It’s The Art Newspaper’s first quarter century this month

October 7, 2015 – 18:04

It’s The Art Newspaper’s first quarter century this month

It’s The Art Newspaper’s first quarter century this month

Anna Somers Cocks, Inna Bazhenova and Jane Morris. Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie

Twenty-five years ago the first issue of The Art Newspaper rolled off the press. The idea of a real newspaper for the art world was conceived by the Turin publisher, Umberto Allemandi, with the Giornale dell’Arte, which he has produced since 1983.  I saw a copy and knew that the English-speaking world needed it too, so when he asked me to start the international edition for him, I jumped at the chance.  

We were just three of us in in one room on Fleet St, and if we had not believed in what we were doing, we would not have put up with the overwork. It was not a sensible way to start a business, but we survived, thrived and editions under licence were born in France, Russia and China.

Then, in 2014, The Art Newspaper and its international licensees were sold to the Russian industrialist and collector, Inna Bazhenova. She has maintained the objectives of the paper, which are to report all relevant news without fear or favour and always to be useful, but also delightful where possible.

This month, we are posting one story a day for every year from 1990 to 2015, chosen for its particular resonance, then and now.  We have also asked leading figures in the art world to say what they think art is for in these tormented and frightening times.

That same question will be investigated at the British Museum this 28 October, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in February 2016 and at the Hermitage, St Petersburg, also in 2016.

At the British Museum the investigation will be introduced by its director Neil MacGregor. The witnesses for art will be: Karen Armstrong, author and commentator on comparative religion; John Barrow, cosmologist, physicist, mathematician and playwright; Ben Okri, poet and novelist, and Zaki Nusseibeh, eminence grise behind the cultural policies of Abu Dhabi and advisor to the president of the UAE. Each will talk for 10 minutes and be questioned for another 10 minutes, with a summing up at the end. The “interrogator” will be the well-known barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who specialises in human rights issues.

The evening will be open to the public (tickets through the British Museum’s events office) as well as an invited audience.  The Art Newspaper is grateful to Volkswagen for supporting this celebration.

Source: It’s The Art Newspaper’s first quarter century this month

How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum

October 4, 2015 – 22:04

How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum

Mark Landis dressed in a faded black blazer, tucked a small, square piece of art into his black valise, and set off from Mississippi to meet with the directors of the Boca Museum of Art.

The museum was expecting a wealthy philanthropist.

Landis traveled by Greyhound bus.

When he arrived in Boca Raton that December of 2002, the senior curator at the time, Wendy Blazier, was eager to meet him. That summer, he had enticed her with a gift.

He sent a letter to the museum saying he had a rare drawing from the avant-garde French artist Marie Laurencin he wanted to donate. He listed several others he planned to give, including a work from Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, whose work is renowned the world over.

And then there was this: He didn’t want to be paid for the artwork. Didn’t even want a write-off for his taxes, which most donors demand. He simply wanted the piece hung in memory of his father, the late Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Landis Jr.

But why Boca, she’d asked him. What was his tie to the city?

“He said when he met me, he would reveal the connection,” Blazier recalls.

Blazier was used to eccentrics. But even by those standards, Landis is memorable 13 years later.

“It was such a strange and interesting encounter,” she said. “He was so odd.”

Read full report at: How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum

A veneer of Vermeer | Chemistry World

October 4, 2015 – 09:20

In the aftermath of the second world war, allied soldiers recovered paintings of great value that the Nazis had looted from museums during their conquest of Europe. Among these was a most remarkable work by the eminent Johann Vermeer, The woman taken in adultery, found in the stash of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second-in-line. Tracing its acquisition records pointed to a certain Han van Meegeren as the dealer in Amsterdam and a potential traitor to the Netherlands. Faced with a charge of collaboration for selling a Dutch national treasure to the Nazis, van Meegeren wrestled with a dilemma: stand trial for this act of treason, punishable by death, or confess to forgery?

Van Meegeren had forged The woman taken in adultery, as well as a handful of other artworks, attributing them to Dutch golden age painters Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. This arose out of a desperate need for income due to his failing artistic career as well as a personal vendetta against the art historians and museum curators who denied his talents. 

Van Meegeren was a unique forger, in that he created ‘original forgeries’ – paintings made to resemble the style of a particular artist but which had never been created by them. He imitated the styles of the masters so convincingly that he was able to dupe both the Nazis and well-regarded art historians. He accomplished this with a number of duplicitous tricks, including purchasing genuinely aged canvases and using the expensive ultramarine blue pigment that artists would have exclusively used for blue in the 17th century.

One trick involved mixing bakelite into paint pigments and baking completed canvases in the oven – the resulting hard paint layer gave the appearance of authentic age. Bakelite is the common name for a resin, a thermosetting plastic synthesised from an elimination reaction between phenol and formaldehyde.

Unfortunately, his clever sleight of hand was eventually seen through. A key witness to the trial was Paul Coremans, a Belgian chemist. To disprove van Meegeren’s work, he conducted x-ray radiography on the forgeries. The radiograph revealed damage marks from van Meegeren’s modification of the canvases he had obtained to fit his new paintings, detecting traces of the old paint layer’s white lead residue he had scraped away and showing that the craquelure of the underlying primer layer did not match that of the painted surface layer, which van Meegeren had artificially induced. Another anachronism was that the ultramarine blue pigment van Meegeren had used contained traces of cobalt blue, a cheaper synthetic alternative that would have been unavailable during Vermeer’s time.

Read full text at: A veneer of Vermeer | Chemistry World

Real or Forgery? Telling the Difference is a Fine Art | PropertyCasualty360

October 2, 2015 – 11:23

One of the most intriguing and confusing categories in property insurance involves appraising fine art. With the highest price paid for a work of art now at $250 million, a forgery is comparatively worthless; the potential cost of making an error is enormous.The official definition of fine art is “a visual art created primarily for aesthetic purposes and viewed positively for its beauty and meaningfulness.” Objects considered fine art include paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors, graphics, and architecture. Fine art should not be confused with mass produced decorative items, IKEA art, children’s drawings, framed posters and the like.It’s common to see a lot of fine art items with incorrect artist attributions and incorrect mediums, which means an incorrect claimed value. Different art mediums such as oil paintings and prints require different authentication methods.

More: Real or Forgery? Telling the Difference is a Fine Art | PropertyCasualty360

Knoedler fakes case will go to trial, judge orders

October 2, 2015 – 11:10

Knoedler fakes case will go to trial, judge orders

In a forgery scandal that shook the art world, the now-shuttered Knoedler Gallery and its former director Ann Freedman will have to go to trial in two cases involving the sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings, Manhattan’s federal court ruled on Wednesday, 30 September.  

In his three-page order, Judge Gardephe denied the gallery’s and Freedman’s motions for summary judgment in the lawsuits brought by the New York collector John Howard and Sotheby’s chairman Domenico De Sole and his wife, Eleanore. The judge said that his reasons for denying the motions “will be set forth in a forthcoming Memorandum Opinion and Order” but did not specify when.

The order also dismissed Knoedler’s owner Michael Hammer and the former gallery employee Michael Andrade from both cases. Hammer’s holding company 8-31 remains in the cases, although the judge dismissed certain claims against it.

Freedman, Knoedler, and Hammer have consistently denied they knowingly sold fakes.  Freedman’s lawyer Luke Nikas says: “This case is about integrity, and as much as we may respectfully disagree with the decision, it has an important silver lining: Ann Freedman will now have the full opportunity to tell her story and prove her good faith.” Knoedler and Hammer’s lawyer had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.

“The ruling recognises that the De Soles have mounted compelling evidence that they were defrauded. It shows the art world that this is a massive fraud that took place for over a decade,” says their attorney Gregory Clarick.

Around $60m worth of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings passed through Knoedler gallery, according to the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office. All the fakes were brought to Knoedler by the Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and federal tax evasion, and is now awaiting sentencing.

The scandal broke in late 2011, when the London hedge funder Pierre Lagrange filed a lawsuit charging that Knoedler sold him a work supposedly by Jackson Pollock that turned out to be a fake. The forgery ring ensnared Christie’s auction house, other art dealers such as Richard Feigen and Manny Silverman, who served as intermediaries in some sales, and noted collectors such as Jack Levy.

In all, ten lawsuits were brought against Knoedler and Freedman, four of which have been settled. The judge issued a separate opinion covering three of the other cases, dismissing certain claims and upholding others, but it has not been decided if these will go to trial.

Source: Knoedler fakes case will go to trial, judge orders

Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property – Cogent Social Sciences – Volume 1, Issue 1 | Cogent OA

October 1, 2015 – 16:53

Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property

Looting-to-order or theft-to-order of cultural assets has been widely dismissed as a myth. To test that, an open-source analysis of cases and testimony from law enforcement agents, perpetrators of cultural property crime and cultural heritage professionals was conducted. Web searches were conducted for reports that addressed looting, stealing or theft of cultural property on commission or to order; for material that discussed looters, robbers or thieves who had been contracted, employed, hired or paid to extract antiquities; and for academic publications that discussed “looting to order”, “theft to order” or any commodity “stolen to order”. Source-end employment/contracting that did not demonstrate a direct connection to market-end purchase and other cases that might have constituted “stealing to offer” were excluded, as were implicit and complicit orders that did not establish a contractual relationship. The analysis found historic and global evidence of commissioned theft of cultural property. It also found evidence that theft-to-order was a significant problem in some places and had served as a structure for conflict antiquities trading in Argentina, Cambodia and Syria. Since it is an exceptionally challenging form of an already difficult-to-police crime, the evidence of theft-to-order reinforces demands for increased market regulation through export and import licensing.

Public Interest Statement

Theft-to-order is an established part of illicit trading in many commodities, but looting-to-order of cultural property has been widely dismissed as a myth. From Mexico to Iraq to China, I have found that hi-tech is now basic tech in antiquities crime, which eases market-end commissioning of theft. Cybercrime—direct, private, online trading, using WhatsApp and Bitcoin—eases international and intercontinental operations.

Systematically reviewing publicly-accessible information, I have found looting-to-order in 43 countries, which span South America, North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Particularly importantly, regarding illicit trading that finances armed groups and repressive regimes, there is evidence of theft-to-order in the supply of conflict antiquities from Argentina, Syria and Cambodia.

Main text

1. Background

1.1. The Dr. No myth

Popular interest in criminal masterminds and obsessive art connoisseurs has been traced back to “the Dr. No myth” that was created in 1962, when a recently stolen masterpiece was depicted in the supervillain’s lair (Amore & Mashberg, 2011, p. 7). Yet the idea of a “mad millionaire” or “clandestine collector” was already being dismissed as the “most persistent and most appealing myth in art thievery” in 1968 (Buck, 1968, p. 20), and gentlemen thieves have been enduring characters in popular culture for far longer, featuring in such films as To Catch a Thief (1955), The Missing Rembrandt (1932) and Raffles (1930) and such novels as the last film’s source, Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1899).

Still, since Dr. No, ingenious art and antiquities heists have featured in blockbusters, B movies, TV series, toy sets, literature, comics and cartoons—Topkapi (1964), the Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), GI Joe (1971), MacGyver (1989), Hudson Hawk(1991), The Simpsons (1994), Entrapment (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999, rewritten from the 1968 version to incorporate such art theft), Art Heist (2004), White Collar (2012), LEGO (2013), Trance (2013), The Goldfinch (2013), Sesame Street (2015) …

In reality, police tend to recognize a range of criminal actors from opportunists and entrepreneurs to professionals and organizations (e.g. Nistri, 2011, pp. 185–187). The most common structure of the transnational illicit antiquities trade is that of a market supply chain or network of looters, intermediaries (who work as smugglers, handlers or connectors), dealers and collectors (cf. Brodie, Doole, & Watson, 2000; Campbell, 2013; Ferri, 2014; Mackenzie, 2002; Polk, 2009). Nonetheless, contested questions remain about alternative trade structures, such as theft-to-order. And they have significant contemporary relevance due to claims of supply of conflict antiquities—illicit antiquities that finance armed groups and repressive regimes—from Syria and Iraq through “looting to order” (Farmer, 2015).
Antiquities dealers’ insistence that “theft to order”, or indeed any other form of “big illicit business in freshly harvested antiquities”, is “mainly restricted to the pages of improbable detective novels” (Eisenberg, 2003, p. 2) might be dismissed, as they have an interest in dissociating their sector from serious crime, and antiquities trade lobbyists have been shown to present legal challenges to regulation that are “not based on evidence” (Elkins, 2015, p. 241). Yet academics, cultural property recovery consultants and international police services too have discussed the possibility of theft-to-order in terms of “masterpieces being “stolen to order” for criminal masterminds” (Eisenberg, 2003, p. 2) and understandably dismissed it on that basis.
For example, Clamen (1974), a civil servant at the Ministry of Culture in France who had special responsibility for technical and economic research into cultural property protection, observed that criminals and networks “very often” functioned “on an international scale” (p. 13), but made a point of dismissing any belief in “a powerful organization on an international scale” that stole “to order” for elite collectors (p. 12). He relayed that the police had “never” found proof of any such operation (Clamen,1974, p. 12).
Like the Dutch police’s Art and Antiques Crime Unit (cf. Preston, 2013), the Founder and Chairman of the Art Loss Register, Julian Radcliffe, insisted that there was “not some criminal sitting in Switzerland with a wonderful collection on his wall”, “criminal masterminds [do] not get masterpieces stolen to order” (quoted and paraphrased by BBC News, 2004).
While the process of acquisition is unclear, it should be noted that there are everyday equivalents to the cinematic myth of connoisseur criminals. When the police raided “Don Tito” Beniamino Gioiello Zappia, who operated between the Bonanno family of New York, the Rizzuto family of Montreal and Cosa Nostra in Sicily, they found millions of dollars’ worth of art and antiquities (National Post, 2010). When they raided Gioacchino Campolo, who worked for the Ndrangheta, they found more than a hundred artworks, including Dali’s Romeo and Juliet (McKenna, 2013).
Los Angeles police detective William Martin dismissed the possibility of theft “to order for some mad collector who will hide the art in a castle”, because the buyer would not be able to either find the thief or display their collection (Goldman & Muchnic,1990). Similarly, with regard to “major art heists”, museum security specialist Cremers (2007) said that a “reclusive collector” who could afford to commission thefts would be robbed or “blackmail[ed]” by their suppliers and would “never be able to show off” their collection.
Then a specialist in the illicit art trade for Interpol, Jean-Pierre Jouanny judged that theft-to-order “looks good in the movies—but does not happen in real life” (cited in BBC, 2004). Like former UK Art and Antiques Squad detective Dick Ellis (cf. Montreal Gazette, 2007), another Interpol specialist, Karl-Heinz Kind, stated that he had “never seen such a case”; it was “just a myth” (cited in Spiegler, 2004).
But what about the everyday illicit trade, not only away from truly fantastical masterminds, but also away from exceedingly rare masterpieces? In other words, what about the “vast majority” of cases? (Wittman & Weissmann, 2012) Here, open-source data are sampled and analyzed in order to test empirically whether or not there is significant evidence of looting-to-order and theft-to-order as a criminal structure in the illicit trade in cultural property.

1.2. An unknown quantity

Research suggests that the trade structure is not a significant problem in some places. Criminologists have heard testimony that commissioned theft is one of the practices of art crime in Australia (Aarons, Chappell, & Polk, 1998, p. 6), but there is “little evidence” that it is a significant one (Polk, Aarons, Alder, & Chappell, 2000, p. 12). And a former Commander of the Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, General Nistri (2011), judges that “theft ‘on commission’” is “very limited, niche type of crime” in Italy (p. 187). However, in general, there are such poor data that it is impossible to calculate the scale of any structure within the illicit antiquities trade, though it is averred that there is so little evidence of theft on commission that it cannot even be recognized as a niche crime.
Plus, private databases of stolen art are incomplete by nature; some states lack any database and keep only piecemeal records (cf. Soudijn & Tijhuis, 2003, p. 29); inconsistencies in national police record-keeping make it “unlikely that there will ever be any accurate statistics” (Interpol, n.d.); terms such as “antiquities” and “artworks” are used “interchangeably” by the art and antiquities trade (e.g. Moulopoulos, 2000, p. 391, n. 1); private databases sometimes have information that police databases do not (Boasberg, 1994); and private databases sometimes withhold information in order “to extract a fee” from victims (Taylor & Manly, 2013, p. A1; see also Flynn, 2014). No number can include the uncataloged artefacts that are stolen from archaeological sites and stores. So the total scale of the illicit trade will be far larger than the documented scale.
Compounding the challenges to analysis, most crimes remain unsolved. Although it has been claimed that up to 90% of the most exceptional works of art are recovered after their theft (according to the Founder of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Art Crime Team, Robert Wittman, cited in Ibrahim, 2012), it has also been claimed that merely more than 20% of exceptional works of art are recovered within thirty years of their theft (according to the Founder and Chairman of the Art Loss Register, Julian Radcliffe, cited in BBC News, 2004). Perhaps just 15% (according to Julian Radcliffe, cited in Sooke,2013), 10% (according to a past Manager of the Art Theft Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lynne Chaffinch, cited in Spiegler, 2004) or “below 10 percent” of artworks in general are recovered (according to the present Manager of the Art Theft Program at the FBI, Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, cited in Rovzar, 2015). It has also been claimed by the FBI that about 10% of cases are solved (Braiker, 2005), though the Manager of its Art Theft Program has said that—in comparison with less than ten per cent recovery rate—it is “pretty rare” to solve cases (Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, cited in Rovzar, 2015). Hence, these estimates are difficult to use in and of themselves, when “no-one knows how many” artworks are stolen in order to be able to calculate success rates (Naylor, 2008, p. 289), particularly so when an inordinate number of such estimates—sometimes contradictory ones—cluster around 10% (or the converse 90%).
Moreover, works of art are the least difficult kind of cultural property to trace and identify. In India, while there were around 3,000 reported thefts of antiquities in three years (1977–1979), “only ten cases were solved” (Greenfield, 1996, p. 208). Furthermore, in the investigation of an already low-risk crime, the most commonly exposed are the incompetent and powerless, and the most difficult to expose are “the illicit antiquities dealers”—and collectors—“who hire looters, request specific items, and pick sites to be pillaged” (Gruber, 2014, p. 225).
It should also be noted that collectors may also be dealers, or become dealers if there is a sufficiently tempting rise in market value (Naylor, 2008, p. 290), so something that was acquired for possession by order may be found when it is (being) sold and the structure of the original crime may be misidentified.

Thus, even if 10% of the United States’ reported art thefts are solved, and if only 0.33% of India’s reported antiquities thefts are solved, wherein most of the solved cases concern amateurish criminals who cannot access protection through corruption, commissioned thefts necessarily constitute an unknown quantity amongst the 90 or 99.67% of cases that remain unsolved.

As discussions of the mechanics of the illicit trade(s) in fine art and historic objects appear to be significantly influenced by debates over the mechanics of the illicit trade in artistic masterpieces, it should be borne in mind that: looted antiquities cannotgenerally be recognized in the same way as artistic masterpieces, so there is no similar obstacle to more public sale; looted antiquities cannot generally be “ransomed back” to the original owner, so ransom rarely exists as a business model; and the comparatively uncertain and labour-intensive nature of any looting enterprise very strongly suggests that illicit excavations are not conducted by ignorant opportunists who do not know buyers for what they have stolen, even if those buyers are merely source-end dealers. Hence, there are not the same theoretical obstacles to believing in the existence of commissioned looting of antiquities from archaeological sites and historic buildings and theft of antiquities from museums, galleries and collections that there are to believing in the existence of commissioned theft of artworks from museums, galleries and collections.

Furthermore, it should be noted that looting-to-order/theft-to-order has advantages as a business model. For example, it minimizes the time for which thieves possess illicit goods; it reduces the frequency with which thefts must be committed to achieve the same profit; and it reduces the number of criminals who may be turned by the police and potential witnesses to stages in the supply process.

2. Method

2.1. Data collection

Previous analyses of the market, reflections by practitioners and reviews of art (crime) history have generally only been able to identify an insignificantly small number of cases. Lawyer and criminologist Tijhuis (2006) judged “the theft of works of art ordered by collectors” to be a myth with “no (or a rather small) empirical base” (p. 117, n. 83). A former UK Metropolitan Police Service detective for arts and antiques, Charles Hill, recognized that even “famous artworks are occasionally stolen on commission” (paraphrased by Caesar, 2013, p. MM28). No scientific basis for comparison can be established when estimates vary by orders of magnitude, but art crime historian Charney (2014) found that “perhaps two dozen such cases” of commissioned cultural property thefts had ever been “confirmed” (p. 194), whereas, depending on which legal review is consulted, either “tens of thousands” (Bloom, 2000, p. 283) or “hundreds of thousands” (Phelan, 2000, p. 660) of artworks are stolen every year (cf. Tucker, 2011, pp. 611–613).

Moreover, previous investigations into the phenomenon have been stymied by theoretical and technical obstacles to study. For instance, archaeologists’ records have not been identified in criminologists’ research. This is partly due to a wider problem, where criminal operations have been described inconsistently in popular, professional and academic literature. And sources—and the knowledge of the existence of sources—have been unobtainable, because they have not been in libraries, have not been online or have not been machine-readable. All such factors have combined to create an impression of a lack of evidence. Greatly broadening and deepening the evidence base, then, this research has systematically sampled and analyzed journalistic and professional as well as academic records, which was not possible when the consensus was being established or when the frequency of the crime was being assessed.

Initially, around 6 June 2014, focused Google searches were conducted for material that mentioned:

“loot * order”,

“looted * order”,

“looting * order”,

“order * loot”,

“order * steal”,

“order * theft”,

“ordered * loot”,

“ordered * looting”,

“ordered * steal”,

“ordered * theft”,

“steal * order”,

“stole * order”,

“stolen * order”,

“theft * order” or

“to order” and “antiquities”.

Reports and reviews that presented evidence of such activity and that rejected such interpretations of the evidence were collected. They included later articles that showed earlier articles to have presented mistaken conclusions, whereupon the mistaken articles were excluded. Selections were made to display the kinds of evidence that convinced investigators of the commission of looting or theft-to-order, as well as the geographical and chronological range of convincing cases of such crimes.

When it was not clear whether looting had been commissioned by collectors or dealers, committed by looters to supply a personal list of market-end clients or to offer to anyone, it was discounted. For example, Syrian rebel and looter-smuggler Abu Abd al-Tedmuri had made business contacts before the civil war through work in the local art trade, then participated in the looting of Palmyra when it was under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but it was only known that he had sold antiquities “directly [to] a private buyer in Germany” and to “foreign collectors and [local] merchants” in Turkey (Soguel, 2014), so his case was excluded.
The Old Summer Palace in Beijing was looted by British and French forces in 1860 and the Forbidden City there was looted by American, Austro-Hungarian, British and British colonial Indian, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Russian soldiers, diplomats, missionaries and others in 1900, wherein the Forbidden City was plundered so thoroughly that the British immediately sold a lot of their illicit assets through “daily auctions of looted goods” in their occupied territory (Silbey, 2012, p. 218). Between 2010 and 2015, the objects of those acts of plunder have been stolen from museums in Sweden, Norway, the UK and France; and, according to British art dealer Paul Harris, the robberies are suspected to have been “ordered” (cited in Meyer, 2015, p. SR4); but the business arrangements behind the robberies are unknown, so those cases have been excluded too.

The author continued monitoring news for relevant information.

Subsequently, around 26 December 2014, focused Google searches were conducted for material that mentioned:

“contracted looter” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * looter” and “antiquities”,

“contracted looters” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * looters” and “antiquities”,

“contracted robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted robbers” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * robbers” and “antiquities”,

“contracted thief” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * thief” and “antiquities”,

“contracted thieves” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * thieves” and “antiquities”,

“contracted grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“contracted tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“contracted tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“contracted * tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed looter” and “antiquities”,

“employed * looter” and “antiquities”,

“employed looters” and “antiquities”,

“employed * looters” and “antiquities”,

“employed robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed * robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed * robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed thief” and “antiquities”,

“employed * thief” and “antiquities”,

“employed thieves” and “antiquities”,

“employed * thieves” and “antiquities”,

“employed grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed * grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed * grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed * tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“employed tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“employed * tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired looter” and “antiquities”,

“hired * looter” and “antiquities”,

“hired looters” and “antiquities”,

“hired * looters” and “antiquities”,

“hired robber” and “antiquities”

“hired * robber” and “antiquities”,

“hired robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired * robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired thief” and “antiquities”,

“hired * thief” and “antiquities”,

“hired thieves” and “antiquities”,

“hired * thieves” and “antiquities”,

“hired grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“hired * grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“hired grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired * grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“hired * tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“hired tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“hired * tomb robbers” and “antiquities”,

“paid looter” and “antiquities”,

“paid * looter” and “antiquities”,

“paid looters” and “antiquities”,

“paid * looters” and “antiquities”,

“paid robber” and “antiquities”

“paid * robber” and “antiquities”,

“paid robbers” and “antiquities”,

“paid * robbers” and “antiquities”,

“paid thief” and “antiquities”,

“paid * thief” and “antiquities”,

“paid thieves” and “antiquities”,

“paid * thieves” and “antiquities”,

“paid grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“paid * grave robber” and “antiquities”,

“paid grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“paid * grave robbers” and “antiquities”,

“paid tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“paid * tomb robber” and “antiquities”,

“paid tomb robbers” and “antiquities” or

“paid * tomb robbers” and “antiquities”.

On 11 January 2015, Google Scholar searches were conducted for academic publications that discussed:

“looting to order”,

“theft to order” or

any commodity “stolen to order”.

2.2. Data exclusion

While some of the resultant evidence was not English-language (e.g. Hollender, 2006, which used keywords in its English-language abstract), while such evidence provided native translations of key words and phrases (e.g. “Diebstahl auf Bestellung” for “theft to order” in German) and the author knew other-language translations as well (e.g. “vol sur commande”, “klopi kata paraggelia [κλοπή κατά παραγγελία]” and “siparişe üzerine hırsızlık” for “theft to order” in French, Greek and Turkish, respectively), and while some of the searches could easily have been repeated in some other languages, in order to produce a manageable and consistent sample, the foundational material was gathered through systematic searches for English-language material.
One of the obstacles to studying this phenomenon is the accurate but nonetheless generic use of “theft to order” to encompass orders from dealers as well as collectors. So, here, “theft to order” will refer to collector-directed robberies. For want of a better term, “predictive theft to order” will refer to dealer-directed robberies, where the dealer orders material that they believe they will be able to sell to one of a select clientele. For example, Chinese jade and porcelain were stolen from the Oriental Museum at Durham University for a dealer who had “already identified a potential market” (Durham Police Detective Superintendent Adrian Green, cited in ITV Central News, 2012).
As theft-to-order for a collector is distinct from theft-to-order for a dealer, so stealing-to-order for a dealer is distinct from “stealing-to-offer” to dealers (Sutton, Schneider, & Hetherington, 2001, p. 3), who may take the form of ostensibly legal commercial enterprises as well as obviously illegal fences.
Some looting of cemeteries and other archaeological sites in Egypt, for example, is managed by state-intertwined, internationally connected “land mafia[s]”, which occupy and mine sites (Hanna, 2014). And some is managed by “big m[e]n … who send … children to go dig” up sites, then buy “whatever they bring” back (Hanna, cited by Mashberg, 2014b). Nevertheless, while some of those land mafias may have “direct channels to middle men in [markets such as] the United States” (Hanna, paraphrased by Tompa, 2014), and while some of them will sell to collectors in Egypt (Trew, 2014), others will sell their finds to smuggler-dealers who will sell those finds on to dealers in the West (Trew, 2014). On the precautionary principle, they must be assumed to be operations that simply steal-to-offer to middlemen.
Just as commissions for thefts should not be presumed, source-end business structures should not be over-interpreted. While the big men’s child labourers are technically looting-to-order for dealers in Egypt, their arrangement effectively forms a single stage in the process—as does the direct employment of looters by local dealers, which is the most common arrangement in Belize (cf. Pendergast, 1991, p. 90), and which has also been attested in Belgium (Tijhuis, 2011, pp. 92–94)—and the dealers must be assumed to buy-to-offer to (other) middlemen. Since this study tested evidence for market-end direction of source-end crimes through extraction for either collectors or dealers who directly supply collectors, including all source-end employment/contracting of looters/thieves would have distorted the findings.
Thus, operations that might well have conducted theft-to-offer to intermediaries were excluded. Similarly, implicit or complicit orders—such as an antiquities dealer’s notification for thieves of thefts that “they could commit” (Clamen, 1974, p. 12) or an auction house’s “good news” for the community around the Ancient Tombs at Reshui in China, which led to looting by more than a thousand villagers (He, 2001, pp. 20–21)—were excluded.
More fundamentally, the sceptics are right to be sceptical because expert interpretations of unsolved crimes as commissioned thefts often turn out to be wrong. One incompetent armed robber got away with a suspected theft-to-order (Macaskill, 1999), only to be caught “when he booked a conference room at a hotel to sell the paintings” (BBC News, 2000). The 1955 theft of silver figurines from Brooklyn Museum—a “perfect crime” according to the New York Police Department—turned out to be the acquisition of toys by 14-year-old boys (Amore & Mashberg, 2011, p. 10). The thief of millions of dollars’ worth of old masters’ paintings from Dulwich Picture Gallery was a local “unemployed ambulance driver with 10 previous convictions” for petty crime (Buck, 1968, p. 20; see also McLeave, 2003, p. 85).
Evidence can be difficult to interpret. In a seeming echo of the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in 2003, the much smaller Mallawi Museum in Egypt was much more comprehensively looted on 14 August 2013. While law enforcement officials and civilians were devoted to or distracted by clashes between police forces and Islamists over the expulsion of sit-in protests from Rabia al-Adawiya Square and Nahda Square, the museum was broken into by “armed Islamist groups” (Ali,2013) and almost all of its artefacts were removed.
Whether they were conscientious locals who had temporarily rehoused the material before it could be pillaged, or opportunistic thieves who had realized the error of their ways (or at least their plans for the disposal of their hauls), most of the artefacts were soon recovered from local families (Ali, 2013; Hussein, 2014). While “hundreds of fine pieces … ha[d] still not been recovered”, including a more-than-three-thousand-year-old limestone figurine of a Daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, it was suspected that they had been “stolen to order” (Spencer, 2013).
Yet now nearly all of the collection has been recovered (Mostafa, 2014), obviously including some of those fine pieces that had been thought to be targets of the order (cf. Shaw, 2013). Museums and other cultural facilities were attacked across the country (cf. Ali, 2013). And many valuable antiquities, which professionals could have extracted, were destroyed rather than looted “to express [the attackers’] opposition to the government” with which the antiquities were associated (Hanna, 2014). So, while the finest goods may have been stolen to order, that could not be assumed, and this case was from the evidence.
Furthermore, sources can be contradictory or confusing. Reports varied as to whether a theft of seven paintings from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts had happened in 1983 and “some” of the paintings had been recovered in a “sack pulled from the Danube River” (Canellos, 1990), or whether it happened in 1983 and all of the paintings had been recovered before exported (Goldman & Muchnic, 1990), whereas it happened in 1984, just the frame of one painting had been dumped in the river, one painting had been buried and the other six paintings were eventually abandoned in a suitcase on the premises of a monastery in Greece (Szépművészeti Múzeum, 2012); nonetheless, the Italian gang had been “commissioned” by a Greek businessman for his private collection (Szépművészeti Múzeum, 2012).
Estado de Sao Paulo reported that a theft of paintings by Picasso and Portinari from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) in Brazil was an attempt to extort money from the museum by ransoming its property (Phillips, 2008); yet, while stating that “an evil connoisseurs’ black market” was “largely a myth”, the New York Times’ Kennedy (2008) noted that a suspect in this case had “told the authorities that the works were to be delivered to a collector in Saudi Arabia” (see also Caesar, 2013, p. MM28).
The theft of the Codex Calixtinus was suspected to be an “inside job” that had been “commissioned by an international art collector” (Kassam, 2015), but was the act of José Manuel Fernández Castiñeiras, a disgruntled former employee who was an obsessive thief with an “almost physiological need for treasure [una necesidad casi fisiológica por atesorar]” (Pontevedra,2012).

This study excludes suspected cases and draws on solved cases, perpetrator testimony, eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence and analyses of such data by law enforcement agents, cultural heritage professionals and academics.

3. Findings

3.1. South America

In Peru, looter-collector Enrico Poli “bought directly from looters … sponsored looters” (Atwood, 2006, p. 47). According to investigative journalist Atwood (2006), alongside “perhaps fifty” other such operations in the Ica Valley alone (p. 240), “Gloria” manages “loose gangs of looters” (p. 239), who are paid for their finds, and occasionally supplies “specific requests” (p. 239), “advance orders” from collectors as far away as Europe (p. 240). In 1995, a textile mantle was “stolen to order” from the National Museum in Lima (Alva, 2001, p. 94). In Brazil, a suspect confessed that paintings by Picasso and Portinari had been stolen from the MASP for “a collector in Saudi Arabia” (Kennedy, 2008).
Archaeologist Schávelzon (2002, p. 234) stated that “an important proportion” of Argentina’s museum “thefts was made ‘to order’”. In 1980, art was “stolen to order” from the Buenos Aires National Museum of Fine Arts by one of the dictatorship’s paramilitary units (Schávelzon, 2002, p. 228); the junta licensed the theft as payment-in-kind for kidnappings and disappearances. In another case, FBI Inspector Margot Kennedy quoted an arrested Argentinian police officer: “I can take out of Argentina whatever painting you want, from whichever museum you fancy; we have an organization that works like a clock” (Schávelzon, 2002, p. 229).

3.2. North America

3.2.1. Central America

Some “collectors and dealers are very well known among the local looters” in Guatemala, whose activities they direct (Paredes, 2000). One armed gang stole antiquities from churches “on commission [por encargo]” (Melini, 2015).
Anthropological archaeologist Luke (2005) analyzed further evidence that “exposed” the existence of “an ‘order’ market” in Central American antiquities. After the publication of photographs of the royal graves at Copan in Honduras (Stuart, 1997), the site was looted (Agurcia Fasquelle, 1998) in a way that indicated collectors had effectively used National Geographic as a sales catalogue. Likewise, a hieroglyphic text and carving of a bound captive were extracted from one 1,300-year-old stela, and a single sceptre was extracted from another such stela, at Dos Pilas (Luke, 2005). Without perpetrators’ use of publicly accessible documents to identify the targets, the fact that these thefts were commissioned would have remained unknown.

3.2.2. North America

In central Mexico, archaeologist Enrique Nalda (2002, p. 214) relayed elderly villagers’ testimony that they had previously been “hire[d]” to loot sites or had raided tombs when “someone … had promised to buy what was found”.
In a case of abortive theft-to-order and failed predictive theft-to-order, around 1968, looters alerted their dealer Everett Rassiga (who has elsewhere been pseudonymised as “Henry Beta”) to the existence of a Maya stucco temple in Placeres. Rassiga presented photographs and offered to loot the façade for collector Josué Sáenz, but he declined. Then, a group of investors funded and oversaw its removal, and managed its illicit transport from Mexico to the United States, in expectation of its sale to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other buyers. However, the Met received internal objections and private warnings, so the material was returned to Mexico instead (Freidel, 2000; Meyer, 1973, pp. 22–26; Yates, 2014).
More recently, in remote eastern Mexico, “teams” have “camp[ed] for extended periods” around sites in order to loot them, “directed by” archaeologist-informed, armed and hi-tech-equipped smuggler-dealers who supply boutique collectors (Nalda,2002, p. 217). More recently still, an American antiquities dealer has “paid” Tarahumara tribe members “to loot artifacts from burial caves” in north-west Mexico, thence to sell them through an inconspicuous local gallery in the north-western United States (United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement, 2012).
In a case that was contained within the United States, around 1975, a high-end antiquities dealer in Arizona—who turned out to be immune from prosecution—hired two looters to strip the saleable assets from a Mimbres ruin in New Mexico (Fowler & Malinky, 2006, p. 9).

3.2.3. Even intercontinental crime can be incompetent

On the 8 of October 1974, a Renaissance painting of the Last Communion of Saint Jerome was stolen from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Junkies had stolen it on order” for businessmen in Greece, according to Philadelphia police detective Viola (1998a). Distrusting the commissioned thieves, the intercontinental masterminds exposed themselves by asking a newspaper why it had not reported the crime before the museum realized that it had happened (Viola, 1998b). Looking back on decades in law enforcement, through which he had become a police chief, Viola (1998a) judged that “[t]his type of theft [was] not uncommon”.

3.3. Europe

3.3.1. Northern Europe

A study of cultural heritage crime in the Nordic region processed questionnaires from 2,111 cultural heritage professionals and antiquities trade participants, and 150 interviews with representatives of those groups as well as law enforcement officials and criminals, in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. One of their findings was that underwater treasure hunters who worked “on commission” or performed “other types of sponsored plundering” were few in number but significant in the harm that they caused (Korsell, Hedlund, Elwér, Vesterhav, & Heber, 2006, p. 38). A cultural property criminologist observed that some robberies of churches in northern Europe were commissioned by collectors of Christian art and antiquities in Eastern Europe (Korsell et al., 2006, p. 84).
Throughout the study, commissioned theft was discussed as not the but still a standard practice. A convicted cultural property criminal judged that theft-to-order was “fairly common” (Korsell et al., 2006, p. 73). One police officer cited the example of an antiquities dealer from South America who guided his hired hand and identified the “sculptures and [other] antiquities” on location, before the commissioned thief stole the targets and prepared to ship them back home (Korsell et al., 2006, p. 64). A group of police officers detailed a case where a mastermind had researched and planned a string of hits on churches, then dispatched a team of thieves with “written and illustrated” instructions (Korsell et al., 2006, p. 64).

3.3.2. Western Europe

In France, “Spiderman” Vrejan T. Stole a Léger painting from the Musée d’Art Moderne “to order” for antiquities dealer Jean-Michel C. (Samuel, 2011), while in the UK, Peter Joseph Bellwood and Melvin Nelson Perry stole historic documents “to order for collectors across the world … or dealers who [did] not ask too many questions” (Morris, 2003; see also Honigsbaum,2003). In northern England, one very small-scale operation comprised the theft to order of a barometer from a local museum, by a shoplifter who had been convicted ninety times before, for £200, though it was worth £150,000 (The Telegraph, 2009), while a far larger “predictive” supply operation was conducted by a gang who stole cultural goods from private properties and sold them to personally identified collectors (Liptrot, 2013). In Northern Ireland, an armed gang tied and beat a retired vicar, then ransacked his home as an art expert directed their theft of millions of pounds’ worth of paintings via smartphone (The Irish Daily Mirror, 2012).

3.3.3. Central Europe

During the Cold War, historic manuscript thief Joachim Krüger produced catalogues of accessible material for potential buyers, then “work[ed] ‘to order’ [arbeitete ‘auf Bestellung’]” (Hollender, 2006). At the end of the Cold War, Detective Chief Inspector Jürgen Wylenga observed that antiquities thieves in eastern Germany arranged dealer-buyers in the Netherlands, then stole “to order and deadline [auf Bestellung und Termin]” (cited in Der Spiegel, 1991).
In 1984, the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts was robbed by an Italian gang who had been “commissioned” by a Greek businessman to steal seven paintings for his private collection (Szépművészeti Múzeum, 2012). In recent years, a Hungarian gang—who “usually stole to order” (Europol, 2014)—extracted millions of Euros’ worth of maps from institutions in Belgium and France in Western Europe and Italy, Portugal and Spain in Southern Europe as well as Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland (Europol, 2014).
Police inspectors Marcin Goch and Mirosław Karpowicz have reported that cultural property burglars “often” perform “commissioned theft[s] (theft[s] to order)” in Poland (Goch & Karpowicz, 2011, p. 80). In 2009, from Sweden, current or former neo-Nazi Anders Högström directed the theft of Auschwitz death camp’s notorious sign, “Arbeit macht frei [work liberates]”; showing the low level of the gross crime, at least two of mastermind Högström’s five accomplices had previously done “odd jobs on his family estate” (Paterson, 2010).

3.3.4. Southern Europe

During the civil war in Cyprus, one or more collectors “contract[ed] groups of looters” to mine specific archaeological sites for their private collections (Hadjisavvas, 2001, p. 135). But, based on data from the Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale), “[t]heft to order” is one of the crimes that “characterize[s]” the illicit market for cultural property in Italy (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, 2011, p. 15). In 1969, Cosa Nostra heroin processor-trafficker Francesco Marino Mannoia personally fulfilled the order for Caravaggio’s Nativity with Saint Peter and Saint Lawrence (Harris, 2009).
Carabinieri Marshal Sergio Banchellini revealed that looters in Puglia pillaged Greco-Roman archaeological sites “to order” and sold the desired finds through an intermediary to clients in Milan (paraphrased by Reuters, 2002). Despite the idea being used to ridicule the possibility of theft-to-order (e.g. BBC News, 2004), “some pieces were found on display in people’s homes, rather than being hidden away” as might be expected (paraphrased by Reuters, 2002).
Gianfranco Becchina “employ[ed] tomb robbers full-time and [bought] all they unearthed” (Watson & Todeschini, 2006, p. 292), then sold the antiquities to collectors and museums through Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses in the UK and Tosca Fujita’s and Noriyoshi Horiuchi’s dealerships in Japan.

3.3.5. Eastern Europe

Russian Interior Ministry investigator Colonel Alexei Bykovtsev has explained that there are more than 40 gangs from the former Soviet Union, which “have escape and sale venues ready, and the thefts often come on order” (Shargorodsky, 1999; see also Russian Criminal Police Chief Vladimir Gordyenko, cited in BBC News, 2002). They have been specifically identified as working in Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Commonly, émigrés in market countries take and deliver orders, which are supplied by unemployed cultural heritage workers back home in source countries. Otherwise, they raid private collectors’ houses in the market countries (ANSA, 2012).

3.4. Asia

3.4.1. West Asia (the Middle East)

In the mid-twentieth century, American antiquities dealer Arthur Upham Pope “commissioned thefts from Islamic shrines” in Iran (Muscarella, 2013, p. 849).
A Dutch defence advisor on cultural property protection, Kila (2010), has observed that antiquities looting in conflict zones is “often commissioned”—and “often” performed by armed groups (p. 97). According to the Director General of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq, Muayad Damerji, under the regimented control of the Ba’athist regime and United Nations sanctions, the head of a statue in the palace of Dur-Sharrukhin at Khorsabad was “likely … stolen ‘to order’” (paraphrased by the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, 1997, p. 23).
Likewise, there is evidence that, in the pillage following the United States-led invasion of 2003, an international gang raided both the National Museum in Baghdad and Mosul Museum (Mosul Museum director Bernadette Hanna-Metti and Mosul Museum curator Saba al-Omari, cited in Atwood, 2003), while looters targeted specific antiquities at Nimrud. Site director Muzahim Mahmud said that the looters “ignored everything else, went right to that frieze” of a winged man carrying a sponge and a holy plant, “and took it” (cited in Atwood, 2006, p. 7); Atwood (2006) judged it to be “customized looting”, the fulfilment of the “orders of a buyer” (p. 7).
These might have been looted to order for dealers, like the 18 statues that were intercepted in Jordan en route to a gallery in France (Doole, 2004, p. 13). Within weeks of the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, US. Customs had intercepted an illicit shipment of 669 of its artefacts to an antiquities dealer in New York (Hunt-Grubbe, 2008). But archaeologist-journalist Farchakh Bajjaly (2008) has interviewed participants in the illicit antiquities trade in Iraq and abroad and has reported that private collectors are “ordering specific objects for their collection[s]” (p. 136).
An Israeli rabbi “order[ed]” Torahs from a Palestinian gang, then sold them to religious communities, making at least tens of thousands of dollars’ profit (Senyor, 2011). Though it did not say whether the contractors were collectors or dealers, according to the theft prevention unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, three Israelis “hired” two Palestinians to conduct illicit excavations for precious metal antiquities (Eisenbud, 2014).
In territory that is predominantly held by the jihadist al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), a fighter-cum-looter, Ahmed, takes orders to loot over Skype (Anjarini, 2014). Yet another in the same territory, former fighter-cum-mafia protector Abdo, has testified that Western operators are being smuggled in and out of Syria by armed groups in order to conduct boutique looting-and-smuggling operations (Anjarini, 2014), the costs and risks of which would be prohibitive if the operators did not already have buyers or at the very least a select clientele amongst whom they would find buyers.
A commissary employee at the US Air Force (USAF) base at İncirlik in Turkey, Sezai Portakalcı, “hired … looters”, then sold the prospectively looted antiquities to “collectors and galleries”, including to buyers in the US through a reserve USAF major (United States Customs Service, 2000). Reflecting on years of investigations, former Istanbul antiquities police chief, İsmail Şahin stated that, “[i]n many cases, specific orders c[a]me from Europe” (cited in Jones, 2012)—the collector put in an order with the dealer, the dealer put in an order with a gang, the antiquities were stolen and delivered.

3.4.2. South Asia

In India, Sanjivi Asokan “hired a group” to steal Hindu icons, sold them through his dealership, and conspired with Subhash Chanda Kapoor to sell them through his dealership in the United States (Srivathsan, 2013). The mastermind of a worldwide antiquities trafficking network, Subhash Kapoor himself “employed a gang of thieves” (Verma, 2014) and “order[ed] the theft[s]” of sculptures from temples for sale to the highest end of the antiquities market (Dingle, 2014), to “collectors and museums around the world” (Mashberg, 2014a), sometimes through his own gallery in the United States, the Art of the Past. The exposure of Kapoor’s empire—which trafficked antiquities from Afghanistan, Cambodia (in South-East Asia), India and Pakistan—involved an international investigation started by Australia-based bioarchaeologist Damien Huffer, carried on by United States-based journalist Jason Felch, India-based blogger Vijay Kumar, Australia-based journalist Michaela Boland and India-based journalist R. Srivathsan. Illustrating the scale of this single illicit network, the police operation has already recovered more than a hundred million dollars’ worth of antiquities (Huck, 2014).

3.4.3. South-East Asia

In predictive looter/smuggler-dealer supply chains for Cambodian antiquities, photographs are “sent up the chain saying ‘we have stolen this, would you like to buy it’” and sometimes requests for the theft of certain types of things are sent down the chain (Mackenzie & Davis, 2014, p. 734). Again, it is an enormous business. When he was captured, after he had sold the most valuable pieces, Khmer Rouge Commander Ta Mok still had “more than 20 tons” of antiquities (Sheridan, 1999). And the army has taken up where the regime left off. Whole companies of soldiers plunder and deliver antiquities to order for dealers, from sites such as Banteay Chhmar (Mackenzie, 2005, p. 19; cited in Alder, Chappell, & Polk, 2009, p. 130; see also Doole,1999, p. 6; Sheridan, 1999).
According to archaeologists who have both worked in both Cambodia and Thailand, at least some antiquities dealerships in Thailand have “catalogs” of architecture at Khmer temples in Cambodia “that can be removed (i.e. looted) to order” (Stark & Griffin, 2004, p. 127). Looting-to-order is “widespread”—not only dealers but also “collectors request the artifacts from known temples” or similar things from other sites (Lafont, 2004, p. 38). Potential buyers are informed that, to acquire “any piece that [is] currently in situ”, they simply need to provide a photograph of the piece, whereupon smuggler-dealers will “arrange for it to be looted and delivered … within a month” (Mackenzie & Davis, 2014, p. 727).
One local sculpture trafficking syndicate “ordered … theft[s]” of Buddhist statues from temples in Indonesia and supplied collectors, in a business where the looters alone were turning over at least tens of thousands of dollars for each theft (Suherdjoko, 2010).

3.4.4. East Asia

In China, some illicit excavations are “commissioned in Hong Kong” (He, 2001, p. 24); while they may order by type or style, it is “normal” for buyers in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or elsewhere to “place an order” at innocuous front enterprises for antiquities from China and Tibet (Suliang, 2002, p. 89). Collectors “order” museum pieces from catalogues of “photos—even faxes” and entrepreneurial smugglers steal and ship those commissioned pieces (WuDunn, 1992). In 1997, a collector-dealer in Anhui province contracted “people from several provinces” to loot the Mausoleums of the Kings of Zhao State in Hebei province (He, 2001, p. 21). Otherwise, organized crime groups have stolen statues, then sold them to a select clientele through “brochures” (Lo, 2009, p. 23). For example, “Billionaire Hou” Linshan’s hi-tech gang looted antiquities from China and smuggled them to “international collectors” (Platt, 1997).
Further afield, Mongolia’s police have foiled attempts to steal the ancient art of High Saint Zanabazar on “the order of Chinese buyers” (Sergelen, 2014).

3.5. Africa

3.5.1. North Africa

In Egypt, armed gangs “often target specific objects” or sites (Hanna, paraphrased by St. Hilaire, 2014) and “operat[e] with instructions” from foreign paymasters (Ikram, cited by Tresilian, 2014). So at least some looting, for instance at Abu Sir Al-Malaq, is being “commissioned from outside” (Hanna, paraphrased by Tresilian, 2014).

3.5.2. West Africa

In 1993, a “consortium of European dealers” employed “many hundreds” of subsistence diggers to strip-mine Nigerian archaeological sites (Bortolot, n.d.). In 1994, two traders “employ[ed]” two thousand diggers to “systematically loot the rest of the Nok culture” (Darling, 2000, p. 18).
In Mali, some “local antiquarian[s]” have “employed” looters (McIntosh, 1996, p. 55; see also Brent, 1996, p. 66). Otherwise, local dealers have hired “[w]hole villages and encampments of immigrant workers” to fulfil their predictive orders for clients who include collectors and museums in Europe and North America (Shyllon, 2011, p. 139).

3.5.3. Southern Africa

After repeated attempted robberies of a university museum in South Africa, CCTV recorded another attempt, where a team of thieves sought out an object of which they had an image (Benson & Fouché, 2014, p. 22).

4. Discussion

It is perhaps unusually difficult to gauge the existence or commonness of commissioned theft of cultural property, because some journalists and documentarians actively seek stories of “fabulously valuable golden treasures stolen to order for a shadowy art collector or drugs baron with the aid of corrupt … museum curators” (Robson, 2004, p. 364). In-between the “exciting” extremes of myth-making and myth-busting, though, the less “newsworthy” cases concerning the everyday business of illicit antiquities are under-reported or unreported (Kisluk, 1999, p. 2; Korsell et al., 2006, p. 35).
Yet there is voluminous, uncontroversial documentation of theft-to-order of non-cultural goods, including vehicles such as ships and their cargoes (Bornick, 2005; Tiribelli, 2006), cars (Hignett, 2004, p. 75), motorcycles (Robinson, 1996, p. 368) and bicycles (Johnson, Sidebottom, & Thorpe, 2008, p. 6, 14); construction equipment (Mills, Skodbo, & Blyth, 2013, p. 28) and agricultural machinery (Jones & Phipps, 2012, p. 13); livestock (Rutherford, 2012), food products (Schelin, 2004, p. 183n14), wildlife (Naylor, 2002, p. 31), ivory (Naylor, 2005, p. 279) and fossils (Worton, 2005, p. 108); medical equipment (Hall, 2006); and, through cyber crime, commercial data and technological designs (Ablon, Libicki, & Golay, 2014, p. x, 11). While the proportion of thefts that are commissioned may vary from place to place and from commodity to commodity, and while the geographical shortness of the chain from source to market may increase that proportion, a survey of imprisoned burglars in Australia, who had targeted a range of commodities, found that 77% had committed thefts-to-order—31% “most of the time” and 46% “some of the time”—for a range of clients, including end-buyers as well as market-end dealers (Stevenson & Forsythe, 1998, p. 42).
And this research has amassed significant evidence of theft-to-order of cultural goods. Art-collecting Field Marshal President Idi Amin Dada Oumee, the kleptocratic dictator of Uganda (in East Africa) “who commissioned thefts … through connections in France” (Conklin, 1994, p. 135), may be an exception in every sense. However, cultural heritage workers’ and criminologists’ mirror focus on debunking the public’s anti-heroes and anti-heroines may have distracted them from the existence of less fantastical forms of illicit handling, which led to under-presentation of the evidence, which duly compounded the problems that undermined previous investigations. Such crimes do happen.
As the one-off theft of an insignificant object from a local museum by a habitual—and habitually unsuccessful—criminal demonstrated, collectors and thieves can find each other. Collectors do not need to be the head of Globex Corporation to have the will and the wherewithal to put in an order for cultural objects. All they need is enough money to be able to “hire local populations” to loot and “‘buy’ local officials” to facilitate trafficking (Paredes, 2000). An antiquities dealer explained the psychology of a collector and one possible structure for the trade: “If a collector wants a particular piece, a collector wants a particular piece.” So, the collector will “employ … a dealer” to find the piece they want, then the dealer or a chain of intermediaries will acquire and deliver it (Melbourne Dealer 2, cited by Mackenzie, 2005, p. 144).
Collectors can casually approach hobby divers to retrieve specific artefacts from specific shipwrecks in British waters (Sutherland, 2002, p. 165). They can travel to Turkey and make deals face-to-face or simply put in remote orders to looter-smugglers in Syria from their laptop or smartphone. Since boutique online trading exists, illicit antiquities handlers may also use the dark web or dark networks to make deals, though it may be impractical and unnecessary to do anything more than use the private (and at least somewhat encrypted) communications and currencies that are now basic technology. It has been documented that all of the everyday participants in the trafficking of antiquities—from looters to intermediaries to buyers—use such media technologies (Giglio & al-Awad, 2015), even video themselves in the process of looting (Giglio, 2015), seemingly in order to demonstrate that they are selling genuine looted antiquities rather than forgeries. And it has been shown that standard antiquities dealerships, brick-and-mortar shops outside the market hot spots, handle transactions in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin (Enigaldi, 2014).
Indeed, due to the extraordinary interest in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, it has also been documented that the Islamic State use WhatsApp (Parkinson, Albayrak, & Mavin, 2015), other—based on their location, probably Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front)—paramilitaries use Skype (Anjarini, 2014), and the FSA use smartphones too (Soguel, 2014). As these armed groups employ these and other media technologies—such as Kik (Di Giovanni, McGrath Goodman, & Sharkov, 2014)—in their campaigns, these are undoubtedly mere instances of use of applications that are each used by all of the groups. So there are no theoretical or practical obstacles to the functioning of a market in which cultural property is looted to order.

In sum, it is impossible to estimate the value of the theft-to-order business, but individual operations can be worth millions of dollars, it definitely does exist as a strategy, and it has been used by different groups in different places over the course of at least 60 years. Contrary to the mythical construct, thefts can be commissioned by local collectors for hundreds of dollars, and are committed by everyone from petty thieves to armed groups. Only in terms of the countries from which cultural assets are stolen (as opposed to the countries from which the orders are made), it has been documented in Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Italy, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan. Notably, it has been demonstrated in Argentina, Cambodia and Syria that looting-to-order is a structure for conflict antiquities trading.

Evidencing the problems that have confounded study of the phenomenon, the analysis has also identified cases that would not otherwise have been identified as evidence of this illicit trade structure. The case from Cyprus, for example, was first reported in a popular newspaper (Hopkirk, 1971), then mentioned in an academic book (Hadjisavvas, 2001), a doctoral thesis (Hardy, 2011), a journal (Hardy, 2014a) and another academic book (Hardy, 2014b). But none of those publications used any permutation of “looting to order”, “theft to order”, “stolen to order” or “commissioned theft”. And the original report did not give any indication of the structure of the operation beyond the fact that the illicit excavation was “systematic” so, without a single aside thirty years after the crime, the case would never have been identified at all.

Professional exasperation at public fascination with extraordinary crimes is understandable, as is a disavowal of fantastical stereotypes of crime that have been fashioned by the news and entertainment industries. Sceptics are right that it would be uneconomical, if not impossible, to design property protection around this threat. Nonetheless, the evidence demonstrates that commissioned theft of cultural property is an unexceptional crime, through which illicit antiquities exceptionally inconspicuously enter the market, whereafter they can circulate ostensibly legally. This highlights the opacity of the market and the due limits to policing.

Thus, it reaffirms the judgement of the States Parties to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation,2015, p. 17, Chap. 8, para. 56–62), as well as the judgement of the German federal government (e.g. culture minister Monika Grütters, cf. Jedicke, 2014), the German federal police (e.g. officer Sylvelie Karfeld, cf. Saoub, Kabisch, & Wolter, 2014) and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (e.g. president Hermann Parzinger, cf. Parzinger & Weigelt, 2014), that unlicensed export of cultural property, and import of unlicensed exports of cultural property, should be prohibited.


Many thanks to Peter Campbell for co-authoring the blog post and to Campbell and Eamonn Carrabine for commenting on the article draft. Thanks, also, to Donna Yates for considering the initial question over Twitter and drawing Luke’s article to the author’s attention; and to Glenn Summerhayes for providing information and contacts regarding a case of theft-to-order in Papua New Guinea, though it was not possible to follow up. The archives and analyses of the Museum Security Network (MSN) proved invaluable to the literature review.


Source: Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property – Cogent Social Sciences – Volume 1, Issue 1 | Cogent OA

Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks? | Effrosyni’s Blog

October 1, 2015 – 14:07

Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks?

by Effrosyni Moschoudi

To the Greeks, the name Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, is an abomination, the likes perhaps, of only Lucifer himself. Lord Elgin, as he is more famously known, is notorious in my country for his enormous blundering appetite that was coupled by an equally enormous lack of regard for the Parthenon treasures.

Having acquired a paper of questionable validity (i.e. a mere letter signed by a pasha as opposed to a firman signed by a sultan – the only document that could have authorized him properly within the Othoman Empire), he didn’t hesitate to remove from the Parthenon far more than anyone could have ever imagined possible. Furthermore, he caused irreversible damage to the sculptures that were taken off the friezes. By instructing the workers to remove the posterior side from these treasures (obviously, he thought only the frontal side was of any value!), he thus managed to rid his cargo of unnecessary (!) weight and to cut down on logistic costs.

Elgin shipped the Parthenon Marbles to Britain divided among many different ships, whatever he could arrange with the odd passing ship of the British Navy and each time, he was allowed a very small amount of treasures on board. However, he managed once to commission his own boat, the legendary ‘Mentor’, in 1802. Thrilled to have no weight restrictions this time, Elgin greedily loaded that ship so much that it sank just off the shore on the island of Kythira. When that happened, he contacted the local British consulate, and in order to seek assistance for the retrieval of the treasures, he stated in his letter the infamous lie “…she had on board a quantity of boxes with stones of no value of themselves; but of great consequence for me to secure…”

Do read the full blog at: Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks? | Effrosyni’s Blog

Turkey major conduit for Syrian ‘blood antiquities’ – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

September 26, 2015 – 06:56

Turkey major conduit for Syrian ‘blood antiquities’

An image distributed by Islamic State militants on social media on August 25, 2015 purports to show the destruction of a Roman-era temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. (photo by REUTERS)

As I sat down to have a drink in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, a tall man in his early 20s came in. He approached a nearby table, and in broken Arabic, introduced himself as Ahmad to the head of the family seated there. He then asked if they might be interested in seeing some of Syria’s ancient history. The conversation ended promptly, as the family left the coffee shop. Ahmad then approached me, saying, “Americans are the best customers for art, would you like to look at some photos?” I asked where the antiquities were from and where they were being stored. He said he did not know. He would take my phone number, and his friends could help me.

SummaryPrint Turkey is a major transit country used by Islamic State for trafficking looted antiquities, but authorities have not been forthcoming about their seizures.
Author Pinar Tremblay Posted September 25, 2015

Ahmad, an ethnic Kurd from Iran, said that this was the only type of job he could find. A credible phone number would earn him $200. When I asked if he was afraid that I might report him, he replied, “I am undocumented.” Then, pointing to his head, he continued, “I am also not well up here, and no one will bother questioning me. All I have are photos. Plus, I am not selling drugs. If [the objects] are not sold, the Islamic State will destroy them.” Rattled by my questions, Ahmad left in a jiffy.

As the Syrian civil war drags on, the Islamic State (IS) and other parties to the conflict are looking for ways to increase their cash flow. With the ongoing bombing by the US-led coalition, revenue from oil sales is declining. Kidnapping, taxation and extortion provide only limited income unless IS can sustain its territorial expansion. The sale of looted antiquities has therefore became lucrative. Indeed, expert testimony before the US Congress suggests that trade in illicit antiquities is the second largest source of income for IS. Syria’s cultural heritage has become “blood antiquities,” used to fund violence against the Syrian people.

Professor Andrew Terrill of the US Army War College has been studying IS’ funding. He told Al-Monitor, “In many wars, including the Syrian civil war, cultural sites are destroyed as part of the collateral damage of war or because one or both sides use cultural sites for military purposes. IS deliberately authorizes the destruction of archaeological sites in order to gain loot that can be sold to the black market of antiquities collectors. The head of UNESCO states that this is occurring on an industrial scale.”

The process has been well documented. Once a looter gains possession of valuable items, he gives them to a smuggler, who, working through cross-border mafia networks and bribery, travels with the goods to transit countries to hand them over to a dealer. Many Syrian antiquities have reportedly ended up in the West. Despite harsh laws designed to curtail the demand side of the antiquities trade, satellite imagery of looted historic sites point to the difficulty of safeguarding moveable art. Once an item has been laundered into the world antiquities market, it is almost impossible to trace it back to its origin, unless it is a well-documented object.

In antiquities smuggling, as with any organized transnational criminal activity, it is a challenge to pinpoint the precise role that different actors play. Since acquiring looted antiquities is a white-collar crime necessitating some education, at least in art history, a few journalists and government officials in Turkey have been adamant in telling Al-Monitor that the “antiquities trade is not funding IS.” That said, the precious spoils found during US commando raids against senior IS officials prove that their cultural involvement extends well beyond making slick videos.

More: Turkey major conduit for Syrian ‘blood antiquities’ – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Treasures… Beware of artful codgers –

September 26, 2015 – 06:43

Treasures… Beware of artful codgers

Eleanor Flegg

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

Shaun Greenhalgh fake Egyptian princess

Shaun Greenhalgh fake Egyptian princess

During the summer I visited an antiques shop in Dublin where I found a small painted box with oriental styling. The price was €135 and dealer assured me that it was 19th century. “Is the stamp more recent than the rest of the box?” I asked after showing him the “Made in Japan” logo.

“Yeah,” said the dealer shiftily, “that must have been done later.”

When I went back a few weeks later, the shop was closed. The incident was a salutary reminder of the shady side of the antiques industry. Fakes and forgeries are out there. The trouble is many forgeries are very good indeed and don’t come with “Made in Japan” stamped on the base. In fact, the little box was just a copy of a period piece, not intended to deceive. The dodgy dealer, however, was.

A forgery, just to define the terms, is an object made from scratch to be a fraudulent imitation of something else, designed to deceive just like a forged banknote. A fake is an original object that has been altered to give it the appearance of something else, like a painting with the signature of another artist added. A fence meantime, is a person, like Del Boy in Only Fools And Horses, who knowingly trades in dodgy goods.

More: Treasures… Beware of artful codgers –

Robados dos ‘goyas’ de una casa de Madrid | Cultura | EL PAÍS

September 26, 2015 – 06:40

Robados dos ‘goyas’ de una casa de Madrid

‘Sueño de San José’, de Francisco de Goya. / ARTCLAIM

Dos obras atribuidas a Francisco de Goya (Fuendetodos, 1746—Burdeos, 1828) fueron robadas el pasado 1 de septiembre de una casa en Villanueva de la Cañada, una de las localidades con mayor nivel de renta de la Comunidad de Madrid y situada a 30 kilómetros al oeste de la capital. Los ladrones irrumpieron en la vivienda por la tarde, cuando no había nadie dentro, e inutilizaron la alarma, según informó a este periódico la compañía Art Recovery Group, especializada en el rastreo y recuperación de obras de arte robadas y expoliadas mediante el uso de una gran base de datos y de un sistema de detección de imágenes en Internet. Los pequeños goyas desaparecidos son el óleo Sueño de San José (de 33,5 por 24 centímetros) y el dibujo a tinta Caricatura de cabezas(21 por 15 centímetros).

Guilherme Maximino, un portavoz de Art Recovery, descartó la hipótesis de que se trate de una operación encargada por algún coleccionista, deseoso de contar con la pintura y el dibujo sustraídos. Los ladrones entraron probablemente a robar dinero, objetos de valor y joyas pero al destripar la caja fuerte se toparon con las dos piezas del genio aragonés y se llevaron las obras, según la versión de la firma, con la que contactó el propietario de las obras robadas, que prefiere mantenerse en el anonimato.

More: Robados dos ‘goyas’ de una casa de Madrid | Cultura | EL PAÍS

Movie review – Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery sheds light on hypocrisy of art world | Montreal Gazette

September 25, 2015 – 09:57

There are many amazing things about the story of Wolfgang Beltracchi, the convicted art forger who was released from prison early this year after serving two-thirds of a six-year sentence.

First is his undeniable skill and ingenuity, which are quietly celebrated in Arne Birkenstock’s fascinating documentary Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.

The second is just how long he kept up the charade: 40 years! In four decades, Beltracchi and his wife, Helene, unloaded over 300 paintings, earning millions as they pulled the wool over the attentive eyes of the art world.

Which brings us to the third and most intriguing point: how eager everyone was to go along with the game. It’s a topic Birkenstock circles around in his not quite objective but thoroughly entertaining film. (The director’s father served as a lawyer for the Beltracchis.)

More: Movie review – Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery sheds light on hypocrisy of art world | Montreal Gazette

Stolen Picasso painting found in New Jersey makes its way back to Paris museum | Entertainment & Showbiz from CTV News

September 25, 2015 – 09:51

A $15 million Pablo Picasso painting is back on display in a Paris museum after a long and unusual journey. ‘La Coiffeuse’ disappeared from a French storage room more than a decade ago, then turned up in a package from Belgium to New York last year — with a customs label calling it a $37 Christmas gift.

More: Stolen Picasso painting found in New Jersey makes its way back to Paris museum | Entertainment & Showbiz from CTV News

Ancient carving stolen decades ago in Mexico found in France

September 25, 2015 – 09:45

Ancient carving stolen decades ago in Mexico found in France

Ancient carving stolen decades ago in Mexico found in France
A 2-meter-high, several thousand-year-old sculpture is pictured at the Mexican Cultural institute of Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. The sculpture was handed to Mexican authorities 45 years after it disappeared from Mexico. The …more

A nearly 3,000-year-old carving stolen more than four decades ago from a remote area of southern Mexico has been recovered in France.

The Olmec carving dating to around 900 B.C. had been chipped off the rock face sometime between the arrival of an in 1968 and 1972, when the team returned to the area. It resurfaced recently in France under unclear circumstances.

John Clark, a professor of archaeology at Brigham Young University who learned about the find Thursday, said the carved sculpture showed the extent of the Olmec’s reach in an area of Chiapas better known for ties to the Maya. In the decades since the theft, he said, scholars have made due with a replica created by examining archive photos of the piece.

The Olmec are best known for their enormous carved heads and are considered one of the founding cultures of Mesoamerica.

Dominique Michelet, a French archaeologist at the CNRS research center involved in recovering the piece, said Thursday the bas relief is believed to represent a priest.

Clark said chunks of the cut-out stone were missing, but it appeared largely intact.

More: Ancient carving stolen decades ago in Mexico found in France

Art authenticators keep quiet on fakes for fear of lawsuits – Fortune

September 25, 2015 – 09:42

In the high-stakes art world, a fear of lawsuits is putting a muzzle on authenticators.

“Art is about life and the art world is about money,” Damien Hirst famously said. And with the European Fine Art Foundation estimating $57.3 billion in global art sales last year, his observation has never rung more true. But as art prices soar, ensuring the authenticity of one’s artwork (read: its value) is becoming an increasingly muddled and costly affair.

Four years ago, the Andy Warhol Foundation dissolved its authentication board, the official arbiter holding sway over which works are certified as those of the artist’s and those that are not. Embroiled in a series of lawsuits after rejecting the validity of questionable pieces, Red Self-Portrait (1965) among them, the board decided it could no longer bear the financial toll of continuously defending itself against disgruntled collectors, even though they had signed agreements in advance, binding them to the board’s decisions.

“One year our legal bill ran up $7 million,” says Joel Wachs, the foundation’s director. “The cost to defend them became so great, we got tired of giving money to lawyers. We’d rather be giving it to artists.” So after 16 years and some 6,000 works examined, the Warhol board closed its doors.

Like a giant silk-screen domino, the news set off a chain reaction within the small, elite world of authentication boards. Since then, a number of artists’ estates and foundations—including those representing Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock—have also chosen to disband, unwilling to open themselves up to further legal entanglements.


More: Art authenticators keep quiet on fakes for fear of lawsuits – Fortune

Lord Elgin and the misappropriated manuscripts, a forgotten history

September 25, 2015 – 09:23

In William St. Clair’s fascinating, and very well documented book Lord Elgin & The Marbles; the controversial history of the Parthenon sculptures (third revised edition, 1998) one can read an account about the illicit removal of ancient manuscripts: “Professor Carlyle had been attached to Lord Elgin’s Embassy by the government for the specific purpose of looking for ancient manuscripts”…”Carlyle obtained them in various ways. Six he brought from the monastery of St Saba near Jerusalem. Four or five others come from the library of the Patriarch of Jerusalem at Constantinople. To none of these manuscripts did Carlyle have any legal title. They were lent to him, at his own insistent request, to allow them to be collated in England and to help with the production of a revised edition of the New Testament. Before he left Constantinople for the last time in March 1801 Carlyle signed a declaration prepared by the Patriarch promising to return the manuscripts to the Patriarch at Constantinople ‘when the purposes for which they were borrowed were completed or whenever the Patriarch should demand them’. Philip Hunt, as a secretary of the Embassy also signed the declaration, thus making the British Government a party to the promise”. (Chapter 21 The fate of the manuscripts, of St. Clair’s book.)

These manuscripts were never returned. Apparently ‘the purposes for which they were borrowed’ are still – after 200 years – to be completed…

Where are they now: in the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Library at Lambeth.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if I remember well Carlyle also took manuscripts form the monastery of Mount Athos.

Ton Cremers

also read:

Analysing the British Museum’s historical revisionism in Elgin’s own words

Gestolen schilderij ‘La Coiffeuse’ van Picasso is terug in Parijs | NU – Het laatste nieuws het eerst op

September 25, 2015 – 08:01

Het schilderij La Coiffeuse (de kapster) van Picasso dat meer dan tien jaar geleden werd gestolen, is terug in handen van het museum Centre Pompidou in Parijs. Door de diefstal en de slechte manier waarop het doek is bewaard, is het wel toe aan een restauratie, zegt museumdirecteur Serge Lasvignes donderdag.Het kubistische schilderij, dat naar schatting 13,3 miljoen euro waard is, dook in december 2014 op in New York. Douaniers ontdekten het pakket, dat vanuit België was verstuurd.

meer: Gestolen schilderij ‘La Coiffeuse’ van Picasso is terug in Parijs | NU – Het laatste nieuws het eerst op

The Billionaire, the Picassos and a $30 Million Gift to Shame a Middleman – The New York Times

September 24, 2015 – 13:31

MONACO — In what appears at first glance to be a simple, magnanimous act, a Russian billionaire is poised this week to return two Picassos, valued at $30 million, to the artist’s stepdaughter, who says the works, both portraits of her mother — Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife — were stolen from her.The businessman, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, owner of one of the world’s most valuable art collections, said in an interview last week that he bought the works in good faith in 2013, without any hint that there was a question about their title.“I feel solidarity with her, especially because there is a strong emotional link between the portraits of her and her mother,” Mr. Rybolovlev said in the interview from his penthouse apartment here overlooking the Mediterranean.

More: The Billionaire, the Picassos and a $30 Million Gift to Shame a Middleman – The New York Times

Morse Museum explores looted Nazi art in film series – Orlando Sentinel

September 24, 2015 – 11:06

There are so many different aspects to art – the work of women artists, the difference between American and European art, or current trends among artists compared to more classical approaches.Next month, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is exploring art from a different historic perspective: Nazi art.Or, more specifically, looted Nazi art.“Hitler had plans to build his own museum,” said Betsy Peters, the museum’s curator of education. “He had those plans even before the war broke out. His idea was to basically create a museum that would have no other rival, that would be the greatest museum in the world.”Adolf Hitler’s way of doing that, she added, was to fill the museum with great works of art from all across Europe – that was stolen from the victims of the Holocaust.“He was taking from the great art collection of a lot of families who were forced to give up their art to save their lives, and the museum was supposed to show Germany’s superiority over other countries and nations,” Peters said.The public can learn more about looted Nazi art through the museum’s Brown Bag Matinee Series, which begins on Friday, Oct. 16, with the first of a two-part documentary on how the Third Reich looted of some of the greatest European artworks. That included the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck.On Oct. 16, Morse will show “Hitler’s Museum, Part One,” and then on Oct. 23, “Hitler’s Museum, Part Two.” Both films are about 50 minutes long.The final documentary, on Oct. 30, is “Adele’s Wish,” the story behind one woman’s quest to recover Klimt paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis in World War II. “This is a three part series,” Peters said. “After it talks about the Nazi looting beginning in France and Holland, it goes on to talk about the struggle between the American and Soviet reaction. We wanted to repatriate the art and find that art the Nazis had looted, and of course Stalin and the Soviets wanted the art because they felt they deserved it because of what the Nazis had done to them.”

more: Morse Museum explores looted Nazi art in film series – Orlando Sentinel

Eight questions to ask if you’re thinking of an art loan – Spear’s

September 22, 2015 – 16:55

Despite the last global financial crisis, the art market has continued to perform well and many families have seen the value of their collections jump to become an increasingly important share of their wealth. As more families are looking at ways to ‘cash out’ and ‘monetise’ their collections, the number of loans secured by art is on the rise both in Asia and in more mature art markets such as the USA. This has led to an influx of new specialist ‘art lenders’ (and even hedge fund lenders), in addition to more traditional lenders such as banks and auction houses.Though it could be a smart move to use the family art collection as security for a loan, one needs to tread carefully, in particular, as the new breed of art lenders tend to offer more expensive loans than traditional lenders. Below are outlined eight points to keep in mind when considering taking a loan with the family art collection as security.

More: Eight questions to ask if you’re thinking of an art loan – Spear’s

Foundation displays recovered Torahs in Boca Raton stolen by the Nazis – Sun Sentinel

September 22, 2015 – 08:28

Gershon Schwadron of Boca Raton was impressed and touched last Sunday.This member of Boca Raton Synagogue — a Modern Orthodox temple in west Boca Raton — sat in the synagogue’s first row as three recently-recovered Torahs stolen from Eastern European Jewish communities by the Nazis during the Holocaust were displayed in the U.S. for the first time on Sunday, Sept. 20.Schwadron said: “To see these Torahs, which had been buried so deeply, come back to life was simply wonderful to behold.”The Torahs were made available by the Jewish Heritage Foundation Inc. of Florida — which so far has recovered and documented 118 Torahs stolen by the Nazis, found in the Lenin Regional University Scientific Library in Nizhny Novgorod — a Russian city 258 miles east of Moscow.The Boca Raton-based foundation was started by Boca resident and foundation president Sibyl Silver — a member of both Boca Raton Synagogue and the Chabad of Boca Raton — and her late husband, Robert. Sibyl Silver is a retired teacher.

More: Foundation displays recovered Torahs in Boca Raton stolen by the Nazis – Sun Sentinel

Court ruling over vandalised Versailles sculpture angers Anish Kapoor

September 21, 2015 – 15:28

The British sculptor Anish Kapoor says that he will begin the process of transforming his vandalised sculpture Dirty Corner tomorrow (21 September) as part of a new “artistic intervention”. A series of slogans, some of them anti-Semitic, were painted 5 September on the cavernous piece and surrounding rocks on display at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. Phrases such as “Christ is King in Versailles” and “disgust, dishonour, treason, Satanism” were daubed on the controversial work which remains on show until 1 November. Palace of Versailles officials said in a statement issued 18 September that “[the sculpture], which was recently vandalised, will be subject in the coming days to an intervention to hide the damage, under the artist’s supervision.”

more: Court ruling over vandalised Versailles sculpture angers Anish Kapoor

‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’ – Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht kletst uit haar nek

September 21, 2015 – 14:52

“Het is niet zo dat kunst vastzit in particuliere handen.” Madelon Strijbos van TEFAF Maastricht, de belangrijkste kunstbeurs ter wereld, sust de zorgen van minister Bussemaker. Die wil met de aankoop van twee Rembrandts voorkomen dat ze, in de woorden van de minister, “in handen komen van een of andere rijke oliesjeik”.

Bussemaker vreest dat het publiek de doeken nooit meer kan zien als ze in vreemde handen terechtkomen. Maar Strijbos wijst erop dat particulieren hun kunstwerken vaak uitlenen aan musea. “Ik begrijp heel goed dat het Rijksmuseum deze werken in de collectie wil hebben, maar het is niet zo zwart-wit dat kunst in particuliere handen altijd achter gesloten deuren blijft.”

lees hele artikel: ‘Rembrandts hoeven niet gered te worden van oliesjeiks’

Die Madelon Strijbos lijkt haar kunsthandelarenkongsi op een prima wijze te vertegenwoordigen, maar goed beschouwd kletst ze uit haar nek. Om te beginnen worden de schatrijke Rothschilds met Nederlands belastinggeld nog rijker gemaakt dan ze al zijn. Strijbos kakelt in haar interview met de NOS lustig door dat dit soort kunst (Rembrandtschilderijen) continu in waarde stijgt en dus een goede belegging is. We hoeven ons niet ongerust te maken, want die particulieren lenen de kunst vaak weer uit aan musea zodat we er allemaal van kunnen genieten.

Dank je de koekoek: dat is zo, maar ten koste van wat/wie? Denkt deze dame nu echt dat particulieren hun kostbare schilderijen uit filantropische overwegingen aan musea uitlenen? Welnee, hun investering in kunst wordt op die manier in een beveiligde omgeving bewaard – soms schiet die beveiliging tekort, dat realiseer ik mij maar al te goed – zonder dat ze daar een cent voor hoeven uit te geven en de lenende musea draaien dan in vrijwel alle gevallen ook nog op voor de kosten van verzekering en duurzaam behoud en beheer. Aangezien alle Nederlandse musea, en met name de musea die Rembrandts tentoonstellen, afhankelijk zijn van subsidies – uit gemeenschapsgeld – draait de belastingbetaler altijd op voor de kosten, of schilderijen met hulp van belastinggeld worden aangekocht of wanneer gesubsidieeerde musea de kostbaarheden voor  particuliere investeerders-verzamelaars opslaan. Feitelijk wordt de investering in kostbare kunst op deze wijze gesubsidieerd door de belastingbetaler, zeker wanneer je je realiseert dat de winst bij verkoop van de schilderijen onbelast is. Maar wie strijkt bij verkoop, desnoods door een volgende generatie, de winst op? Juist: die toch al rijke beleggers. Een risicoloze maar, volgens Madelon, lucratieve belegging.

Als de bruiklenen uiteindelijk verkocht worden op een elitaire beurs als de TEFAF is het balletje rond en kunnen Madelon Strijbos en haar collega’s het champagneglas heffen.

Ton Cremers

A Petition to Stop “Irresponsible” Restoration of Chartres Cathedral

September 21, 2015 – 09:42

The Chartres Cathedral in France has long been a crowd favorite, drawing millions of Catholic pilgrims and art lovers every year who come to bask in the famous blue glow of its 13th-century stained glass. But the love may be souring. A new petition against the cathedral’s restoration claims work done over the past six years has irreversibly damaged the 800-year-old building and erased centuries of the history that makes it so special.

According to author Stefan Evans, the restoration has made the cathedral’s interior look like it was built just yesterday. Its walls and vaulted ceilings have been covered with historically inaccurate paint and plaster. And many architectural nuances — for instance, the fact the north tower was constructed in the 16th century in a different style from the rest of the church — have become imperceivable. He writes:

An analogy is a headless statue: a responsible restoration uses filling material and supports when necessary to prevent limbs from breaking. An irresponsible restoration adds a new head and covers the intact limbs with a material that renders the age of the original and newly added parts indiscernible.

Evans and the petition’s co-sponsors — Franco Scardino, Leila Amineddoleh, and Adachiara Zevi — believe the restoration violates the 1964 Venice Charter. Articles 3 and 6 of the charter prohibit conservators from adding new construction, demolishing, or modifying historic buildings in ways that affect their composition and color.

More: A Petition to Stop “Irresponsible” Restoration of Chartres Cathedral

Press Release about a conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection. – European Shoah Legacy Institute

September 17, 2015 – 13:46

On Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th September 2015, the European Shoah Legacy Institute, in cooperation with Mr. Pavel Svoboda MEP – Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs – hosted a conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection.The conference commenced with a discussion on conflict looting and cultural heritage protection, hosted at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union by Ambassador Jakub Dürr on the morning of Tuesday 15th September. Representatives of over a dozen permanent representations, along with delegates from the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, listened intently as experts from both Europe and the United States discussed the challenges of cultural heritage protection, particularly in the context of modern conflict looting.

more: Press Release about a conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection. – European Shoah Legacy Institute

Mysuru’s Srikanteshwara Temple to get hi-tech security – The Times of India

September 17, 2015 – 13:44

MYSURU: Sri Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud taluk, also known as Dakshina Kashi, will come under CCTV surveillance once again. The new security system will see the setting up of 20 CCTV cameras at vital locations in and around the temple. The first phase of the work will be executed at a cost of Rs 70 lakh. The CCTV control room will be located at the temple office. Parallel live feeds will also be provided to the Mysuru deputy commissioner’s office, Mysuru district superintendent of police office, Nanjangud Town Police station. The feed can be stored for a month.

more: Mysuru’s Srikanteshwara Temple to get hi-tech security – The Times of India

Goya art forgery: Judge probes use of four fake Goyas to fund Madrid hospital | In English | EL PAÍS

September 17, 2015 – 12:44

A company used four fake Goya paintings to raise funds to build a medical center specializing in spinal cord injuries west of Madrid, the public prosecutor has said.Inversión y Explotación de Activos, SL produced an expert appraisal placing the collective value of the artwork at over €10 million, which was enough to persuade local authorities in the town of Villaviciosa de Odón to change its zoning plan to allow a former hotel to be converted into a specialized health center.But the police launched an investigation after suspecting that the paintings might not be the work of the great Spanish artist. Four people are now under court investigation in connection with the case.

more: Goya art forgery: Judge probes use of four fake Goyas to fund Madrid hospital | In English | EL PAÍS

Thwarting Book Thieves | American Libraries Magazine

September 17, 2015 – 07:50

February 2014, Russell Graves walked into collectibles dealer Maritime International with a treasure to peddle: 75 Civil War–era photographs and 50 original World War I– and World War II–era posters. It was a collection the owner normally would have been interested in buying, but the items seemed familiar.What Graves didn’t know was that by the time he brought them to the dealer, the owner had already seen the items at the library a few weeks earlier.“I had been talking about them to the owner while he was visiting our special collections area,” says special collections librarian Bill Cook of Bangor (Maine) Public Library.

More: Thwarting Book Thieves | American Libraries Magazine

Counterfeit Coin Detection: 1924 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

September 17, 2015 – 07:46

by Max Spiegel, NGC Numismatic Researcher ……..

Semiprooflike appearance, thick lettering and raised lumps helped NGC graders identify a counterfeit 1924 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle.

The 1924 Double Eagle is by far the most common date in the Saint-Gaudens series. NGC has graded more than 300,000 examples—an astonishing number, particularly given that the coin’s total mintage was just over 4.3 million pieces.

For many years, however, the 1924 was considered to be relatively rare and collectors in the mid-20th Century found it difficult to locate high grade examples. Most of these coins were shipped overseas, primarily to banks in Europe, and few specimens remained in the United States.

more: Counterfeit Coin Detection: 1924 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Twee gestolen Warhol-zeefdrukken weer terecht | Beeldende Kunst | de Volkskrant

September 16, 2015 – 08:06

Twee gestolen Warhol-zeefdrukken weer terechtTwee van de negen gestolen zeefdrukken van kunstenaar Andy Warhol zijn weer terecht. De ‘eigenaar’ Bryan Calvero heeft ze aan de politie overgedragen. Hij kocht de werken jaren geleden, maar zegt nooit te hebben geweten dat ze waren gestolen.

meer: Twee gestolen Warhol-zeefdrukken weer terecht | Beeldende Kunst | de Volkskrant

Courthouse News Service – A couple wants its $898,000 back after unwittingly buying a stolen Jasper Johns painting

September 16, 2015 – 06:29

Courthouse News Service

Couple Wants Money Back for Stolen Art
By NICK DIVITO MANHATTAN (CN) – A couple wants its $898,000 back after unwittingly buying a stolen Jasper Johns painting.

     Perry and Donna Golkin filed suit Friday in New York Supreme Court against DAE Associates’ Danese Corey.
Johns’ former administrative assistant, non-party James Meyer, got 18 months in prison in April for stealing at least 22 of the American artists’ works from his Sharon, Conn. studio, then selling them to other dealers.
One of those stolen paintings, described in court papers as an acrylic on twinrocker paper laid on canvas and dated between 2002 and 2005, was bought by the Golkins.
After learning of Meyer’s sentence, the two returned the painting to Johns as directed by prosecutors.
They then asked Corey for their money back, but to no avail.
They are represented by Philip K. Howard with Covington & Burling LLP.

Source: Courthouse News Service

Paris Judge Fines Yves Bouvier $30 Million for Picasso Thefts – ArtfixDaily News Feed

September 16, 2015 – 06:24

A Paris court ruled Monday that Swiss “king of freeports” and art dealer Yves Bouvier, 52, must pay a bail sum of $30 million for the “concealed theft” of Picasso works that he sold to Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev in 2013. Bouvier denies any wrongdoing.Picasso’s gouache paintings ‘Woman’s Head’, ‘Woman with a Fan’ and 58 drawings that Bouvier sold to the Russian collector were the property of Picasso’s step-daughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, 68.Hutin-Blay claims she did not sell the Picassos and thought they were in storage near Paris until a Brazilian art restorer sounded the alarm on the works’ new ownership. She says no payment was received for the sales.Bouvier’s bail sum was set at the amount that Rybolovlev’s family trust paid for the Picasso paintings.

more: Paris Judge Fines Yves Bouvier $30 Million for Picasso Thefts – ArtfixDaily News Feed

Two stolen Andy Warhol prints handed to L.A. police -attorney | Reuters

September 16, 2015 – 06:19

Two of the nine Andy Warhol prints stolen from a Los Angeles movie business in a theft that went unnoticed for years have been turned over to police, an attorney for a man who had the artwork said on Tuesday.Attorney Harland Braun said he arranged to have police come to his office on Monday and pick up Warhol prints titled “Siberian Tiger” and “Bighorn Ram,” which he said were among three prints his client bought several years ago from a man involved in commercial construction.Braun represents Bryan Calvero, who he said works at apparel company Crooks & Castles and was named in court documents in the theft case. Braun said Calvero was unaware the two prints – as well as a third one that he sold through an auction house – were reported stolen until a journalist contacted him last week.Los Angeles police art detail detective Don Hrycyk declined to confirm the prints were returned or comment on the case.

more: Two stolen Andy Warhol prints handed to L.A. police -attorney | Reuters

Reception to welcome back stolen artefacts – Cyprus Mail

September 15, 2015 – 21:38

A reception to officially receive the return of stolen artefacts was held on Tuesday at the Byzantine museum of the Archbishop Makarios III foundation in Nicosia.

The event was attended by Archbishop Chrysostomos, Communications Minister Marios Demetriades and the Swiss ambassador, among others.

The 32 objects had been stolen from churches in the north and were repatriated from Munich on August 28.

They include murals, a pair of sanctuary doors, pictures and manuscripts. Seven prehistoric antiquities have already been transferred to the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.

More: Reception to welcome back stolen artefacts – Cyprus Mail

Uzbekistan: Scandal Descends on Jewel of Avant-Garde Art | News | The Moscow Times

September 15, 2015 – 08:02

It was supposed to be a day of festivities at a world-famous art museum out in the desert of western Uzbekistan. Instead, the stench of scandal sullied the occasion.

As dignitaries assembled in the region of Karakalpakstan on Sept. 4 to celebrate the centenary of Igor Savitsky, the founder of a museum housing a stunning collection of Russian avant-garde paintings, Uzbekistan’s art world is embroiled in a scandal featuring charges of forgery and embezzlement and suspicions of political machinations.

At the center of the controversy stands Marinika Babanazarova, the redoubtable hitherto director of the museum and the woman to whom Savitsky entrusted his life’s work when he died in 1984. By that time, the intrepid Soviet archeologist-turned-art-collector had amassed thousands of artworks that would otherwise have faced destruction, condemned by Soviet authorities as “decadent” and “bourgeois.” Savitsky hid the works far from Moscow’s prying eyes in Karakalpakstan, an arid autonomous region in western Uzbekistan, to preserve them for posterity.

Over the three decades since Savitsky’s death, Babanazarova has not only lovingly preserved his bequest, she has brought the Karakalpak State Art Museum to world prominence, casting reflected glory on Uzbekistan in the process.

But the 59-year-old former director now stands accused of plotting to forge paintings in the collection with the aim of selling off the originals for personal profit.

A report broadcast on Uzbekistan state TV news on Sept. 2 claimed that five paintings worth half a billion Uzbek som ($225,000) are missing from the museum and have been replaced with crude forgeries.

The report did not name Babanazarova, but it upped the ante in a war of words under way since late August, when she resigned. Babanazarova has since rescinded her resignation following public protests from her staff — an extraordinary show of support in a country where dissenters routinely end up behind bars.

Her departure also caused an outcry among art lovers abroad, prompting Uzbekistan’s Culture Ministry to step in to say that it “appreciates the former director’s contribution” but “urges the public to respect her decision to retire.”

By that time, Babanazarova had been summarily dismissed by the local authorities in Karakalpakstan.

Her resignation on Aug. 21 was made “under pressure and in a state of nervous stress,” she said in an open letter to Uzbekistan’s culture minister, Bahodir Ahmedov, posted on her Facebook page on August 29. The note prompted outpourings of support on social networks from local and foreign art lovers.

Pointing out that she would hardly damage an institution that has been her life’s work, she hinted at political machinations behind her troubles.

Babanazarova said she wrote to Uzbekistan’s Culture Ministry in Tashkent 12 times in recent weeks to seek support in the face of pressure from the Karakalpakstan local authorities, but that the minister had “thrown the museum to the wolves of small-time swindlers.”

Babanazarova did not name the “swindlers,” but appeared to imply that local officials wanted to get their hands on the valuable artworks.

Telephone calls to Uzbekistan’s Culture Ministry in Tashkent and the local Culture Ministry in Karakalpakstan went unanswered on Sept. 4.

As Babanazarova fights allegations of forgery and embezzlement in the Karakalpakstan museum, authorities claim to have uncovered art theft rings at other museums.

An official at the State Museum of Arts in Tashkent is under arrest on suspicion of selling off $18 million worth of paintings and replacing them with forgeries, Uzbek TV said on Sept. 2. A similar ring has been reported at a museum in the town of Angren.

The General Prosecutor’s Office repeatedly hung up on’s calls for clarification on the investigations on Sept. 4.

More: Uzbekistan: Scandal Descends on Jewel of Avant-Garde Art | News | The Moscow Times

Yves Bouvier charged over ‘concealed theft’ of Picasso paintings – Telegraph

September 15, 2015 – 07:59

A major Swiss art dealer was on Monday placed under investigation in Paris and given a €27 million bail for the “concealed theft” of two Picasso paintings which the Spanish artist’s family said were never for sale.Yves Bouvier, 52, faces charges of hiding the fact that two gouache paintings – Tête de femme. Profil (Woman’s head. Profile) and Espangole à l’éventail (Spanish woman with a fan) – he sold to a Russian oligarch in 2013 were in fact stolen from Picasso’s stepdaughter – Catherine Hutin-Blay.Ms Hutin-Blay, the only daughter of Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline, filed a legal complaint in March over the disappearance of the two works, along with another painting, Portrait of a Soldier, and 58 drawings taken from Picasso’s sketchbooks.The bail sum of €27m was the amount that Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, who owns Monaco football club, paid for the two paintings, judicial sources told AFP. He also owns the 58 drawings, though it is not known where the third painting is. There has been no suggestion that Mr Rybolovlev, who bought his art through a family trust, knew that any of the works might have been stolen.

More: Yves Bouvier charged over ‘concealed theft’ of Picasso paintings – Telegraph

Tradition of vandalizing China’s treasures endures at Palace Museum|WCT

September 15, 2015 – 07:56

Tradition of vandalizing China’s treasures endures at Palace Museum

The etching between the handles of the copper vessel. (Internet photo)

An engraved “love peach” circling the etched names of a man and a woman clearly did not quite fit with the otherwise austere character of one of the 300-year-old ceremonial copper vessels at the Palace Museum in Beijing. Internet users in the country are in strong agreement on yet another case of petty vandalism of the world’s ancient artifacts by Chinese tourists, reports Shanghai-based online outlet the Paper.

“Zhang Tao and Liu Ya, show your love for each other somewhere else,” said netizen Diamond Blade. “Carving your names into a 300-year-old artifact is a crime.”

The names of the pair were etched next to the handle of a Ming Dynasty jar that is at least 300 years old, according to a staff member at the museum, the former palace of China’s emperors.

Such instances of vandalism occur every year at the Palace Museum because the fine for such an offense is miniscule, the employee said. According to the country’s laws governing the protection of cultural relics, instances where the surface of a relic is altered by drawing or carving may be punished with a maximum fine of 200 yuan (US$30). Those who significantly damage the piece may be detained by the Ministry of Public Security, while heavy damage calls for a civil lawsuit and significant monetary compensation, according to the Beijing Times.

More: Tradition of vandalizing China’s treasures endures at Palace Museum|WCT

Swiss dealer to defend Picasso sales before French judge

September 14, 2015 – 14:06

The Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier is due to be questioned today, 14 September, by a judge in Paris who is investigating the case of the alleged theft of 60 works by Picasso.The judge, Isabelle Rich-Flament, is investigating a complaint filed in March by the daughter of the artist’s wife Jacqueline Picasso. Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, claims the works were stolen from a store in a Paris suburb run by Art Transit, a Bouvier family company.Bouvier sold the works for €36m to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev but the Swiss dealer’s spokesman says that he “never suspected they could have been stolen” and had proceeded with all due diligence, including consulting the Art Loss Register, which indicated the works were not registered as stolen.The inquiry in Paris was launched in March after Hutin-Blay learned that two portraits of her mother, dated 1957, were in Rybolovlev’s collection. The Art Newspaper can reveal that Bouvier also sold 58 drawings dated 1955. Bouvier’s lawyers and spokesman confirm the sales. Hutin-Blay told French police they disappeared from the same store. The Russian collector’s lawyer tells us he is ready to give everything back, if they were indeed stolen.

more: Swiss dealer to defend Picasso sales before French judge

Medieval Coins Stolen from Scottish Museum – The coins may have been stolen while the museum was understaffed during a strike over wages last month.

September 14, 2015 – 14:01

The coins may have been stolen while the museum was understaffed during a strike over wages last month.

“We have been made aware of the incident, which is extremely unfortunate,” a PCS spokesman told the Edinburgh Evening News. “There is some speculation that this may have happened during the recent strike. If this was the case then management have put these exhibits at risk by opening the museum with a skeleton staff.”

He added, “We would hope that management would get around the table to resolve this issue,” he said, in reference to the ongoing pay dispute.

However, a spokesperson for the NMS said there was adequate security in place to protect the museum. “We continue to provide appropriate levels of trained staff in our galleries.”

Source: Medieval Coins Stolen from Scottish Museum – artnet News

India: heritage lovers worry over damage to relics

September 14, 2015 – 08:55

With the East Godavari district officials making arrangements to complete the Indira Sagar (Polavaram) left canal works, Buddhists and heritage lovers are expressing serious concerns over the digging works that pass through Kummarilova village near Tuni, a site where remains of Buddhist pottery dating back to the Satavahana period are being unearthed by the department of Archaeology.

The left canal is intended to connect the Polavaram project site and Visakhapatnam district, so that the Godavari water could be diverted to the north Andhra, once the long-pending project is completed. As per the plan, the left main canal passes towards Paravada in Visakhapatnam via Tuni from Rajahmundry. Instead of marking the canal via Tuni town, the officials have chosen the rural route, affecting the Kummarilova, probably to reduce expenditure under the relief and rehabilitation package.

“A good number of Buddhist relics have been unearthed by the department of Archaeology in and around Kummarilova. Some of them are with the department and some others are in the possession of the Revenue department in Tuni. We have made several representations to the district administration seeking an alternative route to the canal, which are of no use,” Merapala Narayana Rao, a scholar in Buddhist studies has told The Hindu . “Sayibula Metta, a village abutting Kummarilova has a Buddhist sthupa. The canal is marked just beside the sthupa,” he says.

more: Polavaram: heritage lovers worry over damage to relics

Panel stolen from Great Tapestry of Scotland in Kirkcaldy gallery – BBC News

September 12, 2015 – 12:33

A panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland has been stolen while the work was on display in Fife.The section, which showed the story of Rosslyn Chapel, was taken from Kirkcaldy Galleries at about 10:00 on Thursday.Fife Cultural Trust has appealed for help track down the missing panel and is helping police view CCTV footage.The Great Tapestry features 160 individual panels which were stitched by more than 1,000 volunteers.

Source: Panel stolen from Great Tapestry of Scotland in Kirkcaldy gallery – BBC News