Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, "Sleep" Retailed at 1500% Profit, Now That's Criminal !!

Expert finds stolen $80,000 painting at Palm Beach fair

An Art Loss Register art historian helped recover a painting stolen from the Buffalo Club at the Palm Beach Fine Arts and Antique Fair earlier this month. The painting, titled "Sleep," was painted by James Carroll Beckwith and reported stolen in 1995. (February 26, 2008)

By Erika Pesantes South Florida Sun-Sentinel
February 27, 2008

A stolen painting recovered at the Palm Beach-America's International Fine Art & Antique Fair is due back in the hands of its rightful owner Monday.

Art historian Erin Culbreth of The Art Loss Register saw the 101-year-old oil painting by J. Carroll Beckwith during a check of pieces in the fair before it opened earlier this month at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

The international organization, with offices in Manhattan, lists about 200,000 stolen and missing artworks worldwide in its databases.

The painting, titled Sleep, was reported missing in 1995 by the Buffalo Club. The New York club would not comment Tuesday on its recovery.

The painting is at the Register's Manhattan office until Monday, said Chris Marinello, executive director and general counsel for The Art Loss Register. Then it goes back to the Buffalo Club.

Anne Frances Moore Fine Art Services purchased the artwork in 2005 for $6,000 from auctioneer Doyle New York, Marinello said. Anne Frances Moore had an $80,000 price tag on the painting for the fair, but it was flagged and pulled before opening day on Feb. 1.

"It's a phenomenal work and everyone that had seen it said they wanted to buy it," Marinello said.

The 17-by-21-inch painting shows a young slumbering woman with red lips and cascading curls. Beckwith was a significant Missouri-born artist who drew influences from Europe and worked alongside John Singer Sargent. His works have been showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The fair hired the Register to cross-check about 2,000 fine arts and antiquities against ones in its databases. The fair featured about 400,000 pieces of art from galleries in more than a dozen countries. A vetting committee of museum curators, art scholars and experts also verified the authenticity of the art.

"It's an important part of the service we offer to buyers who come to the fair," its director, Michael Mezzatesta, said. "I'm just happy that we were able to help recover the painting and see it get back to its rightful owner."

The Register lists 259 missing or stolen art pieces from Florida. It has worked on 80 cases in South Florida, including last month's theft of the painting Our Lady of Czestochowa from Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in West Palm Beach. That painting remains missing.

Sleep is the first stolen painting that has shown up at the Palm Beach-America's International Fine Art & Antique Fair since its inception 12 years ago, said Gary Libby, chairman of its vetting committee and director emeritus of the Daytona Museum of Arts & Sciences. This find underscores how important it is for fair officials to scrutinize the authenticity of artworks, he said.
"Because imagine if someone buys a $100,000 painting and in three months there's a knock on the door," Libby said. "The whole thing [could be] a nightmare of problems."

Erika Pesantes can be reached at or 561-243-6602.

Art Hostage Comments:

Credit is due to the Art Loss Register for this and other recoveries when moronic stolen art handlers try and sell them via Auction.

The Art Loss Register is fast becoming a victim of its own success, why ?

Once the criminal world realises that to try and sell stolen paintings via auction or without informing the new buyer about the current status, i.e. listed as stolen on the Art Loss Register, is much akin to offering themselves up as sacrificial lambs led to the inevitable slaughter.

The more publicity about how stolen artworks are traced via auction then the less likely thieves or handlers will use the auction avenue.

So, in the future the recoveries will few and far between.

All is not lost for the Art Loss Register as they can still continue to police the trade and charge a subscription for that service.

To matters at hand.

This Beckwith painting "Sleep" sold at Doyles, New York Auction House for $6,000 to a dealer, who then marks it up by 1500% for retail sale.

I would say this is sheer greed on the part of the dealer but the marking up by as much as 20 times trade price is common.

What this means to art collectors is they lose up to 95% of the retail price straight away.

So, an artwork priced at $1million is actually worth $50,000.

Perhaps the art collecting public may ponder this fact before purchasing an artwork from a dealer.

Furthermore, lets assume an elderly Lady or Gentleman has a painting that they consign to Doyles or any other auction house.

The painting sells for $6,000, after deductions the vendor receives around $4,500 from the auctioneer.
Then the painting is offered at an Antiques Fair by the auction buyer for $80,000 plus.

A fair deal for the elderly Lady or Gentleman, or a tale of a morally repugnant trade riddled by greed that See's the original owners of art paid a pittance, even in so-called legitimate deals.

What is a fair mark up for art and antiques ?????????????????????? ?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Torture Threat Terrifies Elderly Home-owners in Violent Art Raid !!

Woman relives torture threat

By Nigel Freedman

A robbery victim fought back tears as she told how raiders threatened to pull out her husband's fingernails.

Sarah Williams said she had no doubt they would have carried out their threat if she had not co-operated.

Mrs Williams, 68, and her husband, former Army major Tom Williams, 73, were tied up during the raid at their country home.

Mr Williams was beaten with a cosh and kicked as he lay defenceless on the ground, a court heard.

The couple were in the drawing room at Aldsworth House, near Chichester, when the security alarm was triggered by movement in the grounds outside as they watched television at 9pm on June 4, 2006.

Mrs Williams went to check outside but could see nothing and thought the alarm had been tripped by their dogs or a fox.

Minutes later the alarm went off again and Mrs Williams went to investigate.

As she opened the back door a man wearing a balaclava barged past her.

Mrs Williams told a jury at Hove Crown Court yesterday: "I screamed pointlessly but it was rather terrifying."

Two more raiders came in behind the first and ran through to the drawing room where her husband had been half asleep in a chair.

Mrs Williams said: "By the time I got there they were attacking my husband.

"One had a truncheon which he hit Tom over the head with.

The other was kicking him in the ribs.

"I tried to go towards Tom but the second man stopped me and pulled my left hand behind my back.

"He took my engagement ring off and strapped me up with gaffer tape."

Her hands, arms and feet were bound and her jacket put over her head to stop her from seeing the robbers.

She said the gang's leader demanded to know where the couple's safe and jewellery was.

Mrs Williams added: "I told them there was a safe upstairs.

"Tom told them the police were on the way and I was very worried they would attack him again.

"I heard them walking around upstairs and then they came down and asked where the proper safe was.

"We had to deny that we had another safe or jewellery and said that had all gone in a robbery in October.

"They got cross and started checking for silver.

"They found the silver and there was tremendous banging as they took the insides out of two grandfather clocks."

Mrs Williams said the raiders eventually found the main safe and demanded the keys for it.

But even then her husband remained defiant and told the robbers it was their son's safe and they did not have a key.

Mrs Williams fought back tears as she recalled: "They said they would pull Tom's fingernails out one by one if we did not tell them where the key was.

"I had no doubt they would have done it if I had not told them.

"They were clearly going to get the key to that safe, one way or another.

"I said I would tell them only if they agreed not to take my husband's collection of medals.

"They are all family medals and they are irreplaceable."

Mrs Williams showed them where the safe key was. She was then led back to the drawing room with her husband.

She added: "They all wore balaclavas and gloves but I did not look at them.

"I was so frightened they would kill my husband. The leader's voice sounded ruthless and I thought he would do what he said he was going to do."

Two of the raiders loaded antiques worth £380,000 into the Williams' car and drove off.

Walton Hornsby, prosecuting, alleges the raid was carried out by Wolfgang Schmeltz, 57, Christopher Doughty, 48, and William Johnson, 47.

Antique dealers Daniel Brummer, 56, and Christopher Capewell, 63, are accused of handling stolen property.

They are said to have received antiques stolen from country homes in Firle, near Lewes, Slinfold, near Horsham, Petworth and Bexhill.

Schmeltz, Doughty and Johnson, all from Southampton, deny robbery.

Schmeltz and Doughty have admitted one charge of conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

Capewell, of Grand Avenue, Hove, and Brummer, of Furze Hill, Hove, deny conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

The trial continues.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Oo'h The Bloody Cheek, Stolen is always Stolen, You Can't be Half-Pregnant, Update !!

Valuable paintings stolen 31 years ago found in Bristol home

Ted Hayes reports:

BRISTOL — Three valuable paintings stolen in a brazen 1976 armed robbery in Shrewsbury, Mass., are in the hands of the FBI, after they were surrendered by a Bristol attorney who received them from his brother, a Barrington art dealer, as collateral for a $22,000 loan six or seven years ago.

Read the facts of the court case filed Monday in federal court in Providence.

Investigators don't know how Barrington resident William Conley, the proprietor of Upscale Emporium at 280 County Road, ended up with the paintings, which he gave to his brother, Bristol attorney Dr. Patrick Conley, below, as collateral for the loan. The paintings were stolen at gunpoint from an affluent Shrewsbury home on July 1, 1976.

But now the works, which by one estimate are worth $1 million or more — are the subject of a legal tug-of-war in federal court among Dr. Conley, the heirs of the painting's original owners and an insurance company.

On Monday, the FBI filed paperwork in U.S. District Court in Providence asking for a legal determination of the rightful owner. U.S. Attorney's office spokesman Tom Connell acknowledged that the courts are trying to determine ownership, but would not comment on whether a separate criminal case is proceeding.

Dr. Conley, a prominent historian, attorney and real estate developer who lives in a sprawling home beneath the Mt. Hope Bridge, said he discovered the paintings' checkered past after having them inspected by a prominent Newport art dealer last year. When he and the dealer discovered their history, they promptly called the FBI.

"We didn't want to have stolen paintings on our hands," Dr. Conley said Friday. "My brother, I have no idea how he got them; I don't know that he knew they were stolen."

A number listed to Uspcale Emporium was disconnected, and William Conley could not be reached for comment.

Brazen theft

According to paperwork filed Monday in federal court in Providence, the paintings — Childe Hassam's "In the Sun," Gustav Courbet's "The Shore of Lake Geneva," and William Hamilton's "Lady as Shepherdess" — were stolen from the home of Mae Persky in 1976.

Shrewsbury police reports obtained by the Worcester (Mass.) Telegraph and Gazette state that three masked robbers, one of them armed, cut the home's telephone lines, bound Mrs. Persky, a nurse and a caretaker, and proceeded to ransack the house, stealing the paintings and other items, including jewelry and silver, before fleeing with an estimated $60,000 haul. The robbers were never caught.

The paintings' trail went silent at that point, and nothing was heard until about six or seven years ago, when William Conley, below, approached his brother Patrick and asked for the $22,000 loan.

Dr. Conley said he is not close to his brother, William, an art dealer who has been in the business for 40 years. That was partly the reason he asked for collateral up front before agreeing to the six-month loan, he said.

"He was very desperate for money," said Dr. Conley. "I was a little bit reluctant, so I said 'You've gotta give me some collateral.' He brought the paintings to me, and said 'They're valuable, worth much more than the amount you're giving me.' "

Not knowing they were stolen, Dr. Conley accepted the paintings and gave his brother six months to pay back the loan.

"A few months turned into a few years, and the loan was never redeemed," continued Dr. Conley. "I finally said to myself that if he doesn't want to take the paintings back, they're probably copies and I was out $22,000."


So last year, Dr. Conley contacted a friend, prominent New York art dealer and appraiser William Varieka, and asked him to look into the paintings' value. About a month later, the expert got back to him.

"He said, 'I've got good news and bad news,' " said Dr. Conley.

"I said, 'Give me the good news first.' "

"These paintings are not copies," he reportedly replied. "They're genuine. Now the bad news: They're stolen."

"I said, 'You've gotta be kidding me.'"

What happened next is not clear. Dr. Conley said Mr. Varieka learned of the paintings' history after contacting the New York Art Loss Register, a firm that records art thefts and works with law enforcement agencies to return stolen works to their rightful owners. Once the determination came in that they were stolen, Dr. Conley said, both he and Mr. Varieka agreed that they should call the FBI.

"We didn't want to have stolen paintings around," said Dr. Conley. "If they were stolen they should be returned to the proper owners."

However, FBI Special Agent Gail A. Marcinkiewicz said Friday that the FBI became involved not after hearing from Dr. Conley or the dealer, but by Art Loss Register officials.

Regardless, Dr. Conley and Mr. Varieka were soon in contact with FBI officials, who traveled to Mr. Varieka's Newport gallery to retrieve the paintings.

"They've had them ever since," said Dr. Conley. "Once I gave them (to Mr. Varieka) they were never back here" in Bristol.

What next?

Though authorities won't say whether there will be an arrest in the case, the fate of the paintings has set off a dispute between Dr. Conley and his wife, Gail, the heirs of the Persky family, and an insurance company that paid the Persky family for their loss following the 1976 robbery.

First, OneBeacon Insurance, identified in court papers as "successor-in-interest" to Commercial Union Insurance, claims an interest because Commercial Union was the firm that paid Mrs. Persky a $45,000 settlement for the thefts following the 1976 robbery.

Second, Judith Yoffie of Worcester, Mass., claims an interest, as the paintings were left in Mrs. Persky's will to her late husband, who died last year. Mrs. Persky reportedly died in 1979.

Finally, Dr. and Gail Conley assert an interest in the paintings, as they stand to lose the $22,000 they loaned William Conley.

"Over the last year I've been attempting to get some kind of determination of ownership," said Dr. Conley. "What is the correct ownership? Usually possession is 9/10ths of the law, but what if they're stolen?"

"Someone should reimburse my wife and I," he added. "If it weren't for the fact that we called in the FBI when we found out that they were stolen, those paintings would never have been recovered."

As for his brother, Mr. Conley said he hasn't spoken to him in quite some time, and doesn't know how to reach him.

"I'm a little aggravated that the collateral he furnished was stolen."

To read more about the original 1976 theft of the paintings, as reported by Scott J. Croteau of the Worcester Telegraph & Gazette, click here:

By Ted Hayes

Art Hostage comments:

The sheer nerve of some people, the bloody cheek, enough already with the excuses.

These paintings are stolen property and all the complaining in the world will not change that fact.

I expect Law Enforcement to do their job and indict all those involved and press charges against those deemed involved.

The only dispute should be between the insurance company and the original owner or their estate.

The Doc's role should be investigated and if proven innocent he should recieve an amount worked out by both the insurance company and the original owner or their estate.

Personally, this is a charade and a complete fabrication.

An unsavoury Art and Antiques dealer, William Conley, supposedly loans money against these stolen paintings, which were not valued professionally at the time of the loan, which would have flagged them up as stolen, from his estranged Lawyer brother, who then after years wants to cash the paintings in question in.
Bullshit with a Big B

Real life is William Conley conspires with his brother Dr Patrick to realise the value of these stolen paintings, having bought them knowing they were stolen and hoping they would slip through, not least because Dr Patrick Conley appears to be a pillar of the community.

To be continued..............

It now transpires that the FBI WERE contacted by Dr Patrick Conley after all.

This is important as Dr Patrick Conley could have been duped by his brother William and truly be innocent.

If that is the case then Dr Patrick Conley may be required to give evidence to that affect in front of a Grand Jury, a sure fire way to clear himself of any complicity.

If that is the case, full co-operation with Law Enforcement, then I am sure Dr Patrick Conley and his wife are due their money back as a finders fee, plus interest.

However, demands of one third of the value or more may be a little optimistic.

Someone is guilty of being complicit, lets find out who ??

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Art and Antiques Trade, Closed Shop and Rotten to the Core !!

Seurat Sketch Thought to Be Stolen by Nazis Is Seized from Paris Art Dealer

John Lichfield By John Lichfield in Paris

A long-lost sketch for one of the most famous French paintings of the late 19th century has been seized by police from an art dealer in Paris.

The preliminary study by the pointillist artist Georges Seurat, painted on the lid of a cigar box, was assumed to have been stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War.

French investigators searching for looted Jewish-owned art want to know why the tiny painting, valued at 5m (3.75m), has suddenly turned up in the hands of a French art dealer.

The Etude de L'Ile de la Grande Jatte is one of more than 50 studies painted by Seurat between 1884 and 1886 for his celebrated painting of heavily clothed sunbathers on an island in the river Seine.

The completed canvas, Un Dimanche la Grande Jatte, is 9ft by 6ft and owned by the Art Institute of Chicago.

The study seized by French police shows almost the same scene but is painted on a cigar- box lid the size of a standard exercise book.

Like the finished canvas it uses the technique perfected by Seurat of painting not in brush strokes, but with thousands of tiny blobs, or points, of oil-paint.

The study may well have been painted by Seurat on the island itself and taken to his studio as one of more than 50 preliminary sketches for the final canvas.

Its recovery coincides with an exhibition in Jerusalem this week of 53 paintings seized by the Nazis in France - including another Seurat - whose legitimate owners have not been traced.

The exhibition, which moves to Paris in June, shows only a fraction of the 2,000 French-Jewish owned art works recovered from Germany after the war but still in the custody of the French state.

In the case of the Seurat study, the chain of ownership is reasonably well-established. It once belonged to the Jewish painter Paul Signac.

In 1940, his widow Berthe Signac gave it to a French art dealer, Andre Metthey, for safe-keeping after Germany invaded France.

In 1945, when the Signac family tried to reclaim the painting, M. Metthey said it had been stolen by the Nazis.

The work was added to the French list of "despoiled" art works.

Two years ago, another French art dealer, Eric Turquin, asked the French Ministry of Culture for a certificate allowing him to sell the work abroad. He said the Seurat study had been brought to him by a client, Elias Chartouni.

Following a complaint by the heirs of the Signac family, an investigation was started by the French government agency which monitors trafficking in stolen art.

The painting was seized in the past few days at M. Turquin's offices in Paris, police said yesterday.
A magistrate, Fabienne Pous, has been appointed to investigate "theft by persons unknown". She will try to trace the movements of the painting in the past 68 years and investigate claims and counter claims about its ownership.

In the 1880s, the Ile de la Grande Jatte was in open countryside and a favourite spot for strolling, bathing and boating. Now known as the Ile de la Jatte, it has been engulfed by the westward sprawl of Paris.

The island has been almost entirely covered with up- market apartment blocks, in the shadow of the tower blocks of the business district of La Defense.
Art Hostage comments:
Once again this demonstrates the term "Honest Art and Antiques Dealer" is an Oxymoron !!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Once Stolen, Always Stolen, Paintings at Least !!

By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban

A $300,000 painting stolen nearly 18 years ago from the McGill Faculty Club has been retrieved and returned to the university, The Suburban has learned.

On May 21, 1990, an 87-year-old oil painting called Spring Landscape-Athabasca by Quebec impressionist Marc-Aurèle Suzor Côté was stolen after a break-in at the McTavish Street institution. The Suburban broke the story in the June 13, 1990 issue, in a report by former Suburban reporter Gerry Wagschal. According to the story, the theft was kept secret by club authorities for nearly a month to prevent copycats.

Christopher Marinello, executive director and general counsel of the U.K.-based Art Loss Register’s New York office, told The Suburban last week of the painting’s retrieval. His office has a copy of the original Suburban story.

“Believe it or not, I could not have done this [the investigation] without the story. You get the details, it helps me with the contacts. It’s always good to start with the news reports.”

The register contains the world’s largest database of stolen art, with more than 200,000 items listed. The organization works with police forces around the world, including Interpol.

“We have a team of people who go through every auction house in the world that subscribes to us — eBay and all sorts of fairs and shows, looking for what’s on our database,” Marinello explained. “In this case, an auction house that’s a subscriber to the Art Loss Register — known as Ritchies, in Montreal — did the right thing.

“They search high-end items with us to make sure they’re not selling anything stolen. An item that was consigned to them — this particular painting — they checked with us and we were able to confirm the missing Suzor Côté painting. We then went into our recovery mode — contacting the auction house, notifying them there is a match and asking them to pull the piece from the auction, not to sell it. They were very cooperative.”

Also cooperative was the painting’s then-owner, a convenience-store owner, who had asked Ritchies to sell the painting.

“[The owner] contacted me and, via e-mail, I urged him to seek counsel. He did get an attorney. I presented the facts of the case, the original police report and the Interpol listing. This gentleman agreed to return the picture.”

Marinello said the painting’s owner received the Côté work as part of an arrangement with a distributor who owed him money. “The guy couldn’t pay him and said ‘take the painting instead.’ Years later, he decided to sell it and get the money out of it, and it turned up on our database.”

The painting was verified as the one stolen in 1990, and was returned.

Art Hostage comments:
If the convenience store owner did not know this was a stolen painting then he is the victim of a sting and I feel for his loss of monies owed.

However, if this store owner did know the painting was stolen then he is a moron for thinking he could sell it at auction.
Gone are the days when a stolen painting can be sold via an unsuspecting auction house.
When it comes to stolen paintings, once stolen always stolen !!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Gender Equality Reaches Antiques Theft !!

19 February 2008 15:40

A grandfather clock, a model of a famous ship and an antique teddy bear were just some of items stolen in a burglary in Wymondham.

Hundreds of pounds worth of items were stole during the burglary that is thought to have happened some time between 4pm on Saturday, February 9, and 2.10pm on Sunday, February 17, at an isolated property in Back Lane.

Entry was gained after a side kitchen window was smashed. All the rooms in the house were searched.

The items stolen were a 6ft tall dark wood grandfather clock with a dial hand-painted with flowers and the word “Wyndham” written on the face worth £1,500, a model of the Cutty Sark with the rigging displayed and a turquoise-coloured hull worth £300, an antique novelty clockwork bartender made of tin worth £300, a 2.5ft tall yellow teddy bear worth £50 and a Jacques Wooden Garden Croquet Set, with hardwood mallets, in a pinewood box.

A small box of six old silver-plated fish knives in a box with a blue velvet interior, a 12ins tall antique jointed porcelain doll with blue eyes which closed when the doll was tilted and moulded wavy hair, a framed map of old England with glass and a black narrow wood frame and tea/cigarette cards mounted in a clip frame, stuck on black sugar paper of prehistoric animals, such as a woolly mammoth, were also stolen.

A silver or grey car was seen parked outside the property and it is thought two women in their 20s to 30s were seen placing items in the boot.

Art Hostage comments;
Now thats what I call Gender equality !!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Brazil Picasso Theft Triggered By Basquiat Recovery !!

Missing Basquiat painting turns up in New York

1 day ago

NEW YORK (AFP) — US authorities have discovered a missing eight-million-dollar painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat belonging to a convicted Brazilian banker and believed to have been smuggled into the United States.

The painting, "Hannibal," was among several artworks valued at up to 30 million dollars that a Brazilian court ordered seized when its owner, Edemar Cid Ferreira, was sentenced to 21 years in jail for money laundering in 2006.

However, when Brazilian authorities raided Ferreira's home and offices, they found that a number of the artworks including "Hannibal" were missing.

In August last year, the painting was shipped from London to New York with a false customs form detailing it as "a painting" with a value of 100 dollars.

US authorities working with international law enforcement agency Interpol then tracked it down and seized it from a New York warehouse in November.

Ferreira was sentenced for his part in the collapse of Banco Santos, S.A., of which he was founder and president. New York prosecutors are now seeking to have the canvas returned to Brazilian authorities.

The painting, described as predominantly black and blue featuring a skull shape and symbols and inscriptions including "Hannibal," was painted in 1982, six years before Basquiat died in New York of a drug overdose aged just 27.

Art Hostage comments:

The December Brazil Picasso theft was inspired by Edemar Cid Ferreira because authorities tracked down this Basquiat last November.

When Saudi Prince Waleed expressed an intrerest in the soon to stolen Picasso Suzanne Bloch, Edemar Cid thought he could kill two birds with one stone.

(1) The actual theft of the Picasso and the Brazilian Iconic image by Brazilian artist Candido Portinari would certainly upset authorities and give Edemar and son some leverage to get better conditions in jail, even an early release if they were able to facilitate the safe recovery.

(2) Saudi Prince Al-Waleed only wanted the Picasso, so Edemar could sell that to Al-Waleed and then use the Portinari as a bargining chip.

(3) The cook was the man on the outside to set up the robbery of the Picasso and Portinari.

Seems the whole plan has come apart at the seams and Edemar could face further jail-time if the cook reveals all.

(4) They did not reckon with FBI Icon Robert Wittman.

Backstory below:

Stolen Art Watch, Auction That Never Was !!

Art auction lots - man arrested

It was the auction that never was, as police tried to trace a thief who stole £30,000 worth of paintings and pottery from the personal collection of Suffolk artist Bernard Rooke.

Art enthusiasts filled the auction rooms at Gaze and Sons in Diss each hoping to pick up one of the 34 pieces of Rooke's work being auctioned off.

But people soon began to realise that no matter how high they bid, a telephone bidder always beat them. And as each piece fell to the art collector on the phone, those in the room began to laugh among themselves and make wild bids which all failed.

It was later revealed police had taken custody of the paintings, none of which had actually been sold. And a 31-year-old Ipswich man was today arrested on suspicion of theft in connection with the incident.

“It was surreal, a very strange auction,” said Rooke fan Steve Skippings from Tiptree, Essex, who was one of the bidders.

“We got to the auction early and the police were there but left before the auction started - but once it got under way it soon became clear that things were not going as expected as no matter what people in the auction room bid the person bidding by telephone out bid them.”

He added that after the auction, last Saturday, he emailed Mr Rooke to congratulate him that his work was so popular.

“Mr Rooke called me back and told me that the work that was in the auction had been stolen,” said Mr Skippings.

“It is now clear to me that the auction was just an act so as to not alert the vendor of the Rooke art work that something was wrong.”

Mr Rooke, 69, from Swilland, near Otley, said it was only when he saw that the auction catalogue - sent to him by Gaze - that he realised the paintings had been stolen.

“Between 70 and 80 pieces have been taken from my personal collection which I have been amassing for some years, I would estimate they are worth between £20,000 and £30,000,” he said.

“The work was never for sale it was a record of work of various techniques, etc. It was being stored in my old studio while a new one was built, I believe the thief had broken into the back of the studio and had been removing work for sometime.”

Gaze's spokesman, Elizabeth Talbot, said the vendor had signed title to the works and they were only alerted that something was amiss when the police arrived shortly before the sale started, intending to confiscate the works.

“They came here to seize them but realised some were delicate and that they had no suitable packaging, so they left with the instruction that we were not to sell them to anybody. And no money changed hands,” she stressed. .

With 550 lots of post war modern design art, including other works by Rooke, it was decided to go ahead with the sale as normal - but for Gaze's to secretly “buy back” the 34 pieces whose ownership was in dispute. Other telephone bids were authentic.

“It was a tough call and I was on tenterhooks. We wouldn't have wished to mess anyone around, we were acting on police instructions not to enable the paintings to disappear. The worst thing that could have happened is that, if we hadn't acted quickly, the paintings were scattered. In effect we were buying them back for the true owner,” she explained.

Ms Talbot added: “I have been in the business for 23 years and I have never known the like! Ironically, it was easily the best sale of this kind we have had, with bidders from London and Scandinavia. Everything was fine except for this weird situation with 31 lots that, as it turns out were probably spurious. People may be disgruntled, but far better it happened than to be inconvenienced later down the line.”

A police spokesman said a 31-year-old Ipswich man had been arrested this morning on suspicion of theft in connection with a burglary in High Road, Swilland, where various pieces of art work were stolen between November 1 and February 6.

Art Hostage comments:

Further evidence that even morons are getting ivolved with art theft.

To really think these artworks could be sold through auction without alarm bells ringing shows jusy how stupid this moron was.

However, for every moron like this one, there many more cunning handlers of stolen art out there, who handle stolen art and antiques every week with impunity.

Stolen Art Watch, Global Daily Cultural Religious Rape !!

Suspects in Theft of Ecuadorean Baroque Treasure Arrested


QUITO, Ecuador—Colombian police have arrested four suspects in a theft of religious treasures from a museum in Riobamba, Ecuador, Bloomberg reports.

The police found part of the 1705 Riobamba Monstrance, which is used to display the host in processions in the Roman Catholic liturgy, as well as other artifacts including a golden crown, scepter, and cape of a statue of the Virgin Mary, which were stolen from a religious art museum in Riobamba last October.

The monstrance is made of gold and silver and encrusted with thousands of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and other precious stones. It weighs 36 kilograms and is valued at several million dollars.

The one-meter-high base of the monstrance has not been recovered.

Stolen Art Watch, Nice One Nikita, Other Princes Take Note !!

Russian Prince Gives Artworks Worth $375,000 to Pushkin Museum

By John Varoli

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prince Nikita Lobanov- Rostovsky has donated two 20th-century artworks estimated at 255,000 euros ($375,000) to Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

The Prince today gave ``Poet's Melancholy'' (1916), an oil painting by the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, and ``Black Zigzag'' (1924), an aquarelle on paper by Dutch abstract painter Theo van Doesburg.

``We're giving them without restrictions,'' said Lobanov- Rostovsky, a U.S. citizen. ``We're giving the Van Doesberg because the museum doesn't have any of his works, nor do they have a de Chirico of the type we're giving.''

The Pushkin has 650,000 artworks, ranging from Old Masters to one of the world's finest collections of impressionist paintings, including works by Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso.

The Lobanov-Rostovsky family, descended from Rurik, a 9th- century Viking who ruled Russia, fled the country after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. Prince Nikita was born in 1935 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky and Princess Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky have a collection including works by Leon Bakst, Alexander Benois, and Mikhail Larionov. The Prince was a career geologist, and is a fellow in perpetuity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Princess is a writer and lecturer on Russian decorative arts and Russian stage design, and consults for Christie's International and Sotheby's.

Art Hostage comments:

Being so fortunate to be a Prince comes with responsibility, nice to see this Eurpean Prince living up to expectations.

Stolen Art Watch, Hitting Corks in a Barrel !!


South Devon news

11:00 - 16 February 2008

A 71-year-old antiques dealer who acted as a fence for a gang of professional jewel thieves he nicknamed 'The Firm' has been remanded in custody to await sentence.

At Exeter Crown Court 71-year-old Kenneth Paterson was convicted by a jury on two charges of possessing criminal property.Paterson was covertly filmed by an undercover police officer trying to buy two stolen rings and he was also recording dealing with the same officer who was posing as a criminal from Belfast.

The officer know only as 'John' had infiltrated an antiques business in Torquay which was being used as a front for buying and disposing of gems, heirloom and treasures stolen in raids on properties throughout Devon.

In Operation Moonstone Linda Nichols, the owner of Upstairs Downstairs in St. Marychurch, was flushed out as a major fence for stolen property in Torbay.

Paterson was a regular at the shop and it was while he was there he was introduced to John and started dealing with him.

The undercover police operation led officers to raid Paterson's home and there in a storeroom they found display cabinets full of jewellery, watches and other sentimental items stolen in the house raids.

During the trial the jury listened to victims tell how they were devastated and traumatised at being burgled and having their lifelong treasures stolen. Police found 34 stolen items worth many thousands of pounds in Paterson's storeroom.

Paterson told the court that he had acted 'foolishly' when dealing with John but was trying to get rid of items he thought were 'dodgy' because of the price he had paid for them. Of other jewellery found at his premises he said he did not know the items were stolen. He used to buy at car boot sales and markets and did not ask questions because most of his purchases were 'run of the mill' stock for his stall.

Paterson was convicted on the two charges by majority verdicts after the jury had retired for more than seven hours spread over two days. He was cleared of three other similar charges.

Prosecutor Malcolm Galloway said Paterson had previous convictions for handling stolen goods and a burglary in Truro where he and another forced their way into a bungalow and stole clocks, jewellery and other antiques worth £6,000.

At a previous court hearing Paterson had pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and had received a six months prison sentence suspended for 12 months because at the time he was looking after his wife who was terminally ill with cancer.

Mr Galloway said 56-year-old Linda Nichols who ran Upstairs Downstairs in St Marychurch, Torquay had played a pivotal role in acting as a fence for gems and other valuables stolen in house raids across Devon. It was estimated she had benefited to the tune over £911,000 and when she admitted conspiracy to handle stolen goods and handling stolen goods she was jailed for three years.

Following his convictions on the two charges Paterson was remanded in custody for the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

He was told by Recorder Richard Stead: "These are extremely serious matters and I am considering a custodial sentence."
Art Hostage comments:
Whilst Law Enforcement can congratulate themselves with these convictions, the handling of stolen art and antiques has become more and more mainstream.
The moral of this story is if Law Enforcement devote more rescourses to targetting the handling of stolen property, art and antiques in partiqular, then more successes will follow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Scapegoat Solly Stung over Stolen Art



February 15, 2008 -- The feds have finally nailed a globetrotting "fence" who acquired millions of dollars in stolen art and antiques from heists in Paris 10 years ago, then tried to peddle the loot in Manhattan, authorities said.

Solly Sinay was picked up by French authorities on a New York warrant on Jan. 30 and is facing extradition to the United States federal prosecutors said yesterday with the unsealing of a six-count indictment.

The feds have charged Sinay, 54, of Tel Aviv, with trying to sell off stolen goods from three brazen burglaries that netted more than $5 million in art and antiques from two Paris shops and a private home.

Art Hostage comments:
Solly is the fall guy and in the fullness of time the truth will come out to show Solly is nothing more than a Scapegoat.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Warhol Wings its Way Home, Via Jobless Patsy !!

SoHo gallery sues unemployed Brooklyn man, Christie's over Warhol painting


Jason Beltrez, an unemployed Brooklyn dad, says he bought a red painting emblazoned with an orange dollar sign at a flea market 10 years ago - but only recently found out it was an Andy Warhol worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Beltrez, 44, and the mega-auctionhouse Christie's Inc. were sued in Manhattan Supreme Court by a SoHo gallery claiming the painting was stolen from its showroom in February 1998.

The Martin Lawrence Galleries filed the lawsuit, which became public Tuesday, after Christie's checked with the Art Loss Register before putting the painting - one of two "Dollar Sign" Warhols stolen from the gallery - up for sale and after Beltrez approached Christie's with the artwork last September.

Beltrez, who lives in Park Slope, said Tuesday that he bought the painting for $180 in New Jersey 10 years ago.

"I bought it from an open-air market," said the father of three and former C-Town supermarket manager.

Beltrez said the painting hung on his wall until last fall, when a pal suggested it might be the work of the late pop artist.

"A friend said something about the Campbell's Soup guy," Beltrez said, referring to Warhol's famous red-and-white soup can series. The painting, made in 1981, is part of a series of pieces he made of the dollar sign beginning in the 1960s in different colors and sizes.

It was estimated to be worth up to $400,000 by Christie's when the auctionhouse appraised it last year, an art world source confirmed. Another, larger, painting in the series sold for $4.5 million in 2006.

On Sept. 18, Beltrez took the painting to Christie's, a move that ultimately reignited a long-dormant NYPD investigation into the theft of the gallery's two missing Warhols. The Police Department confirmed that its major case squad is investigating but offered no further comment.

Beltrez, who used to live in lower Manhattan, has not been charged with a crime.

"If I knew it was stolen, would I go to Christie's?" Beltrez said, adding that cops said they wanted to give him a polygraph but never followed up.

According to court records, Beltrez has a criminal record dating back to 1996, and includes drug, disorderly conduct and patronizing a prostitute charges.

Gallery officials said they were delighted to find the painting - even if they don't have their hands on it yet.

"We are most pleased with the recovery of this unique artwork by Andy Warhol," said Eric Dannemann, president of Martin Lawrence Galleries, which has dealt in Warhols for years. Christie's was named in the suit, but as a "disinterested third party," according to its chief counsel, Keith Carlise.

"We are simply storing the work of art until the lawsuit is resolved," Carlise said.

The question of who owns the painting is in the courts, though art theft experts say the law clearly protects the art's title owner, the gallery.

ArtHostage comments:

Jason, if you are going to try and collect any money for this stolen Warhol, then it would have been better to relinquish ownership claims and then ask for a finders fee as reward.

Your story, although plausable, has to stand up to scruntiny by Law Enforcement.

Otherwise you may find yourself at the wrong end of a Federal indictment.

Personally, from decades of experience in these matters, I think the whole "bought it at a Flea market" story is, how shall I put it ?

Smell that air around Jason Beltrez, is the stench Cows, is the stench Sheeps, I know the stench is Bull-Shit of the highest order.

The outcome will be worth noting for future reference !!