March 14, 1999
- Major Art Theft! (Ton Cremers)
- Indiana Jones and the temple of 'stolen' relics (Daily Telegraph London)
- National Cultural Property Conference (A Response To Art Theft) (Jonathan Sazonoff)
- La Fenice may finally be rising from ashes (Daily Telegraph London)
- RE: Intrusion detection techniques (Bob Combs)
- RE: Intrusion detection techniques (Steve Keller)
- RE: Intrusion detection techniques (Les Biggs)
- Union Pacific Railroad is missing 4 painted panels that once adorned President Lincoln's railcar
- Thieves Steal Art From Peru Church
Major Art Theft!
From the Daily Pilot:
"Making a good impression Harbor View Elementary students take a liking to the works of French painter Vincent Van Gogh
By JESSICA GARRISON"
This is a MAJOR art theft: Van Gogh a "FRENCH" painter??!!
Indiana Jones and the temple of 'stolen' relics By Chris Endean, in Enna, Sicily
The Phiale of Achyris [1 May '98] - Archaeology Online
The looting of Italy - Archaeology Online
THE world's largest collection of allegedly stolen archaeological treasures has been discovered in the home of a Sicilian art collector known as Italy's Indiana Jones. Vincenzo Cammarata is now in jail accused of masterminding an international smuggling ring. When special branch detectives raided his 18th-century villa in Enna last month, they found more than 30,000 Phoenician, Greek and Roman artefacts, collectively valued at about UKP.20 million. According to the police, most of the pieces were between 2,000 and 2,500 years old and had been plundered from the remains of the ancient Greek city of Morgantina, in central Sicily.
Cammarata is being held in Bologna prison where he faces charges of stealing archaeological relics and helping the Mafia to smuggle Italy's national heritage to private collectors and museums in the United States.
Five other Sicilians, including two professors of ancient history at the University of Catania, are under house arrest charged with aiding and abetting him. Cammarata denies the charges, claiming that every artefact in his house is registered with the local department of the ministry for cultural affairs. But Judge Luigi Lombardo, who is leading the investigation, is adamant. "We're in no doubt," he said. "Cammarata is the nerve centre behind the sacking of Italy's archaeological sites." Cammarata would allegedly invite Mafia bosses to dine at his villa near Piazza Amerina where they would ask their host to evaluate stolen archaeological treasures. If the price was right, he would either keep the pieces for himself or sell them to international dealers on the black market. Despite 12 months of investigation, when the chief of Italy's special branch police (the Digos) knocked on the door of Cammarata's residence with a search warrant he was unprepared for the amazing array of archaeological treasures inside.
"It was like a museum," said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous. While thousands of items were on display, others including a rare suit of Greek armour and precious jewellery had been concealed in ingeniously disguised hiding places. Thousands of precious coins lined bookshelves while Greek plates, silver cooking utensils and bronze figures tumbled out of drawers. "I couldn't take my eyes off the beauty of what he had assembled," said the officer.
The collector's reputation as an international authority on archaeological relics not only brought him fabulous wealth but also membership of the island's high society. A long list of eminent personalities, including Massimo D'Alema, the Italian prime minister, have filed through Cammarata's villa, dazzled by its contents and the man responsible for their discovery. "He was charismatic," says Toni Zermo, a journalist who has traced Cammarata's rise and fall. "He revelled in the reputation of being Sicily's version of Indiana Jones [the fictional archaeologist played by Harrison Ford in films including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom]."
Cammarata was even invited to act as a consultant to Enna's courthouse and last year he helped the town's prosecutor in an investigation into the trafficking of archaeological remains. "We simply cannot understand why none of these people ever questioned the origins of his personal museum," said the Digos officer. Police suspicion about Cammarata was aroused in March 1998 when a criminal supergrass, Maurizio Sinistra, claimed the collector was helping the Enna Mafia to sell their treasures. Undercover agents focused on the tombaroli, the Sicilian equivalent of gold prospectors who, under the cover of darkness, use metal detectors and pickaxes to hunt for Greek tombs.
Investigators claim that the tombarolis' first point of reference after striking rich was Cammarata, who allegedly bought their finds before looking for international buyers. Citing a 1939 law that forbids the export of all archaeological artefacts, the Italian government has pressed in vain for the US to hand back Greek and Roman relics taken from its soil.
In a rare breakthrough, the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California, this month returned to Sicily a statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, for which it had paid UKP.7.5 million, after accepting that it had been stolen by tombaroli at Aidone near Morgantina. Now the arrest of Cammarata has focused attention on the case of the 2,300-year-old Golden Phiale, a finely crafted Greek plate seized by US Customs in Manhattan en route to the Metropolitan Museum in 1995. Last month, a New York judge ruled that the plate belongs to Italy and not the Metropolitan. But the final verdict may depend on the outcome of an Italian investigation into how the plate came to leave national soil.
"We can't directly accuse America's top museums of handling stolen goods unless we can first identify how the artefacts got there," said a senior Digos police officer. "The question has always been, who smuggled them out of Sicily?"
The arrest of Cammarata and the recovery of the thousands of confiscated relics now lining the basement of Catania police station mean that the question could finally be answered.
From: Jonathan Sazonoff firstname.lastname@example.org
National Cultural Property Conference (A Response To Art Theft)
Just returned from the National Cultural Property Conference. My thanks to David Morrell of the Smithsonian and Wilbur Faulk of the Getty for their hospitality. I had the opportunity to shadow Robert Spiel, and in the process have some interesting news to report back. The conference, held in conjunction with ICMS, was like a mini UN. The smattering of different languages, booths with translators, wireless headsets, all added to the international ambiance. Here is a brief overview of the Wednesday sessions dealing with art theft. First, "Surviving a Collection Loss" brought forth a national team of experts. FBI Agents Lynn Chaffinch & Cathy Bagely - see National Stolen Art File http://www.fbi.gov/art.htm; Donald Hrycyk, of the LAPD Art Theft Detail http://www.lapdonline.org/get_involved/stolen_art/art_theft_detail_main.htm And Robert Spiel, of Robert Spiel & Associates www.arttheft.com ; all put on fine presentations.
Next, "USA versus Art Thieves" featured Sharon Farb, Bob Wittman, Linda Vizi, Robert Goldman, highlighting lessons learned from recent cases of the FBI. These included the case of the Moche Gold, see http://www.upenn.edu/museum/moche.html, the recovery of Philadelphia's Civil War Swords, see http://museum-security.org/reports/02698.html and the case of the Stolen Civil-War Flag see http://museum-security.org/reports/000699.html.
As for the" International Panel", the Art Loss Register is examining the feasibility of posting all their records on line. David Shillingford (ALR) claims that having recently gained access to major European databases ALR's records could swell to over 500,000 items. There are security and accessibility issues still to be addressed, but we applaud their efforts. See their updated web site www.artloss.com . Also, on the international front, Pavel Jirasek (Czech Republic's Ministry of Culture) reported a decrease in his nation's number of art thefts. Jean Michele Memoran (sp?) discussed France's TRIMA database. For more info (in French) navigate -Le signalement d'oeuvres d'art volées -- Oeuvres d'art recherchées l'Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des biens culturels http://www.interieur.gouv.fr/avis_recherche/index.htm
On a personal note, it was a pleasure to make new friendships and renew old ones. Special thanks to Ton Cremers, moderator of the Museum Security Network, for his kind words and encouragement. MSN has done an outstanding job providing a forum for cultural property information.
And finally, another geographic clarification. In an earlier post we mentioned LA. A reader reminds us the State of Louisiana is abbreviated as LA. Los Angeles in California site of the National Cultural Property Conference / ICMS is abbreviated as L.A. We apologize to anyone who found themselves on Bourbon Street because of this error.
Hope you find this information helpful, Jonathan Sazonoff
Saz Prod,. Inc.
La Fenice may finally be rising from ashes (Daily Telegraph London) By Bruce Johnston in Rome
AFTER endless rows and delays, approval has been given to rebuild Venice's celebrated La Fenice opera house, devastated by fire during renovations three years ago. The neo-classical theatre where Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata were first performed was loved the world over by musicians, performers and the public. Yet, despite the millions of pounds donated by international opera fans, lovers of Venice and the Italian state, predictions that La Fenice, which means phoenix, would rise from the ashes "by November 1999" have glaringly failed. Only now has a joint venture between the German construction giant Holzmann and Italy's Romagnoli been awarded the contract, after much red-tape and legal stalling. The partnership said it hoped to start work at the end of this month, and to complete the theatre in April 2001.
If all goes well, and already there are new threats that work may again be stalled by a court action, it means that the theatre will rise again in the same time it took the ancient Romans to build the Colosseum - five years. The first delays began with an investigation into the fire, which magistrates now claim electricians started to avoid a fine for being behind schedule. A row then ensued as to whether the theatre should be rebuilt exactly as it was. Although a project was won by the Italian architect Gae Aulenti and actually begun by an Italian builder, it was later disqualified on grounds that it failed to include a south wing. Work was halted a year ago, since when compensation has had to be agreed. But the the runner-up for the new contract, a firm called Carena, is challenging the proposals, saying they ignore Venice's urban plan.
From: "Bob Combs" BCombs@getty.edu
RE: Intrusion detection techniques
Paul, I noted your request for information on a security device. I didn't quite understand the application you were describing. Can you EMail me with a little more detail so I can suggest a possible solution?
Manager of Technical Systems
From: email@example.com (Paul Smith)
Security Measures for Show
I have a specific problem. I need some form of photoelectric cell to protect a particular piece. The piece is on a 12"(30cm) dias. The dias is 24'x14'. The cells have to be powered by 12 or 24 V DC via a mains transformer. The signal from the cell must initiate an alarm locally and only fire as the beam is cut.
Can anyone recommend a system?
Paul Smith CPP
Vancouver Art Gallery
RE: Intrusion detection techniques
From your description, I'm not sure what you need. Call Optex Co. Ltd. (310) 214-2389 and ask if they still make a miniature photo electric safety beam product OS-1C/OS-2C (model number indicates one and two beam models). Ask them to fax you a cut sheet. It has a photo on it and you should be able to conclude if it is what you need. This is a tiny miniature sensor head and compact controller that projects a beam 33 feet (point to point) (13 feet reflected). It is the type of sensor that would stop a garage door from lowering if a child went through it or would open an elevator door if you stuck your hand in it. 12-24v AC/DC 110 mA max draw N.O. or N.C. output contact Form C relay 8 oz weight The head is 15 mm diameter (if my math is right, that's just over a half inch)
Hope this is useful to you.
Steve Keller, CPP
Museum Security Consultant
From: Les Biggs firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Intrusion detection techniques Paul,
Your best bet at this late date is to employ one of several sensor packages available from Radio Shack. This may seem like a "hobbyist" solution, and the devices are not the highest quality, but if implemented carefully at the show these devices can be effective against a certain range of threats. Once in place, your next challenge is to prevent tampering of the sensor system.
Hope this helps.
From: Steve Tlsty email@example.com
Union Pacific Railroad is missing 4 painted panels that once adorned President Lincoln's railcar
The Union Pacific Railroad is missing 4 painted panels that once adorned President Lincoln's railcar. An article on this subject was on the front page of Omaha World Herald newspaper, March 4.
Images can be seen at: http://museum-security.org/lincoln.html
Thieves Steal Art From Peru Church
The Associated Press
LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Thieves have broken into a colonial church in Peru's central Andes and stolen nine 16th century religious paintings and other artifacts, authorities said Tuesday. The thieves broke the old lock Monday on the unguarded, one-room church in the village of Sausa and looted the church, said Sausa Mayor Cesar Aranda. The town is 105 miles east of Lima. ``For us this is a major blow,'' Aranda said. ``We think it as a highly organized art theft gang that has been operating in the region.''
The stolen paintings measured more than five feet in length and belonged to Peru's prestigious Cuzco School, in which Indian artists trained by the Spaniards painted Catholic themes. The baroque-style paintings featured images of Christ and the saints often mixed with Peruvian scenes.
The thieves also stole a 1 1/2-foot-high gold cross and a red tapestry embroidered with silver and gold thread, he said. Peru's colonial churches are undergoing a wave of thefts of precious paintings and artifacts, which are often smuggled and sold abroad. Church officials estimate that one in 10 churches, most of which lack security, have been looted in recent years. A top Cuzco School painting can sell for $20,000 to $30,000.