Twitter share

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Lowry Tip Leads To Liverpool

Liverpool men charged as police seize stolen Lowry paintings

Two Merseyside men are due in court today after police netted LS Lowry paintings worth £1.7 million.

The haul of valuable paintings were discovered during a raid at two properties in Halewood and Belle Vue.

The works of art seized included the famous Tanker Entering the Tyne worth £600,00 and The Viaduct, thought to be worth £700,000.

They had been snatched during a violent raid at the home of art collector Ivan Aird's home in Cheadle, Stockport in 2007.

On Wednesday detectives from the North West Regional Crime Unit, with help from the Merseyside and Greater Manchester Police swooped on the two properties.

They also discovered three pencil drawings also taken in the robbery.

After questioning two men were charged with handling stolen goods.

Malcolm Shields, 41, from Arncliffe Road, Halewood, was due to appear at Liverpool magistrates’ court today charged with handling stolen goods and possession of Class A and B drugs with intent to supply.

Kevin Marlow, 32, of no fixed abode, was also charged with handling stolen goods and appeared at the magistrates court yesterday afternoon.

He was remanded in custody and will appear at Liverpool Crown Court on September 8.

Erin Edwards, 32, also from Arncliffe Road, Halewood, was charged over the drugs only and was due to appear alongside Shields today.

The Viaduct painting was previously owned by Star Wars actor Sir Alec Guinness.

All of the works stolen were in the private collection of Ivan Aird, who had
known LS Lowry as a boy.

During the violent knifepoint robbery Mr Aird and his wife Louise were tied up.

A total of 14 paintings and drawings were taken along with a palette and brush
set used by Lowry.

A man has already been jailed indefinitely for his part in the robbery in 2009.

Casey Miller, armed with a 10 inch knife burst into the Aird home, after Mrs
Aird answered the door holding their two-year-old daughter, Sabrina.

He threatened to kill the family while the rest of the gang searched the house
for valuable art works.

In a statement today Merseyside Police confirmed: "Detectives from the North
West Regional Organised Crime Unit, supported by officers from Merseyside
Police and Greater Manchester Police, have recovered a number of paintings,
Class B drugs and cash, as part of an investigation targeted at serious and
organised crime."

Walton pensioner who lectured kids on dangers of drugs jailed for £500k drugs operation

The day after Lowry paintings worth £2 million were recovered A PENSIONER who lectured children on the perils of getting into crime was sent to jail for helping to run a £500,000 drugs operation.

Convicted dealer Brian Barrett, 72, went straight for 13 years and would visit South Liverpool youth clubs giving talks about the dangers of getting involved with drugs.

But Barrett was yesterday jailed for six years for his involvement in a plot to supply heroin and cocaine.

The conspiracy was run by ringleader John Shields, 37, whose garage in Charnock Road, Fazakerley, was central to the operation. (Malcolm Shields 41 was arrested the day before with the £2 million Lowrys)

There officers uncovered a hydraulic press used to package controlled drugs.

Shields, of Twigden Close, Fazakerley, will be sentenced on Monday, reflecting the recovery of the £2 million Lowry's. But Judge Brian Lewis yesterday jailed six of his co-conspirators, including Barrett and others, who acted as couriers and provided safe houses.

Judge Lewis said: “The abuse of controlled drugs is the greatest social problem of our time. Young lives are permanently scarred by failing health, permanent unemployability and sometimes, tragically, early death. Families are broken, communities are blighted and drug addicts turn to anti-social behaviour and crime.”

Judge Lewis told the six men that as parents they should imagine how they would feel if their children were “led down the path of deception by some sleazy and greedy drug dealer”.

Jailing Barrett, Judge Lewis said he was “somebody who makes things happen or makes thing happen more easily. You were in a managerial capacity.” The judge said it was clear “facilitator” Barrett was involved in plots to supply drugs in Scotland and in Norfolk. On May 1, last year, Barrett, of Albany Road, Walton, was also spotted at the garage using the hydraulic press, which days later tested positive for cocaine and heroin.

David McLachlan, defending Barrett, told how he was born in Walton prison at the start of WWII and was now finding himself back there at the end of his days. He told how the pensioner had gone clean after having a son 13 years ago.

He said: “He would hold talks at youth clubs to deter them from choosing the life he did and regrettably the life he has gone back to.”

Mr McLachlan told how Barrett, who did not have a luxurious life, was involved in helping autistic youngsters.

Simon Christie, prosecuting, told how among the other conspirators former taxi driver Peter McCreith, 36, was a courier and Richard Reay, 32, delivered drugs to the north, including Preston and Carlisle.

Mark Beesley, 40, acted as a driver for Shields, who had lost his licence. David Hemmings, 34, was found to be minding £20,000 of amphetamine and 13.5kg of cannabis worth £67,000, and Kevin Keegan, 36, was found to have a £24,000 cannabis farm in his own home.

Judge Lewis jailed Beesley, of Sandpiper Close, Bolton, who admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and was also found with a banned CS gas canister, for four years. McCreith, of Birchfield Road, Lydiate, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell a class B drug, and Reay, of Cramlington, Northumberland, who admitted supplying controlled drugs, were both jailed for 16 months. Keegan, of Charlton Close, Runcorn, who admitted producing cannabis, and Hemmings, of Orlando Street, Bootle, who admitted conspiring to supply class B drugs and possessing it with intent, were both jailed for 18 months.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Rhino Horn Targeted

Ipswich: Rhino horn theft sparks major inquiry

POLICE were today hunting a gang of thieves who broke into Ipswich Museum overnight and stole the horn from the iconic exhibit Rosie the Rhino.

It follows a number of similar thefts from other museums in Europe – and the thieves also stole another rhino skull.

Rhino horn is widely prized in Chinese medicine for its alleged aphrodisiac qualities – and the value of it is said to be twice that of gold.

The museum opened late today once police had finished their investigations – but it was revealed that the horn would be useless as an aphrodisiac.

Peter Berridge, from the museum management team, said it dated from the Victorian era and that a cocktail of chemicals would have been used to preserve it.

He said: “We don’t know for certain what was used, but it may well have included large amounts of arsenic.

“The alleged powers of rhino horn are completely mythical and this one is likely to do much more harm than good to anyone who tries taking it!”

Council director with responsibility for culture Jonathan Owen said the museum’s security had been kept under review because officials had been aware of other similar thefts.

Museums in Florence, Brussels, and Liege in Belgium had been targeted in recent months.

But Mr Owen said the Ipswich Museum was regarded as secure: “We had an inspection by the museums watchdog fairly recently and we passed with flying colours.”

The raiders entered by breaking through a door at the back and spent only four or five minutes in the building before making off with the horn and skull. Nothing else was taken or damaged.

Councillor with responsibility for leisure and culture Bryony Rudkin said the loss would cause a great deal of sadness across the town.

She said: “People love this museum and its exhibits. The rhino especially – back in the 1960s there was a competition to name it and it became Rosie the Rhino.

“We were determined to get the museum open as soon as we could, so as soon as the police had finished we opened the doors and there was quite a crowd outside.”

She said that whatever happens Rosie would have a new horn back before long.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Jean-Baptiste Oudry "White Duck" In Play

The Jean-Baptiste Oudry "White Duck" from Houghton Hall is the current topic and those who would return this artwork want to get paid for doing so.

Those who are trying to recover this artwork want to recover it without paying a single penny and Police would like to make arrests.

Reality check: Those who say they represent the Marquess of Cholmondeley or the Insurers could and should be Undercover Police and those who say they can recover the White Duck, do so in the knowledge of who currently holds the painting.

No-one is who they appear to be and so it will be interesting to hear of Police swooping at the first glimpse of the Jean-Baptiste Oudry "White Duck" or alternatively the failure to secure the vital glimpse and the Jean-Baptiste Oudry "White Duck" will remain outstanding.

Sting operations like these are attempted all the time, its is only when they prove successful do they make the news. More often than not those trying to return the stolen art realise there is an Undercover Police Officer in their midst and quickly withdraw.

By the same token Law Enforcement would walk away if the deal made was iron clad, legally binding and authorised by a High Court Judge.

This is called the Duke of York syndrome, where parties march to the top of the hill, realise its a sting or a legally sanctioned recovery so march back down.

Three cases to consider, The Turners, recovered in Germany, the Titian recovered in London and the Da Vinci Madonna recovered in Glasgow.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Auction Jewellery, Lost In France

Break-in at Marseille auction house

Marseille, 26 July 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA)

Four robbers broke into a sales room at the Hôtel des Ventes Méditerranée in Marseille on 24 July 2011. In the course of the morning, they made away with the jewels and antiques on view, a few minutes before the sale was due to start.

According to the auction house, 83 pieces of jewellery and 75 antiques and African art objects worth several thousand euros were stolen after the thieves stormed in with hockey sticks. While two of the burglars waited outside on their motorbikes, two entered the sales room, threatened the twenty clients viewing the pieces as well as one of the auctioneers, who was already present for the imminent sale. The suspects made away with the contents of the safe and fled, all in the space of a few minutes.

The incident bears a bizarre resemblance to a robbery that took place in May, also in Marseille. The contents of the safe of the Service Régional des Domaines was also stolen the night before the set of precious jewels was due to be sold. The criminals made away with loot to the value of several hundred thousand euros.

Seeing that the two incidents are very similar and both took place in the southern parts of Marseille, the Banditry Repression Brigade is expected to take a strong interest in the affair.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Art Theft Reflects World Of Avarice !!

Toronto is ideally situated to harbour art thieves, so how do we prevent this from happening?

By David Chilton

Given Toronto’s climb to the upper reaches of regularly appearing lists of the fastest-growing this or the most-expensive that, it may seem Hogtown has come of age in the market for stolen art, too. It hasn’t, at least as far as anyone can tell, but that may soon change.

Any such change, though, will require a far more systematic approach to dealing with art theft. Police, dealers and collectors will have to collaborate to prevent a small industry here becoming larger. It will mean collecting stats, forming an art theft squad and, most of all, speaking out loud about a practice still not taken as seriously as it should be.

Toronto remains a smaller player in the $6-billion a year trade in stolen cultural property, even though there’s been a ramp-up in thefts in recent years. The latest was two weeks ago when five Group of Seven paintings and six other works with a total worth of almost $400,000 disappeared from a midtown gallery, although robberies began with the 2004 heist of ivory carvings worth $1.5-million from the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Of course, these are the spectacular thefts that make the news. Others don’t, for a variety of reasons, one of them being that most thefts are from private residences, such as the spate of burglaries in posh Lawrence Park late last year. It’s unlikely a householder would contact the media because his Jack Shadbolt painting has been stolen, although the police may. Similarly, about 85% of the thefts from museums are inside jobs, so curators may just want to get the art back then quietly fire the employee. As a result, under-reporting appears to be the norm. Add to this the fact Toronto Police and the RCMP’s Toronto detachment don’t have art theft squads.

Joshua Knelman, who’s written and researched extensively on art theft, says asking how much has been stolen in the city is essential to understanding the depth and scope of the problem and so devising strategies to counter it. Unfortunately, no one seems to have an answer. Once in a while, a blockbuster theft is reported, Knelman says, but asking how many times a year a Toronto gallery is robbed or how many times a year a stolen painting is reported to the police is difficult to know because such statistics aren’t collected systematically.

“In terms of basic information, we don’t have enough of it. I know from doing cursory visits to galleries around the GTA … if it’s a smaller gallery and there’s not very many people around, I’ll ask: ‘I’ve been writing a book on art theft and I’m wondering if you’ve had any experience of that.’ More often than not the answer has been ‘yes.’ ”

Bonnie Czegledi, a Toronto artist and lawyer who has made the art field her legal specialty, says there’s a surprising amount of legitimate art trading that goes on here. “We have major museums, major galleries, several art gallery districts, great communities of artists, very principled dealers and collectors. And, the big auction houses are here. There is a lot of trade, and with that comes the not-nice element.” That includes organized crime, and there’s no reason to think Toronto is excluded from it, Czegledi says.

These gangs may not be the traditional mafias running the traditional rackets, but they’re not the debonair chaps of fiction, either. Mark Durney, business and admissions director for the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art’s MA program in New York, says there are some thieves who are “art-motivated,” but most are interested in profit. Even Vincenzo Perugia, convicted of stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre 100 years ago this August, thought he could make money off the painting before switching tactics and claiming to be an Italian patriot.

All observers concede profit-oriented thieves could be anyone. Knelman won’t say who would be among the more likely suspects, although he warns against “knockers,” using the British word for an accomplice who walks up to a house and knocks on the front door hoping to win a glimpse inside. Czegledi is less circumspect, mentioning caregivers, gardeners and construction workers as the type of service providers who have easy access to private homes and thus opportunities to size up what’s on the wall.

And once a painting is stolen, what then? Where in Toronto does the thief sell his booty? That depends on his smarts. “Often the thieves don’t have the social or marketing skills to sell what they’ve stolen,” Durney says. Brains aren’t something Antonio Arch credits Toronto art thieves as having. “Only an imbecile would steal in this city,” says Arch, a consultant and dealer at Arch + Company Fine Arts in Toronto and Grand Cayman. For one thing, the market’s still too small to provide much cover, but he acknowledges hard economic times may drive some to crime.

It may be that stolen art can’t be fenced here, but that doesn’t mean the city is without its advantages for the dishonest. Toronto’s not far from New York City, a huge venue for art and the impressive money that chases it, says Knelman, whose book Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art (D&M Publishers) is out in September. Durney has a similar point of view. He compares Canada with Spain when it comes to shifting art. They both sit on the edge of massive markets with largely open borders and so make trafficking relatively easy and attractive. “Once a thief passes [a work] on, the trail gets a little more complex,” Knelman explains. Durney would agree. He conducted research on a private international database of 115,000 art objects stolen between 2000 and 2009. The recovery rate was just 1.9%.

The Art of the Steal - From Leonardo da Vinci to Picasso

Stories and history behind art theft

On the 4th of July – the country had a big birthday bash. The next day, somebody decided to celebrate by walking into a gallery in downtown San Francisco and stealing a Picasso drawing worth over a quarter of a million dollars.

Sketches by Picasso have been stolen before in California.

In 1967, the Summer of Love, pieces by him and sculptor Henry Moore, valued at $200,000, were stolen while on display from a travelling exhibit the University of Michigan put on. They were found at a California auction house a few years later.

The same year these sketches were discovered, thieves stole seven paintings from an art gallery on Madison Avenue. There were works by Monet, Pissarro, Cassatt, and Rouault. They were valued at half a million dollars, and art dealer Stephen Hahn was discussing art theft with other dealers at the time this theft occurred from his gallery.

In the centennial year of 1976 – more Picasso’s were stolen in France. The stolen items include drawings and 118 paintings from an exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon.

With this recent Picasso theft, cameras had video of him walking to a waiting cab, and when police raided the home of Mark Lugo – they found a Picasso drawing that was also stolen from a New York hotel – valued at $350,000 – as well as five other valuable paintings. Lugo was a sommelier and was charged with stealing $6,000 worth of wine for a store in April. His attorney claims he has “psychological issues.”

Those “issues” don’t have him stealing Charles Shaw from Trader Joe’s, but bottles of wine worth thousands each.

One expert on a news program said that if there were no video cameras, the burglar never would’ve been caught. I called a local company, Guardian Commercial Lock Service, to ask if video cameras were the best thing a gallery could use.

Jonathan Costa, one of the owners, said “The best way a business would be able to protect their merchandise at night would be to lock it up in vaults. It doesn't matter how well they have the art bolted to the walls. Everybody has heard of cases where the canvas is just cut right out of the frame and rolled up and taken out. We've installed vaults that jewelers put their items in overnight. Obviously you'd need a bigger vault for paintings, but they make bigger vaults. They have some the size of walk-in closets. With the smash-and-grab type of thefts, everything comes down to time. That could work in the burglars favor or against them. If it's going to take a thief eight hours to drill into a vault, they wouldn't spend the time doing it. If they're smashing a window or something to get in, alarms are going off and they don't have a lot of time. Basically, vaults are the best bet when it comes to protecting things.”

One of the earliest, well-known theft cases occurred in 1911. The Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by an employee. He was caught a few years later.

It always helps when a distraction nearby can help the criminals ply their trade.

On December 31, 1999, during the fireworks celebration for the millennium, a thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. They got away with a Cezanne landscape that was valued at close to $10 million. The description of the piece says it’s an important work because it illustrated the transition from early to mature Cezanne painting.

In 2003, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Benvenuto Cellini’s Saliera was stolen with the help of a scaffolding that covered the area due to reconstruction. Austrian police recovered it three years later.

At the time it was recovered, over in Rio de Janeiro, a blocked view was used again for a theft from the Museu da Chacara do Ceu. A carnival parade was passing by the museum when they made their break in, and they disappeared in the crowd. The paintings haven’t been recovered, and they include a Salvador Dali, Picasso, Matisse, and Monet.

Local art appraiser Van Northrup was a long time San Diegan, who now resides in Texas. He’s semi-retired, but still works on many cases and often appears in court on art related matters. He told that “Stolen art is number two behind drugs, as the biggest illicit crime.”

I asked him about the security art galleries have, like the one recently broken into in San Francisco.

“You’d be appalled at the lack of security in other countries. There is a less security than here. I’m not talking about the Louvre, but other regional museums. The security is so lax.

A lot of times with the thefts in Europe, the pieces are just cut right out of the frames. Other times the thief will go into a museum and rip the thing off the wall.

Security might be better here, but in the galleries you often have kiddos working there. These people aren’t security experts, and if you don’t have a camera, it’ll be hard to find the person. That’s the only reason they caught the guy that took the Picasso recently.”

A few other Picasso’s have been stolen in the history of art thefts.

In 2006, at around 4:00 p.m., four works of art (including a Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Dali) were stolen from the Museu Chacara do Ceu in Rio de Janeiro by four armed men. No estimates were made on their value, but I’m guessing easily $100 million.

One of the quicker robberies took only three minutes the following year at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil. Three men broke in at 5:00 a.m and got a Picasso and Candido Portinari, valued at $55 million. Brazilian police recovered them a year later.

Northrup said security is worse in other countries, but I’m not sure what kind of security could’ve stopped the biggest art theft in Canada.

In 1972, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was invaded by armed thieves. They got jewelry along with their 18 paintings, which included works by Delacroix, Gainsborough, and Rembrandt. None of this stuff has popped up yet, and the Rembrandt landscape is probably worth $25 million today.

In 1985 in Paris at the Mussee Marmottan Monet – it was day time when five masked gunmen stole nine paintings, including Monet’s, and a Morisot and Renoir. A tip led to the arrest of a Yakuza gangster in Japan, and two paintings stolen from another museum in France in 1984 were recovered.

When I mentioned to Northrup that it would be odd to steal a painting worth millions when it would be hard to sell because it’s well know, he laughed.

“A lot of art thefts are done by people that hire others to steal it for them,” he explained. “They don’t plan on selling it anywhere. There are lots of strange folks out there that just don’t want to pay for it, but would rather steal. That’s why a gallery or museum might be hit, and only a few specific pieces are stolen.”

Somebody must’ve wanted the White Duck by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. It was stolen in 1990 from the Marquess of Cholmondeley collection at Houghton Hall. It’s never turned up.

Northrup told me art crimes are worse in other countries, but the largest art heist in history occurred in Boston in 1990 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. There were 13 pieces, at the time worth $300 million, prompting a $5,000,000 reward for information (it still hasn’t been claimed).

The stolen loot included Vermeer’s The Concert – the most valuable painting ever stolen, two Rembrandt’s (including his only seascape – The Storm on the Sea of Galilee), a Manet, five drawings by Edgar Degas, and a Rembrandt self-portrait etching. This case currently resides on the FBI’s top 10 art crimes list.

On the Federal Bureau of Investigations website, they state:

Art and cultural property crime—which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines—is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.To recover these precious pieces—and to bring these criminals to justice—the FBI has a dedicated Art Crime Team of 13 special agents, supported by three special trial attorneys for prosecutions. And it runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of reported stolen art and cultural properties for the use of law enforcement agencies across the world.Please note: U.S. persons and organizations requiring access to the National Stolen Art File should contact their closest FBI Field Office; international organizations should contact their closest FBI Legal Attaché Office. The FBI has a section devoted to art crime.

In their top ten, they have an incident from 2002 listed. Two thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof and break in to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In a couple minutes they stole two Van Gogh’s valued at $30 million. Dutch police convicted two men in 2003, but they were unable to recover the paintings. A message on the website tells you where to contact if you have information on it.

Northrup told an interesting story with a case involving the FBI he was involved in.

“I was appraising art work for the Boy Scouts in Dallas. They have every Boys Life cover that Norman Rockwell did, accept for the first three. I’ve seen them all. I was told initially, that the first three were in Bogota, Colombia. That wasn’t the case. The FBI somehow, some way, found these three Rockwell paintings, and they didn’t get back to the Boy Scouts. The whole deal is kind of confusing, but the printer that hired Rockwell to paint these covers, ended up keeping them. His son eventually took over and didn’t want them, so he gave them to the Boy Scouts. They ended up on the market, and stolen from the United States.”

At this point, Northrup gives a lengthy explanation about the agreement countries have to return stolen art, whether it’s art that Nazi’s stole from Jews, and even historic pieces going back hundreds and hundreds of years.

He finally got back around the Boys Life covers and said “It was after World War I, around 1921, when they were stolen. The FBI found them just last year. They ended up going back to the estate.”

There’s also the very rare occasion were stolen paintings can result in a profit for the gallery owner.

In 1994, three paintings were stolen from a gallery in Germany. Two of the paintings belonged to the Tate Gallery in London. Four years after the theft, Tate came up with a plan. He’d secretly buyback the paintings from the thieves. This resulted in a profit of several million pounds for Tate because of previous insurance payments.

Perhaps that story gave an idea to an ophthalmologist in L.A. named Steven Cooperman. In 1999, he arranged for a Picasso and Monet to be stolen from his home. He hoped to collect $17.5 million from the insurance. Instead, he was convicted of insurance fraud.

It’s baffling as to why he didn’t just auction the paintings off, as with artists of that caliber, they’d surely sell and they always appreciate in value.

I ask Northrup how insurance companies pay and a few of the weirder stories he’s been involved with.

“There was a banker in San Palo, Brazil that was embezzling money. He put it all into art work that he sent to the United States. He was going to leave the country and live off the sale of the art work. He’s now serving 28 years in prison in San Palo, but the stuff is here. We [America] have an agreement with Latin America – that primarily involves pre-Columbian art. And if the art work travels outside of Latin America into the U.S., the FBI can seize it from the person here, and it’ll be returned. So, this poor guy in L.A. buys this painting, and the FBI shows up and takes it. They had an arrest warrant for the painting. The guy has it insured, and the insurance adjuster called me. I went out to LA and we were trying to sort the whole thing out. The worst part for this guy is, insurance won’t pay for stolen goods. If the piece was stolen, they claim the title can’t be legally passed, and you just lose the piece.”

I asked the artist of the painting, and Northrup doesn’t give it up. I ask if it’s someone we’ve heard of and he says “Oh yeah!”

Steven Spielberg had a much publicized story, but he was a little luckier than the guy in L.A. It also involved a Norman Rockwell.

The painting, Russian Schoolroom, was stolen more than 30 years ago from a gallery in Clayton, Mo., during a night time heist in 1973.

Spielberg bought it from an art dealer in 1989, the same time the FBI’s Art Crime Team put it on their list of stolen paintings. Spielberg’s staff alerted the FBI when they noticed the painting on a list of stolen art years later.

The painting was worth 20k when it was stolen, and about $700,000 today.

Spielberg is a trustee on the board of the Norman Rockwell Museum, and a collector of Rockwell pieces.

Perhaps that’s why the FBI allowed Spielberg to keep the painting until it was determined who owned it.

Last year, the dealer that sold him the paitning (Judy Goffman Cutler) was exonerated, as she’s a well-known specialist who bought the piece at an auction in New Orleans.

The plot thickens even more than a Spielberg movie, when three years ago Las Vegas art dealer Jack Solomon sued, claiming ownership. Cutler stepped in place of Spielberg at the trial, but transferring the title of another Rockwell painting to him in exchange for ownership of the Russian Schoolroom. A judge determined that Solomon already profited from an insurance claim for the stolen artwork and knew of the painting being sold in New Orleans. In fact, the auction house had given him part of the sale proceeds in 1988.

In 1946, three paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe were stolen. They were being displayed at the Alfred Stieglitz Gallery (he was her husband).

O’Keeffe found the paintings decades later, when they were purchased by the Princeton Gallery of Fine Arts for $35,000 in 1975. She sued the museum for their return. The problem O’Keeffe ran into is that there’s a six-year statute of limitations on art theft, although a state appellate court did rule in her favor four years later.

Northrup told us, “One of my friends, an art dealer in New York, had a show of lithographs of Joan Miro. A guy came in with a 3-piece suit, clean shaven. He pulled out a gun and stole the artwork. He was hired to do it, and new exactly what he was going to get. He didn’t steal anything else. Theft of art all depends on the motivation of the person.”

Sometimes pieces are stolen and ransom notes are sent for their return (that’s called “artnapping”).

The most famous incident of that involved Munch’s famous The Scream. In 1994, it was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. It was recovered later in the year. (Another version of The Scream, a painting Munch did several versions of, was stolen 10 years later).

The National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, had a bizarre robbery in 2000. You see, the three armed bandits had to flee using a boat that was moored in front of the museum.

A year after the crime, police recovered one of the two Renoirs stolen and in 2005, they got the second in Los Angeles. Later that same year, the Rembrandt – the last of the paintings original stolen – was recovered during a sting operation in a hotel in Copenhagen.

During the Caylee Anthony trial recently, we all saw the lengths parents sometimes go through for their kids.

Well, after Stephane Breitwieser was arrested and admitted to stealing 238 artworks from museums travelling around Europe, he was given a 26-month prison sentence. His mother, Mireille Stengel, thought she’d try to help him out by destroying evidence. In doing that, she chopped up over 60 paintings, including many masterpieces.

There have been a few really big heists the last few years.

In 2008, four paintings were stolen from the Foundation E.G. Buhrle in Surich, Switzerland. These major impressionist pieces included a Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Cezanne. They are valued at over $160 million. Later that year, the Van Gogh and Monet were discovered in a car that was in the parking lot of a nearby hospital.

That same year there were two big art heists in Sao Paulo. In one, three armed men broke into the Pinacoteca do Estado Museum with a crowbar and carjack at around 5:00 a.m. They stole a few Picasso’s, an Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, and Lasar Segall.

Last year at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, employees arrived to find that five paintings had been stolen that night. Missing were a Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani, and Leger. They were valued at over $120 million.

A woman that runs a gallery in La Jolla (who didn’t want to be named), said “People always give you advice on what you should do to prevent crime. It doesn’t make financial sense to have four security guards standing in such a small space, or some of the other crazy suggestions I’ve heard. We have security systems in place for when the gallery is closed after hours. I don’t want to get into specifics of what we have exactly, but I’m guessing if somebody cases any place long enough, they’ll be able to figure out some of the things that you have going. It’s a lot easier for us having a gallery that is always here, in a building we lease. The most common cases I’ve heard of with art thefts involve touring pieces. They’re on display in various cities, sometimes in places that aren’t designed for fine art or that people can better prepare to break into. The security can be compromised also, when lots of various employees – from who knows what companies are janitorial services -- are going in and out of the museum. We know everybody that comes in here.”

On July 15th, a judge threw a surprisingly high bail amount at the thief who stole the Picasso. It was $5 million.

Mark Lugo’s attorney said he believes “the overhyped media aspect of the case” is the reason the bail is so high. “There are murder cases in this city where the bail isn’t set at $5 million,” he told the judge. The judge responded that the brazen nature indicates Lugo poses a threat to the safety of businesses in San Francisco.

And these stories of art theft didn’t even get into the forged art work. Comedian Steve Martin found out a few months ago how frustrating that can be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Serbian Hadzic, Siren Song of Stolen Modigliani !!!

Stolen art held clue to Serbia war crimes arrest

BELGRADE, July 20 (Reuters) - Desperate for cash after years on the run, Goran Hadzic tried to sell a stolen painting believed to be a Modigliani and supplied the vital clue for capturing the last major Yugoslav war crimes fugitive.

Serbia's president announced the arrest of Hadzic, a Croatian Serb wartime leader indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1991-95 Croatian war, on Wednesday.

In a later news conference, Serbia's chief war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said the 52-year-old was arrested in a forest near the village of Krusedol after investigators followed the trail of a painting attributed to Amedeo Modigliani, the Italian 20th century figurative artist.

"The breakthrough was information that he (Hadzic) wanted to sell a stolen Modigliani painting as he was running out of money," Vukcevic told a news conference.

Earlier this year Serbian tabloids reported that the painting, allegedly titled "Portrait of a Man," had been discovered in the home of a friend of Hadzic.

The Art Loss Register in London, which tracks lost or stolen paintings, lists four Modigliani portraits of men as stolen, said executive director Christopher Marinello.

"We have worked with the Serbian authorities before and we are currently working with them on a number of cases," he said in an interview.

Marinello said Modigliani paintings had sold for between $4 million and $10 million recently, but the seller of a stolen painting might get just 5-10 percent of its value if it was traded on the black market.

There is also a fair chance that the painting, which was apparently exhibited in Belgrade in the mid-2000s, was a fake, said a law enforcement agent who had investigated stolen art works.

"We had suspicions about that particular painting because it was part of a large number of fakes sold to a collector," said the investigator, who did not want to be named.

He said the Serbian market for stolen art was at its height during the late 1980s and early '90s -- a period in which Yugoslavia collapsed and war broke out -- before it subsided after 2000.

Marinello said there are many cases involving stolen art in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as enforcement is not always robust and corruption widespread.

"Recovering stolen art in that part of the world is extremely difficult," he said.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Goodnight Vienna !!

Valuable antiques stolen from Shropshire home

Police are seeking help in tracing two 19th century antiques worth around £40,000 stolen from a Shropshire home.

Both items are highly distinctive – a Swiss enamel, automatom bird music box and an Austrian ebonised and enamel table cabinet surmounted with a rare time piece.

They were stolen from a country home near Shrewsbury between midday on Thursday and 2pm yesterday.

Police today issued an appeal for information concerning the whereabouts of the two high value antiques.

The investigating officer, Police Constable Jason Tierney, said: “These are two very rare and distinctive pieces. The thieves may well attempt to sell them through an auction house, or possibly put them on ebay.

“I would appeal to art and antique dealers to assist the police with any information which might help trace them, especially if they are approached and offered the items for sale or auction.

The bird music box is by the German designer Griesbauem while the clock time piece and table cabinet are late 19th century and features 31 Viennese enamel panes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Turner Recovery, Airbrushing The Truth

The stolen Turners, the Serbian underworld, and a £24m insurance job

The Tate's extraordinary coup in securing both a massive payout and the return of the masterpieces can be told at last. Matthew Bell investigates

The tale has all the ingredients of a Dan Brown thriller: a theft of two Turner masterpieces, a £24m insurance fund and dealings with the Serbian underworld. Now the story of the Tate's cloak-and-dagger operation to recover Shade and Darkness and Light and Colour – stolen to order by a Serbian gang while on loan in Frankfurt in 1994 – has been told by Sandy Nairne, then director of programmes at the Tate. He is now director of the National Portrait Gallery.

His book, Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, is not published until next month, but has already raised eyebrows in the art world, thanks to its "remarkably frank" account of the lengths the Tate was prepared to go to for the safe return of the paintings. Mr Nairne reveals that one of the pictures was recovered in July 2000, but the Tate resolved not to tell the public until the second had been returned. When, four months later, a journalist from The Mail on Sunday got wind of this, the Tate's director Sir Nicholas Serota drafted a press release that said: "I remain hopeful that one day the paintings may return to the Tate", even though one picture was already back in a secure unit. Shade and Darkness had been secretly repatriated by Mr Nairne, who managed not to alert Customs, importing the precious work as just a "19th-century landscape".

The book also relates how Sir Nicholas and the then Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson, persuaded insurers to accept a deal in which the Tate received a £24m payout but then kept most of the money when the second painting was returned in December 2002. Insurer Robert Hiscox told The Independent on Sunday that it had been a "good deal for the country, but a terrible deal for us".

The unusual agreement was struck in June 1998, at an angry and noisy meeting between the Tate and insurers, arranged by Mr Robinson at the Treasury. When the paintings were stolen, the £24m insurance was put into a high-interest bank account that could not be touched. But in 1998, the Tate needed £20m to help to fund the creation of Tate Modern, and Mr Robinson suggested using the stolen Turners fund, which by now had grown to £26m with interest.

The idea was that the Tate would buy back title to the paintings from the insurers, so that if they were found, the gallery could keep them and not have to repay all the money. It would make three payments of £4m to the insurers, the last one to be made if the paintings had not reappeared by 28 July 1999. According to Mr Robinson in his memoirs, the final payment was never made, meaning that only £8m was repaid to the insurers. In what turned out to be a very fortunate turn of events for the Tate, the first painting was then recovered the following year, and the second two years later. After eight years, the Tate had both paintings back, plus £22m, which had been invested into Tate Modern.

Robert Hiscox, managing director of Hiscox Insurance, says the insurers were just unlucky. "I had a conflict in that I love art and I love the Tate and wanted to do a deal to help the Tate," he said. "We knew who had the paintings, but we thought they would be in rotten condition by now, four years after they were stolen. So I thought it would be better to get some money back and help the Tate out at the same time. My difficulty was persuading my fellow underwriters to do the deal. But by the time the pictures turned up, the deal had been done, and of course we couldn't go back on it."

There is no suggestion the Tate knew it would get the pictures back so soon after arranging the deal with the insurers. By then it had spent £3.5m on expenses and information leading to their recovery.

Michael Daly, the director of Art Watch UK, calls the book an "electrifying glimpse into the workings of the Tate's controversial management culture". He claims the misleading statement was drafted to put journalists off the scent, and that Sir Nicholas wanted to wait for the second painting to be recovered so that he could release a "genuinely good news story".

Questions have also been raised over Mr Nairne's motive for writing the book. He was not appointed head of Tate Modern in 2002, despite his apparently close working relationship with Sir Nicholas. He left that year to become head of the National Portrait Gallery, where he remains. A spokesman for Mr Nairne says: "After eight years of not being able to talk about the operation to recover the Turners, Sandy just really wanted to get it off his chest."

Sir Nicholas's office denied that he lied to journalists, adding that the draft statement was never issued to the press. But Mr Nairne writes in his book that The Mail on Sunday did not run its story after the statement was drafted, saying, "My fears about further investigative pieces... receded."

A spokesman for Sir Nicholas said: "Tate worked closely with the Metropolitan Police on every stage of the recovery of the Turner paintings and we were advised that we should not confirm anything that might put the investigation in jeopardy. At the time this statement was drafted the recovery was at a critical stage, which is why the wording in this draft was deliberately obscure. As with all press statements it would have been reviewed and revised in response to specific questions received from a journalist."

Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners by Sandy Nairne – review

Former Tate employee Sandy Nairne's account of his search for two stolen Turner paintings is an incredible tale of fraud and dodgy underworld characters

In 1994, two paintings by Turner were stolen from the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt while on loan from the Tate in London. Ecstatic visions of light and burning darkness, they were valued at £24m. There were the usual rumours of Balkan gangsters stealing them for collateral or for some zillionaire client who wished to gaze upon them for the rest of his days. They were lost – or so it seemed – for eight years.

In that time, nobody at the Tate worked harder to recover them than Sandy Nairne, then its director of programmes, now well-respected director of the National Portrait Gallery. A stupefying amount of Nairne's life, as his riveting book reveals, was devoted to nerve-racking negotiations with mysterious middlemen, sudden and futile expeditions to Germany, tense meetings with loss adjusters, Tate trustees and detectives.

He is woken by midnight calls, embroiled in Ealing comedy escapades with fraudsters, entangled in operations so complex he has to draw diagrams to keep track of everyone involved, from the petty thieves who won't name their bosses to the flamboyant German lawyer Edgar Liebrucks, who eventually secures the handover to Geoffrey Robinson, the paymaster general, who contributes a big twist to the plot.

When his colleagues tease him for "wandering in the woods again" after another fruitless trip, one wonders whether anyone else was ever quite as eager to find the Lost Turners (two of 3,000 owned by the Tate). But Nairne, who deeply disapproves of the romantic narrative of art theft, with its Thomas Crowns and reclusive collectors lusting over their stolen Vermeers, is driven by a moral compunction to put publicly owned art back before the public.

The book wants to be – has every claim to be – a meticulously historical account, seamed through with serious ethical considerations. Yet it is split. The second half is a scholarly survey of theft, markets and value that appears deliberately designed to dampen the excitement of the first but does nothing to diminish the mounting drama in which Nairne can't help becoming his own protagonist.

He becomes dejected, nearly misses job interviews (Tate Modern opens, a directorship he doesn't get), frets about detectives chasing paintings instead of terrorists. His daughter complains that he is not sympathetic about her sore throat at a most precarious moment in the operation. When "Rocky" Rokoszynski, the charismatic investigator, calls with crucial instructions, Nairne is taking part in a sports event with his son. He feels terribly torn about both.

Hopes soar – a Polaroid of the stolen art arrives: "I wanted to shout out that the paintings were alive!" – and recurrently fade. The Metropolitan Police (page 69, for anyone collecting further instances of Met incompetence) almost derails the operation. Eventually, the first painting is recovered, though the Tate puts out a press release denying that fact when the Daily Mail publishes rumours that the Serbian warlord Arkan is involved. It is another two years before the second comes home.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, Robinson comes up with a cunning scheme. The Kunsthalle was insured; the Tate had received £24m; why not buy the titles back from the insurers for less (£8m in fact)? If the pictures ever turned up, the Tate might have them back and make an extra £16m into the bargain.

Which is precisely what happened, though Nairne is too honourable to gloat. Instead, he records every meeting with the Charity Commission, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the high court to ratify the legality of using that money to pay for the Tate's new warehouse, as opposed to Tate Modern itself. Robinson is reproved for confusing the two buildings in his memoirs.

But warehouse, museum: who cares? Nairne is too concerned with this issue. Nobody reading Art Theft could fail to wonder about something far more important: namely, what kind of transaction was involved in getting the art back?

In all those trips to Frankfurt, the author barely gets an overnight stay. His parsimony is civic-minded. The expenses for recovering the pictures stood at £3.5m in the end and he's absolutely scrupulous about public money.

But he is too scrupulous, alas, to mention Stevo V, the Balkan mafioso rumoured to have masterminded the theft. Or the fact that Liebrucks was Stevo's lawyer, which might explain how he helped find the Turners. Indeed, you will read nothing here about why they were stolen, where they were kept or by whom (Josef Stohl, the Dean Martin impersonator said to have looked after them, is a piquant omission). These are the romantic speculations that give people what Nairne disparagingly calls "a buzz".

Art theft is commonly described as a victimless crime: nobody hurt. Presumably, the insurers who lost so heavily by selling the titles would not agree, though underwriting is betting by other means. The recovery of both the pictures and the insurance money was, by comparison, a smart gamble for the Tate.

But was it ransom, pay-off or buy-back? Nairne is insistent that it was nothing more than a reward for information; certainly, the Tate had no direct contact with the criminals. But someone other than Liebrucks and the redoubtable detectives "Rocky" Rokoszynski and Mick Lawrence received some of those millions and lo, the pictures were returned. The greater mystery of Art Theft is not who stole the Turners, but what exactly became of the Tate's money.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Picasso, Leger, Mi Yim, Case Solved, Next Case Please

REVEALED: List of artwork found in Picasso theft suspect's New Jersey apartment

When police raided the New Jersey apartment of alleged Picasso theft suspect Mark Lugo on Tuesday, they said more stolen artwork was found, including another Picasso.

New York police have now released the full list of stolen artworks found. The items were taken from several Manhattan hotels and galleries between June 6 and July 1, according to NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel.

  • Robert Pugliese artwork stolen from the OK Harris Gallery on June 6.
  • Five Mie Yim paintings stolen from the Chambers Hotel on June 14.
  • Nara Yoshitomo artwork stolen from the Opera Gallery on June 16.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork stolen from the Skot Foreman Fine Art Gallery on June 21.
  • Pablo Picasso sketch stolen from the William Bennett Gallery on June 27.
  • Fernand Leger sketch stolen from the Carlyle Hotel on June 28.
  • Malik Sidibe photograph stolen from the Jack Shainman Gallery on July 1.

Hoboken police have said the artworks were worth an estimated $500,000 total, including $350,000 for the Picasso.

Reached by phone late Thursday, Ansell Hawkins, general manager of the midtown Chambers Hotel, was shocked and ecstatic to hear the Mie Yim paintings had been recovered.

“This is amazing…totally amazing,” Hawkins said. “I am astounded. I am relieved. It’s an extraordinary turn of events.”

Hawkins said he’s a friend of the artist and couldn’t wait to let her know.

“She will be thrilled,” he said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Lugo, Leger, Picasso & Wine

Picasso found in Hoboken apartment identified "Sculpteur et Deux Têtes (Sculptor and Two Heads)," valued at $350K

A Picasso etching found in Mark Lugo's Hoboken apartment was identified by the gallery it was taken from as a 1933 piece titled "Sculpteur et Deux Têtes (Sculptor and Two Heads)."

The Picasso, valued at $350,000, was one of seven pieces of stolen art work found in Lugo's Hoboken apartment Tuesday morning when it was searched by the Hoboken Police Department, New York City Police and the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, according to police reports.

The pieces totaled approximately $500,000, according to police.

The seven pieces were taken from five Manhattan galleries and hotels, said New York City police Lt. John Grimpel, including the Picasso which was taken from the William Bennet Gallery in Soho on June 27.

In addition to art, Lugo has been charged with theft as a disorderly persons in Wayne N.J., after security cameras captured him taking three bottles of wine, valued at $6,000.

As of now, Lugo is associated with three separate thefts. The merchandise totals $706,000.

Hoboken Police Recovers Stolen Artwork from Hobokenite's Apartment

The paintings were hanging on Mark Lugo's walls in Hoboken.

Hoboken Police, members of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and officers from the New York Police Department recovered approximately $500,000 in stolen artwork from Mark Lugo's apartment in Hoboken on Tuesday. Lugo, 30, is currently being held in San Francisco for allegedly stealing a $200,000 Pablo Picasso drawing from a gallery there.

Hoboken detectives were contacted by detectives from the New York City Police Department’s Major Case Squad on Tuesday, regarding the theft of a Picasso painting from a hotel in Manhattan, according to Hoboken Police. The paintings were hanging on the walls of Lugo's Washington Street apartment.

The value of that painting from the Manhattan gallery, police said, is approximately $350,000. The Major Case Squad was informed by San Francisco detectives that the stolen painting may be at Lugo’s Washington Street residence, police said.

Officers got into the apartment by forced entry around 2:20 a.m. on Tuesday, police said.

"The paintings were hanging on the walls and laying about the apartment," police said in a press release.

Another stolen Picasso found in suspect's home
A police raid on the New Jersey apartment of the man accused of stealing a Pablo Picasso drawing in San Francisco turned up $500,000 in stolen artwork, including a Picasso painting that had been taken from a New York hotel, investigators said today.

The art was found in the Hoboken apartment of Mark Lugo, 30, who is being held in San Francisco in connection with the July 5 theft of "Tête de Femme (Head of a Woman)," a 1965 pencil drawing by Picasso.

Hoboken police said in a statement that some of the latest stolen artwork found in the raid Tuesday night was on Lugo's wall, and other pieces were "laying about the apartment."

Among the pieces was a Picasso worth $350,000 that had been stolen from a Manhattan hotel, police said. They did not identify the artwork or the other pieces found in the apartment.

Hoboken detectives said they had raided Lugo's apartment in response to information from New York police, who had been told by San Francisco detectives that the Picasso might be there.

The announcement came the same day that Lugo's attorney said he looking into the possibility that his client may have "psychiatric issues," in light of additional revelations that Lugo is facing charges of stealing expensive wine in his native New Jersey.

Lugo was charged with stealing three bottles of wine worth about $6,000 from a wine store in April. He faces charges known as theft as a disorderly person, said Wayne Municipal Court Administrator Lori Ellicott. The maximum sentence is six months in jail per count.

Lugo missed his June 9 court date, and because he is being held in San Francisco on $5 million bail in the Union Square gallery heist, he missed his court date today for his failure to appear.

Lugo, a former sommelier at upscale New York City restaurants, was caught on security camera video taking the bottles at Gary's Wine and Marketplace in Wayne, N.J., the store's loss prevention manager, Robert Lesnick, told The Chronicle on Wednesday.

The three bottles of wine were never recovered, Ellicott said.

In San Francisco, a restaurant's security camera taped a man police identified as Lugo as he walked up Geary Street on July 5 with a framed artwork under his arm. Investigators suspect that the artwork was "Tête de Femme," which had been stolen moments before from the Weinstein Gallery at 383 Geary.

Lugo was arrested the next night while visiting friends in Napa. The sketch was found undamaged but ready to be shipped to an undisclosed destination, police said.

Horngrad said he was aware of both the police raid and the New Jersey wine theft charges. "I'm looking into whether some psychiatric issues are at play," he said, declining to go into detail.

Lugo is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in San Francisco Superior Court in the heist of the Picasso drawing from the gallery. Horngrad said at Lugo's first court appearance Monday that his client planned to plead not guilty.

Art Hostage Comments:

Last FridayArt Hostage posted this below:

Enough already, wheres the bloody Leger, Art Hostage solved the Picasso stuff last week, now come on, can we please have the Leger make an appearance.

Stolen Art Watch, Landau Lover: "Driving Miss Daisy"

Probe expands into attempted theft of Maryland historical papers

Accused men had visited society last month

regional archives notified

At the Maryland Historical Society, they're calling it the Great Cupcake Caper.

Before being arrested by police on Saturday and charged with stealing dozens of historical documents, author and collector Barry H. Landau had brought cupcakes for the center's employees. They figure he was trying to ingratiate himself with the staff, much as he has for decades with political and Hollywood elite.

And it may be a calling card of sorts. As the investigation into the thefts continued to broaden Tuesday, officials at another state historical society said they had been visited multiple times in the past by Landau and his alleged conspirator, who brought Pepperidge Farm cookies for the staff and aroused suspicions with their "odd" behavior.

Word of the arrests has set off a ripple effect among the historic preservation community, with the FBI requesting that other museums and libraries review their logs to see if Landau and 26-year-old Jason Savedoff had been visitors.

Landau is a renowned collector, reputed to have the largest collection of presidential memorabilia outside of museums and the presidential libraries. The former White House protocol officer has claimed to have 1 million artifacts in his Manhattan apartment on West 57th Street.

The director of the Maryland Historical Society confirmed that the pair had previously visited its Baltimore library in June, and authorities were working to account for documents that were checked out during that visit.

The incident has sparked renewed attention to securing priceless and historic artifacts at museums and libraries.

"In historic preservation circles, it's a problem that they've been trying to deal with for some time, and these situations bring it right to the forefront," said Joseph M. Coale, the former president of Historic Annapolis, who served on the board of the Maryland Historic Trust for 25 years. "Maryland has an interesting and unique history that's given great credibility by a lot of these documents" apparently targeted for robbery. "As a Marylander, I'm rather incensed about it."

Authorities declined to discuss the next steps in the investigation, but agents from the National Archives were observed leaving the Maryland Historical Society's Monument Street location around lunchtime Tuesday, boxes under their arms, as an FBI agent with a gun on his hip reviewed documents in the library where the crimes are alleged to have occurred.

"We're trying to determine how widespread this might be," said Richard Wolf, a spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore.

Landau and Savedoff, charged with one count of theft over $100,000, were initially held on $1.5 million bond, but a judge revised that to no bond at a hearing Monday, which Landau's attorney, former federal prosecutor Andrew C. White, called "outrageous."

"Mr. Landau is one of our nation's most well-respected presidential historians, and I think it's outrageous that he's being held without any bond in a property theft case in which none of the allegedly stolen property ever made it out of the historical society," White said. "Clearly, there's a breakdown in the judicial process."

White said he was filing a habeas corpus petition in Baltimore Circuit Court to obtain bail for Landau.

In Philadelphia, Lee Arnold, senior director of the library and collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, said Landau and Savedoff — using the name "Jason James" — had visited more than a dozen times since December, identifying themselves as uncle and nephew. Landau, according to his website, is working on his second book.

Landau introduced himself as a scholar and donated a copy of his first book to the society, and each time he came bearing cookies. But when officials tried to write him a thank-you note, it was sent back as undeliverable. An email address Savedoff gave also appeared to be invalid. Staff became suspicious and called a meeting, and planned to check their driver's licenses upon the next visit.

Of Landau, Arnold said: "He certainly was very personable. He had class. He knew how to conduct himself in a research library." But Savedoff, of whom little is known, was "rough around the edges" and "repeatedly asked naive questions," he said.

"He never understood what we were saying," Arnold said.

Staff members were reviewing footage from surveillance cameras to see if there is any evidence of theft. Kim Sajet, the Pennsylvania society's president and CEO, said they are filling out a report for the FBI.

The FBI issued a request for information, saying that Landau and Savedoff may have used "their true names or permutations thereof." History buffs were trying to get the word out more organically as well — Jennifer Ferretti, the digitization coordinator for the MHS, put out a message on Twitter saying "Please alert all archives (esp. on the East Coast) about Barry Landau! He visited more places than just MdHS."

Meanwhile, Landau's past continued to raise questions. WJZ-TV confirmed that Landau, who shares a name with a retired producer for CBS' "60 Minutes," had attended auctions and collectible shows by showing a media credential for the national network, which issued a cease-and-desist letter to him after it found out.

Rex Stark, a dealer, collector and recognized authority on Americana, said he had known Landau for 20 years and said he has the "premier" collection of presidential inaugural tickets, invitations, menus and programs. He said Landau often name-dropped his various connections, so much so that Stark said he got "tired of listening to it a lot of the time."

Stark said that he was not aware of Landau ever acting as a dealer, though he said he contacted him two months ago and said that he was "interested in selling things," and had mentioned rare and expensive autographs of Beethoven and Marie Antoinette.

"We follow what goes on in the industry, in this world," Paul Brachfeld, the inspector general for the National Archives, said on Monday before his agency became involved in the investigation. "If they do it one place, they may very well do it in another."

Brachfeld declined to comment Tuesday on the steps his agency was taking or why it had become involved.

At the Maryland Historical Society, President Burt Kummerow gave a reporter a tour of a new exhibit set to open soon that shows off War of 1812 artifacts and paintings by Charles Willson Peale, among other items. The museum, located two blocks west of Baltimore's Washington Monument, mixes historically significant items with modern architecture and has the largest collection of Maryland history in the world.

Kummerow said records show that Landau and Savedoff had visited the historical society in June. He would not comment on whether other items were missing. "We're checking that out," he said.

Though Kummerow said the society has been growing, it remains short on funds and staff. That puts it in a potentially vulnerable position as it allows access to its collection of 7 million documents contained within its library.

Coale, the former board member for the Maryland Historic Trust, said he doesn't believe archives will be able to continue to allow access to original documents. "They don't have the staff to do it, especially nowadays with societies more or less operating with skeleton crews," he said.

But Kummerow says his staff is also not in a financial position to digitize its archives or provide photocopies of the volumes of material researchers may want to see.

Kummerow is reassured, however, that the alleged weekend theft was detected by staff members, who called the police officers who reported finding five dozen documents that had been checked out by Landau and tucked into a laptop case inside a locker belonging to Savedoff.

"The library really did its job," Kummerow said.

FBI searches N.Y. home of jailed memorabilia collector

Investigation follows his arrest at Maryland Historical Society

Federal authorities searched the Manhattan apartment Wednesday of a collector and author charged with stealing documents from the Maryland Historical Society, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Barry H. Landau, 63, and another man continue to sit in the Baltimore City Detention Center, held on no bond. Landau's attorney formally filed a petition for a bail hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court and is awaiting a date.

Landau and 24-year-old Jason Savedoff were arrested Saturday at the Maryland Historical Society after police say the pair tried to steal documents, including one signed by Abraham Lincoln. Baltimore police charged each with one count of theft over $100,000.

Not all of the 60 documents recovered belonged to the historical society, the source said, and investigators were working to determine to whom they belonged. Agents from the FBI and the National Archives were observed this week by a Baltimore Sun reporter at the historical society's Monument Street office.

Late Wednesday Landau's law firm warned against a rush to judgment. "No documents were in Mr. Landau's possession, concealed on his person or in his belongings," said Steven D. Silverman, Landau's attorney, in a statement. "A man of his stature is entitled to due process before a rush to judgment. There is no evidence."

Landau, who lives two blocks south of New York's Central Park on West 57th Street, is said to have the largest private collection of presidential inaugural memorabilia outside of museums of the presidential archives. He was a former White House protocol officer and has connections to New York, Washington and the Hollywood elite.

Asked to confirm whether an apartment was searched at the Hemisphere House, the name of Landau's building, a woman in the management office said they were "not giving any interviews on the subject."

Baltimore FBI spokesman Richard Wolf would not confirm information about the investigation or whether Landau's apartment was searched. "We're taking all the logical steps that we would in a case like this," Wolf said.

Earlier this week, the FBI alerted museums, small libraries and historical societies throughout the region to check whether the pair might have committed similar thefts. On Tuesday, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania confirmed that Landau and Savedoff, who used an alias, had visited more than a dozen times and aroused suspicions with "odd" behavior.

Lee Arnold, senior director of the library and collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, said that he and his staff were reviewing numerous "call slips" filled out by Landau and Savedoff during more than a dozen visits to the Philadelphia institution since December.

"We keep those slips forever, and we're looking at those dates to see if anything is amiss," he said.

Such slips must be filled out by anyone seeking to examine the society's archived materials. Arnold said it was impossible to say yet whether anything might be missing, because the manuscript and document folders typically contain many items that are not cataloged individually.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Stealing Rembrandt's, Amore & Mashberg Dare To Delight !!

The Artlessness Of Art Thieves

In the past 100 years, some 80 works by Rembrandt have been pilfered— one painting has been stolen four times.

Myles J. Connor Jr. is a member of the high-IQ group Mensa. He collects antique Samurai swords, has owned a pet cobra and speaks with a high-flown Massachusetts Brahmin accent. In 1975, wearing a beard, glasses, tweed suit and fedora, he strode out of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts carrying Rembrandt's "Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak" (1632). An accomplice raked the museum steps with machine-gun fire to hold off guards, and the men sped away. They were smart, brash, precise, flamboyant: just what we expect from our art thieves and almost never get.

"Stealing Rembrandts" tells the story of modern art theft through the thefts of a single artist's work. It is a clever strategy, and Rembrandt a natural choice. The 17th-century Dutch master was heroically prolific; more than 2,000 of his paintings, drawings and etchings survive. Some of his canvases have fetched auction bids in the tens of millions of dollars. And because Rembrandt was a painter of masterly economy, his works tend to be small and portable. As a result, Rembrandt is among the most often stolen artists, topped only by Picasso. Some 80 of Rembrandt's works have been pilfered in the past 100 years.

There's the case of what is known as the Takeaway Rembrandt, a portrait of "Jacob de Gheyn III" (1632) that has been stolen four times from London's Dulwich Picture Gallery since 1966. There's the first museum robbery in which a gun was brandished, the 1972 theft from the Worcester Art Museum of "Portrait of St. Bartholomew" (1633). There's also a cinematic tale of a heist in Stockholm in 2000, featuring a speedboat getaway, cars set on fire to jam traffic and an undercover sting operation to recover the stolen painting, Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait" (1630).

Anthony Amore and Tom Mashberg have a textured feel for Rembrandt's work. They have interviewed a lot of people. Most important, they have particular insight into at least one of the most well-known thefts: Mr. Amore is head of security, since 2005, at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, from which three Rembrandts and 10 other paintings were stolen in 1990. The criminals wore police uniforms and tied up the guards before vanishing with the art. Mr. Mashberg, a writer for the Boston Herald, has covered the still-unsolved heist for 14 years.

One unusual aspect of "Stealing Rembrandts" is that, in addition to talking to museum personnel, the authors interview art thieves. Among the more vividly rendered is Florian "Al" Monday. An orange-haired, tracksuit-wearing, bejeweled ex-convict toting an "unpublished typewritten memoir reeking of cigarette smoke," Monday was the brain behind the "St. Bartholomew" job, in which one of his lackeys shot a museum guard with a .22 and Monday was sentenced to 9-to-20 years in prison. He is a discerning felon. "No one touches Van Gogh," he sniffs to the authors, rating the painters he most admires. "Except maybe Renoir."

Monday's peers tend to be less refined, and the authors' encounters with them should shatter any grand impressions of art thieves that readers may harbor. These aren't debonair connoisseurs, à la Pierce Brosnan in the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair." Typically, they are small-time thieves, handymen, drug addicts. They are clumsy and brutal bumblers out of a Coen brothers movie. In 1973, Carl E. Horsley, a 21-year-old armed robber, took two lesser Rembrandts from the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, ignoring two much more valuable ones nearby; later, after getting caught and serving three years in prison, this criminal mastermind was arrested again for shoplifting candy and toothpaste in Kentucky.

We assume that the same creativity that goes into making art would go into stealing it. Instead, the authors show us again and again how artless most art theft is. Art crime, you see, is a dumb crime. With masterpieces in particular, it's virtually impossible to find a buyer for a stolen work. As the authors write: "A Rembrandt, real or imagined, is far harder to sell than it is to steal."

Scouring away their subject's romantic patina has a downside, though. "Stealing Rembrandts" sometimes reads like a high-brow police blotter, a catalog derangée of petty crime. With depressing frequency, perps slash paintings out of their frames. They damage Old Masters by attempting to "clean" them. And forget about storage conditions: "Stolen Rembrandts have been tossed into car trunks, stored outdoors in sub-freezing barns and shacks, carried about in plastic shopping bags, and hidden under beds."

Mr. Amore did much of his research in order to get up to speed in his job at the Gardner. There's a get-the-whole-set completism to the book, as if the authors, in lieu of obsessively collecting Rembrandts, had decided to obsessively collect anecdotes of Rembrandt larceny. They are interested not merely in every single theft ever of a Rembrandt painting but also in thefts of fake Rembrandts and even of pieces by Rembrandt's teachers.

Strewn throughout the book, however, are compelling characters and insights into traits that "successful" art crimes typically share. In 80% of the thefts an insider is complicit, and the crimes tend to occur on or near holidays. (The Gardner heist took place late at night, when Boston was beery with St. Patrick's Day revelers.) Thieves who limit themselves to Rembrandt's etchings stand a better chance of success: Though the etchings fetch less than his paintings, they are easier to resell.

One subgenre of art theft has been sporadically effective: so-called art-napping. Though making the exchange without getting caught is tricky, some thieves have leveraged their plunder for a ransom or even more unusual bounties. At the time that Myles Connor made his getaway from Boston's MFA, he was facing trial in an earlier heist: He committed the new crime so that he could help to "solve" it. By facilitating the Rembrandt's return (not revealing that he himself had stolen it), he fashioned a reduced prison sentence for the earlier crime.

Mr. Wallace is the author of "The Billionaire's Vinegar."

Stolen Art Watch, Ivory Coast Crown Jewels Held Hostage !!

Ivory Coast loses its crown jewels

Museum authorities in Ivory Coast have contacted Interpol after thieves stole historic gold jewellery, masks and statues worth an estimated $6m (£3.7m).

The thefts from the country's main museum took place during the recent battle for Abidjan between forces loyal to current President Alassane Ouattara and the former leader Laurent Gbagbo.

"For a country like Ivory Coast which at the moment really needs to reaffirm its identity, to rediscover its own values, it's really a tragic loss", museum director Sylvie Memel Kassi told the BBC.

"With this theft, we fear that a part of the history of Ivory Coast will be erased."

Around 80 objects were stolen including royal gold jewellery, masks, sculptures and traditional religious artefacts, some dating back to at least the 17th Century.

The leading curator at the Museum of Civilisations, Djowa Zoko, showed me around the now closed museum, which was also hit by mortar shells.

Several large glass display cases stand empty.

"In general we had the royal items here: Everything that's gold - the gold pendants, gold necklaces, gold bracelets, fly whisk that had handles covered with gold and swords - again with the handles covered in gold," he told me.

On the side of the room, in between a wooden canoe, colonial photos and a giant elephant skull, delicate bronze pendants and necklaces remain, but their gold equivalents have all been taken.

"Those who came were specialists because they knew exactly what was the most essential," Mr Zoko said.


Mrs Kassi believes the thieves had the help of someone on the inside.

"The doors weren't forced open and seeing the way the objects were taken without breaking the glass… these were specialists who knew what they were doing," she said.

An inquiry is now under way and museums around the world have been alerted.

Prior to colonisation in 1893, Ivory Coast was home to several flourishing kingdoms, including the Abron of Gyaaman, the Muslim Kong Empire, and a Baoule state and the Anyi kingdoms of Indenie and Sanwi.

Among the stolen artefacts were 35 gold pendants dating from the 18th Century, 12 traditional necklaces from the 17th Century, six miniature gold boxes from the 18th Century, a 19th Century royal sabre and an Akan king head dress, which could come from the Baoule or Anyi kingdoms.

In addition to the stolen artefacts, the museum was also hit by the theft of computer equipment and damage to the buildings.

The main museum building was built by the French in colonial times and is just a few metres from the entrance to one of the country's main military bases and the army headquarters.

It is in the central commercial district, Plateau, which was one of the last to fall into the hands of the pro-Ouattara forces as they pushed through the city in April to drive Mr Gbagbo from power.

He had refused to handover to Mr Ouattara despite losing a long-delayed presidential election in November last year.

He was eventually arrested after UN peacekeepers and French forces launched air strikes on Mr Gbagbo's heavy weapons.

"[The fighting in] this area was particularly intense, but up until then we thought that by being next to a military base gave us a good deal of security," Mr Zoko said.

"But it turned out to be completely the opposite because this place turned into a battlefield."

The Museum of Civilisations of Ivory Coast has a vocation to promote Ivorian cultural history and its staff are still compiling a detailed list of all the objects that were stolen.

But already an initial list has been entered into the Interpol database.

"I know I can count on international solidarity," Mrs Kassi said.

"There are international organisations that look after museums that with other networks try to find stolen objects."

She is hopeful that now the looted objects are on the Interpol database the thieves will not be able to sell them or if they do they will be caught and the treasures returned home.

Stolen Art Watch, Dupont Horse Bolts From Milton Park !!

Auction alert over stolen painting

Police have sent an alert to auction houses after thieves raided a stately home near Peterborough.

Among the items taken from Milton Park was a valuable painting by Richard John Munro Dupont.

The oil painting, called Light Harvest and dating between 1920 and 1977, features a horse and is thought to be worth thousands of pounds. It was on canvas and in a gilt frame.

Burglars are believe to have targeted the 16th century property some time between July 1 and July 7. Two antique table lamps were also stolen.

Detective Constable John Harlock, from Cambridgeshire Police, said: "We would like to hear from anyone who believes they may have seen the painting since the burglary took place.

"It is of significant value and it's possible the offenders may try to sell it through an auction house."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Dr No, Landau, Dr Maybe Savedoff, Caught In The Act of Stealing American History

Pair tried to steal millions worth of historical documents, police say

Presidential historian and collector held without bond,0,7602985.story

Barry H. Landau has rubbed elbows with presidents, helped plan inaugurations, and claims one of the largest collections of Oval Office memorabilia outside museums and presidential libraries. His Manhattan apartment includes a collection of china from Thomas Jefferson's inauguration and a picture of him kissing JFK's dog, Clipper.

Police say he tried to expand that collection by pilfering dozens of rare documents from the Maryland Historical Society on Saturday. Landau, whose connections reportedly bridge the Washington, New York and Hollywood elite, now sits in Central Booking and is being held without bail.

The artifacts police say he and 24-year-old Jason Savedoff tried to take during a Saturday of reviewing historical papers at the Monument Street non-profit's archives include documents signed by President Lincoln; presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs; a commemoration of the Statue of Liberty, and a commemoration of the Washington Monument.

The items range in value from $100,000 to $500,000, and are just four of the 60 documents police say the men planned to steal, meaning the total value could be in the millions.

The FBI is investigating the case with the Baltimore Police Department. The historical society declined to talk about the case, saying the investigation was ongoing.

"We're working closely with law enforcement agencies on this, and I'm not at liberty right now to talk about the case any further than that," said Burt Kummerow, president of the Maryland Historical Society.

Curators of historical collections have had to think differently about theft in recent years. Michael McCormick, director of reference services for the Maryland State Archives, said television shows like the "Antiques Roadshow" and the rise of eBay and other Internet-based auction sites have led to an increased demand for historical items. Smaller libraries and historical societies are particularly vulnerable.

"These are valuable items, held in trust for the public. There's no point in collecting if they're not available," said Michael McCormick, director of reference services for the Maryland State Archives. "But the public needs to be aware that this material is under threat, and it takes resources to protect them."

Paul Brachfeld, the inspector general for the National Archives, said institutions have traditionally put an emphasis on open access, and less on security. The former Secret Service and customs agent said the archives were falling prey to thieves, including their own employees, and decided to go on the offensive.

He beefed up security measures, and directed undercover investigators to connect with sellers on the Internet to sniff out stolen material. The archives have also become more diligent in spreading the word about missing items – something that some institutions avoid because of embarrassment – by creating a website that lists stolen items and shows pictures. Currently missing: Wright Brothers' flying machine patent, target maps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a reading copy of Franklin Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. In some cases, pictures of the documents are included.

"We're under attack in so many different ways," Brachfeld said. "We have such a gigantic inventory that we didn't even know if something was stolen until you went to show it and realized it was gone."

McCormick said that for decades, archivists have tried to provide duplicate copies of documents to restrict access to the originals. "In most cases, the researcher really does not need access to the artifact," he said. "What they need is access to the intellectual content. That can be done using copies. The researcher really needs to make a convincing case to the archivist for their need to handle the original item."

But access continues, and thefts are nearly impossible to avoid. In 2003, President Bill Clinton's former national security advisor Samuel R. Berger walked out of the Archives with classified documents stuffed in his sock. He was caught and fined $50,000.

"It's harder to do, but if someone really wants to steal, they may get away with it," Brachfeld said.

Romaine Somerville was a curator and director for the Maryland Historical Society for about 15 years until the mid-1980s and said she couldn't recall any thefts from the society.

"One document disappeared, then reappeared mysteriously months later," Somerville said. "Another time, jewelry was taken out of a box when we were moving out of the old building or into the new one."

The jewelry was later returned via a third party, she said.

Somerville said the allegations of the weekend theft were "shocking." "It seems to me [they] should have known better," she said.

Police say Landau, of the first block of W. 57th St. in New York, and Savedoff, from the 700 block of W. End Ave., spent much of Saturday examining documents and began to attract the attention of staff toward the end of the day.

Savedoff was seen from a balcony taking a document and concealing it in a portfolio, then walking out of the library, according to police. After being confronted, Savedoff complained of stomach pains and claimed to have misplaced a locker key that he had shown officers moments earlier.

Police retrieved the key, and the documents were found inside the locker concealed in a black laptop case. Police summoned the FBI to the scene, which made copies of the documents for evidence and returned them to the Historical Society.

They are charged with one count of theft over $100,000, but the investigation is continuing. Attempts to reach attorneys for Landau and Savedoff were unsuccessful, and little was known about Savedoff.

Landau's website says he is at work on his second book, and boasts of his connections and media appearances. The Washington Post profiled him in 2005, and quoted the actors William Baldwin and Brian Dennehy, the latter who said Landau was his bridge to the White House.

Photo albums on his site show him with Al Pacino, posing with Gerald Ford and the actress Shelley Winters; with his arm around Barbara Bush, and standing next to Charlton Heston and near Frank Sinatra at the inauguration of President George H.W. Bush.

In various media interviews, the former press agent said his collection came from items obtained directly from politicians and their staff but also by watching for items at flea markets and auctions. The collection includes more than 1 million presidential items and artifacts -- including 26,000 presidential menus and invitations and the original key to the White House, which he said he spotted at a flea market on Long Island.

He told the Post in 2005 that Laura Bush had consulted him about possible themes for President George W. Bush's inauguration. When the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies needed plates for the inaugural luncheon, the newspaper reported, it turned to Landau, who has a collection of china used at Thomas Jefferson's inauguration in 1801.

Landau has also "known about 25 White House dogs since the Eisenhower administration," and his apartment is filled with presidential dog memorabilia including matching orange inaugural dog coats worn by LBJ's twin beagles, Him and Her, and a photo of Landau kissing Clipper, JFK's German Shepherd Dog," the Associated Press reported in 2009.

A preliminary hearing in the case has been scheduled for August 11.

Art Hostage Comments:

Barry H. Landau was overheard saying:

"I only popped out for a (Sandy) Berger"