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Friday, January 17, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, "Victory is mine, victory is mine, great day in the morning, people, victory is mine ... I drink from the keg of glory, Turbo. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land"

Dutch art sleuth finds rare stolen copy of 'Prince of Persian poets'

A stolen 15th-century book by the famed Persian poet Hafez has been recovered by a Dutch art detective after an international "race against time" that drew the alleged interest of Iran's secret service.
The gold-leafed volume worth around one million euros ($1.1 million) was found to be missing from the collection of an Iranian antiques dealer after his death in Germany in 2007.
It sparked a decade-long search for one of the oldest surviving copies of the "Divan of Hafez" -- the collected works of the poet who remains extremely popular in Iran and has inspired artists worldwide.
But Arthur Brand, dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the Art World" for tracing a series of lost works, finally tracked down the tome via the murky stolen arts underworld.
"This is a hugely important find for me, because this is such an important book," Brand said as he showed AFP the recovered book at an Amsterdam apartment.
Along with Rumi, Hafez -- full name Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafiz Shirazi -- is one of the best known mystical bards. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson called him the "Prince of Persian poets".
Hafez's Divan can still be found in most Iranian homes where it is traditionally read out during family celebrations for the Persian New Year.
- 'Scared and threatened' -
The theft of the manuscript, which dates from 1462 to 1463, was discovered by the family of book dealer Djafar Ghazy after he died in an old people's home in Munich in 2007.
While going through Ghazy's computer, they realised the reclusive pensioner had in fact collected hundreds of ancient manuscripts -- but that they were all gone.
In 2011 German police recovered 174 of them raiding the home of another Iranian pensioner who had befriended Ghazy.
"But the most important piece, one of the earliest and most accurate copies of the famous 'Divan of Hafez', was still missing," said Brand.
German police announced a 50,000-euro reward and issued a flyer describing the book in 2016 but there was still no trace of it, until late 2018.
Brand then received a phone call from an Iranian dealer, asking the Dutchman to "urgently" meet him in Germany.
"The man told me he was visited by two officials who said they were 'linked to the Iranian embassy'." The men -- alleged by the dealer to be Iranian secret agents -- told him to "report any news of the missing Divan", Brand said.
"My informant was clearly scared, felt threatened and decided to call me into the case," Brand told AFP.
Iran had already shown an interest in the case, saying it would take "all legal means" to get back the manuscripts that were found in 2011, after Germany gave two back but decided most of the rest were legally owned by the collector, German news reports said.
"After my informant was contacted, I knew that the Iran was also looking for the missing Divan and I started a race against time to see if I could find it first, as the book belonged to Ghazy's family," Brand said.
- 'Rare and valuable' -
The Dutchman then flew to London to meet an unnamed man "who became extremely nervous" when shown the flyer of the missing book, and confessed he had seen it as a friend of his had sold it to a major buyer.
By then Iranian agents were also in London asking questions about the manuscript, Brand said.
"The buyer was shocked and furious. After all, he was sold a stolen book and now everybody including the Iranian government was looking for it," Brand said.
By now afraid, the buyer flew to Paris to demand his money back from the original seller.
But Brand persuaded him to go back to London and finally the collector handed over the book via an intermediary in late 2019.
Brand said he will travel to Munich next Wednesday to return the Divan to German police.
"The next steps are currently being discussed together with the heirs" of Ghazy, police spokesman Ludwig Waldinger told AFP.
Experts said this edition could be of great historical and literary value for scholars and admirers of Hafez, whose works were published after his death.
The recovered book is "one of a handful still in existence," said Dominic Parviz Brookshaw, assistant professor of Persian literature at Oxford University.
"It's an extremely early edition -- although not the earliest -- which would make it very rare and valuable," Brookshaw told AFP.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Anthony Amore Called Out By Casey Sherman & Arthur Brand, Gardner Art Reward Price List, Olive Branch For Recovery

Art sleuth says it’s time to change strategy on Gardner heist

Indiana Jones of the Art World says offer individual rewards

Art detective Arthur Brand next to a Picasso he recovered. (Courtesy Arthur Brand.)
Like Rembrandt’s stolen seascape, there is a storm brewing over the direction of the decades-old investigation to recover masterpieces missing from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The first shot across the bow was fired by celebrated Dutch art detective Arthur Brand who took to Twitter last week to call out investigators while making a direct plea to the thieves who may still be in possession of some of the 13 artworks stolen from Gardner Museum in March 1990.

“Still working on the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft,” Brand wrote. “And don’t believe those who say you can only deal with them. You can always talk with me. The FBI and the museum and their allies are not going to solve this case after 30 years. Move over …”

Brand, dubbed “The Indiana Jones of the Art World,” made international headlines last year for finding and returning a $28 million Picasso painting that was stolen 20 years ago from a luxury yacht in the French Riviera.

Speaking to Brand by phone in Europe, he told me that he fired off the tweet in frustration and has since deleted the message.

Although he praises the FBI and the museum for doing everything they can to recover the stolen works, which include Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” he believes that investigators are sending the wrong message to anyone with knowledge of the notorious heist.
Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
According to the museum’s website, a $10 million reward is still being offered for information leading to the recovery of all 13 works in good condition.

“But what if thieves only have two or three of the stolen art works?” Brand asks. “They are being dissuaded from coming forward because they don’t have the entire collection. The museum is giving them an all-or-nothing proposition.”

The art detective is calling on the museum to provide separate rewards for the individual art pieces. Brand believes this change in strategy could break the case.

“I’m also concerned about how the museum defines the “good condition” of the art, that’s a very arbitrary statement,” Brand says. “I know how the criminal mind works and language like that sends a big red flag to the thieves.”

The FBI won’t comment on the art detective’s theory but when I reached out to Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security, during an online conversation, he told me; “We have no comment on some guy’s (bleeping) twitter.”

That no comment speaks volumes and I can understand his frustration. Amore’s been working on the case since 2005, chasing leads around the globe and he’s found nothing.
Now he’s got one of the world’s leading art detectives breathing down his neck and demanding results.

But to call Arthur Brand “some guy” speaks to Amore’s institutional arrogance

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the heist this year, the museum would be better served if it brings in new investigators with fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Brand tells me that he’s spoken with sources in direct contact with the IRA. They have convinced him some of the missing paintings are stashed away in Ireland.

This theory has been dismissed by Amore.

“He (Amore) calls me “some guy,” but I have recovered six stolen art pieces in the past year alone, and what has he found?” Brand says. “I always place myself in the minds of the thieves. I have a track record of success while after nearly 30 years; the museum is still sitting on nothing.”

Casey Sherman is a New York Times best-selling author of 11 books. His latest is the upcoming “Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture and Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss.” Follow him on Twitter @caseysherman123.