August 14, 1998


- Art with a dubious past (The Irish Times)
- 'Secret deal' to export works of art (D.T.London)
- Art Theft Goes Digital
- Native American Artifacts (thefts)
- CCTV surveillance via Internet
- Re: Volunteers and Security Responsibilities
- Holocaust victims' heirs given share of a Degas

Art with a dubious past (The Irish Times)

The recent withdrawal of paintings from touring exhibitions for criminal investigation has prompted some of the world's leading museum directors to form a task force to look into the ownership of art works confiscated by the Nazis. Francine Cunningham reports When the Pierre Bonnard retrospective moved from London to New York where it opened at Museum of Modern Art recently two subtle, pastel-coloured paintings of female nudes were missing. Their owners withdrew the paintings after several other artworks loaned to the museum were seized in the search for Nazi plunder. One of the collectors said explicitly that he had acted because of the ownership dispute involving two Egon Schiele paintings detained in New York after they were borrowed for a MoMA show in January. The Schiele paintings, on loan from the Leopold Foundation in Austria, are being held in New York while the district attorney's office carries out a criminal investigation. The absence of two Bonnard paintings is the latest sign of alarm in the art world over works with a Nazi-clouded past. The missing paintings, Grey Nude in Profile and Standing Nude were on view when the exhibition showed at the Tate Gallery in London. United States museums now dread the possibility that other collectors will refuse to lend European paintings in case they are seized during international shows. "When lenders see what happened to the Schiele paintings it makes them nervous, even if they haven't any reason to doubt their artworks," said Elizabeth Addison, Deputy Director for Communications at MoMA. "The potential that something could happen is enough." Since the collapse of Communism, Eastern European families, in particular, have been actively pursuing the trail of artworks confiscated during the second World War. A Hungarian Jew, Gabor Bedo, whose father, Rudolf, sent his £5 million art collection to London for safekeeping during the war, will lodge a compensation claim against the British government this week. Rudolf Bedo's collection of 150 paintings included a Renoir still-life and a landscape by the 17th century Dutch master, Jan van Goyen. He was just one of thousands of Jews who lodged property and accounts in Britain during the second World War. But the Trading with the Enemy Act, allowed the UK authorities to freeze the property of all residents of enemy or enemy-occupied countries. The British government sold Mr Bedo's collection at auction in 1955. A scientist with a passion for art, Rudolf Bedo survived the war but lost his sister in Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Mr Bedo died in 1978, before the Communists fell and he had the opportunity to pursue a claim for the art collection. The British government promised earlier this year to repay assets confiscated from Nazi victims. Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former chairman of Amnesty International, was appointed this week as independent assessor to compensation claims against the UK government. Mr Bedo's case could open the floodgates for many other compensation demands. The subject of wartime plunder has become such a hot issue in the art world, some of the world's leading museum directors have also got together to form a task force. Earlier this month, the Association of Art Museum Directors held a brainstorming session to come up with new guidelines on how to deal with stolen artworks. Under the chairmanship of Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the group urged museums to review their collections to establish if any works were unlawfully confiscated by the Nazi régime. The task force called for the creation of computerised research files to cross-reference claims and stolen works of art. Institutions were asked to scrutinise the origins of artworks before purchasing them or accepting them as gifts. In recent years many second World War documents have been declassified, allowing art experts more information about the ownership of European artworks. But some curators are worried that they will become over-burdened with research into the provenance of artworks. This could reduce the amount of European works available to international audiences. Mr Montebello stressed that museums are "committed to acting swiftly and proactively to conduct the necessary research that will help us learn as much as possible about works for which full ownership records previously have not been available." For decades, US museums have counted on federal or state laws that protect art loans from detention or seizure. But a New York district attorney claimed that state law did not shield artworks under criminal investigation, when he ordered MoMA to detain the Schiele paintings instead of returning them to Vienna. MoMA had received two letters from Jewish families claiming that the Schiele paintings were stolen or misappropriated from their rightful owners when the Nazis annexed Austria (1938-1945). Henry Bondi wrote that his aunt, Lea Bondi, owned Portrait of Wally when Nazi collaborators took the painting from her apartment without her consent. Lea Bondi died in 1969, having attempted three years earlier to recover the painting. RITA and Kathleen Reif, relatives of Fritz Grunbaum, stated that the painting Dead City III was taken from Mr Grunbaum's collection without his consent by Nazi agents or collaborators after his arrest in Austria. He later died in the Dachau concentration camp. A New York district attorney is now investigating claims that the works made their way improperly into private collections after the second World War. Last month a US court ruling said that the Museum of Modern Art could return the two borrowed Egon Schiele paintings despite a continuing criminal investigation into their ownership. But the New York district attorney examining the charges is appealing the decision. Art world experts predict that it could be a long time before the works are returned to Austria, even if the court decision is upheld. The leading international museums rely on borrowing paintings from overseas to present first-rate shows. But the issue of art stolen during the Holocaust is provoking changes in policy. "I do think that everyone is becoming much more sensitised to this issue and most museums are taking extra precautions with their own collections. At MoMA, we are doing research on all works from this historic period, says Ms Addison. MoMA breathed a sigh of relief when the Netherlands decided not to contest a claim to a painting by Vincent Van Gogh recently left to the museum by a private collector. The Dutch government says it has a right to Olive Trees, estimated to be worth around £21 million pounds. But the Dutch authorities said that they would not demand the painting's return to set an example and avoid a circus of claims and counterclaims. Other institutions are taking new measures to protect their collections. Before the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, shipped three dozen works by Paul Klee to an exhibition in Berlin recently, museum officials wrote to German museums asking if they had any claims on them. In Washington, the US State Department is now assessing whether new regulations are needed to protect international cultural loans from seizure. Ethical problems surrounding paintings confiscated by the Nazi regime threaten the free flow of art work across the Atlantic. But the world's top museums cannot afford to turn a blind eye to stolen art.

'Secret deal' to export works of art (D.T.London)

By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent

Art legacy led collectors to suspect the worst

THE Government is believed to have struck a secret deal allowing one of the most important private collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in Britain, estimated to be worth up to £60 million, to be exported permanently to America. The deal was described as "scandalous" yesterday by leading Conservatives who demanded an urgent explanation from Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary. West End art dealers claimed the highly unusual deal had been arranged "in total secrecy" and appeared to drive a coach and horses through rules governing the export of works of art. The collection, including major works by Millais, Holman Hunt, Rossetti and Burne-Jones, was owned by the late Lord Sherfield, formerly Sir Roger Makins, a colourful former British ambassador to Washington who died in 1996. He left around 300 Pre-Raphaelite paintings, sketches and studies to his heirs. Many of the works - though no one is certain which or how many - have been granted export licences by the Government in the past 12 months so that they could be moved permanently to the home of his son, the second Lord Sherfield, also a former diplomat. It is believed that the Government's Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art ruled that none of the works were of exceptional national importance. Neither the Government nor Lord Sherfield will say which works have been taken out of the country, causing anger and alarm among Pre-Raphaelite collectors and dealers in London. They say that Lord Sherfield is now free to sell them at any time to major American museums such as the Getty with no obligation to offer them to British collections. Under the arrangement, Britain is likely to keep just one of the works, Sir John Millais's masterpiece Mariana at the Moated Grange painted in 1851. The Government is understood to be negotiating to waive around £5 million in lieu of death duties on the first Lord Sherfield's estate in exchange for the oil going to the Tate Gallery in London. Yesterday British dealers and collectors, including the composer Lord Lloyd-Webber who has a major Pre-Raphaelite collection, strongly contested the Government's assessment of Lord Sherfield's paintings. Lord Lloyd-Webber, who saw some of the paintings before Lord Sherfield died, called it "the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelites in private hands in Britain". David Mason, a West End dealer, said: "We know that a lot has gone to Washington, but we don't know what. I think the loss to Britain is incalculable because the collection includes several seminal examples of the most eminent Pre-Raphaelites." Another prominent dealer, Christopher Wood, accused the Government of "being extremely economical with the truth". He believed that many important works were lost to Britain for good. Peter Ainsworth, shadow culture secretary, yesterday demanded that Mr Smith give "a full and complete explanation of what has been allowed out of the country". He said: "As far as we know, the collection includes some paintings of national importance and it seems very disturbing that they could slide out of the country without anybody knowing. On the face of it, it seems scandalous but there is a shroud of secrecy over the whole affair and we don't know enough details. The lack of openness is disturbing." The collection is thought to contain a number of important studies and sketches for larger paintings and a number of major masterpieces, notably two paintings by Millais, Ferdinand lured by Ariel and A Huguenot on St Bartholomew's Day, and two by William Holman Hunt, The Hireling Shepherd and Love at First Sight. Another important work is Sir Edward Burne-Jones's Fair Rosamond and Queen Eleanor, painted in 1861. Mr Mason said he had approached Lord Sherfield's executors about selling the collection, which he estimated as being worth £60 million. He said he could think of 30 or 40 other British collectors who might have bought the works and kept them in this country. Many of the major works come from the late 1840s and early 1850s when the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - as Millais, Holman Hunt and Rosssetti styled themselves - startled the art establishment with their shocking, ultra-realistic, romantic and often sensual paintings. The present Lord Sherfield's great-grandfather was a close friend of Millais and began the family collection. Under rules on exporting of works of art, any application to send abroad an item valued at more than £39,000 must be referred to a reviewing committee to decide whether it is of national importance. The committee may defer the granting of a licence for objects of importance and, where the object is being sold abroad, allow time for a British gallery, museum or private collectors to raise a matching sum to keep the object in this country. It is thought the licences were granted late last year and this year and that all the paintings are now in Washington. Lord Lloyd-Webber said: "The real worry is they will be sold abroad. It seems we should either have export laws that stop that happening or abolish them altogether." David Barrie, director of the National Arts Collections Fund, the leading charity in saving works of art for this country, said his body had not been consulted. He said: "It would be nice to know exactly what is going on. On the face of it, if a really important collection has left the country without there being adequate discussion, then it is worrying." The Department of Culture said yesterday: "We cannot say anything. The details about export licences given are confidential." The Telegraph was unable to contact Lord Sherfield. Last night Julian Agnew, his London dealer, said: "During 1997 and 1998 various paintings from the estate of Lord Sherfield which had been left to his son Christopher Makins (the second Lord Sherfield) were exported to his home in Washington DC. Where necessary, export licences were applied for and granted according to the usual procedures. There is no 'deal' or connection between the offer in lieu and the grant of export licences. It is Mr Makins's intention to keep the collection together for his own enjoyment and that of his family."

From: Leigh Maynard

Art Theft Goes Digital


The Bridgeman Art Library goes to court to defend fine art photographers' copyright

The Bridgeman Art Library is pursuing unauthorised use of more than 150 images in its collection which appeared on clip art discs published by Corel and which could be downloaded for use for a few dollars each from the Corel Web Site. The images were sold to Corel by a third party who have since gone into liquidation and who neither Corel nor Bridgeman have been able to trace in order to question further. The Bridgeman Art Library started the action some time ago on behalf of the museums and other art collections it represents who own the copyright in the photography of the works of art involved. Corel has argued that the paintings themselves are out of copyright they are free to use the images as they wish. They argue that the photographs themselves do not deserve copyright protection in their own right. This is a rather disingenuous argument considering they paid for images which they now claim are public domain. Harriet Bridgeman commented today "Museums and Art Collections around the world rely on income from reproduction rights to the material in their collections. It is an outrageous suggestion that their photography is not in their copyright. Photographing a work of art is a skilled undertaking. If Corel believes that photographs of paintings do not deserve copyright protection where do you draw the line? Who is to judge how much skill and effort a photograph entails? Why should a snapshot of a group of friends taken by an amateur be awarded copyright and not a carefully lit photograph of a painting taken by a professional in that field?" Museums represented by the Bridgeman Art Library whose photographs are involved in the action include the National Galleries of Scotland, the Wallace Collection, London, The Guildhall Art Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum. Deborah Hunter, Photographic Licensing Manager at the National Galleries of Scotland comments: "Reproduction of our images without permission is theft of our intellectual copyright in whatever format." For more information please contact Vivien Wheeler, Rights Executive, The Bridgeman Art Library, Tel: 0171 727 4065 Fax: 0171 792 8509 email:

From: Jonathan Sazonoff

Native American Artifacts (thefts)

Dear Subscribers,
The posting S.W. Archaeological Vandelism raised some interesting issues. As the scope of collections extend well beyond fine art; we would like to offer some resources pertinent to Native American artifact thefts. To begin with, there are a number of ethical issues. A fine academic site "Stolen Art Finders or Keepers" presents international case studies.
Continuing with ethics, see Native American repatriations foundation.
As for native artifact thefts:
American Tribal Art Dealers theft page
rra Mono Museum, CA Baskets
Stolen Native Art in Canada
Canadian Native theft
Hope you find this information useful,

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 00:48:52 EDT

CCTV surveillance via Internet

I have designed a CCTV system for a large multi-building museum. As part of that system, we will transmit live video from both of the museum's two security control rooms onto the internet via the museum's server which houses the museum's extensive Web site. The security management team will be able to dial in on their home computer, laptop, or any computer anywhere in the world to the unpublished URL. Upon arriving at the page, they can type in their password and will be admitted to the page where they can then see live video of their control room guard working attentively, sleeping or playing cards, whichever the case may be. Clicking a link will take them to a second page with a similar live video picture of activity in the secondary security control room in another building. Eventually we hope to be able to see guards at all of the various 24 hour posts from anywhere in the world simply by dialing in. I'd be interested in hearing from colleagues who use similar technology. I see this as having some real value from a management perspective and would like to fully comprehend how this technology can be used to its full advantage. For example, a strategically placed camera will enable the security manager to see the status of the alarm graphic annunciator panel from home. The Conservator could see the temperature or humidity by dialing in and viewing a camera that looks at the instruments. What am I missing?
I don't currently know of technology that allows the security manager to view all of his or her cameras from home because it is difficult if not impossible to switch or control the cameras from home. (It is technically possible to feed every signal to a separate internet page and view them that way but there is a bandwidth problem from a practical point of view and this is beyond the means of all but the largest museums.)
If your museum currently does any of this, do you transmit directly onto your museum's intranet or computer network to your server? Or do you transmit to a PC in your security control room then directly out to the internet? What hardware do you use and are you satisfied with the performance? There are many choices but some are less expensive than others. Do you have a T-1 line?
This is exciting technology and it can work well for you as security managers. I'll keep you posted as to our progress. We currently have a design but before I buy the equipment I want to make sure we have thought of everything so the client gets the best possible use of the system for the best price.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Steve Keller, CPP
Museum Security Consultant
22 Foxfords Chase
Ormond Beach, FL 32174 USA
(904) 673-9973

From: Matt Gargan MGargan@DMNH.ORG

Re: Volunteers and Security Responsibilities

Yes, we have here at the Denver Museum of Natural History. The program is called the Volunteer Security Assistance Program. It was started in the mid 80's and has had as many as 40 volunteers at one time. We are presently at about 34 members and can only say good things about them. The training is done by our full time Security Officers and a real team effort has been built over the years. We have one volunteer that is 97 years old and comes every Monday just like clock work for her shift. Each year we have a luncheon for them and have a group photograph taken. This program is very well attended. There was little if any opposition by the full time security staff about being replace by these volunteers as the program was presented from the first as to augment the staff not replace them. We wonder now how we ever got along with out them, and certainly don't know now. If you need any additional information please contact me at (303) 370-6483, Matthew Gargan, Security Captain, Denver Museum of Natural History, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver CO, 80205.
Thanks Matt,
>>> MB Tobola ctobola@RRNET.COM 08/03 8:51 PM
Has anyone used volunteers to fill gallery security positions? If so, how were they trained and how did it work?
Any comments related to this issue would be appreciated.
-M.B. Tobola

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 08:07:35 -0400

Holocaust victims' heirs given share of a Degas

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 08/14/98

In a major victory for the family of two Holocaust victims, a wealthy Chicago art collector agreed yesterday to surrender possession of an Edgar Degas landscape that was allegedly plundered from the art collection of a Dutch Jewish couple who died in Nazi concentration camps. Drug company heir Daniel C. Searle decided to surrender possession just before a federal court jury in Chicago was to hear the case, and amid growing public interest in how artworks plundered in Nazi-occupied Europe nearly 60 years ago made their way into American collections. Under terms of the settlement, Searle will cede a half interest in the landscape to the heirs of Friedrich and Louise Gutmann and donate the remaining half to the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum, in turn, will acquire the Degas by having it appraised and paying Gutmann's heirs half the value of the work. Searle, by art world standards, was the typical innocent purchaser when he paid $850,000 in 1987 for the Degas pastel monotype, ``Landcsape with Smokestacks,'' asking few questions about its past ownership and relying on the expertise of curators from the Art Institute. They hoped that Searle, a museum trustee, would donate the Degas to the museum. But according to pretrial depositions reported last year, two museum curators missed evidence pointing to flaws in the monotype's ownership records, including the fact that it was once owned by Hans Wendland, perhaps the most succcessful wartime fence for art looted by the Nazis. The lawsuit, filed two years ago by the Gutmanns' daughter, Lili Gutmann, and her two nephews, Nick and Simon Goodman of Los Angeles, was the most prominent of a number of recent legal disputes over wartime looting, because of Searle's prominence, the museum's involvement, and the tragedy that befell Freidrich and Louise Gutmann. Among the major Jewish art collectors in Western Europe whose collections were confiscated by the Nazis, the Gutmanns were the only ones who lost their lives as well. Friedrich Gutmann was beaten to death at Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia; Louise Gurmann died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz in Poland. The settlement was amicable, according to a statement released yesterday by the Art Institute on behalf of Searle and the Gutmann heirs. ``This settlement, which allows us to preserve the pastel's history in one of the country's finest art museums, represents a fair resolution to this complex issue,'' said Nick Goodman. James N. Wood, the museum's director, said the settlement allows the museum ``to bring an important work of art to the public while taking into account the history of World War II and the Holocaust.'' Wood is a prominent member of a panel of the Association of Art Museum Directors, which pledged in June that member museums would do a thorough search of their collections to ensure that none of their artworks were unrecovered wartime loot. Beneath the surface, though, bubbles an intense debate over the extent to which the American art world, in its eagerness to acquire works by famous European artists like Degas during and after the war, sometimes ignored warning signs about the origin of some of that art. ``This is a great day for the Art Institute,'' Willi Korte, an art investigator who worked for Gutmann's heirs, said last night. ``The museum gets a very nice landscape they wanted from the beginning, and they avoid a great number of embarrassing questions at the trial.'' Among other things, the two curators testified in pretrial depositions that they were unaware of wartime looting. Estimates vary, but many scholars believe the Nazis plundered about one-fifth of the world's art treasures in occupied Europe. A museum spokeswoman could not be reached last night to comment on Korte's remark. But in the past, the museum and its attorneys have said the curators took reasonable precautions before recommending that Searle buy the Degas. The Impressionist was noted for his monotypes, works pressed onto paper after being painted on glass with printing ink, and then enhanced by pastels. ``Ravishing'' was how one Art Institute curator described the landscape. Thomas R. Kline of Washington, the Gutmann heirs' attorney, said last night that Friedrich Gutmann sent the Degas, along with other works, to a Paris art dealer for safekeeping before the Nazis overran Holland in 1940. But Kline said the Paris dealer, also a Jew, fled when the Nazis invaded France, and that records show that members of the Nazi art looting unit seized the dealer's wares. Searle's lawyers had argued, however, that the Degas was not listed among the seized artworks, and that Gutmann had sent it to Paris for sale, not safekeeping. But after a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the case would be tried before a jury starting Sept. 9, Searle, according to investigator Korte, agreed to a settlement the Gutmann heirs proposed more than a year ago. Korte said he believes Searle spent more than $1 million in legal fees. All told, the Gutmanns lost more than 40 works of art, many of which have never been recovered. Kline, their attorney, who has several major successes recovering looted art for victims, last year obtained a settlement on a Botticelli the family once owned. He is now pursuing for them a Renoir that is believed to be owned by a British collector.
This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 08/14/98.

Main Indexpage