Showing posts with label provenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label provenance. Show all posts

May 19, 2017

Look into my eyes, but also into my collection history.

Collecting ancient art can be an extension of a personal passion, a status symbol or a piece of cultural currency but it also serves as a defacto calling card for the current-day purchaser's own collecting ethics.

As this new video, produced by the UNESCO Beirut Office in the framework of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project, underscores, conscientious and ethical antiquities collectors can and should demand that their source dealer or auction house provide a full and complete provenance record before making a purchase. 


UNESCO reminds collectors to keep an eye out for these red flags:

- Is there dirt on the object? 
- Does the object seem like a broken fragment of what could be a larger artifact? 
- Is there a reference number painted on its base of the object that could indicate it was looted from a museum? 
- Does the object's price seem too good to be true?

and finally...
- Can the seller provide you with the object’s provenance paperwork?

Likewise ARCA reminds its readership that an object's reported collection history as reported by a dealer or auction house should not always be taken as complete or accurate.  Collection histories can and often are faked.

As this blog has reported frequently, many consignors and auction houses omit passages that sometimes reflect irregularities in acquisition or fail to advise would-be purchasers that an antiquity they wish to purchase has passed through the hands of a tainted individual or art dealer already known to have a reputation for illicit trafficking in the antiquities art market. 

The art market’s appetite for antiquities, and the profits to be had from this appetite, will always be a motivation for others to loot them.

It is ultimately up to the collector to demand ethical selling practices from the dealers or collectors they purchase antiquities from.  Prospective buyers should demand to see import and export licenses for the object they are considering and they should require the seller/consignor/auction house make those documents available.

The prudent purchaser should vet the trophy works that they purchase for their collections, cross checking all of this accompanying documentation.  Is there an export license? Does that document look authentic? Has the license been falsified?  Has the country of origin been falsified? Does the country of export match with the country of the object's origin?  Does the object have a find spot?   How far back does the chain of ownership go? and are there any other red flags like "property of an anonymous collector"?

Collectors should not discount the unacceptable buying and selling habits of those profiting from the ancient art market and they should especially be careful when purchasing antiquities from regions of conflict.

Just as property investors thoroughly vet the status and ownership of a property they are interested in, before entering into a business transaction, so should art collectors remember that it is their responsibility to conduct adequate due diligence on the artworks they purchase. 

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.


Location: 
University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

Dates:  
March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

November 21, 2016

Book Review: Portraits of Pretence by Susan Grossey

Book 4 in the Sam Plank Mystery Series
Author:  Susan Grossey

Review by:  Arthur Tompkins

Constable Sam Plank is a magistrate’s constable in seventeenth century Regency London. In Portraits of Pretence (available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon) the fourth Sam Plank novel, Susan Grossey weaves an elegant and polished tale of art crime, forgery, falsified provenance, smuggling, clandestine collecting, dubious art dealers and untimely death, all against a backdrop of the evocative sights, sounds, smells and ambience of crowded and bustling Regency London.

Susan Grossey is, by day, a specialist in combating money laundering, and also the author of the (now) four Sam Plank mysteries (her Amazon author’s page can be found here). In Constable Sam Plank she has created a gentle, thoughtful, careful, indomitable and very likeable investigator of crime in the heart of England’s great capital.  In the first three Sam Plank novels, Sam tackled financial forgery and bank fraud (Fatal Forgery, set in 1824), investment fraud (The Man in the Canary Waistcoat, set in 1825) and blackmail and corruption (Worm in the Blossom, set in 1826). This time around, it is the spring of 1827 and Sam is plunged into the art market and the criminal dishonesty that swirls in and around it in post-Napoleonic England and Europe. An elderly French artist is found dead, clutching an exquisite miniature painted on ivory in his hand.  The trail leads through the vaults under the then newly-built Customs House in riverside London, visits to the blockade-men stationed in Kent, and in and out of various salubrious and not-so salubrious rooms of artists and dealers in London.

Constable Plank is ably assisted in his investigation, as he was in his earlier outings, by his indomitable and perceptive wife, Martha, his able and swift-to-learn (although not always, in matters of the heart) junior constable William, and a widening circle of memorable supporting characters – some based on historical figures, others plausible and fascinating characters circulating in the milieu of a London bursting at the seams and flexing its commercial, financial and international muscle as it enters the period when Great Britain would dominate the known world.

Ms Grossey is meticulous in her research. Her characters’ language, the streets and the buildings they inhabit, and the street-level topography of central London they walk by day and by night, are a delight. To read the story is to live in the streets of a London on the brink of global greatness, thronged by a deeply rich tapestry of life’s all-too-human variety.  The tone of the novel and the writing throughout is eminently readable and light-handed (a not inconsiderable authorial achievement), and briskly-paced.

The historical background is accurate, but not overpowering – personally I liked the passing and accurate references to the historical development of the protection and repatriation of cultural property plundered in war, and various facets of art crime itself. The many manifestations of art crime that Sam encounters are illuminating, especially for students of contemporary art crime, who will quickly realise that nothing that lies beneath the glittering surface of today’s art world is new, and that the same dark currents twisted and ran riot two centuries ago just as they do now.

Three more Sam Plank mysteries are scheduled, the next one due out (a reliable source tells me) in October 2018...

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Arthur Tompkins is a sitting District Court Judge based in Wellington and one of the founders of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust.  For 8 years now he has taught the Art in War course module for the annual Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Heritage Protection presented by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art in Amelia, Umbria, Italy. He has lectured around New Zealand and abroad on art crime, and is a regular art-crime guest on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning show on National Radio.

November 20, 2016

Conference: Provenance Research Colloquium, November 30, 2016 - Munich

Delivery of art works at the south entrance
of the Collecting Point, 1945-46
© Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Location: 
Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich Germany

Date:  
30 November 2016

Cost: 
The colloquium is free to the public and registration is not required

Note: 
Language of the colloquium is German and English

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, or ZI for short, in Munich is Germany's only independent art historical research institute. The last panel of the day is worth pondering: is provenance research an academic discipline or an investigative pursuit?

ARCA thinks it is both and for that reason has incorporated a provenance training course into our 2016 postgraduate program lineup.

From the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte website:

"The ZI was founded in 1946/1947 as an independent research institute in direct connection with the Central Collecting Point (CCP) of the American military government in the former Administrative Building of the National Socialist party. For over 20 years the institute has been researching and publishing its findings on the art history of National Socialism and that of the immediate postwar era. In the specific area of “Provenance Research / Value of Cultural Assets” numerous research, inventory, digitization and database projects have been initiated by the ZI and achieved with various national and international collaborative partners."

A PDF of the day's program can be accessed here.

By: Summer Clowers

November 24, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection & Provenance Research: A Perspective from Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Training Research Program

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

I sought out the perspective of Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Research Training Program which will have a new session in Rome next month, on the Kunstmuseum Bern announcement regarding acceptance of the Gurlitt art bequest and its willingness to conduct research to determine if some works had been stolen during the Nazi-era (commonly accepted as 1933-1945).

Q: Today and agreement was reached that the Kunstmuseum Bern would conduct provenance research on the Gurlitt collection before moving the artworks from Germany to Switzerland. What is the process as you understand and what do you anticipate as the strengths and weaknesses?
MM: I thought Germany would handle the provenance. That's how I interpret most press reports from this morning. 
If this is correct, the research is being conducted by individuals hired by the German government under the auspices of the Gurlitt Task Force. 
Frankly, no one is certain about how the research is being conducted. If it were left to us, you'd have to make three distinct piles: auction acquisitions in the Reich, works de-accessioned from German State museums, and works acquired in occupied territories. Those piles lead you to different archives.  The most complex are the French records for works acquired in German-occupied France.  The fundamental weakness behind this process is its opacity and the refusal of the Germans to expand the scope of the research and reach out to those who know a thing or two about these types of losses.  From what we hear, there are only a handful of individuals covering the French archives.
Last but not least, the most complex items to research are the works on paper and especially prints and lithographs.  Who knows where those came from?  To ascertain whether or not they were looted, one would have to go through all files representing losses suffered by victims in France.  The task is staggeringly tedious and complex.

September 18, 2014

Halyna Senyk, Executive Director of the European Shoah Legacy Institute, Speaks on the Importance of Archives in Provenance Research

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

International human rights lawyer Halyna Senyk has joined the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI), an organization based in Prague, which is aiming to make provenance research mandatory in the art market, especially in areas where looting of art was combined with genocidal acts. We spoke briefly last week via Skype about the mission of ESLI.

“Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration “opened the door” for provenance research to become the main catalyst  in restoring justice of the Nazi looting of culture objects," Ms. Senyk explained. "The majority of the European legal systems recognize the bona fide acquirer as a rightful owner, even if s/he bought a stolen art object, besides many countries in Europe has statutory limitations which prevent to claim the property, which was stolen more than 70 years ago.  Only provenance research can challenge the title of a bona fide acquirer and can re-open cases, which have been closed due to the statutory limitation.  When we talk about provenance at large, we’re not just talking about Nazi crimes.

I’ve worked in human rights all my life and I believe in justice – what is important is that people who went through the Holocaust that they see justice – whether it involves issues of stolen property or art and that these items are returned. It doesn’t always mean that items are taken from museums but that title is corrected. This is what we are aiming at. The legislation doesn’t always reflect the historical reality. Who was the bona fide buyer? As we study art history, we should also study the provenance of the cultural object. It’s important to know the history of the object and who was the owner and taken into consideration that only a small percentage of what was looted has been returned. We have only four countries that have made major progress towards implementing the Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration. Part of our main mission is to monitor adherence to the Terezin Declaration, conceptualize the best practices and to assist governments in developing their national policies to bring them in compliance with their obligations. Austria, for instance, is the only country that has mandatory provenance for all state museums."

What are the country models of funding provenance research at an effective level?

Ms. Senyk: “The states have funded provenance research in Germany, and Austria. The Netherlands and Czech Republic have mitigating bodies to resolve disputes over art property injustices inflicted on Holocaust victim and they have been using provenance research as an important tool in resolving them. Some private museums, like the Jewish Museum in Prague, initiated the provenance research of its collection on its own expense.”

How can you develop standards and work with others in the field?

Ms. Senyk: “Provenance research is dictated by restitution disputes either by a museum or a family. What is important for us is that provenance research is independent and impartial and not influenced by one party or the other – when is it done, we’re looking for a report based upon as much information as is fiscally responsible. Sometimes we don’t have access to archives. Researchers try to do everything possible to show that they have done their due diligence. Until now the standards of provenance research reports haven’t been discussed.

“We also discovered that discussing accessibility of archives, how getting information is extremely difficult. Talking about provenance without talking about archives doesn’t make sense because researchers have to be able to look at information in all available sources. We talk a lot about national archives and how to use their archives, how to submit requests and get the information. In these workshops, we list the archives and share the practical experience of the researchers. We believe that sources of information is very important. It is also helpful to have researchers who understand the history and the movement of the cultural property at the time it was stolen.”

June 18, 2014

The Legal Case of the Mummy Mask of Lady Ka-nefer-nefer at the St. Louis Art Museum Ignites Discussion on Museum Security Network after Courthouse News Reports US Court Rules US Government Could Not Prove Theft

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Updated to reflect published comment by Rick St. Hilaire

In 2011, the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) took legal action to keep the  Mummy Mask of Lady Ka-nefer-nefer from being taken by the U.S. government on the grounds that authorities knew about the mask as early as 2005 and that a five-year-statue of limitations period had expired ("St. Louis Art Museum Sues the United States to Preclude a Forfeiture", ARCA blog, Feb. 16, 2011). Jack Bouboushian reported in "Egyptian Mummy Mask Will Stay in St. Louis" for Courthouse News Service on June 17:
(CN) - An ancient Egyptian mummy mask will remain in the St. Louis Art Museum because the U.S. government cannot prove the mask was stolen from Egypt when it went missing 40 years ago, the 8th Circuit ruled.
[Rick St. Hilaire submitted a comment to the ARCA blog which we published and are reprinting here for your ease of reading -- you may also refer to his blog, Cultural Heritage Lawyer:
The CN article is inaccurate. The appeals court did not rule that the U.S. government failed to prove that the mask was stolen from Egypt. Instead, the appeals court ruled that the lower district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the government’s post-dismissal motion asking for leave to file an amended civil forfeiture complaint. That amended complaint, if accepted by the lower court, contained the allegations that the mummy mask was stolen property. Therefore, the substantive case involving whether the mask was stolen was never litigated. That is what prompted appeals court judge Diana Murphy to write a concurring opinion that agreed with the dismissal of the Ka Nefer Nefer case on procedural grounds, but addressing a caution because of the substantive matters raised but never addressed by the case: "Museums and other participants in the international market for art and antiquities need to exercise caution and care in their dealings in order to protect this heritage and to understand that the United States might ultimately be able to recover such purchases."
Security Consultant Ton Cremers, whose emails were cited in SLAM's 2011 complaint (see ARCA Blog post here), initiated a discussion today on Museum Security Network (MSN) then told the ARCA blog:
In cases of looted, stolen and smuggled cultural goods always the laws of the 'consumer' countries prevail, and most unfortunately not the laws of the victim countries. There is no doubt at all that the Ka-nefer-nefer mask was stolen. The Saint Louis Art Museum is not a member of ICOM [International Council of Museums] and never should be as well.
Dick Ellis, retired police officer for Scotland Yard and an ARCA Lecturer on a course on art investigations, wrote on MSN (quoted here with his permission):
If nothing else, this case identifies a lack of understanding in the processes available to those wishing to recover their stolen cultural property. We may not like the laws or legal processes of a country, but they are what you have to work with and if the wrong option is taken in the recovery process and you fail to meet the required deadlines then your case will fail, as it has in this case. 
Having followed the twists and turns of this case and actually obtained a copy of the records that exist in Egypt showing where the mask was at specific dates it is clear to me that the wrong process was adopted. Rather than sue for the return of the mask, Egypt should have resorted to the same process that put Fred Schultz in prison for contravening US property law. This would have resulted in the FBI actually having to investigate the conduct of those involved in the sale of the mask to the museum and the provenance that was provided in support of it. 
If these investigations had produced evidence that criminal offences had been committed within the jurisdiction of the US courts then those responsible may well have faced a trial under the criminal process, and had the provenance as supplied to the museum been proven to be bogus then it is doubtful that the museum would, or could have resisted a subsequent claim for the return of the mask. 
Having worked with the Egyptian authorities on the successful prosecution of Tokeley Parry, Fred Schultz and others, which established the effectiveness of prosecuting under national property laws rather than cultural property laws, it is disappointing to find that the many lessons of that case appear to have been forgotten so quickly.
Virginia Curry, a retired agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), also wrote on MSN (quoted here with her permission):
While I am not an attorney, I've been successful in all my investigations and have investigated hundreds of similar cases involving  international  property theft and smuggling. Generally, a U.S.  Federal Inter-pleader action, which is a civil, not criminal procedure, occurs AFTER the federal criminal case has been proven that property is in fact stolen and has a nexus to interstate-international transportation or communication (Title 18 United States Code Section 2314, 2315.)
  
Dick you will remember that our collaboration (under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Request)  the theft of the Teniers painting by a U.S. citizen was just that.  The painting was proven stolen at federal criminal  trial in the U.S. -- even though it was stolen from a London dealer, in London.  That court trial, which led to the guilty plea of the thief of the action of transporting property internationally, determined that the painting was stolen.  The court then acknowledged the ownership of the property by the London dealer. 
In my opinion, a case which FIRST proved that the mask was illegally imported to the United States, rather than relying on the logical presumption, especially when there is sufficient extant evidence to do so, would have prevailed.  
I agree with Dick: Consulting with field experts such as he and myself and a dozen others with well known, actual convictions with restitution in similar criminal cases can avoid such "procedural issues" -- such as the "untested legal theory" (that I interpret as the presumption of stolen and smuggled, rather than the presentation of evidence) as expressed by Judge Murphy.
For background on the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask residing at the Saint Louis Museum, Ton Cremers referred readers of MSN to Malcolm Gay's 2006 article "Out of Egypt: From a long-buried pyramid to the Saint Louis Art Museum: The mysterious voyage of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask", Riverfront Times, Feb. 15, 2006.

In 2012 at ARCA's Conference on the Study of Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, Leila Amineddoleh discussed the issue of this Egyptian Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask and its probably looted origins.

SLAM's website describes the provenance for the Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer:
Provenance:1951/1952 -Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, excavated at Saqqara, Egypt [1]
by 1952 - Unknown Dealer, Brussels, Belgium [2]
- early 1960sKaloterna Collection [3]
early 1960s -Private Collection, Switzerland, acquired from Kaloterna collection [4]
by 1997 - 1998Phoenix Art, S.A. (Hicham Aboutaam), Geneva, Switzerland, purchased from private collection [5]
1998/03/30 -Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. [6]
Notes:[1] Excavated by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, Keeper of the Antiquities of Saqqara, at Saqqara, during his first season (1951-1952) at the site [Goneim, Mohammed Zakaria,"Excavations at Saqqara; Horus Sekhem-Khet, the Unfinished Step Pyramid at Saqqara." Vol. 1. Cairo: Imprimerie de L'Institut Français D'Archéologie Orientale, 1957].
A letter from a scholar, dated December 12, 1999, indicates that the other objects from the Saqqara excavation group were displayed together in the Cairo Museum, suggesting that they were put on display right after Goneim's excavation. The scholar suggests that the mask was never displayed with the other excavated objects and was probably awarded to the excavator himself. This would correspond with its appearance on the European art market soon after its excavation [SLAM document files].
[2] In a letter dated February 11, 1997, Charly Mathez confirms that he saw the mask in a gallery in Brussels in 1952. According to a letter dated October 5, 1999, he did not remember the name of the gallery [SLAM document files].
[3] In a letter dated March 19, 1998, Hicham Aboutaam indicated that an anonymous Swiss collector acquired the mask from the Kaloterna (possibly Kaliterna) family. In a letter of July 2, 1997, addressed to Hicham Aboutaam, the Swiss collector stated that this acquisition took place in the early 1960s [SLAM document files]. The name "Kaloterna" may be a misspelling of the common Croatian name "Kaliterna." The Swiss collector also had an address in Croatia, and it is possible that the collector became acquainted with the Kaloterna (or Kaliterna) family there. 
[4] See note [3]. The Swiss collector requested anonymity.
[5] The Swiss collector's letter of July 2, 1997 confirms the sale of the mask to Aboutaam [SLAM document files]. Aboutaam also states that the mask was in the United States from 1995 until 1997, possibly indicating that it was in the possession of the New York branch of Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. during that time [letter, September 23, 1997, SLAM document files]. 
[6] Invoice to the Saint Louis Art Museum dated March 12, 1998 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, March 18, 1998.
In The New York Times article "Do You Know Where That Art Has Been?" (Rod Stodghill, March 18, 2007) Hicham Aboutaam's legal problems (and that of his gallery, Phoenix Ancient Art were identified:
For the Aboutaams, whose father started the gallery in Beirut in the 1960s, the makeover will require not only overhauling some of its business practices, but also restoring a public image dogged by legal and ethical questions. In 2004, after an investigation by the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Hicham Aboutaam pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with his importing and selling for $950,000 a silver ceremonial drinking vessel that at the time was alleged to be part of the plundered Iranian Western Cave Treasure. He paid a $5,000 fine. That same year, an Egyptian court sentenced Ali Aboutaam in absentia to 15 years in prison after he was accused of smuggling artifacts from Egypt to Switzerland. The charges against him were later dropped by the Egyptian court due to a lack of evidence. Such run-ins with the law have made big museums nervous even when nothing may appear untoward. In 2001, the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth returned a 2600 B.C. Sumerian statue it had bought from the brothers for $2.7 million for a refund. Hicham Aboutaam said that questions surrounding the taxes on his parents’ estate unraveled the deal.

May 13, 2014

ARCA Alum ('13) Gerald Fitzgerald publishes opinion piece in Art Papers on art market due diligence concerning provenance and the public record

ARCA Alum '13 and trial lawyer Gerald Fitzgerald published an opinion piece, "Give Us CPR" (May/June issue, 2014) in Art Papers (here's the first two paragraphs, you can read the rest of the text online):
A call for art market due diligence, concerning provenance and the public record. 
Provenance is the origin and history of ownership of a painting or object, and it is essential to determining the object's authenticity, monetary value, and secure title. Although reveling in sales boosted both by new market interest and freshly minted dotcom billionaires, the international art and antiquities market will soon stumble badly unless it embraces new technologies to centralize and to radically increase the scope, quality, and authority of provenance research.
The art market currently generates about $60 billion annually. It does so without meaningful regulation and is myopic in the intelligent use of contemporary tools. It functions almost precisely as it did in the early 19th century. Trust still governs in an increasingly untrustworthy environment. As a result this market is rife with forgery, fakery, looting, and sales of stolen objects, all accompanied by a morass of litigation. The way out of this quagmire lies not with increased legal action but in sewing shut the gaping holes in provenance research that permit such chicanery. The creation of a nonprofit Center for Provenance Research (CPR), funded by a small levy on market sales, is sorely needed to vet the legitimacy of what is traded. The greatest deterrent to fraud on the market is a decreasing ability to get away with it.

November 23, 2013

WSJ: "German Museums Under Pressure to Put Collections Online"

Mary M. Lane and Harriet Torry write in the Wall Street Journal Nov. 22 in "German Museums Under Pressure to Put Collections Online":
BERLIN—German museums are coming under growing international pressure to provide digital access to their full collections, in the wake of the discovery of a suspected plundered art trove in Munich that authorities kept secret for nearly two years. Under international norms adopted in Washington in 1998, German museums are obligated to go through their collections for works that may have been looted by the Nazis. But the museums have balked at going a step further and digitizing their collections to allow independent searches, citing budget restrictions and a lack of staff. That reluctance has for years been a source of tension within the art world, with critics alleging other motives. "They don't want to let people see what they have because they know if they put it online they'll get claims and possibly lose major paintings," Ronald Lauder, a billionaire art collector and president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an interview.
Ronald Lauder is the founder of New York City's Neue Gallerie, home to Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer", a work recovered after it was stolen by the Nazis.

November 12, 2013

Gurlitt Art Collection: Germany listed 25 pieces of art online and will establish task force of provenance researchers to examine 970 works

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Coverage in the last week about the Gurlitt Art Collection has been published in print and online in primary sources in French and German. I have asked readers of the ARCA blog to help with identifying and summarizing into English the articles. One of our readers, Alex Kurys in Vienna, contacted us and recommended an article in ORF.at, the online news he describes as the 'Austrian BBC equivalent' with primary sources of news from Associated Press or Reuters. The article, Fall Gurlitt: Behörden veröffentlichen verdächtige Werke, reports that German authorities have published today a list of 25 works on the page www.lostart.de (The Lost Art Internet Database) from the Gurlitt case with "appropriate urgent suspicion of Nazi persecution conditional withdrawal background" will be posted. The article reports that a task force of six provenance researchers will be assembled to examine 970 works. According to the findings of the Augsburg prosecution, ORF reports, 380 works can be assigned to what the Nazis called "degenerate art" and 590 works will be checked to see if they were taken from their rightful owners during the era of National Socialism persecution. 

The Lost Art Internet Database is operated by:
Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, Germany’s central office for the documentation of lost cultural property. It was set up jointly by the Government and the Länder of the Federal Republic of Germany and registers cultural objects which as a result of persecution under the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War were relocated, moved or seized, especially from Jewish owners.
A search of "Gurlitt" on this Lost Art Internet Database includes a description of Wolfgang Gurlitt as a Berlin dealer and cousin of Hildebrand Gurlitt (father of Cornelius Gurlitt who's art collection was seized by Bavarian custom authorities in February 2012 for suspicion of tax evasion). Wolfgang and Hildebrand Gurlitt are both described by the Lost Art Internet Database as dealers involved in the Nazi cultural robbery. A special report "Spoils of War" from the international conference in Magdeburg in November 2001, highlights the Gurlitt art collection, but it is the collection of Wolfgang, who along with Hildebrand had close contact with Hermann Voss, the art historian who in 1942 was appointed to assemble art for the Führermuseum in Linz. The "Spoils of War" 2001 report highlights the 76 oil paintings and 33 prints Wolfgang Gurlitt sold to the City of LInz in 1953:
Wolfgang Gurlitt was not a National Socialist. There is not a single piece of evidence
among his many surviving letters from that time that he tried to ingratiate himself with
various public offices by using expressively National Socialist language. His lack of
concern in political matters was so marked that in his letters to the office responsible
for the "Linz Special Command" ("Sonderauftrag Linz") he all too often left out the
obligatory closing phrase "Heil Hitler!". His employment of a non-National Socialist,
Walter Kasten, in 1938, matches this image.

On the other hand Wolfgang Gurlitt understood well how to remain in business
between 1933 and 1945. Besides his regular activities as an art dealer he was
successful in getting involved in special projects (although on a modest scale
compared to his cousin, Hildebrand Gurlitt): these included the sale abroad of artwork
confiscated and labeled "degenerate art" ("Entartete Kunst") by the Reich's Ministry
for Propaganda, as well as making purchases for Linz’s "Führer Museum".
The "Spoils of War" 2001 report notes under "results of the research into provenance":
It is demonstrable that Gurlitt acquired artwork of previous Jewish ownership on
several occasions: through direct purchase from the Jewish owner, through auctions,
and probably also through other art dealers. The total scope and the method of
acquisition in respective cases are unclear; the number probably extends beyond those
examples proven unequivocally. Like practically all art dealers who were active
during the rule of the National Socialists, Gurlitt had no qualms about this form of
acquisition. 
Documentation of Results:
The Mayor of the City of Linz initiated the process of examining the Gurlitt
Collection of the New Gallery of the City of Linz as far back as September 17, 1998.
The archive of the City of Linz examined – primarily through existing municipal files
– the provenance and acquisition of the pictures in stock. A comprehensive report
with the results of the research (which have been briefly summarised here), together
with a catalogue including all works in the "Gurlitt Collection" was published in
January 1999.13 The complete report has been accessible since then on the Internet at
http://www.linz.at/archiv, the first public body in Austria to decide to act in this way.
1,800 hits a month (as of February 2002) to the contents of this documentation bears
witness to the active interest of the public in this matter.

June 3, 2013

Girl with the Pearl Earring and other Mauritshuis Paintings End San Francisco Visit -- Next Stop Atlanta

Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Mauritshuis
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring ended its visit to San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum today.

This work was part of an exhibition of thirty-five 17th century Dutch paintings on loan from the Royal Picture Gallery Maurithuis in The Hague. Girl with a Pearl Earring is considered not a portrait but a “tronie”, the study of an anonymous face meant to portray certain characters or types rather than recognizable persons, but this has not stopped viewers from speculating on the sitter’s identity.

In Tracy Chevalier’s 2001 novel titled after the painting, the author speculates that the girl in the painting is a peasant maid employed in the Vermeer household. Art historian Benjamin Binstock proposes in his book Vermeer’s Family Secrets that the model is Johannes Vermeer’s daughter Maria, who helped the family of 11 surviving children (four died young) produce paintings as her father’s unofficial apprentice until her marriage. Vermeer, the artist of The View of Delft and The Astronomer, died at the age of 43. His work went unrecognized for almost two centuries until rehabilitated by the French writer Théophile Thoré in 1866. The Mauritshuis purchased Diana and Her Nymphs in 1876 as a painting by Nicholaes Maes (1634-1693). At an auction in 1881 in The Hague, The Girl with a Pearl Earring sold for “two guilders, plus the buyer’s premium of thirty cents”, according to Quentin Buvelot and Ariane van Suchtelen in the chapter “Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer: The Dutch Mona Lisa” in the exhibit’s catalogue, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis:
Over the years Vermeer’s technique became increasingly refined. His talent for using small dots of paint to create an illusion of light playing on the surface of an object is indeed masterly. This “pointillism” was applied to great effect in The Milkmaid, for example, in which countless tiny highlights make the bread rolls and earthenware seen almost palpable. It has often been surmised that this technique indicates the use of optical devices, such as the camera obscura, but there is no proof of this theory.
As for the history of Vermeer’s paintings, Buvelot and Suchtelen wrote:
The inventory of Vermeer’s possessions – drawn up in 1676, three months after his death – records “Two tronies painted in Turkish fashion.” One of these works may well have been Girl with a Pearl Earring, since her striking turban is characteristic of the traditional attire of the Ottoman Empire, to which Turkey once belonged. If so, it means that Vermeer never parted with the painting. 

Twenty years later, on May 16, 1696, twenty-one paintings by Vermeer were sold at auction in Amsterdam from the estate of the Delft printer Jacob Dissius (1653-1976), who owned more than half of what is now Vermeer’s known oeuvre. This impressive collection of Vermeer’s had come from the estate of Dissius’s father-in-law, Pieter van Ruijven (1624-1674), a well-to-do Delft rentier.
The collecting history of Girl with a Pearl Earring is largely unknown:
The provenance of Girl with a Pearl Earring is unclear until 1881, when it was offered at a sale in The Hague, where the collection of a certain Mr. Braams was put up for auction. Victor de Stuers (1843-1916), an important art historian, recognized the quality of the painting and advised his friend Arnoldus des Tombe (1818-1902) to buy it. 

When Des Tombe, a neighbor of the Maritshuis, died in 1902, Girl with a Pearl Earring was one of 12 paintings given to the Royal Picture Gallery. In 1995-1996, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. displayed this tronie in a Vermeer retrospective.

The next stops on this tour of the Mauritshuis paintings are the High Museum of Artin Atlanta (June 22 through September 29, 2013) and the Frick Collection in New York City (October 22, 2013 through January 14, 2014).

The "Other" Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis Traveling with Girl with a Pearl Earring from San Francisco to Atlanta to New York City

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait
Germanisches National
 Museum
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Thirty-four 17th century Dutch paintings accompanied Girl with a Pearl Earring in the exhibition leaving the De Young Museum in San Francisco for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (June 23 through September 29, 2013). Only 10 of those paintings will visit The Frick Collection in New York (October 22, 2013 through January 19, 2014).

Last year, a larger exhibit of 48 paintings from the Mauritshuis toured two museums in Japan: The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art (TMMA) and the Kobe City Museum.  The Mauritshuis exhibit at TMMA included a second Vermeer painting, Diana and her nymphs (now on display at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag). After the North American tour, Palazzo Fava in Bologna, Italy, will host 40 paintings from the Mauritshuis while the 17th century palace undergoes an expansion and renovation until mid-2014. More than 100 paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis have traveled to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

Portrait of Rembrandt
(1606-1669) with a Gorget
,
Rembrandt (studio copy)
The Mauritshuis opened as a Dutch state museum on January 1, 1822 as the "Royal Cabinets of Paintings and Curiosities." The catalogue, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, includes "The History of the Mauritshuis and Its Collection" by Lea van der Vinde:
As its new name made clear, the museum did not merely exhibit paintings, for the entire ground floor was filled with a colorful display of "rarities." The art collection hung upstairs, where the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with paintings. Both collections had been formed over the years by various stadtholders; their turbulent history spans more than four centuries.
Rachel Ruysch
Vase with Flowers
1700
Mauritshuis
Half of the paintings at the De Young Mauritshuis show had been acquired by The Hague institution in the 20th century. Provenance information in the catalogue was provided in the section describing the painting and appeared incomplete. Many of the paintings have been restored in recent years. For example, infrared reflectography in the conservation studio in 1998 showed an underdrawing on a Rembrandt painting purchased in 1768, Portrait of Rembrandt (1606-1669) with a Gorget, that indicates it is a studio copy of a self-portrait of Rembrandt at the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg. The last painting highlighted in the catalogue is Vase of Flowers (1700) by Rachel Ruysch,  a married woman and mother of 10 children who painted until her death at the age of 84. A recent restoration removed several old layers of varnish.

The ticket to the Mauritshuis paintings at the De Young included entrance to an adjoining exhibition of Rembrandt's (and contemporaries) etchings from the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

June 15, 2012

Reviewing two stolen Corot paintings and updating the catalogue raisonné of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Corot's "The Dreamer"/MMFA
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Theft and authenticity intertwined in the case of the 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  In the years prior to the break-in, museum curators had been examining the collection and questions of authenticity had been left in the archives' files.  A recent article in the June issue of ARTnews about the authenticity of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) sent me back to my notes on two Corot oil paintings stolen in 1972 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the largest art theft in Canada.  What kind of research is available to study the provenance of two missing Corot paintings?

Two oil paintings by Corot, "La rêveuse à la fontaine/The Dreamer at the Fountain" and "Jeune fille accoudée sur le bras gauche/Young Woman Resting Her Head in Her Left Hand), had both completed in the 1860s and donated a century later to the Quebec art gallery.

The museum's archives have very little information about the medium-sized paintings removed four decades ago by three thieves who entered the MMFA through a unsecured skylight on Labor Day Weekend and stole 18 paintings and 39 decorative art objects.

"The Dreamer", with its right corner signature of "COROT", was believed to have been painted between 1855-1863.  The museum received the painting from an anonymous donor in memory of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Angus (steel foundry executive).  In a 1969 press release, prepared for the exhibition From Daumier to Roualt, Bill Bantey -- a notorious journalist and the director of public relations for the museum -- noted that the painting 'was virtually unknown as it had been "lost" to scholarly knowledge for over 60 years in a private Montreal collection'.  The other stolen Corot painting, "Young Woman Resting" was a donation in 1963 from the estate of Miss Olive Hosmer, daughter of 'multi-millionaire financier Charles S. Hosmer'.  Miss Hosmer also bequeathed Jean-François Millet's signed portrait of his first wife (Portrait of Madame Millet), also taken on September 4, 1972.

Corot's "Young Woman Resting"
The collection at Montreal's premier art gallery had been built from donations from wealthy Anglo families that had prospered from the construction of Canada's transcontinental railroad and trading from the port of Montreal.  During the late 19th century and early 20th, many art dealers had offered paintings to Montreal collectors before approaching buyers in New York City.  The MMFA published a book by George-Hébert Germain, A City's Museum: A History of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which chronicles the growth of the art gallery founded in 1860.  (Journalist and art historian Cynthia Saltzman tells of how American collectors bought up European masterpieces a century ago in her book, Old Masters, New World).

Laurie Hurwitz, writing for ARTnews, 'If It Doesn't Dance, It's Not Corot', tells of how 'a family steeped in Corot uses connoisseurship and instinct to distinguish the real paintings from copies and fakes'.  Hurwitz's article features the two-decades long work of Corot expert, Martin Dieterle, and his stepdaughter, Claire Lebeau, to create a database of authentic and fake paintings by the Barbizon School painter.  Alfred Robaut's four volume catalogue raisonné of Corot's work published in 1905 (you can read it online through the Getty Research Portal) identified 2,460 paintings.  A supplement published in 1948 added 100 canvases.  According to Dieterle, the notoriously generous artist had gifted numerous canvases to friends -- and those works had little documentation.  Dieterle's connection to Corot goes back to his great-great-grandfather who painted with the artist on the Normandy coast.  Other paintings not inventoried by Robaut had been those sold early on out of Corot's atelier "so it is impossible for Robaut to have known about them," Hurwitz quoted Dieterle.  According to Dieterle, most copies were executed during the artists' lifetime "thus eliminating the need for forensic authentication." Dieterle and Lebeau are preparing the sixth supplement to the artist's catalogue raisonné.

Hurwitz's article is available in the June issue of ARTnews.

March 31, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: The Daumier Register


In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Lilian and Dieter Noack of the Daumier Register announced that they had pinned down the the location of two paintings by the French painter and lithographer Honoré Daumier (1808-78) whose whereabouts had been previously unknown to the Swiss-based website that has the mission of identifying the works of the satirist of French society and politics.

The Daumier Register keeps a list of "Lost and Missing Paintings" and "Stolen and Looted Paintings".

Daumier's oil painting,
 "Femme avec deux enfants"
Daumier’s (“Femme avec deux enfants” / “Mother with her children” (numbered as DR7196 in the Daumier Register) is an oil painting (1865/68) that has been in the collection of the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrave, Serbia, since 1949, according to the Noacks, founders of the Daumier register, who report that "rumours about the theft of the picture are thus unfounded." The painting was reportedly owned by Ambroise Vollard, a Parisian art dealer who died in an auto accident in 1939 whose assistant Erich Schlomovic, a young Croatian Jew, exhibited the painting in Zagreb in 1940.   The painting was also exhibited in Prague, 1971; Zagreb again in 1989-90; Japan, 2005-6; and in Como, Italy, in 2007. The communist government of Yugoslavia incorporated the painting into the state's collection after World War II. [Schlomovic was murdered at the age of 27 in a mobile gas chamber in 1942).

The National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade closed its permanent collection on June 1, 2003, for a reconstruction.

Daumier's "Third Class"
The second painting, DR9119 (“Un wagon de troisième classe “ / “Third Class “ / “Wagen dritter Klasse’) had disappeared after it had been sold in 1982 at Drouot Auction in Paris. It was part of two Daumier paintings (the second being DR7005), which belonged to the estate of Parisian industrialist Roger Leybold (1896-1970) and shows an interesting Third Class Carriage scene, according to the Daumier Register. "We were informed by the owners that it was offered for sale in 2011 by Galerie AB in Paris where it had been stored since 1982," Daumier Register reported. You may read more about the background of this painting here.


The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) lists sources, including the Daumier Register, to obtain information on the body of work (catalogues raisonnés) for Honoré Daumier.

June 28, 2011

The Boston Globe Reports "MFA makes amends in probable plundering: Artwork believed stolen by Nazis"

Eglon van der Neer, "Portrait of a Man and Woman"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

One of our readers directed the ARCA blog to a headline June 27th in the online Boston Globe edition: "MFA makes amends in probable plundering, Artwork believed stolen by the Nazis."

Geoff Edgers for The Boston Globe reports that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will pay an "undisclosed sum" to the heir of Walter Westfeld, a Jewish art dealer, to keep the 17th century painting, "Portrait of a Man and Woman" (1665-1667) by Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703).

Edgers writes:
The 29-by-27-inch work, which depicts a wealthy couple sitting in their living room, was purchased from a New York dealer in 1941 for $7,500. In recent years, similar van der Neers have sold at auction for as much $550,000.
The MFA's curator for provenance, Victoria S. Reed, researched the painting's history.  Again, Edgers from The Boston Globe:

There was no way to track the direct path of the painting from Germany in the 1930s to New York. But it was very unlikely that Westfeld had sold his painting voluntarily.
Reed learned that Westfeld had run a gallery in Elberfeld (now Wuppertal), Germany, until the Nazis shut it down in 1936. He continued to operate secretly as a dealer, but in 1938 he was arrested, and he was sent to Auschwitz in 1943.
You may find more information about the provenance of this painting and others on the MFA's website here.

You may also find interesting article by Kate Deimling in ARTINFO.com, "Suspecting It Harbors a Nazi-Looted Painting, MFA Boston Preemptively Pays Settlement", which points out that Victoria S. Reed is the first full-time "curator for provenance" although credit should be given to the Los Angeles County Museum who in 2000 hired a full-time provenance researcher, Dr. Amy Walsh (Dr. Walsh is now Curator of European paintings at LACMA). 

April 5, 2011

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 - ,,, 1 comment

ARCA 2009 Student: Michelle Edelman on art crime history and provenance research as an investigative tool

Michelle Edelman
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Michelle Edelman attended ARCA’s summer program in art crime studies in Amelia, Italy, in 2009. A native of San Francisco, Michelle currently lives in New York City. She speaks French, Spanish and Italian – useful languages in her studies at Northwestern University in European Studies, at University of Oxford studying English and French literature, and at the Courtauld Institute of Art studying the history of art for her master’s degree. She is currently investigating opportunities to work in the insurance industry specializing in art protection.
ARCA blog: Michelle, what is your favorite period of art and how did you get interested in studying art crime?
Ms. Edelman: My favorite period of art is the 19th century and more specifically Victorian painting, which is what I did my masters in. I've always had a passion for art history and a love of mysteries. Studying art crime seemed like a perfect combination of my two interests. I particularly enjoyed learning about Adam Worth, nicknamed the Napoleon of Crime, who was a 19th century art thief famed for stealing Thomas Gainsborough's "Georgina, the Duchess of Devonshire." Adam Worth was an international thief who had both Scotland Yard and the American Pinkertons hot on his trail. It was a classic cat and mouse game between Adam Worth and William Pinkerton. In the end, William Pinkerton recovered the painting. And to put an even neater bow on the story, Adam Worth's son ended up working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Ben Macintyre's book "The Napoleon of Crime" was one of the many great art crime books I was exposed to while on the ARCA course.
ARCA blog: What did you find most valuable in your ARCA experience?
Ms. Edelman: Getting to meet with and learn from so many experts in the field was invaluable. Art crime study and investigation is a small and tight knit field but is such an important one to promote because the impact of art crime is wide ranging. From Nazi looted art, to forgeries, to excavation robberies, cultural heritage is being endangered, the black market is being fed, and crime in general is prospering. 
It was such a treat to hear firsthand accounts of art crime and its consequences from the founder of Scotland Yard's Art Crime Squad team, Dick Ellis. He was someone I knew I wanted to keep in touch with from the program. And when I settled in to New York, I was thrilled to learn that I could help Dick Ellis on a case he was currently working on. To me, art history is like a detective novel. But here was an opportunity for me to get involved in a real life case. What was at stake was the authenticity of a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat. My research took me to the National Archives in DC. There was a label on the back of the work that suggested that it had been purchased by a now closed gallery in New York. I poured through their records to discover no such trace of that particular Basquiat piece having passed through the gallery. However, I contacted the gallery owner who authenticated the proof of sale document from the gallery in NYC to a gallery in Germany, but denied ever having the Basquiat work in his gallery. Something was amiss. In the end, the work in question turned out to be a fake. The art market is a slippery snake and this case highlighted the importance of provenance research. A little research goes a long way.
ARCA blog: You speak Italian and were able to travel through parts of Italy. What stood out to you during your travels?
Ms. Edelman: Well I speak French and Spanish fluently. I was therefore able to pick up a bit of Italian. This did make getting around easier. For anyone interested in art history, the Uffizi in Florence is a must. It was interesting going there after our segment on museum security with Anthony Amore. I started to look around for cameras, light sensors, looking at how the pieces were secured to the wall, and observing the museum guards at work. I've been looking at museums in a different way ever since.
ARCA blog: What has led to your interest in art insurance and what kind of career do you want to pursue?
Ms. Edelman: Working on the Basquiat case lit my fire for provenance research. It is something that is essential and too often easily overlooked. Whatever I end up doing in the field, I know that provenance research is something that I will incorporate fully. I love the idea of research and hands on art crime solving. I seriously thought about joining the FBI, but the idea of wielding a gun just didn't feel like the right fit for me, liberal San Franciscan that I am. And I would never be successful undercover because I'm just about the worst liar there is. Art insurance is still a hands on way of getting involved with solving art crime but from a safer, more behind the scenes stand point.