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Monday, August 25, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Bought at a Garage Sale, Bullshit Wins Sometimes !!

A case of conflicting principles that's as good as gold

Judge decides how to split up the booty when the protection of property and protection of commercial transactions collide

Published: Monday, August 25, 2008
Finder's keepers? Even if it's rare Swedish gold coins worth nearly $200,000, the kid's rhyme guides the law unless there's proof of ownership.

With that kind of reasoning, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler has turned an October 2005 West Vancouver Police bust on its head and handed a valuable gold coin back to a woman whose mother bought a handful at a garage sale for $5.

"This case raises squarely the conflict between two principles, protection of property and protection of commercial transactions," Justice Butler said, splitting the antique booty between the daughter and a collector.

Three years ago, the North Shore force trumpeted a sting operation in which a Langley man was nabbed apparently trying to sell five coins minted in the 17th and 18th centuries supposedly stolen in 1994.

The original "crime" had been rendered a cold case until the Royal Coin Cabinet in Sweden -- a division of the Museums of National Antiquities in Stockholm --received an e-mail in 2005 offering the coins for sale.

Two were larger and unique, a 1735 five-ducat and 1643 three-ducat Kristina Riga. There were also a one-ducat Riga dated 1646, a one-ducat Gustav II Adolph dated 1632 and a one-ducat Karl XII from 1701. Staff at the museum checking their provenance discovered the 11-year-old alert and called the owner, Klas-Olof Algard, a well-known currency specialist from Sweden who moved to B.C. in 1987. He claimed the coins were stolen from him. West Vancouver police were summoned and an officer posing as a coin appraiser from the museum arranged to meet the would-be coin seller at the Pan Pacific Hotel. They arrested a 63-year-old man who showed up with the delicate, wafer-thin discs of gold then worth about $165,000.

Algard always maintained that a briefcase containing the coins was swiped Oct. 27, 1994 from an Ambleside clothing store as he did errands before catching a plane to Europe. But Justice Butler decided Friday that didn't happen and that is was more likely Algard lost his briefcase in the rush of trying to get things done.

The man trying to sell the coins was not some crook but actually a representative of Stephanie Manning, whose mother bought them at an eastside garage sale in 2000.

Manning's mother died of cancer in 2004 and her dad gave her the coins.

That's when she became curious, did a bit of research and figured she'd become an Antiques Roadshow winner. She asked a friend to make inquiries about selling the coins and he called the museum in Sweden.

After his arrest, she sued to have the coins returned, saying they were rightfully hers.

And proving ownership of the coins proved more complicated than expected because Algard gave police different, conflicting statements over the years.

In 1994, he said seven coins were stolen; later he said it was four, then in 2005, after they turned up, he said five were taken. There were other anomalies.

And unfortunately, in March 2006, shortly after the coins were returned to him, Algard died before he could clear up those questions.

Manning said that her mother purchased the coins in good faith.

An archaic section of B.C.'s commercial law states: "If goods are sold in market overt, according to the usage of the market, the buyer acquires a good title to the goods, as long as they are bought in good faith and without notice of any defect or want of title on the part of the seller."

But both parties in this case agreed that is a legal anachronism.

"I note as well that B.C. remains the only jurisdiction in Canada where the market overt section of the English Sale of Goods Act remains," Justice Butler added. "It was repealed in 1995 in the United Kingdom."

He relied instead on the principle reflected in the Latin maxim nemo dat quod non habet (literally "no one [can] give what one does not have"), that no one can transfer better title to goods than he or she possesses.

Where goods are lost or misplaced, the owner retains legal title and it is irrelevant Ovsenek bought the coins in good faith: The seller did not have the authority to sell the coins.

Justice Butler concluded that given the documentary evidence from 1994, Algard was the rightful owner of two one-ducat coins, the three-ducat and the five-ducat. But he said the estate had failed to establish the fifth coin belonged to him.

In the absence of proof of ownership, though, it's finder's keepers.

"I can infer that the [fifth] coin was lost with the other four coins," the judge concluded. "However, I cannot infer on the basis of the admissible evidence that it was owned by Mr. Algard."

As a result, the judge had no reason to void the garage sale transaction as it pertained to that ducat.

The coin, dated 1632, goes back to Manning.
Art Hostage would like to thank Mr Lawrence Chard for the use of the coin photo.
Chard are a leading coin and bullion dealer, based in Blackpool UK
The Chards website can be found here:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Bill Reid Theft, Danegeld This Time, What Next Time ??

Money paid for return of stolen art, RCMP say


From Thursday's Globe and Mail
August 21, 2008 at 3:59 AM EDT

VANCOUVER — The RCMP have confirmed that money was paid out in their investigation and recovery of stolen art from the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, but they won't say to whom the money went or where it came from, and they won't reveal the amount.

"I can't get into specifics other than to say it is not uncommon during a course of an investigation that a sum of money is paid for information," RCMP Constable Annie Linteau said yesterday.

The revelation followed an announcement yesterday that the final two missing works, both by iconic Haida artist Bill Reid, had been recovered by police - although one is not intact.

While police would not say whether the money was paid to an informant or someone believed to be involved in the theft, search warrant documents in the case indicate an attempt to claim the reward by an anonymous tipster - and a possible attempt by a suspect.

According to the documents, a suspect carrying a "full looking" Adidas bag made calls to the University of British Columbia (home of the Museum of Anthropology) from a pay phone on June 4 while under surveillance. The warrant states a belief that the person "was attempting to make contact with an unknown party at UBC, with whom he could discuss the stolen items and a possible reward for their return."

The documents also reveal an anonymous tipster - with a criminal background - was trying to obtain the $50,000 reward money offered by UBC and had hired a lawyer to negotiate the deal.

Constable Linteau said the money that was paid out was not the $50,000 reward, or the unspecified increase in the reward offered by the university's insurer.

The museum was broken into early on May 24 and 15 works were stolen - 12 of them created by Mr. Reid. All but one of the stolen Reid works were crafted from gold, leading to fears that the works might be melted down for their gold content (three gold-plated works of Mexican jewellery were also stolen).

Ten of the stolen Reid works and all of the Mexican pieces were recovered in raids at homes in Burnaby and New Westminster on June 8 and 9. Three people were taken in for questioning, but were released without being charged.

Constable Linteau said yesterday that RCMP are in the process of completing a report to Crown counsel in which they will be recommending charges "against an individual or individuals."

The two other stolen Reid works - a gold eagle brooch and an argillite pipe panel - were found on July 23 and Aug. 11, respectively. A five-centimetre section of the argillite panel is missing, and police are appealing for its recovery.

There is a passionate debate within cultural property circles over whether to offer a ransom for stolen art.

"I have mixed feelings on paying out rewards," Bonnie Czegledi, an art and cultural property lawyer in Toronto, said yesterday. "Right now there's a business whereby criminals are actually stealing with the hopes of being paid ransom rewards for what they steal.

"However, when there are only dead ends in a case, what do we do?"

Vancouver cultural philanthropist Michael Audain says he believes offering a reward can be necessary. "It is a fact that insurance companies are often successful in negotiating the recovery of stolen art works where law enforcement agencies may not be."

UBC spokesman Scott Macrae says museum staff are "absolutely overjoyed" with the way things have turned out.

"At the end of May, the prospect of receiving all of this back - with the exception of that piece of the argillite pipe - wouldn't have really been believable. So going from the fears that this could be melted down to recovering it has been just spectacular."

Bill Reid’s Stolen Art Finally Recovered

By Greg Joyce
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – They're all back – and all but one intact.
Three months after a stunning heist, the last two priceless works by renowned Haida artist Bill Reid have been recovered after they were stolen from a museum at the University of B.C.
“People at the museum are just overjoyed at getting this material back,” university spokesman Scott Macrae said Wednesday.
“There were fears that it could have been melted down.”
One item, a carved pipe, is broken and about five centimetres of the artwork – made from a black slate-like material called argillite – is still missing.
“Given Bill Reid's relationship with the Museum of Anthropology, the special connection with the material, to get it all back with the exception of this missing piece, is almost everything that could have been hoped for,” said Macrae.
The carved pipe is broken and about five centimetres of the artwork – made from a black slate-like material called argillite – is still missing.
RCMP Const. Annie Linteau said the Mounties aren't saying where the pipe or an intact eagle brooch made of gold were found, except that it was “in the Lower Mainland” along with the other pieces that were recovered in June.
Three people were arrested in June after 12 pieces by the Haida master were stolen – along with three artworks from Mexico – in the daring May 24 theft at the museum.
The gold eagle was recovered July 23 and the pipe Aug. 11, but Linteau said police didn't release the information at the time because of the ongoing investigation.
The three people arrested were released without charges but Linteau said the police report to Crown counsel will recommend charges against one or more people.
She also suggested at least one person connected to the theft is in custody on another matter.
“They are not in custody in relation to this investigation.”
The museum is set to close for major renovations at the end of August, said Macrae, and the Reid artwork, as well as all other art at the museum, won't be on display until March 2009.
The building will be bigger and will allow the museum “to work more closely with our aboriginal partners,” said Macrae.
Museum staff will also be undertaking a thorough examination of the recovered pieces.
“They are intact but whether there are some scratches and that sort of thing remains to be seen,” said Macrae.
UBC has increased security personnel and conducted a risk assessment to ensure appropriate security measures are in place, he said.
“Of course, for reasons of security, we need to keep those details to ourselves.”
Three Mexican jewelry pieces, also stolen and heavily damaged, remain in police hands, said Linteau.
Reid's most well-known work is a sculpture entitled the Spirit of Haida Gwaii.
It can be seen on the $20 bill, and versions of it are on display at the international terminal at Vancouver International Airport, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
The museum's expansion project will increase the size of the facility by 50 per cent and has a budget of $55.5 million.
Included in the expansion plans are a new exhibition gallery to allow the museum to bring major travelling shows to Vancouver.

Art Hostage comments:

Still many questions to be answered, even if the answers prove to be embarrassing !!
Rudyard Kipling Dane-Geld

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Bill Reid Theft 5cm from Conclusion !!

RCMP recover last two Bill Reid art pieces stolen during heist at UBC

VANCOUVER — The last two priceless works by artist Bill Reid have been recovered nearly three months after they were stolen from a museum at the University of B.C.

But one of the items, a carved pipe, is broken and about five centimetres of the artwork - made from a black slate-like material called argillite - is still missing.

Const. Annie Linteau of the RCMP's E Division in Vancouver says in a statement that investigators could not issue details of the recovery sooner to avoid compromising the investigation.

The Mounties aren't saying when the pipe or an intact eagle brooch made of gold were found.

Police are asking for information leading to the recovery of the final five centimetres of the pipe.

Three people were arrested in June after 10 pieces by the Haida master were stolen, along with three artworks from Mexico, in the daring May 24 heist at the Museum of Anthropology.

Last 2 stolen art pieces by Bill Reid recovered
RCMP have found the remaining two of a dozen pieces of Haida artist Bill Reid's work that were stolen about three months ago from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

A gold eagle brooch was recovered intact, but five centimetres of a carved argillite pipe were broken off and are still missing, RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau said Wednesday.

"We're asking anyone who has information about the whereabouts of the missing piece to please call police immediately," Linteau told CBC News in a telephone interview.

Twelve of Reid's works, displayed in glass-enclosed, stone showcases were stolen overnight on May 23. They included bracelets, brooches and cufflinks. Three golden-coloured Mexican art objects also vanished.

Police found 10 of Reid's stolen pieces and the three Mexican items in June at two residences in the Vancouver suburbs of Burnaby and New Westminster. Three people were arrested and then released at the time.

The last two pieces were found in two separate searches on July 23 and Aug. 11. Linteau didn't reveal the locations at which the artworks were recovered.

"We're continuing our investigation. We're in the process of completing a report to Crown counsel in which we'll be recommending charges against an individual or individuals," she said.

Police expect to submit the report to Crown lawyers in the next couple weeks, she said.

All the recovered Reid pieces have been returned to the Museum of Anthropology and will be examined to determine suitability for exhibition when the museum re-opens in March next year, police said.

The three Mexican jewelry pieces, which were heavily damaged, remain in police hands.

Art Hostage comments:

The drip, drip, affect of releasing information about the recovery of the Bill Reid icons may soon turn into a torrent.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Tate Gallery Worship of Mammon !!

The Reappointment of Nicholas Serota
Betrayal of Trustees at the Tate


The trustees of the Tate gallery have just announced the reappointment of Sir Nicholas Serota as director. In their enthusiasm they failed to mention this to the prime minister, whose approval is required under the Museums and Galleries Act. It is symptomatic of a culture at the museum which lacks proper accountability and which the Department of Culture, Media and Sport declares it administers “at arm’s length”.

It is also symptomatic of the power that Serota wields over the trustee board. He does not appoint trustees, but attends interviews “in an advisory capacity”. This is astonishing, as the trustee board is his employer. The appointment of those sympathetic to his views – or those who have a good reason not to oppose his views – becomes ever easier to achieve, as the interview panel for new trustees are current trustees, whose appointment he has in the past “advised” on: he has had twenty years to get the advice right.

Serota’s ability to achieve his aims is apparent in the trustee minutes recording the purchase of Tate trustee Chris Ofili’s work The Upper Room (over which the Tate was eventually censured for breaking the law by the Charity Commission). The purchase came about because “The Trustees accepted Sir Nicholas Serota’s argument” that it should do. The only serious doubt, over a possible drop in value of the work, was made by Jon Snow (a journalist by trade), seconded in an exchange arrangement from the National Gallery board, but “Nicholas Serota assured him this was not the case” and this pronouncement was the end of the matter.

Three of the twelve trustees are artists. At one time these were senior figures, whose reputations were secure and who had nothing to lose by speaking their mind, as opposed to artists in mid-career, who have a lot to gain from the Tate director’s approbation and a lot to lose from his disfavour. After ten years in office, Serota made this comment regarding the sculptor, Antony Caro: “Tony was well over 60 when he became a trustee. He was a very effective trustee, actually. He cared passionately about certain things and was a powerful force...but it just seems to work better when you have artists who are a new generation, or indeed erring on the younger side, really."

All artist trustees during Serota’s tenure have had works acquired by the gallery, in one case fifty works. Thomas Hoving, former director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had this to say on the Tate’s acquisition of Ofili’s work: "To think they thought there's not even a perception of a conflict … For goodness' sake, it's so obvious.”

The Tate was equally blind to an obvious conflict of interest with the appointment to trusteeship of Melanie Clore, whose four year term finished recently. She is Board Director and Deputy Chairman, Sotheby's Europe, and its Co-Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Worldwide. In a two year period she “left the room” three times at trustee meetings over conflicts of interest. She was, however, present in the room on 15 November 2006, when Tate trustees were informed of a forthcoming major retrospective by artist (and former trustee) Peter Doig to take place the following February – an event bound to boost his prices. The day before the trustee meeting, a Doig painting with an upper estimate of £1.5 million had sold at Sotheby’s for only £445,000. Nine days after the trustee meeting, The New York Times reported that Sotheby’s had bought seven Doigs from Charles Saatchi for $11 mil­lion. Doig’s exhibition opened at the Tate on 5 February. On 7 February Sotheby’s auctioned one of its Doigs for £5,732,000.

Clore has said that the Sotheby’s purchase was completed about seven weeks before Doig’s show was announced at the trustee meeting (although it is not clear whether or not she had knowledge of the show prior to the meeting) and that she didn’t speak to anyone at Sotheby’s about the show until it was public knowledge. Even the fact that she is in the position of having to make that denial at all shows the lack of discrimination and responsibility in trustee selection at the gallery. Altogether, trustees “left the room” on ten occasions during a two year period, the chairman, Paul Myners, on two of them. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidelines warn against even the appearance of conflict of interest.

There is no evidence in the trustee minutes that the board is anything other than a rubber stamp for whatever proposals are put to it by the director. The realpolitik of the relationship between Serota and his nominal overseers was demonstrated during the recovery of two stolen Turner paintings in 2000 and 2002. The recovery of the Turners involved crucial decisions of ethics, legality and finance: £3.5 million was handed over to a somewhat murky destination to regain the works. The board of trustees take legal responsibility for the operations of the gallery, yet incredibly only two of the dozen trustees were informed of the details of the rescue operation (one of them not being Paul Myners, now the chairman), along with another then-Tate employee, Sandy Nairne, (who was rewarded with the Directorship of National Portrait Gallery as his Turner reward), and a representative of an insurance syndicate, (Mark Dalrymple).

The strength and independence of the trustee board has been eroded. It does not represent a balance of views and it does not represent the wider public, as it should. Far from fulfilling the legal requirement that “the director shall be responsible to the Board for the general exercise of the Board’s function”, the board has become the stooge of the director. There needs to be a government review and protocols established so that genuinely independent voices take trustee office. Regarding the current self-perpetuating coterie at the Tate, the obvious solution is an entirely new board to be chosen by an independent body, and the last person who should have a say in this is the Tate director.

Serota petition:

Charles Thomson is co-founder of the Stuckists art group

Art Hostage comments:

The Turner recovery may yet come back to haunt Demonic Old Nick Serota, his pet pooch Sandy Nairne and Mark Dalrymple. The German prosecutors office are still trying to get an indictment and European Arrest warrant issued.

The Tate Gallery is the House of Avarice whose worship of Mammon will prove to be the undoing of this once great institution.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Brazil Art Heist, Last Man Standing !!

Brazil police recover 2 more works from art heist

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian police have arrested a second suspect and recovered two more artworks that were stolen with two Picasso prints from Sao Paulo's Pinacoteca Museum in broad daylight in June.

Police said on Thursday they arrested Edmilson Silva do Nascimento, a 29-year-old bakery manager, at his home on Sao Paulo's east side on Wednesday night.

They found two of the stolen pieces, both the work of Brazilian artists, under his bed -- a print titled "The Couple" by Lasar Segall (1891-1957), and the painting "Women in a Window" by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976), one of Brazil's most renowned painters.

Together, they are worth about 1 million reais ($633,000), according to the Sao Paulo state Culture Secretariat.

The works were stolen on June 12 by three armed robbers, who calmly strolled into the Pinacoteca Museum and held security guards at gunpoint while they completed the heist.

They also made off with two prints by the late Spanish artist Pablo Picasso -- "The Painter and the Model" from 1963 and "Minotaur, Drinker and Women" from 1933.

Police arrested a suspect last month when they recovered "The Painter and the Model." A third suspect, who is believed to be in possession of "Minotaur, Drinker and Women," is still at large.

The robbery marked the second time in less than a year that works by Picasso were stolen from museums in the city. In December, his "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch" was snatched from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art along with "The Coffee Worker" by Candido Portinari, another prominent Brazilian artist.

Police recovered the paintings and arrested two suspects a few weeks later.

(Reporting by Marjorie Rodrigues; writing by Todd Benson; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Art Hostage comments:
Told you they were local.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Whitey Bulger in Donegal, Ireland, About to be Arrested !!

Art Hostage has learnt Whitey Bulger is reputed to be in Donegal, Ireland, Letterkenny perhaps, and law enforcement are closing in.

Law Enforcement are boasting Whitey Bulger will be arrested before the end of August 2008.

Now, is that with or without the stolen Gardner art, Vermeer in particular ??

H'm, we'll see !!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Caravaggio Frame Blowing in the Wind !!

ODESSA, Ukraine (Reuters Life!) - Art experts in Ukraine on Friday lamented the theft of a work by 17th century Italian artist Caravaggio from a museum, describing it as a cultural catastrophe for ex-Soviet states.

Staff at the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in the Black Sea port of Odessa discovered the painting, called the Taking of Christ, or the Kiss of Judas, missing, cut from its frame when they arrived at work on Thursday.

As the museum had been closed the previous day, the thieves could have struck any time from Tuesday evening.

Police said they entered through a window, bypassing an outdated alarm system by removing a pane of glass rather than breaking it. They then escaped across the museum's roof.

"This is a cultural catastrophe, a national tragedy. There is so little of art of such level in the former Soviet Union," said Vitaly Abramov, deputy head of a second museum in the city, the Odessa Art Museum.

"You cannot put a price on this and I am not talking about money here. It is, in every sense, priceless."

Auction houses in London declined to give a valuation of a Caravaggio.

Television pictures showed the window where the thieves had entered, its alarm disabled and its frame in bad repair.

"We came in here to find that the wind was blowing the blinds around through a window with no pane," Lyudmila Saulenko, the museum's deputy director told reporters.

"And where the painting had hung we just saw its stretcher. The painting had been removed from its frame."

The painting had been bought by a Russian ambassador to France and presented as a gift to a Russian prince before being turned over to the Odessa museum last century.

Doubts had been expressed about the painting's authenticity, but Soviet art experts in the 1950s confirmed the work was in fact by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It underwent restoration work in 2006.

A version of the same painting by Caravaggio hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

News reports said city police had been urging the museum to update its alarm system, dating from the mid-1990s, but the suggestion was turned down on financial grounds.

"Thefts, of course, do occur in great museums like the Hermitage (in St Petersburg) or the Louvre (in Paris)," Abramov said. "But the answer is to put in a truly effective alarm system and not postpone this."

(Writing by Ron Popeski and Paul Casciato)

Art Hostage comments:
Semion Mogilevich, criminal charges dropped, Caravaggio will surface.