Nov 23, 2010

ARCA Panel at the 2010 American Society of Criminology

File:MalteseFalcon1930.jpgLast Thursday ARCA sponsored an antiquities panel held at the American Society of Criminology meeting in San Francisco. It was a lively panel, and I always enjoy getting a chance to discuss these issues in person, to an interested audience. San Francisco was a great setting for this kind of thing, and though the conference hotel was located near the Tenderloin, in the old stomping grounds of Dashiell hammett, I managed to restrain myself and avoid making any pained "Maltese Falcon" references, though I'm unable to resist here. What follows are a few of my thoughts which I jotted down during the panel.

Kimberly Alderman began the panel by examining the connections between art crime and organized crime and the drug trade. The connection matters, as it may be one way to help highlight the problem of the theft and looting of sites, as organized crime and illegal drug sales will draw the attention of law enforcement more readily. Yasmeen Hussain followed, and discussed the role of antiquities issues in international relations. I was really struck that there may be more room in the debate for political scientists to weigh in on these issues in a more direct way, perhaps offering frameworks for useful dialogues which can "build capacity" as Yasmeen argued. Erik Nemeth followed and really opened my ideas to the idea of "cultural intelligence" and the need to assess the "tactical and strategic significance of antiquities and cultural heritage sites". I ended the panel by looking in some detail at the Four Corners antiquities investigation, and argued that the criminal offenses at the Federal level are inconsistently applied and do not really do a very good job of regulating and changing the underlying nature of the market.

One interesting idea which emerged from the questions after the panel was Simon Mackenzie's question about whether the UN definition of organized crime could or should be applied to certain parts of the antiquities trade like auction houses. The definition states that organized criminal groups are "a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences. . .". Kim responded by noting that even if these groups are not actively and intentionally engaged in the crimes, they may be unwitting actors or play a part in an organized criminal network, referencing the work of Edgar Tijhuis.

Overall, it was a terrific weekend, another Cultural Property panel with Blythe Bowman Proulx, Matthew Pate, Duncan Chappell, and Simon Mackenzie was terrific as well. Thanks to all the panelists, and especially the volunteers who put together Thursday evening's reception at the Thirsty Bear.

(cross-posted)

Yale Says Machu Picchu Artifacts Will Return

Yale has announced objects from Machu Picchu will be returned to Peru, and that an agreement is being "formalized". It seems the objects will return to Peru early next year, which will bring an end to the ongoing lawsuit brought by Peru. Hopefully the two sides have reached a mutually beneficial compromise, and an agreement is close. But remember, an agreement has been announced before.

Nov 12, 2010

Footnotes

The Collapsed House of the Gladiators at Pompeii

Nov 11, 2010

ARCA Panel at the 2010 American Society of Criminology 11/18 (UPDATE)

If you like beer and art crime next week's American Society of Criminology Meeting in San Francisco will have you sorted.

First, ARCA will be sponsoring a panel titled "Antiquities Trafficking:  Complementary Countermeasures". I'll be the discussant for the panel, so I hope if you are in the area or attending the conference you will consider attending.
  • Cultural Intelligence: Data Sources on the Motivation and Means for Trafficking - Erik Nemeth (ARCA)
  • The Difficulty in Using Criminal Offences to Police the Antiquities Trade - Derek Fincham (Assistant Professor, South Texas College of Law/ARCA)
  • Cultural Property and International Relations: Implications in Dialogue - Yasmeen del Rosario Hussain (CUSP, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
  • Honor Amongst Thieves: The International Subculture of Art Crime - Kimberly L. Alderman (University of Wisconsin Law School)
More details on the panel are posted below after the jump. There also looks to be a very promising panel the next morning titled "Cultural Property Crime" at 8 am titled "Cultural Property Crime" which may be of interest as well.

And second, that evening ARCA will also be sponsoring a reception at the nearby Thirsty Bear in San Francisco:

Thursday, November 18
6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m
Thirsty Bear
661 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(Directions)

ARCA warmly invites those in the Bay area to join us for some free drinks, nibbles, and lively discussion about art crime and cultural heritage protection. This is an excellent opportunity to meet ARCA staff, volunteers, and experts and professionals in the field of art crime.  

Egypt Secures Return of 19 Objects

One of the 19 objects returned to Egypt by the Met
The Met will return object to Egypt which had been unlawfully removed from Egypt after the excavation of Tutankhamen's tomb. Archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922, and at the time some archaeologists may have kept some of the objects they found.

As the Met's Director Thomas Campbell said in a statement "Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the government of Egypt".

These objects will likely assist Dr. Zahi Hawass in his attempts to secure the return to Egypt of objects which are very famous, which were removed from Egypt much longer ago—the Rosetta Stone and the Bust of Nefertiti. Hawass has made clear that he is seeking to fill a new national museum in Cairo with many of these renownd objects.
  1. Kate Taylor, Met to Repatriate Objects From King Tut’s Tombs to Egypt, The New York Times, November 10, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/arts/design/10met.html?_r=2 (last visited Nov 11, 2010).
  2. Ashraf Khalil, Egypt Hunts Ancient Artifacts, wsj.com, November 11, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704689804575535662169204940.html (last visited Nov 11, 2010).

Nov 5, 2010

Applications Wanted for the 2011 ARCA MA Program

ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes against Art) is now accepting applications to its third Masters program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Both the application and prospectus are available here:

http://artcrime.info/education.htm

Applications are due in early January, and we try to keep enrollment to a small number, probably under 25.  This really is a special program, and a terrific opportunity for a wide variety of folks interested in careers which touch art and heritage crime.  We try to balance practical courses in security measures with theoretical grounding in law, policy, art history and criminology.


I am excited to have the opportunity to spend most of the summer in Amelia volunteering as the Academic Director. Frankly, I feel a bit guilty calling this a 'volunteer' position. I Teach writing to law students here at South Texas the rest of the year, but I really look forward to the opportunity the ARCA program provides each summer to teach and discuss my first love—art and heritage.  My wife Joni will be on site as well as the managing director of ARCA, and our President and Founder Noah Charney will be a regular presence.  The faculty are a terrific bunch from all over the world who bring a great deal of practical experience to the courses. 


A house in Amelia
As the prospectus aptly puts it, this program provides in-depth, Masters level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements of art and heritage crime:  its history, its nature, its impact, and what can be done to curb it.  Courses are taught by international experts, in the beautiful setting of Umbria, Italy.  Topics include the history of art crime, art and antiquities law and policy, criminology, the laws of armed conflict, the art trade, art insurance, art security and policing, risk management, criminal investigation, law and policy, vandalism and iconoclasm, and cultural heritage protection throughout history and around the world.  This interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade, and post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history.

I am more than happy to answer any questions (fincham "at" artcrime.info) about the program, as is ARCA's Business and Admissions Director Mark Durney (ma "at" artcrime.info).

Nov 4, 2010

Fisk Can Sell the Art, Essentially Loses 2/3 of the Proceeds

What Would O'Keeffe Do Today?
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle managed to frustrate all sides of the Fisk University dispute with the latest ruling in the case.  She has ruled on Fisk University's request to sell a partial interest in the Stieglitz Collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas.  The University can sell the half-interest to the Crystal Bridges, but it can only use $10 million of the proceeds "for its viability". The remainder of the proceeds will be put in an endowed fund to maintain a "Nashville connection for the collection". Income from the fund would be paid to Fisk to maintain and display the collection when it is in Nashville. Donn Zaretzky does not seem to understand the logic—and I'm not sure I do either.  He asks:

Was the "role" O'Keeffe "designed" for Fisk equal to one-third of the, um, total "roles" involved in the gift? Or that helping Fisk was (exactly) half as important to O'Keeffe (as measured by the old intent-o-meter) as making sure the work never left Nashville? It seems a little arbitrary to me.
There is just no way for us to know what O'Keeffe would have wanted. I think a better policy would allow deaccession in limited circumstances, but adopt the approach the United Kingdom has taken with respect to export of art and delay the sale for an extended period of time to allow other public institutions an opportunity to keep a work in the 'public trust'. When a work carries a special connection to a region, cultural institutions and localities should be given a first opportunity to raise the needed funds. The Tennessee Attorney General wants the art to stay in Nashville, but he did not want to compensate Fisk appropriately. I just do not see the injustice here. A financially troubled and storied institution, whom O'Keeffe wanted to support decades ago can receive a much-needed benefit with the partial sale of works of art that can be better preserved and seen by a wider audience.

In response to the ruling Fisk University President Hazel O'Leary said "We are pleased with the court’s ruling that we can consummate the sharing agreement with Crystal Bridges, . . .  However, the court’s decision to restrict $20 million of the funds so that interest from the endowment is used to support the art is excessive." Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper did not seem any happier with the ruling "We are disappointed with the approval of the Stieglitz Collection’s sale to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas contrary to the express wishes of the donor. . .".

Lee Rosenbaum, who seems to believe art should never move anywhere argues this is a violation of donor intent.  Yet the court makes abundantly clear that Georgia O'Keeffe had failed to take the "necessary legal steps of reserving a reversionary right in the Collection". In fact, O'Keeffe had, according to the Tennessee Court of Appeal given a general charitable gift, and her successors are unable to claim now that her gift came attached with special conditions. I am sympathetic to Rosenbaum's frustration with the decision. It seems to split the dispute so evenly that neither side can be very pleased—with the exception of the Crystal Bridges Museum which will now get access to the collection for half the year.  Yet Rosenbaum claims that the sale of the work violates O'Keeffe's intent. Unless she has the power to speak to the late artist beyond the grave there is absolutely no evidence, and we cannot ever really know for certain whether O'Keeffe would have blessed this sale.  All we do know is that she did not anticipate this circumstance, and certainly placed no legally cognizable restrictions on the collection.


  1. Jennifer Brooks, Fisk art ruling upsets both sides, The Tennessean, November 4, 2010, http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101104/NEWS01/101104012/Fisk-art-ruling-upsets-both-sides (last visited Nov 4, 2010).
  2. Robin Pogrebin, Court Says Fisk University Can Sell Stake in Art Collection - NYTimes.com, New York Times, November 4, 2010, http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/court-says-fisk-university-can-sell-stake-in-art-collection/ (last visited Nov 4, 2010).
  3. Lee Rosenbaum, Judge Approves Fisk/Crystal Bridges Deal, Restricts Use of Walton’s $30 Million - CultureGrrl, http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2010/11/judge_approves_fiskcrystal_bri.html (last visited Nov 4, 2010).

Nov 3, 2010

Stolen Degas Work Revealed as Stolen Before Auction

"Blanchisseuses souffrant des dents" by Edgar Degas, stolen in 1973
This work was recognized by a an individual from Le Havre France as a painting which had been stolen in 1973. The individual recognized the long-missing painting in Sotheby's auction catalogue.  It was slated for sale today before the auction house withdrew it. The French Culture Ministry says that it will negotiate the return of the work, and that the seller "seems to be of good faith". The case speaks to the difficulty with multiple stolen art databases. The painting is apparently on a museum data list in France, but it is unclear from the initial reports whether the work was reported to the Art Loss Register, the leading stolen art database.


  1. Stolen Degas painting resurfaces at Sotheby's auction, AFP, November 3, 2010, http://ph.news.yahoo.com/afp/20101103/ten-france-us-art-painting-auction-degas-1dc2b55.html (last visited Nov 3, 2010).
  2. Stolen Degas painting discovered at New York auction, RFI, November 3, 2010, http://www.english.rfi.fr/americas/20101103-stolen-degas-painting-discovered-new-york-auction (last visited Nov 3, 2010).

Nov 2, 2010

Footnotes

"Tobias and his Wife" (1659), recently attributed to Rembrandt

Nov 1, 2010

Former National Archives Department Head Under Investigation

A former department head at the National archives is under federal investigation after Federal agents searched his home last week.  Leslie Waffen had worked at the national archives for 40 years, heading the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit. Federal agents seized material from his home last Tuesday and searched his home. There are no details yet about what kinds of items were recovered.

Inspector General Paul Brachfeld is quoted in the TBD piece detailing the investigation last week: "The threat is there. Incidences have transpired and they continue to transpire, and my job is to, A, investigate active cases and, B, educate the public".  Brachfeld offers more details on the National Archives Archival Recovery Team (ART) in the fall volume of the Journal of Art Crime, which will be available in early December. To subscribe see http://www.artcrime.info/publications.  

The Wright Brothers missing Airplane patent
One of the biggest challenges for the National Archives is its role as a repository for the people. It is open to the public, but it contains a massive amount of material. Much of this has not been systematically inventoried. By way of example there are stores of government documents in salt mines in Hutchinson Kansas.  Stored there are dismantled pieces of the hospital room where President John F. Kennedy was treated after he was shot. Given all of this material, and the access the public has, one of the biggest problems will always be insider thefts. The problem of the employees of the archives taking valuable objects and keeping or selling them.  The Government Accountability office recently issued a report on the National Archives after items had gone missing.  Lost items include the Wright Brothers patent for the first airplane, Eli Whitney's patent for the cotton gin, a copy of President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech, as well as target maps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

These insider thefts are a betrayal of one's profession, but also rob future generations of these important pieces of their past.  To see a truly staggering list of missing documents, look at this list of missing historical documents and items.
  1. Elahe Izadi, National Archives agents raid home of Leslie Waffen, former archives department head, TBD, October 29, 2010, http://www.tbd.com/articles/2010/10/national-archives-agents-raid-home-of-leslie-waffen-former-archives-department-head-26544.html (last visited Nov 1, 2010).
  2. Audit Shows Records At National Archives At Risk : NPR,  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130844620 (last visited Nov 1, 2010).
  3. U.S. GAO - National Archives and Records Administration: Oversight and Management Improvements Initiated, but More Action Needed, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-15 (last visited Nov 1, 2010).
  4. Faye Fiore, Guardians of the nation's attic - Los Angeles Times, L.A. Times, August 8, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/08/nation/la-na-treasure-hunters-nu-20100809 (last visited Nov 1, 2010).

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