Portrait of an art detective: The intriguing investigations carried out the world over to return lost masterpieces
'I've met with a criminal who's been holding onto some very valuable artwork for over 30 years several times at a cafe in Paris'
Art theft - after the trade in drugs and arms - is the highest grossing criminal activity, according to the FBI.
crimes that come to the public's attention are usually only the big
cases, like the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in 1911 and
Edvard Munch's The Scream, stolen in Oslo in 2004.
Both were recovered and it is thanks to the dogged
determination of people like Christopher Marinello that such
masterpieces are returned to their owners and galleries around the
world. For he is an art detective.
His official title is
executive director at the Art Loss Register, and in his role he has
found more than £160million of stolen artwork for individual collectors,
museums and galleries around the world. One of his recent successes
was recovering a Matisse painting in Essex worth more than £1million,
25 years after it was stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm.
Yahoo! News UK and Ireland interviewed Mr Marinello in his London
Yahoo!: What is the Art Loss Register?
The Art Loss Register (ALR) was established in 1991, it has a database
of 360,000 stolen art items. Rather than just maintaining a list of
stolen items, we actively search the marketplace for whatever is on our
list. I not only recover artwork; I mediate title disputes. For example,
if one millionaire is buying a Degas from another millionaire and the
Degas belongs to Holocaust victims, I facilitate the sale by working out
a solution that satisfies the original owners.
Yahoo!: How often do you find database matches?
Every week. Say if you're a collector who sees an antique clock on
Portobello Road - you can contact us to make sure it's not stolen. I get
calls all the time from people who claim to have leads on stolen work.
Many aren't plausible like a recent call from someone saying that a
well-known country singer has paintings from a famous Boston Museum
Yahoo!: When you find a missing work, do you alert the police or meet with suspected art thieves yourself?
I deal with criminals if I have the permission of the authorities. If
artwork was stolen recently, the police are usually keen to get
involved. If the theft happened 25 years ago, the police aren't as
interested and in those cases I'm given permission to handle the case
Yahoo!: Is that what happened with Le Jardin,
the Matisse painting that you recently recovered in Essex and returned
to the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm?
Yes - a private art dealer in Essex was approached by a guy in Poland
to sell it in the UK so he contacted us to see if it was on the Art Loss
Register. We saw it was stolen so we told the art dealer that we'd
check the painting on delivery and to tell the Polish seller that he was
going ahead with the sale. I also alerted Scotland Yard, just in case
we needed to seize it at the border. Once it was back in the country,
the art dealer was shown all the Interpol and police notices to prove it
was stolen. We drafted a release which he signed and we got the
Yahoo!: So the case ends there - you don't try to find out who the thieves are?
We told the police everything and if they want to investigate the
Polish seller and solve the crime, they can do so. Or the Swedish police
could try to solve the crime.
Yahoo!: But in 25 years, the painting probably changed hands so many times that it could be very difficult to trace the original thieves?
CM: You never know. In a case I'm working on now, I've met with a criminal who's been holding onto some very valuable artwork for over 30 years several times at a cafe in Paris. I want to resolve this thing because the family still wants their artwork back. We can prove who owns the artwork but we can't prove he's done the crime so it's a matter of trying to persuade him to give us the artwork.
Yahoo!: How closely do you work with Interpol and other art crime organisations?
CM: Very closely, although Interpol is not a force, it's an organisation that helps officers in one country deal with officers in other countries. On the other hand, the FBI art crime squad is an actual squad of 14 agents. The Italian Carabinieri are a serious art crime squad with 300 officers.
Yahoo!: Are there any new cases you can tell us about?
CM: We've got some really exciting unsolved cases on our books now including works by Modigliani, Braque, Leger, Matisse and Picasso from the Paris Museum of Modern Art theft in 2010 and work from the recent Kunsthal museum heist.
We are also working on getting back a Matisse for a family of Holocaust descendants in New York which is now in a museum in Norway. The documentation we have is signed by Hermann Goering ordering a gallery in Paris which had this Matisse to be closed in 1941. Goering then had the artwork seized and sent the family who owned the gallery to Auschwitz. Because Goering didn't like Matisse, he traded the piece to other dealers in Paris to get the Old Masters that he wanted. That's how it returned to the open market.
Yahoo!: What missing artwork would you really love to find?
CM: The ultimate recovery would be to find the work from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston. During the 1990 St Patrick's Parade where every police officer was at the parade, thieves dressed as police stole Vermeer's The Concert (at $200 million, the most valuable stolen artwork in the world), Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea, Manet's Chez Tortoni and 10 more pieces– artwork now valued at half a billion dollars. The museum is so keen to get the work back that they're offering a $5 million reward and anyone returning the work will not be prosecuted for the crime.
Yahoo!: Have the profiles of art thieves changed over the years? Are they getting more difficult to track down?
CM: Thieves are always going to be thieves. Art thieves are common thugs. There's no romance there. The same people who'd steal your wallet would steal artwork. The internet has made it easier track but it's easier for the criminals as well. I can't go undercover anymore for instance because my picture is everywhere. The key is to get more people who buy and sell art to check the Art Loss database.
The latter is to be promoted on all websites and social networking outlets as the receiving point for leads as well as serve as confirmation for reward(s).
The carpet was stolen from the original owner in suburban New York. This was the only item stolen, and it was specifically targeted. There is reason to believe the carpet is still in existence and efforts to circulate this information is now timely. The high reward is to encourage individual(s) with information that providing a legitimate lead resulting in recovery comes with benefit to all parties. For the owners, recovery of the original carpet will provide resolution, and the return of an item with great sentimental value.
Fine silk Tabriz carpets such as this are highly collectible in pristine condition. There are few of this type of carpet in existence, and those which survive often obtain high premiums when in original condition and sold with legitimate provenance. This particular carpet, titled the “Wedding Carpet”, features several unique attributes making it unusual and rare:
- It is large in size while still relatively manageable as a show piece.
- Among 19th century carpets, it is an exceptional example.
- The carpet is quite fine, and features a consistent theme through its pictorial imagery.
- It is a one-of-a-kind carpet, as uniquely identifiable as a fingerprint.
The carpet is also thin and fine in weave, with characteristics similar to a tapestry or fabric, but having a thin pile. The carpet is also pliable, with the ability to fold up similar to how a blanket may be stored.
Size: 8 feet 7 inches x 12 feet 2 inches
2.62 meters x 3.70 meters
An antique Persian carpet made in Tabriz, Iran. Hand woven of silk pile and silk foundation. Cream colored fringe at each end of the 8’7″ width.
In the center of the carpet appears a large tree of life design stemming from an ornate base. The tree of life is portrayed against a cream colored background.
Under the center tree of life, three panels illustrate reclining male and female figures.
The basic color of the carpet is an orange-red or rust, although the carpet is replete with multi colors, especially dark and light blues.
Also depicted in the carpet are the following: – Bowls containing a variety of fruits – Oriental lamps in the two upper corners. The border of the carpet contains alternating medallions of flowers and crouching animals / deer. Read more about this carpet
Reward for information leading to recovery. Even if you do not have information, see how you can raise awareness.
Guilty plea over badge theft from museum
The charges of burglary and theft for both men still remain on the Court's books.
Holmes also faces an additional charge of assault on police, relating to the same date.
After he was rearraigned his defence barrister, Des Fahy applied for a change to one of his bail conditions.
Explaining that Holmes had to report to Grosvenor Road Police Station at 3pm each day, Mr Fahy asked whether his client could have the time changed to 5pm instead. "He would like to collect his godson from school," explained the barrister, "He is trying to build a relationship with him."
The prosecution outlined why police were objecting to the application: "Reporting in the middle of the afternoon rather than later allows his movement to be less 'free' during the course of the day.
"Police are concerned about the fact that his criminal history is not confined to one particular area. The middle of the afternoon reporting suggests he cannot go too far from the area where he resides."
Crown Court Judge Melody McReynolds believed however, that altering the time to 1.30pm was acceptable, particularly since the ongoing flag protests in Belfast were making it harder to get in and out of the city anyway. Both men are to appear again at Laganside Court tomorrow (Friday).
Here we go again, "according museums have the thieves nothing from Catharijneconvent stolen monstrance". Oh yeah? Yet the thefts on. Of course they have something that monstrance. Insured for € 250.000,00 and then in a showcase that can quickly turn into? That regulates the nearest jeweler around the corner better.
A TRAVELLER from Rathkeale, Co Limerick has been arrested in Dublin on foot of a European arrest warrant relating to the theft of rhino horns.
Austrian prosecutors investigating the theft of rhino horns from a museum and an antique dealer in Vienna last summer want to extradite John Quilligan (31) to face related criminal charges.
The value of the haul is estimated to be worth in excess of €300,000 on the black market.
The Austrian authorities requested Garda assistance in tracking Mr Quilligan, who has an address at Roches Road in Rathkeale but spends much of his time travelling around Europe.
The warrant was issued after police made a number of arrests following the robbery.
Mr Quilligan, who is understood to have returned to Ireland for Christmas, was arrested by uniformed officers at a check point in Swords on Wednesday afternoon and taken before the High Court.
He was later released on bail on condition he surrender his passport.
The suspect can either fight the extradition request or volunteer to travel back to Austria and stand trial.
He is the second Limerick man to be arrested here on a European arrest warrant relating to the theft of rhino horn.
Last October, Michael Kealy of Abbeylands, Askeaton, was arrested by gardai in Kilkenny after British police sought his extradition in connection with the theft of a €200,000 rhino horn. It is alleged he was involved in the robbery of the rhino horn from an antiques dealer in Nottingham.
The black market trade in mature rhino horn across the world is now considered more lucrative than the drug trade, with an average 4kg horn being sold for up to €50,000 per kilo. Since 2010 there have been over 60 thefts from museums, antique dealers and private collectors across Europe.
Herman Goering rug found in Angela Merkel’s officeGERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel is this week faced with the thorny question of what to do with her office rug after it was discovered to be part of a collection of treasures looted by wartime air force chief and deputy Fuehrer Hermann Goering.
• Journalists working for Der Spiegel discovered a number of Nazi items in various government offices, museums and guest houses in Germany
• Rug to be removed from view by end of this week
The rug was discovered by journalists working for the news magazine Der Spiegel about Nazi booty that is still scattered about government guest houses, offices and in museums in Germany long after it should have been reunited with the original owners.
Mrs. Merkel is said to be furious with her aides at the embarrassing revelation, coming as it does months before her third bid for power in the general election and with the opposition snapping at her heels.
According to Spiegel the rug is one of over 600 objects that the government still uses from the vast mountain of looted artworks that Goering and others amassed for themselves during WW2.
Task of reuniting owners with looted items not concluded
The West German government in 1966 declared the task of reuniting owners with their stolen property to be “concluded.” But this is clearly not the case; tapestry from the same collection as the rug inMrs. Merkel’s office adorn the walls of a government guest house on the outskirts of Bonn while a stolen walnut secretary - seized by Hans Posse who was the Nazi administrator for all stolen art during the Third Reich - sits in the German president’s office in Berlin.
‘Hitler’s Watch, Germany’s Secret’ is the cover story of Spiegel, which hit newstands on Monday, showing a photo of a platinum watch Hitler gave his mistress Eva Braun in 1939 on her 27th birthday and engraved on the back; ‘On the 6.2.1939. Sincerely, A. Hitler.’ It was found in a Munich museum by the magazine’s researchers.
Goering’s personal possessions uncovered in Munich museum
Also found in Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne museum were many possessions of Goering, the man who invented the Gestapo secret police and who convened the meeting at Wannsee outside Berlin in January 1942 which cemented the plans for the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews. Platinum and gold cufflinks, a ring with diamonds as well as a golden cup for champagne. Spiegel also came across a golden decorated cigarette box
with dedication from 1940: “Full of happiness and pride, Emmy and Edda congratulate ‘Reich Marshal’ in intimate love” - this from Goering’s wife and his daughter.
A few short years later he would be condemned to death for war crimes at Nuremberg, cheating the hangman at the last minute by killing himself in his cell with a phial of hidden cyanide.
The feeling is that museums, over 6,000 of them in Germany, are still chock-full of Nazi treasures and looted objects but with few staff to check on the provenance of the collections. In Bavaria just one
specialist is on the payroll of the local government to check the origin of 4400 paintings and 770 sculptures taken in 1933 after the Nazis came to power.
The former State Minister for culture, Michael Naumann now urges the government to force the return of the goods of art looted by the Nazis to their rightful owners or their heirs. “The legislature must concretize their return,” he said. “More money must also be used for research in German museums.”
As to the rug in Mrs. Merkel’s office - it is understood it will be removed from view by the end of the week.
Museum aims to reclaim stolen Carl LarssonSweden’s National Museum (Nationalmuseum) is hoping to reclaim a painting by famous Swedish artist Carl Larsson, which was stolen 34 years ago, after a woman put it up for sale at an auction house in Stockholm.
On behalf of the Swedish state, museum officials have asked a court to order the woman to give up the painting. They state that their claim of ownership overrides the would-be-seller's.
It is customary for auctioneers to run artwork through security checks. Recently, a painting by French artist Henri Matisse was returned to Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art after it re-emerged in London. That artwork had also been stolen.
In this case, the National Museum acquired the painting by Larsson, who is one of Sweden’s most famous painters, in 1915.
It was leant out to and stolen from the foreign policy research centre Utrikespolitiska institutet (UI) in 1979.
The documents filed to the court include the original police report and an incident report from UI.
"We are extremely saddened this took place and have already improved our security measures," it reads.
More than three decades later, the artwork, entitled Studiefigur i Rokoko, re-emerged in Stockholm as it was submitted to auctioneers Bukowskis.
The woman who has now put the painting up for sale has said she inherited it from her father, who in turn bought it from an art dealer in Stockholm in the 1980s.
Sussex dealer in dock for 11 antiques raidsAn antiques dealer is accused of using minions to burgle auction houses of collectors’ items.
Darryl Aldridge sold the pieces through eBay after the raids in 2011 and 2012, Brighton Crown Court was told yesterday.
He is also accused of spotting antiques at people’s homes when collecting items he had bought from them on eBay, and going back to burgle the homes himself.
Aldridge, 47, formerly of High Street, Upper Beeding, denied being responsible for 11 burglaries in Lewes, Washington, Warnham, Brighton, Lancing, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Kent.
In one raid at Gorringe’s in High Street, Lewes, walking sticks worth £77,000 were stolen.
Michael Warren, prosecuting, said: “He would see what was coming up at auctions in various auction houses, and effectively if it was good enough he would ask or get people to go and burgle the premises.”
Mr Warren said Aldridge’s computer showed he had searched the internet for auctions, for details of the items on sale, for images of the auction houses and for routes from Brighton to the scenes of the crimes.
Anthony Townsend, 50, of Upper Lewes Road, Brighton, denies one burglary at Stroud Auctions in Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Mr Warren said mobile phone mast evidence showed Townsend’s phone travelled from Brighton to Stroud and back around the time of the raid on October 11, 2011, and that it exchanged calls with a phone belonging to Aldridge.
He said a 1798 Klotz violin stolen from Stroud was found at Aldridge’s home, its date marking obscured.
At the Gorringe’s auction house in Lewes, on May 7, 2011, Aldridge is accused of taking antiques including a Goldscheider and Czech art deco wall mask and bust – police found the wall mask at Aldridge’s home.
Mr Warren said staff from Gorringes identified the mask, offered for sale on eBay on the account of Lee Smith, a business partner of Aldridge.
At Toovey’s auction house in Washington, near Storrington, on May 16, 2011, he is accused of taking pieces including a George III mahogany wine ‘cellaret’ and coopered bucket.
Three men have already been convicted of carrying out some of the raids. In February last year Ashley Symes, then 45, was jailed for four years for offences including the Gorringes walking stick raid.
Alan Topping, then 49, of Holland Road, Hove, was jailed last year for 26 months for burglaries at Cranbrook, Kent, and JS Auctions in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
Luke Hammond, then 21, of Foredown Road, Portslade, got a community order for the Banbury raid.
The trial continues.
Dark car parked outside home of murdered antique dealer Michael GriffithsA dark car was seen parked outside the burning home of an antique dealer who was discovered battered and dead in his hallway.
Police investigating the murder of 59-year-old Michael Griffiths, also a jewellery designer, have appealed for information about a black or dark-coloured car that was seen in the area on the morning of the fire that destroyed his home.
They have also appealed for anyone who sold petrol in a can to people overnight on Wednesday, January 23, or Thursday, January 24, to come forward.
And they want two builders who were at the scene during the early hours of Thursday, January 24, and advised neighbours not to try and get into the house as the fire had a hold to come forward.
Mr Griffiths’ body was discovered by firefighters in the hallway of his home in Old Glebe, Fernhurst, on Thursday, January 24.
A post-mortem has shown that Mr Griffiths, who worked at John Nicholson Auction House, near Midhurst, suffered serious injuries to his head and body, but the cause of his death has not been established and detectives are now awaiting the results of further tests.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley said: “Talking to people locally, we have established that an unfamiliar black or dark-coloured vehicle, possibly a 4x4 or SUV type, was seen parked on the pavement in Old Glebe on Thursday, January 24 morning around the time that the fire broke out, probably between 6.30am and 7.30am.
“It's possible that it was there in all innocence, but we really want to find out more about that vehicle and who was in it. If it was you, please get in touch as you may have information that could help us.
"We believe that the fire was started deliberately and evidence of accelerants have been found.
“We are talking to garages locally to see if anyone purchased petrol in a container in the time leading up to the fire, but there is the possibility that this purchase happened further afield.
“I would ask anyone working in garages anywhere in the area who has any suspicion about someone buying petrol in a can overnight on the Wednesday or early Thursday morning to give us a call.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Killick
Man suspected of stealing artifactsFALL RIVER, Nova Scotia, -- A hoard of historical artifacts and art that could be worth more than $1 million was found in a home in Canada, authorities say.
Nova Scotia police said more than 800 allegedly stolen items were recovered since Friday from the Fall River home of John Mark Tillman, 51, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.
The police investigation began last summer after Tillman was pulled over for allegedly breaching the conditions of his house arrest. Among the items they found in his vehicle was a letter written in 1758 by noted British Gen. James Wolfe.
The investigation took months and culminated in a search of Tillman's house that turned up the treasure of alleged stolen items.
"We believe such items as books, documents, paintings, antiques were stolen from private collectors around Atlantic Canada, also from local universities, museums and even the legislature. We believe we have a painting from the Nova Scotia Legislature so as one can see, it's a vast undertaking," Cpl. Scott MacRae said.
Also among the items seized was a rare edition of Charles Darwin's groundbreaking scientific work "On the Origin of Species."
Tillman was charged Monday with being in possession of four rare antiquities taken from universities in Halifax, from the archives and from the Nova Scotia Legislature, the CBC said
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/01/22/Man-suspected-of-stealing-artifacts/UPI-80741358905644/#ixzz2JltJko00
MFA Boston uncovers and returns stolen work to France
A routine loan request reveals a Roman statuette was taken from a museum in Douai in 1901
The MFA immediately contacted the Douai museum, which provided documentation surrounding the theft and a 19th-century photograph of its lost statuette. Because areas of damage on the MFA statue were identical to damage shown in the photo, there was “little doubt” that the object missing from Douai was the MFA statuette, according to the Boston museum; its trustees voted in October 2012 to return it.
The MFA did not ask for anything in return, Reed says. “We review the provenance of all objects going out on loan, in particular anything going overseas, and with special attention to European works and antiquities,” she adds. “We have to prioritize how much scrutiny we’ll give an object.”
Anne Labourdette, the curator at the Douai museum, says she was impressed that the MFA “had staff to conduct provenance research and that it did the job so thoroughly”. In contrast “unfortunately”, many French museums lack budgets and staff to conduct costly provenance research. “Most of the museums in France are too small for this,” she says, adding that French law would complicate efforts to return stolen works if they are part of a national museum collection. The Douai museum actually owns two paintings that it has determined were stolen during the Second World War II, but they are not yet displayed on its website, which might help identify the former owners. However, it recently recovered a painting by the French realist Jules Breton that it had lost to theft during the First World War.
The small statue, dating from the first or second century AD, is believed to have been unearthed by a peasant around 1780 in the countryside near Le Quesnoy, France, near the Belgian border. The find became part of the fabled antiquities collection of Augustin Carlier, which the Douai museum acquired in 1849. It identified the statue as Antinoüs, the beautiful youth whom a grief-stricken Roman emperor Hadrian deified after he drowned in the Nile.
Investigators Discover Thousands In Stolen Artwork In Brantley
By Catalina Trivino
It's a high-dollar heist that sounds like it would happen in Paris, London or Rome... but it happened in Crenshaw County.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen art has been discovered in Brantley.
Investigators tell us they've been searching for this artwork for more than two years and law officials say things like this definitely don't happen in Brantley.
This storage unit might look empty now, but that's because investigators have recovered everything in it. It was actually packed with dozens of artwork.
Take a look at this -- all of these pieces of artwork totaled approximately $350,000, all stolen from a Geneva County home July 2010.
"There were some Rembrandt prints, some Picasso prints... several others I can't remember right this minute, but some of them were valued as much as $40,000 and up," Said Crenshaw County Investigator, Mike Johnson.
A total of 72 pieces were recovered, both originals and prints, including pieces by Charles McKinnon, Itzchak Tarkay, Norman Rockwell, Robert Wyland and Peter Max.
The Crenshaw County Sheriff's office and Second Circuit District Attorney's office assisted Geneva County deputies in the execution of a search warrant at Brantley Mini storage to look for all of these pieces.
Investigators say they're looking for a total of $487,000 of stolen property. While all the artwork was found in the storage unit, they're still looking for missing guns and jewelery, including a diamond worth about $50,000.
District Attorney, Charlotte Tesmer, says she couldn't believe it when she heard what was found.
"They don't happen, especially in small towns like Brantley, and even the thought process when we went through it was... is this real? Or is this a hoax or is it counterfeit? Are these paintings or prints counterfeit? But they appeared to be authentic. They had authentication on them when we looked, so it did happen in Brantley, Alabama!" Said Tesmer.
Officers say they're still investigating who's storage unit this belongs to and while they tell us they do have leads, no arrest has been made.
Investigators say they're interviewing people who might know the owner of the storage unit.
CBS 8 News will keep you updated on this mystery.