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.

@adamsherwin10

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

17/10/2016

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’

10/1/2016

  • 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

10/5/2016

Posted

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 shelley.murphy@globe.com. 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.

(sda/chb)

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

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«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.

© RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA

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

9/26/2016

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)

Read full article

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

Read full article

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

By JOSH RUSSELL ShareThis

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?

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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 (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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
음성듣기
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

afghangirl

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.

jmcdaniel@philly.com

610-313-8205

@McDanielJustine

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

Inside the great Brett Whiteley art fraud

May 13, 2016 – 06:54

Inside the great Brett Whiteley art fraud

Big Blue Lavender Bay was presented as evidence to the Supreme Court of Victoria. Picture: Stuart McEvoy for The Australian.

Big Blue Lavender Bay in progress. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

A sketch of Big Blue Lavender Bay. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Big Blue Lavender Bay was presented as evidence to the Supreme Court of Victoria. Picture: Stuart McEvoy for The Australian.

Big Blue Lavender Bay in progress. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Behind a locked door in the upstairs storeroom of a Collingwood warehouse, Mohamed Aman Siddique was working hard at being Brett Whiteley.

Far from the harbour where the renowned artist drew much of his inspiration, Siddique was churning out paintings in Whiteley’s favoured shades of ultramarine and orange, working in 2007, 15 years after Whiteley died, from art books and an original Whiteley work bought by his friend, Peter Gant.

Gant — an art dealer with a chequered past — had paid $1.65 million for the painting, titled View From the Sitting Room Window, Lavender Bay at an auction in March. A few weeks later, the painting was delivered to Sid­dique’s studio in Easey Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, providing what prosecutors described as the template for Australia’s biggest forgery racket, reaping millions from two high-profile victims and burning the reputations of the art figures who enabled the sales.

Yesterday a jury in the Victorian Supreme Court found Gant and Siddique guilty of two counts obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of attempting to commit a fraud.

What the jury did not hear in evidence was that Gant had a history of links to fake artworks, and how Siddique’s artistic endeavours went beyond copying Whiteley works. The jury never saw photos, taken by Siddique’s colleague Guy Morel that showed works resembling those of other famous artists, including Charles Blackman, created in Siddique’s studio alongside the disputed Whiteleys.

“The jury don’t know and can never know about these other paintings,” judge Michael Croucher said while discussing the photographs with lawyers in the jury’s absence.

Blackman and Gant have history. In 2010, another Victorian judge found Gant had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by selling or valuing two drawings as Blackman originals when they were fakes, as well as a work purported to be by Blackman contemporary Robert Dickerson, who died in October last year.

The judge ordered the works be destroyed. But he did not order damages or make a finding about whether Gant had known they were fakes when they were sold in 1999 and 2005 in deals that Gant was involved in. There was no evidence about the origin of the fakes.

In 2014, NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin heard Gant’s reputation in the art world was “poison”, and that he had also dealt with a fake Russell Drysdale work and a fake Albert Tucker. In that case, barrister Louise McBride successfully sued auction house Christie’s and art dealer Alex Holland over the fake Tucker, which she bought in 2000 without knowing it had been sourced from Gant.

Similarly, investment banker and Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham didn’t know Gant was involved when he paid $2.5m for Big Blue Lavender Bay in late 2007 — the most expensive of the three “Whiteley” paintings involved in the latest case. Pridham decided to buy the painting in an overnight decision without viewing it, on the strength of a glowing recommendation from Anita Archer, an art consultant who had also worked as an auctioneer for Deutscher-Menzies.

Archer described the work as a “trophy painting”, telling Pridham in an email: “From a market perspective, it doesn’t get much better than this.” She never told him it was coming from Gant, instead implying that it was sourced directly from Village Roadshow director Robert Le Tet.

Archer told the court Gant had given her an elaborate history of how Le Tet — a venture capitalist who had known Gant for many years — had acquired the painting.

“He told me that it was a painting that Mr Le Tet had selected from the studio of Brett Whiteley,” Archer said. “Brett Whiteley was currently doing an exhibition of bird paintings, Mr Le Tet wasn’t interested in those, so Mr Le Tet had gone to Brett Whiteley’s studio, met with Christian Quintas who is, or was, Whiteley’s assistant manager, and that he had negotiated with Christian Quintas a commission of a Lavender Bay painting and that was this painting.”

It was a different story from the one Gant told detectives when interviewed in 2014. Describing Australian art collectors as “morons, most of them”, Gant told police he had bought the three works from Quintas in 1988 and kept them all in storage — apart from displaying one for a few weeks in his Armadale gallery, in Melbourne’s leafy southeastern suburbs — until deciding the time was right to sell, around 2007.

The million-dollar artworks were kept under wraps — literally — according to Gant, even when he was declared bankrupt in 1993 and again in 2003.

Confronted with the accusation that he had misled Archer — and consequently Pridham — about Big Blue Lavender Bay’s history, Gant replied: “It’s a fairly common thing to do in the art world.”

For Pridham, the alarm bells did not start to ring until nearly six months later, in April 2008, and then only faintly. That was when Wendy Whiteley came to his home to view his painting.

A photo of the pair of them in front of the work was taken and Pridham sent it to Archer, asking her to contact Wendy Whiteley, who wanted to know more about its history. Pridham’s suspicions grew over the next few years and in July 2010, he sent the painting to the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. Director Robyn Sloggett examined it and declared there was insufficient evidence to assert it came from Whiteley’s hand. Pridham subsequently sued Archer for selling him the painting and failing to exercise all the reasonable care, diligence and skill to verify and advise him on the painting’s provenance. The case was settled confidentially out of court on the eve of the trial. The Australian is not suggesting Archer was involved in any wrongdoing.

At more than 2m wide and 1.5m high, Big Blue Lavender Bay commands attention while sitting on display in Courtroom 3 of Victoria’s Supreme Court. Next to it, ­ Orange Lavender Bay, slightly smaller, dazzles with its mandarin shades. The court was told it was initially offered to Kerry Stokes — who bid $1.1m for it but was rejected because the asking price was then $1.3m — and Aussie Home Loans founder John Symond, who rejected an even higher price tag of $1.5m. In 2009, the painting was finally sold for $1.1m to luxury car dealer Steven Nasteski, after Gant pitched it to fellow art dealer John Playfoot, telling him he had a ­“really good Whiteley” to sell that had belonged to Le Tet.

Playfoot enlisted another dealer, Andrew Crawford, who sold it to Nasteski but swiftly became concerned, telling Playfoot “There’s something funny about this picture. I think it’s a scam.”

Crawford told the court he became suspicious about the painting as soon as it arrived at his Paddington gallery for Nasteski. He decided to take it to Wendy Whiteley, who said she was also dubious and commented that if the painting was genuine it was painted by her ex-husband on “an extremelybad hair day”.

Crawford subsequently drew up a letter certifying that, after viewing the painting, he had advised Nasteski against buying the work due to “lack of provenance and hence being unable to substantiate that the work is that of the hand of Brett Whiteley”.

Despite this, Nasteski decided to go through with the sale but later suffered a severe case of buyer’s remorse, also speaking to Wendy Whiteley about the work.

Playfoot told the jury Nasteski had aggressively pursued him for a refund, calling “about four times every single day up until I gave him his money back”. The painting returned to Playfoot, who kept it in a warehouse until Gant said he had another buyer who would take the work for $300,000. That buyer was Toorak engineer Steven Drake, who ended up paying $122,000 forOrange Lavender Bay in 2013, a year before it was seized by detectives. Drake told the court he paid the bargain basement price knowing of the painting’s history but believing it to be genuine, counting on making a good return once its authenticity was resolved.

There is a reason cases of art fraud rarely come to trial in Australia. Disputes between disgruntled buyers and vendors usually settle out of court, with dealers and galleries keen to avoid the publicity and reputation damage of being associated with tainted works.

The civil case against Gant for the fake Blackman and Dickerson works was a notable standout, but Gant did not face any criminal charges at that time. Meeting the higher standard of proof required for a criminal prosecution is a challenge for prosecutors and police; before the Whiteley case, there was only one recent criminal prosecution for fake artworks.

Victorian couple Pamela and Ivan Liberto were sentenced to three years’ jail in 2007 for faking and selling works purportedly by Aboriginal artist Rover Thomas for more than $300,000. The trial caused uncomfortable publicity for major auction houses, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Lawson Menzies, with several art experts forced to admit they had accepted the provenance of the fake paintings.

The Whiteley trial therefore stands as a landmark case, and unfortunately may provide some comfort for Australia’s forgers.

Even with Morel’s photographs of Siddique’s studio appearing to provide a smoking gun, the case often appeared on the verge of collapse during trial.

In one instance, Justice Croucher ordered a key piece of evidence out of the prosecution’s case, even though it could have linked Siddique to a planned sale of his Whiteley-style artworks.

He ruled the jury should not hear a comment Siddique allegedly made to door salesman Richard Simon, complaining about visible joins on a shipment of doors — which would have compromised their ability to act as can­vases. a method favoured by Whiteley. “The artwork to be painted on these doors is worth over a million dollars,” Siddique allegedly said. “I can’t have joins.”

Prosecutor Susan Borg said the 2008 conversation helped prove the existence of a criminal enterprise between Gant and Siddique, and Simon had remembered it simply because it was so strange.

Croucher later made his views about the case clear, saying in the absence of the jury that the evidence of two witnesses made a guilty verdict almost impossible.

He said Rosemary Milburn, a gallery assistant who worked for Gant in the late 1980s, and Jeremy James, who testified he had photographed Big Blue and Orange Lavender Bay in 1989 for a Gant exhibition catalogue, “harpooned” the Crown case. “I find it very hard, if not impossible, to see how a jury could convict in light of the evidence of Milburn and James,” he said. “It’s just devastating.”

Milburn told the court she recognised a consignment note recording the arrival of the three disputed paintings at Gant’s gallery in 1988, and it looked to have her handwriting on it.

While Croucher rejected a defence bid to have the case dismissed, he took the unusual step of issuing a rare “Prasad direction” to the jury — giving them the option to acquit immediately following the Crown’s case, without hearing the defence or closing arguments. But the jurors rejected the opportunity for a swift acquittal, and instead found both Gant and Siddique guilty. Both men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. But appeals are planned.

Pridham yesterday welcomed the verdict but warned tougher regulation and prosecution were needed to crack down on similar frauds. “It’s clearly educated me in terms of the shortcomings of the Australian fine art market,” he says. “There are plenty of examples of fake or at least questionable artworks in the market.

“You’ve got to be very careful.”

The final word goes to Wendy Whiteley, who last night thanked the jury for listening to the evidence and “taking the whole thing seriously”. “When this first came up, some people said, ‘Don’t say anything, it will screw up the market.’ I said ‘Well, screw that.’

“Anything with a dollar sign attached is always going to attract an element of criminality. People try to make a fast buck for nothing.

“These people were taking advantage of a man who has been dead for 23 years … They obviously didn’t realise how pissed off I was going to be.”

Source: Inside the great Brett Whiteley art fraud

Brett Whiteley fake art: Dealer and conservator guilty of Australia’s biggest art fraud

May 12, 2016 – 09:30

Brett Whiteley fake art: Dealer and conservator guilty of Australia’s biggest art fraud

Mark RussellMay 12, 2016 – 5:06PM

Art dealer Peter Gant has been found guilty of selling fake Brett Whiteley paintings.

Art dealer Peter Gant has been found guilty of selling fake Brett Whiteley paintings. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Two men have been found guilty of Australia’s biggest art fraud, where fake paintings by famous Australian artist Brett Whiteley were sold for $3.6 million.

Art dealer Peter Gant and art conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique had been accused of pursuing a joint criminal enterprise to create three paintings – Blue Lavender Bay, Orange Lavender Bay and Through the Window – in the style of Brett Whiteley, who died from a heroin overdose in 1992.

The Crown claimed Mr Siddique painted the artworks in his Easy Street, Collingwood studio from 2007, and Mr Gant then passed them off to unsuspecting buyers as original 1988 Brett Whiteley paintings.

One of the paintings presented as evidence in court.

Blue Lavender Bay, one of the paintings presented as evidence in court. Photo: Jason South

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The Blue Lavender Bay painting was sold for $2.5 million to Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham in 2007 and the Orange Lavender Bay sold for $1.1 million to Sydney luxury car dealer Steven Nasteski in 2009.

The Crown claimed a third fake painting, Through the Window, was offered for sale by Mr Gant for $950,000.

The men’s defence barristers argued copies of Whiteley paintings were made in a locked storeroom but the sold paintings were Whiteley originals bought from the artist’s manager by Mr Gant and kept in storage for nearly 20 years.

No explanation was given as to what happened to the copies Mr Siddique admitted to painting in his studio.

It was claimed the authentic paintings were not Whiteley’s best work as he had been a heroin addict past his prime in 1988, creating ‘inconsistent’ art and selling it out the back door to support his drug habit or avoid tax.

A Supreme Court jury on Thursday found Mr Gant, 60, guilty of two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one of attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception involving the three artworks.

Muhammad Aman Siddique

Muhammad Aman Siddique Photo: Ken Irwin

Mr Siddique, 67, was found guilty of two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception.

In her closing address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Susan Borg said the art fraud had its origins after Mr Gant bought an authentic Whiteley painting, View From The Sitting Room Window, Lavender Bay, at auction for $1,650,000 in March 2007.

Ms Borg said this painting was then sent to Mr Siddique’s Collingwood studio a short time later and Mr Gant used it as a blueprint to create fake paintings.

The prosecutor said much had been made during the trial of how art dealers from esteemed auction houses were convinced the three paintings were real.

“Auction houses that work on a commission basis, on the sale of such work, you might think they might have a vested interest in saying how terrific something is …” she said.

Wendy Whiteley, widow of Australian artist Brett whiteley leave the supreme Court of Melbourne. Photo by Jesse Marlow. Friday 22nd April 2016. Wendy Whiteley, widow of Australian artist Brett Whiteley leave the supreme Court of Melbourne. Photo by Jesse Marlow. Friday 22nd April 2016.

Wendy Whiteley, widow of Australian artist Brett Whiteley.  Photo: Jesse Marlow

Ms Borg said none of the art dealers had the same intimate knowledge of Brett Whiteley’s work as his widow, Wendy, who was adamant the paintings were fakes.

What the jury was not told during the trial was how police suspected more forgeries had been created in Siddique’s Collingwood studio and sold but there was simply not enough evidence to prove it.

The Crown was also not allowed to introduce evidence from Richard Simon over a conversation he claimed to have had with Mr Siddique when delivering a number of doors to his Collingwood studio. The eccentric Whiteley was known to paint many artworks on doors.

Mr Simon claimed he argued with Mr Siddique over the quality of the door frames in November in front of Mr Gant.

“I said to him (Mr Siddique) that he knew what he was getting, that he was getting oversized doors,” Mr Simon told police.

“He (Mr Siddique) then said, ‘The artwork to be painted on these doors is worth over a million dollars, I can’t have joins’.”

Ms Borg argued Mr Simon’s evidence was fundamental to the Crown case as it allegedly showed how Mr Gant and Mr Siddique were involved in a joint criminal conspiracy.

Ms Borg said if Mr Simon’s evidence was excluded, the Crown case against the two men would be considerably weakened.

Both Mr Siddique and Mr Gant denied the conversation ever took place and their lawyers argued it would be extremely prejudicial if Mr Simon was allowed to tell the jury what he claimed to have heard.

Ruling the evidence inadmissable, Justice Michael Croucher questioned why anyone who was part of an agreement to create paintings in the style of Brett Whiteley would then tell someone that these things might be worth a million dollars?

Ms Borg wanted Gant and Siddique remanded in custody but Justice Croucher agreed to extend their bail until next Tuesday when the case would return to court for a mention.

The pre-sentence hearing for the two men is not expected to be held until June.

Source: Brett Whiteley fake art: Dealer and conservator guilty of Australia’s biggest art fraud

Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

May 8, 2016 – 06:45

Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

Robert Mendick , Chief Reporter

These masterpieces should be worth in the region of a half a billion pounds. Except they are fakes produced by David Henty, a convicted forger who produced them in the living room of his house by the seaside Brighton.

Mr Henty was exposed by The Telegraph a little over a year ago for selling his copies on eBay, duping hundreds, if not thousands, of the internet auction site’s customers in the process.

But proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Mr Henty has turned the notoriety to his advantage.

“Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”David Henty, master forger on going straight

The Telegraph investigation, which prompted interest from newspapers and television stations around the world, has led to Mr Henty going straight.

At the end of the month, an art gallery will stage an exhibition of his copies of masterpieces by the likes of van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani.

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With paintings priced at up to £5,000 a time, Mr Henty is expecting to do decent business.

Convicted forger David Henty

David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph

“Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions,” Mr Henty said. “People read about me in The Telegraph and elsewhere and sent me letters requesting I do copies for them of masterpieces.

“As a result, I decided to go straight and business is brilliant. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”

At the age of 58, and after a career in crime, the admission from Mr Henty is a bold one.

He was jailed for five years in the mid 1990s for forging thousands of fake British passports which he planned to sell to anxious Hong Kong citizens ahead of the handover to China.

The scam would have earned him a £1 million and might have worked, not least if he hadn’t mis-spelt the words ‘Britanic’ and ‘Magesty’. He went to jail a second time in Spain for selling stolen cars.

Convicted forger David Henty

David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph

His eBay scam involved copying works by slightly less famous – and usually dead – artists, luring buyers in with claims that the paintings had been found in attics and in house clearance sales and that the authenticity could not be guaranteed.

In fact, Mr Henty knew the artwork couldn’t be genuine because he was churning the paintings out in his living room, as he later confessed when confronted by The Telegraph.

It was hard for him to conceal he was the artist behind the fakes, not least because he drives around in a car with the personalised number plate “V9OGH” in self-recognition of his skills as a counterfeiter of van Gogh’s work.

“I think eBay has had its day for fake art,” he said, “For the last few months I have been concentrating on these masterpiece copies. I have done a lot of research. I have been to the galleries and studied them in the flesh. The paintings are all the exact size of the originals.

Convicted forger David Henty

David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph

“I have got 30 or 40 paintings for the exhibition. I have just done a 6ft Francis bacon that I am really pleased with. I have tried to get them as accurate as possible.”

The exhibition at the No Walls Gallery in Brighton will be his first as a legitimate copier. The opening night will be attended by Peter James, the best-selling author of crime fiction who has just completed a book about real life criminals in Brighton written in conjunction with Graham Bartlett, the city’s former chief superintendent, who arrested Mr Henty for the passport scam.

Convicted forger David Henty

David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph

The pair – detective and villain – have struck up an unlikely friendship in recent months. Mr Henty’s passport scam is a chapter in the book, entitled ‘Death Comes Knocking’ and which is published in the summer.

The endorsement of Mr Henty’s art by Mr James, who has sold 17 million books worldwide, will further boost his chances of artistic success.

A satellite television channel is also planning to make a programme around Mr Henty in which one of his fakes will hang with genuine masterpieces in a gallery.

Contestants have to spot the forgery. Whether they succeed or not will be testament to Mr Henty’s skills as a master forger.

Source: Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

Committing Crime Is Just Another Way To Use A City

May 2, 2016 – 18:18

Committing Crime Is Just Another Way To Use A City

Geoff Manaugh 05.02.16 7:00 AM

Before they knew his name, they called him Roofman. He would cut holes in the roofs of chain stores and fast food restaurants—usually a McDonald’s—then drop down through the ceiling to rob the startled employees.

Geoff Manaugh’s A Burglar’s Guide To The City (FSG Originals) isavailable on Amazon.

Sometimes he’d come in through the back wall, slipping in through a hole of his own making, only to pop out in the kitchen or storeroom; but it was mostly the roof and so the name quickly stuck. The employees he held up were usually teenagers paid minimum wage working the morning shift or wearily closing up shop for the night, getting the day’s take ready to be counted. They didn’t have much to gain from trying to stop Roofman from doing his job; the risks of being a hero seemed to outweigh the potential gains. In any case, Roofman was known for his gentle demeanor, without fail described as polite—in one oft-repeated example, even insisting that his victims put on their winter coats so that they could stay warm after he locked them all in a walk-in freezer.

An official spokesperson for McDonald’s offered perhaps the simplest explanation of the ongoing crime spree: Roofman was just “very brand loyal.”

But there was more to it than that. Hidden inside the repetitive floor plans and the daily schedules of these franchised businesses, Roofman had discovered a kind of criminal Groundhog Day: a burglary that could be performed over and over in different towns, cities, and states, probably even different countries if he had gone international, and his skills—his timing, his movements—would only get better with each outing.

For Roofman, it was as if each McDonald’s with its streamlined timetable and centrally controlled managerial regime was an identical crystal world: a corporate mandala of polished countertops, cash registers, supply closets, money boxes, and safes into which he could drop from above as if teleported there. Everything would be in similar locations, down to the actions taking place within each restaurant. At more or less the same time of day—whether it was a branch in California or in rural North Carolina—employees would be following a mandated sequence of events, a prescribed routine, and it must have felt as if he had found some sort of crack in space time, a quantum moment stuttering in a film loop without cease, ripe for robbing. It was the perfect crime—and he could do it over and over.

Flickr user James

Noted designer and architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi would call the predictable repetition of events inside an architectural space a sequence: a linear series of actions and behaviors that are at least partially determined by the design of the space itself. Tschumi’s idea rests on an architectural truism: that, for example, you probably wouldn’t convene a weekly congregation inside an underground parking garage. Why? Because it’s designed for parking cars, not for prayer. Or you wouldn’t graze a herd of cows inside a church.

Traditionally, a building gives clues as to how it is meant to be used—thus all those empty, perfectly car-size parking spots. Buildings call for certain behaviors—even if their spatial demands are often so subtle that, at first glance, we don’t realize we’ve been obeying them.

Tschumi’s larger point is that if the design of a space or a building tends to influence what occurs within it, then the role of the avant-garde designer is to push past this, to find new ways of challenging or disrupting architecture’s behavioral expectations. Why not graze cows inside a church—or at least design barns to look like churchyards?

Tschumi began to explore this notion through what he called screenplays: each “screenplay” was a black and white diagram breaking down a range of events that might occur inside an architectural space. Tschumi drew them in a way that resembled dance notation or the spatial analysis of a film scene. How do the people move, he wanted to know—how do they respond to one another or to the props scattered around them in space? Where do the actors stand during key moments of narrative drama?

Tschumi believed that this was all part of the scenography of architectural design, and the ultimate visual results of his explorations ended up looking a lot like football-strategy diagrams—a comparison he himself has made—featuring abstract geometric shapes that tracked the movement of people past one another and through the rooms around them.

Flickr user Yuya Tamai

Fair enough. But what does this have to do with burglary? For Tschumi, what we think of as a “crime” typically occurs when a user of architecture does something radically out of sequence, breaking with the pattern that a building might imply for example, sneaking past security at an airport to board a plane without following the traditional sequence of approach, entering the vault of a bank without first being granted the manager’s permission, or, to cite a recent real-life example, jumping the fence outside the White House to enter the president’s home by the back door. These are crimes of sequence. They are crimes of space.

Tschumi, writing in the late 1970s, at a time when American cities were falling apart, the Bronx was on fire, and New York City as a whole seemed on track to become the Mogadishu of its day—a city not to settle in but to escape—became obsessed with crime. Crime, for Tschumi, was just another way to use the city. Looked at in a specifically architectural context, crime reveals how people try to use or misuse the built environment. Criminals are more like rogue usability experts, analyzing architecture for shortcuts, hiding spots, and other spatial tricks. As Tschumi once wrote, “To really appreciate architecture, you may even need to commit a murder”—a statement he accompanied with a photo of someone being pushed out the window of a tall building. The building itself would be an accomplice to the crime.

In a way, Tschumi was simply pursuing the interests of an architect to their logical conclusion: he wanted to know how people use cities and inhabit space, whether it’s walking up New York’s Fifth Avenue or plotting a murder in Central Park. Indeed, such a murder is the scenario he turned to next with a project called The Manhattan Transcripts. Now something of a cult classic among architecture students, The Manhattan Transcripts diagrams a fictional murder in Central Park, implying that the crime could be used to reveal previously unknown or repressed forensic insights about how people really want to use the city, whether or not what they choose to do there is legal. For Tschumi, the murder mystery was as architectural a genre as any other.

For all Tschumi’s obsession with crime and space, however, he chose to write about murder rather than burglary—despite the fact that the latter is the ideal spatial crime, literally defined by its relationship to architectural
space. A bank heist or an apartment burglary—not a fictional
murder in Central Park—would have been a much better fit for Tschumi’s narrative goals. Imagine for a moment planning a heist on the 34th floor of a New York City high-rise, or plotting a burglary in a popular art museum. These require sequential thinking, elaborate timetables, and precise plans of action that purposefully and strategically differ from the events that are officially—that is, legally—allowed to occur there. Heists and burglaries are the ultimate Tschumian crimes.

Sorbis via Shutterstock

Tschumi—Swiss-born and still working internationally—currently lives in New York City. On a blazingly hot summer day, he talked to me about these old explorations of his, looking at the strange inflection point where avant-garde spatial theory imperceptibly blurs into a criminal plan of attack. This is where a burglar’s guide to a building becomes an alternative form of architectural criticism, I suggested; burglars simply look for different shortcomings, vulnerabilities, and weak points in the design.

Tschumi didn’t disagree—but he wanted to back up a bit, concerned that the phrasing of my question risked making burglars into heroes or role models. “For a long time,” he said instead, “my chief interest had to do with cities in general, and the extent to which an entire city could be transformed by an act of creative misuse. I was fascinated by the role of insurgency, for example, from the 19th century, or in the 1960s with the student movements, or even in Northern Ireland, with what was happening in Londonderry and in Belfast. I was interested in how people with a particular intent could take over certain parts of the city with an action that could transform the way the city was used.” Motivated individuals or groups, he observed, could use “the complexity of the city against itself,” uncovering the possible behaviors that a building or space unintentionally allows, then adapting them to stage a protest, overthrow a government, demand political representation, or, yes, simply to commit a crime.

Tschumi became quite animated as we discussed this, taking me back to his original idea of the transcript or architectural notation. Traditional architectural representation, he emphasized—such as sections sliced vertically through a building to show what’s happening in every room, or floor plans used to explain how each room connects to all the others—lacks the ability to communicate events in time. It’s much more difficult to make an architectural drawing of a riot, a revolution, or a bank heist—but not impossible.

For Tschumi, this inability to represent events in space remains a fundamental weakness in architectural thinking today. The goal of his earlier work had specifically been to find a way for architects to reliably visualize the events that might take place inside their spaces; but it never became an accepted technique, just an art project, a series of avant-garde posters and drawings.

In these sorts of crimes, Tschumi pointed out, the architecture is always involved. In every heist film, he said, “The vaults and corridors and elevator shafts are just as important as the characters in the story; one cannot exist without the other. The space itself becomes a protagonist of the plot. There is no space without something that happens in it; and nothing happens without a space like this around it.” The same thing is often true for grand public plazas in the hearts of cities: these can be used as nothing but picturesque backdrops for tourists to take photos of each other or as insurrectionary platforms for starting a revolution. It’s all about how you use the city—or misuse it, turning the fabric of the city against itself.

In fact, one of the most spectacular art heists of the last decade is thought to have succeeded precisely because of a flaw in a museum’s architectural design, which inadvertently allowed the general public to study the internal patterns of the security guards and visitors. The Kunsthal in Rotterdam, designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA, was robbed in the middle of the night back in October 2012; seven paintings were stolen, including works by Matisse, Gauguin, Monet, and Picasso. Ton Cremers, founder of the Museum Security Network, an online forum, put some of the blame for this on the building itself: the museum’s expansive floor-to-ceiling windows offered a clear and unobstructed view of many of the paintings hanging inside. More important, they also allowed a constant, real-time surveillance of the internal workings of the museum for anyone passing by—the patterns of visitors and the comings and goings of the guards were effectively on public display. Thus thieves could have sat outside in a nearby park, watching until they found the right moment to strike. The museum had its own internal rhythm of events that the burglars interrupted with a perfectly timed counter-event: the heist. This is the rhythmic spacetime of burglary.

I thought of Roofman. In his case, this sort of Tschumian analysis would translate into using a business’s internal timetable against itself: when managers and security guards walk their rounds, for example, or when employees change shifts. For that matter, I suggested aloud, just think of all the hundreds of film scenes in which bank robbers are shown clicking a stopwatch the instant they burst through a bank’s front doors, knowing that they only have a certain number of minutes—even mere seconds—to get the job done before a security response. They uncover and then misuse the existing schedule of the bank’s security to help them commit their crime.

This article was adapted with permission from A Burglar’s Guide to the City.

Source: Committing Crime Is Just Another Way To Use A City

Protected: John Drewe – An artful swindle

May 1, 2016 – 15:00

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Terrorisme een dreiging voor musea? – Museum Security Network

April 29, 2016 – 13:36

Terrorisme een dreiging voor musea?

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In de vele jaren waarin westerse landen, ik realiseer mij heel goed dat westerse landen niet de grootste slachtoffers zijn, last hebben van terroristische aanslagen, zijn die aanslagen gericht op metro’s en metrostations, treinen en stations, vliegtuigen en vliegvelden. Het lijkt erop dat terroristen, of ‘fucking assholes’ zoals John Stewart ze noemde na de aanslagen in Parijs, een voorkeur hebben voor transport.

De aanslag op de Twin Towers in New York was in alle opzichten buiten categorie. Overigens wel een aanslag die bij het analyseren van risico’s zeer relevant werd.

De aandacht van F.A.’s verschuift. In Parijs waren een theater, een voetbalstadion en caféterrasjes doelwit.

In Brussel vond een aanslag plaats op het Joods Historisch Museum. Doelwit waren Joden, maar dan wel via hun museum.

En over musea wil ik het hebben.

Het is alweer een tiental jaren geleden dat ik werd uitgenodigd in Kopenhagen te spreken over cultuurgoed en terrorisme. Wanneer je het nu over die combinatie hebt, dan wordt gedacht aan vernietiging of roof van antiek cultuurgoed door IS, zoals in Palmyra. Hoewel er geen concrete cijfers zijn, wemelt het van de schaars gefundeerde deskundigheid over financiering van terrorisme via de illegale handel in antiquiteiten. Even schaars gefundeerd als die financieringsclaims, heb ik sterke twijfel over de impact en omvang van die handel. De experts struikelen over elkaar heen en papegaaien over de omvang van die illegale handel alsof IS daar voor een aanzienlijk deel door gefinancierd wordt. Dat kan simpelweg niet. Daarvoor is de markt te beperkt. Bij een plotselinge toename van het aanbod, daalt de waarde. Als je de TEFAF bezoekt, zie je slechts een beperkt aanbod van antiquiteiten. Hier en daar zijn wat verdwaalde stukken en er is slechts een enkeling, de onverwoestbare Jerome Eisenberg van Athena Galleries in New York, die een hele stand vult met dat materiaal. Overigens een vaak verlaten stand tussen druk bezochte andere stands.

Mijn zorg, ik durf hem haast niet uit te spreken, betreft druk bezochte nationale musea zoals de National Gallery en het British Museum in Londen, het Louvre in Paris, het Museums Insel in Berlijn, of het Rijks- en Van Goghmuseum in Amsterdam.

Ik durf die zorg nauwelijks uit te spreken omdat angstige en qua beveiliging te inerte, struisvogel, musea mij zullen verwijten terroristen op ideeën te brengen. Lijkt mij niet nodig, want er zijn toch altijd ‘meesterbreinen’ achter de aanslagen.

Toch waag ik een poging en beperk mij tot de Nederlandse situatie.

Waarom gebruiken musea geen detectiepoortjes (meer). Het Rijksmuseum had tot aan de heropening detectiepoortjes bij de bezoekersingang. Een onaangename, vliegveld-achtige apparatuur, maar effectief. Bijna dagelijks werden, voornamelijk bij scholieren, messen gevonden. Bij volwassenen werd er keer op keer in Nederland verboden pepperspray in beslag genomen. De bezoekers konden bij vertrek hun steekwapens weer ophalen.

Per uur komen gemiddeld 500 bezoekers het Rijksmuseum binnen. Bij het Van Gogh zijn dat er minder, maar niet veel minder. Hoe worden die bezoekers bij binnenkomst gescreend? Borstkloppend kondigden het Rijks en het Van Gogh enkele jaren geleden aan dat een groep van de beveiligers opgeleid is tot ‘predictive profiler’. Bezoekers worden geobserveerd op afwijkend gedrag. Knap hoor, maar voldoende effectief? Waarom niet beide: profilers plus elektronische detectiesystemen waarmee iedere bezoeker gecontroleerd wordt?

Even naar Zaventem: in de vertrekhal kon een aanslag plaatsvinden omdat iedereen die vertrekhal in kan lopen zonder controle. Daar was na de aanslag internationaal veel kritiek op.

Is dat in onze megamusea ook zo? Volgens mij worden de entreekaarten binnen verkocht en vindt pas later, bij de kaartcontrole als men vanuit de, vaak zeer drukke, centrale hal het museum in wil, iets aan screening van de bezoekers gedaan: de tassen worden binnen, in het museum, gecontroleerd. Als ze te groot zijn worden ze binnen, in het museum, ingenomen en bewaard. Een fluitje van een cent voor kwaadwillenden.

Er is geen (?) ondersteuning via detectiepoorten en elektronische screening. Met andere woorden: er is voor zelfmoordterroristen, te eng om over na te denken, voldoende mogelijkheid met bomgordel en al naar binnen te gaan en in de drukte een slachting aan te richten. Nog los van de schade aan cultuurgoed, twee vliegen in één klap, die aangericht kan worden.

Alle controles moeten, ik zou haast zeggen natuurlijk, plaatsvinden voordat men in de drukte in het museum duikt. Tassen en andere bagage moet, ik zeg weer natuurlijk, niet in het museum ingenomen en bewaard worden.

Ik heb tijdens mijn carrière als adviseur museumbeveiliging door mij bezochte musea altijd de hypothese voorgelegd: “Stel dat met succes bij u ingebroken en gestolen kan worden, gaat u dan maatregelen treffen? Is het antwoord JA, dan moet u die maatregelen NU treffen. Is het antwoord NEE, dan hoeft u ze nu ook niet te treffen”.

Voor ‘inbraak en diefstal’ kan je ieder ander mogelijk incident of calamiteit invullen.

Stel dat er succesvol een zelfmoordaanslag gepleegd wordt in die megamusea. Gaat men dan maatregelen treffen om herhaling te voorkomen? Kan men nu met droge ogen volhouden dat alle mogelijke preventieve maatregelen zijn getroffen (en kom mij nu niet aan met ‘we kunnen van onze musea geen fort maken’ want dat weet ik en ik weet ook dat dat vaak een flauw excuus is om maar niets te doen).

Als het antwoord op de vraag naar de mogelijkheid van een aanslag JA is, dan moeten NU maatregelen getroffen worden.

Voor alle duidelijkheid: ik heb met geen van de genoemde musea een professionele relatie. Het is inmiddels zestien jaar geleden dat ik werkzaam was in het Rijksmuseum. Sindsdien adviseerde ik (inter)nationaal 450 musea, bibliotheken, archieven, monumenten etc.

Van geen van de genoemde musea ken ik de ins en outs van de beveiliging anders dan wat ik observeer als ik ze bezoek.

Ik vraag alleen maar..

Ton Cremers

April 29th, 2016 Edit

Posted In: Columns Ton Cremers

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Source: Terrorisme een dreiging voor musea? – Museum Security Network

Protected: Wendy Whiteley: ‘It’s definitely a fake’

April 23, 2016 – 12:58

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Protected: The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world 

April 19, 2016 – 11:19

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Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

April 18, 2016 – 14:20

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

Ann Freedman at her Upper East Side gallery; FreedmanArt. © Bill Glass

In 2009, two years before news of the Knoedler Gallery’s $70m sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings began to emerge, Ann Freedman resigned as director. Two years later, the venerable gallery closed down and the lawsuits against Knoedler and Freedman began to flood in. Five settled. The first to reach trial, brought by the collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, also settled its claims against Freedman on 7 February (and against Knoedler shortly afterwards), just before she was set to take the stand in the New York courtroom. Her testimony had been eagerly anticipated, not least because she has never given her view of the unfolding scandal and her involvement in it. Until now.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview, her first in several years, she summed up the situation thus: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding.” We spoke to her in her sun-filled gallery on the Upper East side, FreedmanArt, which she opened in 2011. “Looking back, there can be things I didn’t see at the time…Could I have done some things differently? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t have an answer sitting here. I will at some point probably.”

Before granting us this interview, she made it clear that she would not respond point-by-point to the allegations made in multiple lawsuits—four are still active (see below)—and she would not engage in a “he said, she said” discussion. But she did describe how she understood the events, providing additional information in a phone call the following day.

How the events unfolded

In 1994 Freedman was introduced to the Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales by a Knoedler employee who had met her socially. Soon after, Rosales brought Knoedler the first of 40 undocumented, previously unknown works, which Rosales claimed were original works by Abstract Expressionist artists. Nineteen years later, in 2013, Rosales confessed the paintings were fake and pleaded guilty to money laundering and tax evasion. She awaits sentencing, while the Justice Department is trying to extradite two of her co-conspirators from Spain. The Chinese artist who forged the works has fled to China.

Rosales told Freedman her anonymous client had inherited the paintings from his father, “Mr X”, who had bought them directly from the artists, but she provided few details. From the start, Freedman saw the story as a puzzle to be solved. She pressed Rosales for more information. “When you ask [con artists] a question, they say, ‘ah-hah, I see what you mean, let me check it out’. And miraculously they have the answers,” she said.

At one point, for example, Alfonso Ossorio, a Jackson Pollock patron, was identified as the person who helped Rosales’s anonymous client’s father buy art. But in 2003, the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) evaluated a Pollock from Rosales. It could not determine whether the painting was authentic or not, but concluded that the connection to Ossorio was “inconceivable”. Art-world figure David Herbert was then named by Rosales as the adviser to her client’s father, said Freedman. “I didn’t feed her names. I don’t know if others at Knoedler did” but “I asked her questions that made her figure out [a credible name to include in the provenance],” Freedman said. “I was a perfect mark, so I’m told, and my research helped them figure out their own scheme,” she said, describing those who conned her as “exquisitely conspiratorial wizards”.

How much did Freedman know?

The multiple lawsuits’ central issue is whether Freedman knew—or should have known—that the works she sold were fake. “I have never deliberately done something wrong, which is to say knowingly,” Freedman said. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t…done things that I would like to take back…Mistakes happen. Since the beginning of mankind we have seen mistakes with thinking something is, and it isn’t. There’s no greater ripe field for it than works of art. [Even] museums know they have questionable works.”

Freedman described herself as a dealer and lover of art, but said she was not an expert or connoisseur. “I always looked to scholars.” Former National Gallery of Art curator E.A. Carmean, who did research for Knoedler, and the Mark Rothko scholar David Anfam were among those who believed in the works. Robert Motherwell’s wife, the artist Helen Frankenthaler, saw one of the fakes and said, “‘Yep, it’s Bob.’ You can’t get better affirmation than that,” Freedman said.

The plaintiffs in all the lawsuits contend that Freedman ignored clear warnings. For example, they say, Rosales offered Knoedler many works at below-market prices. At the De Sole trial an expert in dealer practice, Martha Parrish, testified that when that happens a reputable dealer would “run like hell”.

Freedman said she didn’t think anything was suspicious. Rosales had described the owner of the forged paintings as coming from a wealthy family and she said he wanted to get rid of the paintings but not give them away. Art often enters the market through divorces and inheritance, which can be messy, said Freedman. Some people want top dollar. Others just want to be rid of their art. “When you separate yourself from something, that takes on a different value than if you want it,” said Freedman, adding that in the course of her career it has not been only Rosales who said to her, “I don’t want [this work of art]…give me something for it.”

Inconclusive report

The plaintiffs also point to IFAR’s report, which rejected the provenance for the forged Pollock painting supplied by Rosales. The report concluded it could neither prove nor disprove the painting was authentic and cited some negative comments from experts. Freedman’s belief in the painting did not waver; there was a recent history of bad feeling between IFAR and Knoedler, and the experts consulted by the organisation were anonymous, she said. “If there’s a reason for doubt,” how could this be evaluated without knowing who is raising the doubts, Freedman asked.

In 2008, in response to suspicions by the Dedalus Foundation, which maintains the Motherwell catalogue raisonné, Knoedler hired forensic conservator Jamie Martin to test Motherwells supplied to the gallery by Rosales. His analysis cast doubt on the paintings’ authenticity. “He knew nothing about Robert Motherwell,” Freedman said, pointing out that Carmean, who did know Motherwell’s work, “took Martin’s report apart”. Of course, Martin “turned out to be right”, said Freedman, but she didn’t think so at the time.

What the plaintiffs call red flags only “gave me more fire to be proving better and harder what I believed”, Freedman said. “I always thought that tomorrow I’ll find a photograph of the artist’s studio and see the corner of [one of the forged paintings.] When you’re doing research, you’re like Christopher Columbus. You’re not sure when you’re going to find land.” In Freedman’s case, she never did.

And now? “I am terribly sorry for anybody who [says they have been] hurt or damaged…But let me be clear, this is [about] works of art. I didn’t slay anybody’s first-born. We have to have some perspective on suffering.” Freedman recounted what an unnamed art historian told her: ‘We all need to get over it.’ I’ve had a debacle to deal with…I’m not hiding it,” Freedman said. “But you go on…You have to have a good conscience to keep going.”

Six lawsuits down, four to go

After the Knoedler Gallery closed in 2011, ten lawsuits were filed in Manhattan federal court by collectors who bought fake Abstract Expressionist paintings from the gallery. The lawsuits allege that Knoedler and its former director Ann Freedman knew or should have known that they were selling fakes. The forged paintings, 40 in all, were brought to Knoedler by Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales from 1994 to 2008. The collectors allege that each purchase was part of a conspiracy, and are seeking triple damages under a federal conspiracy statute, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Knoedler and Freedman deny any wrongdoing.

Six lawsuits have been settled. The following are still active and in pre-trial proceedings:

• Frances Hamilton White, a California collector, and her then-husband bought a “Jackson Pollock” in 2000 for $3.1m. Knoedler paid Rosales $670,000. According to the complaint, in February 2011 Christie’s declined to accept the painting for auction because it was not in the catalogue raisonné, and Knoedler refused to take the work back.

• The Martin Hilti Family Trust, in Liechtenstein, bought a “Mark Rothko” in 2002 for $5.5m. Knoedler paid Rosales $750,000.

• Frank J. Fertitta III, a Las Vegas casino owner, bought a “Rothko” in 2008 for $7.2m. Knoedler paid Rosales $4.5m. According to the complaint, Knoedler paid Oliver Wick, a former Beyeler Foundation curator, a $300,000 consulting fee.

Correction: Rosales was paid $4.5m for the “Rothko” sold to Fertitta, not $700,000 as was mistakenly reported.

Front and back of the Taubman fake, Clyfford Still.

Update: Freedman settled a lawsuit brought by the Arthur Taubman Trust, Nicholas and Eugenia Taubman. The trust bought a “Clyfford Still” in 2005 for $4.3m. Nicholas Taubman is the former US ambassador to Romania. Knoedler paid Rosales $600,000. In 2007, Taubman negotiated with Knoedler to purchase a “Pollock” that had been evaluated by the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) that could not determine whether or not the painting was by Pollock. Freedman never showed Ifar’s report to the Taubmans. The deal fell through when Knoedler refused to sign a contract saying that it didn’t know of any facts that called the authenticity of the painting into question.

Source: Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

Kempton Bunton may not have stolen Goya’s Duke of Wellington | Books | Entertainment | Daily Express

April 16, 2016 – 15:25

Britain’s most bizarre art heist – but was the wrong man jailed for stealing the Goya?

GETTY

Goya’s Duke of Wellington was taken from the National Gallery in 1691

For months in 1961 the heist gripped the public imagination, reaching fever pitch when ransom notes written in capital letters began arriving.

They suggested that it was no ordinary art theft but part of a campaign to secure free TV licences for pensioners. The crime even became part of a James Bond plot.

In Dr No, Bond is seen entering his adversary’s lair to find the missing portrait propped on an easel. “There it is,” remarks 007.

Kempton Bunton seemed to enjoy notoriety

Alan Hirsch

For four years all went quiet. No money was handed over and it was feared the painting, then valued at £140,000 but worth more than £1million at today’s prices, was lost for ever.

Then, following a tip-off, the rolled-up canvas was found in a locker at Birmingham New Street station in May 1965.

Two months later a former bus driver and father-of-seven named Kempton Bunton, whose remarkable story is told in a new book, walked into a London police station and confessed.

LMKMEDIA

The theft became part of a James Bond plot

At first the 61-year-old, who wore a trilby and smoked a pipe, wasn’t taken seriously. It seemed inconceivable that this overweight and unhealthy man could have pulled off the daring theft.

However Bunton was able to provide specific details including how he had hidden the portrait behind a wardrobe in his Newcastle council house and was soon charged and put on trial.

Embarrassingly for the authorities Bunton, who insisted he stole the painting only to highlight his TV licence crusade and always intended to return it, became a national hero. There was rejoicing when he received a three-month sentence after the jury believed his claim. In the end he went to prison only for the theft of the frame, which was never found.

The portrait was returned unscathed to the gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square where it still hangs, and little more was heard about Kempton Bunton, who died in 1976.

However an investigation by Alan Hirsch, an art historian, is set to turn the case on its head. In the past there were misgivings about Bunton’s guilt and now Hirsch reveals in his new book, The Duke Of Wellington, Kidnapped!: The Incredible True Story Of The Art Heist That Shocked A Nation, that the wrong man was jailed.

GETTY

Kempton Bunton insisted he stole the painting only to highlight his TV licence crusade

In fact it was Bunton’s son John, a teenager at the time, who was the real culprit.

In his book Hirsch, a professor at Williams College, Massachusetts, who has obtained accounts from members of the Bunton family, describes how John committed the theft single-handedly then proudly presented the portrait to his shocked father.

“It is an incredible and irresistible story,” says the author, who began delving into the case seven years ago and has also obtained Kempton’s memoirs.

“Writing the book was a fantastic opportunity to bring this case back to life after so many years.

“Bunton was a bizarre character. There is no doubt he was motivated by his crusade to obtain free TV licences for the elderly but he also enjoyed taking centre stage. You can’t help but like him but also be appalled by him. At the time there was outrage over the theft of the painting but I think the British public also regarded him as an eccentric hero.

GETTY

Bunton said he had cased the National Gallery and left a lavatory window open

“But almost from the start I was convinced the wrong guy had taken the fall and wanted to know why.”

Bunton was infuriated that the government had stepped in with a cash injection to help buy the portrait, completed in 1812, after it seemed destined to go abroad.

In the past he had refused to pay his £4 TV licence and gone to prison. He was the first to admit he had “a chip on his shoulder”.

At Bunton’s trial at London’s Old Bailey even the judge seemed dubious about his version of events, referring frequently to the “remarkable athletic feat” required to execute the heist.

The stumbling block was always Bunton’s confession and Hirsch adds: “When people confess to a crime they tend to be believed.”

According to Bunton he had cased the National Gallery and left a lavatory window open, before returning after closing time in August 1961. Standing on a beer crate he hauled his 17-stone frame through the window, then back out again with the painting.

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According to Hirsch, it was Bunton’s son John who stole the painting

Outlining his decision to return the painting four years later, Bunton claimed he had simply become tired of playing cat and mouse. For the same reason he gave himself up, although it later emerged he had been talking carelessly and feared he would be handed over by the girlfriend of another of his sons in exchange for a reward.

Bunton was a hugely entertaining witness in court, sparring with the prosecution lawyer and mixing his metaphors hilariously.

“I often threw red herrings about and I tried to put the police on to some gang instead of a lone wolf,” he said, insisting any ransom money received would have been used to buy TV licences for old folk.

Bunton joked that prison would not be so bad because, “I’ll get free television there.”

More doubts about the conviction began to surface in the late 1960s when his son John was picked up for a minor offence and apparently panicked. He told astonished police officers that he was the real thief of the Goya painting but it was decided not to rake up the old case, which would only have heaped further embarrassment on the authorities.

John Bunton lived with his guilt for 50 years before a family member contacted the American academic offering to set the record straight.

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John Bunton confessed his crime to police but it was decided not to rake up the case

Hirsch began corresponding with John, a retired mechanic who lives in Newcastle, and finally the full story emerged.

The book contains a detailed account of how John, who was well aware of his father’s ire about the purchase of the painting, travelled to London and stole the work.

“I don’t think stealing the painting was a big cause for John,” says Hirsch, who is convinced the son is being truthful.

“He was simply looking for some mischief and if he could support his father’s cause in the process, great. For the most part John is now ashamed of what he did.”

The only remaining mystery is why Kempton took the rap. According to the author it was partly out of loyalty to his son, partly because he wanted to hog the limelight.

Hirsch says: “Kempton Bunton was a charming charlatan who seemed to enjoy notoriety. He turned the theft into his identifying act and went to his grave cultivating his image as the man who stole the Goya.”

A quarter of a century after his death Bunton’s wish was partially granted – when Gordon Brown introduced free TV licences for the over-75s.

• The Duke Of Wellington, Kidnapped!: The Incredible True Story Of The Art Heist That Shocked A Nation is published this week by Counterpoint Press.

Source: Kempton Bunton may not have stolen Goya’s Duke of Wellington | Books | Entertainment | Daily Express

Stolen Dutch paintings recovered in Ukraine – BBC News

April 15, 2016 – 13:48

Stolen Dutch paintings recovered in Ukraine

  • 15 April 2016

  • From the section Europe

Image copyright Reuters

Image caption

The recovered paintings were displayed at the headquarters of Ukraine’s security services

Ukraine says it has recovered four paintings from a haul of 24 that was stolen from a gallery in the Netherlands more than a decade ago.

The haul of 16th and 17th century paintings was worth €50,000 (£40,000; $56,000) when stolen from the Westfries Museum in the city of Hoorn in 2005.

The four recovered works had been “in the possession of criminal groups”, Ukraine’s foreign minister said.

Reports say they were recovered from Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.

The museum said in December that two men, reportedly from a Ukrainian nationalist militia, had presented a picture of one of the paintings to the Dutch embassy in Kiev.

At the time, Dutch media reported that the men had said they had found the entire stolen collection and demanded millions of euros for the haul’s return.

Media captionThe BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse investigates how 24 paintings, stolen over a decade ago, fell into the hands of Ukrainian militia

Ukrainian authorities gave no more details on how the four paintings were recovered.

Vasyl Grytsak, the head of Ukraine’s state security service, said the first painting was recovered in early March, followed by a second in early April and two more on Thursday.

“A preliminary examination has determined they are authentic,” Mr Grytsak told a press conference.

Ultra-nationalist Ukrainian militia groups are fighting a pro-Russian insurgency in parts of eastern Ukraine.

The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 9,200 people since April 2014.

Source: Stolen Dutch paintings recovered in Ukraine – BBC News

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April 15, 2016 – 07:11

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