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Monday, August 19, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Christopher Marinello Demonstrates Art Loss Register's New Ethical, Noble & Moral Compass, No Fee For Recovery, Second Time in 2013, Marinello Leads By Example !!

 Christopher A. Marinello holds the recovered Astrolabe which will be returned to Skokloster Castle in a small ceremony on 21st August 2013

It has been a good year for Swedish Museums.  A few months after recovering Matisse's "Le Jardin" for Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art, Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specializes in recovering stolen artwork, is returning to Sweden with a 16th Century astrolabe stolen from a castle museum in 1999.

Recovered Astrolabe   
Recovered: Astrolabe
Martinus Weiler, silvered brass
diameter 170 mm, depth 4 mm

The Astrolabe, signed by Martinus Weiler and dated 1590, can be classified as an early "astronomical computer" used to tell time and to map celestial objects. It is valued at over $400,000.

The Astrolabe was stolen from Skokloster Castle, one of the world's greatest baroque castles near Arlandal, Sweden.  In the late 1990's and early 2000's the museum suffered a series of thefts of small objects including a rare book.  The thefts were reported to INTERPOL and the Art Loss Register in London but no one was ever arrested for the crime. 

Authorities suspect the notorious "KB man", a former head of the rare books department at Sweden's Royal Library, who admitted stealing millions of dollars worth of rare books and manuscripts from Swedish museums from 1986-2004.  At the time of his arrest in 2004, KB told police that he quickly sold the stolen items to support his lifestyle of Armani suits, Cuban cigars, and Mercedes Benzes.   A few weeks after his arrest and subsequent divorce, KB man committed suicide by cutting the gas line in his apartment, slitting his wrists, and then igniting the gas.  The resulting explosion blew out the walls of his apartment forcing evacuation of his neighbours and causing a dozen serious injuries.

Astrolabe back    
Recovered: The Astrolabe is insribed on the back
 'Martinus Weiler islebiensis me fecit anno 1590'
Mr. Marinello, works closely with law enforcement and the Art Loss Register, a database of stolen objects based in London.  The astrolabe was being searched by a collector from Italy who had intended to offer it for sale in London.  Once located, Marinello negotiated the return of the astrolabe with the lawyer for the Italian collector.  He expects to return the work to Skokloster Castle later this week.

"While a 16th Century astrolabe may not be as 'sexy' as a major Picasso or Matisse, for a geek like me, recovering such an important planespheric and horological instrument is just as gratifying" said Marinello.

Bengt Kylsberg, the Musuem's Curator commented, "Skokloster Castle is very grateful to Christopher Marinello and The Art Loss Register for their fantastic work.  This instrument is an important part of our collection and has been at Skokloster Castle for more than 300 years.  With this recovery, our scientific and rare instrument collection is nearly as complete as it was when Gustaf Wrangel, the founder of Skokloster Castle, died in 1676."


Stolen: Inclinometer

A gilt brass inclinometer signed by Johann Freidrich Franck and dated 1643 was also stolen from the castle and remains missing.  Anyone with information on the whereabouts of this object is urged to contact:

Bengt Kylsberg, Curator    Christopher A. Marinello
        Skokloster Castle                       The Art Loss Register
      +46 (0)8-402 30 74                      +44 (0) 7702 206 913

Note to editors:
The Art Loss Register (ALR) was established in 1991 by members of the art trade and insurance industry.  The ALR maintains the world's largest international database of stolen, missing and disputed artworks which at present lists over 350,000 registered objects. The ALR specialises in art recovery, expert investigations, complex negotiation and mediation of art related disputes.  More information on the ALR can be found at If you have any questions or information regarding stolen artwork, you can contact the ALR on: +44(0)207 841 5780 or via:

Works of art worth over €300,000 stolen from Pharos warehouse

Works of art worth over €300,000 stolen from Pharos warehouse
By George Christou
MODERN works of art worth €340,000 were stolen from a warehouse used by the Pharos Arts Foundation, on Nicosia’s Green Line.
Among the items stolen were three metal tables and a wrought-iron door by well-known British artist Richard Wentworth valued at about €20,000 each. He had exhibited the tables and door as well as at an exhibition at the Pharos Centre of Contemporary Art in 2007.
The theft was reported by the President of the Foundation Garo Keheyan who had gone to the warehouse on Monday with a removal crew to move cases containing art items. He found the cases prised open and the contents missing.
Police investigations have so far yielded nothing, even though speculation suggested that the thieves had broken into the warehouse looking for scrap metal, which has become a valuable commodity in these recession-hit times as it is easy to sell.
There were significant amounts of scrap metal that were part of art installations stored in the warehouse which is situated on Ermou Street, bordering the buffer zone in old Nicosia. Art would be sold as scrap metal.
Ironically, artists like Wentworth, who had visited Cyprus several times, would take discarded objects and turn them into art objects, which could now be sold as scrap by the kilo.
A sledgehammer, found in a neighbouring garden and believed to have been used by the thieves to make a big hole in the back of the warehouse, was part of an art installation. It was taken by police for forensic tests.
The thieves had smashed a hole in the wall at the back of the building to get in and removed sheets of corrugated iron from the roof (perhaps to sell as scrap) in order to remove some of the art items that were bulky and heavy.
This was how they walked away with a 3×1 metre wooden frame with glass and other large-sized items. They had also demolished the mezzanine at the back of the building.
Many of the items, like the Wentworth tables, belonged to the artists and were with the Pharos Centre of Contemporary Art on consignment.
Keheyan expressed shock at what had happened. He said: “It is so sad that people on this island are resorting to theft as a way of making a living.”
Two large art items that were not deemed valuable enough by the thieves and were left behind had been used to cover a gap in the barrier-fence on the Green Line. A neighbour had found them discarded and used them to close the gaps in the barrier.
The items on chipboard, which the thieves snubbed and the neighbour used as a barrier against the Turks, were by the renowned, late, Armenian artist Marcos Grigorian, who has work on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Jasper Johns Assistant Charged With Stealing the Artist’s Work

Jasper Johns, center, with his assistant, James Meyer, right, and an unknown associate in 1989. 
Hans Namuth/Hans Namuth Estate Jasper Johns, center, with his assistant, James Meyer, right, and an unknown associate in 1989.
In the 27 years that James Meyer worked for the Pop Art master Jasper Johns, the assistant answered the artist’s phone, stretched his canvases, bought his paintbrushes and even drew lines on his canvases.
During the time they sat together in Manhattan, St. Maarten and most recently in Sharon, Conn., Mr. Johns mentored his apprentice, teaching him how to construct a work of art, how to trace and reuse his drawings, and the technique of painting with thick drops of hot wax, known as encaustic. “Most important,” Mr. Meyer once said, was that “Jasper has taught me to think about what I’m making before I make it.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Meyer was arrested for stealing at least 22 works from his employer and selling them through an unnamed New York gallery for $6.5 million, falsely telling the dealer and buyers that Mr. Johns had given them to him as presents and that they would be in the official compendium of the artist’s work, known as the catalogue raisonné. Mr. Meyer kept $3.4 million of that, according to the indictment, with purchasers agreeing to keep the art private for at least eight years, without exhibiting or reselling it.
Arraigned in a Hartford courtroom, Mr. Meyer pleaded not guilty to federal charges, and was released on an unsecured $250,000 bond.
An artist himself, Mr. Meyer, now 51, has talked about how lucky he was to find himself working with one of the greatest American artists of the 20th century. In an unpublished interview from the 1990s with the writer Matthew Rose, Mr. Meyer recounted how he made a cold call to Mr. Johns’s studio in 1984, when he was 22 and painting knockoffs of van Gogh and Matisse at $6 an hour to hang on the walls of Beefsteak Charlie’s.
With his résumé and slides of his work in hand, Mr. Meyer said, “I put on a suit, too, and went over to Johns’s Houston Street studio — this large old bank building — tapped on the door.”
Though he didn’t get through the front entrance, he dropped off his package. When he returned the next day to retrieve his slides, Mr. Johns opened the door and invited him in for coffee.
“Come back tomorrow and we’ll take it day by day,” Mr. Meyer remembered Mr. Johns saying. He said that he sometimes drew lines on Mr. Johns’s canvases, which the artist would later erase and redraw. According to the indictment, while employed at the Johns art studio, Mr. Meyer also “maintained a file drawer containing pieces of art that were not yet completed,” and began removing the works from September 2006 to February 2012.
In 2011 Mr. Meyer had a show of his own work — figurative ink drawings on Mylar — at Dorfman Projects, a gallery on West 20th Street in Chelsea. An owner of the gallery, Fred Dorfman, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Meyer, with other artists, has helped develop an art studio at a high school near his home in Salisbury. He lives with his wife, Amy Jenkins, in a house with peeling paint and a rusted and dented mailbox. A woman who answered a knock on the door said she had no comment.
Mr. Johns, now 83, is probably best known for his collage and encaustic paintings of the American flag, one of which hangs in the fourth-floor gallery of the Museum of Modern Art.
An assistant at Mr. Johns’s studio in Sharon said the artist had no comment on Mr. Meyer. The charges include one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Last year the foundry owner Brian Ramnarine, who created a wax cast of the mold for Mr. Johns’s 1960 metallic collage “Flag,” was charged with using the artist’s original mold to make a bronze sculpture that he attributed to Mr. Johns — and trying to sell it for $11 million.
Carol Vogel contributed reporting from London, Kristin Hussey from Sharon, Conn., and Randy Kennedy from New York.

Medieval panels stolen from Devon church

Thieves snatch two saints and damage a third from the 15th-century rood screen at Holy Trinity, Torbryan

The late 15th-century rood screen before and after the theft
The Henrician and Cromwellian iconoclasms destroyed most British medieval religious art, making any survivals very precious. The theft last month of two panels from the rood screen in the church of Holy Trinity, Torbryan, Devon, is, therefore, a major tragedy for the art world.
The stolen panels show St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch. The thieves also damaged a neighbouring panel of a female saint.

The oak rood, otherwise intact, was constructed and painted between 1460 and 1470, and the artistry is of a very high quality. The church is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), a national charity that aims to protect historic churches at risk.

$5M in art and jewels stolen from San Diego home


SAN DIEGO (KSWB/CNN) - Crooks stole millions of dollars in art and jewelry from a home near San Diego. Now, police are now asking for the public's help to find those responsible.
Fine artwork and jewelry worth $5 million was stolen out of a Rancho Santa Fe home.
"From approximately June 17 to approximately until the morning hours 6 am approximately June 18 several paintings, high-end paintings, pieces of artwork, sculptures were taken from the residence," said Det. Brett Garrett.
The thieves took 11 paintings including prints by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro valued at more than $1 million. The burglars also made off with 20 sculptures worth $3 million and four elaborate diamond, gold, and tourmaline necklace and bracelet sets each worth about $100,000.
Garrett says they need the public's help.
"Should those items go to market in an attempt to be sold, it would be our hope that there's somebody out there who would see these," he said.
The thieves may have a hard time unloading the fine art. Experts say the internet has made it difficult to resell stolen items. Popular web sites like and Art Loss Register give law enforcement an online archive of what's being sold and its history.
"If it is sold, it's going to be sold for pennies on the dollar and most art sales these days are on the internet because it increases your visibility, everything is done by the light of day so it's making it much harder for art thieves to sell their property," said Steven Demers, vice president of Kaminski Auctions.
Jewelry is a different story. It's a lot harder to track because metals can be melted down and jewels can be sold separately.
"Just as we get better, criminals get better at where to sell their items without being identified so it's a constant game of cat and mouse unfortunately," said Garrett.

Sotheby's London Auctions Off Stolen Renoir Painting


Japanese cops notorious in art world for neglecting to report thefts in international databases

Stolen Renoir illustrates police failure

A painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir sold in February at Sotheby’s auction house in London for a little more than £1 million (around ¥150 million).
The price set no records and the work is not especially famous, but what has now made this sale notable is that the painting appears to have been stolen from a Japanese collector more than 10 years ago.
In August 2000 the unnamed collector told the police that Renoir’s “Madame Valtat” and five other expensive paintings had been stolen from his residence. Little was heard about the stolen paintings until “Madame Valtat” was listed for a Feb. 5 auction of impressionist art.
Sotheby’s said by email that inquiries had been made to the seller regarding acquisition of the painting and that the seller “provided representations and warranties that they were the rightful owner of the property and that it could be sold free from any third-party claims.”
Sotheby’s also said it was in discussions with the parties involved but refused to disclose whether police authorities were a part of these discussions.
Despite checks that have been put in place to prevent stolen art from slipping through the net, it appears the painting was not placed on global stolen art registers such as those compiled by Interpol and the Art Loss Register, a private organization funded in part by auction houses and insurance companies that specializes in tracking and mediating cases of stolen art.
According to the ALR’s chief investigator, Christopher Marinello, failing to register on these databases makes it much more difficult to keep track of stolen art because auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s often rely on items being registered when carrying out their checks.
Marinello said Japan in particular is behind the curve in sharing information about stolen art.
Some 270,000 items are listed on the ALR’s register, which includes information from Interpol and the FBI’s stolen art databases. Around 400 Renoir items alone are on the register. Overall, it sees approximately 10,000 new items listed each year. Only 31 items, however, have been listed from Japan, which Marinello described as “one of our weakest areas.”
He said the issue stems partly from language and time zone differences, but he also suggested that Japanese police could do more.
“There is a language difference, but in today’s world that shouldn’t make much of a difference,” he said.
“Police forces all over Japan should be reporting works of art to Interpol at the very least and a private central database of stolen art that will actively check the marketplace to locate the items.”
Marinello noted that despite the minimal number of items registered from Japan, Japanese collectors who had listed with the ALR had been “very successful” in recovering their stolen items.
The ALR sifts through listings from auctions and fairs around the world in the hunt to track down stolen items, and although recovery rates are not especially high — 5 to 10 percent — Marinello believes this rate is improving due to an increasing number of listings being posted on the Internet.
Items can often be recovered many years after the theft, with some pieces being recovered 25 years after the initial loss. But for Marinello the key to successful recovery is making sure stolen items are listed quickly. He said it becomes difficult for police to make arrests in older cases where statutory limitations may come into play and witnesses may have disappeared.
While Marinello believes that the Japanese police could be more proactive in listing stolen artwork, he also feels the ALR could also do more to advertise its services in Japan and other parts of Asia.
He hopes that in the future, he can help to spread the word in this region through seminars and other events.

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