7, the three "missing"
sellers contributing approximately 15 paintings to the group's sales,
Sgt Knox said. The sellers received on average $60 per painting and
the organiser $20 for each painting sold, with the remaining $110 per
painting being forwarded to the organisers in Auckland. Gresario said
he had sold about 12 paintings in total, including five in Dunedin.
He admitted falsely telling buyers the paintings were original.
Zelmanovitis said he had sold about 20 paintings throughout New
Zealand, including eight in Dunedin. He thought the paintings were
done by art students. Trevalli-Sporke told police he sold 18
paintings in total, three sales being in Dunedin. Initially, he told
purchasers he had painted some of the pictures, but he stopped saying
that when he realised he did not know enough about the paintings.
The group organiser had schooled him on what to say.
Counsel Mr Large said some of the buyers were apparently happy with
their paintings and did not want their money back. The three
defendants had never been in court before and were initially told
they would be considered for diversion. They were all very ashamed of
their involvement in the operation. Because of the potential effects
on their work opportunities, Mr Large asked for discharge without
conviction. Judge Strettell described the offending as "rather
unusual" and he accepted the three defendants were "at the bottom end
of the ladder".
Although he did not encourage people to come to this country and
illegally take money from New Zealand citizens, the judge agreed a
section 106 discharge, with reparation and costs orders, was the
Accusations of Theft Envelop Warhol Work
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
An international intrigue involving an allegedly stolen Andy Warhol
masterpiece and a Swedish art dealer accused of the theft has
embroiled the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and one of its more
colorful trustees, Peter M. Brant. There is no doubt that Mr. Brant,
a newsprint magnate, publisher, film producer, polo player, convicted
tax evader and real estate developer married to the Victoria's Secret
model Stephanie Seymour, ended up with the work: a 1962 painting and
silk-screen called "Red Elvis," worth an estimated $12 million. Deep
red, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 4 feet 4 inches wide, the work consists
of 36 identical images of the head of Elvis Presley. The mystery is
what happened between the time Mr. Brant, a Warhol devotee, helped
arrange for a private collector who owned the painting to lend it to
a traveling Guggenheim exhibition in 1998 and the time it ended up as
Mr. Brant's personal property a little more than a year later. The
Guggenheim, in a statement yesterday in response to questions, said
it was unaware that the painting had changed hands while on loan and
had no information about Mr. Brant's acquisition of it. The lender,
Kerstin Lindholm, a Swedish heiress who lives in Greenwich, Conn.,
where Mr. Brant also keeps one of several homes, said she did not
authorize the sale. She has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Brant and her
longtime Swedish art dealer, charging them with "criminal and
unlawful" acts to steal the painting. Based on her complaint, Swedish
authorities arrested the dealer, Anders Malmberg, in January in
Malmö, and brought criminal theft charges against him. At the bench
trial last week in Sweden, before a judge but no jury, Mr. Brant was
cited as the purchaser of the painting but not charged as a
defendant. The verdict against Mr. Malmberg is expected to be
announced today. His lawyer, Magnus Lindh, said yesterday by
telephone from Malmö that because his client remained in jail after
the trial, a conviction seemed almost certain. "He could get four or
five years," he said.
Mr. Brant, 56, acknowledged in an interview that he bought Ms.
Lindholm's painting from Mr. Malmberg while it was on tour, but he
called it "a good faith purchase" and said, "I'm an innocent guy who
bought a painting." He did not explain why he did not call the
Guggenheim to verify that Ms. Lindholm had indeed sold the painting
while it was on loan, records the museum says it would have to have
had. In yet another strange twist to the tale, Mr. Brant had owned
the same picture more than 30 years ago. Long a fixture on the art,
social and sporting scene, Mr. Brant became such an avid collector of
Warhol paintings that the artist insisted on meeting him. Mr. Brant
and his first wife were briefly co-owners of Warhol's Interview
magazine and investors in some of his movies. He also owns the
building at 575 Broadway, where the Guggenheim set up its SoHo
branch. In 1990 Mr. Brant pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor
charges of having evaded taxes by charging $1.5 million in personal
expenses to his newsprint companies, and was sentenced to three
months in prison with fines, back taxes and penalties of $575,000.
Ms. Lindholm, 58, daughter of one of Sweden's largest building
contractors, came to New York in 1979, married a Swedish developer
and in 1987 bought the Warhol for $300,000 through Mr. Malmberg, whom
she had met shortly after arriving in the United States and who
became the couple's art dealer. In September 1998, records in the
civil lawsuit show, Mr. Brant worked with a Manhattan art dealer,
Stellan Holm, to arrange for Ms. Lindholm to lend "Red Elvis" for a
show called "Andy Warhol: A Factory" to tour Vienna; Brussels;
Bilbao, Spain; and Porto, Portugal before winding up back at the
Guggenheim in the summer of 2000. Mr. Holm did not respond to
telephone messages. While the painting was on tour, on Feb. 2, 2000,
the records show, Mr. Malmberg billed Mr. Brant $2.9 million for
purchase of the painting. The sales invoice acknowledged that the
work "is currently in the traveling exhibition" and said that upon
full payment, Mr. Malmberg would transfer the title to Mr. Brant. Mr.
Holm handled aspects of the transaction.
Ms. Lindholm said she knew nothing of this.
On Feb. 17, 2000, the Guggenheim wrote her to say the tour was
closing on April 30 and would not include New York, because of a
shortage of gallery space. Mr. Malmberg — who had already sold the
Warhol to Mr. Brant — proposed that she allow him to lend the work to
a museum in Denmark and in March she agreed, court records show. Mr.
Malmberg shipped it to a warehouse in Denmark, not a museum, and then
to Mr. Brant, shipping records show. Mr. Brant did not say why the
arrival of the picture from Denmark did not arouse his suspicions
since Denmark was not on the Guggenheim tour. The records show,
however, that he had a lawyer contact the Art Loss Register at 666
Fifth Avenue, a tracking organization, to inquire if the painting was
listed as stolen. The answer came back that it was not. To cover up
the deception, court papers say, Mr. Malmberg told Ms. Lindholm later
that year that he had found a buyer for her painting in Japan, for
$4.6 million. Ms. Lindholm said her first awareness that her painting
had been sold without her knowledge to Mr. Brant came in June 2001,
when she read in Art and Auction magazine that Mr. Holm and Mr.
Malmberg — who were embroiled in another art dispute — had supposedly
bought her "Red Elvis" for about $1.8 million and resold it to Mr.
Brant for $3.2 million. In the end, she said, she never got back the
painting or the $4.6 million promised by Mr. Malmberg. Asked why he
had not filed a criminal complaint but only a civil lawsuit in
Connecticut against Mr. Brant and Mr. Malmberg, Ms. Lindholm's
lawyer, Lawrence I. Weinstein of Proskauer Rose, said, "Our client is
intent on getting the painting or its value back." A criminal
prosecution in the United States could delay that, he said, but if
one were to take place, "I'm sure we would cooperate." Mr. Brant
referred detailed questions to his lawyer, Jay H. Sandak of Stamford,
Conn. Mr. Sandak said, "We will aggressively defend the lawsuit," but
declined to answer specific questions. Mr. Brant acknowledged that he
never called Ms. Lindholm to ask if she had indeed sold the painting
to Mr. Malmberg. But he said: "I checked it very carefully. I checked
"I'm not a naïve purchaser," Mr. Brant said, adding that Mr. Malmberg
"was reportedly a reputable dealer." But as given in court records,
the "Red Elvis" provenance, or history of ownership, compiled by Mr.
Malmberg is not listed in conventional reverse chronological order,
beginning with the most recent owner. It puts Mr. Malmberg neither at
the top nor the bottom. The last name, however, is Ms. Lindholm's.
Two Auction Houses Settle Antitrust Suit
NEW YORK - Auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's said Tuesday they
will pay $40 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought by
overseas customers in a price-fixing case. Each auction house will
pay $20 million in the settlement of the class-action suit, the
houses said. Former Sotheby's chairman A. Alfred Taubman was
convicted two years ago of plotting with his Christie's counterpart,
Anthony Tennant, to fix the commissions paid by sellers of fine art
from 1993 to 1999. The U.S. government said the men illegally
colluded on how much to charge, depriving the sellers of the
opportunity to bargain for a lower price. Under the settlement, a
lawsuit threatened by Sotheby's and Christie's customers in England
and a suit against the auction houses in Canada will be dismissed,
the houses said. In 2001, a federal judge approved a $537 million
settlement of a lawsuit by U.S. customers of the auction houses — but
specified people could also sue in U.S. courts for auctions that took
place overseas. The two houses control nearly the entire worldwide
auction market in everything from furniture to antiques to fine art.
Tennant lives in England and has refused to come to the United States
for trial. He cannot be extradited on antitrust charges.
Iraq shields ancient treasures from high-tech war
By Dominic Evans
BAGHDAD, March 12 (Reuters) - The main entrance to Baghdad's
antiquities museum is firmly shut, sandbags are stacked up near the
gates, and priceless treasures have been spirited away for safe
keeping. Iraqi archaeologists, custodians of Mesopotamia's ancient
culture, are shielding a heritage which stretches back for millennia
from the expected onslaught by the U.S. military machine, the world's
most high-tech and most devastating. "I wish I could catch the bombs,
to protect the museum," said Donny George, an expert at Iraq's board
of antiquities. "We are so afraid for the antiquities." Speaking as
250,000 U.S. and British troops prepare to strike Iraq, he predicted
the damage to artefacts could be greater than in the 1991 Gulf War,
when he said nine regional museums were hit and a 4,500-year-old
royal cemetery in Ur, birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham,
was damaged. "Imagine a country like Iraq with 10,000 archaeological
mounds -- and the amount of shelling and missiles we'll have. A lot
of sites will be damaged," said George in his office close to the
deserted museum. Iraq, a cradle of civilisation long before the
empires of Egypt, Greece or Rome, was home to dynasties that created
agriculture and writing and built the cities of Nineveh, Nimrud and
Babylon -- site of Nebuchadnezzar's Hanging Gardens. The museum
boasts Sumerian statues, Assyrian reliefs and 5,000 year-old tablets
bearing cuneiform writing, as well as gold and silver helmets and
cups from the Ur cemetery. One of George's favourites is a 500,000-
year-old hand axe. "Everything is a treasure. Our museum is the only
place in the whole world that can show you the history of mankind...
starting from half a million years ago to the start of the 20th
century," he said. Every moveable piece was packed up in crates a
week ago and removed from the museum, he added.
Twelve years ago, when U.S.-led forces bombed Iraq for six weeks, the
Baghdad museum survived almost unscathed. Some Assyrian reliefs were
cracked when a nearby telecommunications tower was hit, George said.
But around the country nine museums were hit in the bombing or later
uprisings against President Saddam Hussein. "In those museums we lost
more than 4,000 original pieces," he said. In the south, where U.S.
forces briefly advanced, George said pottery was stolen from the
royal cemetery at Ur and 400 machine gun rounds were fired into the
ziggurat, a Sumerian mudbrick tower, in an attack that George blamed
on Americans. "Comparing what had happened then and what might happen
this time, you could imagine a lot more damage," George said. "In
1991 they entered a very small part but now they want to occupy the
whole country." If war does break out again, a group of
archaeologists will guard the Baghdad museum -- not just from
American troops but against riots in the wake of military action,
George said. "They will have a lot of weapons and they will be
guarding the whole complex," he said. For George, who has devoted a
quarter of century to archaeology, any military action will pose a
stark dilemma -- to stay at home with his family or protect his
life's work. "I've worked in this field for 25 years. All my
memories, apart from my family, are the antiquities here." he said.
10 paintings stolen before exhibit
News staff writer
Birmingham artist Darrell Ezekiel has developed a reputation for
painting blockheaded-looking figures with red or blue heads. His
quirky style has made his paintings a hot item at Hawthorn Gallery in
Mountain Brook, where he will have his first exhibit beginning
Friday. A week before his show, however, Ezekiel discovered that 10
of his paintings had been stolen from his garage studio in Southside.
While delivering a batch of paintings to the gallery on Friday
afternoon, another 10 were left in a communal garage shared by four
tenants at his apartment building in the 2900 block of 10th Court
South. Ezekiel returned to find the garage door open and the
paintings missing. He filed a report with Birmingham police. South
Precinct Detective Daniel Smith said there are no suspects and no
leads in the case.
It's the mystery of the missing blockhead art.
"My work is pretty distinctive, with bold, bright colors and
simplistic design, almost like children's book illustration
characters," Ezekiel said. Most of his paintings are acrylic on wood.
The stolen paintings ranged from two or three feet wide to two or
four feet tall. "He does these whimsical, big-headed figures," said
Keith Miller, owner of Hawthorn Gallery. "If you see it, you know
it's Darrell's. They can't sell them without people knowing what it
is. Every gallery in town would know Darrell's work." Ezekiel, 36,
grew up in Sylacauga, graduated from Auburn University with a degree
in graphic design and moved to Birmingham in 1994. The former home
furnishing sales representative, who became a full-time artist three
years ago, can't fathom who would steal the paintings or why,
especially a week before his show. "I can't pinpoint anybody who
would do that," he said. "Everybody knew how much this meant to me.
It's my first true one-man gallery show." When Ezekiel returned home
to find the paintings missing, "It was kind of a sickening feeling,"
he said. "He was devastated," said fellow Birmingham artist Alice
Pederson, who also has paintings at Hawthorn Gallery. "He was
But Ezekiel didn't mope long.
"I just decided to get busy and see what I could re-create," he said.
One painting that got stolen, a big blockhead called "Shiner," has
been reproduced. Ezekiel said he stayed up until 3 a.m. Tuesday
working on it. The 10 missing paintings would have been listed to
sell for a total of $18,000. Ezekiel said he did not have any
insurance that would cover the loss. Miller said that along with
about 25 paintings Ezekiel had delivered, he will use other Ezekiel
paintings he had in stock for the show, while adding new ones as the
artist completes them. "He can work very fast," Miller said. But the
lost paintings will be missed, he said. "It's just such a shame."
Pederson said Ezekiel's paintings are attention-grabbers. "The colors
are very bold," she said. "They're just funky and often humorous.
When they're in a room, that's what I see, no matter what else is in
the room." She speculated that whoever took the paintings knew how
valuable they were, since Ezekiel has been garnering a lot of
attention lately. "It could be someone who recognized the art and
decided to grab it," she said. Ezekiel said he hopes whoever has the
paintings will drop them off at the gallery. "I would like to have
them back," he said. But his exhibit goes on, with an opening
reception Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. "It's still going to be a good
show," Ezekiel said.
Glasnost on War's Looted Art
By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY
OSCOW, March 11 — For more than 50 years the Soviet Union hid them in
museum basements and secret repositories, one reportedly in a
monastery wall. Now, reflecting increased glasnost, Russia's Ministry
of Culture is posting images and descriptions of them on a new Web
site. They are thousands of paintings, archives and rare books looted
by Soviet forces in Germany and Eastern Europe during and after World
War II and taken to Russia as so-called trophy art. (Now the
preferred term in Russia is "displaced cultural treasures.") Hitler's
forces had previously pillaged many of the works from Jewish owners
and other Nazi victims. The site is also being used to search for
what the ministry estimates as two million works of art that
disappeared from Russian museums during the Nazi occupation. An
unknown number were destroyed in the war, but some have turned up in
Russian antiques shops or at auctions abroad; a few have been
returned by Germany. But the site, which has two Web addresses,
www.lostart.ru and www.restitution.ru, has problems: it operates only
in Russian and has no system for searching for a specific artist or
title; someone investigating the site must usually read each museum's
entire list. As of this month, the site has 10,000 items, said
Aleksandr V. Kibovsky, the culture ministry official in charge. "The
plan is to have 500,000 by 2005," he added. Mr. Kibovsky said
claimants would have 18 months from the time an item was posted to
file a formal petition for restitution through their governments.
Unclaimed items would then be declared Russian property. Asked about
the prospects for an English translation of the material on the site,
he said that the culture ministry was always short of funds and that
the priority was to make all the information public. He noted that
the site provided color photographs and dimensions of paintings and
rendered the titles of foreign books (but not artworks) in their
original languages, approaches that could alleviate some of the
difficulties. The site includes lists from 19 museums, libraries and
archives in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and several other
cities. Most institutional links on the site are still empty. But the
lists do include seven 17th-century German book collections now at
the State Public Historical Library in Moscow, an extensive archive
from the German colony in Bessarabia at the State Historical Museum,
and several hundred paintings now in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine
Arts in Moscow.
The site's listings for the Grabar Restoration Center, a prominent
art conservation organization based in Moscow, include photographs of
any identification marks on paintings, like stamps, seals and
original inventory numbers. Konstantin Akinsha is one of two art
historians who first revealed the existence of the Soviet Union's
hidden wartime treasures in 1991. (It is still a troubling issue to
Russians, and scarce funds and concerns over restitution have led to
the long delay in formally requesting claims.) Mr. Akinsha said he
was both impressed with the new Web site's potential riches and
frustrated by its technical shortcomings. "There are some very
valuable paintings" at the Pushkin, said Mr. Akinsha, who is now
based in Washington. "There are about a dozen Cranach paintings, so
that is something, one not bad Goya, an interesting Degas." He said
he worried that Nazi victims and their heirs would find the
monolingual site difficult to navigate and would not locate their
possessions in time to claim them. A selection of masterpieces seized
by Soviet forces, including works by Degas, El Greco, Goya and
Renoir, made a grand splash at exhibitions at the Pushkin Museum and
the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in 1995. But other
artworks remained hidden. In 1997 Russia's parliament voted to
declare artwork taken from Nazi collections and German state
institutions, including museums, as just compensation for Russia's
wartime losses and to allow the return of art only to Nazi victims
and religious and charitable institutions. Some restitution has since
taken place, like the return of 101 drawings to the Bremen Art Museum
collection and most recently of 111 panels of 14th-century stained
glass windows to St. Mary's Cathedral at Frankfurt an der Oder. In
exchange for the Bremen drawings, Germany returned an Amber Room
mosaic from the Yekaterinsky Palace at Tsarskoye Selo and paintings
from other palaces near St. Petersburg. Izvestia, the Moscow
newspaper, reported today that the extensive art collection salvaged
in Germany by Viktor Baldin, a former Soviet Army officer, would be
returned from the Hermitage to the Bremen museum later this month.
Russia has also restored vast archives to France, and this winter
received from the United States the Smolensk Communist Party
archives, which were seized by the Nazis in 1941. After the war
American forces took some of their contents to Washington, where they
became an important source for Sovietologists. Some Russian news
reports warned that the return of the archives would lead to a flood
of requests for restitution. "Exchanging Stalinist Waste Paper for
Hermitage Masterpieces," read a headline in Itogi, a weekly news
magazine. But at a recent news conference at the Ministry of Culture,
Russian journalists were much more concerned about the fate of trophy
art still in Belarus and Ukraine, former Soviet republics that are
now independent. In 2000 the German government set up its own Lost
Art Internet Database, www.lostart.de, also available in English and
Russian. It lists 42,000 items confiscated by Soviet forces from
German museums. It also catalogs the remaining items in the so-called
Linz collection, made up of works confiscated from Jews and opponents
of the Nazis, which Hitler planned to place in a huge museum to be
built in Linz, Austria. Descriptions of lost items are posted by
their owners, and items of questionable provenance are listed by
museums. At least three paintings that belonged to Nazi victims have
found their rightful owners through the site, said Michael Franz, the
project's director. He added that he was considering linking the
German site to the Russian one. Christina Weiss, the German culture
minister, said the Russian site was a "welcome step toward openness
and transparency about previously hidden treasures." Although Russia
has said that it supports returning art to Holocaust victims, the
mechanisms for such restitution are still unclear. A claim filed
several years ago by Martha Nierenberg, the American granddaughter of
Baron Maurice Herzog, a Hungarian Jew whose art collection included
works by El Greco and Goya, has been bogged down in Russian court
proceedings, said Charles Goldstein, chief legal counsel for the
Commission for Art Recovery, a New York group established to spur
restitution efforts. (Much of the Herzog art seized by Hitler's
forces in Hungary was intercepted by Russia when the Nazis tried to
ship it to Germany.)
Paintings labeled Herzog are on display with the permanent collection
at the Pushkin. But Mr. Goldstein praised Russia's willingness to
deal with its wartime legacy. "It's a very encouraging phenomenon,"
he said. Mr. Kibovsky of the Culture Ministry in Russia said, "We
want this question to go from the political and scandalous level to
the cultural sphere, to be based on law and agreements." Irina A.
Antonova, the Pushkin's director, who as a young woman helped receive
some of the wartime art taken to Moscow, declined to comment when she
learned in late February that the Web site was already operating. The
ministry had not informed the museum, which was still finalizing its
art list, that the site was available, said Tatyana V. Potapova, the
Pushkin's chief curator. She said a total of almost 740 of the
museum's paintings would soon be posted there. "We're ready for
claims to be made," she said. "Our work is to display and study
Stolen paintings recovered
Five paintings by Wellington artist Pippa Sanderson, stolen last
August from Palmerston North's Te Manawa Art Gallery, were
anonymously returned today, police said. The unframed paintings were
snatched from Te Manawa's upstairs gallery on August 27 while staff
and several visitors were nearby. Valued at about $1000 each, the
180mm by 300mm paintings were part of Ms Sanderson's Returning in
Disguise exhibition centred on her home province of Hawke's Bay.
"Over the past few days a number of people have been spoken to in an
attempt to recover the paintings," Detective David Thompson of
Palmerston North police said today. "This has led to the paintings
being handed in anonymously this morning." Mr Thompson said the
paintings appeared to be undamaged. "At this stage it is unlikely
that charges will be laid."
Asbestos risk levels museum
By Carmelo Amalfi
THE State Government plans to demolish the WA Museum's Francis Street
building and move its collections to the old Perth Dental Hospital in
East Perth. The building was evacuated last month after an asbestos
scare closed the site to the public, even though there was no risk of
exposure. A tender document for the removal of the museum collections
shows occupational health and safety at Francis Street was becoming
critical. Other sites, including the Diamonds to Dinosaur Gallery on
James Street, will remain open. The 30-year-old Francis Street site
consists of five floors and two basement levels - each floor about
1000 sq m in area. During construction in the early 1970s, asbestos
was used as insulation around the structural steel columns between
the concrete floors.
"As a result of ageing and air movement in the ceiling space, the
asbestos has broken off and is distributed throughout the ceiling
zones," the document stated. "It is not possible to remove asbestos
from one floor without further dispersing asbestos through to the
floor below or dislodging it from the floor above." The document also
said that the WA Museum's collections, which represented WA's natural
and cultural heritage, generally were in a poor state of management.
Chinese Villagers Loot Ancient Tombs
BEIJING - Farmers looted jades, bronzes and other treasures from
tombs up to 2,000 years old in western China before the sites were
discovered by authorities, a local official and state media said
Thursday. Villagers unearthed about 50 tombs in Bieli, a town in
Sichuan province, and a local museum director said they were believed
to date to the Eastern Han dynasty some 20 centuries ago, the
official Xinhua News Agency reported. By the time authorities found
the tombs two months ago, only bottles and less valuable objects
remained, said the official of the provincial Administration Bureau
of Cultural Relics. The official would give only his surname, He.
Authorities have since retrieved coins and other treasures from
farmers' homes but are searching for other items, which may have been
sold outside the area, He said. Police have detained those suspected
of leading the pillaging and are hunting for the buyers, He said. The
other farmers would be spared punishment, He said. "Almost all the
families in nearby villages were involved," he said by telephone.
"They thought the tombs were the property of the finders."
Xinhua said "frenzied looting" began after a farmer identified only
by the surname Li dug up a green, delicately carved brick. It said Li
found a bronze animal sculpture and coins in the first tomb. The area
is in the valley of the Miangjiang river, which flows into the
Yangtze, Xinhua said. The story contrasted sharply with a report
Thursday in a Beijing newspaper, Beijing Weekend, about farmers in
the northern province of Shaanxi who unearthed a trove of bronze
vessels dating back 29 centuries but reported the finding to
authorities. The bronze cauldrons and other artifacts are now on
display in Beijing, and the farmers were lauded for their honesty.
"We just did what we should do," Beijing Weekend quoted one farmer as
Send reply to: International Council of Museums Discussion List
From: Secrétariat ICOM secretariat@ICOM.MUSEUM
Subject: ANNOUNCE: ENG: Letter from the Assistant Director-
General for Culture at UNESCO Mr. Bouchenaki
I recently received the following message from the Assistant
Director-General for Culture at UNESCO Mr. Bouchenaki, which I
important to communicate with you for information.
ICOM Secretary General
Please be advised that as a consequence of an eventual armed conflict
in Iraq museums may be subject of pillage and looting. Thus, we would
be grateful if you could be vigilant with respect of art objects
originating from Iraq offered for sale or reported to be stolen.
Thank you in advance for your co-operation in this matter.
UNESCO - 1, rue Miollis - 75732 Paris cedex 15
Assistant Director-General for Culture
Tel.: (33-1) 45 68 43 75
Parthenon Marbles dispute takes a new turn at Athens conference
for the Museum Security Network
The age-old and seemingly intractable dispute between Britain and Greece over the future of the so-called Elgin Marbles took a new and more positive turn this week at a conference in Athens devoted to the Marbles in the context of the forthcoming 2004 Olympiad. As host of the next Olympic Games, Greece is currently working around the clock to complete the necessary preparations for the games and continues to press for the return of the Marbles in time for the opening ceremony.
The highpoint of the one-day conference, organised by The Economist, came at the evening dinner reception at which the guest of honour, the Rt. Hon Lord David Owen, declared his support in principle for the Greek cause and proposed that Britain and Greece work towards establishing a Treaty in order to "resolve the differences over the Parthenon Marble sculptures." Lord Owen, a founder of the Social Democratic Party and Co-Chairman of the EC Peace Conference on Yugoslavia from 1992-1995, had originally been opposed to repatriation of the Marbles, but recently altered his views in the light of greater Greek flexibility over the issue.
"We are at the start of the 21st century, in which our two countries are part of a unique Union between the peoples of Europe," Lord Owen told conference delegates. "The very minimum solution must be to allow these sculptures to be brought together from time to time in each other's countries."
Lord Owen urged the Greek Ministry of Culture to acknowledge the fear felt by many people associated with museums in Britain that the return of the Marbles "will establish a precedent that will lead to the transfer back to the country of origin of many other objects that have belonged not just to British Museum but to other museums throughout Europe." However, he emphasised that "if we want progress on this issue then we have to grapple with it in an imaginative way."
Lord Owen proceeded to outline a means by which the issue might be addressed, suggesting that: "The sculptures have to be returned from time to time to the British Museum for the precedent argument to be destroyed." He suggested a Treaty which would take "two fixed, initially agreed points when the sculptures would definitely be brought together on display in our two countries," the first being "for at least the calendar year from the time in 2004 when the new Acropolis Museum opens in Athens, the year that the Olympic Games are being held in the city," while the second fixed point would be "for at least the calendar year 2012, which many people are working to ensure that the Olympic Games comes to London."
It would be fitting, Lord Owen suggested, "for the sculptures in Athens to be brought together with those in the British Museum during that year and for the purposes of balance within the Treaty it would have to specify 2012, irrespective of whether Britain did win its bid for the Olympics in that year." A Treaty with these two provisions "would be the bare minimum," said Lord Owen, adding that "an exchange for at least those two years would break the negotiating deadlock." He expressed hope that the negotiators could come to a mutually satisfactory agreement in the next few months as to how the marble sculptures would be shared in between the two fixed points he outlined. "I personally hope that in exchange for more Greek sculptures and objects on display in London and throughout the UK, the shared Parthenon sculptured marbles would spend the largest part of the initial Treaty in Athens", said Lord Owen.
In response, the Greek Minister of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos, expressed his thanks to Lord Owen for his concern and commitment to finding a solution to the apparent deadlock. Dr Venizelos restated his government's decision not to pursue the issue of ownership of the Parthenon Marbles but nevertheless reaffirmed his belief that the Marbles should be returned to Athens in perpetuity. He suggested granting the British Museum an annexe within the Parthenon Galleries of the new Acropolis Museum in which Britain would own, curate and oversee the display of the Marbles in complete and equal co-operation with the directorate of the new museum.
Earlier in the conference, Maurice Davies, the deputy director of the Museums Association in the UK, called for a greater spirit of friendship and co-operation between Britain and Greece over the issue. Dr Davies said he believed that the British Museum was now trying very hard to shake off a historical perception of the institution as arrogant and superior and he urged all parties to "try and help the British Museum come to terms with its place in the world." Dr Davies went on to quote Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, whose overriding concern was "how the surviving fragments, whether in London, Athens, or other museums, can now best be deployed to achieve maximum public benefit." However, Mr MacGregor was also quoted as saying, "The Trustees of the British Museum do not see how they could responsibly accede to the Greek government's request for a permanent removal of a key and substantial part of the museum's collection from London to Athens."
The conference assembled around a dozen internationally-renowned academics, lawyers, architects and archaeologists to debate the issues surrounding the Parthenon Marbles, but the British Museum declined the invitation either to attend or to send a representative.
Whether the intervention of Lord Owen will have any effect on the progress of the debate remains to be seen, but the conference marked a renewed determination on the part of the Greeks to continue arguing amicably and creatively for the return of the fragments. It is now up to the British Museum to reciprocate.
14 March 2003
MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE BRITISH COMMITTEE FOR THE RESTITUTION OF THE
British Committee responds to latest developments emerging from
Athens Conference, including new statements from British Museum
Director and the Rt. Hon. Lord David Owen
The above conference, "The Parthenon Marbles in view of the 2004
Olympiad," (Athens, 12/03/03) proved both revelatory and greatly
encouraging. In particular, the British Committee highlights Neil
MacGregor's comments quoted at the conference, and the proposal
presented by the Rt. Hon Lord David Owen, as providing the clearest
messages of progress, especially in the light of Minister Venizelos'
latest offers. (See Notes for Editors to follow). The Committee gives
its fullest support to the proposed meetings between the managements
of the British Museum and the New Acropolis Museum, and hopes that
this contact will continue in the spirit of cooperation indicated.
There now seems every chance that talks will move forward in a new
arena of collaboration, through this direct contact between the
Museums. The British Committee is delighted by this contact and
reiterates its total commitment to assist all parties in whatever way
possible to reach an agreeable solution.
Notes to Editors to follow
Notes to Editors
1. Conference Chaired by Bruce Clark (Economist Newspaper). Speakers
included: Dora Bakoyianni (Mayor of Athens); Jules Dassin (President,
Melina Mercouri Foundation.); Prof. Anthony Snodgrass (Chairman,
BCRPM); Michael Daley (Illustrator, ArtWatch UK); Prof. William St.
Clair (Trinity College, Cambridge); Guido Carducci (Chief,
International Standard Section-Division of Cultural Heritage,
UNESCO); Bernard Tschumi (Architect, Designer of the New Acropolis
Museum); Maurice Davies (Dep. Director, Museums Association UK; David
Hill (Exec. Director BCRPM); Jenifer Neils (Chair of the Museums and
Exhibitions Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America);
Richard Allan (MP for Sheffield Hallam); Lord David Owen; Evangelos
Venizelos (Minister of Culture for Greece).
2. Comments by Neil Macgregor, British Museum Director, as quoted by
Maurice Davis, Deputy Director, UK Museums Association.
" "The question is how the surviving fragments…can best be deployed
to achieve maximum public benefit."
" MacGregor indicates he "very much wants to continue talking to
Professor Pandermalis [Director of the New Acropolis Museum in
Athens] to agree a basis for negotiations."
" The two Museums need to find "common ground" and develop a
"personal relationship of trust and collaboration."
Quotation from statement by the Rt, Hon Lord David Owen.
"I believe it is possible to negotiate a treaty between
the Greek and UK Ministers of Culture to resolve differences over the
Parthenon Marble Sculptures…I suggest that a Treaty should take two
fixed, initially agreed points when the sculptures would definitely
be brought together on display in our two countries:
" The first would be for at least the calendar year from the time in
2004 when the New Acropolis Museum opens in Athens, the year that the
Olympic Games are being held in the city. The display would, for
example, ensure that the sculptures marble foot of a Lapith woman in
the British Museum in London was brought together with her torso in
the Parthenon Hall of the New Museum within walking distance of the
" The second fixed point would be for at least the calendar year 2012
which many people are working to ensure that the Olympic Games comes
to London. It would be fitting for the sculptures in Athens to be
brought together with those in the British Museum during that year
and for the purposes of balance within the Treaty it would have to
specify 2012 irrespective of whether Britain did win its bid to host
the Olympics in that year.
3. Evangelos Venizelos, Greek Minister of Culture, reiterated that he
looks forward to fruitful discussions and collaboration either
between the two Museums or the two governments involved. His proposal
now goes beyond a long term loan, as he suggests the British Museum
should have an annex in the new Parthenon Gallery, where they might
continue to own, curate and oversee display of the Marbles, in
complete and equal collaboration with the directorate of the New
Speech by The Rt Hon Lord David Owen CH
at an Economist Conference
on "The Parthenon Marbles In view of the 2004 Olympiad"
Athens, Wednesday, 12 March 2003
"A Cultural Treaty to share the Parthenon Marbles"
I believe that it is possible to negotiate a Treaty between the Greek
and UK Ministers of Culture to resolve differences over the Parthenon
Marble sculptures. We are at the start of the 21st Century in which
our two countries are part of a unique Union between the peoples of
Europe. The very minimum solution must be to allow these sculptures
to be brought together from time to time in each other's countries.
We need to remember that marble sculptures are shipped around the
world to exhibitions frequently these days. A few months ago I
visited the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire and saw many of
his vast marble sculptures being packed up to go to exhibitions in
different parts of the world.
Public opinion in Britain, which I share, wants the many people who
visit the Parthenon to be able to see as many of the sculptures that
were on that building as possible exhibited in a museum within
walking distance. But I know that the simple act of transferring the
sculptures in London permanently to Greece is not acceptable to many
people associated with Museums in Britain. They fear that it will
establish a precedent that will lead to the transfer back to the
country of origin of many other objects that have belonged not just
to the British Museum but to other museums throughout Europe. In
Greece this precedent issue may seem just a blocking mechanism but in
fairness I do not think that is the case and if we want progress on
this issue then we have to grapple with it in an imaginative way.
It was a major step towards dealing with this precedent argument when
the Greek Prime Minister and Minister of Culture recently proposed
that the sculptures in the British Museum should only be loaned to
Greece and that they should remain when in Greece in the ownership of
the British Museum. But it is a hard reality that the precedent
question is not dealt with to the British Museum's satisfaction or I
suspect the British government's if they were to be permanently
loaned, even if they were to remain in the ownership of the British
Museum. The sculptures have to be returned from time to time to the
British Museum for the precedent argument to be destroyed.
Everyone in the international museum world understands that our two
countries' membership of the European Union allows us as Member
States to come to some unique and special arrangement in dealing with
our European cultural heritage. The best way of proceeding would be
to make such an arrangement subject to a Treaty between our two
governments. A useful precedent is the Agreement between the UK and
the Egyptian government under which 'the Tutankhamun Treasures were
loaned for exhibition in the British Museum some years ago.
I suggest that a Treaty should take two fixed, initially agreed,
points when the sculptures would definitely be brought together on
display in our two countries:
o The first would be for at least the calendar year from the time in
2004 when the new Acropolis Museum opens in Athens, the year that the
Olympic Games are being held in the City. The display would, for
example, ensure that the sculptured marble foot of a Lapith woman in
the British Museum in London was brought together with her torso in
the Parthenon Hall of the new Museum within walking distance of the
o The second fixed point would be for at least the calendar year 2012
which many people are working to ensure that the Olympic Games comes
to London. It would be fitting for the sculptures in Athens to be
brought together with those in the British Museum during that year
and for the purposes of balance within the Treaty it would have to
specify 2012 irrespective of whether Britain did win its bid to host
the Olympics in that year. A Treaty with these two provisions would
be the bare minimum and an exchange for at least those two years
would break the negotiating deadlock. In addition I would hope that
the negotiators could come to a mutually satisfactory agreement in
the next few months as to how the marble sculptures would be shared
in the years between those fixed points from 2005-2011 and the end of
the Treaty in 2014. The Ministers of Culture for the ten years of the
initial Treaty would be free to negotiate with the help of their
specialist advisers from the museums the exchange of other objects to
enrich cultural exchanges between our two countries. I personally
hope that in exchange for more Greek sculptures and objects on
display in London and throughout the UK the shared Parthenon
sculptured marbles would spend the largest part of the initial Treaty
period in Athens.
In the initial Treaty the sculptures may remain apart in each other's
Museums for some of the time. But the initial Treaty would contain a
commitment to renewal. We would, I hope, find by the time a freshly
negotiated Treaty is agreed that drawing on the experience of the
previous decade, the sculptures would be kept together. There would
be new governments in office by then, new people in the Museums and
they would be likely to be influenced by the numbers of people who
had seen the sculptures, whether together or apart, in both Museums.
It would be easier to make a fairer assessment of the best allocation
in terms of the wider public interest for the renewed Treaty.
I realize that such an initial compromise solution will not win the
support of those with entrenched positions and passionate views on
either side of the argument. But a negotiated Treaty within these
parameters would be the civilized way for our two countries to
proceed over what has become an emotional and is potentially also a
divisive issue. It is in the spirit of an abiding cultural friendship
between our countries that I put it forward for consideration.
Note for Editors
As a schoolboy David Owen was in the Greek play at Bradfield College
and is a Patron of the Fund for renovating its Greek Theatre. As
Foreign Secretary he was President of the Council of Ministers at the
time when it was first accepted that Greece should come into the
European Community at the informal Schloss-Gymnich meeting at Leeds
Castle in May 1977. He is a frequent visitor to Greece and has built
a house there.
From: "Nancy Russell" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Helping protect Iraq's museums?
Date sent: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 10:13:43 -0700
This morning I distributed the March 12th article "Iraq shields
ancient treasures from high-tech war" by Dominic Evans (which I
received through this listserve) to all our employees. As you know,
no good deed goes unpunished and I have now been asked what, if
anything, we can do to help protect Iraq's museums and antiquities.
Does anyone know of any effort by ICOM or other organization to move
and safeguard collections in the event of a war with Iraq? What about
recovery of collections after a war?
Nancy J Russell
Everglades National Park
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034
phone (305) 242-7826
fax (305) 242-7836
From: "Chris Montgomery" email@example.com
Subject: Help in locating a book 'Micro Embosser'
Date sent: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 11:13:47 -0500
I am attempting to locate a Micro Embosser in order to 'mark' our
rare books. If anyone knows of a company that produces such, please
let me know. Thank you - and be safe.
Chris D. Montgomery
Biltmore House Security
The Biltmore Company
From: Boltshauser Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "'email@example.com'" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Tagging goods for theft protection via wireless
Date sent: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 13:20:42 +0100
we produce tagging systems which allow to protect art from theft.
our system is based on wireless communication. Could you please
provide a contact person? Your help is very much appreciated.
Business Unit Manager Ident
Baumer Electric AG
Tel. ++41 52 728 16 70 Fax. ++41 52 728 16 75
Russia returns war-looted art to Germany
Russia is going to return items from the so-called “Baldin
collection” to Germany, Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi told
reporters. When asked what Russia would get in return, Mr. Shvydkoi
said: “If your purse is stolen and then returned, you can give back a
quarter of its contents or just say, ‘Thank you’ in gratitude, it is
up to you.” The Minister noted that the restitution bill did not
apply to this collection, because it was not taken from Germany on
the orders of the Soviet military command. Viktor Baldin, a Soviet
Army captain, took 362 paintings from the Bremen museum in a
suitcase. For three years he kept them under his bed in his home in
Zagorsk near Moscow. In 1948, Mr. Baldin presented the collection to
a state museum, and in 1991 it was transferred to the State Hermitage
On March 12, 2003, deputies of the State Duma appealed to Russian
President Vladimir Putin not to hand museum items over to Germany on
a gratis basis
On February 2003, the Russian Ministry of Culture passed a decree on
handing over 364 museum exhibits from the Bremen museum, kept at the
Hermitage, to Germany. According to the deputies, this decree
contradicts Russian law, in particular the bills “On the museum fund
of the Russian Federation and museums” and “On cultural treasures
moved to the Soviet Union as a result of the World War II and
remaining on Russian territory”.
The Baldin collection is of great artistic value. It contains
masterpieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Rubens, Delacroix, Manet, Goya,
Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and other celebrated artists.
Nikolai Gubenko, the chairman of the Culture Commission and former
Minister of Culture of the USSR, said the ministerial decree would be
challenged in court. On Thursday, Mr. Gubenko sent his protest to the
Prosecutor General’s Office. He said the collection was worth at
least $1.5bn. For his part, Mr. Shvydkoi estimated the collection at
Case of looted Picasso may be headed to Chicago
By Howard Reich
Tribune arts critic
March 14, 2003
The legal battle over ownership of a $10 million Picasso masterpiece
looted by the Nazis during World War II may shift from Los Angeles to
Chicago if a tentative ruling issued Thursday by a California judge
becomes final and survives appeals. The dispute centers on Picasso's
1922 oil painting "Femme en blanc" ("Woman in White"), which was
stolen by the Nazis from a Paris art dealer's home in 1942, bought by
Chicago collectors James and Marilynn Alsdorf from a New York art
dealer in 1975 and pursued in Los Angeles County Superior Court last
December, when an heir of the original owner sued for its return.
Since then, Chicago art philanthropist Marilynn Alsdorf and the
original owner's heir, Oakland-based Thomas Bennigson, have disagreed
on where the civil case should be tried.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Victor Person offered a
glimpse of his legal reasoning in Thursday's tentative ruling:
"The court does not have general jurisdiction over Alsdorf, an
Illinois resident who does not have extensive or systematic and
continuous contacts with the state of California," Person wrote.
The plaintiff's claim "does not arise out of Alsdorf's contacts with
California; rather, the claim arises because of the Nazis' theft of
the painting from France during World War II, and Alsdorf's (and her
husband's) purchase of that painting from an art gallery in New York
in the 1970s," he wrote.
James Alsdorf died in 1990.
Bennigson's attorney, Holocaust-claims specialist E. Randol
Schoenberg, plans to appeal if the decision becomes final.