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Friday, January 29, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Oops, Casson Case Cracked !!!!!!!

Missing painting is the real deal

It was the old switcheroo. All that remains at the Barrie

Art Club is a copy of AJ Casson's 50-year-old gift to the club.

Barrie Art Club members have a sneaking suspicion that sometime during the last couple of months someone replaced their original AJ Casson painting with the copy they kept on display.

When members wanted to show visiting Orillia-area artist Dave Beckett the original last week, it was nowhere to be found.

On Thursday, Gary Owen of Gary Owen Custom Framing, examined the one that they do possess.

"It's the print," he confirmed. "They mixed up some wires."

AJ Casson was a later member of the famed Canadian artists, The Group of Seven.

In 1959 he conducted a workshop for the Barrie Art Club, creating the 9x12-inch 'House and Hills' oil sketch. When he was done, he signed it and donated it to the club.

It has since remained in the Barrie Art Club's permanent collection, with about two dozen other paintings.

"There are a lot of possibilities," said art club vice-president Carol Mueller. "We had the original in safe keeping and the copy was on display."

Or so they thought.

Casson was a prolific painter and he lived a long time. He died in 1992 at the age of 94. His catalogue is filled with paintings of landscapes and towns throughout Central Ontario.

"I think he was pretty active, so there's a lot of them around," said Owen, who has framed some of Casson's originals over the years.

Barrie police expect to conduct an exhaustive investigation.

"We have a fairly heavy task of: A -Determining when this painting was stolen; and B - Who stole it," said Barrie Police Sgt. Robert Allan.

What police believe may have happened is that someone took the original out of storage and replaced it with the copy.

Police expect to talk with members of the club to help find some of those answers. But they're also hoping to reach out into the local art community for help.

The painting was assessed at $25,000 in 2002. Allan said its value has been estimated at anything between $25,000 and $60,000.

"It's going to be a long, difficult road unless we get co-operation from the public and the art community," said Allan.

Interestingly, Casson often leant his expertise to investigators with the Ontario Provincial Police. An enterprising counterfeiter in the 1960s realized there was good money to be made on Group of Seven paintings, even if they weren't really done by the artists.

An OPP inspector by the name of Erskins teamed up with Casson to look at paintings that were attributed to the Group of Seven.

"Erskins and Casson would show up to authenticate a painting and there would be a dinner party going on, in their honour," said Chris Jackson, a freelance Orillia curator who has worked with Kleinburg's McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Glenbow art gallery in Calgary. "Casson said he never found a fake Casson."

Jackson curated an exhibit of AJ Casson three years ago. When it arrived at Barrie's Maclaren Art Centre, he met with the Barrie Art Club and Casson's 'House and Hills' went on display for the show's duration in Barrie.

The Group of Seven subconsciously divided up the country among themselves. And other than their focus on Algonquin Park and Algoma, Casson thought Ontario was under represented.

"He basically carved out Ontario as his bailiwick for all his career," said Jackson.

He considered himself a recorder of small-town Ontario. And along his travels, he would put on demonstrations for art clubs, like the one he did in Barrie in 1959. And, often, he would leave a memento of his visit behind.

While the painting would be valuable to the club, it's not likely Casson would have considered selling it, because it was more of an oil sketch completed for demonstration purposes than a complete painting, said Jackson.

But since the members have all passed on, all their work is considered valuable.

The painting also provides a direct connection between Barrie, the art club and the famed painter.

The value of the art of the Group of Seven has steadily increased in the past decade alone, Jackson said.

Art Hostage Comments:
Sometimes it's not good to be right, says Art Hostage smiling like a Cheshire Cat !!!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Group of Seven, Now Six !!!!

Local art club's Group of Seven work stolen art-theft.html#ixzz0dvIhXlr8

The local art club in Barrie, Ont., is reeling after discovering that its cherished painting by Group of Seven member A.J. Casson has been stolen.

Officers are investigating the theft of the Casson work House and Hills, which was reported stolen by the Barrie Art Club this week, police announced on Wednesday.

"Forensic police specialists have attended to the scene and processed the location for evidence," according to a police statement.

Barrie, about 90 kilometres north of Toronto, founded its art club in 1949. The non-profit organization maintains a small gallery, hosts exhibits and holds sessions with visiting artists.

Toronto-born Casson, who was the youngest member of the Group of Seven, visited the club in 1959 to conduct a painting workshop and demonstration. By the end of the session, he had completed an original work — described as a pastoral farm scene set against a stormy sky, which he titled House and Hills — and gifted the painting to the art club.

The work, appraised at $25,000 in 2002, has rarely been seen outside of the Barrie area and was a prized component of the club's approximately 20-piece art collection.

The group also owns a giclée — a type of high-quality, ink-jet printed duplicate of a fine art piece — of House and Hills and members initally believed it was the copy that had been stolen.

Though the club has enlisted an art expert to examine the version still at the club, president Shaaron Hayman-Howard told reporters that she believes the remaining artwork to be the giclée rather than the original.

Barrie police said they are "seeking the assistance of the public in regards to the location of [this] precious piece of Canadian art."

Read more:

Art Hostage Comments:

Darryl Vincent, Ray Hobin, Lawyer Michael Morse, all in the frame as the usual suspects.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Return of the Scott !!!!

Stolen painting returned in the night

Workers at Edinburgh's Signet Library found the raided watercolour hanging outside on railings

A painting which was stolen from an historic Edinburgh Library has been returned anonymously in the night.

The work of art, entitled 'I Cannae Hear Ye', was found hanging on a railing outside the Signet Library when a staff member arrived for work at 8.15am on Thursday.

The watercolour by Borders artist Tom Scott had been snatched from the library earlier this month.

The painting was discovered hanging on a railing outside the library at 8.15am this morning by a member of staff.

Lothian and Borders Police confirmed the work of art was safe, but said the investigation into its initial theft was continuing.

A police spokesman said: "Obviously, we are delighted for the library that the painting has been returned.

"Nevertheless, we still must establish whether any criminality was involved when the painting was taken.

"Anyone with information that can assist with our enquiries should contact police immediately."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Stolen Painting, Lawyers, Scotland, DeJa Vu !!!

A valuable painting has been stolen from a library used by some of Scotland's most senior lawyers.

The watercolour was taken over the New Year from the historic Signet Library in Edinburgh, home of the country's legal establishment.

The Signet Library is in Parliament Square off the Royal Mile and houses The Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet, an independent body of lawyers.

It is one of the oldest professional bodies in the world.

The library is a favourite venue for prestigious functions and played host to a New Year party for 200 people.

Sometime between then and 5 January, the watercolour, 'I Cannae Hear Ye' by Borders artist Tom Scott, was stolen.

It is valued at up to £4,000.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "This has been an opportunistic theft of a relatively expensive piece of artwork, and we are eager to ensure it is returned to the library.

"Anyone who has any information that can assist our inquiries should contact police immediately."

Tom Scott lived between 1854 and 1927 and mainly painted landscapes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Clawed Monet Survives the Switch !!!

Police have found Claude Monet’s painting Beach at Pourville, stolen nine years ago and worth millions of dollars.

The painting has been found in Olkusz, southern Poland - 41-year-old Robert Z., suspected of the theft, has been detained.

Beach at Pourville was stolen on 19 September 2000 from the National Museum in the western city of Poznan. The painting, worth from 3 to 7 million dollars, located in the Monet exhibition room, was not properly protected – there were no CCTV cameras in the room and the paintings were not in glass cases. The thief cut the painting out of the frame and replaced it with a forgery. -
Beach at Pourville is the only painting by Claude Monet in a Polish art collections. It was painted in 1882 and is one of a series of canvases that depict a seascape of Pourville. The museum in Poznan, then in Germany, bought the painting in 1906.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Gerald Blanchard, The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling, Oh Danny Boy !!!!

Super-thief eyes career as security consultant

A man described by Canadian police as one of the most sophisticated criminal masterminds they've ever seen is grooming himself for a new career as a security consultant.

Freshly released from prison and now living at a Vancouver halfway house, Gerald Blanchard was the linchpin behind an international fraud and theft ring that stole millions from banks and financial institutions.

Facing more than 40 charges when police caught up with him in 2007, Blanchard pleaded guilty to 16 of those charges in a Winnipeg court. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in the case that involved global heists and unconfirmed links to Kurdish rebels. Blanchard admitted several capers were carried out on behalf of a mysterious figure known as "The Boss." The Canadian lived a jet-set lifestyle under several assumed identities, using elaborate disguises and high-tech surveillance equipment to empty cash machines from banks around the world

Hurting corporations
In one audacious theft, he posed as a tourist in a Vienna castle before swiping the priceless Star of the Empress Sisi from an encased display — leaving a gift-shop replica in its place. The 19th-century diamond-and-pearl heirloom was later found stashed at the home of one of Blanchard's relatives in Winnipeg.

"I felt guilty to a certain extent, but my reasoning behind it at the time was I'm not hurting individuals, I'm hurting corporations," Blanchard told CBC News in an exclusive interview.

Aside from orchestrating robberies at financial institutions in Alberta, Manitoba, and B.C. — including the Alberta Treasury Branch — Blanchard's criminal organization made an overseas trip on behalf of a London-based man officials and court records describe only as "The Boss."

Heard on a police wiretap, Blanchard received a call from the United Kingdom, said Winnipeg police Det. Larry Levasseur.

"Basically the boss told him how quickly can you get your crew together? I have a job for you to do in Cairo," said Levasseur.

In Cairo, Blanchard's crew withdrew wads of cash using stolen bank cards. In just over a week they took more than $1 million. The funds were believed to have been used to finance Kurdish rebels.

Uncommonly gifted
Police described Blanchard as charming and uncommonly gifted at what he did.

He was eventually arrested by Winnipeg police who were investigating the brazen theft at a CIBC branch in which $500,000 was stolen from the bank the day before its grand opening.

Blanchard had stolen blueprints for the new bank, and defeated the security system on the ATMs by installing his own electronic surveillance equipment in the walkway behind them. With pinhole cameras and listening devices in the ATM room, he knew the coast was clear.

But he slipped up when another business owner noticed a rented van – hired in Blanchard's name – in the parking lot near the bank. Still, it took police three years to catch up with him.

While in Austria on a 1998 honeymoon he was introduced to the Sisi Star.

"The person who gave us the tour explained that this there's only two diamonds like this in the world and it was priceless," said Blanchard, who admits that it was his level of surveillance and patience that made him not simply a good thief but a great one.

"I just had the ability to look around me and realize where the flaws are in everything. That's why I was so good at walking into a bank, looking around and knowing exactly where the flaws are and taking advantage of it."

Winnipeg police Det. Mitch McMormack said after he arrested Blanchard he was amazed at the criminal's ability to assemble and disassemble the type of locks used by banks.

"So I took him during one of our conversations a bag of parts of this lock. It was all apart. And it was like watching a person with a Rubik's Cube that could actually solve it. In a matter of a couple of minutes he put springs and screws all back together, spun the dial on that thing, and charged it up. I've never seen anything like it."

No one is exactly sure just how much stolen money went through Blanchard's hands. But inspired by the sentencing judge at his trial, who said Blanchard might have made good money consulting for the banks he stole from, the long-time crook said he's now focused on the straight and narrow.

Discussions about legitimate security consulting are underway, but Blanchard said he can't provide details due to confidentiality agreements.

Art Hostage Comments:

So much to say, but this will do for a start, below, four versions of Danny Boy, Mario Lanza to Eva Cassidy:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Art Theft in the Spotlight !!!

France battles theft of cultural treasures

PARIS, Jan 10, 2010 (AFP) - French police colonel Stephane Gauffeny started the year with a heavy caseload.

His job: investigating the theft of art and treasures in France, one of the best-endowed and most stolen-from countries in the world, which was struck by two major crimes in the week after Christmas alone.

In the first, a picture by Edgar Degas worth 800,000 euros (1.14 billion dollars) was unscrewed from the walls of a museum in Marseille.

The colourful pastel of performing singers, titled "The Chorus", was on loan from the Musee d'Orsay, Paris's eminent museum of Impressionist art.

Three days later, police discovered the theft of some 30 paintings valued at around a million euros, including works by Picasso and Rousseau, from a private villa in the south.

Both cases crossed Gauffeny's desk at the government's cultural theft investigations squad, where he oversees national efforts to "identify stolen objects and beat the traffickers."

"It's an enormous job -- a fascinating job," the stocky gendarme told AFP, sipping milky coffee at a Paris cafe after a morning of meetings.

Local and foreign thieves have for years been targeting the collections in French museums, churches and private homes, exploiting a rich cultural heritage that draws millions of foreign visitors a year.

In last year's highest profile case, thieves broke into a museum devoted to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in central Paris and stole a book of his pencil drawings valued by the government at three million euros.

Gauffeny says thefts have declined by a factor of four in the past decade as thieves look for loot that is easier to sell and France has stiffened penalties for those convicted of stealing objects classed as cultural assets.

But this still left 2,000 thefts across the country in 2008, according to his figures.

"We concentrate our energy on the biggest thefts or the biggest criminal rings," Gauffeny said, citing an ongoing investigation of auctioneers at the renowned Drouot auction house in Paris.

Two Drouot brokers were charged last month after police recovered more than 100 artworks, including a painting by the 19th-century artist Gustave Courbet, "Seascape Under Stormy Skies", worth 900,000 euros.

Gauffeny said it was a huge case and "extremely rare", possibly involving scores of insiders -- a different class of crime from the armed robberies or opportunistic thefts that his unit has dealt with in the past.

"We have put all our investigative resources into it," he said.

The cross-border police agency Interpol, based in Lyon, cites France and Italy as the two nations worst affected by the theft of precious artworks and antiques.

In August it launched an online catalogue of missing artefacts, which lists hundreds of paintings stolen in France as well as crucifixes, chalices and other treasures burgled from its churches over the decades.

"France has a relatively large national heritage," says Aline Le Visage, the representative in France for the Art Loss Register, a private firm that logs and identifies stolen objects for victims, dealers and other clients.

This abundance makes it "a country of choice" for art thieves -- and many great works are held not by museums but by private individuals, she said.

"There has been a slight fall in thefts over the past 10 years or so on a world level, but we have noticed a rise in thefts from private owners and also in galleries."

Robbers have struck at museums in Paris and other cities, sometimes in broad daylight, Gauffeny says, recalling various sting operations and cross-border hand-offs of stolen artworks, many of which quickly vanish abroad.

Police say major artworks are usually trafficked abroad, sometimes within days of being stolen -- most to neighbouring European countries, but sometimes as far as the United States and Japan, from where they are rarely recovered.

Demand follows the same general trends as the legal art market, and much art crime is carried out by insiders. "Most of the people fencing the items are art dealers," Gauffeny said.

Objects of lesser value often stay in France, sometimes held in reserve by the traffickers who quietly leak them back onto the market years later.

In one operation in 2008 in Marseille, Gauffeney said, police infiltrated a ring of thieves and seized paintings by Monet and Sisley after posing as buyers who wanted to take the works to the United States.

In another, near Lyon, an investigation into antique-dealing circles led police to a vast haul of stolen goods in a storage space spanning hundreds of square metres.

Outside the big city museum cases, Gauffeny and other experts say most of the crimes hit softer targets: unsecured provincial venues, churches and homes.

Didier Rykner, a fine art specialist who monitors thefts on his online journal La Tribune de l'Art, said many works are at risk in run-down, unguarded museums on which authorities are unwilling to spend money.

"In my opinion the problem of theft is more serious in churches than in museums. There are major works in churches and they are less well guarded," he said.

"Yet the more valuable a work is, the harder it is to sell, because everyone knows the object."

Some of the biggest cases, such as last year's stolen Picasso, nevertheless remain unsolved, leaving plenty of work for Gauffeny's department and its huge database of stolen items.

"We are always particularly on the look-out for national treasures," said Gauffeny, while for minor or privately-owned artefacts, "the rate of recovery is low."

The fight to recover cultural relics is "a really fascinating job, full of emotion," he added.

"When you return objects stolen from a church, the whole village comes out to see you."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Cartier to Cash !!!!

France armed gang steals millions
5 January 2010

A gang armed with rifles and explosives has stolen several million euros from an armoured van which was transporting the cash to a bank in southern France.

About a dozen masked robbers used several cars to block the van in the village of Gemenos, near Aubagne.

Reportedly armed with kalashnikovs, the gang then used explosives to blow open the doors of the vehicle and break into its security boxes.

The Sazias security van was said to be carrying a total of 8m euros (£7.1m).

The robbers were only able to break into two of four security boxes, making off with around half of the money being transported, said a spokesman for Sazias.

After a brief shootout with local police, the gunmen escaped and their vehicles were found later on Monday, abandoned and torched.

"This was a very organised gang," Marseille prosecutor Jacques Dallest was quoted as saying by AFP.

"They were able to break into the van using explosives, which suggests that they had serious means at their disposal."

The van had been heading to Toulon to deposit cash at a Banque de France branch.

In 2007, some 10m euros were stolen from a Sazias van in Gemenos.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Picasso, Rousseau Follows Degas into the Underworld, 2010 Off to a Flyer !!!!

Around 30 paintings, including works by Picasso and Rousseau, valued at around a million euros (1.4 million dollars), have been stolen from a private villa in the south of France
Picasso, Rousseau paintings stolen in France

(AFP) – 2 hours ago

DRAGUIGNAN, France — Around 30 paintings, including works by Picasso and Rousseau, valued at around a million euros (1.4 million dollars), have been stolen from a private villa in the south of France, police said Saturday.

But a Modigliani initially believed to be part of the haul has since been found, police in Toulon said.

The villa's French owner was holidaying in Sweden at the time of the break-in, which was discovered by the caretaker on Thursday afternoon.

Police said the owner had returned home to carry out an inventory of his collection to establish the exact loss.

The reported burglary in La Cadiere d'Azur comes after a pastel by Degas disappeared from the Cantini museum in Marseille on New Year's Eve. The 1877 pastel worth 800,000 euros had been lent for an exhibition by Paris' Orsay museum. Related article: Watchman questioned over stolen Degas

The painting had been unscrewed from the wall and there was no evidence of a break-in, police said, indicating the thief or thieves knew how to get round the museum's security system.

Stolen Art Watch, Degas, Guard in the Frame !!

'Guard behind Edgar Degas artwork theft'§ionid=3510212

A security guard has been arrested in connection with the theft of a painting by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas which was stolen from a museum in Marseilles in southern France, a public prosecutor says.

“A night watchman at the Musee Cantini has been apprehended in connection with the disappearance of Edgar Degas's very expensive painting,” Marseille public prosecutor Jacques Dallest said on Friday.

He, however, did not say if the artwork had been recovered.

The disappearance of “Les Choristes (The Chorus)" was discovered when the museum opened on Thursday morning.

The art piece is worth an estimated 800,000 euros ($1.15 million). Local media had originally said it was worth an estimated 30 million euros.

The Musee d'Orsay had loaned The Chorus to the Cantini gallery for an exhibition on the work of Degas. The show was due to close on Sunday before touring to Italy and Canada.

The Chorus, which dates from 1877, is a small work in bright pastels portraying a row of male choir singers on stage.

It was one of many works loaned out by the Musee d'Orsay in recent months to raise money.

Marseille Police Let Watchman Go in Degas Theft

Deepening the mystery over the theft of a valuable painting by the 19th-century French artist Edgar Degas, the police in Marseille on Friday released a night watchman who had been detained for questioning the day before.
He was on duty when the work, valued at about $1.15 million, vanished from the Cantini Museum there. The piece, “The Chorus,” a small pastel that shows singers performing on a theater stage, was missing when the museum opened on Thursday, and there was no sign of a break-in.
It was one of about 20 Degas works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition of paintings with theatrical themes. It was to close on Sunday and travel this year to Italy and Canada.
Art Hostage Comments:

You pay peanuts, you get Monkey's.
Low paid guards are easily corrupted