FBI returns smuggled artifacts to Peru, Ecuador
MIAMI — The FBI on Tuesday returned 150 smuggled pre-Columbian artifacts, some more than 3,000 years old, to the governments of Peru and Ecuador, the agency said.
The 153 pieces of jewelry as well as pottery, baskets, sculptures and figurines were found last April in the home of a man after he died in his retirement community in Avon Park, Florida, according to the bureau’s Miami field office.
Experts indicated that the artifacts, presented in a Miami ceremony to representatives of the Peru and Ecuador governments, were between 500 and 3,200 years old, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
The FBI teamed up with specialists from Florida International University who determined that 141 of the pieces originated in what is present-day Peru, and the other 12 came from neighboring Ecuador.
“These artifacts represent the cultural heritage of Peru and Ecuador. They can never be replaced and should be on display for many to see, not locked away,” said the FBI’s chief agent in Miami, John Gillies.
“We are honored to return these items to their rightful owners,” Gillies added.
Since the FBI established its Art Crime Team in 2004, it has recovered more than 2,600 items estimated to be worth over 140 million dollars, according to the bureau.

November 30th, 2009

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In WOII geroofd schilderij teruggevonden in VS
De eigenares van het schilderij “Jong meisje in blauwe jurk”, dat tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog werd geroofd, krijgt het schilderij dinsdag officieel terug. De eigenares staat als 4-jarig meisje op het schilderij afgebeeld.

Het schilderij van de Belgische kunstenaar Anto Carte werd geroofd nadat de familie van de vrouw in 1940 naar het Belgische platteland vluchtte voor de jodenvervolging. De familie gaf in 1946 de roof aan bij de Belgische overheid, maar het was pas in 1990 dat het schilderij terug opdook. Het Londense veilinghuis Christie’s verkocht het toen aan een koper uit de Verenigde Staten.

Long Island
Begin 2009 bezorgde het “Art Loss Register” uiteindelijk de informatie aan de Amerikaanse autoriteiten en aan een cel van de FOD Economie die leidde naar het schilderij. In een New Yorkse kunstgalerij op Long Island werd het doek teruggevonden.

De galerijhouder zei dat hij niet wist dat het schilderij gestolen was. Hij had het schilderij gekocht voor ongeveer 15.000 dollar, maar de huidige waarde wordt geschat op 20.000 euro.

“Het is de eerste keer dat de Belgische overheid geroofde kunst afkomstig uit de VS kan repatriëren”, zegt de FOD Economie in een persbericht. De ceremonie waarop het schilderij wordt teruggegeven, vindt dinsdag plaats in het Joods Museum in Brussel. De Amerikaanse ambassadeur Howard W. Gutman en de Belgische minister voor Ondernemen en Vereenvoudigen Vincent Van Quickenborne zullen daarbij aanwezig zijn. (belga/sps)

November 29th, 2009

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Iran asks UNESCO to help over dispute with Egypt

Iran has asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to protect the remains of a vanished Persian army of the Achaemenid empire in Egypt.

The request was made through a letter by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) on Sunday.

“Egypt’s chief archeologist Zahi Hawass has recently rejected the discovery of the army in his personal weblog due to political pressure,” ICHTO Spokesman, Hassan Mohseni, told Fars news agency.

Earlier reports announced that the remains of the army led by the Persian King, Cambyses II, had been discovered by the famous archeologists, the two Castiglioni brothers, in a small oasis not far from Siwa.

“I need to inform the public that recent reports published in newspapers, news agencies and TV news announcing that twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni have unearthed the remains of the Persian army of Cambyses, are unfounded and misleading,” Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, had written in his personal blog.

The 50,000 warriors of Cambyses II are said to have been drowned in a great sandstorm 2,500 years ago.

HRF/MMA

November 29th, 2009

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Phra Athikansadaeng Premasilo, a 77-year-old abbot of Wat Dong Wai, inspects beheaded Buddha statues. Thai police are promising to get tough on criminals who steal historic artifacts.
Photograph by: Sukree Sukplang, Reuters, Reuters
Thai police promised to get tough with criminals who steal historic artifacts for the international market after a spate of thefts from the old capital of Ayuthaya outraged the public in the Buddhist country.

At least 20 heads of Buddha statues have recently been reported stolen from temples in the World Heritage province of Ayuthaya, which was the kingdom’s capital from 1350 to 1767, said deputy national police chief Jongrak Juthanond.

“We believe there is a rise in demand in the antique markets abroad where people like to decorate their living rooms with these images,” Jongrak said.

He met with hundreds of monks at Wat Phananchaoeng Worawiharn temple to discuss ways to improve security, such as closed-circuit cameras, higher fences and barred windows.

“It’s already sinful to steal from temples. It’s much worse to steal ancient relics,” Jongrak said. “The thieves are cursed and those who buy them are cursed, too.”

The latest case on Monday involved the theft of six Buddha statues from Wat Thammasinsopa temple in the province, about 90 kilometres north of Bangkok. Some of the statues were nearly 300 years old.

On Nov. 19, seven heads of sandstone Buddha images were stolen at Wat Dong Wai, said police.

November 29th, 2009

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Former director of Spain’s Guggenheim museum jailed
(AFP) – 1 day ago
MADRID — The former financial director of Spain’s Guggenheim Bilbao has been sentenced to 32 months in jail for stealing nearly half a million euros (750,000 dollars) from the museum’s accounts, the court said Friday.
Roberto Cearsolo admitted taking the money between 1998 and 2008 through small transactions dealing with two companies related to the museum after an audit last year detected the money was missing.
“I have appropriated various amounts for my own benefit for a total of 486,979.38 euros. Since I could no longer live with this situation, I have decided to confess the facts to you,” he wrote in a letter sent to the museum’s director that was made public at the time.
He said he forged checks and bank transfers from two separate museum funds and to cover up his tracks, he made changes to the 2005 annual accounts as well as several other key accounting documents.
Cearsolo headed the Guggenheim Bilbao’s finances since it opened to the public until he was fired last year after the discovery that he has stolen money.
The Bilbao court sentenced him to jail on November 23 after finding him guilty of embezzlement and falsifying documents but the ruling was only announced on Friday.
The Guggenheim Bilbao is one of several museums belonging to the New York-based Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
The futuristic-looking building that houses the museum, designed by acclaimed US architect Frank Gehry, helped put the Basque city on the world map and began drawing thousands of tourists each year.

November 29th, 2009

Posted In: insider theft

Thai police vow crackdown on Buddha statue thieves
Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:05am EST
By Sukree Sukplang

AYUTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters Life!) – Thai police promised to get tough with criminals who steal historic artifacts for the international market after a spate of thefts from the old capital of Ayuthaya outraged the public in the Buddhist country.

At least 20 heads of Buddha statues have recently been reported stolen from temples in the World Heritage province of Ayuthaya, which was the kingdom’s capital from 1350 to 1767, said deputy national police chief Jongrak Juthanond.

“We believe there is a rise in demand in the antique markets abroad where people like to decorate their living rooms with these images,” Jongrak told Reuters, a day after he visited the province.

He met with hundreds of monks at Wat Phananchaoeng Worawiharn temple to discuss ways to improve security such as closed-circuit cameras, higher fences and barred windows.

“It’s already sinful to steal from temples. It’s much worse to steal ancient relics,” Jongrak said. “The thieves are cursed and those who buy them are cursed, too.”

The latest case on Monday involved the theft of six Buddha statues from Wat Thammasinsopa temple in the province, about 90 km (56 miles) north of Bangkok. Some of the images were nearly 300 years old.

In another incident on November 19, seven heads of sandstone Buddha images were stolen at Wat Dong Wai, according to police.

“When the monks woke up for morning prayers, it was still dark and we didn’t notice anything until we found the dogs dead. They poisoned the dogs in the middle of the night before stealing the statues,” Phra Athikansadaeng Premasilo, the temple’s 77-year-old abbot, told Reuters.

“Villagers are naturally very upset about this.”

Responding to the public outcry, Jongrak was reported as saying the police would use force if thieves resisted arrest.

“You could see thieves lying dead next to Buddha statues that have had their heads cut off,” he told reporters, although he stressed to Reuters that such force would only be used if suspects tried to escape or fought back.

The theft of temple artifacts carries a jail term of up to 15 years.

Headless statues are a common sight among temple ruins in the old capital although the plundering often dates back centuries.

The authorities are monitoring the online trade of Buddhist relics and artifacts that may have been smuggled out of the country, Jongrak said.

These images and other pieces of Thai art have been sold illegally abroad in recent decades, usually by Thais who pillaged ancient archaeological sites, Khemachai Thepchai of the government’s Fine Arts Office told Reuters.

Once a relic has been smuggled abroad and then sold through legal channels, it becomes all the harder to recover it.

“That makes it very difficult for us to make official complaints and bring them back,” Khemachai said.

(Writing by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Alan Raybould and Miral Fahmy)

November 29th, 2009

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http://human-rights-archaeology.blogspot.com/2009/11/dead-sea-scrolls-collection-history-and.html

The history of the collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls is very long and complicated; but since Martin Schøyen is ‘one of the few individuals in the world… who owns Dead Sea Scroll material’ (Shanks, 2002), their collection history might inform understanding of the Schøyen Collection’s history.(1)

Illicit trading, illicit export

The first seven Dead Sea Scrolls were found accidentally (rather than excavated archaeologically, or looted illicitly) (Greenfield, 2007: 214).

But instead of reporting them to the British colonial Palestinian Department of Antiquities, the Bedouin finders took the scrolls to Syrian Christian private antiquities dealers “Kando” Khalil Iskander Shahin and George Isaiah (or Shaya).

The antiquities dealing was ‘illegal’ (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 14), but Shahin and Isaiah sold four to Syrian Jacobite Church Archbishop (Mar) Athanasius Yeshua Samuel, and three (through archaeologist Prof. (Eliezer or) Eleazar Sukenik) to Hebrew University (Greenfield, 2007: 215).

Archbishop Samuel ‘illegal[ly]’ removed (smuggled) “his” scrolls from the Palestine Mandate to Lebanon, and thence to the United States (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 10), where he tried to sell them. Samuel’s transfer of cultural property without an export licence was illegal, and its illegality was public knowledge.(2)

Eventually, Israel bought the scrolls (through an intermediary for archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who was the former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), and the son of Eliezer Sukenik).

Illegal excavations

Archbishop Samuel also acquired new fragments when he ‘sent’ someone from his monastery who ‘removed’ them (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 11). As Jeannette Greenfield (2007: 215) said, Archbishop Samuel and antiquities dealer Isaiah ‘conducted their own illicit excavations’.

(Indeed, Amman Chief Inspector of Antiquities G. L. Harding said that he identified the cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls by the spoil heap of the ‘illegal excavations’ (cited in VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 12).)

‘Bedouin explorers’ found further fragments in February 1952, and the Palestine Archaeological Museum and the École Biblique bought them (‘with the agreement of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities’).

An expedition of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) found two more fragments in the ‘thoroughly… cleared’ cave and little more archaeological material in the (looting-)’honeycombed’ cliffs in March 1952 (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 15).

‘Bedouin explorers’ conducted a ‘survey’ in August 1952, when they found and offered ‘about 15,000’ fragments for sale, and provided ‘false information… to protect their treasure and their profit’, whereupon Amman Chief Inspector of Antiquities G. L. Harding bought ‘some’ for £1,300 (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 16).

Then Harding ‘caught the Bedouin at their work’ (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 17), and though they escaped with their finds, Harding eventually bought them and ‘perhaps 15,000 fragments… were, for the most part, kept in the country’ (VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 17); there were other finds by archaeologists in 1955 and by Bedouin in 1956.(3)(4)

Schøyen’s Dead Sea Scroll Collection

Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks (2002) proposed that,
If you have a Dead Sea Scroll for sale, you should get in touch with Martin Schøyen…. He is a prime prospect. He already owns several Dead Sea Scroll fragments….

… Schøyen also has one of the unusual pottery jars from Qumran in which the Bedouin found the first intact scrolls in 1947 or 1948.

He also owns a beautiful bronze inkwell… and a small bronze incense altar… that purportedly come from the settlement at Qumran, where many of the scrolls were probably written.

Shanks went on to say that
Schøyen insists, however, that he does not buy looted objects…. He will, however, purchase a looted item if a museum or scholar asks him to “rescue” it.
Yet in his introduction to the Schøyen Collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments (and related artefacts), Biblical and Jewish Studies Prof. Torleif Elgvin said that Schøyen ‘acquired’ 60 fragments from 15 scrolls ‘found by the Bedouin’ and ‘sold to the dealer Kando’.

As far as I know, all of the chance finds are in public collections; if Schøyen bought antiquities from Khalil Iskander Shahin (Kando), he probably bought looted antiquities.

It’s possible someone asked Schøyen to ‘rescue’ the artefacts, but since Jordan has ‘claimed the scrolls as [its] property’ since their discovery (Greenfield, 2007: 216), it’s probable Jordan might have wanted what few fragments it could get.

Bedouin illicit excavation

Just as a brief note of explanation, I am against the illicit antiquities trade, and the consequent destruction of cultural heritage, but I do not normally blame the looters, because they are often very poor, and remain poor despite their illicit excavations.

As Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro observed,
the [Bedouins’] work is tedious and back-breaking in the extreme, and certainly no member of the expedition… would begrudge the Ta’amireh a penny of their gains (cited in VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 18).
After a Recommendation in 1964, the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property made trading in illicitly excavated, exchanged or exported artefacts illegal in 1970 (and Norway only ratified it in 2007).

So, since Schøyen’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments and associated artefacts were first illicitly excavated and traded between 1946 and 1956, he did nothing illegal in acquiring them.
For example, temporary director of the American School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, Dr. John C. Trever, knew that the export was ‘technically illegal’, but didn’t care as long as the Scrolls were ‘safe’ (cited in VanderKam and Flint, 2002: 10).
Israeli archaeologist Dr. Uzi Dahari (2002) noted that the ‘Bedouin antiquity robbers” ‘illicit excavations’ between the (1951-1956) excavation seasons of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities were carried out ‘[d]espite all’ the Jordanian antiquities department’s ‘efforts’.
Since the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has occupied East Jerusalem, and thus has had control of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (also known as the Rockefeller Museum). Apart from political possession and simple physical access, this occupation has caused other scholarly dilemmas.

In a 13th December 1983 letter to the Guardian, Semitic philologist John Marco Allegro stated that ‘the then editor-in-chief [of the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls] forbade [his] return to the “Scrollery” in the Palestine Archaeological Museum after 1967’, but that his ‘ecclesiastical colleagues did return to continue their work on many occasions’ (cited in Brown, 2005: 264).

Bibliography

Brown, J A. 2005: John Marco Allegro: The maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Dahari, U. 2002: “The importance of the discoveries in the Judean Desert”. Paper presented at the President’s Forum on Archaeology: Completion of the Publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem, Israel, 5th June. Israel Antiquities Authority. Available at: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=17⊂_subj_id=524 [Also available at: http://www.president.gov.il/chapters/chap_4/_content_4_2_4_2_en.asp#2]

Elgvin, T. 2007: “Dead Sea Scrolls”. The Schøyen Collection, 2nd March. Available at: http://www.schoyencollection.com/dsscrolls.htm

Greenfield, J. 1996: The return of cultural treasures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Greenfield, J. 2007: The return of cultural treasures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shanks, H. 2002: “Scrolls, scripts and stelae: A Norwegian collector shows BAR his rare inscriptions”. Biblical Archaeology Review, Volume 28, Number 5. Available at: http://cojs.org/cojswiki/Scrolls,_Scripts_and_Stelae,_Hershel_Shanks,_BAR_28:05,_Sep/Oct_2002.

UNESCO. 1964: Recommendation on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Available at:

http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13083&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). 1970: Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Available at: http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13039&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

VanderKam, J C and Flint, P W. 2002: The meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their significance for understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. London: T&T Clark International.

November 26th, 2009

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”Conto-Buch für Ali Baba”
Berufungsverfahren um möglichen Kunstdiebstahl dauert länger als geplant
Von Rolf Schlicher
Landau. Am 16. November 1903 legte der Maler Max Slevogt ein Haushaltsbuch an. Auf dem Deckel der braun marmorierten Kladde steht “Conto-Buch für …” – der Künstler hat handschriftlich hinzugefügt “Ali Baba”.

Im Verlag Bruno Cassirer war gerade der Band “Ali Baba und die vierzig Räuber” erschienen, es war Slevogts erster Illustrationsauftrag. In seinem Haushaltsbuch notierte Slevogt akribisch die Einnahmen sowie Ausgaben für Reisen, Kleidung und Lebenshaltung. Er notiert aber auch, was für Bücher er verkauft, verliehen, verschickt oder zurückerhalten hat. Und er hält fest, welche Bilder er an Sammler verkauft hat, welche er zu Ausstellungen gegeben hat. Das 64-seitige Heft ist so fast ein kleines Werksverzeichnis Max Slevogts, der am 20. September 1932 auf seinem Hofgut Neukastel bei Leinsweiler gestorben ist.
So viel Ordnungssinn hätte sich mancher vielleicht auch von den Nachfahren des berühmten Malers und Grafikers gewünscht. Doch auf dem Slevogthof, wie Neukastel mittlerweile genannt wird, wurde später offenbar kein Haushaltsbuch mehr geführt. Nicht für “Ali Baba”, nicht für andere. Die Münchner Rechtsanwältin Dorothea Lehner, Testamentsvollstreckerin der 1987 verstorbenen Slevogt-Tochter Nina Lehmann, sagt: “Eine Inventarisierung des Nachlasses gibt es nicht.” Niemand hat akribisch aufnotiert, was aus dem wertvollen Nachlass, der in zwei Archivräumen auf dem Slevogthof lagert, verkauft, verliehen oder vielleicht auch verschenkt wurde.

All das zwingt das Landgericht Landau zu gründlichen Nachforschungen. Seit Mitte September verhandelt die 3. Strafkammer gegen einen 39-jährigen Landauer, der vom Slevogthof Kunstwerke und persönliche Gegenstände aus dem Nachlass des Malers im Wert von 1,5 Millionen Euro gestohlen haben soll. Das Amtsgericht Landau hatte ihn deshalb, wie berichtet, zu dreieinhalb Jahren Haft verurteilt. Der Beschuldigte, ein früherer Kunstgeschichte-Student ohne Abschluss, behauptet freilich nach wie vor, er habe seine Schätze zwischen 1998 und 2004 von den Erben geschenkt bekommen. Als Lohn für Helfer- und Betreuerdienste auf dem Slevogthof. Der 39-Jährige hat deshalb gegen das Urteil der ersten Instanz Berufung eingelegt. Ebenso wie die Staatsanwaltschaft, der das Strafmaß noch zu niedrig ist.

Eigentlich wollte das Landgericht das Berufungsverfahren bereits Anfang Oktober abschließen. Drei Dutzend Zeugen wurden bereits gehört, doch es wird immer noch verhandelt – wohl noch bis kurz vor Weihnachten. Der umsichtige Vorsitzende Richter Helmuth Kuhs geht allem nach und auf den Grund. Mitunter waren auch Zeugen nicht reisefähig, für die Aussage der Anwältin Lehner (77) fuhr das Gericht nach München. Manche, die damals auf dem Slevogthof waren, sind heute im Ausland. Beispielsweise die 31-jährige Ururenkelin des Malers. Sie arbeitet als Reiseleiterin in Griechenland, lebt derzeit auf einer Insel. Es ist noch nicht darüber entschieden, ob das Gericht sie anreisen lässt.

Die Erbschaftsregelung auf dem Slevogthof ist kompliziert: Die Künstler-Tochter Nina Lehmann (1907-1987) hatte ihre Tochter Nina Emanuel (1929-2008) als Vorerbin, deren Kinder als Nacherben eingesetzt. Damit ist klar: Nina Emanuel durfte aus dem Nachlass nichts verschenken, ihr Ehemann durfte über das Erbe gar nicht verfügen. Doch ausgerechnet von Nina Emanuels Mann will der Angeklagte mit Schenkungen bedacht worden sein. Rund 200 Mal, wie er sagt. Insgesamt wurden rund 1000 Grafiken, Zeichnungen, Mappen und Gemälde, aber auch persönliche Stücke wie der Personalausweis des Künstlers, sein Jahresausweis für den Berliner Zoo oder die Ernennungsurkunde als Professor sichergestellt.

Geschenkt oder gestohlen? Die Eheleute Emanuel können vom Gericht nicht mehr befragt werden, sie sind vor einigen Jahren gestorben. Nina Emanuel und ihr Mann werden als “geizig” und “sparsam” beschrieben. Auch Testamentsvollstreckerin Dorothea Lehner kann sich nicht vorstellen, dass die Erben etwas verschenkt haben. Doch sie spürte seinerzeit auch, “dass es auf dem Hof drunter und drüber ging”. Vor allem, weil sich die Nachkommen Slevogts im Jahr 2001 über die Frage, wie es mit dem Anwesen weitergehen und was dort investiert werden soll, völlig zerstritten hatten.

Als die Münchner Rechtsanwältin erfuhr, dass der 39-jährige Landauer in diesen Krisenjahren fast täglich auf dem Slevogthof weilte, sich als enger Freund des Ehemanns der Erbin bezeichnete, war sie alarmiert. Lehner befürchtete “Gefahren für den Nachlass”, wie sie dem Gericht jetzt bei ihrer Vernehmung in München berichtete. Sie habe den Dauergast auf dem Slevogthof am Telefon damals ausdrücklich darauf hingewiesen, dass aus dem Nachlass nichts verschenkt werden dürfe und dafür das Recht der Nacherben angeführt.

Was vom Slevogthof wegkam – ob durch Diebstahl oder unrechtmäßige Schenkungen – ist immer noch beschlagnahmt und lagert in der Hinterlegungsstelle in Mainz. Im Falle einer Verurteilung wird das Strafmaß auch davon abhängen, von welchem Wert dieses Kunstschatzes das Gericht ausgeht. Nach Auffassung des Angeklagten ist die bisherige Schätzung einer Sachverständigen, die von 1,5 Millionen Euro ausgeht, viel zu hoch angesetzt.

Slevogt-Gemälde erzielten in den vergangenen Jahren bei Auktionen Preise zwischen 20.000 und 90.000 Euro, vereinzelt auch deutlich mehr. Und das Haushaltsbuch Slevogts zeigt, welcher Wert mitunter den persönlichen Dingen eines Künstlers beigemessen wird. Die Kladde “Conto-Buch für Ali Baba” wurde gerade vom Hamburger Auktionshaus “Ketterer” versteigert. Für 500 Euro war das Heft, das aus der Sammlung Kohl-Weigand (St. Ingbert) stammt, angeboten worden. Ein Bieter zahlte schließlich fast das Siebenfache: 3416 Euro.

November 25th, 2009

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Southland Museum quiet on thefts

By JARED MORGAN – The Southland Times

A security breach at Southland Museum and Art Gallery has led to the theft of Maori artefacts, but the museum’s manager is remaining tightlipped about how the six adzes were taken.
Southland Museum and Art Gallery manager Gael Ramsay yesterday confirmed the theft had happened earlier this month but it “wasn’t to the extent that was reported”.
A report in the Otago Daily Times yesterday said a box containing 12 greenstone Maori adzes were in the museum’s receiving area, which is closed to the public, and were waiting to be catalogued.
But, yesterday Ms Ramsay told The Southland Times six stone adzes had been taken and they were “not all greenstone”.
Rather than worth a significant monetary amount, the adzes were of “intrinsic cultural value”, she said. Made by pre- European Maori, stone adze heads, or toki, were lashed to a wooden handle and used in working wood, including canoe building.
When pressed to place a dollar-value on the adzes, Ms Ramsay said they were “probably worth less than $1000”.
She declined to talk about museum security and what measures were in place when the adzes disappeared or how they could have been taken from the building without being detected.
Detective Sergeant Mark McCloy, of Invercargill CIB, said the theft was reported to police on November 5.
Southland Museum and Art Gallery chairman and Invercargill city councillor Darren Ludlow said the theft was a management issue and referred all questions back to Ms Ramsay.

November 25th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

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November 25, 2009
Fossil theft: One of our dinosaurs is missing
By Cahal Milmo
The illegal trade is increasingly lucrative, with dire results for science

Armed with rock chisels, it took the thief only a few minutes to wipe out 135 million years of history. The fossilised iguanodon footprint was hacked out of the limestone slab where it had lain in a Dorset quarry and spirited away by an illicit collector.

Some 5,000 miles away in southern India, scientists last month issued a plea for villagers and even student palaeontologists to halt the mass looting of hundreds of dinosaur eggs whose petrified embryos could shed new light on the extinction of a species.

Fascination with the ferocious beasts has never been greater, with scientists announcing almost weekly the discovery of new prehistoric species from giant crocodiles to feathered lizards that bear testimony to an evolutionary link with birds. But with a pristine Tyrannosaurus rex specimen fetching up to $8.3m (£5m), there is growing concern that a booming trade in stolen or illicit fossils is wrecking unique sites and seeing previously unknown species disappear into private collections, where they are lost to science.

One of the world’s leading palaeontologists told The Independent that fossil rustling had become a “huge international problem” stretching from developed markets like Britain to dinosaur hotspots such as Mongolia and China. The speed and anonymity of the internet has led to a thriving black market linking unscrupulous dealers to private collectors interested in “trophy” fossils for display rather than study. Once a fossil is dug out of the ground without proper recording of information such as its location and depth, at least half its scientific value is lost.

Even a correctly-recorded specimen which ends up in private hands is lost to science because scientific journals do not publish research on specimens which cannot be readily accessed or peer reviewed.

Professor Philip Currie of the University of Alberta, an eminent Canadian scientist who is chairman of the ethics committee of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, said: “This is a huge international problem that affects most of us who do research in the field. I do a lot of work in China and Mongolia, where highly significant fossils, including new species of animals, feathered dinosaurs and birds, are regularly smuggled out illegally and sold at big international fossil shows and over the web. I have seen many quarries [in Mongolia] where, in the quest for illicit profit, specimens have been destroyed by incompetent collectors looking for teeth and claws. The destruction of specimens that survived underground for 75 million years only to be ripped up for a few dollars is heart-rending.”

After a spate of thefts in Scotland and northern England seven years ago, when fossil hunters armed with diggers, electric saws and dynamite stole stones worth ten of thousands of pounds, police and wildlife conservation bodies launched a campaign to crack down on illegal collectors.

A voluntary code of conduct for Britain’s army of enthusiasts has also been successful in ensuring that specimens are submitted for assessment to museums and conservation groups. But there is evidence that the plundering of Britain’s dinosaur-bearing rocks is continuing. Earlier this year, a thief carved the 18in iguanodon footprint out of the Coombefield Quarry on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast at Portland.

The discovery of the theft prompted the owner of the site, Portland Gas, to order the removal and secure storage of another 25 slabs containing footprints from various two-legged and four-legged dinosaurs.

More than 30 imprints from a three-toed dinosaur stolen from Bendrick Rock, near Barry in Wales, have been found for sale on eBay and fossil shops on the south coast of England.

Jonathan Larwood, senior palaeontologist with Natural England, said: “The vast majority of collectors out there are law-abiding and will let the appropriate people know if they find something of interest. A lot of fossils are found on our eroding coasts and this type of collecting is really important. It is something we want to encourage. But there have always been unscrupulous collectors who will steal fossils and seek to sell them on, and the internet has provided them with a much more easily accessible market.”

In order to shut down illicit dealers, landowners are increasingly resorting to injunctions to restrict the activities of repeat offenders. The Independent understands that the National Trust is currently seeking an injunction against one fossil collector who has repeatedly ignored demands to stop digging at one of Britain’s richest fossil sites. The Trust declined to comment on the case, saying that proceedings were still ongoing. But while the trade in illegally recovered fossils from Britain may be limited to a few dozen specimens every year, the problem is on a far greater scale elsewhere. In the village of Senthurai in Tamil Nadu, southern India, scientists had to call in police last month when storms uncovered hundreds of dinosaur eggs that had been concealed by sand 8ft below the ground. As news spread of the discovery, the site was plundered by villagers and students accused of selling on the eggs. Professor K Kumaraswamy, head of geosciences at Bharathidasan University, said: “We are unable to stop the plundering. Each egg or egg cluster may provide a unique insight into the life and extinction of the dinosaur species.”

The allure of the open market means that potentially unique or important specimens like the eggs will soon be circulating in a fossil-selling industry worth at least £100m a year. A spate of museum openings in Japan and a booming market in North America in recent years has led to eye-watering prices for so-called “voucher” specimens such as a T. rex skeleton. A private buyer last week paid between $5m and $8m for a T. Rex fossil, which will now be displayed in an unnamed American museum.

The risks of mixing academia with the fossil business were highlighted 10 years ago when an archaeoraptor bought on the open market for an American museum and hailed by National Geographic magazine as proof of the missing link between birds and dinosaurs turned out to be a “composite” – two fossils cleverly fused together to make a convincing fake.

Decades of expertise in fossil cleaning mean that Britain is also profiting from the commercial trade. Consignments of Chinese dinosaur eggs discovered in the 1990s were prepared in the UK, revealing beautifully preserved dinosaur embryos. But, because they have been sold to private collections and question marks remain about whether they were legally exported from China, scientists have not been able to study the specimens.

Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, said: “Fossils are a finite resource. In cases where they are recovered illicitly or illegally, and sold on, there is a loss of data to science. I would not like to estimate just how big that loss is.”

November 24th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Google to digitise Iraq artefacts

The internet search giant, Google, says 14,000 images of the precious artefacts kept in Iraq’s National Museum will be available online from early next year.

Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, said the world should see Iraq’s rich heritage and contribution to culture.

“The history of the beginning of – literally – civilisation… is preserved in this museum,” he said.

Some 15,000 artefacts and antiquities were stolen from the museum when it was ransacked after 2003 US-led invasion.

Only about a quarter are believed to have been retrieved, despite international efforts to ban their trafficking or sale.

The museum, which only re-opened in February, nevertheless still holds countless relics from the Stone Age to the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods.

“I can think of no better use of our time and our resources than to make the images and ideas from your civilisation, from the very beginnings of time, available to billions of people worldwide,” Mr Schmidt told Iraqi officials at a ceremony in Baghdad.

Mr Schmidt said the thousands of images, “plus a few surprises”, would be available on the internet early next year.

The costs of the project, which have not so far been released, are being borne jointly by Google and the US state department.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8376554.stm

November 24th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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by Elaine Attard

The Zabbar church yesterday lost much more than just the jewels that adorned the parish’s statue of Our Lady of Graces when it was burgled on Saturday night.

Zabbar vice-parish priest Josef Mifsud told The Malta Independent that the jewellery items just could not be valued.

“Those jewels meant much more for the Zabbarin. Zabbar families offered jewellery to Our Lady for graces granted after prayer. This tradition is still alive. Some of the jewels were quite ancient and were inherited over generations. Luckily not all the jewels offered to the statue were on display,” said Fr Mifsud.

Fr Mifsud, who does not originate from Zabbar, explained how yesterday morning he came better to understand what Our Lady of Graces means to parishioners. Their faith is still strong even among young people. Many dropped by in the morning to pray and share their grief with fellow members of the parish. They felt as if part of them has been stolen, said the priest.

Most of the jewels donated to Our Lady of Graces are stored in a safe place. There are so many of them that they are never all used at the same time. The charms are used to decorate the statue on the feast day in September.

Laurence Buhagiar, a volunteer who works at the Zabbar church said the faithful were more concerned about the spiritual values lost, than the monetary.

“The thieves entered our church and had the temerity to steal items from the statue of Our Lady. What else are we to expect?” one Zabbar resident asked in disbelief.

Apart from a spiritual value the jewels had a cultural value. Fine arts museum curator Sandro Debono explained that the potential loss of the stolen jewels goes beyond the economic. “Old golden objects were made using different techniques from those used today. Maltese goldsmiths’ work used to be regulated in a strict way that guaranteed a high quality. The dimension in which these items were made is lost forever. Some of the jewels were the last souvenirs left from a long lost epoch. It has a meaning, which symbolises the identity of the Zabbar community.”

Mr Debono said he is against the use of jewellery to decorate statues. He said the weight of certain jewellery might damage the statue. Luckily, the statue did not suffer extensive abrasions on the paintwork during the robbery.

Sources who are conversant in the science of conservation explained that properties of gold used in old jewellery are probably different from the properties used in gold today. The quality depends on the purity of the gold measured in carats. Some of the jewels may be just covered in gold leaf or gilded. It also depends on the method used to encrust them with precious stones.

It is not yet clear how the thieves entered the church, although it is believed that since the church’s façade is currently undergoing restoration, the thieves used the scaffolding to make their way into the sanctuary. But the jewels on Our Lady of Graces are not the only Zabbar treasures.

When the late Mgr. Joseph Zarb was appointed parish priest of Zabbar in 1943, he quickly realised how rich the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces was in terms of historical artefacts. Being a researcher and a scholar, he became aware that many precious objects such as banners, sails, anchors, weapons, slave chains, model ships, church vestments, altar fronts and votive paintings, all listed in old inventories, were already lost forever, most probably due to neglect and an underestimation of their importance.

These were all offerings to Our Lady of Graces from people coming from all walks of life, from poor peasants to popes. To halt the unintentional destruction of more precious patrimony, Mgr Zarb thought of building a Museum to house and preserve what remained. His dream came true in 1954 when the Sanctuary Museum was opened to the public. Up to this day, it remains the only building in Malta, which was purposely built to house a museum.

November 20th, 2009

Posted In: Church theft, Mailing list reports

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Religieuze schatten geroofd in Brugse kathedraal

November 20th, 2009

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A German court has upheld Iraqi claims over a miniature gold vessel that for the past three years has been at the centre of a tangled dispute involving a Munich auction house, German customs, the Iraqi embassy in Berlin, an archaeologist, and a museum of classical antiquities.
The case, which has focused attention on the sale of smuggled Iraqi artifacts in Germany, began late in 2004 when the slightly dented six-centimetre-high gold vessel was included in a sale at Munich auction house Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger, described as being of Mediterranean origin, possibly from Troy and dated to the Roman Iron-age period (1st century AD). However, the vessel was spotted by an unnamed expert who believed that it was in fact much older and of Sumerian origin.
The Iraqi embassy in Berlin was alerted and subsequently instigated proceedings against the auction house claiming breach of legislation prohibiting the sale of antiquities smuggled out of Iraq. The vessel was confiscated by the Stuttgart Customs Investigations Office and on the basis of a court ruling was handed to Dr Michael Müeller-Karpe, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz, for expert research and identification.
Dr Müeller-Karpe, agreed that the piece was of Iraqi origin and indeed that it was a rare example of a Sumerian gold vessel, around 4,500 years old and possibly made for a child’s doll house. He speculated that it was likely to have been illegally excavated from the royal cemetery at the much looted site of the ancient Sumerian capital of Ur on the Euphrates river.
The case became the particular focus of media attention earlier this year when it was reported that Dr Müeller-Karpe had refused to return the vessel to German customs officials. This was partly at the behest of the Iraqi embassy in Berlin which believed that the museum was the safest place for it to be held while the legal process played out, however, Dr Müeller-Karpe told DPA news agency that as an archaeologist who regularly carried out fieldwork in Iraq he was concerned that he could become the unwitting victim of strict Iraqi laws concerning the handling of stolen objects and face a possible prison sentence of up to five years. Reports that customs officials were preparing to seize the vessel by force proved spurious and it was eventually handed over by the museum director on 20 July.
The decision of the Finanzgericht or financial court in Munich on 25 September was reached on the basis of a second expert opinion which concurred that the vessel was of Iraqi origin and it was ordered that it should be handed over to Iraqi authorities. It is believed however that the vessel remains in German hands pending an appeal by the auction house.
Dr Müeller-Karpe told The Art Newspaper that he found the actions of the auction house strange considering that it had originally valued the vessel at 1,200 Euros. “This is the equivalent of a lawyer’s fee for one day, I cannot understand why they bother except that for them like us it is a matter of principle”.
The case has been something of a personal mission on the part of Iraqi ambassador to Berlin Alaa Al-Hashimy, whose interest in cultural affairs stems from his background as an architect . In 2007 legislation was passed in Iraq requiring envoys in foreign countries to monitor the appearance of any Mesopotamian artifacts on the commercial market. Furthermore, this August a letter of understanding was signed between the two governments to ensure cooperation in cases where Iraqi artifacts appear on the German market. A recent report on Azzaman news agency claimed that since the court’s ruling Iraqi diplomats in Germany have stopped the sale of 28 Mesopotamian artifacts believed to have been smuggled out of Iraq in the past five years.
In an interview on 7 October Mr Al-Hashimy told Berliner Zeitung that the issue of looted Mesopotamian artifacts on sale in Germany has become of particular concern for Iraq:
“Unfortunately, we have information that make it clear that Germany has become a hub for the illegal international art market and the authorities have not yet done enough to prevent it” he said. “The legal situation in Germany is very unfortunate for us. The burden of proof is too high, especially for objects stolen by grave robbers” he said. “Even an expert opinion with a probability of provenance of 95 percent isn’t enough for the courts. Only previously catalogued objects such as those looted from the National Museum in Baghdad can be easily determined to be stolen”.
Dr Müeller-Karpe concurs with this opinion. I have the impression that other countries have done more than Germany —particularly in relation to Iraq. Until now Germany has returned just one item. This is the bronze axe of the Sumerian king Shulgi which the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier personally delivered to Baghdad in February of this year. The Cologne art dealer who was found in possession of the axe was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
However Müeller-Karpe believes that the ruling over the miniature gold vessel may have important ramifications. “If it prevails it could have a tremendous effect on this market. It is not so much the law but how the law is enforced. Stolen items cannot be sold, but you need a lawyer or a judge who takes action and the problem is that no-one has taken a pro-active approach. Of course you could ask why? Laws in Afghanistan or Iran are not much different from Iraq.”
“As long as buyers don’t care where these things come from they are encouraging looting to continue. In Germany you are punished if you buy a stolen car radio, but if you buy a stolen cylinder seal, or clay tablet, you are not.”

November 20th, 2009

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Last Saturday I wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion deploring the archeological fraternity’s relentless and exaggerated criticism of the U.S. for allowing damage to Iraq’s heritage. From the Baghdad museum to ancient sites around Iraq–most prominently the site of Babylon, where coalition forces had a base–the U.S. and allies were constantly berated by top academics and museum experts for either allowing looters to operate or for directly perpetrating the damage. I had followed the story for some time, and I had even made a couple of near-suicidal attempts to reach Babylon during the insurgency because nobody I knew in Baghdad would risk taking me out there. It was in serious bad-guy territory and impossible to access without choppers or armed escorts. That was true of most ancient sites.

I was always mystified therefore by the constant stream of invective from Western experts about the depredation to such places. How did they know? Who was out there acting as their eyes and ears? How trustworthy were such sources? Each time our scholars made disapproving noises, loud echoes followed in the Western and then Mideastern world media. At a period when the war hung in the balance, when Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims wrestled with the question of whether to view the U.S. as latter-day Crusaders or as a liberating force, you can imagine the effect of such media headlines.

I didn’t say it this way in the article but I will now: Such heated criticism must certainly have inflamed nationalist sentiment and led directly to the loss of lives. A Jan. 15, 2005 BBC report, for example, began with the following statement: “Coalition forces in Iraq have caused irreparable damage to the ancient city of Babylon, the British Museum says.” It continued with such details as “sandbags have been filled with precious archeological fragments and 2,600 year old paving stones have been crushed by tanks” and that long trenches were dug “through archeological deposits.”

In my WSJ article I identified the top two noisemakers as Elizabeth Stone from Stony Brook University and John Curtis, head of the British Museum’s Middle Eastern Department. Dr. Curtis was quoted in the BBC report as saying that the allied presence at Babylon was “tantamount to establishing a military camp around Stonehenge.”

What I didn’t have room to say in my op-ed piece was: How on Earth could the allies protect the site if they didn’t have a military presence there? And why didn’t Dr. Curtis mention that the “military camp around Stonehenge” had already been built by Saddam, who kept a tank regiment there? Saddam also damaged the site in countless other ways such as building a palace atop Babylon’s central hill. Dr. Curtis did not mention how much damage was left over from Saddam’s time–for obvious reasons: He hadn’t seen the place at the time.

Doctors Stone and Curtis finally took a trip with armed escorts on a British military helicopter around southern Iraq’s eight top ancient sites in June 2008, sites that were important enough to cover a full fifth of the country’s surface area. (Babylon is located elsewhere.) They found “little or no damage,” and they were “surprised,” it was reported in the Art Newspaper. I wrote a July 15, 2008 article for WSJ entitled “So Much For the Looted Sites,” in which I noted that the good news seemed to cast doubt on the archeological fraternity’s alarmist and incendiary former announcements, as well as “their method, their probity in sifting through the evidence.” I asked: “Do they have a political agenda?”

November 19th, 2009

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November 18th, 2009

Posted In: forgery, Mailing list reports

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German court orders return of ancient vessel to Iraq
But the gold vase is still believed to be held in Germany pending an appeal

By Lucian Harris | Web only
Published online 18 Nov 09 (News)
A German court has upheld Iraqi claims over a miniature gold vessel that for the past three years has been at the centre of a tangled dispute involving a Munich auction house, German customs, the Iraqi embassy in Berlin, an archaeologist, and a museum of classical antiquities.
The case, which has focused attention on the sale of smuggled Iraqi artifacts in Germany, began late in 2004 when the slightly dented six-centimetre-high gold vessel was included in a sale at Munich auction house Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger, described as being of Mediterranean origin, possibly from Troy and dated to the Roman Iron-age period (1st century AD). However, the vessel was spotted by an unnamed expert who believed that it was in fact much older and of Sumerian origin.

The Iraqi embassy in Berlin was alerted and subsequently instigated proceedings against the auction house claiming breach of legislation prohibiting the sale of antiquities smuggled out of Iraq. The vessel was confiscated by the Stuttgart Customs Investigations Office and on the basis of a court ruling was handed to Dr Michael Müeller-Karpe, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz, for expert research and identification.
Dr Müeller-Karpe, agreed that the piece was of Iraqi origin and indeed that it was a rare example of a Sumerian gold vessel, around 4,500 years old and possibly made for a child’s doll house. He speculated that it was likely to have been illegally excavated from the royal cemetery at the much looted site of the ancient Sumerian capital of Ur on the Euphrates river.
The case became the particular focus of media attention earlier this year when it was reported that Dr Müeller-Karpe had refused to return the vessel to German customs officials. This was partly at the behest of the Iraqi embassy in Berlin which believed that the museum was the safest place for it to be held while the legal process played out, however, Dr Müeller-Karpe told DPA news agency that as an archaeologist who regularly carried out fieldwork in Iraq he was concerned that he could become the unwitting victim of strict Iraqi laws concerning the handling of stolen objects and face a possible prison sentence of up to five years. Reports that customs officials were preparing to seize the vessel by force proved spurious and it was eventually handed over by the museum director on 20 July.
The decision of the Finanzgericht or financial court in Munich on 25 September was reached on the basis of a second expert opinion which concurred that the vessel was of Iraqi origin and it was ordered that it should be handed over to Iraqi authorities. It is believed however that the vessel remains in German hands pending an appeal by the auction house.
Dr Müeller-Karpe told The Art Newspaper that he found the actions of the auction house strange considering that it had originally valued the vessel at 1,200 Euros. “This is the equivalent of a lawyer’s fee for one day, I cannot understand why they bother except that for them like us it is a matter of principle”.
The case has been something of a personal mission on the part of Iraqi ambassador to Berlin Alaa Al-Hashimy, whose interest in cultural affairs stems from his background as an architect . In 2007 legislation was passed in Iraq requiring envoys in foreign countries to monitor the appearance of any Mesopotamian artifacts on the commercial market. Furthermore, this August a letter of understanding was signed between the two governments to ensure cooperation in cases where Iraqi artifacts appear on the German market. A recent report on Azzaman news agency claimed that since the court’s ruling Iraqi diplomats in Germany have stopped the sale of 28 Mesopotamian artifacts believed to have been smuggled out of Iraq in the past five years.
In an interview on 7 October Mr Al-Hashimy told Berliner Zeitung that the issue of looted Mesopotamian artifacts on sale in Germany has become of particular concern for Iraq:
“Unfortunately, we have information that make it clear that Germany has become a hub for the illegal international art market and the authorities have not yet done enough to prevent it” he said. “The legal situation in Germany is very unfortunate for us. The burden of proof is too high, especially for objects stolen by grave robbers” he said. “Even an expert opinion with a probability of provenance of 95 percent isn’t enough for the courts. Only previously catalogued objects such as those looted from the National Museum in Baghdad can be easily determined to be stolen”.
Dr Müeller-Karpe concurs with this opinion. I have the impression that other countries have done more than Germany —particularly in relation to Iraq. Until now Germany has returned just one item. This is the bronze axe of the Sumerian king Shulgi which the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier personally delivered to Baghdad in February of this year. The Cologne art dealer who was found in possession of the axe was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
However Müeller-Karpe believes that the ruling over the miniature gold vessel may have important ramifications. “If it prevails it could have a tremendous effect on this market. It is not so much the law but how the law is enforced. Stolen items cannot be sold, but you need a lawyer or a judge who takes action and the problem is that no-one has taken a pro-active approach. Of course you could ask why? Laws in Afghanistan or Iran are not much different from Iraq.”
“As long as buyers don’t care where these things come from they are encouraging looting to continue. In Germany you are punished if you buy a stolen car radio, but if you buy a stolen cylinder seal, or clay tablet, you are not.”

November 18th, 2009

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During the 19th session of the Antiquities and Urban Heritage in Arab World Conference, which was held recently in Riyadh, Professor Ali Al Ghaban, vice president of the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Antiquities’ (SCTA) Antiquities and Museums Sector, announced that the Kingdom will fight sternly any illicit trafficking of antiquities, in addition to taking a tough stand against illegal antiquities in the Kingdom. Prof. Ghaban pointed out that Saudi Arabia will spare no effort to eradicate the illicit trade in archaeological pieces, which is causing significant damage to historical sites.

The conference which was held under the theme, “Illegal excavations and illicit trade in antiquities,” recommended in its closing session that Arab countries establish a digital record of their antiquities and ensure exchange of experiences across the Arab world to document architectural heritage. The conference also stressed the importance of cooperation between international organizations and member countries to recover the stolen antiquities taken abroad, as well as provide special assistance to Kuwait to retrieve its relics lost during the gulf war, in addition to highlighting the damage that Gaza’s cultural heritage has undergone.

Prof. Ghaban presented a paper in which he addressed the definition and categories of illegal excavations, such as digging for alleged treasures, digging for artifacts, quarrying archaeological sites for reuse, and damaging archaeological sites for the purpose of construction or for urban and agricultural expansion. Prof. Ghaban stated that SCTA has several developmental plans regarding its antiquities and museums sector, stressing the magnitude of educating Saudi citizens on the importance of heritage and its preservation. He explained the mechanisms of illicit trade in antiquities and referred to the appropriate methods to address this through the application of international regulations that restrict such phenomena. Prof. Ghaban concluded his paper with exhibiting samples of pieces that have been acclaimed and returned to the source countries, such as the archaeological pieces smuggled from Yemen Arab Republic and artifacts from the Republic of Iraq and Egypt.

Next year’s session will address “Cultural tourism and antiquities” along with the election of its prominent offices from the countries of Bahrain, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

The conference was organized by SCTA in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization.

November 17th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports

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Nov 16, 2009

Reporter: Janet Kim

Email Address: janet.kim@wkyt.com

They’re valuable pieces of Kentucky history, but now thousands of state documents will need to be repaired all because of a water leak.

Monday afternoon, workers at the State Library are figuring out just how much damage the leak did this weekend and what it will cost to fix the collections and equipment.

Officials knew about the flood about an hour after it was discovered on Friday night, and got the worst documents out, and started working on them first.

Fans and humidifiers have been brought in to help out. Paper towels are being placed in between pages to keep them dry.

Some workers put in 17 hour shifts over the weekend.

There’s no official word at this time about the monetary damage the leak caused.

The state library will be closed through Wednesday.

including video: http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/70199657.html


November 17th, 2009

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NEFERTITI, IDIA, TIYE AND OTHERS REVISITED: NEFERTITI IN SPLENDID ISOLATION?

“The history of the bust of Nefertiti shows very clearly how hollow it can sound when Germans and other Europeans refer to legal principles in relation to the “Third World.”

Gert von Paczensky and Herbert Ganslymayr

The intensive and extensive publicity surrounding the re-opening of the Neues Museum in Berlin and the renewed demands by Zahi Hawass made it inevitable that all those interested in restitution of looted/stolen cultural objects would pay attention to the recent celebration of the renovated museum on the Museums Island in Berlin.

We were prepared to see a large number of persons at the opening of the museum but we did not expect the massive crowd we met on our arrival. Tickets for the museum were sold out and one had to buy tickets for the next day and to come at a definite time. The interest of the public, both German and foreign, was evident. Most of the crowd came essentially to see Nefertiti in her new surroundings.

read full text at: http://www.museum-security.org/nefertiti_kwame_opoku.htm

November 17th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects, Mailing list reports

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A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’

By JOHN TIERNEY
Zahi Hawass regards the Rosetta Stone, like so much else, as stolen property languishing in exile. “We own that stone,” he told Al Jazeera, speaking as the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The British Museum does not agree — at least not yet. But never underestimate Dr. Hawass when it comes to this sort of custody dispute. He has prevailed so often in getting pieces returned to what he calls their “motherland” that museum curators are scrambling to appease him.

Last month, after Dr. Hawass suspended the Louvre’s excavation in Egypt, the museum promptly returned the ancient fresco fragments he sought. Then the Metropolitan Museum of Art made a pre-emptive display of its “appreciation” and “deep respect” by buying a piece of a shrine from a private collector so that it could be donated to Egypt.

Now an official from the Neues Museum in Berlin is headed to Egypt to discuss Dr. Hawass’s demand for its star attraction, a bust of Nefertiti.

These gestures may make immediate pragmatic sense for museum curators worried about getting excavation permits and avoiding legal problems. But is this trend ultimately good for archaeology?

Scientists and curators have generally supported the laws passed in recent decades giving countries ownership of ancient “cultural property” discovered within their borders. But these laws rest on a couple of highly debatable assumptions: that artifacts should remain in whatever country they were found, and that the best way to protect archaeological sites is to restrict the international trade in antiquities.

In some cases, it makes aesthetic or archaeological sense to keep artifacts grouped together where they were found, but it can also be risky to leave everything in one place, particularly if the country is in turmoil or can’t afford to excavate or guard all its treasures. After the Metropolitan Museum was pressured to hand over a collection called the Lydian Hoard, one of the most valuable pieces was stolen several years ago from its new home in Turkey.

Restricting the export of artifacts hasn’t ended their theft and looting any more than the war on drugs has ended narcotics smuggling. Instead, the restrictions promote the black market and discourage the kind of open research that would benefit everyone except criminals.

Legitimate dealers, museums and private collectors have a financial incentive to pay for expert excavation and analysis of artifacts, because that kind of documentation makes the objects more valuable. A nation could maintain a public registry of discoveries and require collectors to give scholars access to the artifacts, but that can be accomplished without making everything the property of the national government.

The timing of Dr. Hawass’s current offensive, as my colleague Michael Kimmelman reported, makes it look like retribution against the Westerners who helped prevent an Egyptian from becoming the leader of Unesco, the United Nation’s cultural agency. But whatever the particular motivation, there is no doubt that the cultural-property laws have turned archeological discoveries into political weapons.

In his book “Who Owns Antiquity?”, James Cuno argues that scholars have betrayed their principles by acquiescing to politicians who have exploited antiquities to legitimize themselves and their governments. Saddam Hussein was the most blatant, turning Iraqi archeology museums into propaganda for himself as the modern Nebuchadnezzar, but other leaders have been just as cynical in using antiquities to bolster their claims of sovereignty.

Dr. Cuno advocates the revival of partage, the traditional system in which archeologists digging in foreign countries would give some of their discoveries to the host country and take others home. That way both sides benefit, and both sides have incentives to recover antiquities before looters beat them to it. (To debate this idea, go to nytimes.com/tierneylab.)

As the director of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Cuno has his own obvious motives for acquiring foreign antiquities, and he makes no apology for wanting to display Middle Eastern statues to Midwesterners.

“It is in the nature of our species to connect and exchange,” Dr. Cuno writes. “And the result is a common culture in which we all have a stake. It is not, and can never be, the property of one modern nation or another.”

Some of the most culturally protectionist nations today, like Egypt, Italy and Turkey, are trying to hoard treasures that couldn’t have been created without the inspiration provided by imported works of art. (Imagine the Renaissance without the influence of “looted” Greek antiquities.) And the current political rulers of those countries often have little in common culturally with the creators of the artifacts they claim to own.

Dr. Hawass may consider the Rosetta Stone to be the property of his government agency, but the modern state of Egypt didn’t even exist when it was discovered in 1799 (much less when it was inscribed in 196 B.C., during the Hellenistic era). The land was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and the local historians were most interested in studying their Islamic heritage.

The inscribed stone fragment, which had been used as construction material at a fort, didn’t acquire any significance until it was noticed by Napoleon’s soldiers and examined by the scholars on the expedition.

When the French lost the war, they made a copy of the inscriptions before surrendering the stone to the English victors, who returned it to the British Museum. Eventually, two scholars, working separately in Britain and in France, deciphered the hieroglyphics.

This all happened, of course, long before today’s nationalistic retention laws and the United Nations’ Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. But what if the Rosetta Stone were unearthed in modern times?

Were the Rosetta Stone to appear on the art market without the proper export permits and documented provenance, Dr. Cuno says, a museum curator who acquired it would risk international censure and possible criminal charges. Scholars would shun it because policies at the leading archeological journals would forbid the publication of its text.

“Not being acquired or published, the Rosetta Stone would be a mere curiosity,” Dr. Cuno writes. “Egyptology as we know it would not exist, and modern Egyptians would not know to claim it as theirs.”

The Supreme Council of Antiquities wouldn’t even know what it was missing.

November 16th, 2009

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From Chinwe Ochu in Abuja, 11.16.2009
Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe,  at the weekend,  took delivery of two stolen Nigerian artefacts worth $55, 000 recently handed over to Nigeria by the French Customs in Toulouse, France.
The two monoliths stone artefacts had been traced to the Bakar people of Cross Rivers State.  They were reportedly  smuggled into France in 2004 and are valued at $25,000 and $30,000 each.
Receiving the monoliths from the Nigerian Ambassador to France, Mr Gordon Bristol,  in Abuja, Maduekwe said the decision to return the stolen stone to Nigeria underscored France’s sensitivity to the issue of works of arts that were illegally removed from their countries of origin.
He noted that the return confirmed that stolen arts works, if vigorously pursued could be returned to their home countries, calling on countries still harbouring art works stolen from Nigeria to take a queue from France.
Maduekwe used the opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to value what they have, saying  Nigerians were better appreciated outside the country because of arts. He said there was need for greater capacity for security of art works, stressing the need for arts education to encourage the younger ones.
Speaking earlier, the Nigerian Ambassador to France,  Bristol recalled that the monoliths were smuggled into France in 2004 by a Cameroonian woman who claimed that they originated from her country and that they were not of any commercial value.
However, experts opinion enlisted by the French authorities,  according to him, concluded that the objects undoubtedly originated from Cross River State. “The interception and return of these artefacts by the French authorities further testifies to the cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and France and the possibilities still available to expand and deepen these relations especially in the cultural field”, Bristol noted.

November 14th, 2009

Posted In: African Affairs, Mailing list reports

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November 14th, 2009

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November 14th, 2009

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Artefacts in national museums found to have been looted by the Nazis can now be returned to their rightful owners, thanks to newly-passed legislation.

The Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Act gives national institutions in England and Scotland the power to return art stolen during the Nazi era.

The bill was introduced earlier this year by Labour MP Andrew Dismore.

The act, he said, would “right a long-standing injustice” and marked “an important moral step”.

The MP for Hendon said it was “an important moral step” that had been supported by all political parties.

Forbidden

The law, which has been supported by all political parties, enables national museums and galleries in England and Scotland to act on the recommendations of the Spoliation Advisory Panel.

Formed in 2000, the panel resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era which is now held in UK national collections.

Since then there have been nine cases of artefacts held by British museums adjudged to have been stolen from their rightful owners.

However national institutions, like the British Museum or the Tate, had been forbidden from returning items by legislation preventing them from disposing of artwork in their collections.

Instead the institutions in question would make an ex-gratia payment based on a valuation of the item, in lieu of returning the item itself.

Examples of this include a £125,000 payment made by the Tate in 2001 to the former owners of a painting by Dutch artist Jan Griffier.

In 2006, the British Museum paid £175,000 to the heirs of an art collector whose Old Master drawings were stolen by the Nazis.

‘Wonderful’

The new legislation allows institutions to return those disputed works of art judged to have been looted between 1933 and 1945.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, museums already have the power to return disputed items.

Culture minister Margaret Hodge said it was “a wonderful day” for families who “suffered so terribly during the Nazi era”.

“For too long families who had heirlooms stolen from them by the Nazis were unable to reclaim them, although they were the rightful owners.”

Anne Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said this was “a great step forward” that confirmed Britain’s “commitment to providing justice”.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8358902.stm

November 14th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, WWII

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November 13th, 2009

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Written by Alan Richardson

Roebourne Art Group sent 220 paintings to Perth last week for a major exhibition at Woodside.

The paintings were stored in a warehouse in Perth.
Last Friday the landlord of the warehouse threw the entire collection (valued at $500,000) onto the street.
He claims the rent was not paid.
It turns out the courier had paid the rent to a real estate agent.
Meanwhile, 51 paintings were stolen while they were on the side of the road, as well as 30 mounted photographs by Robert Yates.
Unfortunately they were among the highlights of the collection.
The approximate value of the stolen art is about $100,000.
About 20 smaller paintings were damaged by malicious handling.
The exhibition will go ahead, luckily as the art group sent more paintings than needed.
The Midland police are investigating and there were several witnesses.

http://www.pilbaraecho.com.au/echo/content/view/1286/63/

November 13th, 2009

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Munch artwork stolen from Oslo art dealership

OSLO — Police say thieves stole a valuable artwork by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch from an Oslo art dealer.
Police spokeswoman Britt Boerve said Friday the thieves stole “Historien” — or “History” — from Nyborgs Kunst, a private art dealership in downtown Oslo, after smashing one of the dealership’s windows with a stone.
The owner, Pascal Nyborg, says the hand-colored lithograph is worth “in the millions” of kroner.
Boerve says the crime was reported by witnesses late Thursday. Police have found a getaway car, but are still searching for suspects.
Munch’s emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century Expressionist movement.
In 2004, gunmen stole his masterpieces “The Scream” and “Madonna,” in a brazen raid on a museum in Oslo. Police recovered the paintings over a year later.

November 12th, 2009

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Sujetos roban en Museo de la Virgen del Valle y son capturados en alta mar
Esta noticia ha sido leída: 532 veces

Cuando la tranquilidad reinaba en los alrededores de la Basílica Nuestra Señora del Valle del Espíritu Santo, aproximadamente a las dos de la tarde, seis sujetos portando armas de fuego y con vestimenta que los identificaba como funcionarios del Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (Cicpc) ingresaron al Museo Diocesano Virgen del Valle, situado en el sector que lleva el nombre de la patrona de los orientales.

El funcionario policial que custodiaba el museo contó que los sujetos dijeron que revisarían la alarma en vista de la proximidad de la llegada de la Navidad, para mayor seguridad en el ingreso al museo. “Un sujeto moreno era el más agresivo. Me amarraron las manos y luego me lanzaron al piso, junto con las personas que visitaban la casa de la patrona. Quise sacar mi arma de reglamento pero fue imposible”, dijo llorando luego de saber la noticia de que habían capturado a los sujetos.

Al saber la información, el uniformado de Inepol se arrodilló frente al museo de la Virgen del Valle para agradecer a Dios y a Vallita. “Tengo rabia porque no pude hacer nada, pero gracias a Dios los capturaron”.

Iginia Hernández, secretaria del Museo, aún nerviosa por lo sucedido, relató que cuando los individuos llegaron se identificaron como funcionarios policiales y expresaron que revisarían el funcionamiento de la alarma. De inmediato preguntaron por el encargado. “Los dejé hablando y salí al frente porque hacía mucho calor, cuando de repente sacaron a la gente que estaba adentro y se encerraron en el salón donde están todas las joyas”.

Esta situación alarmó a los insulares quienes de inmediato se concentraron en la Basílica Menor para repudiar este hecho y exigir más seguridad.

Monseñor Jorge Luis Quintero, obispo de la Diócesis de Margarita, llamó a la ciudadanía a rezar y pedirle a Dios que las prendas regresen a la casa de la Patrona de los Orientales.

Para el párroco Luis Eloy Blanco, fue un acto de crueldad lo que hizo el grupo armado. “Ese es el tesoro que le dejan los feligreses a la Virgen. No se trata de un valor, sino espiritual”.

Se conoció que lo único que dejaron los sujetos fue el Milagro de la Perla y el Puente de Oro que está en el centro del salón donde guardan los vestidos y las prendas de oro y plata.

CAPTURA
Comisiones de los cuerpos de seguridad activaron operativos por aire, tierra y mar, hasta que los cercaron llegando a Chacopata, estado Sucre. Los funcionarios policiales sólo recuperaron algunas prendas de oro que estaban en el carro pues el resto de las joyas las lanzaron al mar los sujetos, según informó González.

El comisario José González, jefe de la policía científica de Porlamar, informó que los capturados son de la Gran Caracas y tenían varias semanas en Margarita. Al parecer estaban en complicidad con personas de la Isla en los sectores Los Cocos y El Tirano. Señaló que están involucrados en el robo a los bancos Provincial y Mi Casa, ubicados en la avenida Santiago Mariño de Porlamar.

Los malhechores quedaron identificados como: José Ramón Aguilera (40), Manuel Enrique Lujano (29), Ramón Farías Suárez (22), Joel Gómez Marcano (36), Luis Gustavo Caraballo (31) y Jean Pier Alejandro (29), este último solicitado por delito de secuestro. Los hombres quedaron a la orden de la Fiscalía Tercera del Ministerio Público.

CRONOLOGÍA
A LAS DOS DE LA TARDE
Sujetos portando arma de fuego robaron en el museo de la Virgen del Valle, pero de inmediato comenzó la búsqueda

RECUPERAN VEHÍCULO
A las cuatro de la tarde recuperaron en el sector Los Cuartos, municipio Mariño, el Celebrity negro, placas AUV-672 donde se desplazaban los individuos.

CAPTURADOS
A las seis de la tarde, los delincuentes fueron aprehendidos en alta mar por comisiones mixtas y llevados a la sede de la policía científica.

COMUNIDAD
A las siete de la noche un grupo de vecinos de Las Piedras del Valle se acercaron a la sede del Cicpc para exigir justicia por el delito cometido.

http://www.entornointeligente.com/resumen/resumen.php?items=977031

November 12th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

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Artful Sleuthing
Exhibition to celebrate 40 years of hunting down and recovering Italy’s art treasures

Italy has a plethora of law enforcement agencies. In fact, there are eight separate ones:  Arma dei Carabinieri (military police), Polizia di Stato (state police), Guardia di Finanza (financial and customs police), Polizia Provinciale (provincial police), Polizia Municipale (municipal police), Corpo Forestale dello Stato (forestry police), Guardia Costeria (coast guard police) and Polizia Penitenziaria (prison police).  Reputedly Italy’s most elite law enforcement body, the Carabinieri are the police force that Italians most respect and closely relate to. Within this corps of military police, there are several specialist units that operationally report to other Ministries and not directly to the Ministry of Defence. One of these units, the  Comando Carabinieri Patrimonio Culturale (Cultural Heritage  Squad) is dedicated to preventing and solving crimes related to items of artistic, historical and archaeological interest and reports to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the institution of the Squad, three interesting exhibitions in Naples, Rome and Florence have been  put together under the combined name of  L’Arma per l’Arte (The Corps for Art).  The Naples exhibition called Archeologia che ritorna (Archaeology That Returns) was held at the Palazzo Reale from 8 May until 30 September 2009 and concentrated on the important work done by the Squad in combating trafficking in archaeological finds. Instead the Rome exhibition which began on 10 September 2009 and will end on 30 January 2010 is being held at the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo. There, the  exhibition,  Antologia di meraviglie (Anthology of Marvels), shows a series of recuperated archaeological finds and historic art works.
The third exhibition,  Aspetti del sacro ritrovati (Aspects of Recovered Sacred Art), will be of interest to anyone who will be coming to Florence between 21 November 2009 and 6 April 2010. It will be housed at the beautiful Sala Bianca of the  Palatine Gallery in the Pitti Palace. As its name suggests, it will focus on paintings, sculptures, illuminated books,  jewels, church furniture and furnishings that have a religious as well as artistic value. Just one of the many pieces that will be on show is a precious XII century reliquary cross  stolen from the Museum of  Saint Clement’s  Cathedral in  Velletri, near Rome in 1983. Having found its way to London, it then turned up again in Italy and was finally recovered by the  art squad’s 007s in Rimini.
Before visiting the exhibition in Florence, why not read or reread one or all of Magdalen Nabb’s mysteries that are set in the city. Her detective, Marshal Guarnaccia, is a carabinieri.

http://www.t5m.com/deirdre-pirro/artful-sleuthing.html?fmt=news

November 11th, 2009

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Art thievery usually boggles the mind — you can’t resell a truly valuable piece — and yet it flourishes. Do you know where it thrives, and where it’s rising?

Read full text at http://www.museum-security.org/alrstats.pdf

November 11th, 2009

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By Anna Hassapi
POLICE ARE investigating what they believe to be the attempted theft of a giant 2,000-year-old standing stone (tripiti), which was been removed from the archaeological site in Pissouri.

Although police later found the stone in a nearby field, it is believed that thieves intended to return with proper equipment to transport the massive monument.

“This attempted theft is an act of mindless vandalism, of contempt for the people of Cyprus and the community this ancient monument belongs to,” said one concerned local, who asked to remain anonymous.

“It was a site of considerable beauty and archaeological interest,” he added.

Archaeologists believe that these stones were the height of olive oil extraction technology 2,000 years ago, before the superior Roman screw-press was invented.

In addition, they were always associated with a temple, and later a church as they were institutions with considerable power and wanted to control the important income from the olive mills.

The incident took place approximately a week ago and was immediately reported by a local resident to the Pissouri Police Station and the village council.

The village council has been trying to reach the Antiquities Department to report the case, but claims that the state authority will not answer its telephone calls.

“Someone illegally entered the site and removed the stone. It appears that because of its massive weight, the thieves were unable to take it far and left it in a nearby field.

“We have already alerted the police and have been trying to reach the Antiquities Department for the past two days without success,” said Pissouri Village Council Secretary Petros Foutas.

“The stone used to lie on high ground next to an Aristo Development plot. It has significant archaeological value, as does the area where it was found, which has been proclaimed a site of archaeological significance. The stone was a remnant of the historical value of our village,” he added.

It is believed that a bulldozer was used to remove the priceless relic but was unable to transport it far.

“We will definitely be investigating the case, but at present cannot point the finger at anyone,” Foutas explained.

The stone was the last remaining of three tripiti stones that used to lie on the site, with the two other stones already having been stolen, presumably to decorate private gardens.

“The history of Cyprus is written on the surface of the land, and the landscape is being obliterated by a monstrous army of earth-moving plants whose drivers and owners seem to think it is great to rip the landscape apart, destroying the historical record, the beauty of Cyprus and the environment, and burying it under an ocean of concrete as they please.

“Few seem to be either particularly shocked or even very interested in stopping this,” the Pissouri resident added.

November 11th, 2009

Posted In: Cyprus, looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports

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12 charged after library books worth $87K stolen
By SARAH KARUSH (AP)
WASHINGTON — Authorities threw the book at 12 people Tuesday, accusing them of checking out pricey textbooks from a public library system outside Washington to sell for quick cash.
The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System in Maryland lost $87,000 worth of material from thefts between November 2008 and July 2009, county prosecutors said.
Textbooks and other works were quickly sold to used book stores at a fraction of their original value, investigators said.
Prince George’s County authorities said the suspects, at least some of whom were related, withdrew close to the limit of 75 books from 12 of the library system’s 18 locations. Each is charged with theft over $500 and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Authorities said all 12 charged Tuesday are Maryland residents. They range in age from 20 to 51.
Some college libraries also were hit by some of the same suspects, officials said.
“They’re traveling quite far and wide for the little bit of money they get,” said Mary Eilerman, chief of security at Harford Community College, also victimized. “They were ripping off the bar codes and handing them over to book consignment shops as quickly as they could.”
Eilerman said a $100 textbook would yield about $3 or $4 at a consignment shop. She said one of the suspects told her she was using the cash from the thefts to buy Ecstasy.
Bridget Warren, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s library system, said the 75-book limit is reviewed annually, along with all policies. The loss represents about 2 percent of the $4 million that the system spends on materials annually.
Dealing with thefts is tough for libraries, said Jim Rettig, immediate past president of the American Library Association.
“We want these things to be used. We want them to go out,” said Rettig, university librarian at the University of Richmond in Virginia. “If we wanted to prevent theft, we wouldn’t let them leave the building.”

November 10th, 2009

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The World’s Most Dangerous Places to Own Art
Published: November 10, 2009
NEW YORK— Are you hoping to have some art stolen? Move to the United Kingdom. That’s the message of a new report by the Art Loss Register (ALR), an industry group that tracks lost and stolen pieces of art. According to their records, the U.K. is home to more thefts than any other country on the planet, more than doubling the runner-up, the United States.
Since the group began keeping records in 1976, a rather startling 53,709 works have been purloined in the United Kingdom, compared with a still impressive 21,079 in the United States. France, Italy, and Germany — places with long histories of art collecting — round out the top five, with France edging out Italy for the dubious third place spot, 15,562 to 15,041.

The rankings were determined solely on the quantity, not the value, of work stolen. Norway, for example, failed to crack the top 15, though the theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893-1910) from the country’s Munch Museum was one of the last decade’s most expensive burglarized works.

Iraq has been the biggest mover on the list in the last decade, as more than 3,000 works have been reported missing since 2006 compared with fewer than 100 before then. That sudden change has to do with the accounting that took place as museum officials determined what had vanished during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Iraq, as well as the fact that the statistics are based only on official reports to the ALR, which were rarely filed during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

Interestingly, Real Clear Arts points out that many art-rich Asian countries did not make the top 15 highlighted by ALR. Since ALR is located in New York and the U.K., the blog suggests, Asian collectors and museums may choose not to report thefts to the group — or they may be more discrete than some of their Western counterparts.

November 10th, 2009

Posted In: library theft, Mailing list reports

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Erfahrungsaustausch “Sicherheit in Museen”

Als vor 98 Jahren die Mona Lisa aus dem Louvre gestohlen wurde, belächelte man Kunsträuber oft noch als fehlgeleitete Kunstliebhaber. Heute ist Artnapping hingegen zum knallharten Geschäft geworden.

Dies wurde auf dem 4. Erfahrungsaustausch „Sicherheit in Museen“ in der Münchener Pinakothek der Moderne deutlich, der in Zusammenarbeit von der Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlung/ Doerner Institut, der Munich Re Group (Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft) und dem Bayerischen Landeskriminalamt veranstaltet wurde. So gehen die Täter heute deutlich brutaler vor und das Entwenden von zuvor gut ausgewählten Kunstgegenständen wird als Druckmittel für Erpressungen eingesetzt.

In der Münchner Pinakothek der Moderne fand der 4. Erfahrungsaustausch zum Thema Sicherheit in Museen statt. (Bild: Kalscheuer)
Unersetzbarer kultureller Verlust
Laut dem LKA Bayern entstehen durch solche Diebstähle weltweit jährliche Schäden im geschätzten Wert von rund fünf Millarden US-Dollar. Wenn über 24.000 Exponate pro Jahr aus Kirchen und Museen verschwinden, stellt sich nicht nur die Frage, wo die Kunstwerke abgeblieben sind, sondern vor allem, wie solchen Verlusten vorgebeugt werden kann. Denn neben dem materiellen Wert, für den meistens die Versicherungen aufkommen, besitzt ein Großteil dieser Werke einen kulturellen oder geschichtlichen Wert, der mit Geld weder auszugleichen noch zu ersetzen ist.

Da die Kunstkriminalität professionell aufgerüstet hat, müssen die Museen Gegenmaßnahmen treffen, auch wenn die Ausstellungsräume nicht zu Hochsicherheitstrakten werden sollen. „Die Exponate sollen schließlich nicht zu Deponaten werden“, meinte Eckhard Schärper von der Münchener Rück. Da die Kunstwerke den Besuchern weiterhin zugänglich gemacht werden sollen, gilt es, sie bestmöglich vor Diebstahl, Brand oder Beschädigungen zu schützen. Brandschutz und Technik sollten seiner Meinung nach idealerweise so konzipiert werden, als sei man nicht versichert – also mit einem hohen Sicherheitsanspruch.

Denkmalschutz und Sicherheit
Dass die Gesamtzahl der Kunstdiebstähle 2008 laut polizeilicher Kriminalstatistik in Bayern um fast 17 Prozent zurückgegangen sind, liegt nach Angaben des LKA Bayern vor allem an der sinkenden Nachfrage an Kunstgegenständen und den verbesserten Fahndungsmöglichkeiten über das Internet.

Josef Moosreiner vom Sachgebiet 514 (Sicherheitstechnik) im bayerischen Landeskriminalamt gab Einblick in die kriminaltatktischen Überlegungen in Hinsicht auf Museen. Dabei sei nicht nur wichtig, wie weit außerhalb das Gebäude liege, sondern auch, ob einbruchhemmende Fassaden und durchwurfhemmende Fenster verbaut seien. „Der Denkmalschutz gehört dabei zu den natürlichen Feinden des Sicherheitsexperten“, bemerkte Moosreiner mit einem Augenzwinkern. Auch historische Holztüren und denkmalgeschützte Kastenfenster könnten heute gut gesichert werden, beispielsweise mit abschließbaren Fenstergriffen. „Und kleine Exponate sollten weit weg von Eingängen oder Fluchttüren platziert werden“, warnte Moosreiner davor, es den Dieben zu leicht zu machen.

Private Sicherheitsdienste
Sein Kollege Martin Möhring rief die Teilnehmer der Veranstaltung dazu auf, elektronische Lösungen wie Zutrittskontrolle, Videoüberwachung, Einbruchmeldeanlagen und Bewegungsmelder zur Überwachung von Museen zu nutzen. Beim Thema direkte Alarmmeldung an die Polizei stellte sich allerdings heraus, dass hier nicht jedes Bundesland die gleichen Möglichkeiten besitzt. In Berlin und Nordrhein-Westfalen ist dies nicht möglich, hier müssen vorab erst beauftragte Sicherheitsdienste vor Ort einen Alarm überprüfen.

Über 200 Besucher aus Versicherungen, Museumsbetrieb, Polizei sowie Facherrichter nahmen an der Veranstaltung teil. (Bild: Kalscheuer)
Für ein Zusammenspiel von personellen, elektronischen und mechanischen Schutzmaßnahmen plädierte anschließend Stefan Satzger von der Versicherungskammer Bayern, die als öffentlicher Versicherer für staatliche Museen agiert. „Der Verlust eines Kunstwerks bedeutet nicht nur einen unersetzbaren Schaden kultureller Art, sondern schädigt auch das Image des Ausstellungshauses gegenüber Leihgebern“, erklärte Satzger. Ein privater Sammler, dem ein Stück abhanden gekommen oder beschädigt worden sei, würde sicherlich nicht noch einmal mit dem verantwortlichen Museum zusammenarbeiten wollen. Seiner Meinung ist aber auch das Sicherheitspersonal ein wichtiger Baustein im Sicherheitgebilde: „Sicherheitsdienstleister müssen Mindestvoraussetzungen nach § 34a der Gewebeordnung wie IHK-Werkschutzlehrgänge absolviert haben. Anderenfalls kauft man sich zu einem niedrigen Preis das eigene Sicherheitsrisiko ein.“

Grasp-Standard und Transportsicherheit
Wie sie das Risiko einer Beschädigung von Kunstgegenständen bei Transporten minimiert, stellte die Spedition Hasenkamp auf der Veranstaltung vor. Immerhin können kurzfristige Schwankungen in der Luftfeuchte oder Temperaturveränderungen um zwei Grad Celsius empfindliche Werke unwiederbringlich zerstören. Dr. Hans Jürgen Kronauer stellte in seinem Beitrag vor, wie die AXA-Art Versicherung AG die Risikobewertung von Transporten angeht. So wird im Rahmen des Grasp-Standards (Global Risk Assessment Platform) anhand eines Fragebogens mit 1000 Fragen eine Risikoanalyse von Ausstellungsstätten, Museen und Lagerhäusern vorgenommen. Die Sicherheitsbeurteilung in Bezug auf Notfallpläne, Feuersicherheit, Gebäudestruktur und Naturgefahren wird anhand einer Prozentzahl (Score) oder mithilfe eines farblichen Ampelsystems abgebildet. Bei Kunsttransporten wird die Versicherbarkeit durch eine Analyse von der Transportstrecke „von Nagel zu Nagel“, den Transportmitteln und den vorhandenen Sicherungsvorkehrungen wie Klimakisten und zusätzliches Aufsichtspersonal beurteilt.

Vorsicht und Alarmanlagen
Von in Verpackungsmaterial verschollenen und erst nach Monaten vermissten Kunstschätzen wusste Dr. Georg Freiherr von Gumppenberg (Allianz Deutschland AG) zu erzählen. Er warnte auch vor den unterschätzten Gefahren in Lagerräumen. „Wenn schon eine wasserführende Leitung durch die Lager verläuft, dann sollten wenigstens an eine Alarmanlage gekoppelte Schwimmer installiert sein“, sagte er. Auch sei immer noch nicht überall üblich, Kunstwerke zumindest auf Paletten, statt direkt auf den Boden zu stellen. Im Vergleich zum Museumsbetrieb sah er auch bei Ausstellungen eine erhöhte Gefahr für die Kunstwerke. So seien schon beim Gestikulieren der Ausstellungbesucher Ellenbogen und Wassergläser in wertvollen Gemälden gelandet.

Die Elcon Elektrontechnik Consult GmbH stellte anschließend das Sicherungskozept eines Museums aus der Sicht eines Planers vor, und die Firmen Rode und Sick präsentierten den Einsatz von elektronischen Sicherheitssystemen für Museen vor. Diese reichten von Laserscannern bis zur kapazitiven Sicherung, bei der eine Annäherung an das Kunstobjekt durch die Veränderung seines elektrischen Feldes einen Alarm auslöst, ohne dass dieses berührt werden muss.

Britta Kalscheuer

http://www.sicherheit.info/SI/cms.nsf/si.ArticlesByDocID/2103505?Open&Channel=SI-WI-SK

November 10th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Erfahrungsaustausch “Sicherheit in Museen”

Als vor 98 Jahren die Mona Lisa aus dem Louvre gestohlen wurde, belächelte man Kunsträuber oft noch als fehlgeleitete Kunstliebhaber. Heute ist Artnapping hingegen zum knallharten Geschäft geworden.

Dies wurde auf dem 4. Erfahrungsaustausch „Sicherheit in Museen“ in der Münchener Pinakothek der Moderne deutlich, der in Zusammenarbeit von der Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlung/ Doerner Institut, der Munich Re Group (Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft) und dem Bayerischen Landeskriminalamt veranstaltet wurde. So gehen die Täter heute deutlich brutaler vor und das Entwenden von zuvor gut ausgewählten Kunstgegenständen wird als Druckmittel für Erpressungen eingesetzt.

In der Münchner Pinakothek der Moderne fand der 4. Erfahrungsaustausch zum Thema Sicherheit in Museen statt. (Bild: Kalscheuer)
Unersetzbarer kultureller Verlust
Laut dem LKA Bayern entstehen durch solche Diebstähle weltweit jährliche Schäden im geschätzten Wert von rund fünf Millarden US-Dollar. Wenn über 24.000 Exponate pro Jahr aus Kirchen und Museen verschwinden, stellt sich nicht nur die Frage, wo die Kunstwerke abgeblieben sind, sondern vor allem, wie solchen Verlusten vorgebeugt werden kann. Denn neben dem materiellen Wert, für den meistens die Versicherungen aufkommen, besitzt ein Großteil dieser Werke einen kulturellen oder geschichtlichen Wert, der mit Geld weder auszugleichen noch zu ersetzen ist.

Da die Kunstkriminalität professionell aufgerüstet hat, müssen die Museen Gegenmaßnahmen treffen, auch wenn die Ausstellungsräume nicht zu Hochsicherheitstrakten werden sollen. „Die Exponate sollen schließlich nicht zu Deponaten werden“, meinte Eckhard Schärper von der Münchener Rück. Da die Kunstwerke den Besuchern weiterhin zugänglich gemacht werden sollen, gilt es, sie bestmöglich vor Diebstahl, Brand oder Beschädigungen zu schützen. Brandschutz und Technik sollten seiner Meinung nach idealerweise so konzipiert werden, als sei man nicht versichert – also mit einem hohen Sicherheitsanspruch.

Denkmalschutz und Sicherheit
Dass die Gesamtzahl der Kunstdiebstähle 2008 laut polizeilicher Kriminalstatistik in Bayern um fast 17 Prozent zurückgegangen sind, liegt nach Angaben des LKA Bayern vor allem an der sinkenden Nachfrage an Kunstgegenständen und den verbesserten Fahndungsmöglichkeiten über das Internet.

Josef Moosreiner vom Sachgebiet 514 (Sicherheitstechnik) im bayerischen Landeskriminalamt gab Einblick in die kriminaltatktischen Überlegungen in Hinsicht auf Museen. Dabei sei nicht nur wichtig, wie weit außerhalb das Gebäude liege, sondern auch, ob einbruchhemmende Fassaden und durchwurfhemmende Fenster verbaut seien. „Der Denkmalschutz gehört dabei zu den natürlichen Feinden des Sicherheitsexperten“, bemerkte Moosreiner mit einem Augenzwinkern. Auch historische Holztüren und denkmalgeschützte Kastenfenster könnten heute gut gesichert werden, beispielsweise mit abschließbaren Fenstergriffen. „Und kleine Exponate sollten weit weg von Eingängen oder Fluchttüren platziert werden“, warnte Moosreiner davor, es den Dieben zu leicht zu machen.

Private Sicherheitsdienste
Sein Kollege Martin Möhring rief die Teilnehmer der Veranstaltung dazu auf, elektronische Lösungen wie Zutrittskontrolle, Videoüberwachung, Einbruchmeldeanlagen und Bewegungsmelder zur Überwachung von Museen zu nutzen. Beim Thema direkte Alarmmeldung an die Polizei stellte sich allerdings heraus, dass hier nicht jedes Bundesland die gleichen Möglichkeiten besitzt. In Berlin und Nordrhein-Westfalen ist dies nicht möglich, hier müssen vorab erst beauftragte Sicherheitsdienste vor Ort einen Alarm überprüfen.

Über 200 Besucher aus Versicherungen, Museumsbetrieb, Polizei sowie Facherrichter nahmen an der Veranstaltung teil. (Bild: Kalscheuer)
Für ein Zusammenspiel von personellen, elektronischen und mechanischen Schutzmaßnahmen plädierte anschließend Stefan Satzger von der Versicherungskammer Bayern, die als öffentlicher Versicherer für staatliche Museen agiert. „Der Verlust eines Kunstwerks bedeutet nicht nur einen unersetzbaren Schaden kultureller Art, sondern schädigt auch das Image des Ausstellungshauses gegenüber Leihgebern“, erklärte Satzger. Ein privater Sammler, dem ein Stück abhanden gekommen oder beschädigt worden sei, würde sicherlich nicht noch einmal mit dem verantwortlichen Museum zusammenarbeiten wollen. Seiner Meinung ist aber auch das Sicherheitspersonal ein wichtiger Baustein im Sicherheitgebilde: „Sicherheitsdienstleister müssen Mindestvoraussetzungen nach § 34a der Gewebeordnung wie IHK-Werkschutzlehrgänge absolviert haben. Anderenfalls kauft man sich zu einem niedrigen Preis das eigene Sicherheitsrisiko ein.“

Grasp-Standard und Transportsicherheit
Wie sie das Risiko einer Beschädigung von Kunstgegenständen bei Transporten minimiert, stellte die Spedition Hasenkamp auf der Veranstaltung vor. Immerhin können kurzfristige Schwankungen in der Luftfeuchte oder Temperaturveränderungen um zwei Grad Celsius empfindliche Werke unwiederbringlich zerstören. Dr. Hans Jürgen Kronauer stellte in seinem Beitrag vor, wie die AXA-Art Versicherung AG die Risikobewertung von Transporten angeht. So wird im Rahmen des Grasp-Standards (Global Risk Assessment Platform) anhand eines Fragebogens mit 1000 Fragen eine Risikoanalyse von Ausstellungsstätten, Museen und Lagerhäusern vorgenommen. Die Sicherheitsbeurteilung in Bezug auf Notfallpläne, Feuersicherheit, Gebäudestruktur und Naturgefahren wird anhand einer Prozentzahl (Score) oder mithilfe eines farblichen Ampelsystems abgebildet. Bei Kunsttransporten wird die Versicherbarkeit durch eine Analyse von der Transportstrecke „von Nagel zu Nagel“, den Transportmitteln und den vorhandenen Sicherungsvorkehrungen wie Klimakisten und zusätzliches Aufsichtspersonal beurteilt.

Vorsicht und Alarmanlagen
Von in Verpackungsmaterial verschollenen und erst nach Monaten vermissten Kunstschätzen wusste Dr. Georg Freiherr von Gumppenberg (Allianz Deutschland AG) zu erzählen. Er warnte auch vor den unterschätzten Gefahren in Lagerräumen. „Wenn schon eine wasserführende Leitung durch die Lager verläuft, dann sollten wenigstens an eine Alarmanlage gekoppelte Schwimmer installiert sein“, sagte er. Auch sei immer noch nicht überall üblich, Kunstwerke zumindest auf Paletten, statt direkt auf den Boden zu stellen. Im Vergleich zum Museumsbetrieb sah er auch bei Ausstellungen eine erhöhte Gefahr für die Kunstwerke. So seien schon beim Gestikulieren der Ausstellungbesucher Ellenbogen und Wassergläser in wertvollen Gemälden gelandet.

Die Elcon Elektrontechnik Consult GmbH stellte anschließend das Sicherungskozept eines Museums aus der Sicht eines Planers vor, und die Firmen Rode und Sick präsentierten den Einsatz von elektronischen Sicherheitssystemen für Museen vor. Diese reichten von Laserscannern bis zur kapazitiven Sicherung, bei der eine Annäherung an das Kunstobjekt durch die Veränderung seines elektrischen Feldes einen Alarm auslöst, ohne dass dieses berührt werden muss.

Britta Kalscheuer

http://www.sicherheit.info/SI/cms.nsf/si.ArticlesByDocID/2103505?Open&Channel=SI-WI-SK

November 10th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Maryland Man Admits Stealing LOC Books

Nov. 9, 2009, 5:34 p.m.
By Emily Yehle
Roll Call Staff

A former Maryland resident admitted Monday that he tried to steal hundreds of books from the Library of Congress by pretending to represent a nonprofit called “The Book Exchange.”

Vince Edward Karl Wells, 42, pled guilty to one count of theft of government property, according to a press release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Wells faces a maximum of one year in prison, though officials said his sentence probably won’t be more than six months, or possibly even probation.

Wells, who now lives in Georgia, first approached the Library on July 30, claiming he wanted to obtain books from the Library for an adult literacy program, according to the release. He hoped to get books from the Library’s Surplus Books Program, which donates books to “qualifying educational institutions, public bodies and nonprofit tax-exempt organizations.”

Over the next couple of days, Wells worked with staffers to pick out 350 books to be shipped and 27 to take home personally. But, as investigators later learned, he planned to sell the books online for a profit.

According to a release from the Library’s Office of the Inspector General, Wells told a Library contractor that “she could pick out the books and mail them to him so Wells could sell them on Amazon.com, and that there was a lot of money to be made.” The contractor declined and later told OIG agents about the conversation.

On Aug. 10, Wells admitted to the OIG his plan to sell the books OIG. He also returned the 27 books he had taken; the remaining 350 were never shipped.

It’s allegedly not Wells’ first theft: Officials say he had also put office supplies online — such as law books, office supplies and computer printer ink cartridges — that matched those at the law firm where he worked.

November 10th, 2009

Posted In: library theft, Mailing list reports

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Fake certificates fuel art mart fraud

When the art mart was still hot and there were as many fakes as there were originals, the only way one could be sure that one was not shelling out a small fortune to be landed with a dud was to obtain an authenticity certificate for a fee from an “expert”. That meant anyone who has written on art or has rubbed shoulders with artists, but not necessarily with the right academic qualifications. Now, even authenticity certificates are being counterfeited.

About a week ago, gallerist Vikram Bachhawat was offered a “Ganesh Pyne” along with an authenticity certificate by a well-known Calcutta art critic. Bachhawat was told that the certificate was obtained a few days ago, although the “expert” was visiting the US at that time. The broker was not prepared for this eventuality.

According to Bachhawat, the local market in fakes would be about Rs 1.5 crore, against Rs 35 crore across India.

Photoshop and other image-editing software have made it easier for signatures to be forged. The original certificate is scanned and only the painting on it is changed and substituted with another work, arguably fake — for unless a work is authenticated by the artist himself, his family or a reputable gallery there is always a shadow of doubt about its genuineness.

“Experts” authenticate a work for anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 50,000, depending on the importance of the artist, and if the verdict is positive, one is able to pocket the fee. With better reproductions of paintings in books, it is easier to replicate works in demand. Prakash Karmakar, Sunil Das, Swaminathan, Jamini Roy, M.F. Husain and Souza clones proliferate.

Pyne says the business of churning out fakes has gone beyond control. “I spoke to a police officer about the problem of counterfeit paintings and he said the police could do nothing about it as ‘highly connected people’ were involved,” says the artist, whose works are tough to imitate.

Paritosh Sen’s widow, Jayashree, says recently some artists wanted her to certify that their works were copies of original Paritosh Sen paintings. “But some artists known to me cautioned me against it,” she added. Ever since his death last year, fakes of his works have been in circulation.

Artist Aditya Basak says some time ago, a Delhi gallerist was offered a “Ramkinkar sculpture” by a broker along with an authentication certificate without a photograph, but when the “expert” concerned was cross-checked he said the document was meant for another work.

The Internet has facilitated the business of fake art via email. Gallerist Abhijit Lath says: “I often get an image of a painting and an image of an authenticity certificate, usually signed by a dead artist like Paritosh Sen. I received such emails a couple of times last month from various sources. Fakes made in Calcutta like the Paritosh Sen paintings are sold elsewhere. Here they will be caught out immediately.”

If Lath has doubts about a work’s authenticity, he calls it “a fake” straightaway. “That is one way of getting out of the loop. Even if proved a fake one cannot take a painting out of the market. I would rather depend on my own experience.”

Fakes comprise at least a tenth of the real market, he asserts. Lath prescribes thorough scrutiny of a work, including its provenance, as the only safeguards against buying a fake. One should first demand to see the original. Next it should be checked by an expert in that particular artist’s work. Most reputable galleries would know where to get a work authenticated.

To be sure of the work’s provenance, “it should be written on a stamp paper which one should get notarised stating that it is not a stolen good, and that it has been in one’s family for a certain number of years. One can never trust an unfamiliar source,” said Lath.

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE

No specific rules. Depend on an experienced eye. Technique, lines, signature and age of work are other indicators
Bikash Bhattacharjee mostly used oil. One becomes suspicious if it is an acrylic

Ganesh Pyne uses tempera, watercolour and crayons. But an oil painting by Pyne is a no-no

Jogen Chowdhury’s strong point are his lines. In a fake the lines will lack the power of the original

To find out if a canvas has been aged artificially, put it to the soap and water test. If a canvas is really old, its patina cannot be cleaned with soap and water

The safest bet is buying art from a reputable gallerist

November 9th, 2009

Posted In: forgery, Mailing list reports

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Latest News Nov 8, 2009

EDO State government wants  the United Nations General Assembly  to prevail on the British government  and other suspected  looters  to return  stolen Benin artifacts.

The government, in an address read by the special adviser to Governor Adams Oshiomhole on art, culture and tourism, Mr Orobosa Omo-Ojo, during an exhibition on Benin Art  at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday,  also urged the British government to pay reparation for the economic benefits accruing  to the artifacts for all those years.

Said  Orobosa, “The ugly and unwarranted episode of 1897, when the British government planned and invaded the Benin Empire marked the turning point in the history of Benin and the black civilization in general.

To us, the invasion of Benin City and the subsequent burning of the palace and the city are comparable to late Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran , which eventually led to the occupation of Iraq by the so-called allied forces.

November 8th, 2009

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports

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Report about Martin Schøyen that we published august 27, 2002: http://www.museum-security.org/02/103.html

Again Martin Schøyen appears to be involved in dubious antiquities.

A Norwegian Collector Shows BAR His Rare Inscriptions

Hershel Shanks
(Moderator’s comment: The Biblical Archaeology Review recently published an extensive article about the Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen. This article completely ignores rumours in Norway about the dubious origin of Schøyen’s collection. The largest group of manuscripts in the Schøyen-collection is the approximately 1400 pieces of Buddhist manuscripts that were smuggled out of Afghanistan 5-6 years ago.

The current debate in Norway concerning the Schøyen-collection:

The Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen is the formal owner of the alleged largest private collection of ancient manuscripts in the world. Parts of the collection are presented on a web-page (in English) by the Norwegian National Library: http://www.nb.no/baser/schoyen/
The collection has the last two years been made publicly known through media, e.g. in (Norwegian only): Aftenposten ( http://www.aftenposten.no/ ): http://tux1.aftenposten.no/kul_und/kultur/d169785.htm ; http://tux1.aftenposten.no/kul_und/kultur/d168653.htm ; http://tux1.aftenposten.no/kul_und/kultur/d169783.htm
NRK ( http://www.nrk.no/ ): http://www.nrk.no/litteratur/1432506.html ; http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1431072.html ; http://www.nrk.no/distrikt/ostlands__sendingen/lang_lunsj/1438449.html; http://www.nrk.no/distrikt/ostlands__sendingen/lang_lunsj/1449280.html
Nettavisen ( http://www.nettavisen.no/ ): http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=4&item=126763 ; http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=4&item=184850

The largest group of manuscripts in the Schøyen-collection is the approximately 1400 pieces of Buddhist manuscripts that were smuggled out of Afghanistan 5-6 years ago. The circumstances surrounding the recovery of the manuscripts in Afghanistan and their transportation out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Schøyen’s role before acquiring the manuscripts in London, is not clear. However, Schøyen has kindly made the manuscripts available to researchers, as well as digitally available to the general public. Still, the conservation of the manuscripts may be of some immediate concern.
The Norwegian professor Jens Braarvig (Department of cultural studies, University of Oslo) directs a research group under the Centre for Advanced Study with the aim to investigate and publish the manuscripts (http://www.shs.uio.no/). Information about this research is published in Newsletter 2001 no 2, available in English on the Internet (requires Adobe): http://www.shs.uio.no/Publications/index.html
Martin Schøyen has announced that he wishes to sell his entire manuscript collection at an assumed market price of about 100 million USD. The proceeds are to be donated to fund named in his honour. Various officials in Norway have argued that the Norwegian state should buy the entire collection at market price. The crux of their argument is that the Schøyen-collection should be viewed as a “world heritage”, and as such the Norwegian authorities should take care of the collection because a Norwegian collector currently owns it, and acquiring the collection would offer a unique opportunity of enhancing national prestige.
Up to January 2002 media references to the collection were mostly positive, and supported a policy of government purchase of the entire Schøyen-collection. The media emphasised the national prestige that would fall on a small country like Norway – with few significant cultural attractions of its own if it could own and display such a great collection: an important new cultural attraction would literally put Norway on the map of world culture. One exception is the Internet paper Nettavisen (www.nettavisen.no) that in November 2001 asked if the readers thought it was defensible to buy the Schøyen-collection for the Norwegian oil-money. Many of the readers were, for various reasons, negative: http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=4&item=184928&execute=viewComments#comments.
The director of the State Archives likewise took a clear and critical stance (on national television), and made an appeal for a display of the same generosity towards Afghanistan, that the young Norwegian state itself has so often benefited from.

However, several scholars where not content with the debate, and we decided to write a feature article about the Schøyen-collection. The article raised critical questions concerning the ownership and ethics surrounding the Schøyen-collection. The article was published January 17, 2002 in the leading Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, and is available on the Internet (Norwegian only): http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/kronikker/article.jhtml?articleID=259191
The primary focus of our article was the Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan. We presented the destruction of the cultural heritage in Afghanistan (primarily through reference to publications by SPACH- members), expressed gratitude to Schøyen for any positive role he might have had in salvaging the manuscripts, and commended him for making his collection publicly accessible. However, we expressed deep concern about the removal of cultural heritage from a country submerged in war, and that such objects should ever be considered the property of the Norwegian state. We suggested that the manuscripts for a period could be cared for and researched on in Norwegian collections (or collections in other countries), but any caretaker should be obliged to return them when conditions permit – whether this takes one or hundred years. We also urged the Norwegian state to ratify the UNESCO 1970 Convention.
After the article was published, media was initially quiet about the Schøyen-collection. However, the magazine Museumsnytt (no. 1, 2002) of the Association of Norwegian museums, wrote five pages with critical views about the Schøyen-collection.
From mid-March 2002 the Norwegian media again started to write about the Schøyen-collection, but now the media has become more critical, and includes a more varied selection of views.
On March 18th the professor of history Hans Fredrik Dahl organized a seminar about the Schøyen-collection were he raised the question: “Who owns culture?”. Dahl invited a panel to discuss the future of the Schøyen-collection: – Bendik Rugaas, former head of the National Library, wants the Norwegian state to buy the entire Schøyen-collection. Earlier he suggested that the foreign aid money could be used to buy the collection. He now suggests the Ministry of Culture or that “oil- money” could by them. See: http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1728220.html; http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=4&item=184928
– Professor Egil Mikkelsen, the director of the University museum of cultural heritage, Oslo (who would like to have the collection in his museum [!]). – Director John Herstad, head of the Norwegian state archives (who does not at all support any Norwegian claim to the Schøyen- collection). – A representative from the Norwegian national commission of UNESCO (who referred to the UNESCO-conventions).
On the same day (March 18, 2002), the foremost financial newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv, published an interview with the minister of fisheries Svein Ludvigsen where he supported purchasing the Schøyen- collection for permanent Norwegian government ownership. In slightly bizarre terms Ludvigsen told how he had visited Schøyen at his home, and after he had turned over the leaves of a copy of Magna Carta and tried on a ring that had belonged to Tut-ankh-amon, Ludvigsen – a “countryman” (his own words) – was in awe and begged the minister of culture to buy the collection. Associate professor Christopher Prescott was also interviewed, but said that many of the objects in the Schøyen-collection might have been plundered from various monuments and sites, and that ethical if not legal title was questionable. The interview (in Norwegian) is available on: http://www.dn.no/artikkel?ID=EPS_54807
The following day’s media referred sarcastically to the minister of fisheries, e.g., the editor of Dagens Næringsliv criticized Ludvigsen in the editorial and emphasized that Ludvigsen is in charge of fisheries, and not cultural policies: http://www.dn.no/artikkel?ID=EPS_54917
Still, on March 18, 2002 the major evening news on the radio (Dagsnytt 18, NRK) had a debate about the Schøyen-collection. A representative from the Ministry of Culture said it was financially impossible for the ministry to buy the collection at market price. http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1728516.html; http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=4&item=205724; http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1737637.html
On March 20, 2002 the Egyptian ambassador to Norway, Nermine Mourad, said to Dagens Næringsliv that she would demand that the Egyptian objects in the Schøyen-collection were returned to Egypt. She called on the Norwegian Ministry of Culture to make inquiries into how Schøyen came by his Egyptian objects. This request has now been referred to in several newspapers, and a representative from the Ministry of Culture expressed that if the ministry has the authority, it could start an inquiry. The ministry secretary said that similar problems seem to pertain to the Afghani manuscripts. http://www.dn.no/artikkel?ID=EPS_55015; http://www.aftenposten.no/kul_und/article.jhtml?articleID=299952; http://www.osloposten.no/default.asp?pid=2076&item=2459.
On the same day, the Norwegian UNESCO Director in Islamabad, Ms. Ingeborg Breines, said in a radio program that the Buddhist manuscripts in the Schøyen-collection should be returned to Afghanistan: http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1731361.html.

Action from SPACH/Afghan authorities/other relevant organisations and institutions?

This is where the case now stands. The media used to refer to the Schøyen-collection by reference to national pride, but the last two months it has become legitimate to raise critical questions about the collection: how it was collected and where the objects come from, and point out the dubious nature in allowing the Norwegian (or other Western) state to serve as owner or permanent custodian.
At the moment we don’t know what will happen to a potential Egyptian demand for return. However, a request might lead to an inquiry to find out the history of where several of the objects in the collection come from.
As far as the Afghani objects are concerned, it would probably be beneficial if SPACH, or another relevant, legitimate institution/organisation in or outside Afghanistan could address concerns to the Norwegian authorities about the future for the manuscripts. In our opinion, the best route would to initially ask for investigation of the circumstances around the manuscripts, but signal that these might trigger a petition for a return of the manuscripts when conditions allow, if legally tenable. It is to be hoped that addressing the authorities might prevent, or at least postpone, a sale of the collection on the commercial marked, and instigate a more constructive dialogue that focuses on how to best and ethically deal with the manuscripts with Afghanistan’s best interests at centre stage.
The Norwegian embassy in Islamabad is probably the best place to direct an initial query. Their address is:
Royal Norwegian Embassy, H 25, Str. 19, F 6/2, Islamabad, Pakistan. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1336, Islamabad, Pakistan. Tel: +92 51 227 9720/21/22/23/24. Fax: +92 51 227 9726/29. E-mail: emb.islamabad@mfa.no ; http://www.norway.org.pk/cgi-bin/wbch3.exe?html=../publishing/top/index.html&p=1366
We also suppose it would be beneficial to contact the UNESCO office in Islamabad. The director is the above-mentioned Ms. Ingeborg Breines, who has previously argued that the manuscripts should be returned to Afghanistan: http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/kultur/1731361.html.
We suppose you are familiar with the UNESCO office, but we include the address:
UNESCO Office Islamabad
Director Head: Ms Ingeborg BREINES
Mail address:
44000 P.O. Box 2034
Islamabad
Pakistan
Street address:
Saudi-Pak Tower, First Floor, Blue Area, Jinnah Avenue
Islamabad
44000 Pakistan
Fax.: (92-51) 28 25 341
Tel: (92-51) 28 73 308, 28 29 452, 28 29 453
E-mail: islamabad@unesco.org
TC )

The Biblical Archaeology Review report about the Martin Schøyen collection:

If you have a Dead Sea Scroll for sale, you should get in touch with Martin Schøyen (pronounced Skoo-yen) in Oslo. He is a prime prospect. He already owns several Dead Sea Scroll fragments—making him one of the few individuals in the world (I can think of only one other) who own Dead Sea Scroll material.
In his spacious London pied-à-terre, Schøyen also has one of the unusual pottery jars from Qumran in which the Bedouin found the first intact scrolls in 1947 or 1948. He also owns a beautiful bronze inkwell (previously published in BAR) and a small bronze incense altar that purportedly come from the settlement at Qumran, where many of the scrolls were probably written. Schøyen’s principal residence lies amid nondescript farmland at the foot of impressive rock cliffs, about 25 miles from Oslo. Approached by a dirt road, the main house, which he renovated two decades ago, was originally built in 1680. Some of the nearly 3-inch-thick planks in the floor date to the 12th century. His roof is covered with moss, out of which small trees grow, keeping the house cool during Norway’s short summer and warm during the winter (until the leaves fall off). Inside is a warren of small, low-ceilinged rooms filled with books—what Schøyen calls his research library—and parts of his nearly 13,000-item collection, mostly manuscripts. I should say collections, however, because Schøyen has such a wide range of objects—from Viking swords to Buddhist manuscripts to some of the earliest cuneiform inscriptions to antiquarian Bibles. Some of his Hebrew Bible fragments are older than the earliest complete Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex of about 1010 A.D., on which the Biblia Hebraica (the standard critical text) is based. He has a collection of almost 70 book boxes (small book- shaped wooden boxes that once held individual volumes); the second largest collection, he says, numbers six.

    Schøyen began collecting in 1955, when he was just 15. On a trip to Florence with his parents he purchased an old printed book (published in 1592) from a streetseller for the equivalent of a quarter. After taking it home, he noticed fragments of French sermons from about 1300 coming out of the spine. The fragments had been used to bind the later book. Not until 1986 did he make his second major book purchase—a 15th-century Latin Bible that had once rested on a church lectern at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Adrian in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. That Schøyen has acquired his world-class collection in only about 15 years is remarkable. As he himself boasts, his is the largest private manuscript collection formed in the 20th century. In 1986, when Schøyen acquired the Geraardsbergen Bible, he was engaged in the management of a bus company, of which his father had left him a major share. Now, at 61, he is retired, except for the boards of directors he sits on. He devotes himself almost completely to his collections. At first, Schøyen acted like any other ordinary collector—browsing in antiquarian bookstores, personally bidding at important auctions and sniffing out the availability of items that come on the market from private collections. He has a “good nose,” according to Richard Linenthal of the 153-year-old antiquarian London bookseller, Quaritch’s, in whose vault Schøyen keeps part of his collection. Schøyen acquired some of his Dead Sea Scroll fragments by using his nose. When the Archimandrite of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem, Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, took four of the original Dead Sea Scrolls to the American School in Jerusalem (now the William F. Albright School of Archaeological Research) in 1947, they were partially photographed by the young John Trever; the head of the American School at the time was Yale University’s John Brownlee. Forty years later, Schøyen reasoned that Trever and Brownlee must have acquired at least a few fragments themselves, so he tracked them down—and purchased fragments from each of them. He also managed to acquire a few fragments from Mar Samuel.
    What motivated Schøyen? The desire to build a unique collection. And, he admits, “the thrill of the chase.” But gradually something happened to him, he says. Now it is responsibility to posterity that motivates him. Or to fill in the occasional gap in one of his collections. It is no longer the thrill of the chase. As Schøyen’s collections grew, so did his interests—and they went back earlier and earlier in time. Soon he was looking not only for early Bibles, but for cuneiform tablets; even the Dead Sea Scrolls were not old enough for him. The history of writing has become one of his specialties. His collection includes the earliest examples of Sumerian proto- cuneiform pictographic writing, Egyptian proto-hieroglyphic writing, Chinese characters and Indus Valley script. He notes that all four of these writing systems developed along rivers—Sumerian cuneiform along the Tigris and Euphrates, Egyptian hieroglyphs along the Nile, Chinese characters along the Yangtse and Hwang Ho, and Indus Valley script along the Indus River. The development of alphabetic script occurred, however, in riverless Canaan, and Schøyen also has examples of this—two 14th-century B.C. tablets in alphabetic cuneiform from Ugarit. Schøyen has one pre-3000 B.C. clay tablet that records an order for barley placed by the brewery of the Inanna temple in Uruk (modern Iraq). The center of the tablet face shows an ear of barley; reading from right to left, we then see the brewery—a mudbrick structure with a chimney on top—and a bottle or jar of beer with the barley inside. Above the jar is the signature of one Kushin, the official in charge of the brewery. Other marks denote the amount of barley and the span of time over which it is to be delivered.
    Among the more unusual “texts” in Schøyen’s collection is a small bronze branding iron once applied to the foreheads of runaway slaves. In Old Babylonian cuneiform, dating to the beginning of the second millennium B.C., it reads, “I am his slave.” While cuneiform texts describing the branding of slaves are known, this is the only actual cuneiform branding iron ever discovered. The ever-popular Gilgamesh epic is not only the world’s oldest literary work of any length, it also includes details of a flood story that were incorporated into the Biblical account in Genesis. The Gilgamesh epic has survived in copies from a number of different periods, but Schøyen has the oldest—a Sumerian version from about the 19th century B.C. Two later tablets in his collection also contain parts of the Mesopotamian flood story. Another tablet in his collection contains part of the earliest known law code, 300 years before Hammurabi’s. Hammurabi ruled Babylonia from 1792 to 1750 B.C.; since his law code was discovered in 1901, parts of older law codes have been unearthed—including the laws of the city of Eshnunna, which date to about 1800 B.C., and the laws of King Lipit-Ishtar of Isin, dating to about 1930 B.C. The Sumerian Ur-Nammu Code in the Schøyen Collection takes us even farther back, to King Shulgi’s reign—2095-2047 B.C. Parts of eight of the original ten columns of text have survived. We might expect the earliest code to be the most primitive, but that’s not so. Unlike the crude lex talionis (law of retaliation) incorporated in Hammurabi’s Code and in the Bible—”life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:24-25)—the law of Ur-Nammu, like more modern legal systems, provides only for compensation to a wronged party: “If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall weigh out one-half a mina of silver.” Schøyen wondered aloud whether the Bible would have been different had the Biblical writer read the clay cylinder the collector held in his hand. The great ziggurat of Babylon, on which the Biblical Tower of Babel is probably based, was restored and enlarged by Nebuchadnezzar II (ruled 605-562 B.C.), the same king who destroyed Jerusalem, including Solomon’s Temple, in 586 B.C. Alexander the Great in turn partly destroyed Babylon’s ziggurat on a campaign to the east in 323 B.C. Until Robert Koldewey’s German excavation in the early part of this century, we had only literary descriptions of the tower; but Koldewey not only excavated what remained of the ziggurat, but also found, in levels associated with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, a small black stone stela that depicts Nebuchadnezzar’s restored and enlarged edifice. Koldewey found the stela broken in three pieces; the upper two—the most important pieces—are now in the Schøyen Collection. (The third part is believed to be somewhere in the United States; Schøyen would like to acquire it.)
    The upper two pieces of the stela show a profile of the ziggurat with seven clearly marked steps, as well as what looks like a temple complex at the base. This may be the very temple Koldewey excavated south of the ziggurat. Also pictured on the stela is Nebuchadnezzar himself, holding a spear in his left hand and, in his right, an architectural plan for rebuilding the tower. At the top of the stela is a plan showing the outer walls and interior layout of the temple that was to be rebuilt on top of the ziggurat. The surviving cuneiform inscription clearly identifies the edifice: “The Foundation of Heaven and Earth, Ziggarat in Babylon.” Just to put the icing on the cake, Schøyen also has a brick from the tower inscribed with the Babylonian ruler’s name! The seven-line inscription reads “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, guardian of the temples Esagila and Ezida, firstborn son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon.” The Bible tells us that the Tower of Babel, like the real ziggurat of Babylon, was constructed of bricks rather than stone and that the bricks were held together by bitumen—asphalt or tar—rather than mortar (Genesis 11:1-9). Schøyen’s brick still has traces of bitumen on the back. Less than three percent of the Schøyen Collection has been published. But, consistent with the obligation he feels to be a responsible collector, Schøyen has plans to remedy that. He intends to publish a series of volumes that will in effect make the collection public. Approximately half—more than 6,000 items—have already been assigned to world-class scholars. The first two folio volumes—the first on newly discovered Buddhist manuscripts and the second on Coptic papyri—are now out. Schøyen anticipates that the series will eventually include between 40 and 50 volumes—more even than the official series of volumes in which the Dead Sea Scrolls are published.* The Schøyen Collection also includes more than 40 fragments from six different Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Biblical books of Joshua and Daniel, the Qumran sect’s Manual of Discipline and the Genesis Apocryphon. Schøyen would dearly love to acquire an intact scroll. He has never seen one, aside from the well-known ones that have been published and are publicly owned. Despite the rumors that have circulated about such a scroll (or scrolls) existing in private hands, he has followed all the leads and they have all turned out to be “ghosts.” Of one well-known scholar’s worldwide search for more scrolls, Schøyen says that “all he did was raise a lot of dust.” Yet Schøyen cannot dismiss the idea that there may yet be some scrolls locked away in a vault, increasing in value each passing day.
    Schøyen insists, however, that he does not buy looted objects. And while he will try to get the “best price” at auction or from a dealer, if he is purchasing from a private party who does not know the value of what is offered for sale, he will pay the fair market value. That provision is included in his own published code of ethics. A devout churchman, he says it is the Christian thing to do. Even at a public auction, Schøyen will not bid against a national library or a public museum; only when the institution drops out of the bidding will he enter the lists. He will, however, purchase a looted item if a museum or scholar asks him to “rescue” it. As for the looting problem, Schøyen says it would be solved if every country adopted a law that assured the finder of unexcavated antiquities the fair market price for what is dug up, provided he or she notifies the authorities of the find and the site is then scientifically excavated. Up to half of the objects discovered on the site could be taken by the government, but the finder would be paid fair market value even for those items. The balance of the objects would go to the finder, who would be free to keep or sell them.
    At 61, Martin Schøyen is at the height of his powers. But he is already thinking of the inevitable. At one time, he would have been satisfied to have his collection auctioned off piece by piece, giving each new owner the pleasure he had in owning the object. Now he is thinking of his responsibility to the public. His collection, he has decided, will remain together. And it will remain together not as a gift, but as a sale. Already museums are coming to him, not the other way around. He rattles off the four great museums in London, Paris, Rome and New York—the British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican and the Metropolitan—that would outshine his own. That is why he does not want his collection to go to any of those four cities. His collection, he says, would put any other city “on the map.” It would be the fifth great collection. The current going price for his collection is $110 million. A loyal Norwegian, Schøyen would clearly like the collection to remain in Norway if proper arrangements, including exhibition rooms, can be made. For most of his life, Schøyen was a bachelor. He married five years ago, but he and his wife have no children. So what will happen to the proceeds from the sale of the collection? It will go into a charitable foundation he has set up, the Martin Schøyen Foundation for Human Rights. Human rights is defined in the broadest possible terms—from curing diseases to protecting the environment, from ensuring freedom from gender discrimination to eradicating political suppression and terrorism.
    Clearly, Schøyen is thinking about the future almost as much as about the past.
    For more on the Schøyen Collection, see http://www.schoyen.net.
    http://www.bib-arch.org/

November 8th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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UK scholars linked to ‘stolen’ bowls of Babylon
Suppressed report reveals archaeological treasures were dug up after Gulf war
A secret report on the chequered history of priceless Aramaic bowls loaned to a leading university has exposed an apparent attempt to cover up UK academic connections to a potentially deadly trade in stolen Iraqi antiquities.
The findings of the study, which was suppressed by a controversial legal agreement in 2007, have at last solved a long-standing archaeological mystery.
Commissioned by University College London in 2005, it confirms the expert view that the bowls were stolen from the historical site of Babylon and should be returned to Iraq or handed over to the police. The report was completed in 2006 but suppressed a year later in a legal settlement made between the university and the putative owner of the bowls, the multimillionaire Norwegian collector, Martin Schøyen.
But a copy of its findings recently placed in the House of Lords library reveals that specialists in archaeology are convinced that the incantation bowls, dating from the fifth to eighth centuries, must have come from Iraq illegally. They believe the rare finds were probably dug up from the remains of Babylon some time after the 1991 Gulf war and were not found in Jordan, as believed by Schøyen. The UCL report concludes that “the bowls are subject to the Iraq United Nations sanctions order 2003 as cultural objects illicitly removed from Iraq after 6 August 1990 and that UCL has therefore a duty to deliver them to a constable”.
The learned team of academics and researchers who worked on the report concluded that both the university and Schøyen were guilty of not showing enough curiosity about the source of the 654 bowls, although it is not suggested that Schøyen knew they might have been looted when he bought them. The team recommended they be returned immediately and asked for the findings to be made public. But in 2007 the report’s three authors were made to keep quiet about their conclusions and UCL paid an undisclosed sum of compensation to Schøyen. The authors are believed to have been unhappy about the legal gag.
This weekend one of them, UCL’s director of museums and collections, Sally McDonald, said she was unable to comment further on the report. At a press conference in June 2007 UCL and Schøyen released a joint statement that now appears to be a misrepresentation of the report’s findings. It read: “In 2003 questions were raised in the media with regard to the origin of these bowls, as a result of which UCL, with the agreement of the Schøyen Collection, initiated an inquiry into their provenance.
“Following a searching investigation by an eminent panel of experts, and further inquiries of its own, UCL is pleased to announce that no claims adverse to the Schøyen Collection’s right and title have been made or intimated.”
But one of the suppressed report’s two other authors, the Cambridge academic Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, has called for the Iraqi government to demand the return of the bowls or to threaten to sue UCL and Schøyen. “It is reasonably clear the bowls left Iraq in recent years, and I expect that the Iraqi government will be in contact with the British government to demand their return,” he said. “It is very important that the continued looting of antiquities ceases, and for that to happen wealthy collectors and museums have to stop buying them.”
Professor Peter Stone, a Newcastle University expert in looted Iraqi antiquities, argues that the trade in stolen pieces is potentially even more dangerous, putting lives in peril as well as the archaeological legacy of the region.
“This is the first I have heard about the real contents of this UCL report,” he said. “The bowls themselves have already lost about 70% of their archaeological value because they have been removed from their geographical context. They are now chiefly valuable as objects of art history. But stopping the trade in these looted objects remains crucial. As the US Marines have recently pointed out, there is a strong case that the money made by illegally digging up artefacts in historic sites is being used to buy guns for the insurgent forces.”
The incantation bowls, which were placed above doorways by Mesopotamian Jews as spiritual protection, are thought to be in a UCL store in London or Kent and cannot be used for research. They were borrowed from Schøyen in 1996 by Professor Mark Geller of UCL’s Institute of Jewish Studies in an informal arrangement to allow the bowls to be catalogued by experts. A decade later Schøyen, probably the world’s greatest private collector of manuscripts and texts, began proceedings against UCL for failing to return the bowls as agreed.
He stated: “The Schøyen Collection has become frustrated with the waste of time and money caused by a lengthy and inconclusive inquiry into provenance and with the spurious reasons given for not returning the bowls.”
The UCL report was suppressed as part of the legal settlement of this case.

UK scholars linked to ‘stolen’ bowls of Babylon

Suppressed report reveals archaeological treasures were dug up after Gulf war

A secret report on the chequered history of priceless Aramaic bowls loaned to a leading university has exposed an apparent attempt to cover up UK academic connections to a potentially deadly trade in stolen Iraqi antiquities.

The findings of the study, which was suppressed by a controversial legal agreement in 2007, have at last solved a long-standing archaeological mystery.

Commissioned by University College London in 2005, it confirms the expert view that the bowls were stolen from the historical site of Babylon and should be returned to Iraq or handed over to the police. The report was completed in 2006 but suppressed a year later in a legal settlement made between the university and the putative owner of the bowls, the multimillionaire Norwegian collector, Martin Schøyen.

But a copy of its findings recently placed in the House of Lords library reveals that specialists in archaeology are convinced that the incantation bowls, dating from the fifth to eighth centuries, must have come from Iraq illegally. They believe the rare finds were probably dug up from the remains of Babylon some time after the 1991 Gulf war and were not found in Jordan, as believed by Schøyen. The UCL report concludes that “the bowls are subject to the Iraq United Nations sanctions order 2003 as cultural objects illicitly removed from Iraq after 6 August 1990 and that UCL has therefore a duty to deliver them to a constable”.

The learned team of academics and researchers who worked on the report concluded that both the university and Schøyen were guilty of not showing enough curiosity about the source of the 654 bowls, although it is not suggested that Schøyen knew they might have been looted when he bought them. The team recommended they be returned immediately and asked for the findings to be made public. But in 2007 the report’s three authors were made to keep quiet about their conclusions and UCL paid an undisclosed sum of compensation to Schøyen. The authors are believed to have been unhappy about the legal gag.

This weekend one of them, UCL’s director of museums and collections, Sally McDonald, said she was unable to comment further on the report. At a press conference in June 2007 UCL and Schøyen released a joint statement that now appears to be a misrepresentation of the report’s findings. It read: “In 2003 questions were raised in the media with regard to the origin of these bowls, as a result of which UCL, with the agreement of the Schøyen Collection, initiated an inquiry into their provenance.

“Following a searching investigation by an eminent panel of experts, and further inquiries of its own, UCL is pleased to announce that no claims adverse to the Schøyen Collection’s right and title have been made or intimated.”

But one of the suppressed report’s two other authors, the Cambridge academic Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, has called for the Iraqi government to demand the return of the bowls or to threaten to sue UCL and Schøyen. “It is reasonably clear the bowls left Iraq in recent years, and I expect that the Iraqi government will be in contact with the British government to demand their return,” he said. “It is very important that the continued looting of antiquities ceases, and for that to happen wealthy collectors and museums have to stop buying them.”

Professor Peter Stone, a Newcastle University expert in looted Iraqi antiquities, argues that the trade in stolen pieces is potentially even more dangerous, putting lives in peril as well as the archaeological legacy of the region.

“This is the first I have heard about the real contents of this UCL report,” he said. “The bowls themselves have already lost about 70% of their archaeological value because they have been removed from their geographical context. They are now chiefly valuable as objects of art history. But stopping the trade in these looted objects remains crucial. As the US Marines have recently pointed out, there is a strong case that the money made by illegally digging up artefacts in historic sites is being used to buy guns for the insurgent forces.”

The incantation bowls, which were placed above doorways by Mesopotamian Jews as spiritual protection, are thought to be in a UCL store in London or Kent and cannot be used for research. They were borrowed from Schøyen in 1996 by Professor Mark Geller of UCL’s Institute of Jewish Studies in an informal arrangement to allow the bowls to be catalogued by experts. A decade later Schøyen, probably the world’s greatest private collector of manuscripts and texts, began proceedings against UCL for failing to return the bowls as agreed.

He stated: “The Schøyen Collection has become frustrated with the waste of time and money caused by a lengthy and inconclusive inquiry into provenance and with the spurious reasons given for not returning the bowls.”

The UCL report was suppressed as part of the legal settlement of this case.

November 8th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Author Allison Hoover Bartlett on the curious psyche of a rare-book thief

By Matthew Battles  |  November 8, 2009

Rare books provoke passion in collectors, who expend untold time and treasure in their pursuit. Some surrender their scruples, too.

Take the case of John Charles Gilkey, who stole rare volumes, many worth thousands of dollars, from frustrated dealers around the country. In his compulsion and his scholarly commitment, Gilkey set himself apart from the other criminals with whom he shared time in jail. He took classes and visited libraries to better understand the authors and works he planned to find and steal. He built a veritable library of stolen books – first editions of children’s classics; autographed copies of great novels such as Thomas Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge” and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” The extent of his thefts, and the whereabouts of many books, is still not fully known.

He might never have been caught but for the diligence of Ken Sanders. A ponytailed Utah bookseller whose shop was a countercultural hangout, Sanders found a new calling as an amateur detective when he volunteered to serve as security chair for the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. As Sanders uncovered the patterns of thievery that eventually led him to Gilkey, he became as absorbed in the the hunt for his nemesis as he would have been in pursuit of a rare 17th century withcraft tome, or a signed copy of “Finnegan’s Wake.”

His pursuit is recounted in “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession” (Riverhead), by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Her book delves into a world in which books are objects of meditation and desire, touchstones of memory, and talismans with almost magical powers. It’s both curious and moving to witness the struggles of these bibliophiles in a time when the book itself is in its season of economic, cultural, and technological turmoil.

Bartlett will appear in Boston at the Antiquarian Book Fair at Hynes Convention Center on Nov. 15. She spoke with us by phone from her home in San Francisco.

IDEAS: You’ve said you love reading but don’t share the collecting impulse yourself. Why do people dedicate their lives to hunting down rare books?

BARTLETT: The collector has this very deep appreciation for the book as a physical object that’s mixed with that other love that the rest of us have. And it seems to be almost something you’re born with. With lots of the collectors I met, it seemed like it’s an unidentified genetic trait. Because a lot of them grew up around collectors, their parents were collectors or their uncle was, and it just seems to be almost innate, like a musical ear.

IDEAS: For many collectors, you write, the goal is “to stumble upon a book whose scarcity or beauty or history or provenance is even more seductive than the story printed between its covers.” Aren’t they losing sight of something crucial?

BARTLETT: I don’t think they lose it so much. I think it just runs parallel to a love of the content. Most of the collectors I met, while they didn’t read the books they collected because they wanted to preserve the physical bodies, they were avid readers.

IDEAS: Like legitimate collectors, Gilkey’s motivated by a passion for books. What drove him to steal?

BARTLETT: I think that in many ways Gilkey is a loner, an outsider… He wanted the world to see him as a cultured erudite gentleman who revered literature. But there’s a lot of anger alongside that also; I think he’s frustrated that he’s not yet seen that way. And he has gone to prison repeatedly, I think five or six times at least for this. And what happens when he gets caught and goes to prison is, he wants revenge…. like OK, now I’m getting even, now I’m getting the book collection I deserve.

IDEAS: You write that “for Gilkey . . . having not paid for books… adds even more to their allure.”

BARTLETT: He told me at one point that he kept the books that he had stolen on a separate shelf from the ones that he had not. Although I’m not aware of very many books that he did not steal; if they were under twenty dollars at a library sale he might buy them.

IDEAS: You see movies about jewel thieves and art thieves where they’re stylish and debonair. Here, the thief becomes almost a book-world version of these characters – kind of an outsider intellectual, or a parody of a scholar.

BARTLETT: He’s so amiable and thoughtful, so soft-spoken – and there he is in his orange prison garb behind a glass partition. And it was that juxtaposition of the bookish and the criminal that made me think of “To Catch a Thief” and “Catch Me If You Can” and all those other movies where you have this character who is able to pass in a well-to-do, rarefied world, and pass as one of them, and steal them blind.

IDEAS: What made Ken Sanders such a dogged pursuer?

BARTLETT: I think he just felt very protective over his colleagues. These are people for the most part that don’t make a lot of money. They’re in this business because they love books… He would just become furious when he would hear of a theft and he was determined to figure out who this was.

IDEAS: What happens to rare books in the age of the e-book? What does the future of bibliomania look like?

BARTLETT: You know, the collectors have said, “It all comes down to this: you’ve gotta be able to smell it.” And as funny as that sounds, they’re getting to something essential, which is that reading a physical book is a sensory, intimate experience. And a lot of us don’t want to lose that, because smell is connected to memory, and memory is, as I said earlier – a book collection is a kind of memoir.

IDEAS: If you were going to start stealing books, what book would you go after?

BARTLETT: There’s a manuscript I describe in the first chapter by Flaubert, a handwritten manuscript. And I recently also saw a typed manuscript, but marked up, by Flannery O’Connor. And those are what really grab me. That’s the first time when I was working on this book that I thought, oh, now I understand what a thief feels, because I really want that and I’m sure I can’t afford it… If I could get an early draft of “In Cold Blood” with Capote’s notes all over it, that would just be gold.

IDEAS: There you go. There’s a little thief in every one of us.

BARTLETT: Oh absolutely. I’ve had several authors secretly admit to me that they’ve stolen books.

Matthew Battles is a frequent contributor to Ideas.

November 6th, 2009

Posted In: Book reviews, library theft, Mailing list reports

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Nefertiti and the legacy of artifacts
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By Kemi Aladesuyi 
Staff Columnist
Posted November 6, 2009 at 3:43 am
Updated November 6, 2009 at 3:50 am
Artwork and artifacts from all four corners of the earth fill galleries and star in exhibits in museums across the world. In the world’s most prestigious museums and galleries, taking a stroll through the corridors has become synonymous with meandering through the history of cultures and civilizations that represent every continent on this planet. However, as we move forward into a new age of global awareness and understanding—and past the mantra of rampant imperialism that dominated the last five centuries—it is becoming clear that some of the artifacts that millions of global citizens marvel at today were originally taken from their place of origin illegally.
Recent news has reported the return of stolen artifacts and artwork such as painted reliefs from an ancient Egyptian tomb by the Louvre and the thousands of treasures that have been smuggled out Afghanistan during wartime by Britain.
However, the cry for the return of significant artifacts to their home country still remains unanswered. Some examples are Turkey’s request for the Knidos Lion and Nigeria’s request for its Benin bronze heads. For the country that holds these priceless treasures, the justification for keeping the artifacts usually includes points about how they are representative of world culture and do not belong to any country, or that the quality care these ancient works receive ccould be matched if they were returned.
Most recently, Egypt’s request for the return of the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti from Berlin has come to the international stage. The request was made by Zahi Hawass from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and coincides with the reopening of the Neues Museum, which has lain in ruins in the heart of Berlin since World War II. Another factor that impedes Egypt’s quest is that Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s culture minister, lost an election to head UNESCO, the United Nations culture agency. If the bust was stolen, it seems that Egypt has every intention to get it back and let its relationship with Germany sour in the meantime. Although the truth about what happened when Nefertiti’s bust was found in 1912 has been lost in history, the conflict must nevertheless be resolved today.
But unfortunately, it seems that an issue like this—political agendas aside—comes down to the answers to some hard questions. For example, is there a clear distinction between art and artifact? Can either be owned or traded for? Who has the authority to speak for something that represents an entire culture and, more importantly, who is an individual to decide to give it away? Does an historical artifact belong to a specific country, or rather, does it belong to all as a record of the greater journey in human civilization?
Although I do not know the answers to all of these questions, I do believe that Germany has a unique opportunity to set the tone in this coming age of global understanding and equality by doing something completely unprecedented. By returning a symbol of history, culture and art back to its homeland, Germany would acknowledge Egypt, and by extension other countries facing similar issues, as counterpart curators of world history.
Kemi is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at imekkemi@gmail.com.

By Kemi Aladesuyi 
Staff Columnist

Posted November 6, 2009 at 3:43 am

Updated November 6, 2009 at 3:50 am

Artwork and artifacts from all four corners of the earth fill galleries and star in exhibits in museums across the world. In the world’s most prestigious museums and galleries, taking a stroll through the corridors has become synonymous with meandering through the history of cultures and civilizations that represent every continent on this planet. However, as we move forward into a new age of global awareness and understanding—and past the mantra of rampant imperialism that dominated the last five centuries—it is becoming clear that some of the artifacts that millions of global citizens marvel at today were originally taken from their place of origin illegally.

Recent news has reported the return of stolen artifacts and artwork such as painted reliefs from an ancient Egyptian tomb by the Louvre and the thousands of treasures that have been smuggled out Afghanistan during wartime by Britain.

However, the cry for the return of significant artifacts to their home country still remains unanswered. Some examples are Turkey’s request for the Knidos Lion and Nigeria’s request for its Benin bronze heads. For the country that holds these priceless treasures, the justification for keeping the artifacts usually includes points about how they are representative of world culture and do not belong to any country, or that the quality care these ancient works receive ccould be matched if they were returned.

Most recently, Egypt’s request for the return of the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti from Berlin has come to the international stage. The request was made by Zahi Hawass from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and coincides with the reopening of the Neues Museum, which has lain in ruins in the heart of Berlin since World War II. Another factor that impedes Egypt’s quest is that Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s culture minister, lost an election to head UNESCO, the United Nations culture agency. If the bust was stolen, it seems that Egypt has every intention to get it back and let its relationship with Germany sour in the meantime. Although the truth about what happened when Nefertiti’s bust was found in 1912 has been lost in history, the conflict must nevertheless be resolved today.

But unfortunately, it seems that an issue like this—political agendas aside—comes down to the answers to some hard questions. For example, is there a clear distinction between art and artifact? Can either be owned or traded for? Who has the authority to speak for something that represents an entire culture and, more importantly, who is an individual to decide to give it away? Does an historical artifact belong to a specific country, or rather, does it belong to all as a record of the greater journey in human civilization?

Although I do not know the answers to all of these questions, I do believe that Germany has a unique opportunity to set the tone in this coming age of global understanding and equality by doing something completely unprecedented. By returning a symbol of history, culture and art back to its homeland, Germany would acknowledge Egypt, and by extension other countries facing similar issues, as counterpart curators of world history.

Kemi is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at imekkemi@gmail.com.

November 5th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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POPPY COLLECTION STOLEN FROM WAR MUSEUM

5 November 2009

Oliver Pugh
news@southwarknews.org

Thieves have stolen hundreds of pounds that was destined for our injured war heroes – right from under the nose of Sir Winston Churchill.

The shameful theft allegedly took place on Saturday afternoon, as two men distracted staff at a war museum while they pilfered the charity money.

Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience, on Tooley Street, had even nailed the poppy box down, but the pair still managed to prize it free.

Manager John Welsh said: “With people dying now in the ongoing situations in Afghanistan and Iraq I think it is terrible that this type of thing is going on.”

The museum estimates that the light-fingered pair made off with more than £200, as children visiting the museum over half term had managed to fill the pot and staff were ready to ask for an empty replacement.

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said this kind of theft was very rare.
“It’s such a shame,” he said. “I am sure Sir Winston Churchill would be turning in his grave.”

But museum founder Don Robinson has already stumped up £100 of his own money, to get the new collection kick started.

The two men went into the museum at around 3.45pm on Saturday October 31 and asked for directions to the ‘travel information’. Museum cashier Tracy Gordon, 26, from Rotherhithe, said she thought the pair were drunks.

“The smell [of alcohol] was that bad it turned my stomach right the way over,” she said.
As Tracy directed them to London Bridge, she said: “Something just didn’t feel right.” So as the two started to leave she went round to follow them and noticed the poppy box had been taken.

The two men are described as white, wearing jeans, unshaven and unwashed. One was around 5’8″, wearing a black jacket, with brown fair hair, and the other was shorter with short black hair.
Southwark Police have confirmed to the ‘News’ they are now investigating the incident.


November 5th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

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Providence couple embroiled in search for Nazi art
01:00 AM EST on Thursday, November 5, 2009
By Katie Mulvaney
Journal Staff Writer
In this family photo, Maria-Luise Bissonnette’s parents, Dr. Karl Wilharm and his wife, Lilli, stand near the painting in question — in the corner.
The Providence Journal / Glenn Osmundson
PROVIDENCE As Maria-Luise and Conrad Bissonnette shared their weekly lunch in Woonsocket last week, a half-dozen federal agents searched their ninth-floor apartment overlooking the State House.
The agents from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s arts and antiquities unit scoured boxes of paperwork, opened safes and rifled through photographs after the manager at the Avalon at Center Place let them into the couple’s apartment on Oct. 27.
The reason for the search remained unclear to the Bissonnettes when they returned home around 3:30 p.m. The agents gave no explanation, Maria-Luise said, but left her a phone number to call at the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. The search warrant did not detail what they were looking for, but said they had seized miscellaneous unidentified documents, photos and three passports when they left an hour later.
The Bissonnettes said they enlisted the building manager to inquire on their behalf after the agents did not return their calls. In response, ICE faxed the couple a document supporting the warrant that specified that agents were looking for items, including artwork, related to the sale or transfer of art illegally imported to the United States. They were also in search of evidence that showed the sale or transfer of goods that were taken by forced sale by Maria-Luise’s stepfather.
U.S. Magistrate Lincoln D. Almond signed the warrant giving the agents the go-ahead; the affidavit supporting it is under seal in U.S. District Court. ICE will not comment about ongoing investigations, according to Lou Martinez, agency spokesman, but part of ICE’s mission is to investigate the loss or looting of cultural-heritage properties and return them to them to their country of origin.
THE BISSONNETTES are trying to determine what the agents took, and they grumble about torn boxes, photos strewn on chairs and closets left in disarray. Maria-Luise points to empty spots and missing pages from a photo album dating to the 1930s. They are unsure what’s next.
“Honestly, I didn’t do anything. I’m trying to get my rights,” says Maria-Luise, 85, a baroness with coifed red hair and a regal bearing. “I love America. Something like that, I don’t understand.”
It is not the Bissonnettes’ first brush with the American legal system. A federal appeals court panel ruled a year ago that a painting owned by Maria-Luise that had long hung on her wall had, in effect, been stolen from a Jewish gallery owner during the Holocaust. The court upheld an earlier ruling that collector Max Stern was robbed of the artwork when the Nazis forced him to sell it at auction for vastly less than its value.
The decision was the first in the United States in which a forced sale was found to be the equivalent of theft. Some projected it would clear the way for Stern’s estate to pursue hundreds of other works.
That case has roots going back to 1934, when Stern inherited an art gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany, from his father, court records show. At the time, the Nazis were enacting strict laws that prohibited Jews from owning businesses. And, in 1935, the regime’s Reich Chamber for the Visual Arts ordered Stern to sell his collection.
Two years later, after Stern’s appeals failed, the Lempertz auction house in Cologne, Germany, sold his works at below market value. The German government froze his assets, so he never received money from the sale.
Stern moved to Canada, where he became a preeminent art collector and dealer. For decades, he hunted for his artworks, even initiating legal proceedings in Germany. Upon his death, in 1987, his estate launched its own recovery effort.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s painting, “Girl from the Sabine Mountains,” surfaced in January 2005, when Bissonnette tried to sell it through the Cranston auction house Estates Unlimited. She needed the money, she said, to help pay for bills related to her breast-cancer treatment.
Maria-Luise’s stepfather, Karl Wilharm, a physician and high-ranking member of the Nazi party, purchased the painting by the 19th-century painter and lithographer in the forced auction, according to the Stern estate.
AMERICAN occupation forces arrested Wilharm after the war, and he was held for about 15 months for his previous Nazi affiliations and activities, the estate said. Among the accusations against Wilharm is that storm troopers rounded up Jews and opponents of the Nazi regime and took them to an unused factory owned by Wilharm. There, they were beaten, in some cases, to death, with Wilharm’s “knowledge, encouragement and consent,” the estate said.
The Stern estate made a claim for restitution with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, a branch of the State of New York’s banking department, when Bissonnette moved to sell the work, which she inherited in 1991. The office sent a letter in February 2005 seeking return of the painting. Bissonnette refused, spurring a year of fruitless negotiations over the painting, valued at $67,000 to $93,000.
Bissonnette shipped the painting to Germany and sued the Stern estate in the German courts in a bid to establish ownership. That suit has not been settled, but the painting was returned to the estate and is now on loan to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The Stern estate subsequently filed its suit in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island. Thomas R. Kline, a lawyer for the estate, said the German courts would be obligated to respect the 1st Circuit decision.
BISSONNETTE continues to hold out hope that the painting will be declared rightly hers.
“I’m still the owner,” says Bissonnette. “Now, they say they were all confiscated. They were not confiscated … They really told them a good story.” Stern, she said, could have opted not to sell the paintings.
“According to German law, it was not a forced sale,” she said at the dining room table in an apartment full of antique furniture. “It was not sold under duress.”
She disputes characterizations that her father was a high-ranking Nazi, explaining that at that time, everyone belonged to the party to ensure food and jobs. “He was not a Nazi,” she said. “He was just a doctor. That was all.”
She has the support of her second husband, Conrad Bissonnette, a Woonsocket native and former CIA employee she met at an Arthur Murray dance school in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. She had come to America following World War II with her first husband, whom she later divorced.
“The stuff I have in my room is junk, but it’s my junk,” Conrad, 84, said, gesturing toward a room lined with book cases and boxes. “They’ve messed it all up.” He is outraged that his passport has been taken and repeats his wife’s contention that Stern willingly sold his work. “It was his choice to sell.”
Representatives from the Max Stern Restitution Project, an effort to recover the late collector’s work, did not return a phone call or e-mails seeking comment this week.
kmulvane@projo.com

By Katie Mulvaney

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE As Maria-Luise and Conrad Bissonnette shared their weekly lunch in Woonsocket last week, a half-dozen federal agents searched their ninth-floor apartment overlooking the State House.

The agents from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s arts and antiquities unit scoured boxes of paperwork, opened safes and rifled through photographs after the manager at the Avalon at Center Place let them into the couple’s apartment on Oct. 27.

The reason for the search remained unclear to the Bissonnettes when they returned home around 3:30 p.m. The agents gave no explanation, Maria-Luise said, but left her a phone number to call at the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. The search warrant did not detail what they were looking for, but said they had seized miscellaneous unidentified documents, photos and three passports when they left an hour later.

The Bissonnettes said they enlisted the building manager to inquire on their behalf after the agents did not return their calls. In response, ICE faxed the couple a document supporting the warrant that specified that agents were looking for items, including artwork, related to the sale or transfer of art illegally imported to the United States. They were also in search of evidence that showed the sale or transfer of goods that were taken by forced sale by Maria-Luise’s stepfather.

U.S. Magistrate Lincoln D. Almond signed the warrant giving the agents the go-ahead; the affidavit supporting it is under seal in U.S. District Court. ICE will not comment about ongoing investigations, according to Lou Martinez, agency spokesman, but part of ICE’s mission is to investigate the loss or looting of cultural-heritage properties and return them to them to their country of origin.

THE BISSONNETTES are trying to determine what the agents took, and they grumble about torn boxes, photos strewn on chairs and closets left in disarray. Maria-Luise points to empty spots and missing pages from a photo album dating to the 1930s. They are unsure what’s next.

“Honestly, I didn’t do anything. I’m trying to get my rights,” says Maria-Luise, 85, a baroness with coifed red hair and a regal bearing. “I love America. Something like that, I don’t understand.”

It is not the Bissonnettes’ first brush with the American legal system. A federal appeals court panel ruled a year ago that a painting owned by Maria-Luise that had long hung on her wall had, in effect, been stolen from a Jewish gallery owner during the Holocaust. The court upheld an earlier ruling that collector Max Stern was robbed of the artwork when the Nazis forced him to sell it at auction for vastly less than its value.

The decision was the first in the United States in which a forced sale was found to be the equivalent of theft. Some projected it would clear the way for Stern’s estate to pursue hundreds of other works.

That case has roots going back to 1934, when Stern inherited an art gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany, from his father, court records show. At the time, the Nazis were enacting strict laws that prohibited Jews from owning businesses. And, in 1935, the regime’s Reich Chamber for the Visual Arts ordered Stern to sell his collection.

Two years later, after Stern’s appeals failed, the Lempertz auction house in Cologne, Germany, sold his works at below market value. The German government froze his assets, so he never received money from the sale.

Stern moved to Canada, where he became a preeminent art collector and dealer. For decades, he hunted for his artworks, even initiating legal proceedings in Germany. Upon his death, in 1987, his estate launched its own recovery effort.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s painting, “Girl from the Sabine Mountains,” surfaced in January 2005, when Bissonnette tried to sell it through the Cranston auction house Estates Unlimited. She needed the money, she said, to help pay for bills related to her breast-cancer treatment.

Maria-Luise’s stepfather, Karl Wilharm, a physician and high-ranking member of the Nazi party, purchased the painting by the 19th-century painter and lithographer in the forced auction, according to the Stern estate.

AMERICAN occupation forces arrested Wilharm after the war, and he was held for about 15 months for his previous Nazi affiliations and activities, the estate said. Among the accusations against Wilharm is that storm troopers rounded up Jews and opponents of the Nazi regime and took them to an unused factory owned by Wilharm. There, they were beaten, in some cases, to death, with Wilharm’s “knowledge, encouragement and consent,” the estate said.

The Stern estate made a claim for restitution with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, a branch of the State of New York’s banking department, when Bissonnette moved to sell the work, which she inherited in 1991. The office sent a letter in February 2005 seeking return of the painting. Bissonnette refused, spurring a year of fruitless negotiations over the painting, valued at $67,000 to $93,000.

Bissonnette shipped the painting to Germany and sued the Stern estate in the German courts in a bid to establish ownership. That suit has not been settled, but the painting was returned to the estate and is now on loan to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The Stern estate subsequently filed its suit in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island. Thomas R. Kline, a lawyer for the estate, said the German courts would be obligated to respect the 1st Circuit decision.

BISSONNETTE continues to hold out hope that the painting will be declared rightly hers.

“I’m still the owner,” says Bissonnette. “Now, they say they were all confiscated. They were not confiscated … They really told them a good story.” Stern, she said, could have opted not to sell the paintings.

“According to German law, it was not a forced sale,” she said at the dining room table in an apartment full of antique furniture. “It was not sold under duress.”

She disputes characterizations that her father was a high-ranking Nazi, explaining that at that time, everyone belonged to the party to ensure food and jobs. “He was not a Nazi,” she said. “He was just a doctor. That was all.”

She has the support of her second husband, Conrad Bissonnette, a Woonsocket native and former CIA employee she met at an Arthur Murray dance school in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. She had come to America following World War II with her first husband, whom she later divorced.

“The stuff I have in my room is junk, but it’s my junk,” Conrad, 84, said, gesturing toward a room lined with book cases and boxes. “They’ve messed it all up.” He is outraged that his passport has been taken and repeats his wife’s contention that Stern willingly sold his work. “It was his choice to sell.”

Representatives from the Max Stern Restitution Project, an effort to recover the late collector’s work, did not return a phone call or e-mails seeking comment this week.

kmulvane@projo.com

November 5th, 2009

Posted In: WWII

Two barn owls stolen from museum
Thrissur (Ker), Nov 4 (PTI) Two barn owls were stolen from the century-old government museum and zoo here, a museum official said.

The disappearance of the owls was noticed today, museum superintendent K Jayan said.

The cage containing their nest was found broken open and the birds could have been stolen last night.

Body parts of barn owls were in great demand in Gurarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal for exorcism.

Official sources said some months back two persons on their way to Gujarat were arrested from the railway station here and a few barn owls seized from them.

Thrissur (Ker), Nov 4 (PTI) Two barn owls were stolen from the century-old government museum and zoo here, a museum official said.

The disappearance of the owls was noticed today, museum superintendent K Jayan said.

The cage containing their nest was found broken open and the birds could have been stolen last night.

Body parts of barn owls were in great demand in Gurarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal for exorcism.

Official sources said some months back two persons on their way to Gujarat were arrested from the railway station here and a few barn owls seized from them.

November 4th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

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By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff  |  October 9, 2009

Two weeks after a former Harvard Medical School instructor and his business partner reported that burglars stole artwork by Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, and other masters valued at up to $80 million from their upscale California rental home, the case, which authorities have branded a possible hoax, took another twist yesterday.

Investigators, who previously identified the alleged victims, Dr. Ralph Kennaugh and Angelo Benjamin Amadio, as suspects in the theft are considering the possibility the doctor was a victim of Amadio, a spokesman for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday.

“That is one scenario we’re looking at,’’ said Commander Mike Richards. “There have been untruthful and inconsistent statements presented to us by Mr. Amadio.’’

In a telephone interview from California last night, Kennaugh, 62, who worked as a radiation oncologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester until March and was an instructor at Harvard Medical School, called the allegation “ridiculous.’’

“Ben and I have been friends and business partners for 10 years now,’’ he said.

Amadio, 31, a former Boston restaurant manager and art collector who said he is attending law school, accused the sheriff of botching the investigation into the Sept. 25 alleged theft at their Pebble Beach home and unfairly blaming the victims.

In an e-mail to the Globe responding to statements by Richards, Amadio said he and Kennaugh each had a 50 percent stake in the artwork, “thus we are both equally at a loss.’’

“There is very little insurance in comparison to what was stolen, so no motive,’’ he said. “Please stop attacking us.’’

But Richards said investigators have been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from Amadio and Kennaugh since they reported that thieves broke into their home and stole the artwork, which had been shipped cross-country from Boston weeks earlier in a rental truck.

The men said that most of the artwork, including a Jackson Pollock worth millions, was not insured, and that they had coverage only of about $72,000 for seven pieces, including two sketchings by Rembrandt and another by Renoir. They also said the thieves stole documentation and hard drives that could have verified their ownership and the authenticity of the works.

Four days after the theft, Amadio and Kennaugh said, they discovered a ransom note tucked behind a painting that had been left in the home. The sheriff’s office met the discovery with suspicion because investigators had been through the residence “with a fine-tooth comb’’ and did not find the note, Richards said.

“The bottom line is they still haven’t cooperated with us,’’ said Richards, adding that the two men have yet to give investigators any documentation about the artwork or photographs. He said the only images investigators have seen are those that Kennaugh and Amadio have shared with the news media.

“We’re actively pursuing this on face value and the fact that it seems like a hoax right now,’’ Richards said.

Amadio said a lawyer representing him and Kennaugh will release images of the artwork and some documentation from an insurance company during a press conference today in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Amadio said they plan to release the same information to the sheriff’s office prior to releasing it to the news media.

Kennaugh sold his home on Clarendon Street in Boston’s Back Bay for $1.75 million in early August, according to real estate records, then moved to California.

Amadio said a former New England Patriot player who had been a neighbor of the two men in Boston had seen some of their artwork and could verify their ownership. But a spokesman for the player, whose name is being withheld by the Globe, said he declined to comment.

A Boston real estate agent, who arranged the sale of Kennaugh’s home and spoke on the condition that he not be named, said the walls of the residence were covered with artwork, but he did not know if they were authentic.

Jerry Seagreaves, an agent for Farmers Insurance in Capitola, Calif., confirmed yesterday that he transferred an insurance policy from Massachusetts to California for Kennaugh; it provided coverage for the contents of his home and seven of the artworks which were stolen. Seagreaves said the stolen artworks are covered by about $70,000 to $75,000 in insurance.

Seagreaves said he had not appraised the artwork before transferring the policy, since the policy was remaining with the same company, AIG. He said he was awaiting documentation, including the appraisal, from an insurance agent in Boston.

“We are at this point trying to work out what was stolen,’’ said Seagreaves. “Our claims adjusters are waiting to do their own investigation. . . . We will do our best to settle the claim as fairly as possible.”

Before Kennaugh left Boston, he was employed as a radiation oncologist by Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which assigned him to St. Vincent’s. He was terminated July 31, said Jerry Berger, a spokesman for Beth Israel. He declined to release any additional information.

Kennaugh said the termination was a technicality. He said he applied for a disability when he retired in March, then was terminated in July when the disability was approved.

Kennaugh said the etchings by Rembrandt and Renoir were not worth much and were among the seven stolen items covered by insurance.

But, he said, he never bought insurance on his most valuable works because it would have cost too much.

“I’ve been collecting them for 20 to 30 years,’’ he said. “I just enjoy the art; I’m not worried about appraising them.’’ 

November 4th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Painting shown 19 years after theft

A famous painting by one of the Republic’s most celebrated artists which vanished for 17 years after being stolen in an art heist has gone on show to the public.

The Jack B Yeats work Bachelor’s Walk, in Memory was taken during a robbery at Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath, in 1990, never to surface again until two years ago when it went on sale at a Sotheby’s auction.

Scotland Yard stepped in after being contacted by the National Gallery of Ireland who spotted a photograph of the missing piece in a catalogue for the Irish sale.

November 4th, 2009

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Spy Like Us
How a mild-mannered Baltimore antique dealer became one of the FBI’s best agents.
By William H. Stevenson III

In June 2002, two men waited in an upscale Madrid hotel room for a very important delivery. One was tall, buzz cut, athletic. The other was an affable, academic type in his late 40s with a medium build and short hair tinged with gray.

There was a knock at the door. It was a shaven-headed Spaniard wearing the garb of European thug: black T-shirt, tattoos on his arms, and a gold chain around his neck. He was holding a large flat package wrapped in brown paper.

“Put it on the bed,” said the tall man. “El professor will take a look.”

“El professor” carefully unwrapped the package to reveal a heavy, ornately-carved cradle frame that was securely holding a painting—an old one. He recognized it at once. There was the black-robed monk, kneeling by the shoreline, reading his Bible while all around him strutted halfhuman monsters, pig-faced, bird-bodied symbols of carnal desire: The Temptation of St. Anthony by Pieter Bruegel, one of the classics of Flemish art. The year before, it had been stolen from the penthouse apartment of Esther Koplowitz, the richest woman in Spain. As el professor inspected the piece, he heard the thief haggling with his partner.

“One million? Is worth four.”

“If it is authentic you will get ten. For this one and the others.”

El professor lifted the painting from the bed.

“I’ll have to take it into a dark room to use the black light,” he said. Accompanied by the thief, he carried the painting into the bathroom, shut the door, and turned off the lights. He scanned the painting with the dim purple of a UV lamp, looking for luminescent glows, telltale signs of modern paints that would indicate a forgery. He saw none. There was no doubt. This was the stolen Bruegel. But “El professor” was a fake. He was not an American academic working for Russian gangsters. He was Robert Wittman, undercover agent of the FBI. And in a few minutes, if all went well, he would say a coded phrase that would bring this sham transaction to an abrupt end.

If you were to meet Bob Wittman looking over Civil War pistols in an antique store or relaxing in a bar, you would think him to be a pleasant conversationalist with a genial sense of humor. There is nothing flamboyant about him, just an air of quiet self-confidence. You would never guess that Wittman was an undercover agent for the FBI. Dozens of art thieves have made the same mistake, learning to their chagrin that the professor or antique dealer they trusted was not the man they took him for.

During his 20 year career, Wittman helped recover $225 million worth of stolen art, antiques, and jewelry, leading Maxim magazine to hail him in February 2009 as the “World’s Greatest Art Detective.” Although his work has taken him from Poland to Peru, this cosmopolitan crime solver has deep Baltimore roots, and those roots helped make him a success.

Born in Tokyo in 1955 to an American serviceman and his Japanese wife, Wittman arrived in Baltimore as a toddler and lived here for the next three decades.

“I grew up surrounded by Japanese art,” Wittman recalls. “There were decorations all over the house. My dad ran all sorts of businesses—a home improvement business, a publishing business. He liked Asian art so much that he opened an antique shop on Howard Street that specialized in it.” Wittman’s Oriental Gallery was open from 1985 to 1997.

There was nothing unusual about Wittman’s upbringing: He went to Calvert Hall High School and then Towson University. He worked in his dad’s shop on the weekends. He went to Orioles games.

“He was just like any other kid,” says Wittman’s cousin Scott, a retired general contractor from Baltimore. “Liked sports, comic books. But he was a master of many talents.” Scott remembers that Wittman was so good at playing classical piano, he gave lessons to other kids in the neighborhood. This talent would pay off in unexpected ways. When Wittman’s future wife Donna first met him at a party, she says she had mixed impressions. “I thought he was overly confident in himself, but, at the same time, he was charming,” she recalls. “On a later date he took me to his parents’ home where he sat down and played ‘Unchained Melody’ for me on the piano. After that, we were inseparable.”

After graduating from college in 1980, Wittman worked for a time in one of his father’s publishing businesses, printing agricultural monthlies such as Maryland Farmer, and he continued to help out at the antique shop.  “I used to go with my dad when he took clients out to lunch,” he recalls. “I saw how they interacted.” As he got older, he began working with the clients more directly, going to auctions, buying and selling antiques. He enjoyed the work, but something was missing. When he was a boy, he had avidly watched the Efrem Zimbalist TV series The F.B.I. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had always dreamed of doing that kind of work himself. “It seemed like an exciting position,” he says. “And relevant, an important job. I’d be on the forefront of protecting the Constitution.”

In 1988, he saw a Catonsville Times ad calling for applications to the FBI and submitted his resume. Somewhat to his surprise, his application was accepted.

Suddenly, he’d be going from arguably one of the least dangerous jobs imaginable (who wants to hurt an antique dealer?) to one of the most dangerous. So how did his wife feel about this transition?

“Before I joined the FBI, Donna and I agreed that we would accept the danger,” Wittman says. “We decided this together, made the commitment. As an agent you put your game face on and accept the consequences, accept the ultimate danger. You might say it’s part of the contract.”

After he graduated from the FBI academy in 1988, Wittman was assigned to the Philadelphia field office to work on the recovery of stolen property. (He has lived in the Philadelphia area since then.) His first assignment was a case concerning the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum had been the victim of a brazen daylight robbery—a thief stole a bronze bust by Rodin at gunpoint, firing a pistol shot into the walls to show that he meant business. Worth about $75,000, the “Man with the Broken Nose” was certainly a valuable piece of sculpture, but it was the notoriety of the case that made it a sensation.

“The robbery was a huge story,” Wittman said. “Tips came pouring in. I was one of the agents who checked them out.”

Tips eventually led the FBI to the thief, an out-of-work dancer. The statue was recovered undamaged, wrapped in brown paper and hidden under the water heater in the home of the dancer’s mom. Although Wittman’s role in the investigation was routine and unglamorous, he knew he had found his calling: recovery of stolen art and antiquities.

“This is a special type of investigation,” he says, speaking with uncharacteristic animation. “Art and antiquities, these are the records of civilization. When someone steals these, it’s like they’re stealing from all of us.”

The FBI recognized the value of Wittman’s background in antiques and sent him to classes in art history and gemology to hone his skills. It gave him credibility as an undercover agent.

As John Kitzinger, Wittman’s last supervisor at the FBI, notes, “Antiques were the foundation of his expertise. He knew talking points about art.”

Baltimore antiques dealer Philip Dubey, who knew Wittman when he was still working for his father, confirms the value of such specialized training. “There is a lot of jargon in the antiques business,” he says. “It’s almost like a secret handshake. If someone finds a punchbowl in their attic they might describe it as ‘sixteen inches wide, blue and white.’ A dealer would say, ‘overglaze blue and white from the neo-classical era.’ You can usually tell right away if someone has a background or not.”

Dubey remembers Wittman as an unusually affable and forthcoming young man. “He would share information,” he says. “He wasn’t one of those dealers who plays his cards close to his chest.”

That “regular guy” persona seemed to suit the job. Former special agent Jerri Williams of the Philadelphia office had a nickname for him. “I called him LB—Lovable Bob,” she says. “He comes across as a real person. Not arrogant, aloof, none of the things that people think an FBI agent is. How could a crook suspect that he is anything other than he seems to be?”

Wittman’s flair for undercover work led him to become something of a globe- trotter, impersonating a dealer in African antiquities in Warsaw, an art broker in Copenhagen and Barcelona, a cigar-smoking antiquities buyer in Miami, and, of course, that shady professor in Madrid. Undercover work is not for the faint of heart.

Wittman still remembers his first undercover case.

“In 1995, a con man in Philadelphia tried to buy $15 million worth of diamonds,” he recalls. “He told a jeweler he was with the CIA. Not surprisingly, the jeweler called the authorities. My job was to be the courier. I had a briefcase full of fake diamonds attached to my arm with a handcuff. [As the courier], I was supposed to meet the con man in a hotel lobby, go with him to his room, hand over the diamonds, and get the money.”

Wittman met the con man in the lobby, and they chatted for a few seconds. Then Wittman raised his right hand.

“That was the signal,” he says. “Undercover agents in the lobby swarmed us. Later when we searched the hotel room we found cashier’s checks made out for $15 million— all fake, of course. We also found a few other things. The con man had been ready for a fight. He had turned all the mirrors in the room around so they wouldn’t break. He had a pistol in the room, a hatchet in his coat, and a suitcase filled with surgical bandages. He was prepared to cut off my arm to get my suitcase.”

Clearly, an undercover agent needs steady nerves. “When people act nervous, they can stress everyone out,” says Kitzinger. “Nothing rattles Bob. He’s a very cool customer, even in stressful situations. Of course, we have controls in place during undercover operations, but you can never be sure what will happen.”

Wittman was so confident in his own abilities, he was even known to tempt fate. Once, when dealing with an Armenian drug lord who had stolen four paintings from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Wittman, posing as a potential buyer, cracked, “Don’t you trust me? You’d think I was the FBI!” The drug lord laughed, the negotiation continued, and Wittman got his man again.

Back in the Madrid sting operation, “El professor” emerged from the darkened room where he had examined the stolen Bruegel, smiled at his partner, and voiced the coded phrase: “It’s a done deal!” His words were picked up by a hidden microphone. Seconds later, a black hooded Spanish SWAT team burst through the door of the hotel room. Wittman dove behind the bed, holding the Bruegel in his arms. “Don’t shoot!” he yelled. “Bueno hombre! Bueno hombre! Good guy! Good guy!” (He was still keeping his cover.) As usual in such cases, Wittman was arrested along with the suspects and was taken down to the city jail to be photographed and fingerprinted. Unlike the other suspects, he was quickly released.

After an eventful career with the FBI, Wittman retired last year at the age of 52. “There comes a point when you turn it over to the younger generation and give them a chance,” he says. “Chasing criminals is a young man’s game. The criminals, they’re still 18. I’m not.”

But he continues to fight art theft through his Chester Heights, PA-based private company, Robert Wittman Incorporated, working on security issues with museums, collectors, and insurance companies and consulting on recovery of stolen art. Over the years Wittman has never los