Yesterday, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf ran an editorial suggesting that a notorious Irish criminal gang was “almost certainly” responsible for the burglary and multi-million euro art theft from the Rotterdam Kunsthal in October last year. The source of this speculation was the internationally renowned art detective Charles Hill. According to De Telegraaf:
“The retired English top agent, who for years was the head of Scotland Yard’s Art Squad, emphasized that the two burglars struck very professionally. The burglary took only two and half minutes, and was prepared in detail. That method calls in mind the Rathkeale Rovers, who currently strike all over Europe, said Hill. The British detective in the past was involved in undercover operations throughout the world, solving numerous notorious art thefts including the theft of The Scream (Munch) and Writing Woman with Maid (Vermeer).
Hill’s ability to predict the perpetrators in these cases — shamelessly offering his services as a mediator in the Kunsthal heist at the same time as criticizing Rotterdam police — is becoming embarrassing.
Some years ago, Benvenuto Cellini’s saliera (salt cellar), worth over 20 million euros, was stolen with almost childish simplicity from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. On that occasion, Hill stated with absolute certainty that a Serbian gang was responsible and that the theft would soon be solved. He was correct on that last point; shortly after Hill articulated these Balkan fantasies, a native of Vienna was arrested. The man responsible, drunk and totally unprepared, had climbed the scaffolding in front of the museum, smashed a window, then broke into a display case, grabbed the salt cellar and ran off. The burglary and theft took just 58 seconds, a scenario somewhat different to Hill’s assertion that it had been the work of Serbian professionals.
Hill also stated that the intruder alarm detectors attached to the window had been tampered with from the outside, thereby confirming that his knowledge of these systems is next to zero.
Now Hill is at it again, asserting that an Irish gang is behind the burglary at the Kunsthal. It is true that an Irish gang roams (or roamed) through Europe, breaking into museums. However, these were predominantly natural history museums targeted for  their rhino horn.
Perhaps it’s time the retired Scotland Yard art sleuth spent a little more time on the golf course instead of venturing outlandish predictions based on fantasy rather than fact.
An Irish gang? If so, it was a gang with connections in Romania. Three suspected perpetrators have just been arrested there.
Ton Cremers


January 23rd, 2013

Posted In: comment, Museum thefts

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June 15th, 2010

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June 13th, 2010

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June 5th, 2010

Posted In: comment, restitution

Egyptian official chides museums over antiquities
By ULA ILNYTZKY (AP) – 17 hours ago

NEW YORK — Egypt’s antiquities chief, speaking at a preview of a King Tut exhibition, renewed his attacks on museums he claims have refused to return artifacts that rightfully belong in Egypt.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Wednesday he had a wish list of objects he wants returned. He singled out several museums, including the St. Louis Art Museum, which he said has a 3,200-year-old mummy mask that was stolen before the museum acquired it.

“We’re going to fight to get these unique artifacts back,” Hawass said at the New York preview of the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” an exhibition that has traveled to five other U.S. cities and London.

Last week, he said, he turned over to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “all the evidence that I have to prove that this mask was stolen, and we have to bring it back.”

On Wednesday, St. Louis Art Museum spokeswoman Jennifer Stoffel, said the institution “had correspondence with Hawass in 2006 and 2007 and has not heard anything on the matter since.”

At the time, she said the museum shared information with Hawass on the mask’s provenance and said “we would do the right thing … if there was something that refuted the legitimacy of the provenance.”

The St. Louis museum has said it bought the mask from an art dealer in the United States in 1998 after checking with authorities and with the international Art Loss Register. It said it also approved the purchase with the Egyptian Museum.

Over the centuries, thousands of Egyptian antiquities have been taken out of Egypt — some stolen, some removed by famed archaeologists. Many are now housed in the world’s greatest museums.

New York is the final stop for the Tut exhibition, which opens Friday at the Discovery Times Square Exposition. A blockbuster exhibition on the boy-king was first shown at the Met in 1979.

The current Tut exhibit features about 130 objects — more than twice the number in the 1979 show — including more than 50 of Tut’s burial objects. It includes a golden diadem inlaid with colored glass and semiprecious stones that was found still on the head of the mummy when Howard Carter discovered Tut’s tomb in 1922. The crown was not part of the 1979 exhibition.

King Tut’s chariot also is a new addition; it will be the first time that it will travel outside Egypt. Its arrival at the exhibition has been delayed by the volcanic ash that suspended flights from Europe. It will be installed in the next few weeks.

The current show provides new information about the life and death of Tutankhamun and his ancestors based on recent discoveries made through DNA and CT scans.

Hawass also announced that a set of four foundation deposits — similar to time capsules — and a limestone fragment with a text indicating a tomb was hidden nearby were recently discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

He said this discovery gave him hope he would soon find the tombs of Ankhesamun, Tut’s wife, and that of Nefertiti, his stepmother.

The Valley of the Kings was used from about 1550 BCE to 1070 and contains 80 tombs.

Hawass also has made a request for the return of the Rosetta Stone, housed in the British Museum in London, and an ancient bust of Nefertiti, wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, at Berlin’s Egyptian Museum.

On the Net:

April 23rd, 2010

Posted In: comment

Trails leading to purloined paintings had surprising twists…

By John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2010

There are no gentleman art thieves. There is no dashing playboy who,
after lifting a Titian and stashing it in the hidden compartment of
his Bentley, unzips his jumpsuit to reveal a bespoke tuxedo and then
waltzes into the gala, pausing only to lift a champagne flute from the
tray of a passing waiter.

“There’s no such thing as the dashing connoisseur,” Anthony Amore told
me. “That’s almost unprecedented in history. It’s more the common
criminal. It’s never Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones.”

Which, frankly, is a bit of a disappointment to those of us who
enjoyed “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

But Anthony should know. He is the director of security at Boston’s
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and he was in Washington not long ago
for the opening of a new exhibit at the National Museum of Crime and
Punishment,”Uncovering the Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb

Most museum security folks like to keep a low profile, as if
acknowledging their own existence might somehow encourage people to
steal from them. Not Anthony. He likes the limelight, possibly because
it’s hard for his museum to avoid it. The Gardner was the scene of the
biggest art heist in recent history: the theft on March 18, 1990, of
13 works of art, including a Vermeer, a Manet and three Rembrandts.
None has been recovered. (Anthony mentioned more than once that he was
not the head of security at the time of the theft.)

It got me thinking: What about Washington? We have plenty of museums.
Is our stuff not worth stealing?

Not at all. Washington Post researcher Meg Smith found all sorts of
robberies, mainly of artifacts, including a diamond-encrusted gold
snuffbox that once belonged to Catherine the Great. Stolen from the
Smithsonian in 1979, it was melted down for the metal.

But it’s a 10-year period at the Phillips Collection that intrigues
me the most. In 1953, someone stole a small painting by Swiss artist
Paul Klee called “Little Circus.” It was eventually returned to the
Phillips in the mail, wrapped in a copy of the Christian Science
Monitor along with a note that read, “Here ends two years of

Weird, huh?

In 1959, a still life by Henri Rousseau titled “The Pink Candle” was
taken from the Phillips. The next day, the painting’s frame was found
in Rock Creek Park. Not long after that, the museum received a phone
call from a man who said his “friend” knew where the painting was. The
“friend” hadn’t stolen it — heavens, no — and he wanted a reward.
The Phillips told him that it would not give a reward for stolen
property. The man then called a lawyer in an attempt to broker a deal,
but that fell through, and eventually the mysterious phone-caller said
he would leave a key inside the door of the attorney’s office that
would lead them to the painting.

The key fit Locker No. 318 at the Trailways bus station. Inside was
“The Pink Candle.”

The Phillips beefed up security after each theft, but that didn’t stop
a thief from ripping another Klee — a watercolor called “Little
Regatta,” valued at $20,000 — from the wall on Jan. 12, 1963. There
would be no quick reunion with this painting.

For more than 30 years, the work was listed as “stolen” in the
museum’s records. In 1997, it was returned by Edward Puhl, a retired
Boston area businessman. Puhl had purchased it at an outdoor antiques
fair in Southern Maryland a year or two after the theft. He said the
dealer selling it couldn’t guarantee it was a Klee, but it sure looked
like one to Puhl. When an expert who was brought in decades later to
appraise his works traced the painting to the Phillips, Puhl contacted
the museum.

Except for whatever pains pricked at their consciences (“Here ends two
years of torment”), no one was ever punished for these thefts.

But I doubt the thieves were too troubled. Anthony Amore says most
thieves are common criminals, in it for the money. They don’t know
their Manets from their Monets. He thinks it’s likely the Gardner was
robbed by a criminal gang eager to have a “get out of jail free” card,
an insurance policy against prosecution in other crimes: Go easy on me
and I’ll tell you where you can find the Gardner loot.

Anthony is confident that the works will eventually return home.

Hey, the Phillips’s did.

April 13th, 2010

Posted In: comment

Dear Sir, Mdme,My name is Arthur Brand, Dutch investigative journalist and writer.In this email I am going to reveal quite a serious scandal, involving Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov, worlds leading art dealer Ali Abou’Taam, Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov, the French, Canadian and American ambassadors to Bulgaria, and Homeland Security.
A story about class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels!

Here we go:

On 18.09.2008 worlds leading art dealer Ali Abou’Taam, resident of Switzerland, was arrested on Sofia airport, arriving on a plane from Paris.

Mr. Abou’Taam, of Lebanese origin and with a Canadian passport, was invited to Bulgaria by one of his biggest clients, Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov.

Mr. Abou’Taam was arrested because his name appeared on the Interpol’s red wanted-list due to a request of the Egyptian authorities, since the art dealer had been sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment because of trading in stolen art (Interpol File number: 25913/2007 Issued:25/5/07).

Mr. Abou’Taam arrived in Sofia on a regular flight from Paris. Though the Interpol Headquarters are located in Lyon, France, the French authorities didn’t do anything to arrest Mr. Abou’Taam. Au contraire, the authorities made special arrangements for the fugitive to enter and leave the French territory unhindered. But then again, it were the same French who gave the art dealer one of the most prestigious awards, just two years earlier. Strange, because already in 2006 the reputation of Mr. Abou’Taam was quite dubious…

Obviously, not every representative of the Bulgarian police had been informed of the ‘inviolability’ of this V.I.P. so Mr. Abou’Taam was arrested upon arrival, just as Interpol had requested. This came as a surprise and immediately everything was done by the authorities to restore the failure, breaking all the laws…

This is where the story about class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels begins.

The French, Canadian and American ambassadors got involved. The Canadian because of Mr. Abou’Taam’s Canadian passport, the American because of the protection that Mr. Abou’Taam receives of Homeland Security. In 2006 Mr. Abou’Taam ‘helped’ Homeland Security to confiscate some looted Iraqi objects, according to some insiders fenced by Mr. Abou’Taam himself:

Bulgarian billionaire Vasil Bojkov, who invited Mr. Abou’Taam to Bulgaria, felt responsible for the arrest of his friend. So he called another friend, Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov, one of the most powerful man of the country. Billionaire Vasil Bojkov and prosecutor Kamen Mihov are above the law so to speak so they decided to break both national and international laws to help Mr. Abou’Taam out of this situation. Kamen Mihov arranged within only one day (!!!) that Mr. Abou’Taam was secretly released out of prison, brought to the airport, passing the airport V.I.P-gate without (!!!) departure ID registration and boarding a private jet of Vasil Bojkov to leave for Switzerland. According to the flight departure database of the Border Police and the Interpol database Mr. Abou’Taam is still in Bulgaria till this very day…

Because some questions could arise about where Mr. Abou’Taam was hold in custody, Bulgarian head prosecutor Kamen Mihov created the story that Mr. Abou’Taam was placed under house arrest at the address of the family of his Bulgarian wife. So officially Mr. Abou’Taam is under house arrest in Bulgaria, waiting for extradition to Egypt, but in reality he is safe in Switzerland, thanks to corrupted officials. Class-justice, bribery and fraud on the highest levels. A complete insult to Interpol and the Egyptian Government!

To cover his tracks, head prosecutor Kamen Mihov arranged a fake and secret trial – long after Mr. Abou’Taam illegally had left the country – in which was decided that Bulgaria will not extradite Mr. Abou’Taam.

So justice can be bought in Bulgaria. As long as you have the money and the right friends, you are untouchable.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Brand

January 20th, 2009

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


For those of you interested in the phenomenon of insider we have assembled reports at:

At texts accompanying power point presentation about insider theft (2005, ever since updated regularly. Further information:

Also worthwhile reading:
Keeping it safe, keeping it available: theft prevention in special collections
Joel Kovarsky

Ton Cremers

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 5th, 2009

Posted In: comment

At mr. Charney repeats platitudes about the scope of art crime. Nothing new to report, just a repetition: “Most people assume that art crime consists of only a handful of museum heists each year; in actuality, it has become the third-highest–grossing world criminal trade over the past 40 years, regularly perpetrated by or on behalf of organized crime syndicates and used to fund other illicit activities, such as drugs or arms trades”. Most people? One wonders how Mr. Charney knows what ‘most people’ think. Too bad Charney restricts himself in his 2008 review to only a handful heists – yes, exactly 5 heists – without any factual information to support his opinion about what most people think.

Referring to map thief Farhad Hakimzadeh who was arrested November 2008 for having stolen circa 150 rare maps and manuscripts from the British and Bodleian Libraries mr. Charney really mixes up fact and fiction and gets trapped in his own excitement:
“Hakimzadeh is a perfect exception to the rule stated zealously by many art police — that in real life, there are no Thomas Crowns or Doctor Nos. Authorities try to extinguish the fictional concept of art crime, because it distracts from the true severity of the act and stands in the way of their investigations, but every now and then, a Thomas Crown creeps out of the celluloid and into real life — reminding us that, like it or not, there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime.”

Daring statements by Charney, but Farhad Hakimzadeh by no means is a perfect exception to this non-existing rule. There are many, too many, examples of thieves who steal without intention to sell stolen objects. There is no ‘rule zealously stated by many art police’ that stealing for the mere desire to possess items is exceptional. There is another rule stated zealously and most rightfully by police and scientists: there are no examples of theft to order by collectors who want – like Dr. No – enjoy stolen objects secretly on a deserted island (or in the basement). THAT is a celluloid fantasy and not real life.

Charney’s statements that “art thefts may certainly be sexy to read about” and “there is sometimes a certain romance attached to art crime” tells a lot about himself and nothing about art theft as a criminal activity.

Charney loves hyperbolic descriptions to authorize his fantasies “thousands of objects worth tens of millions of dollars are stolen from archives each year in the United States alone”. He even knows how this is possible “rare book archives and libraries are dismayingly under-protected, and archive theft is perhaps the simplest of art crimes”. Rare book archives? Is this a mixture of archives and rare book collections? Archive theft an ART crime? Wake up Noah, try and be a bit more precise in your texts and stop embarrassing your (London) university professor.

Archive theft the simplest of art crimes? This seems an invitation on behalf of Charney for all potential thieves. Let them be aware. It is not as easy as Charney states. The arrest of several map and document thieves – both outsider and insider thieves – the past years shows that it is not that easy and that theft of maps, documents and books can be quite tricky.

Those who want to become real experts in the field of art crime can attend a course organized by Charney. For just $ 20,000.00 – Charney’s tariff too is quite hyperbolic – Charney will supply you with a certificate.

Ton Cremers

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

January 2nd, 2009

Posted In: comment

Peter Tompa: Brent R. Benjamin of Saint Louis Art Museum Named to CPAC Museum Seat

The White House has announced that Brent R. Benjamin of the Saint Louis Art Museum has been named to a seat on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to represent the interests of the museum community. Mr. Benjamin will be replacing Sandy Boyd of the University of Iowa. The White House Personnel Announcement can be found here:

Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer. See generally: and

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

CPAC: New Appointment

Original blog with all links:

While most of us have been following the “credit crunch” and yesterday’s surprise vote in Washington (what the BBC has termed a “bail-out failure”), the White House announced a new member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC): Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St Louis Art Museum (press release, September 29, 2008).

Peter Tompa has commented on the appointment and has noted:
Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer.
I disagree with Tompa. Benjamin does not appear to understand the “due diligence” process when it comes to this particular mask (see my earlier comments). Was this mask removed from the store at Saqqara? What is the certified documentation to show that the object had been in the hands of various European dealers and collectors?

Announcing Benjamin’s appointment yesterday looks like a case of “burying bad news”. Benjamin’s appointment can only be seen as controversial. Does the Bush administration mean to send out a signal that it does not care about claims on cultural property in North American museums?

Original blog with all links

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

More options Oct 13, 4:36 pm

Brent Benjamin Appointed to CPAC
(cross-posted with relevant links at
Dr. Derek Fincham

The White House announced back in September that President Bush will
nominate Brent R. Benjamin to serve on the Cultural Property Advisory
Committee for three years. David Gill commented on the appointment, as
did Wayne Sayles. Earlier in July, Robert O’Brien, a Los Angeles
attorney was nominated as well, though his appointment attracted
little notice.

Ton Cremers, an administrator on the invaluable Museum Security
Network argues this was an “outrageous” appointment. The reason for
the concern is this antiquity, the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask which I
discussed at length last year.

It was stolen from a storehouse in Saqqara sometime between its
excavation in an archaeological dig in 1952, and its acquisition by
the St. Louis Art Museum in 1998. It may be worth examining this
acquisition in more detail. The best summary of the dispute I have
found is this 2006 article in the Riverfront Times.

As always, the antiquities trade presents a number of questions. Was
Benjamin at the museum in 1998 when it acquired this object? No, he
came a year after the mask was acquired. Do his actions with respect
to this mask disqualify him automatically from serving on the
committee? I’m not sure they do. Does this ongoing dispute between
Egypt and the St. Louis Art Museum automatically disqualify Benjamin
from serving on the committee? Not according to President Bush, but
did the Museum really have clean hands when they acquired the mask?
The answer I think is not really.

They purchased it from Hichaam Aboutaam, who has been linked with
looted antiquities. The work had been displayed at a Museum in Geneva
when the SLAM was considering purchasing the work. However, the museum
sent Mohammed Saleh, a retired director of the Cairo Museum a letter

“[We have] been offered a mummy mask of the 19th dynasty and I was
wondering if you know of any parallels to this object. I have never
seen anything quite like it with a reddish copper-like face probably
owing to the oxidation of the gold surface. It is currently on
exhibition in the Egyptian exhibition at the Museum of Art and History
in Geneva. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on any parallels
you might know of this piece and hope that I might have the
opportunity to speak with you in several weeks by telephone about this

Saleh of course was not perhaps the best person in Egypt to contact
about the mask. Shouldn’t someone on the Supreme Council on
Antiquities have been better positioned to handle this request?
Unfortunately this is the shady kind of enquiry which can pass for
thorough provenance research in the antiquities trade. I think its
likely perhaps that the SLAM was not too eager to look to deeply into
the history of this object, for fear they would be unable to acquire
it. The museum was told by the seller that the mask was seen at an
antiquities dealer in 1952, and it remained in the ubiquitous “Swiss
Collection” for the next 40 years. An expert hired by the museum,
Peter Lacovara, reasoned that the mask was probably awarded to the
excavator after the 1952 excavation. This would account for its
appearance at a market in Brussels soon after, though refuting that
fact is nearly impossible at this point.

Egypt has a tenable claim perhaps, but this is a close case. I’m not
aware of the specific steps Egypt has taken in response. They have
seemingly argued that the mask was stolen at some point from an
antiquities storehouse. Now, its their cultural heritage and they’re
free to do with it what they please, but Egypt can be criticized on
two accounts. First, is it really the best idea to have a unique piece
like this mask just sitting in a warehouse for fifty years? Second,
had Egypt documented its collection and its holdings more completely,
they would have had a much stronger legal and ethical claim.

In any event, nobody looks really good in this dispute. Not the
museum, the Phoenix gallery, nor Egypt. But I’m not sure Benjamin, by
merely refusing to return the mask outright to Egypt has disqualified
himself from serving on the CPAC, which it should be mentioned is
comprised of individuals from all the disparate heritage interest
groups, including archaeologists. Also, the CPAC has never refused a
request made by a nation of origin.

Dr. Derek Fincham

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

By our art-crunch correspondents
Hanky-Panky Paulson and Banksy Bernanky

Damien Hirst, the wealthiest artist the world has ever known and a colossus of corporate finance, faces nationalization say City analysts.

As the financial meltdown edged ever closer to the core of the nuclear reactor that is the international banking system, there were mounting fears yesterday that Hirst – the diminutive giant of the global art economy – faces outright nationalization.

“It’s too early to say what might happen,” said a visibly shaken Treasury Secretary Ed Ballsup as he stood outside his office clutching a wrinkled donkey embryo fitted with swan’s wings. “When the investments of millions of collectors around the world look so treacherously close to vaporization, the Government may need to step in, as we did with Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.”

The prospect of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of pickled livestock cluttering up the corridors of power sent MPs into a gloomy funk as the reality of the situation began to dawn.

City analysts were drawing comparisons this morning between the teetering self-certified ‘buy-to-let’ mortgage market upon which so much of Bradford and Bingley’s business was built, and the shaky foundations of the ‘buy-to-flip’ art investments made by millions of gullible collectors who saw crap contemporary art as an “asset class”.

Speaking from his wheelchair at Lumbago Heights, a Los Angeles residential care home for the elderly, presidential nominee John McCain, 108, told reporters, “Art is no more an asset class than Sarah’s arse,” referring to his vice-presidential nominee. “And believe me, her ass is class and an asset to my campaign.”

Hanky-Panky Banksy Bernanky

Artnose was founded in 2001 by journalist Percy Flarge to provide a more impartial and insightful news website for the art world.

contact Artnose

Percy Flarge
The Ostrich Farm
London SW16 2LU

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: articles, comment

* Sept mercenaires pour quatre tableaux commandésSept personnes mises en examenà Marseille, dont cinq écrouées pour les toiles volées

* True or false: Indiana Jones is a plunderer.

* The Art Thief: A Novel by Noah Charney. (“the worst I’ve reviewed in 30 years…”)

* Bulgarian Looter Caught

* Florida trio charged with selling fake art to Hunterdon man

* Canada. Pillage d’artefacts sur la Côte-Nord. L’érosion des berges des 1300 kilomètres de côte met à découvert des pièces parfois vieilles de 8000 ans.

* Additional information to:

* Police recover some stolen Bill Reid artwork. House in south Burnaby raided in connection with case

* Bill Reid heist. Vol au Musée d’anthropologie. Certaines oeuvres retrouvées

* Yemen calls on Interpol to return unique smuggled artifact

* Dutch art forger proudly exhibits his works

* México podría perder la mitad de sus bienes culturales en 50 años

* Italy. L’infinito saccheggio di oggetti preziosi. Il Piemonte è secondo solo al Lazio

* Cuba’s John Lennon Statue Protected By Round-The-Clock Guards

* Stolen antiquities found in U.S. returned to Iraq

June 10th, 2008

Posted In: comment

* Sept mercenaires pour quatre tableaux commandésSept personnes mises en examenà Marseille, dont cinq écrouées pour les toiles volées

* True or false: Indiana Jones is a plunderer.

* The Art Thief: A Novel by Noah Charney. (“the worst I’ve reviewed in 30 years…”)

* Bulgarian Looter Caught

* Florida trio charged with selling fake art to Hunterdon man

* Canada. Pillage d’artefacts sur la Côte-Nord. L’érosion des berges des 1300 kilomètres de côte met à découvert des pièces parfois vieilles de 8000 ans.

* Additional information to:

* Police recover some stolen Bill Reid artwork. House in south Burnaby raided in connection with case

* Bill Reid heist. Vol au Musée d’anthropologie. Certaines oeuvres retrouvées

* Yemen calls on Interpol to return unique smuggled artifact

* Dutch art forger proudly exhibits his works

* México podría perder la mitad de sus bienes culturales en 50 años

* Italy. L’infinito saccheggio di oggetti preziosi. Il Piemonte è secondo solo al Lazio

* Cuba’s John Lennon Statue Protected By Round-The-Clock Guards

* Stolen antiquities found in U.S. returned to Iraq

June 10th, 2008

Posted In: comment


* Book review by Tom Flynn: Fiat Cuno (Who Owns Antiquity

* Beware of Directors Bearing Guidelines?

* Roger Bland to Lecture at Field Museum Regarding Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme

* Les tableaux retrouvés en Moldavie inconnus au musée russe de l’Ermitage

* Italian police recover 3,500 looted artifacts

* Eremitage-Museum verwundert über moldawischen Bilderfund

* Il y a 18 mois, une quinzaine de statues avaient été dérobées dans des chapelles du Trégor. Elles ont été retrouvées dans un triste état chez un
particulier. Trois personnes ont été interpellées.

* A RENAISSANCE painting by Bernadino Luini, an Italian painter in Leonardo da Vinci’s circle, that was stolen from a Welsh church has been found, it emerged

* Archeologia, recuperate opere per oltre 3 milioni di euro

* Chariot of ire: museum told to return Etruscan gem to Umbria

* As the Bill Reid thefts show, art crime does pay: unfounded statements by Noah Charney whose fantasy is going adrift.

* HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Police plan to return a 100-pound bronze sculpture that was stolen from a lawn in Hopewell Township in May.

* Marseille : comment le FBI a aidé la PJ à retrouver les tableauxLes toiles volées à Nice ont été retrouvées mercredi à Marseille

* NANTUCKET, Mass. — Police are looking for the culprit of a pricey piece of artwork in Nantucket.

* Book Burnings in the Holy Land are Considered ‘Kosher’ Provided the Books are Christian

* Public art inspires even vandals, tramps and thieves


June 7th, 2008

Posted In: comment, Mailing list reports, Museum thefts, news comments / discussions


The circle of art


“I’m a believer that beautiful paintings should be seen by people,” she says. “Basically, what’s in the exhibit are works that we love.”

Basicaly all Goudstikker paintings were in public exhibitions. Owing to Marei von Saher (she never even met Goudstikker) many of the Goudstikker paintings have disappeared in private collections because Von Saher put them up at auctions.

Ton Cremers


Georgette Gouveia | The Journal News

There’s a painting in the office of Peter Sutton, executive director of the Bruce Museum, that is about to be moved downstairs as part of a new exhibit.

The work is Jan Steen’s 1671 oil “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” which tells the story of how Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia so the Greeks could sail off to fight Troy. Iphigenia embraces her fate, understanding that the only thing she can control is her heroic response to it.

Marei von Saher, the owner of the painting, knows all about fate.

“You can’t escape it,” says von Saher, a Greenwich resident. “What is meant to be is meant to be.”

In the spring of 1940, her father-in-law, Jacques Goudstikker – a man she never met – was the premier dealer in Old Masters in Amsterdam.

Goudstikker (HOWCH sticker) had everything – a glamorous wife, the soprano Désirée von Halban Kurz; a baby son, Eduard, affectionately called “Edo”; a gallery whose visitors included Queen Wilhelmina, and a country estate, Castle Nyenrode, where he could indulge his love of cooking and entertaining.

Then the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and it was all gone – the gallery, the estate, some 1,400 paintings, including Iphigenia’s sacrifice. Days after the invasion, he fled with his family aboard the SS Bodegraven only to die when he fell through an uncovered hatch at night after coming onto the deck for some fresh air. He was 42.

Fate, however, has a way of coming full circle.

In 2006, the Dutch government agreed to restore to von Saher – the widow of Goudstikker’s only child – 200 of the paintings looted from the gallery by the Nazis that had wound up in Dutch national collections after the war. The challenge by von Saher and her younger daughter, Charlène, is one of the largest restitution awards in art history.

Viewers can see some of the fruits of that struggle in “Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker,” which opens Saturday at the Bruce – exactly 68 years after the Nazis invaded Holland.

Among the works are the classically dramatic “Iphigenia,” which Sutton calls “one of the most important Dutch history paintings”; Jan van der Heyden’s charming “View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht”; and Ferdinand Bol’s sumptuously textured “Louise Marie Gonzaga de Nevers (1611-1667), Queen of Poland?”

The works illustrate the depth and breadth of a dealer whose taste influenced the art scene on both sides of the Atlantic in the period between the two world wars. Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl With a Flute,” part of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and John Singer Sargent’s “Portrait of J. P. Wolff,” at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, were among the legitimate Goudstikker sales.

For Charlène von Saher, however, pursuing works the Nazis took or sold in her grandfather’s name “has never just been about the art. … I did it, because something was stolen from my family.”

She is sitting next to her mother at a round table in Sutton’s office, opposite where the “Iphigenia” temporarily hangs. They are strikingly different and similar. Both have the long, lean lines of dancers. A former figure-skating champion, Marei von Saher still teaches the sport. Manhattanite Charlène von Saher, an Olympian at Lillehammer in 1994 and a former skating instructor, sells real estate in Connecticut, where her older sister, Chantal, and Chantal’s daughter live.

More important, Charlène is her mother’s partner in tracking down the hundreds of Goudstikker holdings that are still unaccounted for, bringing, she says, some helpful generational distance to the still emotionally raw issue of her family’s history.

Besides the paintings returned by the Dutch government, there are 36 other works that have been restored to the family from various museums and collections. A claim is still pending, Marei von Saher says, against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., for two life-size paintings of Adam and Eve by the early 16th-century artist Lucas Cranach the Elder.

“Charlène and I started as a team,” Marei von Saher says. “We persevered. … I have learned the meaning of perseverance.”

“If you believe in something, you can’t give up,” her daughter says.

It was a 1997 phone call from Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander – who would publish “The Goudstikker Case” a year later – that set the von Sahers on the path of perseverance. Until then, Marei von Saher says, she knew little of her father-in-law’s accomplishments and tragic end.

“My mother-in-law did not want to open up a chapter that was painful to her,” she says. “We moved to this country from England to start a new life. I had two beautiful little girls. The past was the past.”

But the past also is the floating country, whose griefs can resurface at any moment. Summering in the Netherlands with her grandmother, Charlène remembers driving around the properties Goudstikker once owned and asking in childlike innocence why the family no longer lived there. Her grandmother would only say sadly that they couldn’t afford them after the war.

And what did she tell her granddaughters about Goudstikker?

“She’d say, ‘He would’ve loved you girls so much,” Charlène von Saher says.

Den Hollander’s research enabled the von Sahers to take a fuller measure of the man.

The reporter came to see the family and took Charlène to the National Archives in Washington D.C., where she was stunned to discover scores of documents with her grandmother’s name as well as that of Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command.

When the Goudstikkers fled in 1940, Jacques Goudstikker gave power of attorney to his best friend, the lawyer Dr. A. Sternheim. But Sternheim suffered a heart attack on the day of the invasion, fell off his bicycle and died.

That made it even easier for the covetous Göring to set up dummy sales of the Goudstikker paintings he wanted and have front man Alois Miedl run the gallery as if nothing had changed. After the war, Goudstikker’s widow tried to recoup as much of the family’s losses as possible.

“A lot of things were restituted,” says Peter C. Sutton, the Susan E. Lynch executive director and CEO of the Bruce. “What the Dutch government didn’t look into were the coerced sales by Göring. They took those sales to be legitimate.”

The family, however, had a secret weapon, a small black notebook containing an inventory of most of the gallery’s holdings that Goudstikker took with him when he fled.

Armed with the notebook and den Hollander’s research, the von Sahers hired Dutch and New York attorneys and began the process of filing reclamation papers. When the suit was settled in 2006, Marei von Saher turned to Sutton – an expert in Northern Baroque art – to mount an exhibit.

Though more than 100 of the works were auctioned at Christie’s last year, Marei von Saher always wanted to share the reclaimed works and her father-in-law’s achievements in some way with the wider world.

“I’m a believer that beautiful paintings should be seen by people,” she says. “Basically, what’s in the exhibit are works that we love.”

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy
Handboek Veiligheidszorg Erfgoedbeheerders

May 5th, 2008

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