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June 30th, 2010

Posted In: brand Armando Museum

Hollis woman sentenced for $1.3m theft
http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Hollis+woman+sentenced+for+%241.3m+theft&articleId=3df55393-d79e-4a42-9072-a20e9df895cc

By CLYNTON NAMUO
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent

HOLLIS – A local woman was sentenced to three to five years in prison in Massachusetts on Monday after pleading guilty to charges she embezzled more than $1.3 million from her former employer, a museum in Harvard, Mass.

Peggy Kempton, 54, pleaded guilty last month to 14 counts of larceny, three counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and one count of false entries in corporate books. She was sentenced Monday in Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts and given the sentence recommended by prosecutors.

As deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the Fruitlands Museum from January 2002 to February 2008, Kempton stole at least $1.3 million by taking out 14 credit cards in the museum’s name and then using museum funds to pay them off, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. One card was taken out in a co-worker’s name without their knowledge.

The cards were used to fund lavish lifestyles for her three children.

Kempton also got cash advances on three more credit cards she had taken out in the names of still more coworkers, using the money to pay off her own personal credit cards, the AG’s office said.

To cover up her crimes, Kempton simply cooked the books, the AG’s office said, making personal expenses appear to be business ones.

“This defendant abused her position of trust to defraud her employers and misuse charitable funds for her own personal gain,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “With today’s sentence she has been held accountable for her actions and has been ordered to pay full restitution back to the charity.”

According to Nashoba Publishing, a chain of weekly newspapers in Massachusetts, prosecutors noted some of her purchases during the sentencing, including:

• $88,600 from one Middleton antique store for various antiquities
• $52,984 in airline tickets
• $31,658 in clothing from Neiman Marcus
• $13,987 in purchases at Nordstrom department store
• in excess of $7,000 in jewelry purchased at Tiffany’s
• $47,592 in college tuition and private preparatory school education for her children.

Jeffrey Denner, Kempton’s attorney, said yesterday that his client descended into an emotional “abyss” as she allegedly suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband. He said the abuse led her to become unbalanced and to try to create a grandiose life for her three kids.

“She lost perspective and tried to give them a life that would let them forget about the life they were living,” he said.

Denner said Kempton never reported the alleged abuse to authorities because she didn’t want to break up her family. A previous husband had walked out on her, and she feared something similar happening again.

“She was terrified of being alone again,” he said.

Kempton is sorry for what she did, Denner said.

“She’s sorry about a lot of things, certainly part of that is what she did to Fruitlands,” he said.

June 30th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
http://www.buanews.gov.za/news/10/10063012551002
Date: 30 Jun 2010
Title: FIFA confirms trophy theft
——————–
Johannesburg – After conflicting media reports, FIFA confirmed on Wednesday that seven replica trophies valued at ?2100 (about R2100) each, were stolen from the football body’s Johannesburg offices.

But spokesperson Nicolas Maingot however added that no signs of break-ins were uncovered at the store-room where the trophies were kept.

“Indeed the incident did take place – but I have to say there were no signs of break-in and police are investigating the matter,” Maingot said.

He also said FIFA will be watching the police investigations following revelations on Tuesday by police head General Bheki Cele that a UK journalist has been held for allegedly masterminding the incident at the Green Point Stadium where British fan Pavlos Joseph trespassed into the English team’s dressing room.

Cele said initial investigations and analysis of the CCTV footage had led police to believe that the breach of security at the dressing room was planned and involved the cooperation of a number of individuals.

“That matter is now with the police and we will leave that for now,” Maingot said, when asked what FIFA’s position on the matter was.

Meanwhile, the world football governing body says it has committed more than $70 million (about R560 million) towards the development of football in Africa since South Africa was announced as a winning bidder in 2004.

The money was being used to develop state-of-the-art football projects and infrastructure across all 53 member states. 53 football turfs were being built across the continent as part of the “win in Africa with Africa” initiative.

“The initiative has helped all the 53 member associations in the continent develop state of the art football projects and improve domestic leagues,” said Thierry Regenass, FIFA’s Development officer.

He said FIFA was also utilising the funds in the form of training courses and workshops in the areas of health, media and education.

“The win in Africa with Africa has brought about major improvements in our domestic footballs whereby with the introduction of football turfs we have moved from organising three matches a day to 21 matches, it has been a tremendous help to us,” said Tanzanian Football Association President Leodear Tenga. – BuaNews

June 30th, 2010

Posted In: art theft

Nearly 500 Kuwaiti artefacts remain missing after war
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100630/FOREIGN/706299859/1140

James Calderwood, Foreign Correspondent

• Last Updated: June 30. 2010 12:45AM UAE / June 29. 2010 8:45PM GMT

Nawaf al Failakawi of the Kuwait National Museum shows some of the recovered items. Gustavo Ferrari / The National

KUWAIT CITY // War reparations and the exchange of bodies from mass graves are not the only problems facing Iraq and Kuwait as they try to repair a relationship left in tatters by the 1990 invasion.

Just as mystery surrounds the fate of Iraqi artefacts missing since the 2003 US-led war, a dusty storeroom in the Kuwait National Museum has records of an issue that curators say is just as important – looted artefacts from Kuwait’s rich history.

“Our artefacts are important, because we don’t have so many,” said Nawal al Failakawai, an archaeologist who has worked in the museum for the past 21 years. “We’re not like Egypt or Iraq – they have so many archaeological items.”

After the invasion, government buildings and private houses throughout Kuwait were looted. Ms al Failakawai said about 6,000 items were stolen from the museum for a show in Baghdad.

The occupation lasted seven months. When the country was liberated by coalition forces in February 1991, a team of Kuwaiti experts left for Baghdad under the auspices of the United Nations to reclaim their stolen heritage.

They retrieved about 5,500 of their exhibits, and the museum has records of 487 treasures that have still not been found. “Maybe someone liked them and kept them for themselves, maybe it’s political,” Ms al Failakawai said. “It’s our history and our tradition, so it’s very important for our children to see what we had in the past.”

The returned items included important historical finds, including a stone inscribed in Greek that was discovered on Failaka Island, identifying an ancient Hellenistic settlement there. The discovery inspired European interest in Kuwait’s history and subsequent missions during the 1950s unearthed many of the country’s treasures. Some were returned damaged, including the Ikaros Stela, a large stone block inscribed with instructions from a Greek ruler to the island’s inhabitants. The block sits in the museum’s storeroom after being reassembled from pieces.

“They returned so many broken jars, and some of the important artefacts went missing, I’d estimate up to 20 per cent of the returned items were damaged,” Ms al Failakawai said, as she leafed through files with pictures of the missing items, including an ornate Quran from the Islamic period, seals from the bronze-age Dilmun civilisation and Roman coins.

One museum ravaged by fire and yet to be repaired housed a vast private collection owned by two members of the royal family, Sheikh Nasser Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah and his wife, Sheikha Hussah.

An official with Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah, which manages the Al Sabah Collection, said there were “several hundred” items of Islamic art on display when the Iraqis arrived. By good fortune, many pieces were en route to an exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, when the building was ransacked. That part of the collection went on tour for the next 14 years.

But 58 items of the Al Sabah Collection are still missing, including a carved gemstone from 16th-century India and an Ushak carpet from the same period in Turkey. One Mughal dagger set with rubies and emeralds was recovered in 1996 after turning up at an auction at Sotheby’s in London.

Stolen property is just one issue that Kuwaitis want to be resolved before Iraq can be relieved of the UN’s remaining sanctions. Kuwait is still owed about US$25 billion (Dh91.8) in war reparations and billions more in loans, and Iraq has yet to recognise the border between the two countries drawn up by the UN in 1993.

Both sides also want the other to return the remains of citizens missing since the war. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is involved in painstaking negotiations between the two countries, had some measure of success in May when the remains of 55 Iraqi soldiers were repatriated after being dug up from a mass grave in Kuwait.

The families of 376 missing Kuwaitis have had less success. Jean Michel Monod, the head of the ICRC’s regional delegation, said no expeditions for Kuwaiti graves in Iraq have been carried out this year.

“Now there is quiet work going on. We’re working on documents. You don’t just go out and start digging frantically,” he said.

Relations between the two countries improved with the appointment in May of the first Iraqi ambassador to Kuwait since the invasion, but he arrived to a storm of controversy after Kuwait Airways sought to freeze Iraqi Airways’ assets worldwide, leading the Iraqi transport ministry to dissolve the national carrier. Officials of the Kuwaiti government-run carrier say Iraq stole 10 of its planes during the invasion.

The government’s focus on the huge payments still owed to Kuwait and the demarcation of the border has led some at Kuwait’s national museum to wonder if their cultural heritage will be brushed aside as the countries try to hammer out a settlement they can live with.

“We didn’t hear anything about the missing items from the UN or Iraq” since the last batches were returned in 1993 and 1994, Ms al Failakawai said. Iraq should return the items if they are to be relieved of the remaining sanctions, she added. “The government should be firm, because it is very important for us, for our history.”

jcalderwood@thenational.ae

June 30th, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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June 30th, 2010

Posted In: Uncategorized

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June 29th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

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June 29th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

Stolen Caravaggio work recovered in Germany
http://www.cbc.ca/arts/artdesign/story/2010/06/28/caravaggio-recovered-theft.html

Last Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010 | 10:31 AM ET Comments0Recommend1
CBC News

A valuable Caravaggio painting stolen two years ago in Ukraine has been recovered in a joint effort by German and Ukrainian authorities, police announced in Berlin on Monday.

The large chiaroscuro painting, known as The Taking of Christ (and alternately as The Kiss of Judas), was recovered on Friday and has since been verified and authenticated by German art experts, according to a statement from German federal police.

“The Ukrainian authorities have valued the painting in the tens of millions,” the police statement said.

Others have estimated that the work could fetch up to $100 million US on the black market.

On Friday, German police arrested four men — three Ukrainians and one Russian — who were attempting to sell the canvas to a buyer in Berlin. The men are suspected to be members of an international art theft ring.

In Ukraine, officers then arrested another 20 individuals suspected to be involved with the gang of art thieves.

Painted around 1602, The Taking of Christ depicts Jesus being dragged by soldiers after being kissed by his disciple Judas. Though some believe the work to be a student’s replica of a Caravaggio painting on display at National Gallery of Ireland, in 1950 a Soviet art expert declared The Taking of Christ a work of the Italian baroque master.

The painting was snatched from Ukraine’s Museum of Western European and Oriental Art in Odessa in July 2008, with officials admitting that the thief or thieves bypassed the facility’s outdated alarm system by simply removing panes of glass to enter at night.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/artdesign/story/2010/06/28/caravaggio-recovered-theft.html#ixzz0s9uXdSA0

June 28th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

Pickaxe raid nets £20,000 worth of antiques
http://www.thisissurreytoday.co.uk/news/Pickaxe-raid-nets-163-20-000-worth-antiques/article-2338751-detail/article.html

RAIDED: Jenny Butcher, owner of Antique Elegance on West Street, which was burgled on June 13 Photo No: RSMak210610-F01 by Alec Kingham

RAIDERS drove off with £20,000 worth of stolen items in the fourth major theft in Dorking’s antiques hub this year.

Six prized paintings and a Georgian desk were taken from Antique Elegance in West Street at 7.45pm on June 13.

Burglars used a pickaxe to smash their way through the shop window after blocking the premises from view with a white van.

Owners Roger and Jenny Butcher said the thieves had tried to smash their way through the shop ceiling from an upstairs flat being renovated.

Roger Butcher of Antique Elegance said: “It was quite an audacious raid because they pulled up in a van and blocked the whole window out. They went in upstairs first of all to try and come through the ceiling.

“We got mobile phone pictures of them. They looked like two old lags in their 50s. They broke in upstairs and tried to pull the floorboards up and come through.

“They were spotted on the roof by neighbours.

“They did not want to jemmy the door because it is alarmed, so they smashed the window instead with a pickaxe.”

He added: “It makes me sick. They have taken stuff that is mine, no one else’s.”

Jenny Butcher said: “Luckily, a neighbour disturbed them and took photos of them and they skedaddled. I think they were there to take the whole lot.

“All these paintings are known artists and some of them were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848.”

One witness, who did not wish to be named, said: “I heard a lot of glass being smashed and I looked out the window and saw someone taking property out of the shop.”

The witness added: “Everybody puts the police down at the moment but they literally took two minutes to arrive on the scene.”

The raid was the fourth major burglary at an antique store in Dorking this year. Silverware and several thousand pounds’ worth of antiques were stolen in January and March from Talbot House Antique Centre. Earlier this month, £15,000 worth of jewellery was taken from Surrey Hills Antique Centre.

Detectives are seeking further photographic evidence that could lead them to the culprits of the most recent raid. A police spokeswoman said: “A white van, which was using false plates, was caught on CCTV in the area at the time of the offence and inquiries are on-going to establish where the vehicle went when it left the scene.”

June 27th, 2010

Posted In: art theft

Iraq’s Ancient Ruins Face New Looting
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/world/middleeast/26looting.html

Holly Pickett for The New York Times
Local Bedouin tribesmen at a looted Sumerian tomb, one of hundreds of illegal digging sites at an ancient Sumerian city buried near the Iraqi village of Dhahir.

By STEVEN LEE MYERS

Published: June 25, 2010

DHAHIR, Iraq — The looting of Iraq’s ancient ruins is thriving again. This time it is not a result of the “stuff happens” chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003, but rather the bureaucratic indifference of Iraq’s newly sovereign government.

The headquarters of the antiquities police in Baghdad. The force has barely enough people to protect its own headquarters.

The New York Times

Shattered remains attest to looting in the desert at Dhahir.

Thousands of archaeological sites — containing some of the oldest treasures of civilization — have been left unprotected, allowing what officials of Iraq’s antiquities board say is a resumption of brazenly illegal excavations, especially here in southern Iraq.

A new antiquities police force, created in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops, was supposed to have more than 5,000 officers by now. It has 106, enough to protect their headquarters in an Ottoman-era mansion on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad and not much else.

“I am sitting behind my desk and I am protecting the sites,” the force’s commander, Brig. Gen. Najim Abdullah al-Khazali, said with exasperation. “With what? Words?”

The failure to staff and use the force — and the consequent looting — reflects a broader weakness in Iraq’s institutions of state and law as the American military steadily withdraws, leaving behind an uncertain legacy.

Many of Iraq’s ministries remain feeble, hampered by corruption, the uncertain divisions of power and resources and the political paralysis that has consumed the government before and after this year’s election.

In the case of Iraq’s ancient ruins, the cost has been the uncountable loss of artifacts from the civilizations of Mesopotamia, a history that Iraq’s leaders often evoke as part of the country’s once and, anticipating archaeological research and tourism, future greatness.

“The people who make these decisions, they talk so much about history in their speeches and conferences,” said the director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Qais Hussein Rashid, referring to the plight of the new police force, “but they do nothing.”

The looting today has not resumed on the scale it did in the years that immediately followed the American invasion in 2003, when looters — tomb raiders, essentially — swarmed over sites across the country, leaving behind moonlike craters where Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Persian cities once stood.

Even so, officials and archaeologists have reported dozens of new excavations over the past year, coinciding with the withdrawal of American troops, who until 2009 conducted joint operations with the Iraqi police in many areas now being struck by looters again. The antiquities police say they do not have the resources even to keep records of reported lootings.

Here in Dhahir, the looting is evident in the shattered bits of civilization — pieces of pottery, glass and carved stone — strewn across an expanse of desert that was once a Sumerian trading town known as Dubrum.

The bowls, vases and other pieces are destroyed and discarded by looters who seek gold, jewelry and cuneiform tablets or cylinders that are easy to smuggle and resell, according to Abdulamir al-Hamdani, a former antiquities inspector in Dhi Qar Province. The nearest city, Farj, is notorious for a black market in looted antiquities, he said.

“For me, for you, it is all priceless,” he said, “but for them it is useless if they can’t sell it in the market.”

The Dubrum site — which stretches for miles in a sparsely populated region — is pocked by hundreds of trenches, some deeper than 10 or 12 feet. At the bottom of some is the brickwork of tombs, marking the area as a cemetery. Mr. Hamdani said tombs were the most highly valued targets — of archaeologists and looters alike.

Many of the trenches date to the postinvasion chaos, but others have been freshly dug. Just last month someone used a bulldozer and plowed a two-foot-deep gash in the desert, unearthing the brick and bitumen remains of a stairway possibly leading to another cemetery. The materials dated it to the Babylonian period in the seventh century B.C.

The precision of the new looting indicates expertise. “The thief is in the house,” Mr. Hamdani said, suggesting that many of those involved worked on the sites years ago when legitimate archaeological excavations took place, before the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

A Bedouin reported the new excavation to the local police in Dhi Qar, but officers there could do little except to draw public attention to the problem.

Mr. Hamdani’s successor as antiquities inspector for the province, Amir Abdul Razak al-Zubaidi, said he did not even have the budget to pay for gas to drive to the sites of new looting.

“No guards, no fences, nothing,” Mr. Hamdani said. “The site is huge. You can do whatever you want.”

Until the creation of the antiquities police in 2008, responsibility for protecting archaeological sites rested with the Federal Protection Police, created, equipped and trained by the American military. The federal police, however, also guard government officials and buildings, like schools and museums. The ruins, some just desolate patches of desert, slipped down the list of priorities.

Rather than filling the gap, the creation of the antiquities police deepened it. Iraq’s various military and police forces simply left the issue to an agency that effectively still does not operate, nearly two years later.

Mr. Rashid, director of the antiquities board, also said his agency’s request for a $16 million budget in 2010 had been slashed to $2.5 million. The police officers promised by the Ministry of the Interior simply have yet to materialize, despite an order last year from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

“Not everything the prime minister requests from his ministers is obeyed,” he said. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the status of the antiquities police.

Mr. Rashid went on to complain that the looters in some southern provinces — including Dhi Qar and Wasit — operated with the collusion of the law enforcement authorities. “The hand of law cannot reach them,” he said.

The extent and lasting impact of the looting in sites like Dubrum may never be known, since they have never been properly excavated to begin with.

Mr. Zubaidi, the inspector in Dhi Qar, compared the current crisis to the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, a convulsive ransacking that shocked the world into action. The museum’s fate continues to attract far more attention from the government and international donors.

“Most of the pieces that were stolen from the National Museum will come back,” Mr. Zubaidi said. “Each piece was marked and recorded.” Nearly half the 15,000 pieces looted from the museum have been returned. “The pieces that were stolen here will never be returned,” he said. “They are lost forever.”

Khalid D. Ali contributed reporting.

June 26th, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Stolen clock recovered after owners saw it for sale on eBay
http://www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk/news/8240112.Stolen_clock_recovered_after_owners_saw_it_for_sale_on_eBay/

3:17pm Friday 25th June 2010
By Andy Woolfoot »

A RARE antique clock stolen from a home in Cirencester was recovered after its owners spotted it for sale on eBay.

Jackie Shopland-Reed, who lives in Lancashire, told the Standard the Liberty Clock had belonged to her mother who died last year and was one of the possessions her and her two brothers had decided to keep.

It had been handed down through their family for three generations and is valued at around £4,000.

Two weeks ago it was stolen from their mother’s house in Somerford Road.

Several days later one of Jackie’s brothers did an internet search for the make and model of the clock and was stunned to find it listed for sale on eBay.

Jackie said they instantly knew it was theirs as the clock had a purple face which was an unusual colour for that design of clock.

Cirencester police were informed and after contacting the auction website managed to track down an address in the nearby town of Highworth in Wiltshire where the clock was recovered.

“We were upset when we realised it was gone because it has been passed down through our family for generations and for the sentimental value as much as the monetary value,” Jackie said. “We were stunned when we saw it listed on eBay.

“Cirencester police had it back within 24 hours – they did a wonderful job.”

A 36-year-old man and a 47-year-old woman from Highworth have been arrested in connection with the theft. They have been bailed until August 17.

June 26th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

Tomb raiders unearth new marketplace
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-06-23-tomb-raiders-china_N.htm
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY
ANYANG, China — The old warlord, infamous for backstabbing and bloodletting, can hardly complain. When Chinese state television broadcast a live excavation this month of the tomb of General Cao Cao, the destruction found inside confirmed that tomb robbers had beaten archaeologists to the underground site.
Back in the third century, Cao Cao organized his soldiers into a treasure-hunting, tomb-raiding division. These days, the Chinese government threatens the death penalty for stealing cultural relics, yet this history-obsessed country still struggles to protect its rich historical legacy from a surge in an ancient trade: tomb raiding.

As China grows more prosperous, more Chinese are taking up antique collecting, and the growing demand is often met by fakes or tomb robbing, says antiques expert Wu Shu, 60.

Tomb raiding is “the worst in 20 years, when the antique collection market started” in China, he says. Government figures suggest that from 200,000 to 300,000 ancient tombs have been raided in the past two decades, “but the reality far exceeds that number,” says Wu, who agrees with a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimate that tomb robbers number more than 100,000. “When I speak to the leaders of archaeological teams, they tell me, ‘Of 10 tombs, nine are empty,’ ” Wu says.

Aboveboard antiquing

From 2,000-year-old porridge pots to 3,000-year-old wine jars, farmer Long Zhenshan knows well what history lurks beneath the dusty soil of Yuyang village, close to the site of Cao’s tomb.

Since he dug up some old pottery when planting trees in 1974, the farmer, now an antiques enthusiast, has collected more than 3,000 pieces from the fields, but never from a tomb, he says.

“These pieces show that people have been living here continuously for 6,000 years,” he says.

Long’s pride in his collection is clear. So is his frustration at the government’s response to tomb raiding. In 2003, he says, he alerted officials to robberies at a tomb that he guessed — correctly, as it turned out — was Cao’s. Long says it was raided several times before police responded four years later.

The state Administration of Cultural Heritage says crackdowns are hampered sometimes by a lack of local cooperation.

Since 2007, five gangs have targeted the tomb, and the region’s poverty is the main driver, Long says. His yearly earnings from wheat and maize fields rarely top 5,000 yuan — a little more than $700.

“Peaceful Harvest” is the translation of Anfeng township, the area that includes Cao’s tomb. Some villages there, such as Muchangtun, have a reputation for harvesting more than just wheat and other crops.

Wheat farmer Li Haichao, 30, says several villagers were arrested last year in raids to recover items stolen from Cao’s tomb.

“There are many people with money here, but they don’t dare show it as it came from tombs and they fear being fined,” Li says.

‘New currency of bribery’

Raiders are growing bolder. In January, a gang used bulldozers to smash into more than 10 ancient tombs in Jiangsu province.

“Ancient-tomb robbery is rampant in China,” Xu Weihong, excavation team leader at Xian’s famous Teracotta Army, told the Global Times newspaper. “Sometimes our archaeologists’ job is like that of a firefighter. We rush here and there to rescue robbed, ancient tombs.”

In May, a court in Hunan province dealt death penalties to four men dressed as soldiers who used explosives and earth movers to raid a dozen tombs, finding treasures that included a 2,000-year-old royal seal, the Legal Weekend newspaper reported.

Robbers combine techniques old and new, analyst Wu Shu says. To find tomb sites, they are guided by traditional divination and feng shui beliefs about how tombs and other things should be situated for spiritual balance. They use modern prospecting equipment, classic archaeological spades and a knowledge of explosives to gain access, usually in a single night’s work.

While China’s antiques market is booming, Wu says “90% of it is illegal,” either fakes or state-level relics that should not be in private hands.

The antiques that robbers unearth “have become a new currency of bribery in China,” collector Hu Wengao told the state news agency Xinhua.

“Almost all the best antiques have gone either to foreign countries or corrupt high-ranking officials in China,” Hu alleged.

In Beijing, the capital, antique malls have arisen around Panjiayuan, a famous antiques market.

Chairman Mao banned antique collecting in 1949 as too “capitalist,” says Zhang Jinfa, 55, a collector who verifies others’ finds. Collecting started its comeback in the early 1980s, he says.

Embedded in popular culture

The government estimates there are at least 70 million collectors. Zheng says the real figure is perhaps half that, but he regrets how many people enter the market for profit, not passion.

“I tell most people to avoid antique collection, as it is a brutal business and too addictive,” he says. “Many people believe they can buy something cheaply, and sell it for far more, but that rarely happens,” he cautions. Less than 1% of the items he verifies are truly valuable, he says.

Zhang admits that many items in his own collection came from tomb raids, but he denies that he stole them or that he has any direct connection with the robbers.

“We need to protect them however they are obtained,” he says.

China’s surging interest in antiques is fueled by popular TV shows. On one, the host smashes the piece in front of startled owners if he decides it is fake. Wu blames such shows for raising prices — and false hopes.

A popular book series, Tomb Raiders’ Diary, is about to reach its final installment, and talks are underway for a Hollywood version, the Hangzhou newspaper Today Daily reported.

“We have laws, but no strict implementation,” Wu Shu says. “We must increase patriotic and cultural education, and be less tolerant of local officials who do not chase after tomb robbers.”

Long Zhenshan hopes that through the attention being paid to Cao’s tomb, where formal excavation began in 2008, “people will know more about antiques and tombs, and want to protect them instead of robbing them.”

Long’s children show little interest in his antiques, but he hopes local officials will follow through on a promise to build a museum to display them.

Anyang County was already famous in China for the discovery of oracle bones — animal bones heated to reveal cracks that supposedly predicted events — in its 3,300-year-old ruins. Now people hope for a windfall from Cao’s tomb.

Cao was a major figure in the dramatic Three Kingdoms period of disunity in earliest Chinese history. It has been romanticized in countless operas, books and films, and a current hit TV show.

At Xigaoxue village, a cultural relics theme park is planned to be built around the tomb. Villagers hope to cash in.

Yang Shuimei, 51, says she was not paid enough for land that was taken for the digs, but she has set up the first roadside stall selling Cao Cao-related souvenirs.

“This is a poor place, where we rely on the land,” she says, “but now we hope to get rich from Cao Cao.”

Contributing: Sunny Yang

June 24th, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

140-year-old statue stolen from convent

http://www.themonitor.com/articles/strong-40145-tip-convent.html

June 23, 2010 8:04 PM Ildefonso Ortiz The Brownsville Herald GOT A TIP? Anyone with information about the theft of the statue is asked to call Brownsville Police Crime Stoppers at (956) 546-8477. BROWNSVILLE —

Two lit candles remain inside an orange brick grotto where the sisters of Incarnate Word kept a 140-year-old statue of the Lady of Lourdes, which mysteriously vanished sometime between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. The convent’s gardener, Guadalupe Cavazos, reported that the statue was missing from the convent-school on the 200 block of Resaca Boulevard, said Sister Evelyn Morales. “He was watering a small plant near the grotto and found a small rosary on the floor,” she said. “When he looked up, he noticed the statue was missing. It’s almost as if our Blessed Mother was telling him, ‘Hey, look over here: I’m gone.’” Brownsville police are asking the public for any information regarding the statue’s whereabouts or the identity of the burglar, said police spokesman Lt. Orlando Rodriguez. The 2-foot-tall, white-and-blue statue depicts the Virgin Mary looking up to the sky with her hands clasped in prayer and has a reported value of $25,000. It was broken off its metal and cement base inside the grotto, according to the police report. “I don’t know what kind of value this may have to others, but to us this is priceless,” said Sister Vianney Uyeno, who is in charge of the convent.

The grotto and the statue have been open to the public since 1926, Uyeno said. Many faithful Catholics in the community regularly visit the grotto in the morning to pray. “I sure hope that whoever took it repents and brings it back,” Uyeno said of the statue. “At this point we just want our statue back, no questions asked.” Mother Superior Teresa Solis placed the statue in the grotto, which was built at the order’s old convent on the corner of St. Charles and Eighth streets in 1870. The grotto, which was moved to its current location in 1969, was built using petrified wood from Roma and stones from various European grottos and from the grave of Saint Teresa of Avila, said Uyeno.

June 24th, 2010

Posted In: sculpture theft

Tomb raiders and destruction of history
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/indepth/2010-06/23/c_13364449.htm
English.news.cn 2010-06-23 09:04:27

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhaunet) — As a foreign scholar of Chinese archeology, when asked if ancient tombs like that of the historical figure, general Cao Cao (AD 155 – 220), of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280), or of Qin Shi Huang (259 -210 BC), the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) should be opened or not, the first answer has to be that it is a question that only the Chinese can answer.

But China’s cultural heritage is not just a matter for China. It is also world heritage. Its protection is in the interest of the whole world. Thus, everyone would hope that any such work should be sanctioned and supervised by China’s own expert archeologists and its State Administration of Cultural Heritage. It is vital that archeological experts have the final say over priorities, especially since the resources for scientific archeology are limited.

When an archeological site is discovered, it is not just individual artifacts that are important, but the layout of the site, the arrangement of objects, the plant and animal remains, and other aspects that are often overlooked or even invisible to nonspecialists, who also, because of ignorance, often contaminate such remains. That’s why it is important to allow expert archeologists to set priorities and carry out the work. Otherwise, all the potential knowledge about our heritage can be lost forever.

The excitement over the discovery of Cao Cao’s tomb, investigated since 2008, is understandable because he is a very famous historical figure. It is no surprise that research resources are being allocated to carefully investigate the site. But there is also reason for widespread regret across China and beyond. Media reports say robbers raided the tomb before it could be investigated properly.

When tomb robbers ravage a site, their goal is to take things they can sell to antique smugglers, dealers and collectors. For every item they can lay their hands on, they trample 10 others. This is in addition to disturbing the site’s original arrangement, and contaminating the remains.

I have heard reports that more and more tomb robbers are using the latest technology to achieve their goals. In one case, for example, the tomb diggers were said to be receiving directives from city-based smugglers by sending them photographs taken on mobile phone as “progress reports”.

Such looters and middle-men should of course be arrested and punished. But they are not the key problem. Much more important is the issue of the market and the buyers of these antiques, without whom the looting would not take place. Every time a dealer or a private collector buys an item recently taken from an archeological site, he/she contributes to the destruction of the heritage of China, and the world, even if that particular piece is wonderfully intact. In reality, it is an orphan deprived of its “family history”, violently torn out of its original setting.

Many collectors do not want to believe this. They are mesmerized by a singular piece, for they have not seen the heart-breaking damage done by tomb robbers with their own eyes (it happens out of view, in the darkness). If pressed, they might come up with the usual arguments about how “if I did not buy it, someone else would”, or even “it is better that a Chinese rather than a foreign collector owns an ancient Chinese object”.

But this is dubious, since whoever would own such a piece, the damage to its site of origin is irreparable. It destroys the possibility to learn about our history. It also destroys the potential for local tourism development. To me, it seems that China needs more publicity about the ongoing destruction of sites such as Cao Cao’s tomb, and the accompanying loss of knowledge.

Alongside the antique shopping shows on TV, there could be programs that highlight this destruction. One could make arrested robbers walk the sites with reporters, under experts’ guidance, and explain the damage they have done and reveal the names of persons who paid them to do it. Similar tell-all shows could be conducted with dealers who knowingly sell recently stolen items. One could interview collectors, and ask them to reflect on the sad consequences of their activity.

In Western countries, the most effective medicine against the pretense of innocence in looted objects’ trade was the shock a few years ago, when Italian police broke up the Medici smuggler ring selling looted Mediterranean antiquities to major museums in the US. Their notebooks and Polaroid photographs told the shameful story. Most of these museums are now publicly committed to not buying recently looted objects, and the morality of collecting archeological objects has come under debate.

Perhaps a similar measure in China could shake up the market, so that it would no longer be honorable, but shameful, to own a recently looted piece of antiquity.

The author is professor of anthropology at Cornell University, New York, and former director of Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, Sweden.

(Source: China Daily)

June 23rd, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

2 ‘Blue Dog’ paintings recovered; police search for art thief
http://www.wwltv.com/news/crime/2-Blue-Dog-paintings-recovered-police-search-for-art-thief-96940719.html

by WWLTV.com
Posted on June 22, 2010 at 8:20 PM

Updated yesterday at 10:34 PM

NEW ORLEANS – Police have recovered two Blue Dog paintings and are now looking for a suspect who allegedly took them from George Rodrigue’s gallery.

Less than 24 hours after airing footage of the thief on television, police displayed the two paintings, which are valued at over $30,000, at the 8th District station.

Anonymous tips, Monday evening and Tuesday, led police to the paintings in an old abandoned shed on North Broad Street.

Police have identified Lee Szakats as the suspected thief. The paintings were taken Friday afternoon.

The two stolen paintings are part of a three-painting series called “Three Coins in a Fountain.”

The three paintings are meant to hang together, and are valued at $55,000 for the series.

The thief was captured on surveillance tape strolling down Royal Street and into Rodrigue’s gallery.

“Either he wasn’t aware of the cameras, or he didn’t care about the cameras,” said Rodrigue. “He didn’t disguise himself and he just walked right in front of the three cameras.”

The suspect on the tape went to the back of the gallery, opened a door marked “Private” and looked inside. With the back of the gallery unoccupied, the man walked to the side wall, out of range of cameras, and put two of the paintings in his bag.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Hillman at the 8th District station at 658-6080.

June 23rd, 2010

Posted In: recovery

Kelso man reports theft of Stradivarius violin
http://tdn.com/news/local/article_7ec05cf8-7e5c-11df-9aed-001cc4c03286.html

By Leslie Slape / The Daily News | Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 6:00 pm | No Comments Posted

A Kelso man told police a Stradivarius violin, made in 1722 and handed down through his family for more than a century, was stolen from his car during the night Sunday.

He claimed he put the violin, which was in a case, in his Chrysler 300 and parked it at his girlfriend’s house because he thought it would be safer from thieves than in his home. He lives on North Second Avenue, a street that has suffered numerous recent burglaries and vehicle prowls.

His girlfriend lives in the 1900 block of Teresa Way, Kelso.

The 61-year-old victim, who did not return calls Tuesday from The Daily News, told police he was planning to take the violin in for appraisal before selling it online. It is insured, he told police, but a police report did not specify how much the insurance policy covered.

The prowler also stole an antique Marlin brand 32 caliber special-action rifle from the car, he said, but left other valuables behind.

If the man’s Stradivarius is genuine, it is one of an estimated 630 to 650 surviving instruments handmade by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) or his sons in Cremona, Italy. Although other Cremona produced other famous violin makers, instruments produced by the Stradivari family are considered the best ever made. Today a genuine “Strad” is worth two to three million dollars.

There also are millions of copies in existence, with the first counterfeits being made in the 19th century. A violin’s authenticity can only be determined through comparative study of design, model wood characteristics, and varnish texture, according to the Encyclopedia Smithsonian.

June 23rd, 2010

Posted In: musical instrument theft

Librarian tells of shock at discovery of priceless stolen book
http://news.scotsman.com/world/Librarian-tells-of-shock-at.6375164.jp

Published Date: 22 June 2010
By Hugh Macknight
A LIBRARIAN described in court yesterday the “heart-dropping” moment he realised a first edition of Shakespeare’s works that he had been asked to authenticate was a priceless text stolen a decade earlier.
Staff at the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC called the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI after being handed the book by Raymond Scott in 2008.

Scott, 53, of Wingate, County Durham, posed as a wealthy playboy who claimed to have discovered the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works on holiday in Cuba.

But experts at the library discovered that the artefact – which had pages missing and its bindings and cover removed – was a 1623 edition stolen from Durham University in 1998.

Scott, who has denied theft and handling and transporting stolen goods, intended to sell the book at auction, and then share the money with friends in Cuba, the trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Experts estimated the First Folio to be worth £1 million, even in its damaged state.

Richard Kuhta, of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said: “He said he had something to show me

… I was startled by the way in which the book was being handled and by the sudden realisation that the man seemed to know it was a first edition.

“I had never had someone come into the library and put a Folio in front of me, much less a First Folio.”

Mr Kuhta identified the book as the Folio stolen from an exhibition at Durham University’s Palace Green Library in December 1998.

Mr Kuhta said: “My heart sank. It was a feeling of sadness to think we were dealing with stolen property.

“This is one of the most important books, not just in the history of literature, but in the English language.”

The trial continues.

Page 1 of 1

• Last Updated: 21 June 2010 8:41 PM
• Source: The Scotsman
• Location: Edinburgh

June 22nd, 2010

Posted In: library theft

Kuwait’s lost treasures: how stolen riches remain central to rift with Iraq
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/21/kuwait-lost-treasures-stolen-riches-rift-iraq

Hundreds of artefacts were plundered during Gulf war, and project to repatriate them is ongoing

Martin Chulov in Kuwait
guardian.co.uk, Monday 21 June 2010 22.09 BST

The Kuwait National Museum is still trying to trace 487 priceless artefacts looted after Saddam Hussein’s invasion. Photograph: Lonely Planet Images/Alamy
In a spacious but frugal office in Kuwait, a glossy catalogue lists the dozens of reasons why Kuwait and Iraq are still at daggers drawn after all these years.

Sheikha Hussa Salem al-Sabah thumbs through the pages of the booklet, pointing out the most egregious cases – page upon page of priceless treasures looted by Saddam Hussein’s invading army 20 years ago and still missing: a dazzling 234-carat emerald the size of a paperweight; a slightly smaller gem inscribed with exquisite Arabic calligraphy; Mughal-era ruby beads.

“The Iraqis still don’t understand the damage they did to us, not just financially, but for our souls,” says the daughter-in-law of Kuwait’s emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who maintains the dynasty’s heirlooms. “It was emotionally wrenching and still is.”

Though many of the priceless treasures have been returned to the collection in the bitter decades since, up to 57 remain missing – perhaps lost for ever. At the National Museum across town, they report that the whereabouts of another 487 treasures remain unknown.

Many of the pieces, Kuwaitis believe, now form the core of private collections in post-Saddam Iraq and around the Arab world. To the victims of the 1990 invasion they remain the central reason of a failure to close the unfinished business of the first Gulf war – just as the second one is beginning to wind down.

In the seven years since Saddam was ousted, Iraq has been obliged to settle United Nations-prescribed debts of $43bn (£29bn), and compensations to private families totalling several hundred million dollars more, before being welcomed as a fully-fledged member of the so-called community of nations.

It is a burden that has proven difficult to bear for a brittle state still ravaged by war and chaos and deeply resentful of the fact that Kuwait was not invaded in the name of the current regime in Iraq.

To Iraq’s wealthy southern neighbour though, neither 20 years nor the time after Saddam has diminished the desire to reclaim what was lost.

With a higher per capita income than most other Gulf petro-states, Kuwaitis remain sensitive to the claim that their residual hostility is all about getting even richer. “This is about principle,” says Sheikha Hussa. “It remains a huge dilemma for us. The people here have a say in everything we do and the parliament does also. This is part of Kuwait’s rights and we will continue to press them.”

At the National Museum, which was ravaged by marauders who seemed to know what they were looking for as they packed items into cushioned crates before driving them to Baghdad,a plethora of irreplaceable pieces remain missing. The lost artefacts mainly date from the Moghul dynasty and include around 20 gold bracelets, necklaces and ankle rings, pottery, arrow heads and Korans.

Staff handed over a list of loot and mentioned a theory often discussed in Kuwait that much of what was stolen remains in a warehouse north of Baghdad, where it is being used as leverage in any eventual settlement between the two countries.

Three months of inquiries by the Guardian with officials in Iraq’s government, military and police seem to rule out that there is such a central repository of loot in Iraq.

“Anything that was stolen was taken to Saddam’s palaces and the offices of his high officials,” said one Kuwaiti MP. “There were antique cars stolen by Uday [Hussein, Saddam’s psychopath son] that were sold in Europe at auction, paintings and heirlooms. But after the American invasion it was a free-for-all. Everything was stolen again then and there was no control over who took it, or where it went.”

Between the first and second Gulf wars, there were attempts by Saddam’s regime to put things right, with Kuwaiti officials under UN supervision being invited to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad to reclaim some stolen Kuwaiti pieces that had been on display there.

The private art world also turned up the occasional treasure. In 1996, a jewel-encrusted Moghul dagger, which had been on the cover of a Sotheby’s catalogue, was taken off the market and returned to the Dar-al-Athar collection. Financial compensation has been paid, according to Sheikha Hussa. Butthe far more important repatriation of priceless pieces has been rare.

Two years ago, parts of a giant archive of Kuwait’s history, known as the Prince’s Archive, were returned from Baghdad after being kept in the home of a civil servant who had little idea of the value of his souvenirs. Recently, a well-known Iraqi actor and her husband made contact with an Iraqi now living in Kuwait in an attempt to sell another part of the collection.

Iraq hopes that a steady repayment of the billions owed – $23bn has been handed over so far – will boost its credentials. It also appears to be hoping that a steady repayment of the debt will stop Kuwait from pressing claims through international courts for the seizure of Iraqi assets.

Twice in recent months the state-owned Kuwait Airways has moved to seize an Iraqi Airways plane that had landed in London as part of a new passenger route from Baghdad. That action has led Iraq to suspend the route only weeks after it was opened. Baghdad also says it is now looking at ways to privatise the airline.

Iraq’s monthly repayments are pegged by the United Nations at 5% of its oil revenue. “Last month they paid $520m as part of the United Nations Compensation Commission obligations,” said the chairman of a Kuwaiti public authority established to process compensation claims from Iraq’s invasion. “They have been co-operating with us in meetings lately. But it takes time, it will need another generation to forget. There are also the remains of fallen soldiers and POWs yet to be returned.”

In Baghdad, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Ayad al-Sammaraie, said things were now moving quicker than at any other time since 1990. He said: “Both countries are willing to sort things. But there is a remaining bitterness. Resolving this is complicated and needs a realistic perspective. Our fishermen are worried at repeated interceptions by the Kuwaitis in the Gulf.

“Our farmers in the south are worried about border claims. And we are concerned about having good relations again.”

Asked about the ancient treasures that in some ways hold the key to goodwill, he said: “There was no [sovereign] Iraq from 2003 for three years and we had no ability to look for them. But really, Iraq is sincere and willing to return them.”

Missing

Qur’anic emerald

An 18th-century emerald centrepiece from the Indian Mughal or Deccan eras, the 73.2 carat stone is diamond-engraved with the Throne Verse from chapter 2, verse 255 of the Qur’an.

Mughal dagger

With a blade of Jawhar steel, the late 16th-century Indian dagger is overlaid with gold and set with rubies, turquoise and emeralds.

A huge emerald

A priceless 234-carat emerald that is the size of a paperweight was one of the biggest prizes for Saddam’s looters.

Jewelled dish

A plate from the Indian Mughal period in the first quarter of the 17th century and is set with rubies and emeralds. It appeared with the dagger above in Sotheby’s London catalogue in 1996 and was returned to the Dar-al-Athar museum collection.

June 22nd, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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June 22nd, 2010

Posted In: art theft

Jewell thiefs targets Birmingham Museum – but the Staffordshire Hoard is safe
http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2010/06/22/jewell-thiefs-targets-birmingham-museum-but-the-staffordshire-hoard-is-safe-97319-26697074/

Jun 22 2010 by Neil Elkes, Birmingham Mail

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A BURGLAR stole three pieces of Indian Jewellery from a display case at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

But luckily the sneak thief missed out on the larger prize, items from the priceless Staffordshire Hoard on show in a gallery nearby.

Gallery curators said that the missing jewellery, three bangles, is modern and of no significant value compared to the many masterpieces on show.

They are still undertaking a full review of security in the light of the theft, even though it was the first time in seven years a display item has been stolen.

The jewellery was taken from a display in Gallery 33 between 5pm and 8pm on Friday, May 28.

Police are currently reviewing security camera footage and may have identified a suspect.

A museum spokesman confirmed that items of Indian jewellery were taken from a display cabinet.

June 22nd, 2010

Posted In: art theft, Museum thefts

Swords stolen from Pacific War Museum
http://www.guampdn.com/article/20100622/NEWS01/6220308/Swords-stolen-from-Pacific-War-Museum

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • June 22, 2010

The family of the late Marine Corps veteran and advocate John Gerber is asking for the public’s help in recovering three swords stolen from the Pacific War Museum.

The Asan museum, which was founded by Gerber with his personal collection of World War II memorabilia, was broken into Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said Gerber’s widow, Mela Gomez Gerber.

As her family was preparing to open the museum on Sunday, which was Father’s Day, they found a door had been pried open in the museum’s Japanese wing and a glass panel had been shattered.

Nothing else was missing, and the rest of the museum seemed to be in order, Mela Gerber said.

But the burglary was especially upsetting, she said, because of the timing.

“We’re still grieving John’s passing, and we’re trying to keep his legacy going,” she said. “Then something like this happens, and it just really upsets everybody.”

John Gerber died May 4 and was buried with full military honors.

In addition to the museum, the Marine sergeant was responsible for having Route 1 renamed from Marine Drive to Marine Corps Drive, and was known for his continuous support of fellow Marines.

Mela Gerber is asking those responsible to return the swords. She’s also asking anyone with information to call police.

Two of the missing swords once were owned by Japanese officers. The third item — a samurai sword — was an heirloom and is reportedly about 559 years old, said Mela Gerber and police spokesman Officer A.J. Balajadia.

The Guam Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Section is investigating the theft.

June 22nd, 2010

Posted In: art theft, Museum thefts

Cleveland Museum of Art’s Apollo sculpture is a star with intriguing past
http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2010/06/cleveland_museum_of_arts_apoll.html

Published: Sunday, June 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

Lisa DeJong, The Plain DealerThe Cleveland Museum of Art believes its ancient bronze sculpture “Apollo Sauroktonos, “Apollo the Lizard-Slayer,” may be the only original bronze in the world by Praxiteles, one of the most famous sculptors of ancient Greece.
Michael Bennett is a confident man these days. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s curator of ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman art believes that he made the purchase of a lifetime in 2004, when he persuaded the museum to buy a beautiful and controversial ancient bronze statue of Apollo Sauroktonos, or Apollo the Lizard Slayer.

Bennett is now more certain than ever that the Apollo may be the world’s only original work by the great ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, or a product of his workshop soon after his death in approximately 330 B.C. Only one other sculpture has been attributed to Praxiteles, a marble statue of Hermes with the infant Dionysus, found at Olympia in Greece in 1877, but some scholars say the work was completed after the sculptor’s death. Today, Praxiteles is known chiefly through later Roman copies. “We may have here a work by his hand,” Bennett said, raising his voice in excitement while examining the sculpture at the museum recently. “We’re talking about Praxiteles!”

The sculpture, which stands 5 feet tall with a richly mottled green and dark-red surface acquired from having been buried for centuries, depicts a nude, adolescent boy preparing to spear a lizard with an arrow.

The sculpture’s right arm is missing from above the elbow and the left arm is gone from the shoulder down, although the museum has the left hand and forearm — and the tiny, squiggly lizard Apollo was getting ready to kill.

After several years in storage, the sculpture and its detached pieces are ready to play a starring role in the museum’s newly renovated galleries of ancient and medieval art, scheduled to open Saturday.

The firmer attribution to Praxiteles signals that Bennett is moving on from the controversy that has dogged the sculpture since the museum acquired it from Phoenix Ancient Art, a dealership with offices in New York and Geneva, Switzerland.

Chief among the questions about the Apollo is the absence of evidence to eliminate concerns that it might have been looted in recent decades in violation of international agreements.

The museum said that a retired German lawyer, Ernst-Ulrich Walter, had reported that he found the sculpture lying in pieces in a building on a family estate he reclaimed after the fall of East Germany. Walter also reportedly remembered seeing the piece on the family estate in the 1930s, although no photographs of it exist from that time.

According to the museum, Walter said he sold the piece to a Dutch art dealer in 1994 but couldn’t remember the dealer’s name. The Dutch dealer then reportedly sold the work to at least one other anonymous collector, who then sold it to Phoenix.

Archaeologists have said that the story, which isn’t backed up by anything other than the lawyer’s word, sends a message to the antiquities market that museums are willing to acquire works with gaps in their ownership histories. This, in turn, encourages looting.

Yet another report, that the sculpture was fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy, was circulated by Agence France-Presse in 2007, though the unnamed Greek officials who made the claim have never presented any evidence or contacted the museum.

Bennett points to scientific tests that indicate the sculpture has been out of the ground for approximately a century, placing it well out of the reach of contemporary laws aimed against looting.

“This is a settled issue,” Bennett said. “We’ve known for a long time that the statue has been outside its archaeological context for at least 100 years.”

Labeling makes a telling reference

The museum always has asserted that the Apollo was probably Greek and probably by Praxiteles, but it allowed the possibility that it might have been produced as recently as A.D. 300, which would make it a less valuable Roman copy.

A new label installed with the work removes any suggestion of Roman origins and pushes the sculpture’s creation back to a window from 350 to 275 B.C., giving it approximately a 20-year overlap with the lifetime of Praxiteles.

Bennett’s attribution stemmed originally from the writings of Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian and philosopher, who described having seen a bronze sculpture matching the description of the Cleveland Apollo in the first century.

Tests performed on samples of metal removed from the sculpture in 2004 proved that the work was made in ancient Greek or Roman times. A half-dozen scholars who examined it before the museum purchased it were also sure it was ancient and not a forgery. But they weren’t certain it was a Praxiteles.

Bennett’s higher degree of certainty comes from having lived with the work for six years, and from having compared it with other ancient versions of the same motif at the Vatican in Rome, the Louvre in Paris and the Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

Slight changes in details such as the wavy pattern in Apollo’s hair, the position of his fingers or the crease on the outer edge of his right foot have convinced Bennett that the Cleveland version is the one on which the others were based.

Apart from the details, Bennett said that the overall impression conveyed by the piece, in comparison with the stiffness and heaviness of the other versions, which are carved in marble, is that it’s the real deal.

“There’s a buoyancy, there’s a lightness to it,” he said of Cleveland’s bronze. “It’s not heavy. It looks like it can almost elevate.”

In addition to the comparisons, Bennett and other staff members at the museum used medical devices to peer inside the sculpture’s cavities and take photographs. The images show, they say, that the sculpture was never exposed to the sea. There are no signs of marine life or corrosion.

Bennett hasn’t published his findings yet. Nevertheless, at least one prominent expert in ancient Greek sculpture is prepared to accept his conclusions.

“From photographs I’ve seen, it does seem quite possible it’s Greek,” said Malcolm Bell III, an art history professor at the University of Virginia and an expert in ancient classical art, who has led an excavation at Morgantina in Sicily.

Part of the sensation over the work is that only about 30 large ancient Greek bronzes have survived antiquity. The rest were melted down to make everything from other sculptures or weapons to nails.

If Bennett is correct, the Apollo would fall into a truly rarefied category. It would be the world’s only original Praxiteles, and the only large ancient Greek bronze attributed to a specific artist by an ancient writer.

Questions persist on provenance

Much as the museum would like to focus the conversation on Praxiteles, however, questions persist about the sculpture’s provenance, or ownership history. That is in part, scholars say, because of the dealers involved and in part because the museum hasn’t shared all the information it has collected about the work.

The museum doesn’t reveal prices in private sales, but a source close to the museum said in 2004 it paid $5 million. The principals of Phoenix Ancient Art, brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam, have both had brushes with authorities.

Ali Aboutaam was convicted in Egypt in absentia in 2003 on charges of smuggling and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hicham Aboutaam pleaded guilty in New York in 2004 to a misdemeanor federal charge that he had falsified a customs document.

Before the museum bought the Apollo, museum officials obtained a written statement from the German lawyer, in addition to the reports and written statements from the scholars it consulted. . But the museum has declined to release those items as well as the data from metallurgical tests performed at Oxford University.

Those tests showed that while the sculpture is indeed ancient in origin, the base to which it was attached is about 100 to 500 years old, the museum said.

However, in 2007, the museum did release a critical piece of information — an analysis of the lead solder used to join the Apollo sculpture to its base.

That exploration, performed at the University of Tubingen in Germany, showed that production of the solder “must have occurred less than about [a] hundred years ago.”

Bennett said the report means that the sculpture was joined to its base around 100 years ago, thus proving it was excavated well before modern laws aimed at the prevention of looting.

Still, the fallout over the Apollo continues. In 2007, under political pressure from Greece, the Louvre declined to exhibit the sculpture in a large exhibition on the influence of Praxiteles, preventing scholars from making side-by-side comparisons with other versions of the Apollo Sauroktonos.

Last year, the museum agreed to return 13 antiquities and a Renaissance-era artwork to Italy after the country showed they had been looted, stolen or handled by traffickers.

The museum also agreed to form a joint committee with Italy to examine scientific and technical evidence about the Apollo and a bronze, Roman-era chariot ornament depicting Nike, the goddess of victory. Italy has made no claim and presented no evidence about either piece, Bennett said.

While the committee pursues its work, the museum won’t release any more information about the Apollo, said Bennett and Griffith Mann, the museum’s chief curator.

An international symposium on the work, which the museum originally planned in 2006, has been postponed indefinitely.

Deborah Gribbon, the museum’s interim director, said she is convinced the museum has revealed all pertinent information.

“The issue is not that there are things to hide, it’s that some of this is ongoing research and other elements are proprietary information,” she said.

But Patricia Gerstenblith, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago and a leading expert on looting of antiquities, doesn’t support the museum’s position.

“It’s a public institution supported by the taxpayers and the government,” she said. “I think they should come forward with the evidence they have. I don’t know who they’re protecting by secrecy.”

June 21st, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

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June 20th, 2010

Posted In: vandalism

Italian police recover stolen art
http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=24&art_id=nw20100619115143479C667796
June 19 2010 at 11:58AM

Rome – Italian police recovered 14 paintings and sculptures, including works by De Chirico and Kandinsky, worth an estimated 30 million euros (37 million dollars), and arrested two people for receiving stolen goods, the Italian news agency Ansa reported Saturday.

The art works were found in a farm close to the Italian capital in the course of an investigation into a theft from a house in Rome’s historic centre.

The operation prevented them being sold off on the parallel black market for stolen works of art, Ansa said. – Sapa-AFP

June 20th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

RFID en Museumbeveiliging: gebakken lucht? (mei 2008 vakblad Beveiliging; update juni 2010)

www.museumbeveiliging.com/2010/06/14/rfid-en-museumbeveiliging-gebakken-lucht/

14/06/2010 – 01:52

update 14 juni 2010

Er gaan al enkele jaren magische verhalen rond over de mogelijkheden die RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) biedt bij de beveiliging van musea. Er zouden miniscule chips bestaan die op een geheime plaats in objecten kunnen worden verborgen en waarmee de objecten wereldwijd via satellieten gevolgd kunnen worden. Minder sciencefictionachtig, maar helaas even onwaar: dankzij RFID tags in of aan museumobjecten kunnen die objecten op afstand gevolgd worden binnen de museumgebouwen en tijdens transporten. Bij diefstal zou dankzij de RFID tag de dief binnen het gebouw van ruimte tot ruimte gevolgd kunnen worden. Toekomstmuziek? Misschien, maar nog geen eenvoudig realiseerbare werkelijkheid. Voegt RFID in zijn huidge vorm iets toe aan de beveiliging?

Twee soorten RFID tags

In grote lijnen zijn er twee soorten RFID tags: passieve en actieve.

De passieve RFID tags hebben geen elektrische voeding en worden uitgelezen via antennes: handlezers of de bekende detectiepoortjes zoals gebruikt worden in kledingzaken en boekhandels. Bibliotheken gebruiken in toenemende mate deze passieve RFID tags bij de registratie van uitleen en retournering van boeken. Dankzij de RFID tags in boeken en de mogelijkheid de lezerskaart digitaal uit te lezen wordt in steeds meer bibliotheken gebruik gemaakt van self-service in- en uitchecken van boeken. De Vaticaanse bibliotheek in Rome heeft 50.000 van de ongeveer 120.000 boeken in de openbare leeszalen van RFID tags voorzien. De gehele bibliotheek omvat overigens circa twee miljoen kostbare manuscripten en gedrukte boeken. De kostbare oude boeken zijn niet van RFID tags voorzien. Er bestaan bij oude drukken namelijk bezwaren tegen het aanbrengen van tags omdat die de ‘integriteit’ van de boeken aantasten. Het heeft immers geen zin de tags op duidelijk zichtbare plekken makkelijk verwijderbaar in de boeken aan te brengen.

Passieve RFID tags kunnen in musea gebruikt worden om de inventarisatie te vergemakkelijken. Met behulp van de aan objecten vastgemaakte tags en een handlezer kunnen binnen secondes tientallen objecten ‘gelezen’ worden. Er is een beperking: het is absoluut niet zo dat deze methode geschikt is om met 100% zekerheid de aanwezigheid of afwezigheid van objecten te bepalen. In binnen- en buitenland zijn leveranciers van RFID systemen die beweren dat het mogelijk is met deze RFID methodiek opgestapelde of zelfs in ladenkasten opgeborgen objecten snel te indentificeren zonder dat die objecten aangeraakt hoeven te worden. Er gaat binnen de museumwereld een grote aantrekkelijkheid uit van een controlemethode die het aantal keren dat objecten moeten worden gehanteerd beperkt. Het zal duidelijk zijn – overigens vreemd dat RFID leveranciers dit nooit expliciet vermelden – dat de inventarisatie en standplaatsbepaling met behulp van een RFID handlezer van in een ladenkast opgeborgen objecten helemaal niets zegt over de aanwezigheid van de objecten maar slechts aangeeft dat de RFID tags aanwezig zijn….

Actieve RFID tags zijn voorzien van een elektrische voeding en zijn daarom aanzienlijk groter dan passieve tags. Actieve tags kunnen over een afstand van enkele tientallen tot zelfs honderd meter ‘uitgelezen’ worden. Het signaal dat ze uitzenden wordt opgevangen door ontvangers die op strategische plaatsen in het gebouw opgehangen zijn. Afhankelijk van het aantal ontvangers kan de locatie waar de tag (dus NIET het object) zich bevindt redelijk nauwkeurig bepaald worden. Het RFID signaal dringt door muren, vloeren en plafonds. Afhankelijk van de gebouwconstructie, al of niet veel staal, kan die doorbringbaarheid groot zijn. Dit heeft voor de exacte lokatiebepaling, ze zogenaamde track-and-trace optie waarmee RFID beveiliging gepromoot wordt, nadelen. Indien er onvoldoende ontvangers zijn is de kans groot dat een object zich niet alleen in een andere museumruimte bevindt dan gemeten, maar zelfs op een andere etage. Exactere tracking-and-tracing is alleen mogelijk indien zich in iedere ruimte een of meerdere ontvangers bevinden. De actieve tags communiceren draadloos met de ontvangers, maar er zal vrijwel altijd gebruik moeten worden gemaakt van ontvangers die bedraad zijn. Dit betekent niet alleen een aanzienlijke investering in hardware maar ook in installatie. Het zal al snel zo zijn dat het evenwicht tussen investering en uiteindelijk beveiligingsrendement zoek is.
Beveiliging met RFID

Exacte lokatiebepaling en precieze tracking binnen een museumgebouw van objecten is geen eenvoudige zaak. Het regelmatig wisselen van tentoonstellingen maakt het alleen maar ingewikkelder. Om objecten in een gebouw te kunnen volgen moet beweging gedetecteerd worden. Bij gebruik van passieve tags wordt beweging geconstateerd met behulp van antennes die alleen van zeer dichtbij de RFID tag kunnen opvangen. Denk hierbij aan de bekende detectiepoortjes in de detailhandel. Met behulp van actieve tags kan beweging gedetecteerd worden zodra een object in beweging komt. De RFID tag functioneert op dat moment als trildetectie zoals er al jarenlang vele soorten in de handel zijn. De actieve, van elektrische voeding voorziene, RFID tag wordt voor museumbeveiliging slechts gebruikt als trildetectie. Hiermee wordt dus alleen een zeer beperkte optie van de RFID gebruikt. Hier is overigens niets op tegen. Het is aan de gebruiker van deze techniek te bepalen in hoeverre alle opties te gebruiken.

Een Engels bedrijf dat zich strijdvaardig op de museummarkt stortte met RFID hield de musea een worst voor door te suggereren dat die techniek een eenvoudig toepasbare track-and-trace mogelijkheid biedt. Nergens waar de door dit bedrijf geleverde RFID tags in musea worden gebruikt is men erin geslaagd daadwerkelijk aan tracking-and-tracing te doen.

Zolang de RFID tags doen wat men er mee wil doen: het detecteren van beweging/trillen, lijkt er nog geen probleem te zijn.

Er is echter wel een serieus probleem met die tags. Daar waar deze Engelse firma gebruik maakt van in Zuid-Afrika door Wavetrend geproduceerde RFID tags (er is ook een Nederlandse leverancier die dezelfde tags aanbiedt) voldoet de gebruikte frequentie namelijk niet aan de Europese harmonisatieregeling, conform het ERC (European Radiocommunications Committee) besluit van 12 maart 2001 waarbij de 868 MHz band in heel Europa aangewezen werd voor beveiligingstoepassingen. Deze band is in drie onderdelen opgedeeld:

1. inbraakbeveiliging
2. telemetrie toepassingen
3. sociale alarmering

Dit besluit is genomen omdat de ‘oude’ licentievrije 433 MHz band inmiddels helemaal vol zit met toepassingen zoals afstandsbedieningen van auto’s, besturing van garageopeners en draadloze apparatuur in de woonomgeving zoals draadloze koptelefoons en weerstations. In sommige landen mag de 433MHz band zonder licentie niet meer gebruikt worden voor draadloze beveiligingstoepassingen. In Nederland mag dat (nog?) wel.

De Wavetrend RFID tags die in Nederlandse musea gepromoot worden werken op de 433MHz frequentie. Deze frequentie is inmiddels zo volgeslibt door allerlei niet-beveiligings apparatuur dat hij niet meer geschikt is voor professioneel beveiligen.

Dit betekent dus dat Nederlandse musea die overwegen actieve RFID tags te gebruiken voor beveiligen en track-and-trace zeer op hun tellen moeten passen. Track-and-trace is, zo blijkt in de praktijk, nauwelijks een bruikbare optie en de 433MHz band is gezien de kans op interferentieproblemen niet geschikt voor beveiligingstoepassingen in de hoogste risicoklasse.

Van de RFID techniek wordt op een oneigenlijke manier gebruikt gemaakt. De mogelijkheid van actieve tags om beweging te detecteren is bedoeld voor track-and-trace en niet slechts voor het detecteren van beweging/trillen vanuit de beveiligingsoptiek. Er bestaat tegen dit oneigenlijk gebruik geen bezwaar. Er bestaat wel bezwaar tegen de door de Wavetrend gebruikte frequentie. Naar verwachting zal de 433MHz band, gezien de Europese regelgeving, in de toekomst niet meer gebruikt kunnen worden voor professionele draadloze beveiligingstoepassingen.

RFID signaleert aanraking van objecten door bezoekers. ‘Kijken met de handen’ komt veel vaker voor dan pogingen tot diefstal. De RFID tags geven geen lokaal alarm. Dat is een gemis. De voorkeur dient in de museale omgeving uit te gaan naar tags die ook lokaal alarm geven. Dat mag een laagvolume zoemer zijn die de bezoekers attendeert op de beveiliging.

toncremers@museum-security.org

Bron: Museumbeveiliging, Ton Cremers » Blog Archive » RFID en Museumbeveiliging: gebakken lucht? (mei 2008 vakblad Beveiliging; update juni 2010)

June 20th, 2010

Posted In: Geen categorie

Tags: , , , ,

Mistaken identities
http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/jun/19/close-examination-national-gallery-lisa-jardine

Nothing is more exciting to a biographer than the ‘discovery’ of a ‘missing’ portrait of their subject. But all too often, in their eagerness for new material, even scholars can be duped. Fortunately, scientific methods are making it easier to spot the fakes, as the National Gallery’s new exhibition proves

• Lisa Jardine
• The Guardian, Saturday 19 June 2010

I remember as an undergraduate being impressed by the iconoclastic critic John Berger’s argument that a fake old master ought to fetch as much on the open market as the real thing, since even the experts could not tell the difference between them. According to this way of looking at things, the art market ought not to care about authenticity as long as its profits remain high, and collectors are happy to hang forgeries on their living-room walls.

The point is not just that the forgery passes for authentic, however. Adding spurious evidence to the store of available data on an artist also skews our understanding of their life and work, misleading us into taking as “fact” something merely conjured cunningly up by the vivid imagination of the forger. What makes this all the more historically damaging is that counterfeiters tend to feed off the public’s hunger to know about particularly high-profile figures with gaps in their biographies.

The more celebrated the individual, the more eagerly the public seizes on documentary evidence that purports to belong to them. Of no British public figure is this more true than William Shakespeare. In December 1794 a young man named William-Henry Ireland presented his antiquarian collector father with a manuscript he claimed to have discovered in a trunk in a country house belonging to a “gentleman of large fortune”. The manuscript document was a mortgage deed for the Globe Theatre at Bankside, signed and sealed by Shakespeare himself. Since Shakespeare’s death in 1616 almost nothing beyond his infamous will (leaving his wife his second best bed) had surfaced in the way of reliable documentary evidence concerning Britain’s best-loved playwright. Ireland senior, who had spent his life searching for Shakespearian memorabilia, was entirely convinced that the deed his son had found was the real thing.

Now Ireland junior produced a number of other official documents and literary fragments in quick succession which further fleshed out Shakespeare’s hitherto shadowy life. There were letters exchanged between Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, and a note from Elizabeth I to Shakespeare signed in her unmistakeable hand, thanking him for the “pretty verses” he had sent her. Eventually Ireland even produced a transcript of the entire text of a lost play, laced with poetic echoes of Hamlet and King Lear.

The news of young Ireland’s discoveries caused a sensation. Samuel Johnson’s biographer James Boswell examined the documents and pronounced them glorious and certainly authentic. So did numerous other literary luminaries. Entire chapters were added to Shakespeare’s life story based on the counterfeit documents. Ireland finally overreached himself and was unmasked as a fraudster when the so-called lost play (which he had written himself) went into production and was booed off the London stage at its first performance.

Today it is obvious to anyone with even a little knowledge of early manuscripts that every one of the documents Ireland produced was a clumsy forgery. They neither look nor read like genuine items from the period. Ireland had used old endpapers from second-hand books, written on them in plausibly faded ink, and attached seals filched from the law office in which he worked. Careful examination ought easily to have exposed these obvious counterfeiting devices. But for a time the literary world was convinced, because critics and the general public so badly wanted the purported finds to be genuine.

Archives and documentary evidence on their own can get one only so far in deciding securely on the attribution of a painting or the identity of a sitter. In recent years, fortunately, the increasing use of a range of new scientific methods to examine paintings and documents has given a whole extra dimension both to uncovering fakes and mistakes and to turning up exciting discoveries in gallery vaults and museum archives.

The exhibition Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, which opens shortly at the National Gallery in London, brings together a number of works of art whose very identity has been altered using these new scientific methods. The late 15th-century painting by an unknown northern European artist, Portrait of Alexander Mornauer, for example, was for centuries described as a work by Hans Holbein, court painter to Henry VIII. When the National Gallery acquired the painting in 1990 and subjected it to scientific analysis, it was discovered that a layer of cobalt blue paint – typical of surviving Holbein portraits – had been applied over the original brown of the background. Further examination showed that the style of the sitter’s headgear had been carefully modified from a cylindrical fez-like hat to a neat cap, again more like the hat that might be worn by the sitter in a genuine Holbein. It appears in this case that the original work had been altered for an 18th-century buyer at a time when the work of Holbein was in great demand.

If enough is at stake, however, even overwhelming scientific evidence will not persuade those determined to hold on to cherished beliefs about the authenticity or otherwise of cherished images. Once again, Shakespeare provides us with a striking example of such tenacity. In 2006, after three and a half years of intensive research, using all the latest scientific methods, on six portraits that were all supposed to be genuine likenesses of Shakespeare, Dr Tarnya Cooper of the National Portrait Gallery announced the experts’ findings. All but one of the portraits had been conclusively shown to be inauthentic. Only the so-called Chandos portrait showed Shakespeare’s true features. Even then, Cooper stressed that the attribution remained tentative: “It would be lovely to be categorical. It is certainly fairly likely we are looking at the face of Shakespeare, but we’d need a document or a signature to prove it beyond all doubt.”

Of the other five portraits, scrupulous analysis revealed that two were fakes. Analysis of paint samples from the Flower portrait, owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, revealed the presence of a yellow pigment which did not come on to the market until the early 19th century. In the case of the Janssen portrait, conservation work carried out on the painting found that the sitter’s hairline had been modified to make him look more “Shakespearian” and a fake inscription had been added.

This has not, however, put an end to hopeful claims to have finally unearthed Shakespeare’s “true” likeness, based on fairly dubious circumstantial evidence. Only last year, another contender was produced, this time a painting in the family collection of art restorer Alec Cobbe. This portrait allegedly closely resembled the engraving on the frontispiece of the first folio of Shakespeare’s plays, long accepted as having been taken from a contemporary painting. The distinguished Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells was convinced: “My excitement has grown with the amount of evidence about the provenance of the painting. I am willing to go 90% that this is the only lifetime portrait of Shakespeare.” As someone who had spent an entire career in the hope of a discovery of this dramatic kind, he had let his excitement get the better of him. Cooper was more levelheaded. The National Portrait Gallery technical expert brusquely dismissed the painting as “more likely to represent the courtier Sir Thomas Overbury”.

Fraudsters prey upon our hopeful expectations. The honest mistakes scholars make, too, are most likely to happen where the misidentification gives them and the public at large a long-lost and much sought-after item from the oeuvre of an important individual, to whom an expert has devoted long years of patient study. I have myself had firsthand experience of “discovering” a painting that was known once to have existed, but had been “missing” for generations. And I have also had my hopes eventually dashed, when someone conclusively demonstrated that my convincing find was in fact a mistake. In 2002 I was completing a biography of the scientist, polymath and close friend of Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke. Notoriously, no portrait of Hooke survives – supposedly because Sir Isaac Newton, who was president of the Royal Society when Hooke died in 1703, disliked him so heartily that he had the two existing portraits, which contemporary witnesses tell us hung in their premises, destroyed.

My hunch had always been that the portraits would have been put away somewhere and “lost” rather than destroyed. So when I came upon a little-known late-17th-century portrait in the Natural History Museum, which matched descriptions I had of what Hooke looked like in middle age, it instantly caught my attention. The portrait bore the inscription “John Ray”, but was clearly not of this botanist contemporary of Hooke’s, since numerous other images of Ray survive and this portrait in no way resembled any of them. The records attributed the portrait to Mary Beale, whom documentary evidence shows to have executed a lost portrait of Hooke’s colleague and friend Robert Boyle.

My pulse began to race. I studied the painting closely, first in reproduction and then physically, with the enthusiastic help of an art-historian friend and the expert advice of the archivist at the Natural History Museum. The museum records showed that the painting was received as a bequest from Sir William Watson, a celebrated 18th-century experimentalist at the Royal Society, whose discoveries in the field of electricity were made at the same time as those of Benjamin Franklin. He left the painting to the trustees of the British Museum in 1787: “I give and bequeath my Picture of the late learned and ingenious Dr John Ray painted by Mrs Beale a Scholar of Sir Peter Lely to the trustees of the British Museum to be placed if the Trustees think proper in the Room of the said Museum wherein Ray’s Bust is already placed.”

The Mercers’ Company provided a grant for the portrait to be cleaned, which revealed that the “John Ray” inscription was indeed a later addition; several entries in Hooke’s diary convinced me that he was in the right place at the right time and likely to have been the sitter. I even believed I could now detect the slightest trace of a bent back – contemporary descriptions refer to Hooke’s curvature of the spine. The newly cleaned painting was displayed as part of an anniversary exhibition on Hooke at Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science, and a visitor poll showed that two-thirds of those who responded judged the portrait to be of Hooke.

For close to a year I bombarded everyone I could think of with photos of the painting for confirmation or otherwise of my “find”. As far as I know, they were all persuaded. One Hooke expert even pointed out to me the family resemblance between my portrait and a photograph of a known descendent. Other scholars noted additional tell-tale traces which they believed supported my identification. I used the painting as the cover image for my biography of Hooke, though I cautioned in my introduction that there was always the possibility that somebody might be able to show that I had been mistaken.

Two years later somebody did just that. An American historian of science identified the man in the painting as Jan Baptist van Helmont, a 17th-century Flemish alchemist, on the basis of the resemblance to an engraving of Van Helmont on the title page of his posthumous works. Since there is no surviving portrait of Van Helmont, this was a pretty exciting identification, too. Further investigation suggested that my “Hooke” portrait might have been one of a series of paintings of distinguished scientists, by an unknown artist, commissioned for the invalid intellectual Lady Conway by Van Helmont’s son, Francis Mercury van Helmont. The younger Van Helmont had been her scientific mentor and personal physician in the 1670s, and lived with her on her Warwickshire estate. I publicly conceded that I had let my own enthusiasm get the better of me and been misled.

However, it is embarrassing for me to have to report that a quick trawl on Google Images reveals that the portrait I discovered – now convincingly reidentified as Van Helmont – continues to be widely used on any number of websites as a portrait of Robert Hooke, to the considerable annoyance of scholars who know that my identification was mistaken. I fear that some of them consider that, however genuine my mistake was, I am now at fault for failing to stop my wrongly identified portrait from continuing to circulate.

The discovery of an unknown piece of data or material about a prominent figure, be they author, artist or sitter, makes it possible to enlarge our understanding of them. With the help of modern technical research methods, new items are likely to be added to the rich remains of the past. At the same time, these resources will also eliminate as spurious some items long thought to be genuine. Among these, some will be genuinely mistaken attributions or identifications, others will be downright forgeries.

In the end, those of us who look to the past for knowledge helpful to our understanding of the way things are today will go on taking the risk of the outside chance of finding something exciting and new. I am still on the lookout for that lost portrait of Hooke, just as Stanley Wells will keep looking for something more lively than the Chandos portrait to identify as the likeness of Shakespeare. As for the forgers, they will always be able to find those willing, at least for a while, to be duped.

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries is at the National Gallery, London WC2, from 30 June-12 September. nationalgallery.org.uk

June 19th, 2010

Posted In: fakes and forgeries

Stolen Shakespeare folio is given its day in court
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/stolen-shakespeare-folio-is-given-its-day-in-court-2004770.html

By Hugh Macknight
Saturday, 19 June 2010

A valuable Shakespeare first edition stolen from Durham university library in 1998 was displayed in public for the first time in a decade today.

The 387-year-old relic, which is at the centre of an international intrigue involving a flamboyant jobless book dealer, a cocktail waitress and a Cuban special forces commando, was carried into Newcastle Crown Court in a padlocked black plastic strongbox.

Described by experts as the most important printed work of English literature in the world, it had been missing until the book dealer, Raymond Scott, handed it to staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC asking for it to be authenticated.

Posing as a wealthy international playboy he told researchers he had been entrusted with the folio by friends in Cuba, who believed it might be valuable, the court heard.

Folger staff suspected that the folio, which had had its covers removed and had pages missing, might be stolen and contacted the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI. Weeks later Scott, of Wingate, County Durham, was arrested.

Dressed in his trademark £300 Tiffany prescription sunglasses and diamond ring, the 53-year-old watched intently from the dock as the 1623 artefact, once owned by Bishop of Durham John Cosin, was examined.

The trial was told Scott “damaged, brutalised and mutilated” the folio in an attempt to disguise it after stealing it from a display of treasures of English Literature at the Cosin Library on Durham University’s Palace Green.

But Ian Doyle, the university’s former librarian and Keeper of Rare Books, said the folio had been quickly identified as the Cosin edition.

The court has heard how Scott, who denies stealing, handling and transporting the folio overseas, had become infatuated with a young Cuban waitress and had been sending her money, leaving himself £90,000 in debt. It was claimed she would share the proceeds of the sale with Scott and a retired Cuban Army commandant, Deni Mareno Leon.

The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, continues on Monday.

June 19th, 2010

Posted In: lawsuit, library theft

Art forgeries: does it matter if you can’t spot an original?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/7824999/Art-forgeries-does-it-matter-if-you-cant-spot-an-original.html

Some argue that it is irrelevant who painted a picture, it’s the quality that counts. But, as a fascinating new exhibition sets out to explore fakery in art, Martin Gayford begs to differ.

By Martin Gayford
Published: 1:59PM BST 17 Jun 2010

After decades of admiration, ‘The Faun,’ supposedly sculpted by Paul Gauguin, was revealed as a fake
A certain collector amassed a large array of paintings by Walter Sickert, or so the story goes. One day he decided to present what he owned to the artist himself. Sickert examined each before announcing that he was afraid not one of them was his own work. Then he added genially: “But none the worse for that!”

Does it matter whether works of art are really by the people or cultures that are supposed to have created them? It’s a good question, without a very clear answer. Later this month an exhibition at the National Gallery, Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, will examine the whole question of mistaken identities in art – not just outright fakes but works that in various ways are not quite what they seem.

In the first category is a group portrait, bought by the National Gallery in 1923 as 15th-century Italian and displayed for a quarter of a century before the museum shamefacedly admitted it was a forgery. An example of the second, not a fake but not precisely genuine either, is a painting in the style of the 15th-century Italian master Perugino that turns out to be a copy executed by the 17th-century master Sassoferrato.

Some hold that such details do not matter at all. The important question, they argue, is how good a picture is – not who happened to wield the brush. I disagree. The identity of the person who made what we look at is a matter that deeply affects how we feel about it. Unfortunately, we can’t always be sure about that.

Take the case of Gauguin’s little ceramic sculpture, The Faun. This work appeared on the art market in the Nineties and was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago. Subsequently it was included in one of the great exhibitions of the last decade, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South (Chicago and Amsterdam, 2001-2).

It was seen by hundreds of thousands of people, virtually every art critic in the Western world (myself included) and all major experts on Gauguin. Nobody raised the slightest doubt. Then in 2007, it was revealed that far from having been fashioned by Paul Gauguin in Paris during the winter of 1886, it had in fact been moulded in the late 20th century by a forger named Shaun Greenhalgh in South Turton, near Bolton. In a way, this changed nothing. The faun remains the same pointy-eared, hook-nosed fellow that he always was.

In other ways, everything altered. A lengthy passage in the catalogue had discussed the faun’s lack of a crucial bodily part. Its parted legs, the text remarked: “reveal the absence of the often flaunted sign of a faun’s virility, resulting in an air of impotence”. There follows a discussion of what this may suggest about the state of Gauguin’s marriage, and his jealousy of a libidinous Danish writer named Edvard Brandes.

Obviously, all that art history became instantly inapplicable. The absence of the faun’s virile member is a mystery that can only be explained by Greenhalgh (who was later sentenced to four years in prison for his efforts). Perhaps it fell off in his garden shed – the workshop where he produced an enormous range of forgeries – while the sculpture was being confected.

The point of this story is not that art experts are foolish. In fact, the Faun is a very clever forgery. Its brilliance in part is that there actually was a Gauguin sculpture of a faun – it’s listed in an old inventory and may still exist in a cupboard somewhere. The lesson is that now we know it’s not a Gauguin, it ceases to be part of a larger whole: Gauguin’s art. At that point, even if it is still quite an attractive statuette, it loses an enormous amount of meaning. Discovering a work is a fake is like discovering a friend has been lying to you for years.

The trouble is that we don’t know how many other works are deceiving us in this way – and in some cases it is impossible to be sure. The National Gallery show demonstrates how technical examination can reveal forgeries, fakes, old copies and all the other ways in which art can be not quite what it seems.

In some cases, science has actually revealed a work is more genuine than it appeared: thus what had always been assumed to be an old copy of Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Julius II turned out, in 1969, in fact to be the original. Alternatively, removal of old falsifications may reveal what a work really is. One picture in the show, Portrait of Alexander Mornauer had been changed in the 18th century to make it look more like a Holbein – leading to suspicions that it was a fake. With the old retouching removed, it was revealed as a perfectly genuine painting from the late 15th century.

A more amusing case concerns an early 16th Italian painting, Woman at a Window (1510-30). When this was first bought in the 19th century it had a distinctly Victorian look, the subject’s gaze was demure, her hair brown. Cleaning revealed her to be a blonde with a come-hither look – and in all probability a courtesan.

Apart from science, the other main way in which art is tested is by the expert eye. Unfortunately, neither of these is infallible and sometimes they don’t agree. At the beginning of his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the Getty Kouros. The sculpture of a naked youth was bought by the J Paul Getty Museum, Malibu in 1985 for $7million as a masterpiece from the 6th century BC. Initially it passed scientific tests, but immediately struck a number of specialists as “not right” – art world jargon for not the real thing. There were suspicions, for example, about “mechanical” treatment of the sculpture’s hair. Subsequently scientific analysis suggested the surface might have been aged artificially.

Gladwell chalks this episode up as a victory of informed intuition – the theme of his book. Actually, the lesson to be drawn is more complicated. The fact is that we still don’t know the truth about the Kouros. Although it’s possible the surface was faked, the process involved would be difficult, time-consuming and perhaps impractical.

That various aspects of the Kouros look “wrong” doesn’t necessarily mean they are. Other works have had the “look” of fakes, but turned out to be perfectly genuine according to scientific tests. The Fortune Teller by the 17th-century French artist Georges de la Tour was accused of being a fake in the Seventies but has since been exonerated. It still has the qualities that make it looked suspect – bright colours, awkward poses – but they turn out to be part of the genuine style of de la Tour.

The same might be true of the Getty Kouros. It doesn’t resemble other comparable Greek sculptures in some ways, but perhaps that just shows what we don’t know about ancient art. Currently it’s labelled, “Greek, about 530BC, or modern forgery”. That’s unsatisfactory but inevitable. Sometimes we can’t know what we are looking at.

Even with “authentic” works it is tantalisingly difficult to be sure about what one is looking at. Close Examination points out that the subject of Giorgione’s early 16th-century painting The Sunset – one of the National Gallery’s greatest possessions – is always going to be unclear because some of the vital details are actually guesswork inserted by restorers. That’s not unusual with an old painting.

Not surprisingly, there is a misgiving that fakes lurk undetected in the great museums of the world. One of the great forgery detectives of recent times was the late Hubertus von Sonnenburg, chairman of the paintings conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. In his book False Impressions, Thomas Hoving, one time director of the Met, recalls how Von Sonnenberg admitted to him that his dream was to organise a show of really outstanding forgeries. “When it comes down to it,” he said, “people find it almost impossible to admit that there are any great fakes at all. Oh, how wrong they are.”

• Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries is at the National Gallery, London WC2 (020 7747 2885) from June 30

June 18th, 2010

Posted In: fakes and forgeries

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June 18th, 2010

Posted In: recovery, restitution

Jobless man ‘mutilated’ stolen Shakespeare folio
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/7835878/Jobless-man-mutilated-stolen-Shakespeare-folio.html

A jobless book dealer who posed as a wealthy international playboy “mutilated” a rare Shakespeare first folio to disguise the fact that it was stolen, a court heard.

By Richard Savill
Published: 4:37PM BST 17 Jun 2010

Rare book dealer Raymond Scott arriving at Newcastle Crown Court for the start of his trial. Photo: North News
Raymond Scott tore the binding and boards from the 1623 book – described as the most important in the English language – before claiming to have discovered it in Cuba.

Mr Scott was alleged to have stolen the book from a locked cabinet at the Pallas Green Museum at Durham University in 1998.

Newcastle Crown Court was told Mr Scott had hoarded the folio at the two-up two-down former council home he shared with his elderly mother, Hannah, in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

The book reappeared in public on June 16 2008 when Mr Scott took it the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, and tried to sell it.

By then, the book had pages missing and the boards it had been bound in were pulled off.

One expert who inspected the book, which was still thought to be worth one-and-a-half million US dollars in its damaged condition, described it as “ cultural legacy that has been damaged, brutalised and mutilated.”

Mr Scott, 53, who sat in court wearing Valentino sunglasses, Versace crocodile shoes and a Louis Vuitton waist pouch, denied theft, handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from Britain.

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said Mr Scott had told experts at the Folger library he was a wealthy businessman who lived in Switzerland and had a mother living in Monte Carlo.

He claimed he had inherited his father’s construction business and was independently wealthy, giving the impression he was more interested in the book’s historical background than its monetary worth.

Mr Scott told experts he had come across the book in Cuba after meeting a woman called Heidi Garcia Rios, who worked at a hotel in Havanna.

He said that through his friendship with her, while he was renting a two storey Villa, with tropical gardens and a pool, in the Cuban capital, he had been introduced to Deni Mareno Leon, a retired military major whose mother had recently died.

Mr Scott claimed it was after the death of Mrs Leon that the book, which had been in her family for a century and was kept in an old wooden bible box, came to light.

He said that after he was shown the folio, which included the works The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth, he had carried out some preliminary research in Cuba and learned of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

As his Cuban friends had been unable to take the book to the library themselves, Mr Scott said he had agreed to have it authenticated on their behalf and given them a $10,000 deposit before he took it out of the country and into America.

He described the day they had realised the potential value and historical significance of the book as “folio Friday”.

Mr Smith said: “He presented himself as someone doing a service to the cultural community by bringing in the book and having it authenticated.

“He said he was staying at the Mayflower hotel in Washington where he had a suite; the Mayflower is an exclusive and well known hotel in Washington.

“He offered Cuban cigars to the curator, who declined,” Mr Smith added:

“The truth was Raymond Scott lived in a house at 3 Widgeon Close, Washington, not DC, but Tyne and Wear, with his mother.

“The evidence will establish he was not a wealthy man by any means, on the contrary, he was living on state benefits.

“The evidence will establish he was living way beyond his means, he had at the time debts of more than £90,000.”

The court heard investigations revealed Mr Scott had become “infatuated” with a woman living in Cuba in around February 2008 and had been sending her huge sums of money.

Mr Smith said this was cash he could “ill afford and had been borrowed for that purpose”.

The court heard despite the damage to the book experts at the Folger concluded it was an original first folio, one of only around 200 printed, after examining the paper under a microscope and carrying out other tests.

Despite their findings the experts at the Folger sought a second opinion.

It was when the book was further examined it was identified as the stolen Durham edition.

The trial, expected to last four weeks, continues

June 18th, 2010

Posted In: lawsuit, library theft

Flashy book dealer in limo for Shakespeare trial
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iybh3XBGozJtVAUTu0P…

(AP) – 21 hours ago

LONDON — A flashy British book dealer accused of stealing a rare first edition of Shakespeare’s plays appeared for trial Wednesday in a silver limousine, sporting a Panama hat and flashing victory signs at reporters.

Raymond Scott was accused of stealing the 1623 folio from England’s Durham University in 1998. The 53-year-old was arrested after a man took the volume to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, claiming he found it in Cuba and asking for verification that it was genuine.

Experts at the library suspected the book was stolen and called in police.

Scholars consider the folio one of the most important printed works in the English language.

Scott was also charged with theft and handling stolen goods in cases unrelated to the folio. He denied all the charges.

He arrived Wednesday at northeastern England’s Newcastle Crown Court in a silver Chrysler 300.

For an earlier court appearance, he wore a kilt and came in a horse-drawn carriage led by a Scots piper.

June 17th, 2010

Posted In: library theft

Thieves make off with 7ft topless mermaid statue carved from wood
http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/news/Thieves-make-topless-7ft-mermaid-statue-carved-wood/article-2310598-detail/article.html

The half-ton wooden mermaid.
A BUXOM 7ft mermaid weighing almost half a tonne has been stolen from a Lincolnshire artist.

The mermaid was made by an Australian woman who specialises in creating page three-style pieces during a competition in the UK.

The statuesque figure was taken from the chainsaw sculptor Mick Burns’s yard near Hackthorn.

Mr Burns, who created the three bears at the entrance to Birchwood nature park, said he was not sure exactly when the well-endowed figure was taken, but said it was about May 26.

He said: “I think someone must have spotted her and decided to come back for her later. She won’t have been easy to move.

“They must have come with something to lift her and a large vehicle. I can’t think where they will put her.”

Sitting astride a rock and combing her hair with a fish skeleton, the mermaid is as distinctive as she is large. Mr Burns is hopeful somebody will have spotted her.

He said: “They can’t have put her on display in public because someone will see her. I’m hoping somebody has seen her and just weren’t aware of what they were looking at.

“If that is the case, they should call the police.”

The statue was carved by Angela Polglaze and gifted to Mr Burns as she could not take it back to Australia.

It is not the first time something has been stolen from Mr Burns. A few years ago, a giant snail shell with a hand and a foot coming out of it instead of a snail’s head was taken from the bottom of a garden.

Last month, the bear family he carved for Birchwood nature park were vandalised.

Police encouraged Mr Burns to let people know about the theft as the sculpture is easy to identify.

Lincolnshire Police spokesman Debra Tinsley said: “This theft was of an extremely unusual item.

“The wooden mermaid was very heavy and would have been awkward to remove. Therefore the thieves must have come prepared to transport it and may have visited the premises prior to committing the crime.

“This was a hand-made piece that was valuable in monetary terms, as well as in artistic terms, for the craftsman who designed and made it.”

Anyone with any information should call Lincolnshire Police’s witness line on 0300 111300.

June 17th, 2010

Posted In: art theft, sculpture theft

Police investigating high-value thefts
http://news.stv.tv/scotland/182824-police-investigating-high-value-th…

Series of incidents across Tayside region being investigated by officers.

15 June 2010 11:10 GMT

Police are investigating a series of high-value thefts across the Tayside region.

Officers in Angus are appealing for information after two Chinese Satsuma vases were stolen from the garage of a house in Keithhall Gardens in Birkhill.

The property was targeted sometime between 8.20pm on Monday June 14 and 6.10am on Tuesday June 15.

The vases, collectively worth around £3000, are three feet in height and both are heavily decorated with gold and floral patterns and each has a lid which features a Chinese dragon. Both vases were resting on rosewood stands.

In Arbroath, ten single phase motors have been stolen from a barn at Peebles Farm. The motors, which are grey and red, are collectively worth around £3000. It is not known exactly when the motors were taken.

Meanwhile, Orwell Bowling Club in Wester Loan, Milnathort, was broken into sometime between 9pm on Sunday June 13 and 8.45am on Monday June 14.

Thieves made off with over £3000 in cash, a cash box, and a quantity of DVDs.

A Tayside Police spokesman said: “If you know who is responsible, or if you know where the stolen good are now, please get in touch with Tayside Police on 0300 111 2222.”

June 16th, 2010

Posted In: ceramics theft

Missing statue reunited with owner
http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_e2f17…

By Bennett Hall, Gazette-Times reporter | Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:22 pm | 1 Comment

‘Exaltation’ has been recovered and returned to its owner. (Contributed photo)

A valuable statue stolen by burglars last month has found its way home and four suspects are under arrest, thanks to some methodical detective work and some timely exposure in the newspaper.

“Exaltation,” a lucite carving depicting a nude woman that is valued at up to $22,000, was taken from the Corvallis-area home of high-tech entrepreneur Rich Carone. Also stolen in the daylight burglary were two flat-screen televisions, a computer, a Nintendo gaming system and several video games.

Deputy Adam Miller of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office was sent to investigate, but he found very little to go on.

“I’ve got no suspects at that point,” he said Tuesday. “None of the neighbors saw anything at all.”

But two days later, after a report on the crime appeared in the Gazette-Times, a witness came forward with some key information. She had been driving past Carone’s house about the time of the burglary when she saw an unfamiliar maroon pickup truck pull into the driveway.

“She didn’t think anything about it until the article came out in the paper,” Miller said.

The woman was able to describe the truck and the driver, giving Miller his first clues in the case.

Then a Corvallis police officer showed Miller some photos of petty theft suspects taken by security personnel at the Corvallis Fred Meyer store. One of the pictures showed a maroon pickup and three people, one of whom matched the driver described by the witness.

“I was able to trace the truck back to one of the individuals in the photograph,” Miller said.

After that, the dominoes started to fall. On Monday, deputies took four suspects into custody: Ryan Christopher Garrette, 37, of Philomath; Christopher Charles Gantt, 40, of Corvallis; Lori Eillen Lemhouse, 37, of Corvallis; and Cynthia Diane Kramer, 52, of Corvallis.

They face a variety of charges, ranging from hindering prosecution and theft by receiving to first-degree burglary and aggravated theft.

Miller said he believes Garrette entered Carone’s house and came out with the stolen goods while Gantt acted as driver and lookout. Lemhouse is the owner of the truck.

When the arrests were made Monday, Miller said, deputies recovered Carone’s 36-inch flat-screen TV and desktop computer at Garrette and Kramer’s residence. But the other items were still missing — including “Exaltation.”

“Once the article came out in the paper, the heat was on, and Ryan gave the statue to Cindy to dispose of,” Miller said.

“The rumor was she’d thrown it in the river,” he added, “but none of us really believed that.”

Instead, Miller said, Kramer gave the 23-inch-by-13-inch-by-13-inch block of acrylic to an unknown person for safekeeping. That person then gave it to two other individuals, who anonymously turned in the statue at the Law Enforcement Building on Tuesday.

By about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, Carone was at the Law Enforcement Building to bring his missing artwork home.

He credited Miller and the Sheriff’s Office for solving a case that at first looked hopeless.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” Carone said. “It wasn’t obvious.”

Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.h…@lee.net.

June 16th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

DOJ absolves 14 NPC officers of Manansala mural theft
http://dateline.ph/?p=13428

By DateLine Philippines
Posted on Jun. 16, 2010 at 6:43pm |
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Alberto Agra has ordered the dropping of a criminal complaint filed against 14 officers of the National Press Club (NPC) in connection with the sale of the Vicente Manansala mural painting on the NPC building in Intramuros, Manila.

In a four-page resolution issued on June 11, Agra withdrew his earlier resolution which ordered the indictment of the journalists before the trial court for the supposed “theft and illegal sale” of the mural.

Cleared of any criminal liability were NPC officials Roy Mabasa, Benny Antiporda, Loui Logarta, Amor Virata, Jun Cobarrubias, Jerry Yap, Alvin Feliciano, Joey Venancia, William Depasupil, Dennis Fetalino, Joel Sy Egco, Conrad Generoso, Rolly Gonzalo, and Samuel Julian.

The NPC officers earlier appealed Agra’s May 27 resolution ordering the filing of criminal charges against them based on the petition for review filed by the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) which claimed ownership of the mural.

After reviewing arguments presented in their motion for reconsideration, Agra held there was no probable cause to indict the 14 officers for violation of Article 308 in relation to Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code (qualified theft).

The Justice secretary also ruled that the mural’s buyer, Odette Alcantara, did not violate Presidential Decree 1612 or the Anti-Fencing Law.

In their motion for reconsideration, the NPC officers presented new evidence consisting of a ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 112, declaring that it is NPC that owned the Manansala painting at the time that it was removed from the wood-framed wall of the NPC building.

“Based on this new evidence presented by respondents-appellees, we reverse our findings,” Agra said.

The case stemmed from the criminal complaint lodged by the GSIS against the NPC for selling the painting for more than P10 million.

GSIS stressed that the NPC officers were liable for qualified theft for selling the painting without its consent.

June 16th, 2010

Posted In: art theft, lawsuit

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June 15th, 2010

Posted In: diefstal uit museum

Statue of reading boy stolen from Allen library
http://www.wfaa.com/news/crime/Sculpture-of-reading-boy-stolen-from-Allen-library-96323939.html

by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on June 14, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Updated yesterday at 11:39 PM

ALLEN — For years, a sculpture of a boy nicknamed “Tommy” has been an inspiration to thousands of North Texas children.

The statue was a gift to the Allen Public Library and was designed to encourage children to read. For seven years, the bronze statue of a child reading on a bench greeted arriving visitors outside of the library.

Before walking into the library Monday, Kiora Nield’s children were among those who immediately noticed something was missing.

“They would always say, ‘Hi,’ so they noticed it was gone,” she said.

The statue was stolen Thursday night.

“We were so saddened and shocked when we came out to find it was totally gone,” said Tom Keener, with the Allen Public Library. “It was like all of our countless hours and tireless efforts had gone down the drain.”

Book sales and donations covered the $2,500 cost of the public art piece.

“The minute we got it, it was just a hit with everybody,” said Jane Bennett, with Library Friends.

Bennett was among those who contributed toward the raising of the money. She said some children had named the statue of the boy.

“We felt the statue encouraged childhood literacy,” Keener said. “And it did because we would come out here, particularly in spring and fall, and children would be reading to the child, reading a book or sitting next to it like it was their buddy.”

Police aren’t sure how thieves were able to haul off the 2,500-pound statue. Officers fear it may have been scrapped for its metal.

“I think that’s one of the hardest things when it comes to art or something like that; its not like you can go to Target and buy another one,” Bennett said.

Those at the library say they hope those who stole the statue will return it to its rightful home. The library is offering a $100 reward for its return.

E-mail: jbetz@wfaa.com

June 15th, 2010

Posted In: sculpture theft

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June 15th, 2010

Posted In: comment

Authorities recover stolen Hindu statue
http://www.wrcbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12648333

Associated Press – June 14, 2010 6:54 PM ET

CAPSHAW, Ala. (AP) – Limestone County investigators have recovered 1 of 2 giant statues of winged demigods stolen from the entrance to a Hindu Temple in Capshaw.

Limestone Sheriff’s Capt. Stanley McNatt says a man was mowing a field about a mile from the temple when he discovered the yard-tall, black granite statue Friday. McNatt says authorities believe the thieves had abandoned the statue with plans to return.

Authorities believe the theft occurred at the Hindu Cultural Center of North Alabama on the evening of June 4.

Temple officials say the statues are images of Lord Jaya and Lord Vijaya. It was unclear Monday which of the two had been found.

Bhagabat Sahu, the founding chairman of the board of the temple, says the hand-carved statues could be worth as much as $50,000 on the market.

Information from: The Huntsville Times, http://www.al.com/huntsville

June 15th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

update 14 juni 2010

Er gaan al enkele jaren magische verhalen rond over de mogelijkheden die RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) biedt bij de beveiliging van musea. Er zouden miniscule chips bestaan die op een geheime plaats in objecten kunnen worden verborgen en waarmee de objecten wereldwijd via satellieten gevolgd kunnen worden. Minder sciencefictionachtig, maar helaas even onwaar: dankzij RFID tags in of aan museumobjecten kunnen die objecten op afstand gevolgd worden binnen de museumgebouwen en tijdens transporten. Bij diefstal zou dankzij de RFID tag de dief binnen het gebouw van ruimte tot ruimte gevolgd kunnen worden. Toekomstmuziek? Misschien, maar nog geen eenvoudig realiseerbare werkelijkheid. Voegt RFID in zijn huidge vorm iets toe aan de beveiliging?

Twee soorten RFID tags

In grote lijnen zijn er twee soorten RFID tags: passieve en actieve.

De passieve RFID tags hebben geen elektrische voeding en worden uitgelezen via antennes: handlezers of de bekende detectiepoortjes zoals gebruikt worden in kledingzaken en boekhandels. Bibliotheken gebruiken in toenemende mate deze passieve RFID tags bij de registratie van uitleen en retournering van boeken. Dankzij de RFID tags in boeken en de mogelijkheid de lezerskaart digitaal uit te lezen wordt in steeds meer bibliotheken gebruik gemaakt van self-service in- en uitchecken van boeken. De Vaticaanse bibliotheek in Rome heeft 50.000 van de ongeveer 120.000 boeken in de openbare leeszalen van RFID tags voorzien. De gehele bibliotheek omvat overigens circa twee miljoen kostbare manuscripten en gedrukte boeken. De kostbare oude boeken zijn niet van RFID tags voorzien. Er bestaan bij oude drukken namelijk bezwaren tegen het aanbrengen van tags omdat die de ‘integriteit’ van de boeken aantasten. Het heeft immers geen zin de tags op duidelijk zichtbare plekken makkelijk verwijderbaar in de boeken aan te brengen.

Passieve RFID tags kunnen in musea gebruikt worden om de inventarisatie te vergemakkelijken. Met behulp van de aan objecten vastgemaakte tags en een handlezer kunnen binnen secondes tientallen objecten ‘gelezen’ worden. Er is een beperking: het is absoluut niet zo dat deze methode geschikt is om met 100% zekerheid de aanwezigheid of afwezigheid van objecten te bepalen. In binnen- en buitenland zijn leveranciers van RFID systemen die beweren dat het mogelijk is met deze RFID methodiek opgestapelde of zelfs in ladenkasten opgeborgen objecten snel te indentificeren zonder dat die objecten aangeraakt hoeven te worden. Er gaat binnen de museumwereld een grote aantrekkelijkheid uit van een controlemethode die het aantal keren dat objecten moeten worden gehanteerd beperkt. Het zal duidelijk zijn – overigens vreemd dat RFID leveranciers dit nooit expliciet vermelden – dat de inventarisatie en standplaatsbepaling met behulp van een RFID handlezer van in een ladenkast opgeborgen objecten helemaal niets zegt over de aanwezigheid van de objecten maar slechts aangeeft dat de RFID tags aanwezig zijn….

Actieve RFID tags zijn voorzien van een elektrische voeding en zijn daarom aanzienlijk groter dan passieve tags. Actieve tags kunnen over een afstand van enkele tientallen tot zelfs honderd meter ‘uitgelezen’ worden. Het signaal dat ze uitzenden wordt opgevangen door ontvangers die op strategische plaatsen in het gebouw opgehangen zijn. Afhankelijk van het aantal ontvangers kan de locatie waar de tag (dus NIET het object) zich bevindt redelijk nauwkeurig bepaald worden. Het RFID signaal dringt door muren, vloeren en plafonds. Afhankelijk van de gebouwconstructie, al of niet veel staal, kan die doorbringbaarheid groot zijn. Dit heeft voor de exacte lokatiebepaling, ze zogenaamde track-and-trace optie waarmee RFID beveiliging gepromoot wordt, nadelen. Indien er onvoldoende ontvangers zijn is de kans groot dat een object zich niet alleen in een andere museumruimte bevindt dan gemeten, maar zelfs op een andere etage. Exactere tracking-and-tracing is alleen mogelijk indien zich in iedere ruimte een of meerdere ontvangers bevinden. De actieve tags communiceren draadloos met de ontvangers, maar er zal vrijwel altijd gebruik moeten worden gemaakt van ontvangers die bedraad zijn. Dit betekent niet alleen een aanzienlijke investering in hardware maar ook in installatie. Het zal al snel zo zijn dat het evenwicht tussen investering en uiteindelijk beveiligingsrendement zoek is.
Beveiliging met RFID

Exacte lokatiebepaling en precieze tracking binnen een museumgebouw van objecten is geen eenvoudige zaak. Het regelmatig wisselen van tentoonstellingen maakt het alleen maar ingewikkelder. Om objecten in een gebouw te kunnen volgen moet beweging gedetecteerd worden. Bij gebruik van passieve tags wordt beweging geconstateerd met behulp van antennes die alleen van zeer dichtbij de RFID tag kunnen opvangen. Denk hierbij aan de bekende detectiepoortjes in de detailhandel. Met behulp van actieve tags kan beweging gedetecteerd worden zodra een object in beweging komt. De RFID tag functioneert op dat moment als trildetectie zoals er al jarenlang vele soorten in de handel zijn. De actieve, van elektrische voeding voorziene, RFID tag wordt voor museumbeveiliging slechts gebruikt als trildetectie. Hiermee wordt dus alleen een zeer beperkte optie van de RFID gebruikt. Hier is overigens niets op tegen. Het is aan de gebruiker van deze techniek te bepalen in hoeverre alle opties te gebruiken.

Een Engels bedrijf dat zich strijdvaardig op de museummarkt stortte met RFID hield de musea een worst voor door te suggereren dat die techniek een eenvoudig toepasbare track-and-trace mogelijkheid biedt. Nergens waar de door dit bedrijf geleverde RFID tags in musea worden gebruikt is men erin geslaagd daadwerkelijk aan tracking-and-tracing te doen.

Zolang de RFID tags doen wat men er mee wil doen: het detecteren van beweging/trillen, lijkt er nog geen probleem te zijn.

Er is echter wel een serieus probleem met die tags. Daar waar deze Engelse firma gebruik maakt van in Zuid-Afrika door Wavetrend geproduceerde RFID tags (er is ook een Nederlandse leverancier die dezelfde tags aanbiedt) voldoet de gebruikte frequentie namelijk niet aan de Europese harmonisatieregeling, conform het ERC (European Radiocommunications Committee) besluit van 12 maart 2001 waarbij de 868 MHz band in heel Europa aangewezen werd voor beveiligingstoepassingen. Deze band is in drie onderdelen opgedeeld:

1. inbraakbeveiliging
2. telemetrie toepassingen
3. sociale alarmering

Dit besluit is genomen omdat de ‘oude’ licentievrije 433 MHz band inmiddels helemaal vol zit met toepassingen zoals afstandsbedieningen van auto’s, besturing van garageopeners en draadloze apparatuur in de woonomgeving zoals draadloze koptelefoons en weerstations. In sommige landen mag de 433MHz band zonder licentie niet meer gebruikt worden voor draadloze beveiligingstoepassingen. In Nederland mag dat (nog?) wel.

De Wavetrend RFID tags die in Nederlandse musea gepromoot worden werken op de 433MHz frequentie. Deze frequentie is inmiddels zo volgeslibt door allerlei niet-beveiligings apparatuur dat hij niet meer geschikt is voor professioneel beveiligen.

Dit betekent dus dat Nederlandse musea die overwegen actieve RFID tags te gebruiken voor beveiligen en track-and-trace zeer op hun tellen moeten passen. Track-and-trace is, zo blijkt in de praktijk, nauwelijks een bruikbare optie en de 433MHz band is gezien de kans op interferentieproblemen niet geschikt voor beveiligingstoepassingen in de hoogste risicoklasse.

Van de RFID techniek wordt op een oneigenlijke manier gebruikt gemaakt. De mogelijkheid van actieve tags om beweging te detecteren is bedoeld voor track-and-trace en niet slechts voor het detecteren van beweging/trillen vanuit de beveiligingsoptiek. Er bestaat tegen dit oneigenlijk gebruik geen bezwaar. Er bestaat wel bezwaar tegen de door de Wavetrend gebruikte frequentie. Naar verwachting zal de 433MHz band, gezien de Europese regelgeving, in de toekomst niet meer gebruikt kunnen worden voor professionele draadloze beveiligingstoepassingen.

RFID signaleert aanraking van objecten door bezoekers. ‘Kijken met de handen’ komt veel vaker voor dan pogingen tot diefstal. De RFID tags geven geen lokaal alarm. Dat is een gemis. De voorkeur dient in de museale omgeving uit te gaan naar tags die ook lokaal alarm geven. Dat mag een laagvolume zoemer zijn die de bezoekers attendeert op de beveiliging.

toncremers@museum-security.org

June 14th, 2010

Posted In: commentaar

Confiscated relics submitted to ICHTO
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=130151&sectionid=351020105
Sat, 12 Jun 2010 18:06:39 GMT
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Over 6 tons of relics were confiscated from Argentine diplomat Sebastian Zavala.
The Persian relics confiscated from an Argentinean diplomat last year have been submitted to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

Over 6 tons of handcrafts and relics were found among the possessions of Sebastian Zavala when he attempted to leave Iran in June 2009, after his seven-year service in Tehran.

Ancient earthenware and paintings, age-old manuscripts, a collection of antique guns, and a whole set of ancient coins were only part of the items packed in 318 cardboard boxes.

Indian, Buddhist, Chinese and Armenian manuscripts, Pharaonic Egypt, African and Buddhist figurines and early 1900 handguns and military medals were also among the recovered objects.

Zavalla was not the first foreign diplomat who tried to smuggle Persian antiquities out of the country.

In March 2009, the third secretary of the South Korean Embassy in Tehran was also caught smuggling a priceless relic dating to the Achaemenid era out of Iran.

Customs officials at Shiraz Airport seized the remnant after they found it in the South Korean diplomat’s luggage at check-in. The envoy was later released due to his diplomatic immunity.

TE/HGH

June 13th, 2010

Posted In: art theft, recovery

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June 13th, 2010

Posted In: comment

‘I posed as an agent for a wheeler-dealer’
http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/interview_i-posed-as-an-agent-for-a-wheeler-dealer_1395617

Sunday, June 13, 2010 0:54 IST

What has been your most exciting experience as an art detective?
On September 1, 1993, I was acting as an undercover cop portraying myself as a middleman for Middle Eastern wheeler-dealers. A Belgian gendarme was posing as my driver/bodyguard at Antwerp Airport. We went into the airport restaurant that morning and met two Irish gangsters who were part of a gang run by Martin “The General” Cahill in Dublin. After initial pleasantries, I went outside with one of the two gangsters to the airport car park where in the back of a Peugeot sports car were several large sports bags. In one was the famous painting of A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by Jan Vermeer and in another was Goya’s famous portrait of Dona Antonia Zarate. I gave a secret signal and two large cars quietly pulled up with the Gendarme SWAT Squad in them. They all piled out and pointed their ‘Dirty Harry’ .44 Magnums at us and shouted in Flemish (which I don’t speak) to lie on the ground. And that was it, our plan had worked. It had taken seven years from the time of the theft of those paintings from Russborough House in County Wicklow, Ireland in May 1986.

Since the pieces stolen are impossible to sell, what could be the reasons for art theft?
There must be individual quirks among those who steal masterpieces. In my experience, there are no Dr No, Mr Big or Captain Nemo types who collect these kinds of things for themselves, nor as you point out is there a market for them. So, the allure or aesthetic magnetism of a given masterpiece is a factor, but stupid greed is more often the over-riding factor in their theft.

What do you like about art detective work?
The opportunity to take part in an investigation into armed robberies led me to become an undercover cop specialising in art crime when I was at Scotland Yard. The greatest appeals to me were that I was good at it and it was worth doing. It is difficult to become a police art detective because it is time-consuming and expensive. I would suggest that investigative journalism and computer research are the future for art detective work.

June 13th, 2010

Posted In: recovery

Value of public art in vandalism cases an unclear issue
http://www.semissourian.com/story/1641745.html

Friday, June 11, 2010
By Erin Hevern ~ Southeast Missourian

Paul Schock stands next to his sculpture with a panel missing due to vandalism.
(Fred Lynch)
[Click to enlarge] [Order this photo]
For Scott City artist and businessman Paul Schock, putting up a second sculpture in the city’s downtown district took a bit of courage. Schock’s first sculpture that appeared for public viewing — a piece he calls “The Totem of Birds” — was vandalized by a patron of his pub in August.

The perpetrator, Stephen M. Pind, a Scott City resident currently serving in the military, was convicted of second-degree property damage, a misdemeanor, for punching and breaking a glass panel on the piece. The shattered glass also scratched paint on another glass panel.

Pind was ordered to undergo a year of unsupervised probation and pay restitution of $750.

Pind’s sentence isn’t acceptable, Schock said, with the ruling questioning the value of public art.

“I put around 600 hours into that sculpture, and galleries estimated it at $15,000. I was just asking for half that,” Schock said.

In addition, lawyers and experts dealing with crimes against art say it’s surprising U.S. laws protecting and conserving the arts have only been scrutinized in recent years.

At a March 24 plea and restitution hearing, Schock presented to the judge estimates from well-established galleries, including Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, an internationally known gallery in Kansas City.

The judge didn’t allow the letters illustrating the sculpture’s value to be admitted into evidence because the authors didn’t appear at the hearing in person, according to Schock.

Also, while discussing a proper amount of restitution, Schock said defense lawyers questioned his credibility as an artist and the cost of replacing the broken glass panel.

“I’ve been an international artist since 1990, and it’s a one-of-a-kind art piece,” Schock said. “If someone slices the Mona Lisa, you just don’t pay for the materials. It can’t be replaced.”

Scott County assistant prosecuting attorney Austin Crowe didn’t return phone calls to comment on the case.

Mark Durney, business director of the not-for-profit think tank the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, said the United States has only recently began to review sentencing guidelines for crimes against art. Durney has seen cases involving stolen or damaged art most often handled as property crimes rather than as crimes against culture.

“A work is assigned greater value as it evokes a greater degree of feelings and emotions from viewers and connoisseurs. Some elements to consider are, does one use an auction value estimate, an insurer’s appraisal estimate, an independent sale price or the repair cost?” Durney said. “These elements coupled with the inherent instability in the art market make it difficult to assign compensation. I think many court rulings will err on the side of conservative estimates.”

Michael Kahn, who works with copyright law as a partner with the Bryan Cave LLP law firm in St. Louis, said that in many cases, the valuation of an art piece that’s been damaged will occur in a civil case rather than a criminal case.

In a criminal case, “the focus of the court is really more on punishment than the restitution,” said Kahn, who has represented numerous artists, photographers and musicians.

An artwork’s value is most often disputed, according to Kahn, in divorce cases and bankruptcy cases.

“The law views art as property, and to a lot of artists and art dealers it’s a commodity. There are experts who deal with this all the time,” Kahn said. “There’s the value of the art itself, and there’s the value of the copyright in the art.”

Although Schock has considered filing a civil suit, he said it wouldn’t be possible while Pind is on active duty in the military. So, for now, the sculpture will remain outside Schock’s Pub. Although he’s received the money Pind was ordered to pay, Schock plans to leave it damaged.

“I’m letting it stay as it is, as a constant reminder, so people know that it’s a vandalized piece,” Schock said.

Scott City High School art instructor Matt Miller said that although public art is always at risk of being damaged, it’s important to share with the community. In May, Miller set up a sculpture garden consisting of six pieces at Hunter Valley Winery. Miller hopes to add more pieces if the community reaction is positive.

“I used to be more worried about vandalism. You kind of just have to let go; otherwise, you punish all the art lovers for the one or two people who are going to act like idiots,” Miller said. “Is it not worth taking the risk?”

ehevernsemissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

16 E. Hickory St., Scott City, MO

June 12th, 2010

Posted In: vandalism

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June 12th, 2010

Posted In: library theft

Conn. court rules in feud over Rockwell paintings
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iG3bO40aNHIK-CoReXL…

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN (AP) – 10 hours ago

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of two brothers in their long-running feud with a third brother over an inheritance that included famous Norman Rockwell paintings.

The state’s high court ruled unanimously in favor of William and Jonathan Stuart, who have been fighting with their brother, Kenneth J. Stuart Jr.

The paintings were collected by their father, Kenneth J. Stuart Sr., who was art director of The Saturday Evening Post.

As a result of the ruling, Stuart Jr. will have to pay nearly $1 million to the family estate. The ruling will make it easier to prove civil theft allegations that are part of the dispute because the high court set a lower burden of proof.

Stuart Sr., who died in 1993, amassed a significant art collection, including three of Rockwell’s best-known paintings: “Saying Grace,” “Gossips” and “Walking to Church.”

He had initially executed a will that would have distributed his assets equally to his three sons.

But less than four months before his death while suffering from a deteriorating mental condition, most of his assets were transferred to a partnership Stuart Jr. formed with his father, according to court records. The other two sons learned of the partnership after their father’s death and sued in 1994, saying their father lacked the mental capacity to understand what had happened. They said their brother’s actions amounted to theft.

Stuart Jr. denied the allegations, saying he was carrying out his father’s wishes.

A Superior Court judge in Stamford agreed with many of the claims of the two brothers who sued, ruling in 2004 that the father was not mentally competent and the partnership was not valid. The judge awarded $2.37 million against Stuart Jr. that was to be paid to his father’s estate.

But the judge ruled the two brothers were required to prove the theft claim by clear and convincing evidence.

The two brothers appealed, saying the judge awarded them insufficient damages by applying the wrong standard of proof. Instead of clear and convincing proof, they argued they only had to meet a lower standard of a preponderance of the evidence.

The Appellate Court rejected their appeal, but the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the lesser standard was the correct one. The high court referred the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

The estate owns six Rockwell paintings that are housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., said William Gallagher, Stuart Jr.’s attorney. The paintings are worth $25 million to $50 million, Gallagher said.

Stuart Jr. wants to sell the paintings, but his brothers do not. Sandra Akoury, attorney for Jonathan and William Stuart, said the number of paintings is in dispute but nevertheless agreed her clients do not want to sell them.

The dispute over the paintings is pending in probate court.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

June 11th, 2010

Posted In: lawsuit

Salander Auction Raises $2.1 Million, Third of Lots Goes Unsold
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=ad4InxiDHP5s

By Philip Boroff

June 10 (Bloomberg) — A painting of a kneeling Jesus attributed to the studio of El Greco sold for $386,500 at Christie’s International in New York, the top lot in a $2.1 million auction of European art and sculpture recovered from the gallery of disgraced art dealer Lawrence B. Salander.

The total yesterday fell short of the $2.3 million presale low estimate. More than a third of the art didn’t sell, which dealers and art consultants attributed as much to Salander’s habit of buying in bulk — indiscriminately, some say — as to European economic turbulence.

Salander, 61, who pleaded guilty in March to a $120 million art fraud, is free on $1 million bail. He could be sentenced to as much as 18 years in prison, Justice Michael Obus said then. He’s due to appear in court next on June 23. He didn’t attend the auction.

He had paid $262,400 for the studio of El Greco artwork, “The Agony in the Garden,” in 2005 at a Christie’s New York sale. It sold yesterday to a middle-aged man in a cerulean blue jacket.

“I don’t like to appear in the news,” the unidentified man said in accented English as he left the saleroom.

Proceeds from the 128 lots will benefit creditors of Salander-O’Reilly Galleries LLC, which declared bankruptcy in November 2007. As part of a settlement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Donald Schupak, who formed an investment partnership with Salander to buy Renaissance art, received proceeds from many of the lots. He attended the sale, as did a half-dozen lawyers involved in the case, among the collectors and dealers.

Buying Spree

Salander’s collapse followed a multiyear buying spree of homes, carpets, books and art, particularly from the Renaissance. He has said in court papers that the art was undervalued relative to contemporary works. Prosecutors said that Salander was trying to corner the market.

Yesterday a painting of the goddess Ceres with two naked nymphs went for $146,500. It was attributed to the studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens. An oil panel by Rubens himself, “An Allegory of Fortitude,” of Samson carrying two pillars, sold for $182,500.

As for the 47 unsold lots, “we regroup and figure out the best means of disposing of them,” said Alan M. Jacobs, the trustee of the liquidation.

Last month, Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, sold about $470,000 of furniture, carpets and decorative arts from the dealer’s six-story Upper East Side townhouse, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And last week, the townhouse sold for “just under” $14 million, said Lydia Rosengarten of Leslie J. Garfield & Co. The asking price was $14.25 million. Rosengarten declined to disclose the buyer. Proceeds went to First Republic Bank, a creditor.

Mansion Listed

Salander paid $154,000 per month to rent the 21,000-square- foot limestone mansion that housed Salander-O’Reilly, a block from the Frick Collection. Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC has it listed for sale with Sotheby’s International Realty for $59 million. The broker, Serena Boardman, didn’t return a call for comment.

Salander has been working at Phoenix Art, a gallery in Millbrook, New York, near the 66-acre property where he lived with his family. The home is listed for $4.5 million, as part of his personal-bankruptcy case. On June 23, a sale is scheduled at the property to benefit creditors of that case. Featured are a mower, snowmobile, gym equipment and other items he owned in happier times.

To contact the reporter on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pbor@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: June 10, 2010 00:01 EDT

June 11th, 2010

Posted In: restitution

American Museum of Natural History seeks to sell 35 High-Sec. Cases

Specs:
Rated at 45 minute anti theft. 3/4 poly (polycarbonate), with 1/2″ glass between

Description:
35 high security cases used for the American Museum of Natural History’s diamonds exhibit
Note: the sale of the cases does not include any rights to use the graphics, images, or content of the exhibition.

Price:
Group valued at total of $50,000 + shipping from Chicago
Can be sold individually
“room for negotiations”

Contact:
Keri Cavanaugh
Manager, Traveling Exhibitions
Global Business Development

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, New York 10024
PHONE: (212)769-5123; FAX: (212)769-5255
E: kcavanaugh@amnh.org

June 11th, 2010

Posted In: museum security

Vol de tableaux au Musée d’art moderne de Paris: l’enquête avance
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jk9svsrw5Q2vkyZZzkRrOQMRC2PA

De Rémy BELLON (AFP) – Il y a 18 heures

PARIS — L’enquête sur le spectaculaire vol de cinq toiles de maîtres fin mai au Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, qui rouvre jeudi, progresse et se concentre sur des voleurs bien renseignés qui connaissaient les failles dans la sécurité de l’établissement.

Une dizaine de policiers du groupe des “antiquaires” de la brigade de répression du banditisme (BRB), spécialisé dans le vol d’oeuvres d’art, travaillent “sans répit” sur cette affaire qui a choqué le monde des arts, selon des sources proches de l’enquête.

Dans la nuit du 19 au 20 mai, cinq chefs d’oeuvre de Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Léger et Modigliani, avaient été dérobés, pour un montant estimé à 100 millions d’euros.

Les policiers de la BRB “n’excluent aucune hypothèse” sur le ou les malfrats et sur leur commanditaire. Les enquêteurs pensent que les voleurs, “très bien renseignés en interne”, ont “sans doute agi pour le compte” d’un collectionneur ou d’un riche amateur d’art.

Le “coup a été très bien préparé (…) ne laissant rien au hasard” et le ou les “Arsène Lupin” connaissaient “a priori parfaitement les lieux et les nombreuses failles de la sécurité”, selon les mêmes sources.

La piste du banditisme ou d’une filière organisée n’est “pas la plus plausible”, ont-elles ajouté.

La mairie de Paris – qui avait reconnu un dysfonctionnement du système d’alarme du musée depuis le 30 mars – a ouvert une enquête administrative.

Les “antiquaires” ont reconstitué le scénario du vol dans ce Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM) situé avenue du Président Wilson.

Le 20 mai vers 04H00, un homme est passé par un balcon et a démonté une fenêtre, au moment où il savait qu’aucune ronde n’était programmée. Des images “quasiment inexploitables” d’une caméra le montrent masqué et ganté.

Il s’est alors glissé dans le musée, où il a “pris le temps de visiter plusieurs salles” puis s’est dirigé “directement (vers) les toiles” des cinq maîtres qui “étaient manifestement son objectif”.

Les tableaux ont été soigneusement ôtés de leurs cadres et les châssis conservés afin de ne pas les abîmer. En ce 20 mai à l’aube, il y avait peut-être un ou des complices à l’extérieur.

La police a confirmé que l’alarme ne fonctionnait pas, que les gardiens – dans leur PC situé au sous-sol et équipé de lits – n’ont rien vu sur les écrans. Aucun capteur de mouvements, comme il en existe dans des musées, n’a fonctionné.

“Il y a de véritables failles dans la chaîne de sécurité”, ont accusé les sources, et cela “se savait dans tout le MAM”.

Une polémique sur la sécurisation des musées a éclaté après le vol.

L’opposition UMP au maire Bertrand Delanoë (PS) a réclamé l’audition des responsables, dénonçant les “conditions rocambolesques” du vol et s’appuyant sur un rapport d’audit accablant de 2007.

Ce rapport sur les dispositifs de surveillance et de sécurité des musées de la Ville de Paris avait révélé que ces établissements semblaient “particulièrement vulnérables”.

La mairie s’était défendue en assurant que des travaux importants avaient été réalisés récemment sur la base de ce rapport. Au MAM, “les systèmes de radios ont été changés, les baies vitrées renforcées, le système de vidéosurveillance amélioré”, a dit la marie.

Le MAM rouvre ses portes jeudi pour l’exposition “Dynasty” présentant la jeune création française. Elle se tiendra dans une partie réservée aux expositions temporaires où “tout est sécurisé”, selon la mairie.

June 11th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Millionaire Swede behind Auschwitz sign theft?
http://www.thenews.pl/international/artykul133238_millionaire-swede-behind-auschwitz-sign-theft-.html

09.06.2010 16:27

Anders Hoegstroem, currently in custody in Poland in connection with the theft of the “Arbeit macht frei” sign from the Auschwitz museum last December, claims that a millionaire fellow Swede was the crime‘s mastermind.

According to the private RMF FM radio station, Hoegstroem, the 34 year old, former neo-Nazi currently being held in custody in the southern city of Krakow, claims that 58 year old Lars Goran Wahlstrom was the person who initiated the theft.

Wahlstrom – a millionaire thought to have bankrolled the neo-Nazi National Socialist Front which was founded by Hoegstroem in 1994 – allegedly persuaded Hoegstroem to hire Polish thieves, who dismantled and cut into pieces the “Arbeit macht frei” sign from the Auschwitz museum gate in December with the intention of smuggling it to Sweden.

Lars Goran Wahlstrom is thought to have lived with Hoegstroem as his legal guardian.

The Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow would not comment on the allegations, first mooted in the Swedish press back in January. “We can’t provide information on that subject,” said prosecutor spokeswoman Boguslawa Marcinkowska. She added, however, that the Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow intends to ask Sweden for legal assistance and consent for a Polish prosecutor to participate in police enquiries in Sweden.

Poland issued a European arrest warrant for Hoegstroem to be brought to Poland to answer charges in February. A Swedish court allowed his extradition in March. Five Polish men aged in their 20s and 30s were arrested by police after they buried the 16-foot wrought-iron sign cut into three pieces in woodland near Torun, northern Poland. (pg/mg)

June 10th, 2010

Posted In: Art Thief

Austria Urges Return of Altar Panels to Jewish Heir (Update1)
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-10/austria-urges-return-of-altar-panels-to-jewish-heir-update1-.html

June 10, 2010, 11:54 AM EDT
More From Businessweek

By Catherine Hickley

June 10 (Bloomberg) — An Austrian government council recommended that two 16th-century Dutch altar panels, two paintings and two statuettes seized by the Nazis should be returned to the heir of their Jewish prewar owner.

The council today recommended that the items be restituted from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna to Thomas Selldorff, 82, the Boston-based grandson of Richard Neumann, a textiles industrialist who was forced to flee Austria in 1938. Selldorff said he wants to keep the art in the family.

“We are very happy, it’s a wonderful thing,” Selldorff said by telephone from the U.S. “It is great to have a tangible thing to pass on from my grandfather, and to be able to do it while I am still alive. We are enormously grateful.”

Austria set up the Commission for Provenance Research in 1998 after 44 countries agreed on non-binding principles to return Nazi-seized art in public collections to the prewar owners or their heirs. The commission passes its findings to a council, which makes recommendations to the culture minister.

The council in 2005 rejected Selldorff’s claim, saying it couldn’t restitute works for which compensation had already been paid. Yet an amendment easing restitutions, passed last year, paved the way for today’s decision.

Collecting Passion

The altar panels, by the Dutch painter Maerten van Heemskerck, are the most valuable of the objects to be returned. A Heemskerck painting sold for $360,000 at Sotheby’s in London in July 2008. The two paintings are by Giovanni Battista Pittoni and Alessandro Magnasco, and the two religious statuettes by Alessandro Algardi.

A passionate collector, Neumann amassed more than 200 art works in his Vienna villa. He escaped Austria after the Nazi annexation via Switzerland to Paris. When the Nazis occupied France, he fled by foot through the Pyrenees to Spain. From there he reached Cuba, where he settled, and participated in the 1954 founding of an art museum in Havana. He later moved to New York to be with his daughter, and died there in 1961, age 82.

Neumann’s artworks were seized by the Nazis, then released shortly afterward to allow a sale to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Neumann’s daughter sold the altar panels in 1938. The money went into a frozen account to pay Neumann’s “emigration tax.”

Export Ban

After the war, Neumann sought restitution of the artworks. The Kunsthistorisches Museum insisted that he refund their purchase price, regardless of the fact that he never got the money. Neumann was prepared to pay as the only means of retrieving his property. Yet a ban on the export of cultural goods prevented him from taking possession of the altarpieces.

In 1952, Neumann, who was then a textiles worker in Cuba, lodged another complaint against the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The museum offered compensation: Instead of the altarpieces, paintings and statuettes, Neumann could have other, less valuable works and $3,000.

“The compulsory repayment of a fictional purchase price, together with the export ban, forced Neumann to accept compensation that was disadvantageous to him just to get back a part of what was taken from him,” said Sophie Lillie, a Vienna-based art historian who researched the provenance of the artworks. “Austria used his extreme desperation to its own economic advantage.”

Under the terms of today’s decision, Selldorff will have to return the original compensation paid to his grandfather.

Klimt Claim

At today’s meeting, the commission rejected a restitution claim for Gustav Klimt’s “Mohnwiese” (Poppy Field, 1907). The painting belonged to Fritz Zuckerkandl, the son of a famous anatomist and his wife, Berta Zuckerkandl, a well-known society hostess and intellectual who counted Klimt and Auguste Rodin among her friends.

Zuckerkandl emigrated to Paris in 1935, and his family followed in 1938, after Hitler’s annexation of Austria. Their possessions were seized by the Nazis and sold.

After the war, “Mohnwiese” was restituted to the family, though was also subject to an export ban. Zuckerkandl sold the painting to Rudolf Leopold, the founder of the Leopold Museum. Leopold swapped it in 1957 for two works by Egon Schiele with the Oesterreichische Galerie, now the Belvedere, where “Mohnwiese” hangs today.

The commission said that under the new law, it can only recommend the restitution of works that were returned but subject to the export ban in cases where there was a clear intention to keep the art in public collections. That was not the case with “Mohnwiese,” it said.

–Editor: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at chick…@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbe…@bloomberg.net.

June 10th, 2010

Posted In: recovery, restitution

Press release: Wednesday 9 June 2010
UK appoints Envoy for post-Holocaust Issues

Foreign Secretary William Hague has appointed Sir Andrew Burns as the United Kingdom’s first Envoy for post-Holocaust Issues.

Sir Andrew, a former UK Ambassador to Israel, will be responsible for leading the Government’s efforts on a range of important post-Holocaust work. This includes driving forward implementation of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, resolving outstanding issues related to property and art restitution, and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of discussions on the vital work of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and of the International Tracing Service.

The Foreign Secretary said:

“The UK is determined to preserve the memory of the Holocaust for future generations. Sir Andrew’s appointment will ensure that we continue to support those working to right past wrongs and remain at the forefront of international discussions, to make sure that the lessons of this terrible period in our history are never forgotten.

“As a former UK Ambassador to Israel and chairman of the Anglo-Israel Association, Sir Andrew’s wealth of experience means he is ideally placed to tackle the challenges this post presents.”

Sir Andrew Burns said:

“I am deeply honoured by the confidence the Government places in me to develop and drive forward policy on such a wide range of post-Holocaust issues.

The UK already plays a leading and active role in promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research, in tackling and resolving outstanding issues and claims and in raising public awareness of the continuing relevance of the lessons and legacy of that terrible moment in European history. I shall make it an early priority to talk to a broad range of experts and others with an interest in or knowledge of post-Holocaust subjects, in Whitehall and Parliament and in the wider community, in order to understand as well as I can the scope and substance of the issues involved and can develop a properly co-ordinated and strategic way forward in international discussions.”

Anne Webber, Co-Chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, and Michael Newman, Director of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said:

“We have worked closely with the Government to achieve this historic post and very much look forward to working with Sir Andrew at this crucial time with several post-Holocaust issues requiring urgent attention and decisive leadership.”

Sir Andrew Burns’ CV:

Sir Andrew Burns is currently Chair of the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) and Chairman of the Council of Royal Holloway, University of London. He also chairs the Executive Committee of the Anglo-Israel Association.
Career
2005 to 2006: BBC International Governor
2000 to 2003: British High Commissioner to Canada
1997 to 2000: British Consul-General to the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau
1995 to 1997: Deputy Under Secretary of State, responsible for the Government’s bilateral and trade relations outside Europe
1992 to 1995: British Ambassador to Israel
1990 to 1992: Under-Secretary for Asia
1988 to 1990: Press Secretary to the Foreign Secretary and Head of the FCO News Department
1983 to 1986: Information Counsellor and Head of British Information Services in the United States

Notes to editors:

1. As part of its ongoing work on post-Holocaust issues, the UK government provides funding to the Holocaust Educational Trust “Lessons from Auschwitz project”. This aim of this project is to achieve the participation of two students (aged 16-18) from every school/sixth form college in England in visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Since 2006, almost 6,000 students and over 1,000 teachers have taken part.

2. In June 2009 the Czech Government hosted the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets to assess progress on Holocaust Era Assets restitution since the 1997 London Nazi Gold Conference and the 1998 Washington Conference. Issues covered included looted art, Judaica, property, social welfare for survivors and Holocaust remembrance and research. Forty-six countries attended. The key outcome of the Conference was the Terezin Declaration, a political and non-legally binding document that set out measures and principles for advancing the various restitution issues.

3. The Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) was initiated in 1998 by Swedish Prime Minister Persson, President Clinton and Prime Minster Tony Blair to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally. When the Stockholm Declaration on the Holocaust was adopted in 2