Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World is a collection of essays, published in 2009 by Praeger Press.
Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World is a collection of essays, published in 2009 by Praeger Press. The collection includes essays by professors, lawyers, police, security directors, archaeologists, art historians, and members of the art trade, on the subject of art crime and protection of cultural heritage. It was the first book published under the auspices of ARCA (The Association for Research into Crimes against Art). All profits from the sale of this book go directly to support ARCA’s charitable activities in defense of art.
Art crime has received relatively little scholarly attention. And yet it involves a multi-billion dollar legitimate industry, with a conservatively-estimated $6 billion annual criminal profit. (US Department of Justice website) Information and scholarly analysis of art crime is critical to the wide variety of fields involved in the art trade and art preservation, from museums to academia, from auction houses to galleries, from insurance to art law, from policing to security. Since the Second World War, art crime has evolved from a relatively innocuous crime, into the third highest-grossing annual criminal trade worldwide, run primarily by organized crime syndicates, and therefore funding their other enterprises, from the drug and arms trades to terrorism. It is no longer merely the art that is at stake.
This is the first interdisciplinary essay collection on the study of art crime, and its effect on all aspects of the art world. Essayists discuss art crime subcategories, including vandalism, iconoclasm, forgery, fraud, peace-time theft, war looting, archaeological looting, smuggling, submarine looting, and ransom. The contributors conclude their analyses with specific practical suggestions to implement in the future.
This book is of importance to anyone involved in the art world, its trade, study, and security. It introduces art crime as a new, interdisciplinary field of study. Both academic and professional authors represent the various spheres damaged by art crime, and present a unified front, working towards the common goal of curbing art crime in the future.
Introduction to Art & Crime
& Art Crime in Context
Noah Charney introduces the concept behind this essay collection, and places art crime in a historical and international context.
I. ARCHAEOLOGY & ANTIQUITIES
Illicit looting and trade in antiquities represents the vast majority of art crime, perhaps as much as 75%. It is also the most difficult to police, and the easiest for criminals to profit from, as most of the objects involved are taken directly from the earth or the sea in illegal excavations. No record of the objects will have existed before their excavation, so police will not know what to look for. Looted antiquities may be sold for full value to unsuspecting legitimate buyers on an open market, with merely a doctored provenance to suggest their "clean" history. Antiquities looting is a significant funding source for terrorist groups.
The Fundamental Importance of Archaeological Context
Beyond inhibiting criminal activity, why must archaeological excavations remain undisturbed by looters? The placement and orientation of objects in a tomb, for instance, speak volumes to the educated archaeologist—much more than the individual objects found within could provide, if removed from the scene.
Homecomings: Learning from the Return of Antiquities to Italy
In recent months, scores of important antiquities have been returned to their countries of origin, decades after their looting and/or illegal exportation. Most of these works have come back to Italy, thanks to Italy’s aggressive activity and prosecution, most notable in the case of the Getty Museum. David Gill details the circumstances and histories of the looted objects and their return to their countries of origin, while also exploring the larger legal and moral issues inherent in the discourse.
Lack of Due Diligence & Unregulated Markets: Trade in Illicit Antiquities & Fakes in Hong Kong, China
Believed to be one of the largest illegal businesses in the world, the black-market antiquities trade ranges from the impoverished tomb-raider via organized criminal networks through to the dealers and auction houses in Europe, America and Asia. The worldwide popularity and high prices for Chinese archaeological artifacts have encouraged illegal excavation and smuggling of cultural property. Although Chinese authorities have intensified their efforts to crack down on smuggling and illicit excavation, it continues practically unabated. This huge demand for Chinese cultural artifacts has caused serious damage to China’s cultural heritage. A distinctive feature of the trade in Chinese antiquities is the important role played in the market by the transition ports such as Hong Kong. Hong Kong is seen as the way station for much of China’s exported artifacts on their journey to collections abroad. Toby Bull’s chapter looks at the nature of the Hong Kong market, the extent of the problem of looted Chinese artifacts, and the issue of the fakes that enter the local Hong Kong market. It also aims to find out whether greater due diligence or some form of regulation could be brought in to help diminish and eventually stop the trade in illicit antiquities.
II. THIEVES & FORGERS
Who steals art and why? How is art related to Organized Crime, the drug and arms trades, and terrorism? This chapter details the variety of thieves involved in art crime, including a never-before-published account of Picasso's involvement in art theft. Forgery and confidence tricks play a significant role in the art trade, taking advantage of the unusual psychology of the art market, which tends to be so enthusiastic about new discoveries that it overlooks potenitally-questionable artworks, falling into the hands of clever criminals.
A. J. G. Tijhuis
Who Is Stealing All Those Paintings?
Tijhuis’ chapter examines categories of art thieves. His contribution is particularly interesting, and useful to the dialogue among educated scholars, because his analysis differs in some ways from the opinions of other art crime experts, particularly with regard to the level of involvement of Organized Crime in art crime. He makes the excellent point that most experts are going on hearsay from police about Organized Crime and art crime, with relatively little empirical data and evidence beyond the word of police, undercover agents, and criminals. Tijhuis does not dismiss the notion that most art crime since the 1960s involves Organized Crime at some level, but rather makes the legitimate point that, while we art crime scholars have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence, we have not seen concrete data to back it up.
The Affair of the Statuettes Re-Examined: Picasso & Apollinaire's Role in the Famed Louvre Theft
Loreti’s important essay uncovers a shocking and heretofore shadowy portion of the story of the Mona Lisa theft, and in the biographies of Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso. Her research indicates that, not only did Picasso likely commission the theft of Iberian statue heads, which appear in his 1907 masterpiece Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon, but he and possibly Apollinaire may have been involved in the theft itself, along with the dynamic and bizarre art thief, Josephe-Honore Gery Pieret. Her work is important not only to the history of art crime, but to the history of art.
Art, Terrorism & Organized Crime
In this exclusive interview, renowned professor of criminology Bojan Dobovšek, considered the leading expert on Balkan organized crime, details the methods by which organized crime syndicates orchestrate crimes, smuggle goods across borders, and ultimately profit from the theft of art and other illicit goods. Since organized crime took over the majority interest in stealing art, his insight into how organized crime functions is key to understanding why art is stolen, and what happens to it.
Kenneth Polk and Duncan Chappell
Fakes and Deception: Examining Fraud in the Art Market
We know from our field work that the problem is much greater than this record of prosecution would suggest. Understanding why there is so little attention paid to art fraud by the criminal justice system is one of the major purposes of this discussion.The difference between the art experts, with their concern for “authenticity,” and the criminal justice system, with its focus on fraud. Strictly speaking, what the art expert is concerned with is the assessment of the physical element (authenticity). It will be the task of the criminal justice system to gather the necessary information to establish the mental element involving intent and/or dishonesty. For the criminologist, what the foregoing makes clear is that much of art fraud belongs in the “dark figure” of crime. That is, while we have numerous examples from our interviews and observations of fraudulent practices taking place in the art market, only rarely are these grounds for action by the criminal justice system.
III. ART WORLD & CRIME
Ironically, the group most damaged by art crime, the art trade, is often inadvertently complicit in the success of criminals. The art world, from museums to galleries to insurance to law, is perhaps the least-transparent multi-billion dollar world industry, a point of which criminals take advantage. This chapter explores how insurance, the art trade, and collectors deal with art crime, and ends with an essay by one of the world's leading art police, the head of the Carabinieri's Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
Implication of Art Theft in the Fine Art Insurance Industry
The methods and thought-processes of insurance companies often seem mysterious to outsiders. How do insurers function? On what do they base their premiums? How do they evaluate risk? Straus deconstructs for lay readers the role of art crime and insurance in the art community. Readers will come away with a strong understanding of how art is insured, the role of insurance in investigation and security, and how an artwork’s value is determined.
Trepidations of a Private Art Collector
Judah Best writes from beneath many hats. He is a distinguished lawyer, a commissioner for the Smithsonian, and an art collector with an impressive private collection. In his short, personal essay Best discusses the pleasures and dangers of art collecting, in a trade woven through with illegal activity.
Colonel Giovanni Pastore
Presenting the perspective of the police, Colonel Giovanni Pastore looks back on his long career leading the Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, universally recognized as the world’s finest, and most successful, art police. Pastore’s most dramatic point, and the one which will certainly be most controversial to the art trade, is his recommendation that all nations should require the sellers of cultural goods (fine art or antiquities) to provide a certificate of legitimate ownership that a non-partisan, non-profit group should evaluate and deem acceptable. Today, potential buyers need only prove that they did not know about an object’s illicit history. Pastore suggests that owners, sellers, and potential buyers should have to actively prove that the object they wish to acquire does not have any illicit history to it. This would therefore turn the proof of due diligence and good faith from its current passive system to one which required active proof from the potential purchasers and the dealer/provider.
IV. SECURITY & MUSEUMS
Museum theft presents the highest-profile art crime. Museums have never been so well-protected as they are today, and yet museum theft is on the rise? Why this discrepancy? The answer is that while museums, unlike for example churches, tend to have their own security staff and budgets to cover security expenses, most museums in the world remain woefully insecure, due to the inertia of old habits that criminals have all-too-easily outmaneouvered. Essays from three of the top museum security directors and a private security consultant deal with the problem, and suggest concrete practical improvements that any museum in the world might apply
Dennis Ahern & Anthony Amore
Q&A with Two Revolutionary Security Directors
Dennis Ahern and Anthony Amore rank among the most innovative, and most effective, museum security directors in the world. Ahern is in charge of security for all of the Tate museums (five in all), including the Tate Modern, the world’s most visited museum. He has to deal not only with framed paintings and sculptures on plinths, but enormous contemporary installations, many of which are interactive. Anthony Amore is the security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, having taken over in the years following the infamous theft. Not only has he improved the security, but he is also part of a new trend in security directors actively investigating a past theft from their institution. This chapter presents an exclusive opportunity from an informed question and answer session with these two major figures in museum security.
Stevan P. Layne
Exercises in Futility: The Pursuit of Protecting Art
Stevan Layne’s essay provides a brief introduction to basic security measures that all museums should take, and few do. Too often there is inertia and a sense of laissez-faire about museums, with regard to their security. If nothing has been stolen, then why change? It can be expensive to alter one’s security program, but waiting for a theft to give you the impetus for change is closing the barn door after the horse has already run off. Layne explains some cost-effective ways to improve security based on existing assets, without necessarily resorting to expensive new alarm systems and shatter-proof glass. A willingness to change method can be even more effective than shelling out cash for hi-tech security features.
Exhibition Security: Regular, Customized or Tailor Fit.
When Dick Drent took over the security of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, he not only re-evaluated and revamped the museum’s systems, but re-invented the way that museums are protected. In this chapter, Drent details the three categories of museum security, related to Construction, Organization, and Electronics. He then deconstructs each category, and presents new methods of security and guard management which correct historical weaknesses and address future concerns. Drent presents a model which may be adopted to other museums around the world. This chapter follows on Stevan Layne’s, adding to it a subjective, personal security philosophy that other museums can take as a model, and alter to fit their unique requirements.
V. LIBRARIES & ARCHIVES
Libraries and archives are victimized to an astonishing degree, and yet scant attention is paid to them, overshadowed by museum security. Yet art, books, and manuscripts are stolen from libraries far more often than from museums, and the stolen objects are far easier to transport and to sell.
The Quiet Crime: An Introduction to the World of Rare Book, Map and Document Theft
The theft of rare books, maps and manuscripts is a quiet affair. Not only are these offenses against culture committed surreptitiously, the nature of the stolen material means that the crimes often go unnoticed for years. Unlike the theft of a Monet or Degas, which will be noticed almost as soon as it is committed, the disappearance of a Roman de la Rose or a Shakespeare folio or a 15th century map will often be discovered only by accident, months after the event. Even after discovery, these crimes are treated as minor affairs by ignorant authorities and skittish institutions. McDade’s essay details the traits unique to this crime and offers a portrait of the men (and it is almost always men) who commit them. Using data culled from primary legal documents, personal interviews and reports of these incidents, McDade offers a comprehensive introduction to this world, from insider theft to stern federal sentences and suggests ways in which libraries could improve their security for a minimal cost.
Unexpected and Accessible: Threats to University Collections
John Kleberg’s essay touches on an often overlooked source of victimized art. While museums, private collections, galleries, and even the under-protected libraries and churches tend to have some form of security, however basic, and a registry of the valuables on the premises, there are works of art whose location allows them to slip between the cracks of established, catalogued collections. This includes fine art and objects of cultural and historical value that may be on display in a classroom, in a corridor, in a lecture theater, or an office. These objects are often of considerable value, and yet are forgotten in terms of security and cataloguing. Kleberg uses his experience as a university security director to discuss this issue from the perspective of the valuable objects in a university collection that are diplayed outside of controlled gallery and archival spaces.
Richard Oram & Ann Hartley
Bringing It All Back Home: Recovery of Stolen Special Collections Materials
Richard Oram and Ann Hartley’s chapter on the legal processes to recover stolen Special Collections materials (rare book, map, and manuscript) is at once about library and archive crime and art law. Exploring a number of high-profile cases, Oram and Hartley discuss the often pain-staking procedure to recover stolen objects, even after the thief is sentenced and the objects are located. Libraries and archives tend to be unprepared for the need to specifically identify objects from their collection once stolen. For instance, could one page out of a rare printed book be identified as belonging to a specific library’s collection, if only the book itself, but none of its individual pages, were catalogued? They bemoan the lack of readily available sources of information on these complex legal issues, and provide an important tutorial for archives of the world, in how not to make the mistakes that their peers have in the past.
VI. LAW & WAR
Legal matters arising from art crime during peace and war, the question of reparations, ownership lawsuits, and the use of art to launder money are all discussed in this chapter. Legal issues are their own discreet aspect of art crime, and one of the few areas of art crime that has received good scholarly attention. Where there is crime, there will be legal implications--but perhaps more surprising is the way that art has been the subject of legal tugs-of-war, and played such an important role in post-war reparations.
Judge Arthur Tompkins
Art Theft: Heralds of Change in the International Legal Landscape.
Judge Tompkins’ chapter provides a smooth segue from the section on Libraries & Archives into Art Law. Using the theft of maps from the National Gallery of Spain as a starting point, he examines what he describes as the “somewhat bleak international legal landscape” in which laws work against cross-border claims for the return of property, and make legal claims difficult to enforce. Tompkins explores laws worldwide, pointing out the stumbling blocks and opportunities for future improvement. His essay functions nicely with the following chapter, by attorney James Hess, on legal cases between two apparently-innocent parties, over an artwork that has an illict past.
Economic Woe, Art Theft and Money Laundering – A Perfect Recipe
Art has always sold well, even during an economic downturn. It will likely take an external, independent regulatory body through which all art transactions must be run, requiring some active proof that the funds used for purchase came from legitimate sources, in order to impede money-laundering through art purchases. While the HMRC and EU have set up good guidelines, the enforcement is left up to the trade being regulated, requiring a level of self-policing that is practically improbable to hope for. An independent regulatory body does not yet exist, nor do active requirements for proof of the legitimate origins of funds to purchase art.
The Artifacts of Wartime Art Crime: Evidence for a Model of the Evolving Clout of Cultural Property in Foreign Affairs
Nemeth provides an in-depth analysis of art looting during times of war, and the reparations that follow the peace treaties. Through his impressive historical analysis, Nemeth develops a model of phases related to war looting and reparations that is applicable both to the Second World War and the Cold War era, and seems primed to repeat itself in future conflicts. This modeling system, which incorporates criminal, psychological, sociological, and legal components, is poised to become a new standard by which war looting may be evaluated, and the issues in future wars anticipated.
In his eloquent Afterword, John Stubbs addresses the legitimate question: criminality aside, why should we care about protecting art? While most of this collection addresses criminal and legal matters, the other side of the equation is why art is important to mankind. Delving into philosophy and Proust, Stubbs discusses the art's side of "art crime."
Why Masterpieces Matter: Some Dogmatic Reflections
John Stubbs is an award-winning historian. His first book, a biography of John Donne, was lavished with critical praise, hailing him as the next generation’s Peter Ackroyd. His essay, along with his background, is dramatically different from that of the other contributors to this volume. He is neither involved in the art world, beyond being an admirer of good art, nor the world of crime prevention and solution. But his essay is a good place to end, because it answers the question that will inevitably arise when discussing art crime, setting aside the criminality: why should we care? It is a fair enough question. For art lovers, the answer is simple. You should care about art crime because you care about art—that it should be protected, preserved, made available to the public for enjoyment and to scholars for study. But for the large percentage of the populace for whom art does not play an important role, the response to the “why should we care” question is less straightforward. Most of this book answers the question from a criminological perspective. At its most basic level, you should care about art crime because, since the Second World War, most art crime has been committed by Organized Crime, and therefore feeds the other organized criminal activities, from the drug and arms trades to terrorism. If you care about crimes involving drugs, illegal arms, and terrorism, then you should care about art crime. But it is also important to respond, on behalf of art for art’s sake, to the audience who would say that art is not their cup of tea. Incorporating philosophy and Marcel Proust, John Stubbs’ afterword on why masterpieces matter is a wonderful and lucid response to that question.