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April 12, 1999


- Looted Art To Be Auctioned
- International Conference on Cultural Property and Patrimony
- Artwork stolen 20 years ago going to Worcester museum
- Looters strip Cambodia of its art (Sunday Times of London)
- Sculptor vanishes after making a fine art of borrowing money
- building of the National Museum in Leskovac suffers serious material damage (Borislav Surdic)

Looted Art To Be Auctioned

LONDON (AP) - An art collection stolen from the Rothschild family by the Nazis during World War II will be auctioned for an estimated $40 million, a newspaper reported today.
The sale comes about two months after the Austrian government lifted its 54-year ban on the export of the art, the best of which has hung in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna since 1947. The collection, belonging to Barons Louis and Alphons de Rothschild, was seized in March 1938, within 24 hours of the Nazis storming over the border in their annexation of Austria, the Evening Standard said. American soldiers later discovered the collection hidden in a ski resort in the Austrian Tyrol, but the Austrian government imposed a ban on exporting the art after Alphons de Rothschild refused to return to Vienna after the war.
Rothschild family members have asked London-based auctioneers Christie's to sell the 250 paintings, sculptures and pieces of furniture, the newspaper reported, saying the items are expected to fetch more than double the amount they would have if they were auctioned in Vienna. Christie's declined to comment on the report in advance of a planned announcement Monday.
The collection includes 31 Old Masters paintings, 16th century musical instruments and a number of important items of furniture by the Louis XVI cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesner, whose works have fetched more than $6.4 million at auction.

From: Jonathan Sazonoff

International Conference on Cultural Property and Patrimony

Dear Subscribers,
Columbia University (New York, NY) will be presenting a three day conference (April 15th - 17th) on cultural property issues entitled, "Who Owns Culture?"
According to their web site, portions of the conference will be broadcast over the internet. These broadcasts should prove interesting as several major contributors to the field will be participating (see conference program). For information, contact 212.854.6842, or via email,
Hope you find this information useful,
Saz Productions, Inc.

Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 10:50:44 +0100

Artwork stolen 20 years ago going to Worcester museum

By Associated Press, 04/10/99

WORCESTER - A valuable French Impressionist painting stolen from a home here more than 20 years ago has been acquired by the Worcester Art Museum as a result of a settlement with two men who bought the painting two years ago. ''Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny a Dieppe, Temps Gris'' by Camille Pissarro was among 10 works of art thought stolen from the home of the late Robert and Helen Stoddard. The painting had turned up in October at a Cleveland auction gallery. Helen Stoddard died in November at the age of 94. The acquisition comes as part of a settlement reached Thursday with two Ohio men who bought the painting in 1997. The men said they bought it from a Massachusetts woman who told authorities that she obtained the painting as part of her divorce settlement. The painting will be displayed at the museum April 17 and 18 before undergoing conservation work for an exhibition scheduled for February, museum officials said. The exhibit will feature works that once hung in the Stoddard home. ''Helen and Robert Stoddard were great lovers of art and had a wonderful relationship with the Worcester Art Museum,'' said James A. Welu, director of the museum. He said Mrs. Stoddard's wish was that the painting go to the museum. Estimates of the painting's value range up to $2 million. The Stoddards bought the painting for $7,000 in 1951 from the M. Knoedler Gallery in New York. After the painting was stolen in 1978, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company reimbursed the Stoddards for the loss. On Oct. 22, 1998, the FBI seized the painting from Wolf's Auction Gallery in Cleveland. At the time of the seizure, the painting was about to be sold after Ohio businessmen Daniel Zivko and Kenneth Bement had consigned it to the gallery. On Thursday, the men, the insurance company, the museum, and the Stoddards' estate settled the case. Settlement talks stalled last month because of concerns Zivko and Bement had about taxes connected with transferring the painting. George R. Oryschkewych, the attorney for the Ohio men, confirmed yesterday that a settlement had been reached. Oryschkewych said a cash settlement was paid to his clients. All sides in the case agreed not to release the amount, he said. ''Bottom line, my clients are comfortable with it going to the museum,'' he said. ''They were never out to make a killing. I think this was a win-win situation for all concerned.''
This story ran on page B03 of the Boston Globe on 04/10/99

Looters strip Cambodia of its art (Sunday Times of London)

by Michael Sheridan
Angkor Wat

A CARVED stone god stands headless in the hushed jungle. Nearby, a great raw scar of freshly exposed stone defaces a frieze depicting the triumphs of an ancient king. At remote sites across northern Cambodia the scenes are the same and officials are launching an appeal to the West to help stop a new wave of plunder stripping the country of its remaining art treasures. "You can see from the damage that they just take pneumatic drills to these temples and steal the pieces to order," said Uong Von, director of conservation at Angkor Wat, a huge complex of monuments that symbolises the lost Khmer civilisation. "They take them across the Thai border where the dealers are waiting and then they send them on to London or Paris or New York. We can do nothing to stop it." Cambodian officials and experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) are on the alert for stolen pieces that may turn up at leading auction houses. Although reputable auctioneers make strenuous efforts to verify ownership of items offered for sale, the Cambodian government has in the past reclaimed Angkor-era sculptures auctioned by Sotheby's. "I don't blame the collectors in your rich countries," said Michel Trenet, under-secretary of the ministry of culture and fine arts. "I blame the dealers. And I blame us Cambodians. But the fact is that we are losing what is left of our heritage and we have to try to stop it." The cultural devastation is an unwelcome result of the peace that has descended on the battlefields of Cambodia since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge communist insurgency and the end of three decades of guerrilla conflict. It has become much safer for art smugglers, aided by corrupt officers of the Cambodian army, to carry out the looting and to ship enormous pieces of stone along hidden jungle trails to the frontier. At Bantay Chhmar, an isolated 12th-century temple, robbers have chiselled heads off the shoulders of the gods and drilled away entire sections of bas-reliefs, ripping some of the finest carving out of the sculpture's historical epics. In less than six months since the final disintegration of the Khmer Rouge and the supposed restoration of law and order, Bantay Chhmar has been decimated. Earlier this year the Thai police intercepted a 10-wheel lorry, normally used for transporting water buffalo, as it headed down the dusty road to Bangkok. Its load consisted of 85 sacks containing antique sandstone carvings, a total of 117 heavy fragments from Bantay Chhmar destined for unscrupulous dealers in the Thai capital. "The Khmer Rouge used to be all around the Bantay Chhmar temple and it was not safe to go there," explained Uong Von, "but now they have vanished. It is all so much easier." Officials have few doubts about who was responsible for the latest raid on Bantay Chhmar. According to a report by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, the lorry driver testified that Cambodian soldiers delivered the pieces in six black pick-up trucks at a dawn rendezvous at the frontier on January 4. The embassy recommended that the authorities question an officer named only as "Khao" in the army's 7th division. The unit belongs to a faction of the Cambodian armed forces, which received western support in the late 1980s as it fought alongside the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese-backed government in Phnom Penh. For at least 100 years, relics of the Khmer empire have been looted by the contesting forces that turned Cambodia into a battlefield. French invaders in the 19th century, Vietnamese communist troops, Russian "advisers" and their western adversaries all plundered at will. But among the worst cultural vandals were the Khmer Rouge, who exalted the barbaric splendour of ancient Angkor for political ends but sold off the country's heritage through their Thai army contacts. Along the Thai border, a visit to the abandoned temple of Preah Vihear, where Khmer Rouge units held out until late last year, revealed shattered pediments, lintels hacked away and faceless statues, presided over by a rusting anti-aircraft gun. When Cambodian army units recently seized Ta Mok, the last hardline Khmer Rouge commander, they found more than 20 tons of antiques stockpiled at his hideout. "Of course he had sold off all the best pieces already," said Uong Von. He estimated that there were at least 1,080 unprotected temples at risk in Cambodia, often too remote for the authorities to monitor, sometimes heavily mined. In any case, Cambodia's fractious and bankrupt coalition government depends on foreign aid to deal with disease, poverty and the social wreckage of war, so the conservation of fine art does not rank as a high priority. At least 500 troops are deployed around the temples of Angkor, protecting a site regarded as the most important Buddhist monument in Cambodia, but resources cannot be spared for smaller temples that do not attract wealthy tourists. "It has become a treasure hunt," Trenet said. "All over Cambodia people are excavating old sites, even from the 1st to the 7th centuries, to find objects to sell. They're even using mine detectors."

The Sunday Times London, April 11, 1999)

Sculptor vanishes after making a fine art of borrowing money

by Paul Ham, Sydney

A CROATIAN-born sculptor who befriended politicians and celebrities and attracted subjects including Henry Kissinger, Salvador Dali and Ferdinand Marcos, has disappeared from his home in Australia with debts of more than UKP: 400,000. Drago Marin Cherina, 50, seemed to have it all, not least an ancestral estate near Dubrovnik and a lavish property in the Hunter Valley, a rich wine-growing region of New South Wales. One of his most spectacular works, a 15ft bust of the British sculptor Henry Moore, for whom he once worked as an assistant, stands on a huge plinth in a vineyard in New South Wales. In his youth, Cherina was said to have dated a Miss Philippines and Ava Gardner, the Hollywood star. He counted Federico Fellini, the Italian film director, as a friend. A lover of grand projects, he had planned his most ambitious yet for the Olympic village at the 2000 Sydney games: a UKP: 12m sculpture known as the Millennium Nexus, featuring a dozen 18ft-high laser-shooting towers surrounding a man-made rainforest the size of an "Aussie rules" football oval. But Cherina is on the run. He has left behind hundreds of disgruntled Australian art lovers - barristers, politicians, businessmen and gallery owners - who believed strongly enough in his talent to advance him money but are now contemplating individual losses of as much as UKP: 40,000. Sigmund Lance Ebert, who ran the now defunct Euro-Asia gallery where Cherina exhibited his work, is owed tens of thousands of pounds in "friendly" loans. Tina Scott, a Sydney businesswoman who was Cherina's publicity manager, had her driving licence and car registration revoked last month after her errant client ran up unpaid parking fines of UKP: 360 while using her vehicle. His debt to her ran to UKP: 32,000. "He is in love with one person: himself," Scott said. "He doesn't care about anyone. He's not a Picasso, he's not a Leonardo, but he thinks he is." Cherina's barrister, Adrian Gruzman, is owed UKP: 10,000, and the sculptor is even accused of relieving a fellow Croatian of several thousand pounds paid as compensation after he lost his leg in a car accident. Speculation surrounds Cherina's whereabouts, but not even his son, Igor, seems able to shed any light on the mystery. Some say Cherina is in Taiwan, pleading with President Lee Teng-hui - a former subject for a bronze bust - for financial support. There have even been suggestions he may have gone to London in search of Lord Rogers, the architect. Only one of Cherina's creditors was enjoying any sense of satisfaction last week. The Croatian met his match in Rob Waterhouse, an Australian racehorse trainer. In 1997 Cherina failed to repay an UKP: 18,000 loan - taken out to pay for architectural models of his Olympic towers project - from a company linked to Waterhouse. The firm sent a lorry round to the Euro-Asia gallery and seized every Cherina sculpture on display. The hundreds of items, including a bronze bust of the artist's wife, who lives in Croatia - were locked in storage until last week, when they were dusted down and auctioned off for UKP: 27,000 - "for a song", say Cherina's friends. "He's a brilliant man, a huge talent, but he's not in control of himself," said Waterhouse. Cherina would have been outraged at the price his works fetched. However, few think he will come back to challenge their valuation in person.

From: "BORISLAV SURDIC" surda@EUnet.yu

building of the National Museum in Leskovac suffers serious material damage

Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 17:36:15 +0200
Dear Sirs, I am able to send You a report and some details concerning NATO airstrikes against Leskovac and damage on civilian targets, including Leskovac regional museum. (...............) In spite of our efforts, we can do little at this moment to protect buildings and people inside.

extract of report (full report:

http// :

In the night between March 25 and 26, 1999 due to the NATO aircrafts assaults, c22,00 h at military storages in Arapova Dolina and the camp in Sinkovac, the building of the National Museum in Leskovac suffered serious material damage. Air stroke resulting from the missile explosion (air line of 500 m) caused damages to the building and the srtanding museum display. (................................)
The air stroke damaged inside the Museum building part of the display cases housing exhibits of great historical and artistic value. Glass has been broken on many display cases housing highest quality archaeological artefacts. Exhibits belonging to the ethnological collection have also been damaged as a wooden pilar fell down, and the weapon collection (from the period of the First Serbian Uprising 1804) has also been partly damaged. Further, 50% of the interrior has been damages including destroyed glass doors, door locks, technical devices (TV, VCR and PC). The archaeological site "Hisar" has also been endangered. As the hill Hisar has been repeatedly bombed it is not possible to have an exact list of damages, many unactivated devices lie around. The former building of the Museum (house of Bora DimitrijeviŠ Piksla) has also been damaged. The roof of the Textile Industry Museum in the village of Strojkovac is expected to fall down any moment.
Borislav Surdic,
director of Science and Technology museum,
vice chairman of the YU-National Committee of ICOM
ICOM member 23615
telefax.++99 381 11 187-360 , 381 11 3281479
private: 381 11 15 16 90

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