Stolen Art

This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room

“This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room”

by Craig Gilmore via “LA Times”

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Two agents from U.S. Homeland Security’s ICE unit arrived at my door in September looking for a Polish lady — not a person, but a painting: Melchior Geldorp’s “Portrait of a Lady.” She had, they informed me, been looted by the Nazis from the National Museum in Warsaw.

Unsure if these gentlemen were indeed who they claimed to be, I didn’t invite them in. But I knew exactly what they were seeking: My partner, David, and I had purchased this very portrait — ostensibly the work of a different artist — a decade earlier from a major auction house in New York. 

Upon their leaving, I stood dumbfounded, holding a packet of information about the alleged provenance of our painting. After calling David at work to drop this bombshell, I began a Googling frenzy, eventually bringing me to Poland’s Division for Looted Art website. Seconds later I was gawking at an old black-and-white photo of our beloved lady, a beautiful portrait painted on oak panel in 1628. Tears welled in my eyes with the realization that, without question, if this were true we needed to do our duty and get her safely home.

Being an opera singer, I was among a group of vocalists on a government-sponsored tour of Israel some years ago. During a visit to a community center for Holocaust survivors I was asked to sing. The emotion of being surrounded by people who had prevailed through such unimaginable horrors was overwhelming, and I found myself unable. Excusing myself, I attempted to make up for it by spinning several of the ladies around the dance floor — all the while trying not to look down at the numbers tattooed on their wrists. 

Now this memory flooded back to me, and I found myself once again in tears, hyper-aware of how Nazi atrocities affect us still to this day.

The toll of World War II in Poland — including the deaths of 6 million Poles, Jews, and other outcasts, including homosexuals — is unimaginable. Being gay men, David and I feel a personal connection with these losses and are conscious of how political shiftings can lead to vulnerability. This, added to the knowledge that Poland’s LGBTQ community is still in a struggle for its basic rights, has weighed heavily on our minds. 

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FBI hopes grainy video will help solve 25-year-old $500 million art heist

“FBI hopes grainy video will help solve 25-year-old $500 million art heist”

by Scott Malone via “Yahoo News”

Security footage shows unidentified man allegedly being allowed inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston before 1990 theft

Federal investigators in Boston on Thursday released 25-year-old surveillance video showing a security guard admitting a man to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the night before it was robbed of $500 million worth of art in the largest such heist in U.S. history.

The six-minute, 40-second video shows a young white man with a short jacket being let in by the guard through a rear entrance to the museum shortly after midnight on March 17, 1990, about 24 hours before the heist.

The statute of limitations on the crime has long passed, meaning that if the thieves are found they will not face prosecution. But the FBI, the Boston office of the Justice Department and the museum hope to recover the art.

“This latest request for the public’s assistance illustrates the FBI’s continued commitment to the Gardner investigation,” said Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Boston. “By releasing this video, we hope to generate meaningful leads and ultimately recover the stolen artwork.”

The newly released grainy video shows a car pulling up to the museum that matches the description of a vehicle spotted outside shortly before the heist.

The theft occurred when two men dressed as police officers were admitted by security guards to the museum in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990. They allegedly went on to overpower the guards who were found duct-taped to chairs in the museum’s basement the next morning.

Works of art including Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Manet’s “Chez Tortoni,” were among the 13 pieces stolen from the museum, which features the collection of the eccentric Boston socialite Gardner.

Due to a quirk in Gardner’s will, the empty frames from which the paintings were cut still hang on the museum’s walls. . . . .

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Based on a True Story

The lawsuit this film is based upon opened up a can of worms legally, completely changing Art Law, Cultural Heritage Law, Museum Law, and the Law of Wars forever.  In regards to justice for a long-ago wrong, it is satisfying to know the bad guys didn’t win.  🙂  I’m curious to see if this film is any good!

Arrests over 18th Century icon theft from Chester Cathedral

Arrests over 18th Century icon theft from Chester Cathedral

via “BBC

The artwork seized by police

Five people have been arrested over the theft of an 18th Century piece of religious art from Chester Cathedral.

Police discovered the Greek Orthodox icon “The raising of Lazarus”, which was stolen in August, at a property in Edleston Road, Crewe, on Wednesday.

Officers also seized other artworks at the property and said they were trying to identify where they have come from.

Four men aged between 31 and 59 and a 57-year-old woman are being questioned over the theft.

The icon was gifted to the cathedral by the late Dean Ingram Cleasby’s family.

Vice Dean, Canon Peter Howell-Jones said it was taken from the altar of the Chapel of Saint Anselm and a small Christmas tree decoration of an angel was left in its place. .. . .

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Organized Crime, Military Linked to Theft of Cambodian Artifacts

Organized Crime, Military Linked to Theft of Cambodian Artifacts

by Robert Carmichael via “VOA News

Seoul

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Over the past 40 years Cambodia’s cultural heritage has been looted on a massive scale, with countless thousands of artifacts taken from hundreds of sites, smuggled out of the country and into museums and private collections around the world. New research indicates that not only was much of this the work of organized networks, but that most pieces have disappeared from public view – probably forever.

Between the start of Cambodia’s civil war in 1970 and the eventual end of hostilities some 30 years later, the country’s 1,000-year-old temples and other historic sites were comprehensively plundered. In one incident in the early 1970s, government soldiers used a military helicopter to airlift artifacts from the 12th century citadel of Banteay Chhmar in the northwest.

At the same complex in 1998 – generals spent a fortnight tearing down and carting away 30 tons of the building. Just one of the six military trucks that went to neighboring Thailand loaded with artifacts was stopped and its contents returned. The rest disappeared, likely sold on the black market.

The Duryodhana statue is one of three returned to Cambodia from the United States in early June, Phnom Penh. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)The Duryodhana statue is one of three returned to Cambodia from the United States in early June, Phnom Penh. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)

For many years, researchers assumed that such brazen, well-organized looting was the exception rather than the norm, and that most of the looting of Cambodia’s heritage was a low-level affair, with local people plundering ancient sites and selling statues, carvings and stone reliefs in haphazard fashion.

But a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland shows that was not the case.

“The organized looting and trafficking of Cambodian antiquities was tied very closely to the Cambodian civil war and to organized crime in the country,” explained Tess Davis, a lawyer and archaeologist, and member of the study team that also included criminologists.

“It began with the war, but it long outlived it, and was actually a very complicated operation, a very organized operation, that brought antiquities directly from looted sites here in the country to the very top collectors, museums and auction houses in the world,” she added.

Davis said the Cambodian and Thai militaries were often involved in looting, as was organized crime. Local people were often forced to work as laborers.

Researchers say that at the end of the chain in Thailand was a Bangkok-based dealer who provided the laundering link between the criminals and the collectors and museums.

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