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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Weekend Round Up Nov 19th 2011

Ke Alakai - BYU-Hawaii Student News Lab - Art theif is charged

Alleged art thief Mark Lugo, pled guilty to stealing Picasso’s “Tete de Femme” from a San Francisco gallery on Thursday, striking a plea deal that would relieve him of responsibility for numerous other charges. Workers at the Weinstein Gallery said Mark Lugo brazenly snatched the drawing, worth $275,000, from a wall of their gallery on July 5. Lugo then walked down the street and got into a cab with the sketch under his arm.

Quick police work, video surveillance cameras and an alert taxi driver led to his arrest within 24 hours. When investigators searched Lugo's apartment in Hoboken, N.J., they uncovered a treasure trove of stolen art worth some $430,000. Lugo, 30, pleaded guilty to grand theft in the San Francisco case. Under terms of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop other charges, including burglary.

The deal calls allows for Lugo to be released on his sentencing date, Nov. 21, after getting credit for the time he has already served. His attorney, Douglas Horngrad, said Lugo would then be extradited to New York to face similar charges in art heists there. Horngrad said the case had been wildly overblown.

"Now that all the hoopla has died down, he'll serve the time that reflects the conduct," he said. "Nobody was killed, nobody was assaulted; this was not the crime of the century." Lugo's initial bail of $5 million was "preposterous," Horngrad added. He also hinted that his client suffered from a mental illness. "All these things that Mark is alleged to have taken were all taken within a 30-day period, with no behavior like that before, and that suggests that there was some psychiatric episode," the lawyer said.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said the other pieces of stolen works found in Lugo's apartment included another Picasso painting worth $30,000, a Fernand Leger sketch valued at $350,000 and three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol wine worth $6,000.

"This is a person who definitely had a taste for the finer things, and he didn't like to pay for them," Gascon said. Investigators said Lugo worked at upscale Manhattan restaurants and as a wine steward Rowland Weinstein, owner of the San Francisco gallery, talked to reporters as stood next to the Picasso and the FedEx box in which they found the sketch ready for shipping. "I got to see firsthand really extraordinary police work," said Weinstein. "This piece is a love affair of mine."

BYUH student, Alexandra Jones, elementary education major from Arizona, said of the case “It doesn’t matter who owns the art as long as it can be appreciated by the public.”

Man charged with stealing rhinoceros head from museum -

A 32-year-old man was remanded in custody yesterday charged with stealing a rhinoceros head from a museum.

Jamie Channon appeared before magistrates after the rhino head - valued for use in Asian medicines - was stolen from the Haslemere Education Museum in Surrey in May.

Channon, from Tilbury, Essex, was arrested after the theft was featured on BBC TV’s Crimewatch programme with an appeal to the public for information.

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Police released CCTV images of four men who visited the museum shortly before the theft.

Yesterday Channon appeared before Guildford magistrates charged with conspiracy to burgle.

No application was made for bail by his legal team as the defendant had already been recalled to court on a separate matter.

Channon heard that his case would be committed for a preliminary hearing before a judge at Guildford crown court on December 1.

Another man, a 29-year-old from Tilbury, is currently on bail in relation to the burglary following his arrest after the programme’s appeal for information.

He is due to return to Guildford police station on February 7, 2012.

A spokesman for Surrey Police said: “Officers have continued to investigate the theft following reports that zoos and museums across the country have been targeted by thieves who steal rhino heads for their horns, which are sold on to be used in alternative medicines.”

Rhino Crisis Round Up: 33 Rhino Horns Seized in Hong Kong, Charges Filed in UK Museum Theft & More | Planetsave


This week, a large rhino horn seizure in Hong Kong may provide clues to a rhino horn supplier network – if DNA sampling requests are fulfilled.

Meanwhile, a contingency of rhino ranchers in South Africa continue their crusade to profit (legally) from the rhino crisis.

Cape Town shipment

On Tuesday, customs officials in Hong Kong discovered 33 rhino horns, along with 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets hidden in a shipping container that arrived from Cape Town, South Africa.

The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said in a media release that the South African Department of Environmental Affairs has requested DNA samples of the rhino horns from Hong Kong authorities to help identify their origin.

Port officials told RTHK that the rhino horns and ivory were en route to a “neighboring country”.

World-renowned rhino horn and ivory trade expert Dr. Tom Milliken suspects that the shipment was headed for China.

The fact worked ivory was also present suggests the 33 rhino horns were likely destined for the greater Chinese market.

That’s a very worrying development given the scale of this seizure, and an important indication that the Chinese market is becoming an active phenomenon in rhino horn trafficking.

A photo of the seizure can be seen on

Charges filed

Charges have been filed against a man who is believed to have stolen a rhino head from Surrey’s Haslemere Education Museum in May of this year.

According to the BBC, Jamie Channon was remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates in Guilford.

He was charged with “conspiracy to burgle” and will return to court again in December.

Thefts of rhino horns from museums have been on the rise, and linked to the illegal Chinese medicine trade.

Rhino ‘summit’

Over the weekend, South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association held a meeting to “give factual feedback to owners, discuss the proactive needs going forward and secure a mandate on policy issues related to the protection and preservation of privately owned rhino in SA”.

However, a set of publicly available “notes” – allegedly taken by an attendee – suggest that the “rhino summit” was actually a lobbying tactic for the interests of a few rhino owners who are hoping to “legalize” rhino horn trade.

Not a single speaker who was anti-legalisation was given an opportunity to present argument which tells me that they only present a portion of private rhino owners.

But this is not the first time South African “rhino summit” organizers have been charged with an ulterior motive.

In fact, the above-referenced “notes” echo the feedback from Africa Geographic‘s Ian Michler, regarding a similar “rhino summit” held in 2010.

… believing that the solution lies merely in a call to farm horns smacks of opportunism at the expense of biological and conservation integrity – and it does absolutely nothing to address what is in fact criminal activity.

Besides, is it not this same type of thinking, so pervasive in our wildlife management and private ranching sector, that is partly to blame for us being in this situation in the first place?

Major international conservation groups, including Humane Society International and Care for the Wild International, do not appear to support a “legal” trade in rhino horn. (A detailed presentation by HSI and CWI on the topic can be found here.)

For example, Humane Society International recommends that South Africa stop exporting live rhinos to China, Vietnam and other consumer countries, and also that private rhino horn stockpiles be destroyed.

Dr. Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC pointed out recently that the rhino ranchers who are advocating such a position have no one to negotiate with except organized criminal syndicates, since rhino horn trade in internationally banned.

It must also be noted that rhino horn, in fact, has no proven medicinal value, which certainly raises questions about the rationale behind a “legal” rhino horn trade.

Of jackasses and rhinos

Earlier this week, Dickhouse, the production company behind the pop culture sensation “Jackass” posted a short tribute to the extinct Western black rhino on the page.

Good job, poachers! May your asses wind up on the poopdecks of Hell with rectums eternally impaled upon great knobbly butt-plugs carved from the very rhinoceros horns you so bastardly poached in life.

Well said, good sirs!

1. Two white rhinos face to face via Shutterstock; 2. Trio of white rhinos (text added by author) via Shutterstock; 3. Two white rhino bums via Shutterstock

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Two charged in copper theft |

KINGSTON — City police have charged two men in the Oct. 16 theft of a large amount of specialized hardened copper from the Trolley Museum on East Strand Street.

Clinton Padusnak, 34, of Kripplebush Road, and Julian Wynkoop, 36, of Kelder Road, both in Olivebridge, were charged with third-degree grand larceny, a felony. In addition, Padusnak was charged with five counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor, and Wynkoop faces six counts of the same charge.

Padusnak was being held without bail at Ulster County Jail following his arraignment in City Court, while Wynkoop was being held pending arraignment on Thursday.

Michael Randall

Waiouru Army Museum Medal Thief Jailed For Three... |

Waiouru Army museum medal thief Keith Davies has been jailed for three years.

Polive are still searching for over 300 of the 750 medals stolen from the museum by former museum registrar Davies took while he was employed between 1995 and 2002.

Davies, 57, had pleaded guilty to seven charges of false pretences, theft, obtaining by deception and theft as servant.

He sold 131 of the medals he had taken, often walking out of the museum with them in his pockets. In total he took 750 medals worth $236,515 along

As an employee he organised collections, documentation and storage of items.

He wrote letters to families telling them their medals would be kept for future generations.

Wellington District Court judge Bruce Davidson said there was no way to measure the outrage, despair and disgust of the families involved other than to read from a victim impact statement.

"How do you replace the irreplaceable?''

Along with the medals he had taken a World War II German soldier's pack and a helmet plate, a military statuette and 100 military histories valued at $25,700.

Judge Davidson ordered him to pay $50,000 which he had raised by financing his Australian home but said the case went so far beyond the monetary value of the items that there was simply no gauge for it.

Lawyer Greg King said Davies had no real reason for the theft and was unable to explain why he had taken the medals, first taking them home to clean and mount them, and then not taking them back.

Crown prosecutor Lance Rowe said there was a huge breach of trust with the museum having to work at getting the public's trust back.

Brighton bar art thief caught in the act

Bar staff set a trap to try to catch an art thief in the act.

Cormac Eddery, the manager of Xuma Bar in Dyke Road, Seven Dials, Brighton, recruited his team of staff to help him catch a woman he believed was targeting his venue.

The woman, accompanied by a man, was suspected of stealing artwork from the wall three times.

So Mr Eddery told the police, and officers suggested setting up a sting operation.

The next time the pair came in Mr Eddery sat at the bar and pretended to be a customer.

When the bar staff went downstairs to the cellar the woman is alleged to have reached for the wall to grab a painting.

Mr Eddery quickly activated a security lock which trapped them inside the building and alerted the police.

Yesterday (November 17) Mr Eddery, 31, of New England Road, Brighton, said: “Not only did I lose the paintings, which were worth between £50 and £425, but I lost time at work because I was just watching the security cameras.

“I was really stressed and I hated telling the artists the pieces had been stolen. I am really pleased we will get the artwork back again.”

Officers have since recovered three pieces of art stolen from the bar.

A Sussex Police spokesman said two people had been arrested on suspicion of theft following an incident on Tuesday, November 8 at 10.40pm.

A 40-year-old woman has been charged with three counts of theft and one of attempted theft and will appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on December 7.

No further action will be taken against a 53-year-old man from Brighton.

Geert Jan Jansen - Dutch master art forger | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

The Netherlands may be known for its Dutch Masters. But Geert Jan Jansen is a master forger who spent decades making fake paintings, and selling them off as original Picassos, Klimts, Appels before he finally got caught. Listen to the interview and view photos and video below.

Jansen started out with good intentions - copying famous artists in order to learn their techniques - then pursued a career as an art dealer. When that didn't work out, he turned his skills to forgery - and watched in amazement as his works sold for good prices in Amsterdam's auction houses.

Jansen never tried to copy famous paintings, instead he preferred to create works in the style of a particular artist and found he got an addictive kick from fooling the art experts.

Police raid

Things went well for decades - he was producing around 40 paintings a year which were put into circulation in the art market. Until 1994, when the police paid him a visit in his studio in Orléans, France and seized 1,600 paintings.

Unable to prove he was involved in forgery, he was charged instead with a passport-related offence. Geert Jan Jansen eventually served six months in prison along with a five year suspended sentence.

He tells The State We're In's host Jonathan Groubert why he’s unrepentant, and why he’d be pleased if anyone ever sold forgeries of his own paintings. Geert Jan’s website

Taken from the latest edition of The State We're In - Faking It.


Listen here

Video -

The TSWI team visit Geert Jan Jansen in his castle in the heart of the Dutch countryside


Guy who stole Superman stuff bound for pen - Carmi, IL - The Carmi Times

Granite City, Ill. —

Mike Meyer was nervous about letting an obsessed acquaintance anywhere near his sprawling collection of Superman treasures. When the man finally talked his way into his home, Meyer got a real-life lesson in truth, justice and the American way.

Using his girlfriend to distract Meyer, Gerry Armbruster in August raided much of the Man of Steel stash in the basement and spare bedroom of Meyer's tiny home. Armbruster secreted away six boxes holding thousands of comic books and dozens of action figures, along with an assortment of model John Deere tractors.

At the time, Meyer - living off his part-time McDonald's job and Social Security checks for a mental disability - says he lost a bit of his soul.

Armbruster soon got nabbed, and Meyer got back everything but the mini tractors. In fact, after word of the crime made its way through cyberspace faster than a speeding bullet, Meyer's collection actually started to expand, thanks to help from oceans away.

Donors from Paraguay to the Pacific Rim inundated Meyer with a sea of Superman items, from autographed pictures to classic comic books - even a Man of Steel lunch box. Meyer paid it forward, giving most duplicate items to a St. Louis children's hospital.

"I never realized I had so many friends," Meyer, 48, gushed of the outpouring fanned by online Superman message boards and a Facebook page titled, Save Superman - Help Mike Meyer. "All I wanted was justice done, this guy behind bars and my stuff back."

The final piece of that wish came this week, when Armbruster, 37, pleaded guilty in Madison County just east of St. Louis and was sent to prison for six years for the theft. Armbruster also got a simultaneous six-year term for roughing up an elderly man he tried to rob two weeks after ripping off Meyer.

Initially Meyer wanted him to get double the prison time, but he later acknowledged that was "probably greedy."

"Justice did prevail, and this will give him some time to think," Meyer said.

A portly man with wispy eyebrows and a child's charm, Meyer not only adores the Man of Steel but lets the superhero's do-good ideals permeate his life, right down to his answering machine message: "Every man can be Superman."

Since news of the theft spread, Meyer has been somewhat of a cause celebre. He learned of Armbruster's sentence while on an all-expenses-paid trip to Cleveland, where Meyer - decked out in an early Superman costume - got a rare tour with fellow Superman aficionado Keith Howard of the boyhood home of Jerry Siegel, one of the comic superhero's co-creators.

He's gotten a call from Brandon Routh, who played the Man of Steel in the 2006 movie "Superman Returns." And he has fielded plenty of kitsch, from handmade sketches - some from Mexico - to hand-stitched decorative pillows from California bearing Superman's likeness. A Pennsylvania man even shipped him a mini Superman pinball machine.

In Meadville, Pa., midway between Pittsburgh and Erie, stay-at-home dad Andrew Copp happened upon Meyer's misfortune while mining social network websites about comic books. Copp said he found the theft appalling, "but I was more touched by everyone giving back to a total stranger."

Determined to help, the Navy veteran and former electronics worker studying to be a veterinary technician scoured his attic for Superman comics. Then he decided to part with a far more personal keepsake: a Superman logo hand-painted by his 8-year-old daughter, and captioned in child's handwriting: "Woosh Superman!!"

"It was amazing to see how this wonderful story turned out," Howard said. "Mike is a fantastic man, pure all the way to his soul. Just a gentle spirit, and he is what he is. He has the spirit of a small child, and he appeals to all of us."

Meyer started amassing his Superman collection two decades ago, partly to dull the ache of trying to get over a girl.

"This is what kept me going all these years because I've had bouts of depression," said Meyer, still frustrated about being single but at peace sharing his cluttered home with his two trusty sidekicks - dark, mixed-breed dogs Krypto and Dyno.

Meyer doesn't know what all of the Superman stuff is all worth, though it's clearly in the thousands of dollars. Armbruster got only $600 for the stolen items, and Meyer calls that "an insult."

Much of the assortment consumes the basement. Its door to the outer world, which Meyer suspects Armbruster used to scurry away with his things, is now nailed shut. Down there, shelves are lined with Superman action figures and other trinkets, along with Man of Steel books, insulated coffee mugs, lunch boxes and puzzles - even a lava lamp and wastebasket. Boxes of the comic books Armbruster once stole line a wall.

Bad knees keep Meyer from getting down there to admire his collection more than once a week. He spends more time observing the assortment of other items in a spare upstairs bedroom, where Superman bedding accents walls covered by Man of Steel posters. The art includes pictures signed by Margot Kidder, the Lois Lane of several film versions of the comic book classic.

To Meyer, it's all a reminder of an icon who simply did the right thing.

"He has all these powers. He could just shape the world to his own liking, but instead he submits to authority and helps people," Meyer said. "If this man actually existed, there'd be no Gadhafi, no al-Qaida or bin Laden. There'd be no deficit or a lot of the bad stuff that's happening."

National Army Museum Vows To Find Stolen Medals |


The National Army Museum has vowed to find hundreds of medals still missing following the theft of more than $250,000 worth of historic military regalia from Waiouru.

However, Colonel Ray Seymour, the museum's director, believes the amount of reparation the thief has been ordered to pay is less than what the medals are worth and the museum may not be able to pay people who bought the medals in ''good faith''.

"It's my aim that every medal that was stolen... out of this museum will be returned. It might not be tomorrow, but by golly that will be what I'm aiming for... where ever they might be,'' Col Seymour told media outside the Wellington District Court this afternoon.

Col Seymour said 163 medals were still unaccounted and they would be listed on the museum's website.

Keith John Davies was today jailed for three years and ordered to pay $50,000 reparation after he stole 750 medals and military items worth $263,515 from the National Army Museum in Waiouru.

He sold 131 of the regalia for $66, 333.

Davies, 57, had pleaded guilty to seven charges of false pretences, theft, obtaining by deception and theft as servant.

He had been registrar at the museum, responsible for collections, documentation and storage of items.

Wellington District Court judge Bruce Davidson said Davies had taken on the job and was trusted and highly respected, ''But there was a serious flaw in your character. You were dishonest.'' he told Davies.

He took collections of medals entrusted to the museum by soldiers and their families. Some were significant medals, replaced by others, had false names put on different medals and records altered so it did not look like they were missing.

Judge Davidson said the victim impact statements were full of outrage, disgust and despair.

''Our family will never forgive him. How do you replace the irreplacable'' the judge read.

He said Davies destroyed the trust of everyday New Zealanders had in passing things to museums for storage.

"Monetary values alone are simply no gauge. The sentimental and historic value is incalculable."

Prosecuting lawyer Lance Rowe said medals were still unaccounted for and the specific sales had not yet been identified.

There was the possibility they would never be recovered.

Defence lawyer Greg King said Davies was at a loss to explain why it had happened.

He knew he had caused grave harm to a large number of individuals and more, had profoundly affected the conscience of the nation's proud military history.

He said Davies' offending had escalated to a level he was unable to comprehend.

"He is a man acutely knowledgeable about New Zealand military history. It was not just a hobby, it almost became an obsession."

He genuinely took items home to clean and mount them but at some point did not return them.

Col Seymour said the thefts had damaged the museum's reputation and staff would have to work hard to win back the people's trust.

Lessons had been learned and new systems put in place to stop another damaging breach of security, he said.

"We are putting systems in place everyday. We've just realised some of the things that Davies was up to. He was a keeper of the records, we've had to change that. We can't allow one man to have that responsibility."

When asked whether he considered Davies a traitor Seymour said: "I wouldn't go that far, but my golly he would never be in my team."

Radio New Zealand : News : National : Museum medal system changed since thefts

Waiouru Army Museum has changed its systems since a former curator stole 750 medals, making it easier for people to find their relatives' medals.

Keith Davies, 57, was sentenced in the Wellington District Court on Friday to three years prison on several charges, including theft as a servant, and obtaining by deception.

The museum's current director says many changes were made once Davies' crimes were revealed.

Retired Colonel Ray Seymour says the museum will open a medal repository next month that will allow people to use electronic means to quickly find out which tray specific medals are in.

The stolen medals were worth $235,000. Davies was ordered to pay $50,000 reparation.

What should we do with “our” antiquities? - The Art Newspaper

Cultural policy Antiquities and Archaeology
US museum directors wrestle with the long-term consequences of artefacts acquired without watertight provenance
Sleeping Hermaphrodite, lent by Italy to Boston

One year on from the collapse of the five-year trial in Rome of Marion True, the former antiquities curator of the Getty, the directors of US museums that possess antiquities collections and the curators who are responsible for them face a multitude of challenges, one of which is the potentially negative publicity surrounding claims for the restitution of artefacts. An ordeal by trial in an Italian court is another (True was in the dock charged with conspiring to receive antiquities that had been illegally excavated and exported). In June 2010, it emerged that the public prosecutor’s office in Rome was undertaking a preliminary investigation into another American curator of antiquities, Michael Padgett from Princeton University Art Museum, along with former New York antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià and two other co-defendants.

Although the Padgett case has gone quiet, the issue of museums’ complicity in looting, especially from Italy but increasingly from nations around the world, refuses to go away. The recent publication of Chasing Aphrodite (which focuses on decades of Getty acquisitions) reignited the debate, especially in the US. The book’s authors, Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, were widely quoted as saying: “For the past 40 years, museum officials [in the US] have routinely violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Unesco treaty [designed to prevent looting], buying ancient art they knew had been illegally excavated and spirited out of source countries.”

So where does this leave museums with antiquities collections? Will curators work in a climate of fear, worried about their professional reputations or foreign prosecutions over past acquisitions? What will they do with collections, many of which contain objects without watertight provenance? At worst, some fear that antiquities collections could be sidelined, with directors and their trustees reluctant to invest in or research them.

Others, however, feel that the worst is now over, and that a new spirit of international co-operation is beginning to blossom. Perhaps in a show of confidence, the Cleveland Museum of Art reinstalled its collection of Greek and Roman art in 2010, and the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston is renovating its ancient coin and jewellery galleries, says its director, Malcolm Rogers.

Returning loot

The plundering of Italy’s archaeological sites, which escalated in the 1970s, feeding the trade in looted objects, has become a cause célèbre—exacerbated by the fact that some of the best works have ended up in museums. Investigations of collections at major American museums have resulted in the restitution of numerous items to Italy: the first round of agreements in 2006 and 2007 included the return of 21 antiquities from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; 40 from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 13 from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and eight from the Princeton University Art Museum. In 2008, 13 (in addition to one Gothic processional cross) were returned by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is in the process of returning its 2,500-year-old volute krater to Italy.

The Italian Ministry of Culture has responded, rewarding institutions by sending works to US museums on long-term loans and co-operating in special exhibition programmes and provenance research. “Our ability to borrow amazing works of art like the Sleeping Hermaphrodite, which has left Italy only once before, could not have happened without partnerships and our behaving responsibly,” Rogers says. It is one of 13 significant loans—nine from Rome and Naples—in “Aphrodite and the Gods of Love” (until 20 February 2012). Expectations of loans are an integral part of today’s restitution process. Even before the MFA returned the upper half of Weary Herakles to Turkey in September 2011, the New York Times reported that the museum hoped to borrow its lower half from the Antalya Museum.

Nowhere is international cultural co-operation more apparent than at the Getty, paradoxically the institution targeted in particular by the Italian authorities and subsequently the media in the 1995 antiquities scandal that led to the 2005 indictment of True. The Getty signed a “major long-term cultural collaboration” with Sicily in February 2010 and an agreement “creating a framework for cultural co-operation” with Greece in September 2011. The Getty and the Cleveland Museum of Art are now planning a major 2013 exhibition focusing on Sicily’s Classical and Hellenistic periods.

“The responsibility of 21st-century museum staff is to realise the fluidity of shared stewardship,” says Michael Conforti, the director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) from 2008 to 2010. This means caring for objects that belong in theory to “an international museum community”. Creating a network “of institutions linked with ones abroad or archaeological sites in source countries” is “where the world is going” and will result in richer displays of antiquities. But, he adds, it will take time, as the American public needs to adjust to this new concept and having “periodic access to antiquities”.

Borrow or acquire?

It seems that antiquities curators should be busy borrowing rather than trying to acquire Roman and Greek antiquities—at least according to some directors. “It is exceptional today to find museums collecting ancient art actively, which is, no question, the function of the 2008 guidelines,” says Maxwell Anderson, a former antiquities curator at the Met and the director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).

In 2008, the AAMD set new standards for protecting cultural property in accordance with the 1970 Unesco Convention. (Museums would only acquire ancient artefacts or accept donations that could be traced outside the country of origin pre-1970 or legally excavated post-1970.) Anderson predicted in 2007 that the guidelines would prohibit IMA curators “from soliciting or accepting gifts from generous donors who bought works of art in good faith”, but envisioned that this “short-term” setback would ultimately lead to a better future for US museums (The Art Newspaper, May 2007, p49). Anderson now believes that museums are favourably changing from static “treasure houses” to “stewards of cultural heritage willing to work with anyone who is interested”.

Not everyone agrees. “Loans are wonderful, but ownership is better,” says Michael Bennett, the curator of Greek and Roman art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. David Franklin, the museum’s director, insists that greater attention to provenance should not deter museums from their founding commitment “to build permanent collections and work with collectors”. The majority of material has typically been donated to museums, not bought. Bennett stresses the urgency for “policy shapers” such as the AAMD to ensure that these “numerous” antiquities “dispersed” throughout private collections can “land in homes” for the public, fearing that politics may prevent these objects from entering US museums and duly informing art history.

Franklin argues that US museums must “continue to make great acquisitions”, otherwise they will “drive the antiquities market underground”. “There is a sense that a lot of museums have retracted from collecting,” he says. “[The Cleveland Museum of Art] has the tradition and intelligence to show leadership in the museum field in this way.” In 2004, the museum controversially bought an ancient bronze statue of Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard Slayer) with an unpublished provenance. Bennett later attributed the work to Praxiteles, making it possibly the only surviving original sculpture by the Greek sculptor. Apollo is the centrepiece of the museum’s newly reinstalled Classical collections. “The object has only been preserved, cared for, published, exhibited and made accessible because [the museum] owns it,” says Bennett. “We are a country of immigrants and so are art objects in our collections.”

The problem, according to Jim Lally of the New York antiquities dealership J.J. Lally and Co, is that “the core of the AAMD guidelines is a one-size-fits-all rule. All ancient art, unlike any other type of property, is declared to be ‘guilty’ until proven innocent. The honest museum curator is confronted with the task of documenting where an object was during the past 41 years, and confirming that throughout that time it was always handled in a manner consistent with the laws of the country of origin and/or any country where it might have landed at any time. In the real world, it is very often impossible to document the history of an object that may not have been in the public eye nor even highly valued in years past. Thus many good objects which are entirely legitimate are ‘orphaned’ and denied to US museums.” And even if objects can satisfy the “growing number of lawyers and bureaucrats demanding documents”, the “complicated and bureaucratic process” stops “many dealers from offering their best art to US museums”.

The differences over the merits of ownership are dwarfed, however, by the debate about what to do with unprovenanced objects in US museum collections. The majority of museum directors agree that the next crucial matter for the AAMD is finding a solution that deals with these works, specifically those collected between 1970 and the present. But no one is ready to outline what that solution may look like.

Tomorrow’s curators

With these kind of issues to deal with, will the antiquities curators of the future be deterred? No, says the acting director of the Getty Museum, David Bomford: “It is as dynamic as it has ever been, with tremendous young curators at the Getty involved in exhibitions and research.” Bomford’s view is predominantly shared by museum professionals. Even if curators are no longer “the driving force behind acquisitions”, says Anderson, there remain exciting opportunities for today’s curators to conduct serious research on objects already owned by museums. In 2007, the IMA appointed an associate curator of provenance, a growing field in museums. Boston’s MFA hired a full-time provenance curator, making it one of the first to do so, in 2000.

“There will always be young people who consider this a calling and will go into it,” Bennett says. Franklin is less confident. He wonders whether “special pressures” on antiquities curators, such as almost requiring a law degree or a lengthy apprenticeship, is “discouraging”. He fears that the field of antiquities may “die” if “negative publicity” deters the next generation of curators, leaving “no one to look after these objects and promote understanding of them through research and description”.

Lally is more blunt: “In the long term, curators choosing a career path will naturally turn away from a field that presents a minefield of political complications and diminishing possibilities to build a collection without constant interference. One misstep or unfortunate oversight in accepting a donation or acquiring an object that is later shown to have a problem of title can destroy his or her future career.”

Justice is slow, but Italy has not given up the fight - The Art Newspaper,+but+Italy+has+not+given+up+the+fight/24989

Cultural policy Antiquities and Archaeology
The ministry is now looking at ‘cryptic provenances’ such as ‘Swiss private collection, 1980s’
General Giovanni Nistri of the carabinieri art squad with one of 60,000 items recovered in 2009

The collapse of the case against Marion True has been taken by some, especially in the US, as an indication that Italy is keen for a rapprochement with American museums that collect antiquities without cast-iron provenance. But I do not believe that this is the case.

The case against True was dismissed in October 2010 because it ran out of time. Some have speculated that this was a deliberate ploy by the Italian authorities to drag the curator through the courts knowing that a conviction was unlikely. This is strenuously denied by Paolo Giorgio Ferri, the public prosecutor who initiated a series of spectacular trials of the “raiders of the lost art”. He says there has been no real crackdown, no “sacrificial victim”. He insists that when he began the trials of True, the art dealer Robert Hecht and the antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici, the time limit for prosecutions was up to 22 years, depending on the crime—but the implementation of judicial reform, the so-called “Cirielli law” introduced by the Berlusconi government in 2005, slashed this period drastically.

Ferri is justifiably annoyed at some of the US allegations. He says he brought True, Hecht and Medici to trial (all of whom deny the charges) because “of all those under investigation—and I questioned more than 2,500—True had made the most recent acquisitions. Moreover, the Getty was the biggest buyer: [it spent] seven times more than the Metropolitan Museum. But, above all, there was a huge amount of evidence against True, Hecht and Medici.”

While the case against True was dismissed because of the statute of limitations, and Hecht’s case is now running out of time, Medici was found guilty on two counts. “The ten years for conspiracy and receiving stolen goods [that Medici was originally sentenced to] were reduced to eight on appeal only because, thanks to the Cirielli law, the charge of illegal exporting was time-barred,” says Ferri. “[Medici] was also ordered—and this was something new—to pay an interim fine of €10m to the state for damage to the nation’s historical and artistic heritage.”

Medici’s final appeal is before the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome (the court of last resort in Italy), which is due to give its final verdict on 5 December.

The True-Hecht-Medici trial is by no means the only one. Many other people have also been tried (although many have ended up with light sentences, or had their cases time-barred). But if there was something of a lull in the battle against the tombaroli (tomb robbers) and the dealers in illicit objects during Sandro Bondi’s tenure as the Italian minister of culture, the issue is gaining momentum again under his successor Giancarlo Galan. Stricter attention is already being paid to the major auction houses: several times the minister has made the connection between artefacts for sale and photographs of them—still covered in mud or still in pieces prior to restoration—found with the traffickers.

Ferri says that the ministry is now looking carefully at “cryptic provenances” such as “Swiss private collection, 1980s” or “English, after 1975” with a view to introducing new legislation.

In a recent case concerning 15th-century illuminated manuscripts stolen from Naples, exported in 1974 and returned by Sotheby’s after a long campaign led by state attorney Maurizio Fiorilli, a judicial document went as far as to propose the “revocation of the police authorisation necessary for holding auctions” in Italy. The fact the manuscripts were returned (with compensation for the bidder who had acquired them at auction) obviated this extreme measure. There may have been a hiatus, but Italy has certainly not given up the battle.

That the wheels of justice in Italy grind far too slowly is well known, all the more so in cases with international implications. It also remains difficult in Italy to secure a conviction for the trafficking or illegal excavation of cultural assets, at least until the current legislation is reformed, as Galan has said he intends to do.

It is also worth noting that one of the first things that Ferri has done, since his transfer to the ministry of culture, has been to sharpen its focus on tracking stolen antiquities. The carabinieri are discovering the location of hundreds of antiquities, dug up illegally throughout the country and smuggled abroad from 1970 onwards. Many are in the possession of 40 or more major museums.

“Our intention is not just to get them back but to put a stop to trafficking,” says Ferri, “and I think we are having a degree of success: many museums and countries have changed their rules and regulations. It is not a question of property, but of morality. If the role of museums is to educate, they cannot possibly hang on to illegal artefacts.”

Vase stolen from lakeshore statue

Barrie police are investigating after a portion of a lakeside sculpture valued at $150,000 was removed, recently.

A large, bronze urn was cut away from an art installation located on the south shore of Kempenfelt Bay called Babylon, by Canadian sculptor John McEwen.

The series of seven rusted metal pedestals, one of which featured the urn, each contain a letter from the word Babylon and are located west of the Southshore Centre.

According to police, the installation is on loan to the MacLaren Art Centre from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. It was relocated to Barrie as part of the Maclaren's Shore/lines: Responding to Place exhibition in 2003.

A citizen alerted the gallery to the theft and MacLaren officials contacted police.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 705-725-7025, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Stolen statue returned to Helmet House
A statue that used to sit outside Helmet House's Calabasas Hills, Calif., headquarters was returned this week, eight years after it was stolen.

The statue, dubbed "The Rider," was one of the first pieces of the "Art in Public Places" program in Calabasas. It was created by sculptor Steve Posson, the designer of the "Glory Days" sculpture at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, and art director Liselotte Bjork-Posson. The statue was stolen from Helmet House in October 2003.

The statue was recovered after Posson was contacted by people who had purchased the piece at an estate sale in suburban Los Angeles. Posson then contacted Helmet House, and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department renewed their work on the case. The statue was then returned to Helmet House Tuesday by the sheriff's department, damaged from being ripped off its original granite base and missing several pieces, including the male rider's head.

As Helmet House replaced the statue in 2006, it's unknown what the company will do with the original.

"We are thrilled to welcome back the original statue to Helmet House," said Phil Bellomy, vice president and co-founder of Helmet House. "'The Ride' commemorated not just a love of motorcycles, which many of us at Helmet House share and from which we all make our living, but the statue also commemorates the successful journey Helmet House and its staff have taken since our founding in 1969. This statue is also a great example of how art can improve the quality of the community where it is placed. Lastly we'd like to thank Steve Posson for his quick action in helping us get it returned."

With the original statue found, the LA Sheriff's Department is now chasing new leads in the investigation.

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