insider theft – Brazil suffers biggest rare book heist in national history

May 5, 2017 – 08:27

Brazil suffers biggest rare book heist in national history

By plus55

The Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ) suffered the largest rare book heist in Brazilian history. Last year, 303 works disappeared from the shelves of the prestigious university’s Pedro Calmon Library. Many pieces dated back to colonial times.

Among the stolen artifacts were 16 of the first edition volumes of the sermons of Father Antônio Vieira (1610). Almost the entire collection of travel diaries written by European voyagers in the 17th to 19th centuries also disappeared.

The thief also stole seminal anthropological works. For example, one book by the German ethnographer Thomas Koch-Grümberg contained 141 photos of indigenous peoples along the Japurá and Rio Negro in the Amazon. Another was the Expédition dans les parties centrales de l’Amérique du Sud (1850-1859) by the English naturalist Francis de Castelnau. The work contained hundreds of pages of lithography painted by hand.

Books with original carvings, made with knives in a pain-staking process, appear to have been the main target of the heist.

Although at first the crime seemed small-scale, authorities finally tallied the final stolen book count six months later. In addition to 303 rare works, the thieves also stole another 120 ancient books. To give an idea of the scale of the heist, the 27 “most rare” books alone are worth between $120,000 and $160,000.

The heist

The heist took place over months while the building was under construction. All the shelves were covered in black plastic bags, under which the thieves worked.

“The thief knew what to steal, he didn’t take things at random,” said deputy Marcelo Gondim Monteiro. Security cameras show the pair stealing works from the University of São Paulo libraries last fall. No images exist from the UFRJ, however the police found books in the suspect’s house.

The suspect, Laéssio Rodrigues de Oliveira, 44, is a former library science student implicated in book heists dating back to 2004. Other libraries which have suffered at his hand are the famous Mário de Andrade Library, the National Museum, the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, the Paraná Public Library, and the Itamaraty Palace, among others. On average, authorities have only recovered 40 percent of his stolen works.

A film project portraying Oliveira’s exploits, titled “Confessions of a Book Thief”, has received $245,000 from the National Cinema Agency (Ancine) for production. Librarians have protested the film as glamourizing Oliveira’s thefts.

Forged Provenance — FBI

April 11, 2017 – 11:48

Forging Papers to Sell Fake Art

Spoutz’s scam was straightforward but well executed. He contacted art galleries or auction houses and offered for sale previously unknown works by artists such as American abstract impressionists Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Joan Mitchell. The art did not appear in any catalogs or collections of the artists’ known works, said Special Agent Christopher McKeogh from the FBI’s Art Crime Team in our New York Field Office.

“He was selling lower-level works by known artists,” explained McKeoogh, who worked the case for more than three years with fellow agent Meridith Savona and forensic accountant Maria Font. “If it’s a direct copy of a real one, the real one is going to be out there and the fraud would be discovered.”

Before paying thousands of dollars for works of art, collectors and brokers want assurance the work is real—especially if the work is previously unknown, McKeogh said. Among other things, they look at the provenance—the paper history of an item that traces its ownership back to the original artist—for proof.

Spoutz, who also owned a legitimate art gallery, understood the value of provenance. He forged receipts, bills of sale, letters from dead attorneys, and other documents. Some of the letters dated back decades and looked authentic, referencing real people who worked at real galleries or law firms. Spoutz also used a vintage typewriter and old paper for his documentation.

The old typewriter turned out to be the smoking gun in the case. “We could tell all of these letters had been typed on the same typewriter,” McKeogh said. The type of a letter allegedly sent from a business in the 1950s matched the type in a letter allegedly sent by a firm in a different state three decades later. Spoutz also mistakenly added a ZIP Code to the letterhead of a firm on a letter dated four years before ZIP Codes were created.

Another red flag was that many of the people referenced in the letters were dead. And some of the addresses were in the middle of an intersection, or didn’t exist at all. “All these dead ends helped prove a fraud was being committed,” McKeogh said.

When marketing his fakes, Spoutz stopped just short of saying the works were authentic. “He tried to give himself an out and said they were ‘attributed to’ an artist,” McKeogh said.

Spoutz used sellers all over the country to move his forgeries, some of them fetching more than $30,000. “He looked for people that were not as familiar with a particular artist. Spoutz came across as very scholarly and knowledgeable,” McKeogh said.

He also used a number of aliases in the roughly 10 years he ran his scam, and he moved around, from Michigan to Florida to California. He changed the scam over time, selling the works of one artist, then switching to a different artist using a different alias. He was arrested in Los Angeles and charged in February 2016, and pleaded guilty to a single charge of wire fraud in June.

Spoutz produced the fake provenance, but not the fake art. “Spoutz was not known as an artist. He had a source he kept going back to,” McKeogh said. The FBI used experts in the field and artist foundations to determine the works Spoutz sold were forgeries.

Many of the fakes passed through auction houses in New York City, McKeogh said, and a suspicious victim eventually contacted the FBI. McKeogh inherited the case about three years ago, when another agent retired.

Although Spoutz has been sentenced, McKeogh and Savona do not believe they have seen the last of the fakes he peddled. The FBI recovered about 40 forgeries; there could be hundreds more that were sold to unsuspecting victims. “This is a case we’re going to be dealing with for years. Spoutz was a mill,” McKeogh said.

Protecting the integrity of America’s art—in all its forms—is a special priority for the FBI and our dedicated Art Crime Team. “It’s our heritage; it’s who we are. We have to protect it,” McKeogh says. “Fake art and fraud schemes like this damage that heritage.”

Source: Forged Provenance — FBI

Britain’s greatest art fraud exhibits in top galleries | Daily Mail Online

March 20, 2017 – 09:37

The fake’s progress: How the masterpieces of Britain’s greatest art fraud are now being shown in top galleries


The artist jailed for Britain’s most audacious art fraud has sneaked into top art galleries to hang his fakes next to real masterpieces. Don’t worry, John Myatt tells Event , I’ve done my time and it’s all perfectly legal…

John Myatt has a Van Gogh in the kitchen, a Monet in the sitting room and a Matisse on the stairs. His sprawling farmhouse, just north of Stafford, would be among the great galleries of the world except for one thing – the man who painted all those masterpieces is, in fact, Myatt himself.

John Myatt has a Van Gogh in the kitchen, a Monet in the sitting room and a Matisse on the stairs. The man who painted all those masterpieces is, in fact, Myatt himself

John Myatt has a Van Gogh in the kitchen, a Monet in the sitting room and a Matisse on the stairs. The man who painted all those masterpieces is, in fact, Myatt himself

Myatt with Stephen Fry and his portrait of Fry as Pope Innocent X by Diego Velasquez;

Myatt with Stephen Fry and his portrait of Fry as Pope Innocent X by Diego Velasquez;

He was once a criminal faker, and in 1999 was convicted for taking part in what was called ‘the biggest art fraud of the 20th century’. Using a mixture of emulsion paint and K-Y Jelly, Myatt faked dozens of paintings by artists including Matisse, Giacometti and Ben Nicholson. Dealers in London and New York were fooled by his fakes, as were Sotheby’s and Christie’s. A receipt for £140,000 for a fake Ben Nicholson from Christie’s still hangs in Myatt’s loo.

His criminal period began in 1985, when his first wife left him. Formerly a supply teacher, he had to work from home to look after his two young children. Always keen on painting in the style of Dufy and Monet, he started selling copies, putting an advert for ‘genuine fakes’ in Private Eye. That was when his partner in crime, John Drewe, walked into his life. Drewe, a regular customer of Myatt, told him Christie’s had paid £25,000 for Myatt’s copy of an Albert Gleizes, a French Cubist.

Myatt's harlequin with a rose, in the style of Picasso

Myatt’s harlequin with a rose, in the style of Picasso

‘He said, “How would I like £12,500 in a brown envelope?”, and I said yes.’

Myatt started churning out Chagalls, Mattises and Giacomettis, and Drewe sold them for a fortune to dealers and auction houses. In 1995, they were rumbled when Drewe’s ex-girlfriend, angry at being abandoned, spilled the beans. Myatt pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. Drewe got six years. ‘You can’t excuse it,’ says Myatt. ‘I don’t think of myself as dishonest, but I was dishonest.’

To begin with, prison was an overwhelming experience for Myatt. ‘It’s frightening when you go in,’ he says, ‘It’s noisy, there’s quite a lot of unpleasant people there. You can’t sharpen pencils. You have to go cap in hand to the screws’ office – they had a sharpening machine there. You couldn’t get hold of paint; you could only draw.’

Myatt wasn’t allowed to draw pictures that might threaten security, but he managed to smuggle out one drawing of the prison wall, done in E Wing.

He has nothing but praise for the ‘superb’ police. In fact, it was a policeman who persuaded him to return to painting after he was released from jail. Myatt had been planning to give it all up. ‘The police sent art materials into Brixton for me,’ says Myatt. ‘One policeman commissioned a picture of his family, and the barristers in the case wanted a memento, too.’

These days, Myatt makes a living as a professional, self-confessed faker, and stamps the back of his copied paintings with the words ‘Genuine Fakes’. He launched his career as a legitimate faker, appearing on the Sky Arts show, Fame In The Frame, painting Stephen Fry in the style of Velazquez, and later this month he will appear on Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge, presented by Giles Coren and art historian Rose Balston. In the eight-part series, fakes painted by Myatt are smuggled onto the walls of art galleries in place of genuine masterpieces by British painters. Ten finalists compete to spot the imposters, to win their own faked masterpiece.

For the programme, Myatt, 71, set about faking a Gainsborough.

‘He underpainted in grey,’ he says, ‘He established the whole painting, almost in black and white, and went on to tint it.

‘He was a much better technician than [his rival] Reynolds. His work is beautifully done, with a feathered, soft edge. Reynolds’ big problem was that he was very impatient. He wanted his painting to dry as quickly as possible. He used honey as a binder [the material used to hold the paint in place]. Even within his lifetime, customers came back, saying, “It’s all very well, but my nose has fallen off.”’ That’s why Myatt uses acrylic paint and emulsion – ‘acrylics will dry while you’re drinking your tea’ – and K-Y Jelly as a thin wash over colours. ‘K-Y Jelly gives you, say, a deeper blue and you get a smoother finish.’

Any scientist analysing these paintings would spot that they’re made with modern materials. But the point of a good fake is that it’s so convincing no one will think to analyse it. ‘A Gainsborough is covered with several coats of varnish,’ he says, ‘if you can fake the smoothness of the surface texture, then bury it under varnish, it’s hard for anyone to spot a fake, unless you’re a Gainsborough expert.’

He says the more recent the artist the easier to fake. ‘In the first half of the 20th century, painters didn’t go through all this technical stuff. That was all old hat. What you wanted was an immediacy in the way you painted. The same goes for Van Gogh, who was doing two paintings a day in a frenzy.’

If a painting was originally done quickly, it’s that much easier to fake it. Van Gogh is a particular favourite of Myatt. In his studio, he has three van Goghs on the go – a self-portrait, a church and a street scene in Arles.

For a good fake, it’s not enough just to paint a good copy. Everything that goes with an old painting must match up, too.

‘If you gave me a year, I could do a very good fake of a 1920 Modigliani,’ Myatt says. ‘First, I’d get a cheap Twenties painting, scrape it down and find primer [undercoat] from the same period. I’d pretend I was an art restorer and get a paint with the same constituents from a vintage paint supplier.’

To ‘age’ old paintings, Myatt uses strong coffee or brown umber, a natural earth pigment. He is currently working on a 17th-century Dutch painting of a young woman.

To give the impression of craquelure – a fine web of cracks in old paint – Myatt puts down a layer of slow-drying varnish beneath a layer of quick-drying varnish. The combination produces an ultra-quick cracking pattern.

Whenever Myatt’s second wife, Rosemary, wants a new masterpiece, he simply rustles one up. Sometimes, they’re direct copies; sometimes, he adapts the style of famous artists. In the sitting room, he’s got a Majorca seaside view, where he and his wife went on holiday. Two men are dragging a boat from the water.


Vincent Van Gogh –  The Starry Night

‘A clever forger would replicate the surface painting. He would look at the thickness of the paint and make sure that was the same.

‘What is difficult is to get the same paint. Van Gogh used Sennelier paint, with a binder of linseed oil, which had a particular, fluorescent look.’

Vincent Van Gogh – The Starry Night (left). John Myatt’s copy of Van Gogh (right)

Claude Monet – The Houses Of Parliament

‘The problem with Monet’s series of paintings of Parliament was that he later worked on them for about a year or more back in his studio in Giverny. The difficulty is getting the paint’s consistency right, because he kept on adding to the pictures, producing such a complicated layering of paint.’

Claude Monet – The Houses Of Parliament (left). John Myatt’s fake Monet (right)

‘I nicked this idea from Monet,’ says Myatt, ‘He had one guy; I had two. It’s in the style of Monet – his brushwork, his immediacy.’

On the staircase, there’s a Matisse portrait of a woman’s head. ‘He’s actually quite hard to do,’ says Myatt, ‘If one of those lines goes wrong, you’re finished. You have to have a properly loaded brush to get it to work.’

Myatt is relieved to finally be able to make a living out of these legitimate pictures, and he now advises the police on catching fakers.

‘Last January, I gave a talk in Whitehall to the Hong Kong Police and Interpol,’ he says, ‘They think they’re getting closer, through scientific analysis, to tracking down fakes. Still today, between 20 and 30 per cent of what goes to auction is fake.’

Myatt may have gone straight. But there are still plenty of crooked artists out there.

‘Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge’ is on Sky Arts from March 28

Source: Britain’s greatest art fraud exhibits in top galleries | Daily Mail Online

La Grecia chiede alla Gran Bretagna la restituzione dei Fregi del Partenone

February 22, 2017 – 14:25

La Grecia chiede alla Gran Bretagna la restituzione dei Fregi del Partenone

Lunedì, 20 Febbraio 2017 11:31 Scritto da 

La richiesta è avvenuta durante la giornata conclusiva di Tourisma da parte del ministro della Cultura greca. In questa occasione si è anche costituito un comitato italiano per la riunificazione dei marmi del Partenone, presieduto dal professore Louis Godart, archeologo e filologo miceneo di fama internazionale

La Grecia chiede alla Gran Bretagna la restituzione dei Fregi del Partenone

FIRENZE – In occasione della giornata conclusiva di Tourisma, il Salone internazionale dell’Archeologia e del turismo culturale promosso dalla rivista Archeologia viva è arrivato un nuovo appello della ministra della Cultura greca, Lydia Koniordou, per una soluzione “pacifica”, relativa alla restituzione dei fregi del Partenone di Atene, da parte British Museum di Londra. La ministra ha detto: “C’è l’impegno del governo greco per continuare a richiedere la riunificazione di questo simbolo unico, che è anche il simbolo che testimonia la democrazia e la libertà di parola e l’accettazione dell’altro”. “Il Partenone, ha aggiunto la ministra, è “un monumento che deve essere restituito alla sua integrità perché l’integrità è un concetto molto importante per le opere d’arte e quindi vogliamo fare passi avanti per trovare una soluzione che sia pacifica e che sia mutualmente accettabile”.  Si è quindi costituito ufficialmente un  comitato italiano per la riunificazione dei marmi del Partenone, presieduto dal professore Louis Godart, archeologo e filologo miceneo di fama internazionale, accademico dei Lincei e consigliere per la conservazione del patrimonio artistico del Quirinale.

La  ministra ha commentato: “Chiedo che il neonato comitato italiano insieme agli altri 25 presenti in tutto il mondo uniscano le loro voci per ottenere quello che la maggioranza dei cittadini desidera”. Mentre Godart ha dichiarato: “L’Italia e la Grecia devono condurre una battaglia comune. Se ci pensiamo bene è Roma che ha posato all’Italia e al mondo il messaggio civilizzatore della Grecia classica. quindi è doveroso che l’Italia sia accanto alla Grecia in questa battaglia per la riunificazione di marmi del Partenone, per restituire a questo monumento emblema della democrazia e della civiltà europea il suo antico splendore”“E’ impensabile – ha detto ancora Godart – che un monumento che è stato lacerato duecento anni fa, che rappresenta la lotta della prima democrazia del mondo per la propria sopravvivenza, sia diviso in due. Bisogna considerare che il Partenone non è un monumento qualsiasi ma rappresenta la nostra Europa democratica quindi è fondamentale che questo monumento sia restituito al suo antico splendore”. 

Source: La Grecia chiede alla Gran Bretagna la restituzione dei Fregi del Partenone

The Rise Of Fake And Forged Works Of Egyptian Modern Art – Artlyst

February 20, 2017 – 09:43

The Rise Of Fake And Forged Works Of Egyptian Modern Art

The discovery of fake and forged works has been something that has plagued the art market for centuries. There have been a number of famous cases, including the fake Frans Hals that Sotheby’s recently sold for ten million dollars, only to have to revoke the sale after the work was revealed as a forgery. On the contrary, there is very little written on the rise of forgery in non-Western artistic tradition. I have recently become incredibly fascinated by the rise of fake and forged works in Egyptian modernist art, which was sparked by the incredible story of my friend Ahmed Khedr’s family. 

I am very lucky to have access to such a personal account of forgery and the Khedrs very graciously provided me with a firsthand explanation of their case. The Khedrs were the first individuals to ever bring to court the issue of fake and forged works in Egypt. The family’s story, as well as the general rise of forged works in Egypt’s art market, bring up a multitude of the issues surrounding copies and fakes in the better known cases. In my interviews with both Ahmed and his mother, May Zeid, we examined the complex psychology behind the forgery and the many motivations behind forging and faking famous works of art. Their story is also an example of a forger who took advantage of the ideal situation and time to create these forged works, in this case a rise in market value and a desire to celebrate Egyptian culture and art. Lastly, Egypt is a country in which laws protecting collectors against frauds barely exist. This, along with a general lack of knowledge of Egyptian modern painting, makes Egypt a unique example in terms of contemplating innovative solutions to thwart the production of fake and forged works.

The main artist that Ayoub and Hassan forged was a painter named Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar

In 2005, Adel Youssry Khedr and May Zeid charged Ayda Ayoub and Youssry Hassan with forgery in the first legal case against the production and sale of forged works in Egypt. Ayoub and Hassan, through the course of two years, sold Zeid and Khedr eighteen forged works. As Zeid said herself, “It was a con played to perfection by the very people who introduced us to collecting”.1 Ayoub was a well-respected figure in the arts who dealt works and served on the board of both the Ministry of Culture and the Mahmoud Khali Museum and Hassan was a lesser-known painter. Ayoub was the mastermind behind the forgeries and Hassan carried out the deeds with his hand. Ayoub used her strong reputation and connections in the arts to gain the trust of her victims. As an adviser for the Ministry of Culture, she was even hired to authenticate works, and her opinions were unquestionably trusted. Hassan had the right amount of skill and loyalty towards Ayoub to make him the perfect accomplice.

The main artist that Ayoub and Hassan forged was a painter named Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar, although they also forged works by Mahmoud Said, Hamed Nada, Tahia Halim, and Hassan Soliman. Ayoub was able to get her hands on a large sum of El-Gazzar works after his death by promising his family to promote and exhibit him. El-Gazzar is now one of Egypt’s most celebrated artists and because he painted relatively few works during his lifetime, his work has been victim to a number of forgeries.

May Zeid met Ayda Ayoub at her daughter’s dance class, and the two quickly became close friends. Around this time same, Hassan befriended Zeid’s husband Adel Youssry Khedr. Zeid and Khedr were encouraged to buy Hassan’s work, but they were additionally offered many works by Egypt’s most impressive modernist painters. Every single work offered and sold to Zeid and Khedr were later to be deemed fake. Ayoub and Hassan would dissuade Zeid and Khedr from purchasing works from other dealers or galleries by insisting that it was disloyal. In reality, Ayoub and Hassan wanted to both keep selling Zeid and Khedr as many forged works as they could as well as keep them in the dark about their shady business. At one point Zeid and Khedr purchased two Effat Nagui works from a different dealer and Hassan and Ayoub quickly offered to repair the works. Instead of repairing, Hassan made copies of the works and swapped the originals with fakes. There were also instances in which other dealers warned Zeid and Khedr that Ayoub and Hassan were known to forge paintings. Because of their unquestionable loyalty, Zeid and Khedr always interpreted this as dealers attempting to steal them as clients.

Fake El Gazzar Painting

Fake El Gazzar Painting

The forgeries came to light with the opening of an exhibition of Samir Rafi, an important artist that Zeid and Khedr had been interested in. Ayoub and Hassan previously tried to sell to them works by Rafi but Zeid and Khedr had never been interested in those specific works, which is fortunate for Zeid and Khedr as they were undoubtedly fake. Zeid and Khedr brought Hassan with them to the exhibition as an adviser and decided to purchase a couple works from the show. The dealer came to Zeid and Khedr’s house to finalize the payment and see their collection. At the time, Darwish did not make any comments on their collection, which Zeid and Khedr thought to be very odd. Shortly after the payments were completed, Darwish sent Zeid and Khedr a book on Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar and Said El Farsi’s collection, which were both not available for purchase. When Zeid and Khedr opened the catalogues, they were shocked to find the same paintings hanging on their walls, with slight variations. In El-Gazzar’s catalogue, they saw parts of separate paintings all combined in one of the works they owned. At the sight of this, Zeid and Khedr invited a different dealer over, who notified them that three-quarters of their collection was likely to be inauthentic. Zeid set up a meeting with El-Gazzar’s wife and brought the El-Gazzar works Ayoub had sold her. El-Gazzar’s wife knew immediately that the works were not only fake, but the products of Ayoub and Hassan. She told Zeid that Ayoub and Hassan had been forging El- Gazzar’s work for a long time and she had tried to get them arrested on several occasions but was never successful. El-Gazzar’s wife had seen many of the same works circulate throughout the years and had spoken to many of the victims of Ayoub’s con. Unfortunately, prior to Zeid and Khedr, these victims would make deals with Ayoub, who would return their money in exchange for the fake paintings, which she’d quickly resell to others.

Because of this, Ayoub’s con business was kept relatively under wraps and she was never faced with legal repercussions. As Zeid said herself, “It was a structured plan where they would keep selling fake paintings, make a large profit and if they were ever caught, they would silently return all the money, regain back the forgeries and move on to the next victim”.2 Zeid and Khedr were the first to ever challenge this. When Zeid and Khedr first approached Ayoub and Hassan about the forgeries, they offered to not press legal charges if their money was returned and the forged works were destroyed in front of them. They made it clear that they would not accept any deal that did not include the destruction of the fakes. Not only did Ayoub and Hassan decline this offer, they began to spread rumors that Zeid and Khedr were actually the ones who were forging works.

At this offense, Zeid and Khedr decided to take the forged works to the police. No member of the police department had any knowledge of the art market and was in fact shocked at the amount of money that these works sold for. Because many of the transactions were without invoices and receipts, Zeid and Khedr’s only evidence were the paintings themselves and the witnesses they were able to collect to testify. Fortunately, they managed to bring together an impressive number of individuals that were willing to testify on their behalf in court. On top of this, they embarked on collecting documentation and reports signed by experts in the art world that would attest to the works being fake. Their witnesses included members of the Conservation Department at the Egyptian Museum of Modern art, other collectors who had been victim to Ayoub’s con, the artists’ relatives, and one living artist that Ayoub had forged named Hassan Soliman. Soliman recalled Ayoub and Hassan meeting at his studio several decades back. He also testified that at this same time, Hassan, who was hired to clean his studio, must have started collecting unfinished works that Soliman would toss aside. Hassan finished these

works and later on, with Ayoub’s direction, sold them as original works. On the defense, Hassan claimed that the works were indeed real and that he had only sold Zeid and Khedr three out of the eighteen works on trial. Ayoub denied involvement altogether and maintained the argument that Zeid and Khedr had forged the works themselves. The premise of her argument was that Zeid’s aunt was a painter and had painted Zeid a fake Monet, which Zeid had hanging on her wall. Although Zeid’s aunt signed her own name and was quite obviously not attempting to trick or con anyone, Ayoub argued that Zeid’s aunt had forged the eighteen works.

Fake Mahmoud Said Watercolour

Fake Mahmoud Said Watercolour

After the testimonies, the court called upon a committee of experts to examine the paintings, who gave a unanimous decision that the works were fake. The court declared Ayoub guilty as the main offender and Hassan as her accomplice. Because the court has no specific laws against art forgery, Ayoub and Hassan were charged more generally with embezzlement and fraud. She was sentenced to a year in prison and Hassan was sentenced to three. Ayoub and Hassan appealed the court’s decision and a new panel of judges were appointed to look over the case. After the surprising new decision that Ayoub and Hassan were innocent, it came out that Ayoub had bribed one of the judges to produce a verdict in her favor. Zeid and Khedr rightfully appealed and the case was taken to the Supreme Court. Ayoub was charged with a year in prison in May of 2006 and passed away in December 2006 from heart failure, before her sentenced started. Although she did not live to serve her sentence, the last couple months of Ayoub’s life were filled with shame and her reputation, both professional and personal, was completely destroyed. Hassan also passed away before his sentence of three years began. Zeid and Khedr, although not fully satisfied with the country’s lack of legal protection against art forgery, raised significant public awareness on the issue of forgery and were able to stop Ayoub from selling another fake work ever again. They continued to collect Egyptian art and have since built one of the most impressive collections in the country. Furthermore, they are very proud to have taken the moral route, even though the legal system, among other issues, seemed to be against them.

Forged works by Ayoub and Hassan circulated the art market in Egypt for thirty years. Ayoub took advantage of the country’s lack of knowledge on Egyptian modernist painters as well as the the absence of laws to protect against the purchase of forged works. She struck at the ideal time, as many forgers do, when demand for Egyptian modernist works was high. Ayoub, who was also an aspiring painter herself, shared with Hassan a sense of satisfaction each time they got away with their con. She would frequently tell Zeid that she longed to be “a famous artist one day, even if it ends up being the death of me”.3 The fact that people paid high sums of money and believed their creations to be real boosted their egos and justified their own belief in their artistic skills. Each time they would sell a work, they were able to internally prove themselves as equals to some of the biggest Egyptian artists in the 20th century. Ayoub enjoyed in particular that she was able to con and make fools of some of the most intelligent and cultured people in Egypt. It seems evident that for Ayoub her success was not only in terms of monetary value, but served a psychological purpose, as is the case with many other studied forgers.

Words By Gracie Brahimy © Artlyst 2017 

Source: The Rise Of Fake And Forged Works Of Egyptian Modern Art – Artlyst

Forgeries are hurting the art market – but I’d buy ones this good | Art and design | The Guardian

February 16, 2017 – 08:47

Forgeries are hurting the art market – but I’d buy ones this good

Jonathan Jones15/02/2017

How can you tell when the art market is terrified? Perhaps when a leading auction house sets up its own forensic department, so it can offer art collectors the additional reassurance of a battery of scientific tests when they fork out hundreds of thousands, or even millions, on a painting that may be a masterpiece – or may be a fake. Sotheby’s New York has recently done just that. It has purchased the research company Orion Analytical, whose forensic knowledge will now be part of its own brand.

Sotheby’s has good reason to buttress its expertise with objective scientific tests on such crucial clues as the age of the materials a work of art contains. For there is a crisis in the art trade. Allegations of forgeries are proliferating in a way that is troubling to think about.

Just a week ago, it emerged that Sotheby’s is taking legal action against art dealer Mark Weiss, in the latest chapter in an eye-popping story of suspected art crime. Weiss sold Sotheby’s a painting by Frans Hals that it sold on to a US buyer – but Sotheby’s has since declared the work a fake, reimbursed the purchaser, and is taking Weiss to court. Weiss will contest the claim. The painting is said to be part of a sophisticated forgery network that also created a painting of David, supposedly done by Orazio Gentileschi on lapis lazuli, though as yet this has not been proved and the National Gallery, to whom the work had been loaned, said: “The gallery always undertakes due diligence on a work coming on loan as well as a technical examination.” Meanwhile, a painting supposedly by Lucas Cranach the Elder was seized by French authorities from an exhibition in 2016, after claims it was also a forgery. The owners of the Cranach painting also deny the forgery claims.

In January, Sotheby’s said a painting of St Jerome that it sold as a work by the great 16th-century painter Parmigianino, or someone who worked with him, is definitely a modern fake. Testing by Orion Analytical confirmed this, for it found that 21 separate samples “contained the modern synthetic pigment phthalocyanine green, which was first used in paints nearly four centuries after Parmigianino died.”

Painting of Saint Jerome, originally attributed to the circle of Parmigianino. Sotheby’s has called the painting a fake and reimbursed the buyer.

Painting of Saint Jerome, originally attributed to the circle of Parmigianino. Sotheby’s has called the painting a fake and reimbursed the buyer. Photograph: Sotheby’s

You don’t get to be a business as big and enduring as Sotheby’s – founded in 1744, when William Hogarth was satirising the 18th-century art trade that filled stately homes with Old Masters – without staying ahead of the game. That game is reassurance. Having been victims of a forgery scam that is still unravelling, it is now rushing to admit its own errors and offer the latest science as part of its service.

Yet the real mystery is – if these are forgeries, who are the forgers? How have they fooled so many experts?

The research by Orion Analytical shows they did not bother to imitate historical materials. This is odd. Surely, it would make sense to avoid using a colour such as phthalocyanine green, which was bound to be detected if St Jerome was tested. Why would a sophisticated forgery ring make silly mistakes like this?

We can see something else about the forgers. My god, they can paint. One or more extremely talented painters are involved. St Jerome is an impressive piece of work. The bare upper body of the saint is a fine exercise in nude painting. The background is more formulaic – perhaps that’s why the “experts” decided it might be by Parmigianino’s “circle” rather than the master himself – yet the painter who did this could surely, given the right opportunities, be a Lucian Freud in the making.

David with the Head of Goliath. attributed to Orazio Gentileschi, now being investigated as a possible forgery.

David with the Head of Goliath. attributed to Orazio Gentileschi, now being investigated as a possible forgery. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Does not this combination of artistic talent and technique, impressively inventing a mannerist masterpiece, yet not bothering to use historically appropriate pigments, suggest an oddly innocent crime ring?

Perhaps, far from being calculating con artists led by a 21st-century Mr Ripley, these forgers are a group of young painters putting their skills to illicit use, for fun as much as money. I don’t usually see anything romantic in art crime, but I am starting to sneakily like these guys.

Skilled painting is no longer valued by our culture in the way it used to be. Painters have a very hard job getting recognition. Being able to paint like Parmigianino means nothing in an age when interactivity, photographic media and moving images fill galleries such as Tate Modern. I am not saying it’s wrong for the craft of painting to be so diminished. It may be a historical inevitability. As the art historian Michael Baxandall argued, people tend to like using the skills they learn in daily life when they look at art. Many people today work on screens, using brains, not hands – so of course they like looking at conceptual art.

Yet the more I think about these mysterious forgers, the more I am on their side. They must have trained for years to paint so well. They are so good they can mimic the masters of the 16th and 17th centuries – yet that skill has no place among the theoretical moves and merciless iconoclasms of contemporary art. So perhaps they have taken a bizarre revenge on an art market so obsessed with the new that it has plainly been failing to properly scrutinise the less fashionable old masters that pass through its hands.

Anyway that’s how I picture this artistic underworld. It will be fascinating to find out the truth. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t mind owning one of those beautiful fakes.

Since you’re here …

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Source: Forgeries are hurting the art market – but I’d buy ones this good | Art and design | The Guardian

Forger who sold ‘pitman painter’ fakes jailed – BBC News

January 26, 2017 – 08:56

Forger who sold ‘pitman painter’ fakes jailed

Norman Cornish
Image caption Norman Cornish died in 2014

A fraudster destabilised the international art market by selling forged works of so-called “pitman painter” Norman Cornish, a court heard.

Richard Pearson, 56, from Sunderland, passed off 14 drawings and pictures to a gallery in Northumberland, leaving it more than £50,000 out of pocket.

He admitted fraud and forgery charges at Newcastle Crown Court and was jailed for three years and seven months.

Cornish was known for his paintings of industrial life in the North East.

The court was told Pearson was caught out after he made a “school boy error” when he used post-decimalisation prices on a fake receipt he claimed was from the 1960s.

Prosecutor Mark Giuliani said: “What was instantly and readily apparent was rather than being in pounds, shillings and pence it was in decimal pounds and pence.”

The telephone number he used was also too long to be real.

‘Convincing fakes’

Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors, who the gallery in Corbridge has since had to refund.

Previously Pearson pleaded guilty to nine charges of fraud, two of forgery and two of using a false instrument with intent between December 2011 and February 2014.

Jailing him, Judge Edward Bindloss said the fakes were “convincing” and had caused confidence in the art market to diminish.

The family of Mr Cornish were present in court and in a pre-prepared statement said they hoped the conviction and the destruction of the fakes would restore confidence within the market.

Paul Currer, defending, said Pearson wanted to apologise for his behaviour and would pay back the money through a fleet of cars he gained from an inheritance.

Prosecutors said they would use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the money he owed.

Cornish, who died in August 2014, was a former miner who learned his craft at an art course run for pitmen at Spennymoor Settlement in County Durham.

His works have sold for five-figure sums.

Source: Forger who sold ‘pitman painter’ fakes jailed – BBC News

High Art, Wall Street Money, and Forgery Claims Collide in Quiet Corner of N.H.

January 13, 2017 – 08:40

High Art, Wall Street Money, and Forgery Claims Collide in Quiet Corner of N.H.

By Todd Bookman

Mercenaries IV, a painting by artist Leon Golub from 1980.

Credit Jennifer Mei/Creative Commons

Between 2009 and 2011, a local art history professor sold two dozen paintings from her personal collection. The works were all by a major American artist she claimed to know personally. The purchaser was a wealthy Wall Street commodities trader.

Now, it appears these paintings–valued at nearly $700,000–may have been forgeries.

The courts are involved, the buyer isn’t commenting, and the seller, whose whereabouts were a mystery for months, has surfaced in Keene, New Hampshire.

The artist at the center of this case is Leon Golub, a New York-based painter who died in 2004. Golub’s works, some small, others massive wall-sized canvasses, aren’t always easy to look at. They deal with violence and power, including roughly sketched images of prisoners being tortured, of police brutality and dictators.

Golub may not be a household name, but his works are in the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Whitney Museum.

“I once described myself as a machine for producing monsters, and I keep producing them,” Golub told an interviewer for a documentary. “But my production of monsters is really miniscule, compared to the real production of monsters.”

British-born Andrew Hall is a fan of Leon Golub. He’s also well-known on Wall Street as an oil trader, notorious for garnering a $100 million bonus at the height of the Great Recession.

“Whoever you are, you are operating essentially within a budget,” Hall told a Florida PBS station during a roundtable on art collecting. “And that budget, I think, can go much farther when you seek out overlooked corners of the art world.”

According to court filings, in 2009, Hall bid $47,500 at a Christie’s auction, taking home an untitled Golub painting. Hall would later come to believe that the painting had been consigned to the auction house by a New Hampshire woman, Lorettann Gascard, and her son, Nikolas Gascard.

‘These works were not painted by Golub. They are clever forgeries.’

The Gascards allegedly told Christie’s that they acquired the Golub painting directly from the artist, who had been a teacher of Lorettann’s in college in the late 1960s.

Hall was interested in purchasing more works, and eventually reached out to the Gascards directly. By the end of 2011, Hall owned 24 Golub paintings acquired through the Gascard family.

Then, in 2015, Hall and staff members at his foundation planned a major exhibit of more than 60 Golub works. In preparation, the Hall Art Foundation contacted the estate of Leon Golub to check details of the art works, including the exact titles and the dates.

The Golub estate wrote back to the Foundation confirming many of the works, but the artist’s family also raised a red flag.

Dr. Lorettann Gascard, in Germany, in a photo from 1994.

Credit Mario Justel/Berlin Observer

While they maintained an extensive inventory of nearly everything Golub had painted, there were no records for the 24 paintings Hall had acquired from the Gascards. They said there were “unusual formal characteristics” in these works, and that members of the Golub family had never heard Leon mention a friendship with Lorettann.

They concluded that the works were “likely forgeries.”

A Shock, But Not Shocking

It’s not often that Rindge, N.H., finds itself in the spotlight of the international art world. But neighbors of the Gascards, who lived in this small community until recently, say the case of alleged forgery is odd, but not exactly shocking.

“When I read the account of that, I was not surprised at all,” says a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. “I liked her personally when I met her. I talked to her, her son. But I was absolutely not surprised at all when this happened.”

The neighbor described her as friendly, deeply intelligent, but also secretive and, at times, peculiar.

A full time professor at nearby Franklin Pierce University, Gascard, 68, was born in New York City. According to an online biography, she earned a Ph. D. in Germany, and lived and worked in Bangladesh, Austria and several African countries.

She began teaching art history at the school in 1997. Students described her as a striking figure, often dressed in all-black. Like any professor, she had her fans and her detractors.

‘Since the litigation is ongoing we are only at liberty to state that we intend to address these false allegations vigorously.’

“I did learn a lot about art history,” says Cathyrn Michaud, a 2009 graduate of Franklin Pierce who took Gascard’s class as a freshman. “I think she knows her stuff. But as far as person-to-person, she was not an easy person to be around, by any means.”

Gascard left Franklin Pierce in 2015 after settling an age discrimination suit with the school. Court documents in that case describe a contentious work environment, a feeling that was confirmed by several faculty members.

Gascard now finds herself back in the legal system. After learning of the alleged Golub forgeries, Andrew Hall filed a complaint in New Hampshire’s federal court last September against both Gascard and her son seeking damages of nearly $700,000.

For months, the whereabouts of the Gascards were unclear. Neither responded to a court summons, they moved out of their apartment in Rindge, and a private investigator hired by Hall couldn’t find them.

Last week, however, the Gascards re-emerged in nearby Keene, living in another modest white apartment. While they declined an interview request, emails from both Lorettann and Nikolas to NHPR say they will fight the “false allegations vigorously.”

But they haven’t yet filed a formal response in court, or provided any further explanation for how exactly they came into possession of what appear to be 24 forged Leon Golub paintings.

Source: High Art, Wall Street Money, and Forgery Claims Collide in Quiet Corner of N.H.

F Is for Forgery: Van Gogh’s Lost Arles Sketchbook :: Visual Arts :: Features :: Paste

January 6, 2017 – 22:00

F Is for Forgery: Van Gogh’s Lost Arles Sketchbook

F Is for Forgery: Van Gogh's Lost Arles Sketchbook

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most celebrated artists of the past two hundred years. It comes down to his uniquely known style. The way the paint builds on his canvasses to illuminates a body of water. Or the wicked curves of a cypress tree juxtaposed to the rigid lines of a church. And there’s something especially transfixing about the way Van Gogh rendered the human face, seeing some compelling thing no one else had captured before. So finding a notebook of 65 previously undiscovered sketches completed while the legendary artist was in an asylum could be a momentous occasion for the art world. Unless, of course, they are forgeries.


Two scholars recently brought to light such a discovery. Bogomila Welsh-Ovarchov and Ronald Pickvance verified the sketches as authentic before collecting them into a new book, Vincent Van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook. The book suggests that the 65 drawings found in an account ledger date from spring 1888 to 1890, during Van Gogh’s documented time in Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Welsh-Ovarchov and Pickvance are celebrated Van Gogh scholars who have long worked in concert with some of the most respected museums on major exhibitions, so it came as a surprise when the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam issued a formal statement insisting the Arles sketches are, in fact, fake.

The assertion of the museum is that not only is the provenance of the sketchbook questionable, but the style, technique, materials and iconography of the drawings are merely rote imitations of Van Gogh’s work. The most damning piece of evidence is the color of the ink used to create the landscapes, still lifes, and portraits within the ledger; none are typical of the artist’s authenticated works. Van Gogh preferred black or purple inks which turn brown over time from exposure to light. The Arles sketches were drawn solely in Sepia. This mimics the aged inks in color, certainly. But a notebook hidden away for over a century wouldn’t have been exposed to light. The original ink color should be unchanged. The Van Gogh Museum explains:

It is claimed in The Lost Arles Sketchbook that the ink of the drawings in the sketchbook has undergone the same discolouration; according to this reasoning, it must have originally been black. But that is impossible; the sepia shellac ink used for the drawings is inherently brown and was never black; it therefore has not discoloured. The paper is greenish-blue in colour and approximately 200 years old, and paper of that colour and age loses its original hue when exposed to light. Yet the paper is not discoloured either. This is because the sketchbook is an album and has therefore not been exposed to light. But considering that the ink and paper have not discoloured, the maker of the drawings in the sketchbook must have been deliberately striving for brownish effects.

Controversies between academics and institutions are not unusual in the authentication business: a recent Beethoven score proved to be unsalable at a Sotheby’s auction after being declared a fake. It was discovered that one of the two scholars who refused to authenticate the questionable Allegretto in B Minor later tried to persuade the owner to part with it for less than one percent of the Sotheby’s determined value. Welsh-Ovarchov and Pickvance knew of the Van Gogh Museum’s position on the authenticity of the journals yet The Lost Arles Sketchbook contains no mention of the museum’s doubts. The scholars should have included this information and refuted it.

There is a chance that the pieces might some day be authenticated after further analysis. New scientific developments in forgery identification allow some previously disputed works to be confirmed as fakes – or as the real deal. The Van Gogh Museum authenticated a painting by the troubled Dutch master in 2013; it was the first time a work was added to Van Gogh’s oeuvre since 1928. Axel Rüger, the museum’s director, called the large work “the culmination of his artistic achievement, his period in Arles in the south of France.” Rüger’s museum had declared the painting a fake two decades earlier.

Source: F Is for Forgery: Van Gogh’s Lost Arles Sketchbook :: Visual Arts :: Features :: Paste

Furti d’arte in Italia: il grande lavoro dei Carabinieri

January 6, 2017 – 10:18

Furti d’arte in Italia: il grande lavoro dei Carabinieri


carabinieri con dell'arte rubataI furti d’arte, ancora oggi dilaganti e dalle conseguenze incalcolabili sulla conservazione del patrimonio storico-artistico del Bel Paese, hanno radici molto profonde.

I primi tentativi di regolamentazione del fenomeno risalgono al 1624, ed in particolare si debbono allo Stato della Chiesa. Nonostante la diffusa arretratezza sociale ed economica causata dall’asfissiante autorità temporale, lo Stato del Vaticano si pone all’avanguardia nella prassi tutoria, come modello ed esempio per tutti gli altri coevi Stati italiani. Ciò si deve principalmente alla sensibilità dei pontefici e della curia romana, grandi mecenati e promotori dell’arte e dell’architettura sacra, ispiratori di un’ininterrotta serie di bolle papali e di editti cardinalizi: emanati tra il Quattrocento e l’Ottocento, questi provvedimenti hanno garantito la conservazione ed il decoro dei beni architettonici, delle cose d’interesse storico-artistico e dell’urbanistica nei territori romani.

Oggi, a presidio della nostra ricchezza artistica, archeologica ed architettonica opera il Comando Carabinieri “Tutela Patrimonio Culturale” (T.P.C.), reparto specializzato dell’Arma fortemente impegnato a salvaguardare le opere d’arte italiane dal pericolo di azioni criminali riguardanti furti, scavi clandestini e contraffazione. Dai dati statistici presentati (fonte: Banca Dati Carabinieri T.P.C.) relativi all’attività operativa del 2015, è confermata la flessione del trafugamento di opere d’arte (un trend già in atto dal 2011), nello specifico una diminuzione generale dei furti (-26,1%) e dei beni (-42,5%). Significativo rilevare che i beni maggiormente trafugati (che vanno ad alimentare il mercato antiquario clandestino) sono i libri e i documenti d’archivio conservati presso gli istituti religiosi.

Altrettanto “appetibili” per la criminalità sono le opere pittoriche e scultoree. Si riscontra, inoltre, una riduzione dei furti nelle istituzioni museali (-39%); una diminuzione dei furti nelle chiese e negli istituti religiosi (-39%), ed anche una flessione dei furti presso i privati (-41,3%). In generale, a fronte di un rilevante aumento degli arresti (+360%), si registra dai dati una diminuzione dei furti (-26,1%) ed una flessione degli scavi clandestini (-64,4%). Tale fenomeno, presente soprattutto in Campania e Sicilia, alimenta il mercato illegale interno di reperti archeologici di minor valore, ed al contempo il traffico internazionale (su richiesta di numerosi collezionisti); in tale ambito uno dei settori più sensibili risulta essere quello della numismatica archeologica.

Riguardo la contraffazione di opere d’arte, si rileva un ampliamento di tale fenomeno, dovuto allo sviluppo delle tecniche di falsificazione e ad un aumento della domanda da parte del mercato illegale: a fronte di una generale diminuzione dei sequestri (1.601), si registra un rilevante incremento dei falsi archeologici sequestrati (+3.613%).

Altrettanto intensa attività repressiva è stata indirizzata sul versante dei reati ambientali, nello specifico violazioni paesaggistiche in aree sottoposta a tutela, provocate dalla speculazione edilizia. Sono stati accertati 483 reati in danno del paesaggio, 23 aree poste sotto sequestro e 23 immobili sottoposti a tutela: pari ad un valore di 16 milioni di euro.
In campo internazionale, l’attività investigativa del T.P.C. ha permesso il rientro in Italia di ben 741 beni illecitamente esportati (rintracciati in Svizzera, Germania, USA, San Marino e Svezia), grazie anche alle rogatorie internazionali ed all’azione diplomatica del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali; il valore stimato dei beni recuperati è pari a 500 milioni di euro.

Un’opera altamente meritoria quella del Comando dei CC. per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, di cui sicuramente il nostro Paese non può fare a meno.

Antonio Maria Ligresti

Source: Furti d’arte in Italia: il grande lavoro dei Carabinieri

Kwame Opoku – Did Egyptians Never Ask For The Restitution Of Nefertiti?

December 27, 2016 – 15:09

Did Egyptians Never Ask For The Restitution Of Nefertiti?Universal Museum Enthusiast Wrestles With Veracity And Reality

Right side of Nefertiti, Egypt, now in Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany.

Right side of Nefertiti, Egypt, now in Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany.

“The restitution of those cultural objects which our museums and collections, directly or indirectly, possess thanks to the colonial system and are now being demanded, must also not be postponed with cheap arguments and tricks.”

Gert v. Paczensky and Herbert Ganslmayr, Nofretete will nach Hause. (1)

One of the enduring characteristics of the supporters of the so-called universal museum seems to be a determination not to be deflected from their position by any amount of information or knowledge that seems unfavourable to the adopted position. They remind us of the statement ‘Don’t confuse me with facts’. They adamantly refuse to acknowledge that the owners of looted artefacts or artefacts acquired under dubious circumstances, want their objects back. They cannot admit for one moment that the owners of the artefacts in Western museums are also interested in those objects. In the face of demands for the return of the looted Benin Bronzes, we are told no one has asked for them even if a Nigerian minister has gone to Berlin for that purpose. That the Oba of Benin sent his brother to speak before the British Parliament is conveniently ignored. An example of this attitude is demonstrated by Herman Parzinger, President of. German Foundation for Culture, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz , that controls the Museums in Berlin and the projected Humboldt Forum.

In his book, Abenteurer Archäologie, Eine Reise durch die Menscheitsgeschichte (Archaeology Adventure, Journey through History of Mankind, 2016), Hermann Parzinger makes the claim that Egypt has never officially requested the return of the Bust of Nefertiti that is in the Neues Museum in Berlin:

‘Because of the special importance of the bust, the circumstances of the division of the fund is now and again discussed and representatives of the Egyptian Antiquities Authority occasionally demand the restitution of the bust of Nefertiti. The fact is the division of the fund was done in accordance with the then prevailing legal rules and therefore the Egyptian Government has never officially requested the return of the bust.(2)

This astonishing statement from Parzinger must be viewed again the background of disputes and discussions concerning the Egyptian Queen in Berlin that are as famous as those regarding the Parthenon Marbles in London. We have in the past written on several aspects of the question of restitution regarding the restitution of the bust of Nefertiti. (3)

The impression that Parzinger is trying to create is that the Egyptians have not seriously contested the presence of Nefertiti in Berlin and have not really insisted formally on her restitution. This is contrary to the bulk of evidence that is easily available.

When the Secretary- General of the Egyptian Supreme Authority on Antiquities makes a demand on behalf of his government for the restitution of Nefertiti most people will regard this request as formal enough. But the last time that the dynamic Zahi Hawass , then Secretary-General made such a request to Hermann Parzinger, President of the Preußischer Stiftung that holds the bust, the Germans said such a request had to come from a minister even though Hawass was the head of the office that controlled antiquities in Egypt. Hawass subsequently became a minister and repeated the request but the Germans said such a request had to come from the cabinet or the President: They seemed to be arguing that the President of Egypt must sign such a request. The Germans thus reached the height of absurdity in this matter and were not ashamed of such a baseless argument. (4) Parzinger is reported to have said that even if the Egyptians made a formal demand, it would make no difference. So, what is the point in saying they have not made such a demand? (5)

Egypt at the time of the find of Nefertiti on 6 December 1912 was still

dominated by the British who wielded political control and the French who controlled administration of antiquities. The committee that made the decision to leave the bust to the Germans was composed of Europeans and presided over by a Frenchman. Professor Ludwig Borchardt , the German archaeologist who ‘discovered’ Nefertiti was also a member of the committee.

Long before Zahi Hawass became head of antiquities in Egypt, the Egyptians

had been making claims for the return of Nefertiti. Borchardt had allegedly played a trick on the other members of the committee that divided the fund at Amarna. He had apparently covered the find with a layer of grime so that the other members of the committee who made the evaluation of the find did not properly see the whole lot and thus the importance of the find was not obvious to them. It was decided to leave the socle on which the bust stood in Egypt and let Borchardt have the bust. When he brought the bust to Germany in 1913, there was some hesitation in showing it to the public for fear of Egyptian reaction. Nefertiti was kept secret for ten years. In 1923, the bust was shown in a book by Borchardt, ‘Porträts der Konigin Nofretete’ and after the publication, the Egyptians demanded the return of the Queen but the Germans refused. Hermann Schlögl writes that the French members of the committee that decided the division of the find at Armana were angry when they discovered the trick by Borchardt and requested the immediate return of the bust to Cairo.

Parzinger writes that James Simon as financer of the expedition in Armana acquired Nefertiti and other objects found there. What Parzinger omits to add is that James Simon himself pleaded for the return of the bust of the Egyptian Queen to Egypt and that German officials were agreeable to this and a date had even been set for the transfer until the notorious Adolf Hitler, with his own fantasies of Nefertiti as the centre-piece of a projected gigantic German museum, stepped in and said emphatically ‘Nein’. Dietrich Wildung , a former director of the Agyptische Museum confirms this in his book, Die vielen Gesichter der Nofretete. (7) Subsequent German actions thus followed the wishes of the dictator rather than those of the rich Jewish benefactor Incidentally, the Berlin Museums did not seem to be in a hurry to honour adequately Simon whom Parzinger describes as a great benefactor of the museums in Berlin. Was there a difficulty because he was Jewish? In any case, Simon’s grandson, Hans Karl Westphal, did not seem to have obtained the implementation of assurances made to the benefactor as regards the donations he had made to the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

If Egypt never made an official request for the return of the bust of Nefertiti, as Parzinger alleges, he must explain to us all the various visits of German officials to Egypt to discuss Nefertiti and the various meetings and statements by the German Foreign Ministry and Ministry for Culture denying the restitution of the famous bust. He must also explain why Adolf Hitler had to say’ Nein’ to the return of Nefertiti to Cairo. As the documentation shows, everybody seems to have been aware of meetings and discussion between German and Egyptian officials. (8)

James Simon (1851-1932) financed excavation that found Nefertiti.

Parzinger declares that those who claim restitution of an object acquired legally some hundred years ago, do not recognize the real problem today and refers to current illegal diggings. (9) This is a familiar ploy by the supporters of the so-called universal museum. They tell Africans not to spend efforts and time on artefacts which were transferred hundred years ago, from Africa to the British Museum, the Museums in Berlin and Paris. Our answer is as follows.

We are all equally concerned by the looting of artefacts and illegal diggings that are still taking place in Africa and would like to stop them. But this should not prevent us from claiming at the same time objects that have been looted or transferred under dubious circumstance in the past. The one does not exclude the other, especially when you consider that ancient illegal transfers ended in Western States where contemporary looted objects also end. Perhaps if the West would set a good example in the first case by returning some artefacts such as the Benin Bronzes, this might discourage some of the present looters who would be thus informed that Western institutions are not interested in looted objects and would return them to Africa and punish the illegal dealers.

The advice not to concern ourselves too much with artefacts acquired illegally in the past always sounds a bit strange coming from those whose duty is to research the past and from countries that attach great importance to antique objects. We used to think that a major difference between lawyers and archaeologists was that whereas the lawyers tended to think in terms of statutes of limitations of short periods, three, six or ten years, the archaeologists tended to think in terms of thousands and millions of years. What are hundred years in the life of Egyptian and African peoples?

How can we forget artefacts looted in the past or acquired under dubious circumstances, seeing that the best African artefacts are already in Western States? Does Parzinger realize that artefacts such as the bust of Nefertiti become a constituent element in the creation of a national identity?

Parzinger has not convinced us that his approach to the question of restitution of Nefertiti was based on a scholarly approach especially since he wrongly asserts, contrary to all evidence that the Egyptians have not officially asked for the return of the bust of the Egyptian Queen. Has he not found it necessary to do the archaeology of restitution as he must know that there are several layers of solid information on the issues. But is the President of the Prussian Foundation really interested in such issues, apart from defending the German position to the point of denying the reality of the existence of contrary positions?

Denial of the existence of demands for restitution is probably the weakest of all the weak arguments of the supporters of the universal museum. It is also the most insulting. The denial is very easy to demolish since those deprived of their artefacts are constantly clamouring for their return. Usually, such requests start as soon as the deprived people have recovered from the shock of the deprivation or the shock of the attack as in the case of Benin or the end of colonial domination. Demands for restitution are the most human reaction to acts of deprivation.

Presentation of the bust of Nefertiti shortly after its discovery.

Left to right-Hermann Ranke, Paul Karge, Mohammed Senussi.

Denials of the existence of such demands add insults to injuries by implying that the deprived, not being as cultured as the holders, have not even bothered to ask for the return of their own cultural artefacts. They thus almost deny their humanity since the most natural reaction would be to request return of the objects. Such denials also, reflect the arrogance of the victorious or powerful who tell the weak or defeated: ‘You can shout as much as you want but we will not even hear you. You are wasting your time’.’

Those who deny the existence of requests for restitution act as if the United Nations and UNESCO did not exist: they ignore what the international organizations and international conferences have demanded over the years. They have been requested to return artefacts acquired in the colonial period, looted or acquired under dubious circumstances. ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, puts on the holder States an obligation to take initiative for discussions on returns. (10)

Such denials have the great advantage that one does not have to deal with the substance of the requests since in principle they have not been made. Any groups within Western States that may suggest it is time to return the contested artefacts would be silenced with the indication that the original owners themselves have not even bothered to ask for them.

Such a denial has has been seriously stated in the case of the bust of Nefertiti and the Benin Bronzes. Such is the state of affairs between the powerful and the weak States in our contemporary world.

Considering the extraordinary excessive amount of excellent Egyptian artefacts that Germany has taken from Egypt over the decades, Germans should be ashamed to be seen disputing with Egyptians over an Egyptian artefact, however beautiful and important it may be. It is true though that many Westerners have banned morality and justice from issues of restitution. Greed seems to be the creed here. (11)

“On the other hand, even after giving away the colourful bust of Nefertiti, the Berlin Museum would still be far superior to all other collections, including that in Cairo, as regards the number and artistic value of the artworks from the Amarna period. And among our stock are many pieces that are of higher artistic rank than the elegant bust of the colourful queen”.

James Simon, 28 June 1930 (12)
Kwame Opoku, 25 December, 2016.
1. “Die Rückgabe jener Kulturschätze, die unsere Museen und Sammlungen direkt oder indirekt dem Kolonialsystemverdanken und die jetzt zurückverlangt werden, sollte ebenfalls nicht mit billigen Argumenten und Tricks hinausgezögert werden“.

Gert v. Paczensky and Herbert Ganslmayr, Nofretete will nach Hause, p.185, C.Bertelsmann, München, 1984. It is interesting that Paczensky and Ganslmayr entitled their book in 1984, ‘Nefertiti wants to go home’ but Parzinger tells us in 2016 that the Egyptians have not officially requested her return. Will nobody welcome her in Cairo should she return as she must one day? See also Cultur Cooperation e.V. – Nefertiti travels

Nefertiti Bust – Wikipedia
2. Herman Parzinger, Abenteuer Archäologie, Eine Reise durch die Menschheitsgeschichte, Verlag C. H. Beck, Munich, 2016.p.115

‘Aufgrund der besonderen Bedeutung der Büste wurden die Umstande der Fundteilung immer wieder thematisiert und Vertreter der ägyptischen Altertümerverwaltung fordern gelegentlich der Rückgabe der Nofretete. Fakt ist, dass die Fundteilung den damals gültigen rechtlichen Regelungen folgte, auch deshalb hat die ägyptische Regierung die Büste nie offiziell zurückgefordert.’

3. K. Opoku , Nefertiti in absurdity: How often must Egyptians … …

K. Opoku, Nefertiti, Ideate and other African Icons Revisited …

K. Opoku – Hawass Requests Return of Nefertiti …
Kwame Opoku – Nefertiti, Idia and other African Icons in … › Home › African Art

German foundation refuses to return Nefertiti bust | Reuters …

4. K. Opoku, Nefertiti in Dispute again German: Refusal to envisage her return to Egypt.…/nefertiti-stays-i

5. In a special issue of National Geographic devoted to a Nofretete exhibition in Berlin, ‘Im Lichte von Amarna’, (7 Dezember 2012 to 13 April 2013 in Neuen Museum/Ägyptischen Museum), we read in a text by Christian Schule at p.72, as follows: ”Seit 1924 hat es immer wieder Rückgabefoderungen des ägyptischen Antikendienstes und des Ägyptischen Museums in Kairo gegeben. Vor allem Zahi Hawass, von 2002 an Direktor der Obersten Antikenverwaltung, hat sie bis zum Sturz der Mubarak-Regierung regelmassig erneuert. Der Adressat: Hermann Parzinger, Präsident der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, zu der das Ägyptische Museum gehört. Zweimal habe Hawass ihm persönlich eine kurze Mail geschrieben, sagt Parzinger, die restliche Forderung seien öffentlichkeitswirksam über die Presse gestellt worden. ‘Das ist für uns kein Thema Es gab bis zum heutigen Tage nie eine offizielle Rückforderung der ägyptischen Regierung, und selbst wenn es gäbe, wurde das nichts an der Tatsache ändern, dass es damals eine rechtmassige Fundteilung war.”

An article in the National of 7.12.2012 stated:
However, speculation persists that the Germans cheated their Egyptian counterparts to get hold of Nefertiti, the prize of the dig.

”The archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, who headed the excavation, tried to divert attention from the significance of Nefertiti’s bust during a meeting in January 1913 to divide up the spoils of the exhibition between Egypt and Germany on a 50-50 basis. That, at least, is what the secretary of the German Oriental Society (DOG), Bruno Güterbock, claimed.

In a recently unearthed document, Guterbock, who was at the meeting, wrote that Borchardt had presented Gustave Lefebvre, Egypt’s French inspector of antiquities, with an unflattering photo of the bust and had lied about the material it was made of. He claimed it was made from gypsum, whereas he knew that Nefertiti’s core was made of stone. Güterbock mentioned his misgivings about “cheating on the material” to Borchardt, who dismissed the criticism, saying he could always claim later that he had been mistaken.

Spiegel magazine reported this week that Borchardt had later admitted showing Lefebvre a photo taken from an angle “so that one can’t see the full beauty of the bust, but it will suffice to refute later talk by third parties that anything was kept secret”.

Nefertiti exhibition at Berlin’s Neues Museum stirs a 100 ……/nefertiti-exhibition-at-berlins-neues-museum…

See also a Spiegel article on the question of deception by Borchardt. Re-Examining Nefertiti’s Likeness and Life – ABC News…life/story?..

Interesting information can also be found in Büste der Nofretete – Wikipediaüste_der_Nofretete

6. We find in the very official catalogue of the exhibition Im Licht von Amarna-100 Jahre Fund der Nofretete , held at the Ägyptische Museum und Papyrussamlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 7 Dec 2012 -13 April 2013 in remembrance of James Simon and Ludwig Borchardt, we readapt page 423:

‘Die Ruckgabeauseinandersetzungen und die Faszination um Nofretete von 1924 bis Heute.

Mit ihrer ersten öffentlichen Präsentation im Neuen Museum begannen auch die Rückbeförderungen zunächst von französischer und anschließend von ägyptischer Seite.

Im Jahr1858 hatte der Franzose Auguste Mariette den ‚’Services des Antiquités d’Egypte gegründet und das erste Museum für alt ägyptische Denkmaler in Kairo eigerichtet. Damit lagen die Aufsicht über die Grabungen, die Erteilung von Grabungslizenzen und die Fundteilung in Französischer Hand. (bis1952), während die politische Vormachtstellung in Ägypten seit 1882 Großbritannien innehatte.

Pierre Lacau war der entscheidende Protagonist der ersten Phase der Rückgabefoderung. Er war von 1914 bis 1936 Direktor der Altertümerverwaltung in Kairo und überwachte in dieser Funktion alle archäologischen Grabungen und Forschungen in Ägypten. Aufgrund der Gesetzlichen festgelegten Fundteilung konnte Lacau nur aus moralischen Grunden die Restitution der Büste verlangen, und er versuchte auf verschiedenen Wegen, die Ruckgaben zu erreichten. So erteilte er beispielsweise dem Berliner Museum Grabungsverbot in Ägypten, was jedoch nur zum Teil durchgesetzt wurde.

Der deutsch-französische Konflikt um die Rückgabe der Büste mundete in dem offiziellen Austauschangebot von französischer Seite. Die Büste der Nofretete

Sollte gegen zwei bemerkenswerte und einzigarte Objekte aus dem Kairener Museum getauscht werden: eine Statue des Ranofer aus dem Alten Reich und eine Schreiberfigur des Amenophis ,Sohn des Hapu ,aus dem Neuen Reich. Trotz dieses Angebotes und langer Verhandlungen verblieb die Büste in Berlin. Heinrich Schäfer, der den Austausch bewilligen wollte, scheiterte im Sommer 1930 an der Berliner Presse, die sich in einer Kampagne gegen den Tausch der Büste engagierte. Zahlreiche Berichte erschienen täglich in den Printmedien, so z.B. auch in deutschen Satirezeitungen wie dem Kladderradatsch, wo die Rückbeförderung der Nofretete in Karikaturen thematisiert wurde.

Im Herbst 1933 nahm der preußische Ministerpräsident Hermann Goring mit der ägyptischen Regierung unter King Fuad I. erneu Verhandlungen über eine Rückgabe der Büste auf, die jedoch vom Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler am 1933 abgelehnt wurde.

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Nefertiti in the news ……/controversy-about-bust-of-nefertiti

Hermann A. Schlögl, Nofretete Die Wahrheit über die schöne Königin, C. K. Beck, 2012, pp.15-16.

Carola Wedel writes in her book, Nofretete und das Geheimnis von Amarna Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 2005, p.26:

‘It was not until 1924 that Nefertiti was displayed for the first time in an exhibition in the Neun Museum Berlin. The demands by Egypt for restitution started from this date.’

‘Erst 1924 war Nofretete dann zum ersten Mal in einer Ausstellung im Neun Museum Berlin ausgestellt. Die Rückbeförderungen aus Ägypten haben mit diesem Datum begonnen’

Bénédicte Savoy provides in her excellent book, Nofretete – Eine deutsch-französische Affäre, (Bohlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien, 2011) confirmation of the demands for restitution within the context of Franco-German rivalry.

One can only agree with the author that the restitution of Nefertiti is a case for which France, German and Britain, and the USA, must accept a common historical responsibility towards the Egyptian State. The Nefertiti affair demonstrates the necessity of a discussion on the position of Western museums with regard to the archaeological treasuries which in the 19th and early 20th centuries found their way into their collections. (p.13)

Bénédicte Savoy also throws doubt on the alleged trick by Borchardt and places the whole issue in the context of Franco-German rivalries exacerbated by personal ambitions of the administrators of antiquities in Egypt. This would corroborate suspicions of imperialist collaboration and tolerance of plunder of Egyptian national treasures by Europeans.

G.F.L. Stanglmeier, Der Fall Nofretete-Die Wahrheit über die Königin vom Nil.

Herbig Verlag, 2012 p.18, under the heading Zahi Hawass-Jager der (geklauten?) Büste writes:

‚” In schöner Unregelmäßigkeit forderte seitdem die jeweilige ägyptische Regierung: Nofretete soll nach Hause. Besonders der heftig umstrittene Ex-Antikendirektor und ehemalige Minister für ägyptische Altertümer, Zahi Hawass, sorgte bei diesem Thema wiederkehrend für unfreundliche Schlagzeilen in den Medien. Fast im Zwei-Jahres-Rhythmus meldete er sich offiziell bei zuständigen, aber auch bei nicht zuständigen deutschen Politik-Instanzen und brachte die ‘Painted Queen’ ins Gespräche.’

7. Dietrich Wildung, Die vielen Gesichter der Nofretete, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2013, p. 59 writes: ‘Drei Jahre später, nun unter nationalsozialistischem Regime lebt der Plan des Tauschgeschäftes noch einmal auf. 1933 soll zum Jahrestag der Thronbesteigung von König Fuad die Rückkehr der Nofretete in Kairo offiziell verkündet werden. Im allerletzen Augenblick entscheidet der Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, dass die ‘bunte Königin’ in Berlin bleibt.’

An article in Elginism contains the following on Hitler’s infatuation with Nefertiti: ( Is Nefertiti now more German than Egyptian? – Elginism…nefertiti-now-more-german-than-egyptian/ ..)

‘But Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had other plans. Through the ambassador to Egypt, Eberhard von Stohrer, Hitler informed the Egyptian government that he was an ardent fan of Nefertiti:

“I know this famous bust,” the fuehrer wrote. “I have viewed it and marvelled at it many times. Nefertiti continually delights me. The bust is a unique masterpiece, an ornament, a true treasure!”

Hitler said Nefertiti had a place in his dreams of rebuilding Berlin and renaming it Germania.

“Do you know what Im going to do one day? I’m going to build a new Egyptian museum in Berlin,” Hitler went on.

“I dream of it. Inside I will build a chamber, crowned by a large dome. In the middle, this wonder, Nefertiti, will be enthroned. I will never relinquish the head of the Queen.”

While he did not mention it at the time, Hitler envisioned more for the museum. There was to be an even larger hall of honour, with a bust of Nefertiti.’

See also Adolph Hitler’s Strange Interest in Nefertiti (NOFRETETE)
The infatuation of Hitler with Nefertiti shows the opportunistic and exploitative sides of racism and oppression. Hitler, the Nazi racist, was not disturbed or inhibited from infatuation with an African woman brought from Egypt by a Jewish archaeologist in an excavation financed by a Jewis benefactor. Similar opportunism and exploitation prevail regarding the art and other property looted from victims of Nazism. If a law proclaims restitution, it takes more than half-a century to implement and in the meanwhile what happens to the enormous wealth seized and the victims of Nazism?

Racism under the apartheid system in South Africa (now quickly and conveniently forgotten by some) did not prevent the exploitation of African resources by the Afrikaner regime and its supporters. There was also no inhibition in using Africans as cooks, gardeners and babycarers

Racism in the United States has similarly not inhibited the exploiters from using African-American resources and personnel to look after their children and cook for the masters.

8. Egyptology News: Cool response from Berlin to Egypt’s official Nefertiti ……/cool-response-from-berlin-to-egypts

‘Nefertiti Stays in Berlin!’ Germany Confirms Once More – The ……/nefertiti-stays-i

Egyptian and German Officials to Meet About Nefertiti Bust – The New ……/officials-from-egypt-germany-to-.

More on the dispute over Nefertiti bust – Elginism…dispute…nefertiti…/735/

Dispute with Egypt over Nefertiti bust reignites – The Local
Berlin Now: The City After the Wall –

Illicit Cultural Property: Egypt Makes Claim to Nefertiti…/egypt-makes-claim-to-ne

Judy Dempsey, Egypt Demands Return of Nefertiti Statue , The New York Times, October 19, 2009.

A 3,500-Year-Old Queen Causes a Rift Between Germany and Egypt ……/19iht-germany.htmrr5

9. Para. 6.2 Return of Cultural Property
Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian principles as well as applicable local, national and international legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.

Para. 6.3 Restitution of Cultural Property
When a country or people of origin seeks the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of international and national conventions, and shown to be part of that country’s or people’s cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return.

Para. 6.4 Cultural Objects From an Occupied Country

Museums should abstain from purchasing or acquiring cultural objects from an occupied territory and respect fully all laws and conventions that regulate the import, export and transfer of cultural or natural materials.

10. Parzinger should really read writers such as Kurt G. Siehr on the question of legality of acquisition- ‘The Beautiful one has come-to return’, in John Henry Merryman, Imperialism, Art and Restitution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006, pp.114-134.

11.. Some of the German museums with large collections of Egyptian artefacts are listed below. We did not find any Egyptian museums with collections of German artefacts. The Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin alone has some 100,000 pieces.

Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin, http://www.smb.spk-berllin

Kestner Museum, Hannover
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim
Ägyptisches Museum, Leipzig
Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, München

Museum Schloss Tübingen
Naturmuseum Senckenberg,
We leave out the many collections of Egyptian artefacts in European and American museums. See list of museums with Egyptian artefacts

12. “Andrerseits bliebe das Berliner Museum auch nach Abgabe der farbigen Nofretete – Büste an Fülle und künstlerischem Wert der Kunstwerke aus der Amarnazeit allen übrigen Sammlungen, einschließlich Kairo, überlegen. Und unter unserm Bestande gibt es so manches Stück, das künstlerisch von höherem Range ist als die elegante farbige Büste der Königin. ”

Open Letter from James Simon to the German Minister of Science, Art and Education, 28 June, 1930. Reproduced in, Gert von Paczensky and HerbertGanslymayr, Nofretete will nach Hause: Europa – Schatzhaus der „Dritten Welt “, C. Bertelsmann, 1984 pp. 304-30. length of time. The “most famous Berlin lady” is a LLL the public and the subject of an unresolved dispute. The Egyptian side has protested, threatened, offered other significant cultural assets in exchange and made their most important cultural assets available for exhibitions in Germany. But nothing has been achieved: For the last 95 years Berlin, has been insisting that the ownership is legally perfectly clear and pointing out that ‘Nefertiti’ has long become an integral part of our cultural identity which we are not prepared to.

Disclaimer: “The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.” © Kwame Opoku, Dr..

Source: Did Egyptians Never Ask For The Restitution Of Nefertiti?

How Science Uncovered $80 Million of Fine Art Forgeries | WIRED

December 21, 2016 – 08:09

Highly specialized tools sussed out a fake Jackson Pollock and nearly 40 other forgeries created by a Chinese artist in Queens, New York.

Source: How Science Uncovered $80 Million of Fine Art Forgeries | WIRED

Angkor replicated: How Cambodian workshops produce fake masterpieces, and get away with it

November 30, 2016 – 09:51

Angkor replicated: How Cambodian workshops produce fake masterpieces, and get away with it

Martin Polkinghorne, The Conversation

As part of my work as an archaeologist, my team and I recently discovered an ancient artists’ studio in UNESCO-listed Angkor, an area in Cambodia that was home to numerous capitals of the Khmer Empire and is now one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.

The finest examples of Cambodian art produced at these sites during the Angkorian period (circa 800-1400CE) are recognised as among the greatest artistic masterpieces of the pre-modern world.

Sadly, the looting of such material has caused considerable problems in a world that is progressively becoming concerned about the integrity of both public and private collections.

Since 2014, art institutions and private collectors have returned 11 sculptures to Cambodia. All were looted, or illegally obtained or exported.

This represents a significant post-colonial correction in the ownership of cultural property. But for about the same amount of time that looted art has been traded between buyers and sellers, another issue has remained hidden.

Home to numerous capitals of the Khmer Empire, Angkor is now one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. arielski/Flickr, CC BY-ND
Home to numerous capitals of the Khmer Empire, Angkor is now one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. arielski/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Fakes have overrun the Cambodian antiquity market, their authenticity obscured by the skill of the artists who make them. Indeed, a significant proportion of the artists are so accomplished that the modern origins of their work will probably never be recognised.

A homage to Angkorian sculpture  

The art of Angkor and mainland Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable. In correspondence with me, Helen Jessup, an eminent art historian and the author of six books on Cambodian art, made the connection between war, looting, and fakes:

Civil disturbances roiling Cambodia for 30 years made access difficult and led to a thinning of the ranks of experts in the field, including within Cambodia itself. Political uncertainty enabled illicit access to ancient sites and looting was rampant. Thailand was the usual destination for the stolen objects, handled by networks of middlemen and dealers and serving as models for skilled craftsmen to replicate. Provenance issues in strife-torn regions were fudged and acquisitions increased with few questions asked.

While peace has thankfully returned to Cambodia, the lucrative production of fakes continues.

Few know more about the production of replicas than contemporary artist Jim Sanborn, who witnessed the skill of Cambodian fakers first-hand while researching an art project of his own.

He told me:

Over a four-year period I travelled back and forth to infiltrate the forgery trade in order to gain the knowledge that generations of forgers had used to age their pieces.

The result was Sanborn’s path-breaking work Without Provenance: The Making of Contemporary Antiquity. It presents sandstone sculptures made in Cambodia and falsely aged in his US studio.

Jim Sanborn is a celebrated artist with pieces in collections worldwide, but he is still seeking an exhibitor for this challenging work that exposes the faking of Khmer art. The subversion of Without Provenance is testament to the unease with which custodians of Southeast Asian art approach authenticity and provenance.

Makers and models  

In 2012, I accompanied Sanborn to a workshop in rural Cambodia. Posing as an art collector, I was offered contemporary replicas as genuine Angkorian sculptures. Objects like the ones we examined are sold at international auctions for anywhere between ten to one hundred times the sale price in rural Cambodia.

Fake sculptures artificially ageing in bath of nitric acid. Jim Sanborn
Fake sculptures artificially ageing in bath of nitric acid. Jim Sanborn

We were shown numerous sculptures in various stages of production. Even with an expert’s eye, often the only clue to the sculptures’ contemporaneity was the fact that we saw them in a workshop.

The art works were created using techniques not employed to produce art for the tourist market. Polishing obscures the giveaway marks that modern tungsten-tipped chisels leave behind, for instance.

At two or three months, the carving process is relatively quick compared to the task of artificial ageing, which can take many years.

Identifying a fake sculpture is not an easy task. Artists work within a family tradition, with knowledge passed from master to apprentice. Certain practices of cultural and artistic reproduction might well be unbroken since the time of Angkor.

Master craftsmen do not copy known sculptures, but design original works in the style of a particular time period. Variations in decoration, iconography and quality are commonly used to mimic actual antiquities.

To make matters more difficult, identifying a genuine sculpture is not very simple either. Even the most accomplished connoisseur will question authentic sculptures that intentionally reference iconography and motifs from earlier periods. For example, a group of sculptures produced in the ninth century have only recently been identified as 12th century copies.

When I asked Helen Jessup about identifying fakes and their proliferation, she said:

It will probably never be certain which of the pieces acquired from as early as the 1980s are real and which are fakes, but it is fair to ask why nobody wondered why, after almost a century of diligent research and acquisition by the French, so many, and so many perfect sculptures were appearing.

Revisiting authenticity  

An intentionally broken fake Angkorian sculpture being artificially aged. Jim Sanborn
An intentionally broken fake Angkorian sculpture being artificially aged. Jim Sanborn

Technical analyses are the best tests. Regrettably, these are not foolproof either. Contemporary artists use the same sources of stone as the ancients; and fakers can replace clay cores of contemporary sculptures with ancient ones to avoid detection by scientific dating techniques.

Assistant Professor Christian Fischer from the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program is an expert in the types of stone used by ancient Cambodian artists.

Fischer told me about the extent to which fakers are one step ahead of would-be experts:

Fakers are aware of the published research that can help them to improve their artificial ageing procedures. For example, from the late 1990s, the appearance of questionable sculptures showing a surface layer enriched in manganese might be related to equivalent descriptions of manganese in the academic literature. This feature is absent on notorious fakes made in the 1970s and 1980s.

We continuously change the way objects of the past are appreciated and represented in terms of the present. Angkorian sculptures have always been treasured for their aesthetic beauty and as we learn more about them, we begin to recognise their significance to those who produced and venerated them, and especially their value to Cambodians today.

The ancient sculptures of Southeast Asia embody impressive examples of human creativeness and increase cross-cultural knowledge. But how might we accept replica sculptures acquired from a market full of objects with insufficient provenance?

Fearing the potential reputational damage that will follow if they’re known to have fallen prey to fakers’ deception, some custodians of Cambodian and Southeast Asian sculptures do not seek clarity on authenticity.

Products of a faking workshop offered for sale at the site of their manufacture. Jim Sanborn
Products of a faking workshop offered for sale at the site of their manufacture. Jim Sanborn

But as problematic as they are, rigorous independent technical analyses can test the legitimacy of sculptures. In recognising fakes, custodians can come to terms with how past collecting encouraged the production of forgeries and the looting of sacred archaeological sites.

Whether real or replica, the sculptures are original works of art and worthy of celebration. They are produced by Cambodian artists with abilities equal to that of their Angkorian ancestors.

Still, custodians have a responsibility to follow a process of due diligence to ensure objects in their possession are authentic. Acknowledging the true character of the sculptures is the only way forward for caretakers who wish to address acquisition customs of the past.

Failure to do so will see both real and fake sculptures languish in storerooms, have fakes attain legitimacy as ancient, or ensure buyers are fooled again by the fakers’ skills.

Martin Polkinghorne, Research Fellow in Archaeology, Flinders University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

Source: Angkor replicated: How Cambodian workshops produce fake masterpieces, and get away with it

Art world rocked by ‘genius’ £200m Old Masters forgery scandal – The i newspaper online iNews

October 21, 2016 – 19:54

Art world rocked by ‘genius’ £200m Old Masters forgery scandal

Adam Sherwin21/10/2016

David With The Head Of Goliath, attributed to Italian master Orazio Gentileschi. (Photo - Weiss Gallery)

They are undoubtedly the work of a genius, art experts admit. But police are now investigating a spate of brilliant Old Masters forgeries which have fooled the world’s leading auction houses and museums.

The authorities are seeking to crack the ring, thought to be the work of a highly sophisticated modern forgery workshop, based in Italy.

Around 25 “fake” Old Masters, bought and sold for £200m after bypassing expert scrutiny, are believed to be in circulation.

“Whoever has been making them is an artist of extraordinary skill” Forgery expert Dr Bendor Grosvenor

The scandal threatens to undermine faith in the authentication process of those institutions which presented them as genuine works.

A painting of Saint Jerome, sold in 2012 for $842,500, attributed to the 16th-century artist Parmigianino, is the latest work to be sent for technical tests by Sotheby’s in New York, amid concerns that it is a modern forgery.

The painting was displayed by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2014.

Sotheby’s was previously forced to reimburse the buyer of an £8.4 million painting, An Unknown Man, supposedly by Dutch master Frans Hals, after forensics company Orion Analytical determined that it was a fake.

Traces of 20th century synthetic materials were discovered under the paint, leading Sotheby’s to conclude that the painting was “undoubtedly” forged.

An Unknown Man attributed to Frans Hals that sold for £8.4m ($10.8m) has been declared fake (picture - Sotheby's)
An Unknown Man by “Frans Hals” that sold for $10.8m) has been declared fake (picture – Sotheby’s)

The forger is suspected of responsibility for a painting thought to be by Italian master Orazio Gentileschi that was loaned by a private lender to the National Gallery.

Painted on the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, David with the Head of Goliath, displayed from last April, supposedly dates from 1692.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor, the BBC Fake or Fortune art expert, concluded: “For what it’s worth, I believe it is a forgery. But it took me a long time, and a flight to Berlin to see an undisputed original Gentileschi for comparison, to figure it out.”

No reason to doubt says National Gallery

The National Gallery said it performed “due diligence research” on the work, which arrived with no published provenance after being bought by a London dealer, and had “no obvious reasons to doubt” that it was authentic.

The scandal broke when Venus, a painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach and bought by the Prince of Liechtenstein for £6m was seized by authorities at an exhibition in the South of France, following a criminal investigation. It was sent to the Louvre for testing.

Italian dealer named as the link

The link between the paintings is that they have passed through the hands of a previously unknown Italian, French-based dealer, Giulano Ruffini, who appeared to have discovered a string of Old Masters. “I am a collector, not an expert,” claimed Ruffini, 71, who said it was other experts who deemed the paintings to be authentic.

Richard Feigen, a leading Old Master art dealer in New York, called the affair “one of the biggest scandals in my memory”, which should make institutions “very wary about things they are offered and the sources of those things.”

However Dr Grosvenor cannot disguise a sneaking admiration for the “Moriarty of the Old Master.” “Whoever has been making them is an artist of extraordinary skill,” he wrote.

“Equally skilful is the ability to age these modern creations in such a way as to make them look centuries old. Sadly, we don’t yet know who this genius is.”

The scandal was unearthed by an investigative art journalist, Vincent Noce.

Fake or fortune?

Orazio Gentileschi – David contemplating the Head of Goliath (1692)

The “rarest and most bizarre object” in the National Gallery’s Making Colour show, the painting on a panel of semi-precious blue lapis lazuli stone creates a spectacular sky behind David. The Gentileschi was “discovered” in 2012 and sold to a private collector, who loaned it to the National Gallery. It has been returned to its lender.

Frans Hals – An Unknown Man

Authenticated by a senior curator at the Louvre, the newly-discovered painting was sold to London dealer Mark Weiss, who also handled the Gentileschi, and sold in good faith through Sotheby’s in New York for $10m in 2011.

“An in-depth technical analysis established that the work was undoubtedly a forgery,” concluded Sotheby’s which rescinded the sale and reimbursed the buyer.

Lucas Cranach – Venus with a Veil (1535)

Sold in 2013 to the Prince of Liechtenstein for £6m, Venus had been authenticated as a Cranach by scholars. Seized by French police, a new analysis suggests artificially-aged paint on a panel crated 200 years too late for the German Renaissance painter. A link to the Hals prompted Sotheby’s to investigate its own sale.


Source: Art world rocked by ‘genius’ £200m Old Masters forgery scandal – The i newspaper online iNews

9 of Art History’s Most Surprising Forgery Scandals | artnet News

October 19, 2016 – 07:29

9 of the Craziest Recent Forgery Scandals


Nothing strikes fear into the heart of an art collector or museum like the possibility that a prized work of art might actually be a worthless forgery. And yet, despite the best efforts of experts to safeguard against such chicanery, fake works masquerading as priceless original continue to litter the market.

Art history is rife with high profile scams, such as that of Han van Meegeren, a disillusioned painter who developed a complicated system of baking his Old Master-style work to age it, and subsequently sold $60 million in fake Vermeers to world class museums and Nazi leader Hermann Göring during the late 1930s and early 1940s. (While current art historians are quick to slam his work as obviously inferior, Van Meegeren actually had to paint a “new” Vermeer at trial to prove he had not sold the Nazis a priceless original.)

Related: String of Suspected Old Master Fakes May Reveal ‘Biggest Art Scandal in a Century’

In recent weeks, the art world has been rocked by perhaps the biggest forgery scandal to hit the art world since Van Meegeren’s unmasking. The extent of the Old Master forgery ring is as of yet unknown, but Sotheby’s has already issued a refund to the buyer of a $10 million Frans Hals portrait, sold in 2011 in a private sale through London dealer Mark Weiss. James Martin’s Orion Analytical, a Williamstown, Massachusetts-based company which investigates artworks, found modern-day materials in the canvas, proving it to be a forgery.

Franz Hals, Portrait of a Man, one of a series of Old Master works sold by a French dealer that authorities now believe may be forgeries.

Franz Hals, Portrait of a Man, one of a series of Old Master works sold by a French dealer that authorities now believe may be forgeries.

Other paintings are now also implicated, including a Lucas Cranach the Elder, from the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, that was seized by French authorities from the Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix in March. An Orazio Gentileschi painting on lapis lazuli, also sold by Weiss, and a purported Parmigianino have been identified as suspect as well. Rumor has it that works by up to 25 different Old Master paintings may be involved. (For a break-down on what we know so far, read “The Frans Hals Forgery Scandal, Explained.”)

Related: Plot Thickens In Dispute Over Seized Cranach Painting

All the paintings appear to have originated with one man, an obscure French collector-turned-dealer named Giulano Ruffini. The works appear to have had next-to-no provenance, save that they came from the collection of French civil engineer André Borie. Ruffini insists he never suggested they were the real deal, and that eager dealers were the ones to declare his paintings Old Master originals.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus (1531). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus (1531). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The art world was quick to fall in line, with London’s National Gallery displaying the Gentileschi and the Pamigianino popping up at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At one point, the Louvre in Paris launched a fundraising campaign to buy the Hals, dubbing it a “national treasure” after it was authenticated by France’s Center for Research and Restoration.

Related: Suspected $255 Million Old Master Forgery Scandal Continues to Rock the Art World

The fact that so-called experts were fooled suggests that connoisseurship, long the gold standard of Old Master authentication—which does not rely on science but a less tangible ability to sense the presence of a great artist’s hand—can no longer be relied upon.

Orazio Gentileschi, David Contemplating the Head of Goliath. Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery.

Orazio Gentileschi, David Contemplating the Head of Goliath. Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery.

Perhaps most frightening of all, there is no telling how many fakes still lie in plain sight, accepted as originals by experts and the public alike. Famed contemporary forgers such as Wolfgang Beltracchi and Mark Landis, for instance, have infiltrated many museum collections. In 2014, Switzerland’s Fine Art Expert Institute estimated that 50 percent of all work on the market is fake—a figure that was quickly second-guessed, but remains troubling.

Related: Artist Hides Forgery in Major London Museum

As artnet News continues to follow this developing story, here are just a few of the most high-profile art forgery cases that have come to light in recent years.

James Martin's expert report shows the signatures from four Knoedler paintings that were purported Jackson Pollocks. The top two signatures are quite similar. The bottom right signature shows signs that the name was first traced onto the canvas using a sharp tool, and is very similar to the signature on the bottom left, which is misspelled "Pollok." Photo: James Martin.

James Martin’s expert report shows the signatures from four Knoedler paintings that were purported Jackson Pollocks. The top two signatures are quite similar. The bottom right signature shows signs that the name was first traced onto the canvas using a sharp tool, and is very similar to the signature on the bottom left, which is misspelled “Pollok.” Courtesy of James Martin.

1. Knoedler Forgery Ring
Glafira Rosales, an obscure Long Island art dealer, her boyfriend, and his brother enlisted Pei-Shen Qian, a Chinese artist in Queens, to paint Abstract Expressionist canvases in the style of such masters as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and others. The venerable Knoedler gallery, which closed in 2011 as the forgeries came to light, still claims they believed Rosales’s story that the works were part of an undocumented collection sold directly by the artists to an anonymous “Mr. X.”

Related: Knoedler Fraud Trial Settles

Whether or not the gallery was in on the scheme (one of the many claims against Knoedler went to trial earlier this year but was settled before gallery president Ann Freedman could testify), they still sold the worthless works for $80 million, leaving a slew of lawsuits, some still unresolved, in their wake.

Uzbekistan's State Art Museum, Tashkent. Courtesy of Abdullais4u via Wikimedia.

Uzbekistan’s State Art Museum, Tashkent. Courtesy of Abdullais4u via Wikimedia.

2. An Inside Job in Uzbekistan
Even possession of an original work of art doesn’t protect you from worry. The Uzbek State Art Museum, for instance, discovered that over the course of 15 years, its collection was systematically pillaged by a group of employees, at least three of whom have since been convicted.

Over 25 works by European artists, including Renaissance great Lorenzo di Credi and modern Russian artists Victor Ufimtsevand Alexander Nikolaevich, were swapped out for copies. The employees then sold the originals on the black market for a pittance.

There are many forgeries of Alberto Giacometti's <em>Walking Man</em>. Courtesy of Cornell University Museum.

There are many forgeries of Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man. Courtesy of Cornell University Museum.

3. Thousands of Fake Bronzes Sold for Millions
A forgery ring busted in 2011 is still having repercussions across the Alberto Giacometti market. Dutch Giacometti forger Robert Driessen made €8 million ($8.9 million) selling forged sculptures, along with thousands of fake bronzes, before his misdeeds were discovered. In 2015, the case again made headlines when a German dealer was caught trying to sell one of the works still at large to an undercover agent.

The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, Turkey. Courtesy of Husshho via Wikimedia Commons.

The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, Turkey. Courtesy of Husshho via Wikimedia Commons.

4. A $250 Million Heist in Turkey
Forgeries again came into play at Turkey’s State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, where a group of museum officials and criminals are believed to have teamed up to steal some 302 works from the institution between 2005 and 2009. The crime was discovered in 2012, when the museum realized that 46 pieces in the collection had been replaced by copies. Another 30 works also raised suspicion.

The case was solved in late 2014 thanks to a tip from an anonymous caller.

Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz lecturing at the Washington County museum of Fine Arts in 2013. Photo: Natasha M. Spoutz, via Wikimedia.

Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz lecturing at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in 2013. Courtesy of Natasha M. Spoutz, via Wikimedia.

5. An Art Dealer Sells Fakes Through eBay
Using a variety of aliases, Michigan-based dealer Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz created fake paperwork to help sell dozens forged works by Willem de KooningJoan Mitchell, and other artists. Because the transactions were conducted through eBay, Spoutz was charged with wire fraud.

He may have even taken in the Smithsonian, which has six works in its the collection that originated with Spoutz.

Two Civil Guard agents inspect one of the fake Joan Miró drawingsPhoto via: Guardia Civil

Two Civil Guard agents inspect one of the fake Joan Miró drawings. Courtesy of Guardia Civil.

6. A Covert Investigation Blows Open a Spanish Forgery Ring
A Spanish forgery ring dealing in fake Joan MiróPablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse drawings was uncovered by Spain’s Civil Guard in January 2015 after a six-month investigation dubbed Operación Mirones (Operation Voyeurs). The authorities first spotted the fakes entering the country in July 2014, but opted to put the suspect under surveillance.

The investigation uncovered a Zaragoza-based art dealer’s scheme to sell the counterfeit works for hundreds of thousands of Euros, and nine fakes were recovered during a raid that put a stop to the illicit operation.

The artist Lee Ufan.Photo: Studio Lee Ufan Courtesy Château Mouton Rothschild

The artist Lee Ufan. Courtesy Studio Lee/Ufan Château Mouton Rothschild

7. Lee Ufan Authenticates Forgeries
In an unusual case, South Korean art star Lee Ufan claimed 13 suspected forgeries as his own original work, even after South Korean art dealer named Hyeon admitted they were counterfeits. Seoul police began investigating the case in February, and indicated that there were as many a 50 fake works at hand when Hyeon was indicted in June.

Nevertheless, Ufan was unswayed by the evidence, insisting that “an artist can recognize his own piece at a glance.”

Laurent Kraemer. Courtesy of photographer Jean-Daniel Lorieux/Kraemer Gallery.

Laurent Kraemer. Courtesy of photographer Jean-Daniel Lorieux/Kraemer Gallery.

8. Furniture can be forged too…
In June, antiques dealers Laurent Kraemer, head of Paris’s venerable Kraemer Gallery, and chair specialist Bill Pallot, were arrested on suspicion of selling the Palace of Versailles four counterfeit medallion back chairs for €1.7 million ($1.9 million). Counted as “National Treasures,” the chairs were thought to be among a group of 13 created by Louis Delanois for the Palace living room in 1769, where they belonged to Louis XV’s last mistress, the countess du Barry.

Related: Versailles Staffers Caught Selling Counterfeit Tickets

The problem is that there are now more than 12 chairs from the set floating around (the 13th, a larger version made specially for the King, is thought to be lost). The Kraemer Gallery maintained its innocence, but withdrew from the Biennale des Antiquaires, which was held in Paris in September.

Orlan. Photo courtesy Orlan.

Orlan. Photo courtesy Orlan.

9. But probably not facial modifications…
French artist Orlan sued American pop star Lady Gaga for forgery after the release of the 2011 hit video “Born This Way,” but ultimately lost her case. Orlan pointed out similarities to her piece Bumpload (1989), in which she added prosthetic ridges to her face, and Woman With Head (1996), which featured a decapitated head on a table. After losing her $31.7 million lawsuit, Orlan was ordered to pay the singer and her record label €20,000 ($22,000)

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Source: 9 of Art History’s Most Surprising Forgery Scandals | artnet News

Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

October 12, 2016 – 15:02

Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

An Unknown Man was believed to have been by Frans Hals and was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011—the auction house has now cast serious doubt over its authenticity

In the latest development in a growing scandal over several Old Master paintings, the authenticity of which are in serious doubt, Sotheby’s New York provided new details on the rescinding of a 2011 sale to a US collector of a portrait sold in good faith as a Frans Hals. The auction house confirmed it reimbursed the buyer “in full” after discovering the painting was a forgery, which was first reported by our sister paper, the Journal des Arts, on 30 September.

The painting was sold in 2011 by Sotheby’s and the London dealer Mark Weiss to Seattle-based collector Richard Hedreen for $10m. It was purchased for €3m by Mark Weiss from Giulano Ruffini, whose estate near Parma was raided by French and Italian police last April. Before that, the Louvre had tried to buy the portrait, which was declared a “national treasure” in France.

Now, Sotheby’s indicates that “after receiving consent” from Weiss, it informed Hedreen of “a possible issue with the authenticity of the painting” and that a subsequent “in-depth technical analysis established that the work was  a forgery.”  Sotheby’s confirms it then “rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full”, adding that the company means to “keep its promises when problems arise”. Weiss, who has not paid back his 50% share of the sale by Sotheby’s, says further technical analysis is needed.

Sotheby’s acted “after the seizure by French police last March of a work attributed to Cranach”, which had been sold to the Prince of Liechtenstein by Colnaghi Gallery. As we revealed at the time, this painting also belonged to Ruffini.

Sotheby’s indicates that the study of the painting it believed was by Frans Hals was undertaken by “one of the leading experts on the field”, Orion Analytical, before being “peer reviewed by another leading conservation scientist”. The analyses “showed the presence of modern materials used in the painting”. Sotheby’s says in the statement that a cross-section of the painting revealed “trace evidence in ground and paint layers” containing “synthetic materials first produced in the 20th century”.

Ruffini told us he had sold dozens of paintings over the past few decades. But he never claimed any of them were by Old Masters. “I am not an expert, only a private collector,” he insisted. “If these paintings were later attributed to Correggio, Gentileschi or the Bruegels, or any other great artist, the experts, the dealers and the curators are responsible.” The dealers in question respond that these works have impressed the best experts, including the Louvre’s curators and laboratory.

“[Mark] Weiss, strongly believes, as do others in the museum and scientific world, that more forensic analysis needs to be done before making a final judgement on this painting,” says a spokeswoman for Weiss Gallery, referring to the painting attributed to Frans Hals.

Source: Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century: Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes  | Daily Mail Online

October 5, 2016 – 09:21

‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century: Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes’


  • The suspect Old Masters described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’
  • In one case Sotheby’s in London forced to take back an £8.4m ‘Frans Hals’
  • Experts are concerned because the alleged fakes are so difficult to spot 
  • Scandal is so embarassing that few art figures are willing to speak openly

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’. Pictured, an Unknown Man said to be by Frans Hals

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’. Pictured, an Unknown Man said to be by Frans Hals

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’ that could cost investors £200 million.

The suspect Old Masters – said to be by artists including Frans Hals and Lucas Cranach – have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’.

In one case, Sotheby’s has been forced to take back an £8.4 million ‘Frans Hals’ and The Mail on Sunday understands the auction house is now pursuing the London dealer who supplied the painting.

Experts are particularly concerned because the alleged fakes are so difficult to spot from the real thing.

Earlier this year, the Prince of Liechtenstein had a painting seized by French authorities amid suspicion that it was a forgery. And it is feared that up to 25 more ‘Old Masters’ will be revealed as possible fakes in the coming weeks after a judge launched an investigation.

The paintings at risk could be worth up to £200 million.

Yesterday, internationally renowned art dealer Bob Haboldt said: ‘This is the biggest art scandal in a century. There has been nothing like this since the “early Vermeer” scandal of the 1940s [when doubt was cast on a number of pictures by the Dutch master].

‘It has put an entire generation of dealers on alert. The careful marketing of these highly sophisticated forgeries using primarily older materials has caught the market by surprise. The implications will be that buyers will insist on more guarantees, scientific and financial.’

The scandal is a matter of such embarrassment that few art figures are willing to speak openly, but one well-known dealer described the individual behind the copies as ‘the Moriarty of fakers’, because they are so brilliantly constructed.

The scandal began to take shape earlier this year when a painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach and owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein was seized by authorities at an exhibition in the South of France. 

Venus, dated 1531, had been sold by the Colnaghi Gallery in London in 2013 to the prince for £6 million but is now understood to be under examination by experts at the Louvre to assess its authenticity.

The suspect Old Masters have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’. Pictured, David by 'Gentileschi'

Venus by 'Cranach'

The suspect Old Masters have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’. Pictured, David by ‘Gentileschi’ (left) and Venus by ‘Cranach’ (right)

The Cranach has been linked to a painting titled An Unknown Man, attributed to Dutch master Frans Hals, and a work called David With The Head Of Goliath, attributed to Italian master Orazio Gentileschi.

Both paintings were bought by London dealer Mark Weiss, with the Hals being sold on to a distinguished US collector. Sotheby’s took a cut for brokering the ‘private treaty’ sale.

However, when the collector, from Seattle, discovered the Hals painting was connected to the seized Cranach, he complained to Sotheby’s and their experts are understood to have subsequently decided it was a fake.

Sotheby’s were later forced to reimburse the collector and are said to be threatening legal action against Weiss to recover their losses.

Mr Haboldt said: ‘These three painters can be resold in the international market for millions and tens of millions. They are very hot names in the business and much sought-after. 

‘The works are difficult to detect as forgeries but they lack any credible provenance and references in the numerous publications about these artists. The latter should have made the principal dealers suspicious.

Sotheby’s are said to be threatening legal action against Mark Weiss (pictured) to recover their losses

Sotheby’s are said to be threatening legal action against Mark Weiss (pictured) to recover their losses

‘The willingness of Sotheby’s to accept the return of the portrait by Frans Hals and indemnify the buyer sets the stage for several more of these cases to come to light.

‘But first, the international art world will have to wait for the results of the French investigation. Whispers in the trade have revealed a list of some 25 Old Masters produced by this particular forger’s workshop. I understand this list will be revealed soon.’

The Gentileschi is said to have been sold to a young US collector based in the UK, for an undisclosed amount, and was displayed at the National Gallery in London until recently. Haboldt said it is believed a ring of Italian forgers are behind the Old Masters and some of them have already been questioned by French authorities.

The common thread to these paintings is they passed through the hands of unknown French dealer Giulano Ruffini, who claims he has discovered a string of Old Masters.

Ruffini, 71, however, insists that he never presented any of the paintings as Old Masters. He said: ‘I am a collector, not an expert.’

Neither Mark Weiss nor Sotheby’s would comment, while Mr Ruffini’s lawyers could not be reached. The National Gallery said: ‘Gentileschi’s David With The Head Of Goliath has until recently been on temporary loan to the National Gallery from a private lender.

‘It was part of a small display of works by the artist that came to an end last week and it has now been returned to the owner. The gallery always undertakes due diligence research on a work coming on loan as well as a technical examination.’

Source: ‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century: Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes  | Daily Mail Online

How fake artworks are disrupting the Indigenous art market

October 5, 2016 – 09:14

Indigenous art: How fake works disrupt the market and disempower local artists



This year, Gabrielle Sullivan and her colleagues at the Indigenous Arts Code went to some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for overseas visitors.

They visited Circular Quay in Sydney, the Queen Victoria Markets and Swanston Street in Melbourne, Darwin and Alice Springs, looking to buy arts and craft done in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander style.

“We asked the vendors the same series of questions … we’d go and look at an item and we’d ask ‘Who was the artist?’, ‘Where’s the artist from?’, ‘What’s their language group?’,” Ms Sullivan said.

“[In] one blatant example of the fakes being out there, I went into one shop to purchase an artwork, and I was told straight out that it came from Bali when I asked.

“The guy in the shop then went on to say: ‘Most of the Aboriginal work that we sell isn’t from here. It’s from Indonesia, so it’s not Aboriginal artwork in the first place.'”

Art is an extension of its creator, and traditional cultural art from Indigenous Australians is a visual interpretation of the rich history of one of the oldest living cultures on Earth.

The visual interpretation transferred onto traditional artefacts is sacred knowledge, willingly shared in this day and age by Indigenous countrymen and women — though in modern society it can seem as if nothing is sacred, and exploitation of tradition is inevitable.

And although some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, the scale on which fakes are being produced is having an impact on Indigenous artists.

Artists encouraged to paint outside own culture

Leonard Andy — a Diru traditional owner of the Mission Beach area in Queensland, and a painter and maker of traditional objects — says he has been asked to asked to produce works that don’t belong to his culture.

“I’ve been asked in the past to paint didgeridoos, and I come from the rainforest,” he said.

“The people asking me to paint the didgeridoos weren’t Indigenous but they were tourist operators. I told them that I didn’t do it, and it wasn’t my culture in the rainforest.

“First they offered me $50. It went all the way up to $150 for each didgeridoo if I painted one. But I still said no … It’s Aboriginal, and I’m Australian, but it doesn’t come from our area in the rainforest.”

The problem goes beyond artefacts made in Bali for overseas tourists. It extends to forgeries, fraudulent activity, and exploitation of artists.

Laurie Nona, a lino cut artist from the Torres Strait island of Badu and the manager of the Badu Art Centre, said seeing fake art makes him weak.

“That’s disempowerment … these people don’t have a culture, all they’re looking at is dollars, and what they gain from producing,” he said.

“They don’t have no connection to it.”

Code relies on members doing the right thing

The Indigenous Art Code is just one organisation established to protect the rights of artists in Australia like Andy and Nona.

Ms Sullivan, the code’s chief executive, said it was set up after the 2007 Senate inquiry into misconduct in Australia’s Indigenous art trade.

“One of the recommendations was to establish the code,” she said.

“It’s not a mandatory code, it’s a voluntary code, so we rely on our members to do the right thing. Some do, some don’t.”

The legality of the trinkets and artefacts on sale in Australian airports and markets is dubious, but the devil is in the detail.

Can a work be legitimate if it’s in an Indigenous style, but not purporting to be Indigenous per se?

“The ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] can look at things under misleading and deceptive conduct, but that needs to be brought to their attention,” Ms Sullivan said.

“Without bringing it to their attention, how are they going to know about it?

“From the code’s perspective, and we’re working on this with Arts Law and the Copyright Agency, it would just make a lot more sense for these products not to be there in the first place.”

Distorted market means no money going to communities

Derek Farrell, the ACCC’s regional director for the Northern Territory, said the body would investigate anyone breaking the law.

“People living on country are dependent on this industry as a very important income source,” he said.

“It is incredibly unscrupulous to undermine, to distort that market by producing fake artworks, which ostensibly are Indigenous work, but there is no money going back to those communities.”

One artist feeling the impact is Charmaine Green, a writer and visual artist belonging to the Badimaya/Wajarri language groups in Western Australia.

“We don’t have a lot of the opportunities that people do in the more urban areas,” she said.

“We have to rely on websites, and it is costly to get to Perth to have exhibitions and to have markets and those types of things.

“We really feel it when there’s any downturn anywhere else in the industry.”

Mr Farrell said breaches of consumer law can be penalised with fines of $1.1 million per offence.

“We’re also able to get orders that prevent this activity happening again, and in some circumstances, we can get orders for compensation,” he said.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, visual-art, design, craft, community-and-society, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, australia, nt

Source: How fake artworks are disrupting the Indigenous art market

No death bed confession in Gardner Museum heist – The Boston Globe

October 2, 2016 – 10:05

No deathbed confession in Gardner heist

By Shelley Murphy and Stephen Kurkjian Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent October 01, 2016

By Shelley Murphy and Stephen Kurkjian Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent 

There will be no deathbed confession from a Connecticut mobster suspected by the FBI of having information about the whereabouts of $500 million worth of masterworks stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum decades ago, his lawyer said.

The family of 80-year-old Robert Gentile, who is in federal custody awaiting trial on gun charges, was warned Wednesday by the US Marshals Service to “prepare to make end of life arrangements” because he is in critical condition, his lawyer said in a telephone interview.

Hartford attorney A. Ryan McGuigan said he rushed to a South Carolina hospital where Gentile is near death Friday and told him, “If at any time there was a critical moment to give up an old secret for the possibility of seeing your loved ones one more time, this was it.”

He suggested authorities would probably let Gentile die at home in Manchester, Conn., surrounded by his family if he gave up the artwork. However, McGuigan said, a teary-eyed Gentile responded, “But there’s no paintings.”

“Deathbed confessions are not uncommon,” said McGuigan, adding that even though his client has always insisted he has no information about the stolen paintings, he felt it would have been reckless not to explore the possibility that Gentile was ready to talk.

“The importance of the artwork to humanity has never escaped me,” McGuigan said. “And so with a glimmer of hope I went down to see if there was a possibility that there would be a miracle.”

The attorney said he called Gentile’s wife, who is also in failing health, and his son from the hospital room and handed the phone to the old mobster, who said his goodbyes and told them he loved them.

McGuigan declined to provide specifics about Gentile’s illness but said he was barely conscious during the nine hours he spent with him at the hospital Friday and “his systems are shutting down.”

However, he said his client, who had been on life support the day before, was better Friday and breathing on his own.

Gentile is one of a handful of low-level criminals who were identified by the FBI as persons of interest in the heist, and most of the others are dead.

Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office, declined to comment on Gentile’s condition or what effect it might have on the ongoing investigation.

Anthony Amore, the Gardner museum’s security director who is working with the FBI to recover the stolen artwork, said, “We’re not sitting around waiting for deathbed confessions, we’re actively working every day.”

Two men disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum on Boston’s Fenway in the early hours of March 18, 1990, tied up two guards, and disappeared with 13 masterworks. They include three Rembrandts — including his only seascape, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” — and a Vermeer.

The theft remains unsolved, despite a $5 million reward and promises of immunity. In 2013, the FBI announced it was confident it had identified the two thieves, both now deceased, but declined to name them. Authorities said they believed some of the artwork changed hands through organized crime circles, and moved from Boston to Connecticut and Philadelphia, where the trail went cold.

The FBI began focusing on Gentile in 2009 when the wife of Robert Guarente, another person of interest in the theft, told agents that before his death in 2004, he gave two of the stolen paintings to Gentile.

A federal prosecutor revealed in court earlier this year that Gentile last year offered to sell the paintings for $500,000 each to an undercover FBI agent. He also flunked a polygraph exam when he denied that he knew about plans to rob the Gardner museum beforehand and when he denied that he had the paintings or knew where they were, the prosecutor said.

But Gentile’s lawyer said his client was “just pretending” to have the paintings; and he disputed the reliability of the polygraph results.

Gentile was slated to stand trial in federal court in Hartford this month on gun charges, but it was postponed indefinitely after his health deteriorated and his lawyer sought a psychological examination to determine his mental competency.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.

Source: No death bed confession in Gardner Museum heist – The Boston Globe

Mafiosi klauten Van-Gogh-Gemälde

September 30, 2016 – 14:16

Mafiosi klauten Van-Gogh-Gemälde

14 Jahre nach dem Raub zweier Gemälde von Vincent van Gogh aus dem Amsterdamer Van Gogh Museum sind die Werke in Italien gefunden worden.

Die italienische Polizei hatte die Gemälde im Millionen-Wert südlich von Neapel im Zuge von Drogenermittlungen gegen die Mafia entdeckt. Sie waren in dem Haus eines Drogenbosses der Camorra versteckt, der im Januar festgenommen worden war, berichteten italienische Medien.

«Ja, sie sind gefunden worden», sagte der Direktor des Museums, Axel Rüger. Ein Konservator des Van Gogh Museums hatte die Bilder im Auftrag der italienischen Justiz untersucht und die Echtheit festgestellt, wie das Museum mitteilte.

Bei den kostbaren Werken handelt es sich um das Gemälde «Zeegezicht bij Scheveningen» (Meeressicht bei Scheveningen 1882) und «Het uitgaan van de Hervormde Kerk te Nuenen» (Die Kirche von Nuenen mit Kirchgängern 1884/1885). Sie seien leicht beschädigt, aber in relativ gutem Zustand, bestätigte das Museum.

Sie waren im Dezember 2002 gestohlen worden. Die Diebe waren in der Nacht mit einer Leiter über das Dach in das Museum eingestiegen und unerkannt entkommen. Sie wurden später gefasst und 2005 zu Haftstrafen von mehr als drei Jahren verurteilt. Von den Gemälden fehlte aber bis jetzt jede Spur. Nach dem Einbruch hatte das Museum eine Belohnung von 100’000 Euro für das Aufspüren der Bilder ausgesetzt.

In den Top Ten der Kunstraube

«Auf diesen Moment haben wir 14 Jahre gewartet», sagte Museums-Direktor Axel Rüger. Wann die Gemälde zurück nach Amsterdam kommen und was die Mafia damit vorhatte, ist noch unklar. «Das sind echt, echt fantastische Neuigkeiten. Auch weil es total unerwartet ist. Niemand wagte noch zu träumen, dass sie auf einmal wieder auftauchen», sagte die niederländische Kulturministerin Jet Bussemaker in Den Haag.

Der italienische Premierminister Matteo Renzi und sein Kulturminister Dario Franceschini gratulierten den Ermittlern. Im Zuge der Ermittlungen wurden auch Güter im Wert von 20 Millionen Euro beschlagnahmt.

Der Wert der Bilder wird auf mehrere Millionen Euro geschätzt. Sie seien aber vor allem auch kunsthistorisch sehr wichtig, betonte das Museum. Laut FBI gehört der Diebstahl zu den «Top Ten» der Kunstraube der Welt.


Source: Mafiosi klauten Van-Gogh-Gemälde

Camorra, trovati due quadri di Van Gogh: rubati nel 2002

September 30, 2016 – 09:29

Camorra, trovati due quadri di Van Gogh: rubati nel 2002

Sono stati ritrovati e sequestrati dalla Guardia di Finanza nel corso di un’operazione contro un gruppo di narcotrafficanti in affari con il clan camorristico degli Amato-Pagano, i cosiddetti scissionisti attivi nelle zone di Secondigliano e Scampia

di Titti Beneduce


«La congregazione lascia la chiesa riformata di Nuenen»
«La congregazione lascia la chiesa riformata di Nuenen»

Due quadri di Van Gogh rubati nel 2002 nell’omonimo museo di Amsterdam sono stati ritrovati e sequestrati dalla Guardia di Finanza nel corso di un’operazione contro un gruppo di narcotrafficanti in affari con il clan camorristico degli Amato – Pagano, i cosiddetti scissionisti attivi nelle zone di Secondigliano e Scampia. I dipinti erano custoditi nella cassaforte di uno degli arrestati e sono considerati «di valore inestimabile».

«La spiaggia di Scheveningen prima di una tempesta»
«La spiaggia di Scheveningen prima di una tempesta»
I quadri

I militari, coordinati dal colonnello Giovanni Salerno, si sono imbattuti nei quadri nel corso di un sequestro di beni per decine di milioni di euro al gruppo di narcotrafficanti, dedito soprattutto allo smercio di cocaina. Sequestrato anche un aereo biposto. Le due preziose opere d’arte vennero rubate nel 2002. Si tratta di «La congregazione lascia la chiesa riformata di Nuenen» e di «La spiaggia di Scheveningen prima di una tempesta», rispettivamente del 1885 e del 1882.


Source: Camorra, trovati due quadri di Van Gogh: rubati nel 2002

Marcello Dell’Utri, procura di Napoli chiede il processo per peculato per i libri spariti dalla biblioteca Girolamini – Il Fatto Quotidiano

September 27, 2016 – 10:10

Marcello Dell’Utri, procura di Napoli chiede il processo per peculato per i libri spariti dalla biblioteca Girolamini


Marcello Dell’Utri, procura di Napoli chiede il processo per peculato per i libri spariti dalla biblioteca Girolamini

Giustizia & Impunità

Il suo amore per i libri è noto. Tanto che nessuno si stupì quando a Marcello Dell’Utri, in carcere per scontare una condanna a 7 anni per concorso esterno, sequestrarono 20mila libri. Tra i volumi si cercavano anche quelli che, secondo la Procura di Napoli, erano lentamente e inesorabilmente spariti dalla biblioteca Girolamini di Napoli e per cui la corte dei Conti aveva stimato un danno da 20 milioni di euro.

Dopo la chiusura indagine in aprile i pm hanno hanno chiesto rinvio a giudizio per peculato dell’ex senatore di Forza Italia. La richiesta è stata firmata dai pm Ilaria Sasso del Verme, Antonella Serio, e Michele Fini, coordinati dal procuratore aggiunto Vincenzo Piscitelli. Per gli inquirenti Dell’Utri sarebbe stato consapevole della provenienza dei volumi (quattordici quasi tutti restituiti dopo l’avvio dell’inchiesta) che gli erano stati consegnati dall’ex direttore della biblioteca Marino Massimo De Caro, già condannato a 7 anni. È invece sparita nel nulla una copia rara dell’Utopia di Tommaso Moro. Agli inquirenti l’ex senatore, che ha sempre sostenuto che i libri gli fossero stati regalati, ha raccontato di aver dovuto smantellare in parte la biblioteca che possedeva a Milano e, per questa ragione, di non essere riuscito a ritrovare più quel libro tanto prezioso.

La posizione di Dell’Utri fu stralciata in attesa che il Senato autorizzasse i magistrati all’utilizzo delle intercettazioni telefoniche. In quelle intercettazioni si parla anche dei libri. “Lei c’ha sempre il Vico che l’aspetta eh… Quello lì lo porto io” gli diceva De Caro. E Dell’Utri gli risponde: “Eh, bravo, con il tartufo”. Il 22 febbraio 2012 l’ex direttore della Biblioteca esordisce: “Dottore, ho trovato il De rebus gestis di Antonio Carafa”. E Dell’Utri: “Del Carafa sì che non ce lo abbiamo”. E gli fa i complimenti: “Bravo Massimo!”. Secondo gli inquirenti il volume è stato poi consegnato a marzo, a Milano. Un’altra intercettazione risale al 29 marzo del 2012 e, secondo la Procura, è piuttosto eloquente. De Caro parla con Dell’Utri: “La prossima settimana sono da solo nel convento, tutto il convento per me, se vuole dottore… da solo! Ho le chiavi perché i padri vanno via”.

Source: Marcello Dell’Utri, procura di Napoli chiede il processo per peculato per i libri spariti dalla biblioteca Girolamini – Il Fatto Quotidiano

Sentences handed down in high-profile case over Drouot thefts

September 8, 2016 – 10:10

Sentences handed down in high-profile case over Drouot thefts

Sentences handed down in high-profile case over Drouot thefts

The “cols rouges” are named after the red collars of the art handlers’ uniform. Photo: MaxPPP/Christophe Petit Tesson

On Tuesday, 6 September, the Paris Criminal Court convicted 38 of 49 defendants in a high-profile trial that opened in March over a complicated web of thefts within the l’Union des commissionnaires de l’Hôtel des Ventes (UCHV), the former art handlers’ union of the Hôtel Drouot in Paris. The group—popularly called the “cols rouges” for the red collars on their uniforms—held a monopoly on art handling at the auction house from 1860 until 2010. The UCHV, held in equal shares by its 110 members, was dissolved and fined €220,000 in the court’s decision.

Those found guilty were given prison sentences up to three years—half of which were suspended sentences—and fined up to €60,000. Three of the six commissaires-priseurs (auctioneers) on trial were convicted, and given up to 18 months suspended sentences and fines up to €25,000. Eleven defendants were acquitted.

A judicial inquiry into a system of thefts within the union was launched in May 2009, following an anonymous tip earlier that year that a member of the union was in possession of a stolen Gustave Courbet painting, and the high-profile trial opened in March. Three weeks of testimony revealed the inner workings of the UCHV, including a culture of relative impunity. Charges brought against the defendants included organised theft and receipt of stolen goods.

Source: Sentences handed down in high-profile case over Drouot thefts

Staying Ahead of the Forgers – Sep 05 2016 07:00 AM – Breaking News – Chromatography Today

September 6, 2016 – 09:32

Staying Ahead of the Forgers

Sep 05 2016 07:00 AMHPLC, UHPLC

Staying Ahead of the Forgers

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Art forgery is big business. For forgers, the ability to recreate a classic work of art and get it accepted by the experts as an authentic work of art gives a forger great pleasure. But authenticating art is not only an art nowadays — but a science too. And new tools in the expert’s arsenal are making it ever harder to beat them.

Han van Meegeren — master forger

Han van Meegeren is considered the most prolific forger of the twentieth century. Van Meegeren made close to $30 million creating knock-off Dutch masters — notably Vermeer. He not only painted in the style of Vermeer — but actively tried to copy Vermeer in materials too.

To help add a touch of authenticity to his paintings, van Meegeren sought out seventeenth century canvases and frames for his paintings. He also tried to copy Vermeer’s brush strokes — one of the give-aways of a poor forgery — by using brushes and paints that Vermeer would have used when painting his originals.

One of the ways van Meegeren had to compromise though is in the make-up of his paints as he had to use Bakelite — an early plastic — to help his paints dry. The original paints used by Vermeer would have taken close to fifty years to completely dry, van Meegeren had to speed that process up.

Can the forgers beat chemistry?

With the vast sums of money involved in fine art, it wasn’t long before analytical chemistry was helping the experts fight back. Spectroscopy and chromatography have been routinely used by experts to help detect forgeries — in fact, it was gas chromatography in tandem with mass spectrometry which helped find the secret of van Meegeren’s quick drying paint — long after his death though.

High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used by The National Gallery in the investigation into the painting The Virgin and Child with an Angel, a painting acknowledged as a fake in 1955. HPLC was used in 2009 in new analysis into the painting, particularly the binders in some red pigment. The analysis showed that the pigment was probably from the nineteenth century — pretty good for a painting thought to have been painted in the fifteenth century. HPLC is constantly advancing —to help stay up to date see the article, Recent Developments in Support Materials for use in High Performance Liquid Chromatography.

New advances in forgery detection

But the forgers have moved on to, and they are aware of the analytical chemistry techniques that the experts have brought to bear on their practices. To stay ahead, art experts are investing in new techniques.

The technology that keeps bitcoin transactions safe — blockchain — can now be used to keep original digital art safe and synthetic DNA can now be embedded in work of art to provide protection against forgeries. But as technology moves forward — you can be sure that the forgers are running to get ahead.

Source: Staying Ahead of the Forgers – Sep 05 2016 07:00 AM – Breaking News – Chromatography Today

Almost 70% of smuggled objects seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes, antiquities chief says

August 31, 2016 – 12:17

Almost 70% of smuggled objects seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes, antiquities chief says


Almost 70% of smuggled objects seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes, antiquities chief says

Syria’s antiquities and museums agency released photos of a number of fake mosaics that were circulating in 2013. The number has only gone up. Photo: DGAM

Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's director general of antiquities and museums

Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director general of antiquities and museums

Close to three-quarters of the artefacts seized in anti-smuggling operations in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon this year have proved to be fakes, Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim tells The Art Newspaper. Speaking ahead of his visit to Edinburgh’s International Cultural Summit this week, the director general for antiquities and museums also gives a relatively optimistic view of restoration work in Palmyra, and shares his pressing concerns over the devastating crisis in Aleppo.

There have been growing questions over the extent of illicit digging and antiquities trafficking in Syria by militant groups including Isis. Abdulkarim says that while 7,000 objects have been seized by authorities in Syria since 2013, the proportion of fakes has risen from 30% to closer to 70%, both inside the country and in neighbouring Lebanon.

Objects seized by police in Damascus include 30 fake ancient Bibles, as well as Korans. Another haul was 450 gold Medieval coins, all discovered to be fake, along with scores of fake mosaic tableaus and statues. Some items were poorly made fakes that were quickly weeded out, but sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between the real artefacts and the copies. “I hope the originals are stopped and the fakes go to the market place,” Abdulkarim says.

From Lebanon, 89 big objects including 20 Palmyran statues, 18 mosaics, and Roman capitals and architectural pieces, were returned to Damascus in 2014 after they were examined by a Syrian delegation, he says. Lebanon is the only country that has worked with Syria during this time to investigate suspected looted objects, he adds, while Turkey and Jordan have refused any contact. “I don’t ask that they return all objects to Syria, because I know there will be a negative response,” Abdulkarim says, but he appealed to those countries to publically report what they had seized, and provide figures and details to Unesco and Interpol.

Turning to recovery efforts in Palmyra, Abdulkarim says that almost all of the ancient city’s artefacts have been secured since it was recaptured from Isil’s control in March, and most of the stones from damaged structures are reusable. “I can confirm that more than 90% of the collection in Palmyra is safe; 10% is damaged.” He says: “We didn’t lose Palmyra’s art.”

“We need about five years to finish our work,” Abdulkarim adds. Emergency repairs in Palmyra are now focussed on two temples blown up by Isil—the Temple of Baalshamin and most of the Temple of Bel—and the Triumphal Arch. In terms of artefacts, 38 gold coins from the Islamic, Byzantine and Roman periods were lost in the rushed evacuation. But the unique Zenobia Antonius bronze coin, bearing the image of the third-century Palmyrene Queen, was removed to Damascus and is safe.

There are some 400 to 500 statues and tens of thousands of lesser objects now in Damascus awaiting restoration, Abdulkarim says. Three truckloads were evacuated just before Isil occupied Palmyra in June 2015 and many more pieces have been moved since. These include the 15-tonne remnants of the second-century Lion of al-Lat statue, which was blown up by the extremist group. While Isil beheaded many of the statues that could not be moved, “the majority were in a good situation,” Abdulkarim says, with heads left lying at the site.

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

  • Artefacts in the Palmyra Museum after the liberation from Isil, images taken by Maamoun Abdulkarim on his mobile phone

Three Polish archaeologists have joined conservation and training efforts in Palmyra, while two broken pieces are to travel to Rome for an exhibition in October, to be repaired and returned by Italian experts as a symbol of solidarity. While Russian teams were among the first into Palmyra, Abdulkarim stressed that the historic ties in the field were widely with the West and appealed for archaeologists to rally to Syria.

“I appeal at all times for French archaeologists, British archaeologists, German archaeologists to come,” he says. “All the damage [that has been done] to cultural heritage will be for generation after generation. Just come to Damascus.”

Abdulkarim’s main concern now is Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the civil war, which has suffered through continued fighting and is currently split between opposing forces. Thousands of civilians, including children, have been killed during the conflict, and more than 150 historic structures have been damaged, along with the city’s famous souk and hundreds of traditional houses—a destruction Abdulkarim compared to that of Warsaw by the Nazis in 1944.

The National Museum of Aleppo was severely damaged by mortar attacks this summer. Photo: DGAM

After recent mortar attacks at the National Museum of Aleppo, major pieces located outside the building that are too big to move have been sandbagged. In the event of any end to the fighting, Abdulkarim says he would expect to reach out to Germany’s international cooperation agency GIZ and the Aga Khan Foundation, which both have extensive archives and plans of historic Aleppo, to help with the reconstruction.

Abdulkarim’s goal of working to set politics aside and preserve a shared heritage has been well received by the international community. “I refuse to use our cultural interest for political agendas. It’s our common heritage, it’s our common identity,” Abdulkarim tells us. “The politics will change, but the heritage won’t change.”

Source: Almost 70% of smuggled objects seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes, antiquities chief says

What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal

August 31, 2016 – 12:08

What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal


What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal

A purported Jackson Pollock sold by the Knoedler Gallery to Jack Levy

Are collectors “stupid” to spend millions of dollars on a work of art without personally investigating its authenticity? This is what Robert Storr, the former dean of Yale University School of Art argues.

Storr was speaking at a panel hosted by Ifar (International Foundation for Art Research) in New York in July about the issues raised by the Knoedler fakes scandal, which resulted in the illustrious New York gallery’s closure. Knoedler and its former director claim they were duped by the forgeries of paintings by Rothko, Motherwell and Pollock, among others, as much as their customers were.

The question of who should investigate authenticity remains hotly contested. “If you’re dealing with a reputable dealer and getting… promises and information, you should be able to rely on that,” said John Cahill, who represented two Knoedler plaintiffs, at the event. Adam Sheffer, the president of the Art Dealers Association of America, believes that the buyers of the Knoedler fakes could have done more. “They could have worked with the gallery to ask questions… Everyone needs to take responsibility,” he said.

But Sharon Flescher, the executive director of Ifar, noted that “I’m not sure that all the expertise would be available to buyers”. Her comment raise a thorny question: if any responsibility rests on buyers, how can they learn whether specialists have already expressed doubts about the work in question? Most of the specialist opinions on the Knoedler fakes were only disclosed through litigation, years after the sales had taken place. For example, in 2003, Ifar concluded that a painting sold by Knoedler as a work by Jackson Pollock could not be attributed to the artist. Although Knoedler and the painting’s owner received copies of Ifar’s report, the findings only emerged publicly in lawsuits filed almost a decade later. Ifar publishes select cases in its journal, but not this one. Not knowing that the painting was one of many Knoedler had received from the same source, Flescher told The Art Newspaper: “We didn’t even think it was particularly interesting.”

For collectors seeking information on the authenticity of specific works of art, there is no repository of authenticators’ reports, and experts doubt the value of a database that buyers could consult the way they check for stolen art (for example, through the Art Loss Register or Art Recovery Group). For one thing, not all reports are reliable. “What are the qualifications of the person giving the opinion?” asks Flescher. Another concern raised by James Martin, who scientifically tested many Knoedler fakes, is that revealing too many details could become a textbook for criminals. Experts should be careful about how specific they are, “lest they draw a clear roadmap for producing sophisticated forgeries”.

Experts do not want to risk being sued for saying outright that a work of art is fake; their fear of lawsuits keeps fakes circulating, said the art consultant Martha Parrish, who testified at the Knoedler trial. “All the fakes are roaming around and coming to market again,” she says.

Jack Flam, the president and chief executive of the Dedalus Foundation, played a key role in exposing the Knoedler fakes when investigating two Robert Motherwells sold by the gallery. He learned from experts on other artists that they too suspected Knoedler was selling fakes. Pollock expert Eugene Thaw willingly came forward, Flam says, but “everyone else was hesitant”. He added: “We [experts] need adequate legal protection.”

Legislation to protect experts first proposed in New York three years ago still hasn’t been enacted. Some lawmakers fear “it’s a slippery slope— [because] medical experts also give opinions” without special protection, says the lawyer Dean Nicyper, who is spearheading the legislative effort. “But the medical world [is not in] crisis.”

For art buyers, the most practical lesson from the Knoedler case may be the advice given to a teenager heading to the prom: use protection. That means obtaining a contract that includes “protections at the outset that the seller isn’t aware of issues about authenticity”, says the lawyer Judd Grossman, who represented a Knoedler plaintiff. “Knoedler hasn’t changed the market, but buyers are more willing to get warranties.”

Source: What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal

€200k worth of books stolen

July 31, 2016 – 07:49

€200k worth of books stolen

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A former librarian who stole hundreds of rare, antique books worth nearly €200,000 from the National Library of Ireland has received a suspended sentence.

Lawyers for John Nulty, aged 37, said that for nine years, he was compulsively taking the books and hoarding them in his home. When gardaí arrived at his Dublin home in April 2013 with a search warrant, they found “an Aladdin’s cave” where Nulty was living surrounded by books.

Nulty, of Portersgate, Clonsilla, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight sample counts of theft from a total of 216 charges. Most of the charges relate to theft from the National Library between July 5, 2004 and April 24, 2013.

He also admitted to two counts of stealing from Brother Tom Connolly at the Allen Library, North Richmond St, between November 2003 and July 2004, when he worked there. His only other previous conviction is for a minor public order offence.

Books taken included Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls and books on Anglo Irish history and Celtic mythology. Some of the books were first editions and some were signed, while others were valuable because of their historical and national interest. Nulty would put the books in his bag and walk out with them.

Judge Martin Nolan said Nulty was an eccentric who became obsessed with hoarding the books and took satisfaction from having them.

He said that if Nulty had sold all the books and made a profit, a jail term would be inevitable. He noted that, given most of the books had been recovered intact, the actual loss to the library was around €5,000.

He said it would be unjust to imprison him immediately, suspending a sentence of two-and-a-half years on condition he is of good behaviour for that period.

Detective Garda Declan O’Brien told Garret Baker, prosecuting, the thefts came to light when Gerard Long, an assistant keeper at the National Library, noticed that two books which were part of the Sean O’Casey library were for sale online.

The books had been sold by Nulty to a seller of rare books who had in turn placed them for sale online. Nulty had kept most of the other books and stored them in his home and at an off-site storage facility.

Det Garda O’Brien said the estimated value of the stolen books was €199,322.

Sean Gillane, defending, said Nulty had considered burning all the books in order to put it all behind him, but his respect and love for their value prevented him from doing this. He said Nulty felt a certain relief when he was caught. Some books were stored in conservation boxes to protect them.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Source: €200k worth of books stolen

Former librarian who stole hundreds of rare antique books worth nearly €200,000 from the National Library of Ireland avoids jail

July 28, 2016 – 08:52

Former librarian who stole hundreds of rare antique books worth nearly €200,000 from the National Library of Ireland avoids jail

Published 27/07/2016 | 15:07

National Library of Ireland2
National Library of Ireland

A former librarian who stole hundreds of rare antique books worth nearly €200,000 from the National Library of Ireland has received a suspended sentence.

Lawyers for John Nulty (37) said that for nine years he was compulsively taking the books and hoarding them in his home. When gardaí arrived at his Dublin home in April 2013 with a search warrant they found “an Aladdin’s cave” where Nulty was living surrounded by books.

Nulty of Portersgate, Clonsilla, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight sample counts of theft from a total of 216 charges. Most of the charges relate to theft from the National Library between July 5, 2004 and April 24, 2013.

Nulty also admitted to two counts of stealing from Brother Tom Connolly at the Allen Library, North Richmond Street, between November 2003 and July 2004, when he worked there. His only other previous conviction is for a minor public order offence.

The books taken included Ernest Hemingway’s ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and books on Anglo Irish history and Celtic mythology. Some of the books were first editions and some were signed while others were valuable because of their historical and national interest. Nulty would put the books in his bag and walk out with them.

Judge Martin Nolan said that Nulty was an eccentric man who became obsessed with hoarding the books and took some satisfaction from having them.

He said that if Nulty had sold all the books and made a profit, a jail term would be inevitable. He noted that, given most of the books had been recovered intact, the actual loss to the library was around €5,000.

He said it would be unjust to imprison him immediately and he suspended a sentence of two and a half years on condition he is of good behaviour for that period.

Detective Garda Declan O’Brien told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that the thefts came to light when Gerard Long, an assistant keeper at the National Library, noticed that two books which were part of the Sean O’Casey library were for sale online.

The books had been sold by Nulty to a seller of rare books who had in turn placed them for sale online. Nulty had kept most of the other books and stored them in his home and also at an off site storage facility.

Some of the books were stored in conservation boxes to protect them. Det Gda O’Brien said the estimated value of the stolen books was €199,322.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, said that at one point Nulty considered burning all the books in order to put it all behind him but his respect and love for their value prevented him from doing this. He said that Nulty felt a certain relief when he was caught.

Counsel said that Nulty came from a “terribly decent” family and was “terribly remorseful” and sorry for the shame it had brought them and for breaching the trust of his employers.

Online Editors

Source: Former librarian who stole hundreds of rare antique books worth nearly €200,000 from the National Library of Ireland avoids jail

Vietnam museum says all paintings fake in high-profile exhibition

July 20, 2016 – 11:24

Vietnam museum says all paintings fake in high-profile exhibition

Titled as "Abstract," this painting is found to be deceptively put under the name of late artist Ta Ty at the exhibition "Paintings returned from the Europe." A living artist has claimed the work as his. Photo: Lucy Nguyen/Thanh NienTitled as “Abstract,” this painting is found to be deceptively put under the name of late artist Ta Ty at the exhibition “Paintings returned from the Europe.” A living artist has claimed the work as his. Photo: Lucy Nguyen/Thanh Nien

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts Tuesday publicly apologized for failing to verify the authenticity of 17 paintings on display at an exhibition that have been confirmed as fake.

A panel of famous artists and experts and officials found 15 of the paintings, supposedly the works of legendary artists such as Nguyen Tu Nghiem and Bui Xuan Phai, were copies.

Two others were found to be works of other artists. At least one living artist, Thanh Chuong, has claimed one of the two paintings as his.

All the paintings at the show are owned by Vu Xuan Chung, who claimed to have acquired them from Jean-Francois Hubert, a known expert on Vietnamese art and a former senior consultant for giant auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

The “Paintings returned from the Europe” exhibition opened on July 10 and soon faced forgery accusations from local artists and experts. It was originally slated to end on July 21.

Trinh Xuan Yen, deputy director of the museum, said it would keep all the paintings and ask relevant authorities to step in.

Luong Xuan Doan, vice chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, called the scandal “an insult to Vietnam’s fine arts.”

“All local artists are outraged by the paintings which are bad and superficial copies. Anyone can see they are fake.”

The “Abstract” painting by painter Thanh Chuong. Photo: Lucy Nguyen/Thanh Nien

Chuong, who said his work had been stolen and displayed at the exhibition under another artist’s name, said the incident would at least help authorities crack down on the forgery of Vietnamese paintings that has been going on for many years.

Many people, including officials, have been aware of the problem but had no evidence until now, he said.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Chung, the collector, said all the paintings’ authenticity was certified by Hubert and that he trusts the French expert. It is not known how much Chung paid for the collection.

Hubert also insisted on the paintings’ authenticity in an interview withThanh Nien.

Source: Vietnam museum says all paintings fake in high-profile exhibition

These Four Technologies May Finally Put an End to Art Forgery

July 19, 2016 – 07:50

These Four Technologies May Finally Put an End to Art Forgery

Like method actors and bearded brewmasters, the best art forgers are obsessed with authenticity. But thanks to a handful of new authentication technologies, even history’s most painstaking efforts wouldn’t stump today’s art sleuths.

Take Han van Meegeren, the most successful knockoff artist of the pre-war period. Adjusted for inflation, he made $30 million selling ersatz Dutch masters. Curators weren’t fooled just because the paintings looked perfect. (In fact, his Vermeers looked decidedly imperfect.) They were fooled because the art passed a crude forensic sniff test: every detail was “period correct.” He tracked down 17th-century canvases and stretchers. He duplicated Vermeer’s badger-hair brushes. And, in a stroke of OCD genius, he hand-ground exotic raw pigments following archaic formulas—no skimping allowed. Because faking Vermeer’s gorgeous signature paint would feel like cheating.

The 8 Most Prolific Forgers in Art History (That We Know Of)

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Today’s art authenticators have enough weapons in their arsenal—infrared spectroscopy, radiometric dating, gas chromatography—to spot a van Meegeren long before it hits the auction block. Many of these lab tests, though, are decades old, ample time for forgers to study the science and incremental improvements, perfect new counter-measures, and game the system.

Here’s the good news: The balance of power in the forgery detection game is about to shift. The art world has been closely monitoring scientific breakthroughs in fields as diverse as A.I., bitcoin, and protein analysis, and the technologies born from this research have either been appropriated by authenticators or will be soon. With these extra layers of security added to the vetting process, the current generation of copycat artists will find it increasingly difficult to hoodwink museum directors and collectors. Listen carefully, art patrons: That’s the sound of badger-hair brushes being turned into kindling.

Tracking Digital Provenance with Blockchain

Digital art is increasingly gaining traction in the contemporary art world. Phillips’s last two “Paddles ON!” auctions, which showcased digital formats ranging from GIFs to video game screenshots, have been well received. Blue-chip galleries are on board too; Pace Art + Technology, a new 20,000-square-foot space in Silicon Valley, is dedicated solely to digital media. Digital art collectives—Japan’s teamLab being the most prominent—have also sprung up.

Most importantly, prices are rising. In 2003, Cory Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds, a wall projection birthed from a hacked Nintendo chip, sold for $3,000. Last year, an edition of that same piece went for $630,000. Still, the question remains: How can a gallery sell digital content as investment-grade art when it already exists online and can be copied like a Google Doc? The answer is blockchain, the same computer technology that serves as the public ledger for bitcoin transactions around the globe. In the same way that you can verify and track the movement of any bitcoin ever mined, you can now verify and track the movement of any artwork ever created—online and in real time—provided that all the authorship and ownership records have been uploaded to a secure distributed database.

Every event in the lifespan of an artwork becomes a block that contains a timestamp and information linking it to the previous block, enabling prospective buyers to confirm that the artwork has been licensed. This tech is ideal for digital media, where copies may be passed off as originals, and the specifics regarding limited editions and artist’s proofs are frequently vague.

Several companies are peddling this service: Verisart in Los Angeles, Ascribe in Berlin, and Everledger in London. Deloitte also sees the opportunity, having unveiled its ArtTracktive service at the ICT Spring summit in Luxembourg. But the startup that’s become a buzzword in the art world is Monegraph. That’s because the founder is an artist. “Digital art has a problem: Bits are infinitely reproducible, and people want exclusivity and verifiability,” explains media artist and Monegraph founder Kevin McCoy. “Blockchain solves that problem by providing a clear and distinct provenance.”

Anti-Forgery through “Deep Learning”

Traditionally, authentication has relied on connoisseurs. After studying things like brushstroke, texture, composition, and color, they summon forth their vast wealth of knowledge and divine the truth. But as is the case with sports officiating, bad calls are part of the game. One of the most famous examples is Dr. Abraham Bredius. In the 1930s, he was recognized as the foremost authority on Dutch Old Masters. The ex-museum director was celebrated for his scholarship and unerring eye. Today, however, he’s remembered as the guy who mistook van Meegeren’s forgery, The Supper at Emmaus, for a national treasure. Bredius’s exuberant appraisal, published in The Burlington Magazine, included the fateful line “every inch [is] a Vermeer.”

Hans van Meegeren’s forgery of Vermeer’s The Last Supper, 1984. Photographer Croes, Rob C., Fotocollectie Anefo, Nationaal Archief NL. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s only a matter of time before a robot can tell the difference between a van Meegeren and a Vermeer. Much of the research into this technology is being conducted at the Rutgers Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, an offshoot of the university’s computer science department. A paper published last year by two of the lab’s scientists, Babak Saleh and Ahmed Elgammal, shows how an algorithm they developed is able to differentiate between Picasso and Matisse drawings with over 75-percent accuracy without analyzing composition or subject matter. Just by looking at individual strokes. In addition to automatically classifying images from a database of 80,000 individual works, the algorithm can also search for stylistic connections among them. In one example, the researchers chose a group of paintings and asked the program to identify the “closest match” among paintings in other genres. The results found extraordinary similarities between examples of Russian Romanticism and French Impressionism, and between works of Pop Art and the Northern Renaissance.

Like any other computer technology, over time, this algorithm will become more sophisticated and accuracy rates will spike. In the near future, a new anti-forgery algorithm based on this scientific research will be launched. Major museums, corporate art curators, and insurance companies will see to that. “The machine has an advantage over the human eye because it can analyze hundreds of thousands of individual strokes and statistically characterize them,” says Elgammal. “If we train the machine to identify styles based on characteristics that are less intentional and unconsciously rendered by the artist, we’ll be able to detect forgeries.” Think about that for a moment: an algorithm that can detect the artist’s subconscious in brushstrokes or pencil sketches. Good luck copying that, Mr. van Meegeren.

A More Sophisticated “Fingerprint”

The gold standard in early-20th-century authenticity cases has been an expert’s stamp of approval. Today, however, when forgery cases go to trial, provenance and connoisseurship are increasingly under scrutiny. Certificates of authenticity and bills of sale can be fabricated. In 2013, Modigliani Institute president Christian Parisot was arrested and charged with providing false certificates for almost $8.7 million worth of counterfeit—you guessed it—Modiglianis. Likewise, art historians and appraisers can be bribed, have conflicts of interest, or just screw up. This goes a long way toward explaining why the men in white lab coats wield so much clout in forgery cases.

There is no litmus test that can distinguish between art and artifice. But unlike the subjective eye, the latest spectra-matching science to hit the art forensics scene, peptide mass fingerprinting (better known as PMF), is hard to dismiss. Originally developed in 1993 and typically used in industries like biotech, PMF is a data-crunching tech that can analyze animal proteins on a molecular level. Until now, there was no scientific method to identify the type of animal tissue used in art materials like paint binders, adhesives, and coatings. A fancy machine called the Waters LDI-Time-of-Flight mass spectrometer has changed all that. After analyzing samples taken from an artwork, the LDI deconstructs the proteins and produces spectra containing markers that make up the sample’s “fingerprint.” These markers are then compared to those found in various animal tissues, like egg yolk, to find matches.

This technology, the latest toy for museum conservationists, will soon be added to the authenticator’s toolkit as well. Art conservation and art authentication are as closely aligned as the military and law enforcement. There’s a revolving door that links the two professions and it’s constantly spinning. Daniel Kirby, the scientist who pioneered art conservation PMF, is well aware of this nexus. “These are two sides of the same coin, the only difference is context,” says the former Harvard professor. “One guy’s job is preserving an artwork, the other guy’s job is determining if it’s real or fake. But they both look at the same things and use the same instruments.” Kirby is already fielding calls from insurance companies and art collectors willing to pay handsomely for his PMF magic.

Kirby’s projects have ranged from verifying that an antiquarian book was bound in human skin (affirmative) to determining the composition of Alaskan kayaks (hide: bearded seal; stitching: humpback whale sinew). He has also discovered that Mark Rothko used animal glue and egg on Panel 1 in his Harvard Murals cycle. PMF is so precise that it can even identify what kind of egg (duck, chicken, quail) and which part of the egg (yolk, white, or both) was used as a binder. For the record, Rothko used whole chicken egg to bind the paint and prime his Panel 1 canvas. With so many artworks containing animal proteins—medieval European artists favored fish glue, while Picasso prepped his canvasses with glue made from rabbit skin—insiders are studying Kirby’s research closely. Now the technology just needs to mature. “I’ve got 80 critters in the database,” says Kirby. “As that grows over time, I’ll start getting more matches.”

Embedding Synthetic DNA

In the mid-’90s, a sketch of Eric Fischl’s notorious painting Bad Boy hit the secondary market. The oil-on-paper work was so convincing it not only fooled a major auction house—it fooled Fischl. When friend Simon de Pury congratulated him on this large, monochromatic piece being included in an upcoming Sotheby’s auction, Fischl studied the photo of the imposter lot printed in the glossy catalog, and immediately recognized his handiwork. Dredging his memory, though, he couldn’t remember ever doing this sketch. “I thought I was losing my mind,” recalls Fischl. “Whoever painted it absolutely nailed my style at that time. The only way I knew it wasn’t mine was that I had never done any preparatory drawings of that painting.”

A Forger Confessed to Faking Millions in Lee Ufan Works—Now the Artist Says They’re Real

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Seeing a mediocre forgery of your work is one thing. Seeing your very soul in another artist’s brushstrokes is quite another. With that kind of backstory, it’s no wonder Fischl endorses synthetic DNA. He says that he’s “in line” to use this new anti-forgery tech, which allows artists to tag their works with tiny bits of synthetic DNA, when it launches: “Between the explosion of the art market, and countries like China that don’t recognize copyright laws and have highly skilled artisans who can knock off any artist’s style, forgeries have become common. The goal is to develop a tamper-proof coding system that will become the standard for authenticating art.”

The Global Center for Innovation at the State University of New York at Albany is experimenting with this ingenious ID science. The project was initially funded to the tune of $2 million by ARIS Title Insurance, a company that specializes in underwriting fine art. ARIS recently purchased the technology, and spun off a company called Provenire Authentication to market it. Like other players in the industry, ARIS wants to protect its slice of the $55 billion fine art market.

The idea is for artists to authenticate their work immediately upon completion—right after the paint on a canvas has dried or a sculpture has left the foundry—by attaching a DNA sample to it the size of a postage stamp. The recurring analogy is the car industry: Think of this as a VIN number for art. Rather than using the artist’s personal DNA, which might raise privacy issues and could conceivably be stolen and embedded in forgeries, synthetic DNA is made in a laboratory. Each artwork is inconspicuously tagged with a unique strand of bioengineered material that provides an encrypted link between the artwork and a secure database containing the definitive information about the artwork.

This DNA data, retrieved by a scanner, will be available to gallery dealers, museum employees, and anyone else who needs to verify the piece. The DNA meets archival standards. It doesn’t come in contact with the art and isn’t susceptible to environmental conditions or tampering. Moreover, deciphering and copying the DNA would be virtually impossible, even if you could find a rogue scientist in Shenzhen to do your bidding. Forget about removing the tag—you’d leave a trail of microscopic evidence all over the piece.

“Synthetic DNA will be admissible evidence in court,” says Provenire Authentication CEO Sam Salman. “Let’s hope that the technology of the good guys is always ahead of the bad guys.” The projected product price is $150. For those who can’t wait to mark their artistic territory with some synthetic DNA, Tagsmart, a British company offering a similar service, is already online. Founded by London framer Mark Darbyshire and software developer Steve Cooke, Tagsmart is a “three-way product” incorporating a synthetic DNA label, a certificate of authenticity, and a digital passport (provenance history). So sleep soundly, Mr. Fischl. At last, your artistic legacy and eight-figure estate is now suitably firewalled.

—Rene Chun

Illustration by Jan Buchczik for Artsy.

Source: These Four Technologies May Finally Put an End to Art Forgery

A Forger Confessed to Faking Millions in Lee Ufan Works—Now the Artist Says They’re Real

July 8, 2016 – 09:22

A Forger Confessed to Faking Millions in Lee Ufan Works—Now the Artist Says They’re Real

South Korean artist Lee Ufan poses near his artwork L’arche de Versailles (The arch of Versailles), on June 11, 2014, at the Chateau de Versailles. Image courtesy of Fred Dufour and Getty Images.

Police in Seoul believed they had their man. Following a nearly year-long investigation into the forgery of several works attributed to acclaimed South Korean artist Lee Ufan, a suspect was arrested in May after fleeing to Japan. The man charged—identified only by his surname of Hyeon—operated a gallery in Northeastern Seoul, from which he allegedly sold forged paintings purportedly by Lee. Hyeon allegedly raked in some $1.1 million in the process.

Hyeon was not the only one arrested as part of the investigation into the source of some 13 counterfeit works attributed to Ufan. But shortly after the police picked up Hyeon, the Korea Times ran a story under the headline “13 of Lee’s paintings confirmed to be forged.” According to appraisers and forensic experts, the works in question were not genuine. Even Hyeon admitted to forging the paintings, when questioned by police. Under normal circumstances, the weight of these opinions would sink any doubt that the works were not by Lee’s hand. But no one had asked the artist. And, as it turns out, he disagrees.

Best known as a pioneer of the Japanese Mono-ha style, Lee Ufan is among the most influential and expensive living Korean artists, with his work fetching millions of dollars at auction. Exemplary of the 80-year-old’s subtle and meditative practice isFrom Line, No. 760219 (1976), which sold for $2.16 million at Sotheby’s in 2014. A counterfeit of the “From Lines” series was among the 13 works police claim are forged. Hyeon has admitted to have forged 50 others, possibly in collaboration with an unnamed painter and dealer.

The twist came late last week, after authorities requested that Lee confirm that the works were indeed counterfeits. Following a two-day inspection of the works, during which the artist looked over the pieces with a magnifying glass and compared them to catalogue records, he declared that he “found nothing wrong in all the 13 pieces. The use of color, rhythm and breathing are all mine.”

Lee Ufan’s statement directly contradicts the evidence against Hyeon, a 66-year-old gallery owner who confessed to selling three of the 13 works in question. (Other dealers have also been arrested.) The artist didn’t comment on findings by the National Forensic Service and civilian experts, which the police had used to support their contention that all three works were forged. Rather, he invoked some forensic evidence of his own—albeit a less scientific kind. “Breath and rhythm are like fingerprints, which no one can copy. A third person, however talented the person might be, can’t do exactly like the artist does,” he told Yonhap News.

The artist went so far as to imply that the police had encouraged him to confirm their assessment. “On June 27, police asked me to acknowledge that the four pieces that Mr. Hyeon admitted to having forged were indeed fakes in an attempt to reach a compromise,” Lee told reporters, “but I refused.” He also voiced concerns about how the authorities handled the investigation, criticizing their decision to consult him so late into the authentication process. “An artist has a responsibility and the right to view his paintings first. But they left me out in the investigation and came to a conclusion without consulting me,” he said.

Source: A Forger Confessed to Faking Millions in Lee Ufan Works—Now the Artist Says They’re Real

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer $31M and his reputation

July 8, 2016 – 09:19

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer $31M and his reputation

By Derrick Bryson Taylor

Alex Komolov, the owner of the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, is in the midst of a six-year legal battle against his former business colleagues for allegedly selling him more than $31 million worth of fake art. He’s seeking to recoup his money and restore his name.

In lawsuits obtained by Page Six, Komolov claims David Segal and Mohamed Serry tricked him into buying $30 million worth of fraudulent Monet, Vlaminck, Picasso and Manet paintings, among other antiques, between 2007 and 2009. Komolov purchased the works through his company High Value Trading and also claims Segal and Serry, owners of Artique Multinational, skipped out on paying $4.2 million for his New York City condo in 2007.

In a second suit, Komolov is targeting Universe Antiques owner Jack Shaoul for allegedly selling him a fraudulent Renoir painting in 2011 for $1.2 million.

At the time of sale, the men allegedly presented fraudulent certificates of authenticity to gain Komolov’s confidence. “Both paintings and certificates of authenticity are being forged with such technology that Picasso himself, if he could review his work, would not be able to tell the difference between real and fake,” Komolov’s attorney Phil Chronakis of law firm Budd Larner said. Once sold, Komolov had the works appraised by Art Experts Inc., a Florida-based company that specializes in appraisals, authentications and attributions. The company determined the pieces to be fake.

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A forged Claude Monet paintingPhoto: Art Experts Inc.

In total, close to 50 different works and other antique artifacts were sold to Komolov. And while the 72-year-old gallery owner may not be able to recover every penny he spent, his most pressing concern is restoring his reputation. He once gifted a Picasso painting to the president of Kazakhstan, his home country, only to learn it was a fake. He immediately told the president the painting was a forgery and apologized for the mishap.

“My client’s business has been damaged by going out of pocket $40 million to obtain items that are essentially worthless,” Chronakis added. “My client does a lot of business in Europe, specifically in Eastern Europe and now parts of Asia, he’s had a concern that this would affect his reputation, which is of course very valuable in business.”

Segal and Serry couldn’t be reached for comment and don’t have any criminal records. Shaoul, on the other hand, was convicted in 1993 on multiple counts of mail and wire fraud for filing bogus art insurance claims. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

When contacted by phone, Shaoul defended himself and blasted Komolov. “The guy is a crazy man,” Shaoul said. “He sued every antique dealer in the center, anybody he does business with, his partner. He’s a sue maniac. He’s been a dealer for 40 years. I’ve been a dealer for 40 years. He bought something from us. Three objects and one of them he wants to return, which we are willing to give him back his money. But he paid for the object $300,000, he says he paid $1.1 million and he made a fake bill, forged my signature, which is criminal. The guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Komolov’s crisis manager Wendy Feldman vowed to do what she can to rescue her client’s image. “Alex is from the old school where your word was your bond,” Feldman said in a statement. “His image still remains very important to him and his gallery and will remain so. It is rare a person who would blow the whistle and spend millions more in legal fees to keep people out of business like David Segal and Mohamed Serry to protect the public. Jack Shaoul should have never been let back into the art world after serving time for a similar crime.”

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A forged Pierre-August Renoir paintingPhoto: Art Experts Inc.

The sale of forgeries is not uncommon in the art world, says Aviva Lehmann, Director of American Art, New York at Heritage Auctions. “It absolutely happens. You have to have eagle eyes, you have to really do your homework, do your due diligence,” Lehmann explained. “Inspect the work upside down, backwards, forwards, really talk to scholars in the field. It is very easy to have something dubious slip by.”

Though Lehmann says she hasn’t witnessed an uptick in the sale of fakes over the last 10 years, she’s aware of the active black market for such secret deals. “There is a black market for everything. I’ve seen it. There are black markets for artists that you have never even heard of that on a good day can sell for $50,000,” she said. “It’s extraordinary … I’ve seen fakes and forgeries of major masterworks in the eight-figure range. I’m not amazed by anything anymore.”

Komolov’s case against Shaoul heads to trial on Oct. 28 and papers are currently due to the appellate division in the case against Segal and Serry.

Source: Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer $31M and his reputation

CNS – Investor Fears Her Warhols May Be Rip Offs

July 5, 2016 – 19:40

Friday, July 01, 2016Last Update: 2:50 PM PT


Investor Fears Her Warhols May Be Rip Offs

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A New York art-dealer duped a hands-off investor into buying a collection of bogus Andy Warhol paintings, a petition filed in New York Supreme Court claims.
In her June 30 filing, Nira Levine, president of Oregon-based NLR Unlimited, claims that in October 2008, Woodward Gallery convinced her to invest in a collection of ninety Andy Warhol prints entitled “Spacefruit Prints 1979.”
During their discussions, she says, the parties agreed to jointly purchase the prints for $180,000.00, splitting the cost 50/50.
Woodward Gallery is a New York fine arts gallery owned by John Woodward and Kristine Woodward, originally incorporated under the name G.O.L.A. (Gallery of Living Artists).
Levine had a long history with the Woordwards, relying on their expertise as she sought out fine art to purchase as investments. Between September 2002 and November 2008, the petition says, Levine bought about 140 paintings, worth an estimated $874,000.
However, Levine says that when followed up on the authenticity of the “Spacefruit Prints 1979” in July 2014, she discovered through a restorer’s condition report that the collection consisted of 76 prints, 63 of which had been deemed inauthentic by the Warhol Authentication Board.
Levine says the report differed significantly from one provided to her by the Woodwards, and she suspects they purposefully removed any references that cast the authenticity of the works into doubt.
Woodward said in a letter to Levine that when they first acquired the prints “many years ago,” they “were worthless pieces of paper, because they were not part of known Warhol print edition, but we knew them to be genuine.”
Levine relies on that statement to assert the Woodward purchased the collection long before they encouraged her to invest in it.
Levine is seeking a discovery order compelling the gallery to disclose all documentation of acquisition and sale for the rest of the approximately 140 pieces of art that were jointly purchased for Levine by the Woodwards.
The collection is composed of a veritable “who’s who” of 20th Century painters, including the iconic pop art of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, along with the street art of Keith Haring and Richard Hambleton, as well as a Jean-Michel Basquiat and a half dozen paintings attributed to Alexander Calder.
In addition to the documentation, Levine is also seeking a court order that John and Kristine Woodward each provide depositions on the purchases.
Levine says she intends pursue a civil action against Woodward for on counts of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary, fraud and conversion.
Christies Auction House currently has a set of six Warhol “Space Fruit” still lifes for auction, estimated to be worth $40,000 – $60,000.
Levine is represented by Carter Reich from Nicholas Goodman & Associates in New York.
Representatives from Woodward Gallery did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. 

Source: CNS – Investor Fears Her Warhols May Be Rip Offs

Why is Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

June 23, 2016 – 10:04

Why is Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

kh close

Published : 2016-06-21 17:59
Updated : 2016-06-21 17:59

Artist Lee U-fan will finally have a look at the paintings that the National Forensic Service confirmed as counterfeits of his works next Monday.

“We can’t conclude whether the paintings are forged or not since we haven’t seen them,” said Lee’s attorney Choi Soon-yong in a phone call with The Korea Herald.

Choi said Lee will then decide on when and how he will press charges against the art forgers — there are suspected to be several art forgers — and gallerists, who are accused of distributing the counterfeits.

One of the largest art forgery cases in Korea seems to be nearing its end as a 66-year-old art forger surnamed Hyun, who allegedly created fake works of Lee U-fan, was arrested in May and has been put on trial. All 13 works seized by police from galleries accused of distributing the counterfeits were confirmed to be fake.

Lee U-fan (Yonhap)

When Hyun was arrested, he admitted to having made some 50 replicas of paintings by Lee U-fan in 2012. Some of them were among the 13 seized paintings.

The biggest-ever art forgery case involving the acclaimed painter Lee prompted art experts and the Culture Ministry to discuss ways to solve the chronic problems that lead to continued art forgery.

“Art forgery scandals surface again and again because there’s no strict sentencing for art forgery,” said art appraiser Choi Myeong-yoon, at a seminar on measures to prevent art forgery held on June 9 in Seoul. The event was organized by the Culture Ministry.

The punishment for committing art forgery is relatively light compared to other crimes. But as the Korean art market expands and artworks by famous artists are treated as financial assets, there have been calls for stronger punishment for art forgers and those involved in distributing fake artworks.

“Since art forgers get light sentences, forgers make copies again once they are released and a new forgery scandal emerges,” said art critic Chung Joon-mo.

Hyun was convicted twice for copying artworks of Korean art masters in the past. He was accused of forging artist Chun Kyung-ja’s signature on a copied painting in 1991, and then of making counterfeits of traditional paintings in 1995.

Both times he was given suspended jail sentences on fraud charges.

“Measures that enhance policing of art forgery activities in the market are needed,” said Shin Eun-hyang, the director of the visual arts and design division of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Forged artworks seem to be on the rise in the last five years.

According to a figure from the Korean Art Appraisal Board, the percentage of fake works among the total artworks they were assigned to authenticate has increased from 34 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2015. There were 180 fake works among a total of 525 artworks appraised in 2011 and 236 fake works among 588 artworks appraised in 2015.

“From Point No. 780217” by Lee U-fan and its certificate of authenticity issued by the Galleries Association of Korea were confirmed to have been forged. (Yonhap)

Appraiser Choi Myeong-yoon said that the number of fake works that we know may be just a small part of what could be thousands of other fake artworks.

“I was assigned to authenticate some 3,000 artworks since 2005 until January this year by law enforcement agencies. All of them were fakes,” Choi said.

Unregulated art market

The sales of copied paintings of Lee U-fan started at a relatively unknown gallery in the art and tourist district of Insa-dong. The gallery owner was one of the many private art dealers who only trade artworks, not hold exhibitions. It is not listed with the Galleries Association of Korea, a group of 150 commercial galleries in Korea.

“The galleries which cause trouble are not members of the GAK. I believe we need a system that can enhance transparency of the art market,” said Park Woo-hong, the president of GAK and also president of Dong San Bang Gallery.

There are no special requirements that must be met to open an art gallery. Anyone who wants to open a gallery can start business after registering with the National Tax Service like any other businesses.

“Anyone can open their space for art trade under the name of gallery or auction. And art forgery persists and fakes are usually circulated by individual art dealers,” said Shin.

Art appraisal credibility

Artworks suspected as forged works are appraised at several private appraisal agencies and individual appraisers, including the Korean Art Appraisal Board, which handles the largest number of paintings. The credibility of art appraisal results are sometimes questioned as auction houses are involved in authenticating artworks consigned by their clients.

“Private art appraisal agencies currently enjoy autonomy in the appraisal process. It’s not known how many are in this business,” said Cho Hyun-seong of the visual arts and design division of the Culture Ministry.

Art experts discuss ways to improve transparency in the Korean art market and art appraisal credibility at a seminar organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on June 9 in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The lack of reliability of the current art appraisal system has led to calls for a public art appraisal institution, or licensing of private art appraisers.

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea appraised Chun Kyung-ja’s “Beautiful Women” painting as an original piece by the artist, but its authenticity is still being questioned by many people, including family members of Chun. The late artist, in her lifetime, insisted it was not her painting.

The Culture Ministry said it is in the process of gathering ideas from art experts before announcing in August actual measures aimed at preventing art forgery.

But some art experts voice concerns that measures to regulate the market will hinder the growth of the Korean art market.

“I don’t see any reason why the government should be in a hurry to come up with solutions. The Korean art market is still in its infancy with just 20 years of market activities. Regulations should take effect step by step,” said Seo Jin-su, an economics professor at Kangnam University, who studies art markets in Korea and Asia.

By Lee Woo-young (

Source: Why is Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

A house full of stolen antiques

June 23, 2016 – 09:59

A house full of stolen antiques

The Idol Wing police in Tamil Nadu seize a treasure trove of antique idols stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka at the home of a “trader” in arts and artefacts, and in the process bust an international smuggling syndicate. By ILANGOVAN RAJASEKARAN

THE last thing that Govindaraj Deenadayalan would have wanted in his sunset years was to see the art business he had studiously built up collapsing. The octogenarian has seen many ups and downs in his six decades of trading in arts and artefacts, and even extricated himself nonchalantly from the most trying situations. But luck seemed to have deserted him in the last week of May when the police in Chennai, after a continuous watch on him, raided his house in an upscale locality, and eventually arrested him.

Sleuths of the Idol Wing CID of the Tamil Nadu Police’s Economic Offences Wing, led by Inspector General of Police (IG) Pon. Manickavel, raided Deenadayalan’s residence in Alwarpet in the heart of Chennai and a rented godown nearby on the basis of information that hoards of antique artefacts were stored there with no valid documents. In fact, the residence also housed a gallery, Aparna Art Gallery.

The raids and the investigations that followed unearthed an internationally well-knit smuggling unit that has been active for at least 50 years in Tamil Nadu, which has countless ancient temples that hold in them priceless antique pieces. Deenadayalan, 84, was, the Idol Wing police said on the basis of “credible” information, a vital link in the murky racket.

It was a tip-off to Pon. Manickavel from an informant about “some unusual activities” going on at Deenadayalan’s house and the godown in the wee hours that alerted the police to mount a surveillance on the two places. The specific information was that lorries bearing registration numbers of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were frequenting the places either to deposit or transport huge wooden boxes.

Deenadayalan had actually put his trade on hold in an attempt to lie low after the arrest, in 2012, of international antiques dealer Subash Chandra Kapoor, said to be a client of his, on charges of smuggling. The arrest was made by the Pon. Manickavel-headed Idol Wing, and Kapoor is now being held in Puzhal prison near Chennai awaiting trial in a few idol theft cases.

Deenadayalan had also been cautious about his movements since then. He slipped out of Chennai to his native village in Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh and then moved to Bengaluru where he once ran a gallery.

But the police continued to maintain a zealous vigil over his house in Chennai. Said Pon. Manickavel: “During the course of our investigation in Kapoor’s case, we chanced upon a vital link that drew us closer to Deenadayalan, who, we came to understand, was one of his suppliers in India. Further investigation revealed that he had a hand in the theft of the stone idol of Ardhanareeswarar from the ancient Siva temple in Vriddachalam in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu. The statue eventually landed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, through Kapoor.”

The thieves replaced the idol with a replica that even officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government were unaware of. After a diligent matching of photographs and exchange of documents with the Australian authorities, it was ascertained that the idol in the Australian museum was the one that had been stolen from the Vriddachalam temple. The Ardhanareeswarar and a bronze idol of Nataraja (stolen from the Sri Brihadeeswarar temple at Sripuranthan in Udayarpalayam taluk in Ariyalur district) were returned to India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia in September 2014.

Investigations into Deenadayalan’s activities also showed that he was an accused in a case relating to a break-in at the ancient Sri Narum Poonathar Temple at Paluvoor village in Tirunelveli district in 2005; 13 bronze idols were stolen. He was able to secure bail, but an accomplice was murdered following a dispute over the sawing off of a portion of a two-and-a-half-foot (76 cm) tall bronze of Nataraja to extract the gold content from it. The trial in the case at the Srivilliputhur Magistrate court is in its last lap.

Pon. Manickavel said: “Since then the Chennai dealer [Deenadayalan] has been under our watch. Though he was aware that we were on his trail and though he camouflaged his activities by lying low for some time, pressure from buyers was too much for him to resist. As expected, it made him lower his guard thinking that we had slackened our surveillance. But we had been watching his every move closely. He could not transport his idols to buyers in Mumbai on time. He became desperate and then we struck.”

The police arrested three of his trusted workers, Rajamani (60), Kumar (60) and Mansingh (55), on May 31 and remanded them in custody. The raids and seizures began on the basis of the information the investigators got from them. The raids at his house and godown went on for three days from May 31 and threw up a virtual treasure trove that shocked and surprised the sleuths of the Idol Wing.

There were priceless antique sculptures in metal and in stone, besides innumerable other items presumably from temples in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Deenadayalan performed a vanishing act and went underground. The Idol Wing pasted a “Notice of Appearance” at his house under Section 41A (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and asked him to appear before the police with the relevant documents since they had “credible information” that he had “committed a cognisable offence”.

Deenadayalan was able to get anticipatory bail, but he presented himself before the Idol Wing Police in the first week of June, along with his counsel and his daughter, for the inquiry. The raids on his house and godown yielded about 200 artefacts, including 49 bronzes, 71 stone carvings and 96 rare paintings.

Many other ancient artefacts, such as miniature statues, massive stone Nandis, ivory and wood carvings, lamps, figurines, ornamental pillars, and pooja utensils, were also seized.

R. Nagasamy, former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department and a renowned iconographer, said many of the idols were 1,000 to 1,200 years old.

“They belong to the Chola and Hoysala dynasties, the former known for its intricate bronze works and the latter for blackstone and sandstone works. It is sad that these glories of the past have been plundered by the greedy from their pristine, sacred environment,” he said.

The IG, who is personally investigating the case, said they never expected such a huge haul of antiques from a private dealer.

“We were surprised at its [the seizure’s] magnitude. They have ripped off whole temples in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam areas, it seems,” he said. After seeing the paintings and idols, many temple officials and private mutts have started coming to the police to identify whether any of the seized pieces are those stolen from their places. Deenadayalan reportedly sold an original painting of Raja Ravi Varma for Rs.1 crore. “An idol stolen from a temple near Chinna Salem and a painting stolen from an ancient mutt have been identified. Cases are being filed,” said P.A. Sundaram, DSP, the Idol Wing Investigation Officer.

The bureaucracy’s wink-and-nod attitude to temple thefts emboldened the thieves and smugglers. The smugglers mixed the antique pieces with new metal idols to get export clearance from the Handicrafts Department of the Union Textiles Ministry as “objects of handicrafts”.

These clearance documents were presented to Customs officials at ports, mostly in Mumbai, for shipping the consignments abroad.

The same method was used to smuggle eight bronzes that were stolen from the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Sripuranthan village. The police report of this case (Vikramangalam Police Station, Crime Number 133/08 under Section 380 (2) of the Indian Penal Code) pointed out that the smugglers got the clearance certificates from the Handicrafts Department in Chennai. The law enforcers accord least priority to these “cultural thefts” and many feign ignorance about the provisions of The Antiquity and Art Treasures Act, 1972, that prohibits trading in antiquities at least 100 years old and also any item of antique value without the Archaeology Survey of India’s (ASI) clearance.

“Such serious crimes are treated as non-cognisable offences such as burglary, in which you get less punishment. Dealing with the theft of artefacts of antique value demands high technical expertise involving heavy documentation and verification procedures. The provenance of the pieces is to be proved before a court of law. It is a cumbersome exercise,” said Pon. Manickavel.

“In fact, anyone can walk into an unguarded and dilapidated ancient temple in a nondescript village, steal the antique sculptures, both stone and bronze, and other artefacts, find a middleman, label them as handicrafts with the connivance of officials and ship them out of the country through a well-connected pan-global syndicate of smugglers basically from Mumbai,” said Vijay Kumar, an independent blogger who is engaged with the India Pride Project (IPP) involving an international group of activists fighting against “culture trafficking” from India.

The Idol Wing faces many constraints while investigating a case of such serious dimensions. Inadequate manpower and infrastructure are bugbears.

“To investigate the high-profile cases of Kapoor and Deenadayalan, we need to have expert handling. In the U.S., sleuths of the Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Investigation, which investigate these cases, are trained in archaeology and antique assessment,” pointed out a senior police officer.

Legal loopholes

Any investigation into antique theft has been a daunting task for the investigators. “The law in India demands a case to be charge-sheeted in 60 days. How could one successfully conduct trials against the smugglers and illegal sellers when the investigation transcends the country’s borders? To determine whether the provenance documents of the stolen artefacts are fake, we need experts’ opinions. It is time-consuming,” Pon. Manickavel said.

Such bottlenecks in the course of an investigation invariably provide the accused a favourable environment to escape the law. This is especially so when documentary evidence is not available to prove that the artefacts belonged to a particular temple or place. The case of the antique trader Vaman Narayan Ghiya of Jaipur is a case in point, which proved that laws were inadequate to deal with illegal treasure sellers. He is said to have been a prolific antique smuggler in the 1980s, and a report claimed that he had stolen about 20,000 artefacts. He was arrested in 2003, only to be released by the Rajasthan High Court since the prosecutors could not prove his complicity in the crime in the absence of material evidence, since the stolen pieces could not be recovered from abroad. The ASI chose not to appeal against it. Many operators have escaped the law in this manner.

“For instance, priceless antique pieces have been stolen from various temples across Tamil Nadu. But, sadly, none of these stolen properties from our temples has any documentary proof of ownership and proof of provenance, though the HR and CE Department claims that it has started collecting and documenting the same now,” said Pon. Manickavel.

The smugglers and their agents were able to hoodwink the law by providing false provenance certificates for the stolen antiquities. Art lovers point out that the restitution of statues to their original sites is difficult because evidence is needed to show that the stolen pieces are from a particular temple.

But this time, the Idol Wing police have decided to plug these technical loopholes. In the Paluvoor case, in which Deenadayalan was also named, the IG filed a fresh affidavit under Section 173 (8) of the CrPC, asking the Srivilliputhur court to suspend the trial proceedings since the case was to be reopened for further investigation. “Similarly, I have had to take over the role of complainant in a case where the authorities in a temple from which the idols had been stolen denied any knowledge about them. This is the first time in the country that an officer in the rank of IGP has taken up the responsibility of being a complainant since the stolen idols belong to the country,” he said.

In the case of Kapoor, who owns a gallery called Art of the Past in Manhattan in New York, the police faced anxious moments before they arrested him (“The great Indian idol robbery”, Frontline, January 24, 2004). Realising the deficiencies in the prosecution system, the Idol Wing approached his case with methodical precision. Experts’ opinions were sought to identify the stolen artefacts by matching visuals of the same with photographic materials from the French Institute in Puducherry, the only agency that has a meticulous database of hundreds of antique properties of temples and other places of historical importance in Tamil Nadu and India.

All the pieces of documentary and photographic evidence were submitted to the authorities in the U.S., Australia and Germany to seek Kapoor’s extradition to India and his subsequent detention in Tamil Nadu, for which the Home Ministry had to be convinced to make the Interpol issue a Red Corner alert. “In fact, a detailed investigation that ran for months has effectively broken the strong criminal syndicate of Kapoor, his chief idol lifter Sanjeevan Ashokan, who was once detained under the Goondas’ Act in the Sripuranthan temple burglary, and Deenadayalan. They had carried out many successful business transactions. We are also pursuing other vital leads which Deenadayalan provided during the interrogation. This will enable us to unearth the entire secret network that has been functioning for years now,” the IG said.

The arrest of Kapoor at Frankfurt airport in Germany in 2012 turned the focus on the theft and smuggling of ancient treasures from India, and especially Tamil Nadu, and the illicit trade in them. In fact, according to a report in The New York Times, Kapoor’s loot alone could be worth Rs.66.71 billion in the international market. Another report points out that he could have stolen and smuggled about 2,600 artefacts out of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Cambodia. Pon. Manickavel said Kapoor’s Sofia Self Storage Facility in the U.S. was thought to be hoarding about 500 idols from India, especially Tamil Nadu, of which a mere 31 had been returned to the country so far. He said the U.S. authorities were yet to return two important stolen pieces from the Suthamalli temple near Ariyalur though “unimpeachable documentary evidence” was provided to them. “These two idols carry inscriptions of ‘Sudhavalli’ on their pedestals pointing to the Tamil Nadu connection,” he said. More than 50 galleries abroad still display stolen idols from India, he claimed. A study by the Drug and Crime wing of the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation says that illicit trafficking in stolen idols across the world is estimated to be worth $3.4-6.3 billion annually. India is a signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.

Pon. Manickavel said he was confident of breaking the backbone of this well-organised international black market in antique idols from temples in Tamil Nadu. He was also confident that museums and auction houses in India and abroad, especially those in the U.S. and Australia, now understood that they should no longer indulge in shady trade in stolen antiquities from India.

Source: A house full of stolen antiques

Connoisseur & Smuggler:The 84-year-old art dealer and his collection of ‘stolen’ idols in Chennai

June 21, 2016 – 05:35

Connoisseur & Smuggler:The 84-year-old art dealer and his collection of ‘stolen’ idols in Chennai

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published:June 20, 2016 1:00 am

tamil nadu, tamil nadu idol racket, chennail ancient idol smuggling, tamil nadu CID idol wing, Tanjore paintings, Tanjore paintings smuggling, indian ancient idol smuggling racket, chennai idol smuggling case, M Deendayal, M Deendayal idol smuggling acse, chennai news, india news, tamil nadu news, latest newsInvestigators now say Deendayal used to ship such items to the US and European countries.

Known as an art dealer, connoisseur and even an inspiration to contemporary artists, he was at the same time suspected to be an international smuggler but never caught for decades. By the time the net finally closed around him, M Deendayal was 84.

This was after the unearthing of a massive cache of ancient idols from his premises in Chennai. Searches by the Tamil Nadu CID’s idol wing in two godowns, a gallery and the residence of Deendayal have so far led to the recovery of over 254 ancient stone idols, 151 antique artworks on canvas and Tanjore paintings, 28 antique wooden artefacts, 54 metal idols including three huge ones and a small ivory statue. And the searches are still continuing, A G Pon Manichakvel, inspector general of police.

Investigators now say Deendayal used to ship such items to the US and European countries. He apparently packed them into containers and labelled those “Handicrafts”.

The racket is being seen as one of the biggest since the arrest in 2011 of Subhash Kapoor, a Manhattan art dealer now lodged at Chennai’s Puzhal Prison and facing trial.

Deendayal, who was absconding after the initial raids on his premises, surrendered on June 10 after the government impounded his passport. Officers said he hasn’t been registered as arrested as he is cooperating with the investigation.

The CID (idol wing) says it had no credible evidence against Deendayal earlier. The racket was busted on May 31 following the arrest of three persons from his premises, allegedly agents who sold stolen items in the Mumbai market. “Earlier tip-offs against Deendayal had all turned out to be false. But after the arrest of the three people, we deployed teams and started searches from June 1 with court warrants in his godowns and residence on Murray’s Gate Road,” said an officer.

“Deendayal has clients in Europe and many dealers in America,” the officer said. He added Deendayal was also selling idols to buyers in India, including a main dealer in Mumbai. “He sold a painting at Rs 1 crore to a Mumbai dealer. That, and another case registered against him in 2005, are being probed.”

S Vijaya Kumar, a Singapore-based private investigator said his team had been tracking Deendayal since 2004 as he was prime accused in an idol smuggling case and jumped bail, escaping to Bangkok before he resumed his business in Chennai again. Vijaya Kumar is a co-founder of India Pride Project, a group of NRIs that uses public and official networks to look for stolen Indian idols in various international museums.

As an art expert, Deendayal is also said to have inspired some of the finest. The late M Reddeppa Naidu, one South India’s leading painters, had said in interviews to The Indian Express in 1985 and to The Independent in 1990 that it was Deendayal who inspired his Mahabharata project, a series of paintings in 18 large canvases, one for each parva, and done between 1972 and 1974.

“Around June 1972, Deendayal read me a poem from the stree parva – Samsara Grahanam, which had been translated into Telugu from Sanskrit in the 3rd century AD by Nanayyabhatt. He requested me to do a painting based on it. I did one, which both he and his wife liked very much. Deendayal then suggested that I might like to do one for each parva,” recalled the painter, a national award winner and a student of veteran artist K C S Panicker.

It was Deendayal who first exhibited Naidu’s work at Ashoka Hotel in Delhi in 1974 and then at his Aparna Art Gallery, followed by a retrospective of his works in Madras.

One of his customers from the 1990s said Aparna Art Gallery, founded in 1983, was one of the top five sellers of Tanjore paintings in Madras during that period. “He used to sell more than 15 Tanjore paintings a month, and had an active clientele in Mumbai and Delhi too,” she said.

Besides Aparna Art Gallery in Chennai and two godowns on the street where he lived, two more galleries in Chennai and one in a Bangalore hotel, too, have now been sealed, police said.

“Deendayal is quite a big fish and possibly linked to Kapoor,” said a police officer. “We are probing his role in the smuggling of a stone idol of Ardhanarishwarar from Virudhagereeswarar temple in Virudhachalam (which was later sold for $3 million to an art gallery in New South Wales in 2004 by Kapoor, and later returned to India),” said an officer.

Vijaya Kumar of India Pride Project is widely credited with having played a key role in tracking Kapoor along with US and Indian agencies before his arrest from Frankfurt airport in 2011. Kumar said India is losing 10,000 major artefacts every decade and this doesn’t include smaller paintings, terracotta, coins, wooden temple cart parts, pillars and jewellery.

When Kapoor was finally caught in 2011 following a five-year-long operation by FBI and Indian agencies, what had been recovered from his godowns in Manhattan were some 2,600 items worth $100 million. In comparison, the raids in Chennai have unearthed some 500 items including stone, metal idols and antique paintings in the last two weeks.

On Friday, dozens of temple trustees and managers from south India flocked to Deendayal’s house to try and identify idols and paintings stolen from their premises. These included isols of Shiva in the form of Tripurantaka Murthy, Nardhana Ganapathi Devi, Sivagami Amman and Natarajar Asthiravedar.

R Nagaswamy, former director of Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department who accompanied the raid team, estimates that many idols were centuries old and estimated their value at several million rupees. Some items in black stone were over 900 years old.

A senior officer said Archaeological Survey of India experts have confirmed that many idols were more than 10 centuries old and had been stolen from temples in Kumbakonam, Myladuthurai, Tiruvarur and Tanjore districts of Tamil Nadu besides temples in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the last few years.

Source: Connoisseur & Smuggler:The 84-year-old art dealer and his collection of ‘stolen’ idols in Chennai

13 of Lee U-fan’s paintings confirmed to be forged

June 4, 2016 – 07:49

13 of Lee U-fan’s paintings confirmed to be forged

Posted : 2016-06-03 16:53Updated : 2016-06-03 17:42
Lee U-fan’s “Point”

By Yun Suh-young

Police have confirmed that several of artist Lee U-fan’s works were forged.

The announcement on Thursday is based on the results of a National Forensic Service probe. Suspicions about the works arose in 2012.

Thirteen of Lee’s works _ four that were bought by private collectors, eight kept by distributors and sellers and one that was sold at a local auction _ have been confirmed as forgeries. The 13 pieces were compared with Lee’s six genuine works exhibited at local museums.

Lee is best known in Korea and overseas for his “dansaekhwa” series, or monochrome paintings. His works are also among the most expensive pieces by a Korean artist. His “From Line No. 760219” was sold for $2.16 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2014. Last month, one of his “Wind” series sold for $922,000 at an auction in Hong Kong.

Police started their investigation in June last year after allegations that some of Lee’s forged works were being sold and distributed. Forged paintings of Lee’s “From Point” and “From Line” series were claimed to have been sold for billions of won in several galleries in Insa-dong between 2012 and 2013.

Last month, police arrested and investigated a man suspected of directing the forgery of Lee’s works. Police are investigating another artist for allegedly forging several of Lee’s paintings.

Lee, who said he knew nothing about the forgeries of his paintings when the claims were first made, said in January through a legal representative that if there are forged works purported to be his being sold, then he is the biggest victim of the scandal and would cooperate fully with any police investigation.

Lee is in France preparing for an exhibition. His attorney, Choi Soon-yong, said it was difficult for Lee to return to Korea immediately due to the exhibition but hoped the investigation would end soon so there would be no further speculation about Lee’s works and no further damage would occur.

The forgery confirmation is likely to spur further investigations. Claims have long been made that forgeries of the work of other famous artists, such as Chung Kyung-ja and Park Soo-geun, are also being traded.

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Source: 13 of Lee U-fan’s paintings confirmed to be forged

Insider theft – Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints

June 3, 2016 – 09:17

Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints

By Justine McDaniel


Bree DeStephano, 33, of York, was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison Thursday for stealing prints t from the award-winning Chester County photographer who snapped National Geographic’s famous Afghan Girl portrait.

A York County woman was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison Thursday for a mass art theft from the award-winning Chester County photographer who snapped National Geographic’s famous Afghan Girl portrait.

Bree DeStephano, 33, of York, pleaded guilty in April to three felony charges related to theft and conspiracy for stealing more than $650,000 worth of prints and books by Steve McCurry.

“This defendant engaged in a calculated, systemic theft from her trusted employer,” said Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone. “Her actions affected Steve McCurry’s hard-earned reputation around the world as a premier photographer and artist.”

DeStephano also was ordered to pay nearly $215,000 in restitution, which will go to McCurry’s charity ImagineAsia, and was sentenced to 10 years of probation following her prison time.

She may serve her jail sentence in York County, where she lives and works, and will be eligible for work release. She is an office manager at a law firm in York County, said Dan Bush, her attorney.

“From the beginning of this matter, Ms. DeStephano admitted to her actions and was apologetic for them,” Bush said. “While harsh, the Court’s sentence acknowledges both of those [things] and permits her to maintain the career that she has fought hard to develop since admitting her wrongdoings.”

DeStephano was accused in June 2015 of working with a Colorado art dealer to sell McCurry’s prints and split the profits while she was a manager at the photographer’s Exton studio.

The thefts included nine or 10 stolen prints of Afghan Girl, most of them valued at $12,500; one $50,000 print, and more than 200 books of McCurry’s work. Afghan Girl, which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, was an iconic portrait of a young, green-eyed refugee in Pakistan.

Authorities last year said DeStephano and her accomplice made somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 by reselling the stolen work. She claimed she made $34,000, Noone said.

McCurry’s photos from across the globe are regularly printed in National Geographic and other major magazines around the world.



Source: Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints

‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

June 3, 2016 – 08:36

‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

Richard Polsky. Photo: Bill Kane

Last October Richard Polsky, the San Francisco art dealer who wrote I Bought Andy Warhol (2003), started an authentication service for the artist’s works, driven by the dissolution of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ authentication committee four years earlier. Now, Polsky has announced that he is taking on authentication of works by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The Art Newspaper: There are some collecting fields, such as sports memorabilia, where fakes are said to outnumber the real thing. Can you give us a rough idea of what percentage of Warhols on the market are suspicious?
Richard Polsky: In terms of what I’m seeing for authentication, it’s probably 60/40 in favour of fakes. In terms of what you see at galleries, it’s probably more like 10% fakes. Warhol has never been bigger, and if you are a serious blue-chip collector, you need a Warhol. As the prices go up, more fakes appear.

What about Haring and Basquiat?
There’s a much higher percentage with Haring. I would say Haring is [number] one, Basquiat, two and Warhol three in terms of volume of fakes. Haring was extremely prolific—the subway drawings, for example—he said he did thousands over the course of three years. The other thing is that Haring could do a sketch of a barking dog or radiant baby in just a couple minutes—imagine how easy that is to fake.

Are there any particularly memorable fakes that you’ve seen so far?
A man from North Carolina called me and said he bought a wooden carving of a cat at a flea market, signed on the bottom “Andy Warhol.” I started laughing because Andy really didn’t do things like that. In that case, I didn’t even get involved.

How important are signatures with these artists?
I would say they are not crucial with any of them. With Warhol his assistants signed pieces, his mother signed pieces, Ivan Karp [a Pop art dealer] signed pieces. What is crucial is what the work looks like, what material was used and obviously the back story, which includes information about the artist’s intent. Is this a work that Warhol wanted to be public, or something a friend fished out of the trash?

What giveaways betray works as fake Harings or Basquiats?
With an authentic Haring what you’re looking for is an unbroken line. He was a savant of some sort: he could start a drawing on the left side of the canvas and keep going. If you see a “Haring” drawing where it looks like a line has been erased or reworked, it’s probably not a Haring. For Basquiat you can usually tell a forgery because it won’t have his spontaneity—the composition will look too perfect.

Given the current climate of fear over authentication, aren’t you afraid of being sued?
That was the first question from my colleagues: half of them thought I was a genius, the other half thought I was an idiot. The answer is no. If you go back to the Warhol authentication board, a collector had to give them permission to rubber stamp in ink the word “Denied” on the back of the artwork. If you got the stamp, you were screwed, and if you asked them why, they wouldn’t tell you.
I believe in being transparent. If I turn down your painting you get a two-page letter from me outlining why. You might be bummed out, but being treated fairly tends to reduce anger. Of course I also have a lawyer and a disclaimer. And there’s just not as much financial incentive to sue me. There’s a difference between suing an estate worth hundreds of millions and suing an individual.

I can’t imagine that your authentication carries as much weight as the estates did though?
Not yet, that’s correct. I tell potential clients since we’re relatively new, I think an authentication letter from me will be helpful in private transactions. Nobody has tested the auction waters yet, but I think this is coming.

Source: ‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

Ukranian art buyer hands back stolen Dutch masterpiece

May 31, 2016 – 08:04

Ukranian art buyer hands back stolen Dutch masterpiece

30th May 2016, 0 comments

A Ukranian art buyer has handed back a missing 18th-century painting stolen a decade ago from a Dutch museum, bringing the total number of masterpieces retrieved from the heist to five, officials said on Monday.

“A Ukranian resident returned one of the 24 paintings that were stolen from the Westfries Museum to the Dutch Embassy in Kiev,” said Marieke van Leeuwen, spokeswoman for the Hoorn municipality in northwest Netherlands where the museum is based.

“The man had brought in the painting in good faith and with a certificate of authenticity,” Van Leeuwen added in a statement.

He did not say how the buyer came into possession of the latest returned painting, Izaak Ouwater’s 1784 piece entitled “Nieuwstraat in Hoorn”, valued at around 30,000 euros ($33,400).

Twenty-four Dutch Golden Age masterpieces and 70 pieces of silverware were stolen from the Westfries Museum on the night of January 9, 2005.

For years Hoorn’s residents hoped that the stolen art would some day resurface.

At the time of their disappearance, the paintings were valued at a total of 10 million euros ($11 million).

Ukraine last month announced it had recovered four of the paintings, but it did not give details of how the works were retrieved, saying only they were “in the possession of criminal groups”.

The Westfries Museum in December said the art is thought to be in the hands of an ultranationalist militia fighting pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The Hoorn municipality hopes the five paintings, which are still in Ukraine, will be returned to the Netherlands soon.

Dutch government officials have filed an international application for the paintings’ return.

“We hope to put them on display by the end of the summer, but first we need to see what restoration they would have to undergo,” Van Leeuwen added.

Last July two men who identified themselves as members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) presented a picture of one of the stolen works to the Dutch embassy in Kiev, the museum said.

The men alleged they had found the entire missing collection — containing works by landscape painter Jan van Goyen, among others — in an abandoned villa in the conflict-wracked east.

Dutch media reported that the alleged OUN members had initially demanded 50 million euros for the paintings’ return before dropping the price to 5 million euros.

The OUN later denied it was holding the art work, as Ukrainian authorities launched an investigation.

Source: Ukranian art buyer hands back stolen Dutch masterpiece