Showing posts with label art theft in film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art theft in film. Show all posts

January 6, 2018

Diamonds are a thief's best friend: The stolen objects from Doge's Palace identified

The jewelry stolen during the Doge's Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) robbery this week were modern compositions created by one of the foremost contemporary jewelry designers in the world.  Considered by some to be the world’s greatest living jeweller, the objects were created by the spectacularly gifted, Mumbai-based, artisan Viren Bhagat whose work has been characterised as a contemporary synthesis of traditional Mughal motifs and 1920s Cartier Art Deco.  

Bhagat comes from an artisan family who has been in the Indian jewelry business for more than one hundred years. He is one of only two contemporary jewelers, the second being Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR), whose works are included in Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's extravagant collection of  more than 400 pieces of Indian jewelry and jeweled artifacts spanning four centuries. 

Bhagat produces only a small number of breathtaking pieces each year using only precious stones to stay true to the aesthetic of historic Indian jewelry.  Each of his designs are first pencil-sketched, then precisely produced.  All of his jewelry pieces are one of a kind originals and none of his jewelry is created on commission. 

What makes Bhagat popular with wealthy jewelry lovers worldwide (some 60 percent of his work is purchased outside of India) is his recognizably stylistic touches of western elegance in symmetry with eastern extravagance, making his pieces perfect for modern day maharajas.  

Given his recognition in the jewelry world some of his pieces reach well into seven figures. 

The pair of earrings stolen earlier this week from the Doge's Palace, pictured above, started with a simple, clear halo of asymmetrical flat-cut diamonds surrounding an eye-popping 30.2-carat nearly-colorless teardrop shape diamond mounted on a barely-there platinum setting.  

The stolen brooch-pendant features a 10.03-carat center diamond mined from the historic Golconda sultanate, surrounded by a double row of calibrated rubies and flat-cut diamond petals, the combination form the image of a Mogul lotus.  Below the centerpiece hangs a thirteen strand, proportioned tassel of diamond and ruby beads, a type of flourish occasionally found in Indian turban jewels. 

Described in the book Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels, edited by Amin Jaffer, the former international director of Asian art at Christie’s, and current curator of the Al-Thani collection, the back of the brooch is said to be covered in pavé diamonds, echoing the extravagant Indian tradition of decorating the reverse side of jewelry as well as the front. Not your everyday Bollywood bling. 

NOTE:  The SCO - the Central Operations Service of the Police (Italian: Servizio Centrale Operativo) and the Scientific Police (Italian: Polizia Scientifica) will be assisting the investigators of the local Mobile Squad on this investigation. 

January 5, 2018

15 seconds to open, plus 5 seconds to pocket

That's how long it took a thief, in full view of CCTV security cameras, to open a glass display case while an accomplice stood lookout.

You can see the CCTV footage released by the authorities below.

In the CCTV camera footage a clean-shaven man wearing a hooded puffer jacket and casual pants, sporting a traditional coppola style flat cap, can be seen viewing the jewels in several display cases at a leisurely pace, along with five other individuals.  Nearby, one of the five, his accomplice, wearing a buttoned sweater and a fisherman's beanie also pretends to be enjoying the exhibition. 

Four of the individuals, two with hats and two without, leave the space viewable by the security camera in one group after only giving passing glances to the objects on display in the exhibition room.  The man with the fisherman's beanie remains, feigning interest in the objects on display before he too moves out of view of the camera's range, standing as a lookout.  

In the next frame of images, after purposely walking towards the middle display, we can see the thief warily working the lock mechanism on the alarmed display case, possibly with some type of burglary tool, though the view of how he unlocks its glass door is blocked by his back, out of view of the camera.  Opening the case takes only 15 seconds.

Glancing back over his shoulder before and after he gains access to the interior of the case, the culprit then reaches in and deftly grabs the brooch and earrings, placing them quickly in his right pocket in just five seconds.  He then closes the glass door on the case and exits in the same direction as the four earlier individuals. 

It is not very clear whether or not the four other individuals pictured in the CCTV  footage had any role in the event.  Nor is it unusual for patrons to wear hats in Italian museums during bouts of colder weather.  What is clear, though, is that hats used as disguises can be quickly removed and hooded puffer jackets can be flipped up or discarded with ease, allowing the thief and his accomplice to rapidly change their appearance, making them less identifiable.

This change-up can be seen in the footage stills taken of the two suspects.

In the top image, the lookout has donned a red puffer jacket which now covers or has replaced his earlier buttoned sweater.  

As the pair depart, the lookout exits with his hands stuffed in his pockets while the man who removed the objects from the case inside the Doge's Palace now has his hands free and appears to be talking on his cell phone. 

January 3, 2018

Museum Theft: Doge’s Palace - Venice, Italy

Shortly after 10 am this morning, on the last day of an exhibition at the Doge’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale), once the heart of the political life and public administration at the time of the Venetian Republic, jewel thieves broke into a display case and absconded with pieces of jewelry on temporary display in Venice.

Promoted by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, the exhibition was curated by Amin Jaffer, Senior Curator of the private collection, and Gian Carlo Calza, a distinguished Italian scholar of East Asian art.  The exhibition, titled "Treasures of the Mughals and Maharaja" brought together 270+ pieces of Indian jewelry, covering four centuries of India's heritage, owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, CEO of Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO), the Qatari mega-holding company.  

Sheikh Al-Thani is the first cousin of Qatar's Emir, and began acquiring pieces for his now-extensive jewelry collection after visiting an exhibition of Indian art in 2009 at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some of the bejeweled pieces on display at the Doge's Palace included encrusted jewelry with diamonds, rubies, jade, pearls and emeralds, once owned by India's great maharajas, nizams and emperors.  Founded by Babur after his conquest of much of Northern India, the pieces from the Mughal dynasty date from the early 16th century to the mid 18th century, one of India's most opulent eras in jewelry composition.  

Additional pieces from the collection were created during the politically chaotic 18th century and from the British Raj period in the 19th century and were produced to appeal to wealthy British travelers and India's upper caste.  The collector's more extravagant contemporary objects on display include a necklace commissioned in 1937 by Maharaja Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar and made by Jacques Cartier, which is said to rival the ruby and diamond necklace of Empress Marie-Louise which is part of the Crown Jewels of France.

The Al-Thani collection brings together and regroups pieces from many former Indian treasuries, some of which emphasize beliefs of the period.

In India, the nine stones of the Navaratna (Sanskrit: नवरत्न) where nava stands for nine and ratna for jewel, are considered to be auspicious, and in Vedic texts and Indian Astrology were believed to have the power to protect the wearer.

These jewels are:

Blue sapphire (niilam)
Cat's Eye (vaidooryam)
Diamond (vajram)
Emerald (marathakam)
Hessonite (gomeda)
Pearl (muktaaphalam)
Red Coral (vidrumam)
Ruby (maanikyam)
Yellow sapphire (pushparajam)

Often the gems were set in pure gold, using a gemstone setting art form known as Kundan, a method of gem setting, that consist of inserting a gold foil between the stones which does not require soldering or claw mounts. 

Former V&A curator Dr. Amin Jaffer is said to have begun advising Sheik Hamad on his acquisitions, after becoming the international director of Asian art at Christie’s.  In 2017, after ten years with the auction house, Jaffer resigned to take the position of Chief Curator of the Al-Thani's collection.

Ripped from the pages of an Oceans 8 Hollywood Script

According to current reconstruction of the incident using cameras surveillance footage, two thieves, one serving as lookout and a second culprit who actively broke into a display case located in the Sala dello Scrutinio, quickly made off with one brooch and  a pair of earrings. As soon as the display case was breachedsounding an alarm, the pair deftly escaped through the crowded museum gallery, blending in among the patrons and were out of the museum before security could seal the museum's perimeter to apprehend them.

Exhibition Hall, Sala dello Scrutinio, Doge's Palace, Venice
Image Credit: Palazzo Ducale
Immediately after the theft, the Sala dello Scrutinio was closed pending a complete inventory and review of surveillance footage.   

At the present time, photographs of the pieces stolen during the robbery have not been released by the authorities or by Al-Thani. In a statement given by the Venice city police commissioner Vito Gagliardi, the stolen jewelry included diamonds, gold and platinum, had been assigned a customs value of just 30,000 euros ($36,084), but are likely worth “a few million euros.”  

Selling hot goods

While diamonds may be a girl's best friend, buying stolen gemstones is a serious crime.  Without a certificate of authenticity which proves a diamond adheres to the KCPS, or Kimberly Process Certification Scheme showing that the gem does not originate from a "blood zone" tainted by human rights abuses, finding a buyer who will purchase an unprovenanced jewel of skeptical origin can be difficult.

Individuals caught trading in stolen or "blood diamonds" face significant legal ramifications and buying unprovenanced jewels poses great economic risk for jewelers, pawn shops, diamond and gem traders and cutters, and anyone else who might come into contact with a newly stolen and possibly well documented stolen gemstone.

Even if the Venice gem thieves were able to successful sell their newly stolen loot, they will likely do so with only a modicum of success. While big-time professional jewel thieves may have black market connections that allow them to sell substantial pieces for hefty sums, most implus thieves have to settle for intermediary fences which pay nowhere near what the gems in the necklace may actually be worth, financially or historically.

By:  Lynda Albertson

October 17, 2014

Film Review: Mark Landis in the documentary "Art and Craft" explains art forgery

by Camille Knop, ARCA Alumna '14

“We all like to feel useful. Whatever ability we happen to have, we like to make use of it,” explains Mark Landis in the newly-released documentary, “Art and Craft,” which traces his career in art forgery. “And copying pictures is my gift.”

Landis has been in the news since 2010, when it was discovered that he had donated over one hundred forgeries over a period of thirty years, spanning forty-six museums across twenty states. Although Landis’ actions could be considered fraudulent, the fact that he never sold his forgeries makes them legal. “Art and Craft” paints a portrait of Landis’ character that satisfies this contradiction and exposes a motive that is unexpected yet relatable.

Directed by Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker, “Art and Craft” often feels more like a documentary of a performance artist than that of an art forger. During its New York City release at the Angelika Film Center last month, the audience scoffed, giggled, and outright laughed in disbelief as they watched Landis at work. He forged countless images with undeniable talent, skillfully portrayed generous donors under various aliases, and teased museums into taking the bait. The genius of Mark Landis lies in the process of deception as much as in the forged work itself.

Most discovered art forgers are found to be motivated by a desire for financial gain and for revenge on an unforgiving and fickle art market. Artists themselves, they use their talents to benefit from the over-dependence of artistic value on authenticity. Ironically, their soft spots are similar to those of the museum directors interviewed in the film: art and money.

Landis, on the other hand, is interested in a different kind of profit. Unlike other art forgers, he claims he does not identify himself as an artist. Although he enjoys creating copies and duping experts, Landis is unique in that he gets the most pleasure out of impersonating art collectors. The friendly attention he receives from museum staff, although likely as insincere as his act, is what he craves and, ultimately, why he forges. “Art and Craft” traces this desire to emulate collectors he had seen in 'James Bond' films. In fact, his performances are inspired by the films and TV shows he watched as a child. He quotes them verbatim, almost as though they were original thoughts. “Necessity is the mother of invention, but sometimes the step-mother of deception,” is one such quote taken from "Charlie Chan’s Secret" (1936).  

Questions surrounding the future of Mark Landis’ work were brought up during the Q&A that followed the New York screening of “Art and Craft”. After having been featured in both a solo exhibition at the University of Cincinnati and in the film itself, it is clear that Mark Landis will have to put an end to his “philanthropic” career. Although he is unsure as to what his next step will be, when asked by an audience member if he would now be interested in selling his copies, Landis replied, "I may be eccentric, but I'm not crazy."

Ms. Knop studied art history and visual arts at Columbia University (Class of 2014).

January 1, 2014

Celebrate the new year revisiting the 1996 art heist movie "How to Steal a Million": stolen art, forgery, Paris, and Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn

ARCAblog subscriber Susan Rosenberg wrote in to recommend the 1966 comedy movie "How to Steal a Million" starring Peter O'Toole (1932 - 2013) and Audrey Hepburn (1929 - 1993). Ms. Hepburn portrays the daughter of a forger (played by Hugh Griffith) who tries to steal her father's work back from a museum in Paris. This movie was filmed on location in Paris.

In the movie, the two thieves rendezvous in the bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris the day after committing the robbery: "We did it! Did you see the paper and the television? Did you hear the radio? It's the crime of the century, practically, and we did it!"

Here's a link to a preview of the movie.

Happy New Year!

April 13, 2013

Francisco Goya's 1978 "Witches in Air" is subject of auction house theft in Danny Boyle's fictional film "Trance"

Francisco Goya's Witches in Air, 1798
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In Danny Boyle's fictional movie, Trance, Francisco Goya's $25 million painting is stolen during an auction in a choreographed heist. One of the thieves, Simon (James McAvoy), works at the auction house. Simon betrays his accomplices before a bump on his head precedes a case of amnesia. Rosario Dawson is the hypnotherapist and Vincent Cassel (who played an art thief in Oceans 13) is the criminal boss applying the pressure on the bewildered lad with the big blue eyes and Scottish brogue to recall where he hid the stolen painting.

In reality, Goya's Witches in Air is owned by the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The 1798 oil painting is not on display:

Three bare-chested characters wearing dunce caps hold a fourth, nude character in the air while another lies on the floor, covering his ears, A sixth figure flees, his head covered with a white cloth. With his hand, he makes the gesture intended to protect him from the evil eye. At the right of the scene, a donkey stands out against the neutral background.
This was one of six canvases Goya sold to the Duke and Duchess of Osuna in 1798, as decoration for their country house in La Alameda. They are linked to the etchings from his Caprichos series, in which he presented scenes of witches and witchcraft similar to this one.
This painting was acquired by the Prado Museum in 1999 with funds from the Villaescusa legacy.
The film also includes references to Rembrandt's "Sea of Galilee" stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 (the whereabouts of Dutch master's only seascape is publicly unknown) and an imagined room of "lost paintings" including Caravaggio's Nativity (stolen from a church in Palermo in 1969 and rumored to have been eaten by pigs).

May 13, 2012

Art Crime in Film: Art Theft and Helen Mirren Starring in "Painted Lady" (1997)

Judith Slaying Holofernes
by Artemisia Gentileschi at the Uffizi Gallery 
Just for fun ...

"Painted Lady" features the beautiful Helen Mirren, art crime, and an Hérmes handbag.

Mirren stars in the 1997 three hour TV movie "Painted Lady" as a 'retired' singer and former drug addict who poses as aristocratic art collector (accessorized with a black Hérmes Kelly bag) to safe the life of a family friend who owes drug money to dangerous Irish criminals.  The heavily art-themed plot involves the theft of an Irish manor, theft for insurance money, reattribution of a painting, a sale at an auction house, and looted art from Italy during World War II.

Maggie Sheridan lives in a cottage on the Irish estate of a family friend, Sir Charles Stafford.  One night while Maggie is blissfully entertaining a friend, burglars clip the barb wire surrounding the property and drive up to the house.  They smash the glass of a French door and set off the alarm, awakening Charles.  The house dog barks furiously from behind a closed door.  One thief carries a framed painting out to the truck, the other thief is cutting a canvas from its frame when Charles, holding a gun, stops the thief from stealing the portrait of his deceased wife.  The threatened thief shoots Charles dead.  After driving away, the thieves switch the painting to a second vehicle, blow up the getaway car, and then deliver the large canvas to their boss who orders it to be burned.  One of the thieves only pretends to burn the painting and later tries to sell the painting.

Maggie's life is turned upside down when she finds out that it was the cash-strapped Charles who orchestrated the theft of recently insured paintings in order to pay off the 60,000 pound debt his drug-addicted son Sebastian owes to a dangerous Irish gangster.

The movie features Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi which is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

"Painted Lady" is available on DVD or through a video subscription service such as Netflix.

May 8, 2012

Art Crime in Film: Jø Nesbo's "Headhunter" steals art from corporate executives looking for new jobs

Here's another example of how an art thief is portrayed in a movie.

The 2011 Swedish film "Headhunter" (the English title now playing in theaters in the U. S.) based on the book by Swedish crime writer Jø Nesbo features a corporate management recruiter in Norway who steals art to compensate for his 'bad genes' and -- in his mind -- his less than desirable stature of 'five feet, six inches' (168 centimeters).  The protagonist narrates that the money earned from stealing art pays for the lifestyle that allows him to keep happy his beautiful statuesque wife.

In this fictional film, the movie's hero, Roger, obtains information from high-level managers seeking new employment that will enable him to rob the client -- is anyone home during the day? do you have a dog? do you own a valuable work of art? Roger has an accomplice who works at a protective security firm who disengages the residential alarm during the burglary.  Roger, in protective clothing, is careful not to leave any DNA evidence and replaces the original artwork with a reproduction before leaving the residence -- all within ten minutes.  Roger hides the stolen paintings in the roof of his car then parks in his garage for his accomplice to retrieve and then sell through a fence in Sweden.

Caledonian Boar Hunt by School of Rubens/Rueters Photo
Roger, under financial pressure, is looking for an expensive painting that will allow him to pay off his outstanding debts and finds out through his lovely wife that a man brought a painting by Peter Paul Ruben's that his grandmother received from a German officer during World War II.

Hiding a painting in the lining of the roof of a car is exactly where thieves hid Cézanne's painting "Boy with a Red Waistcoat" discovered by Serbian police last month.

In the film, one of the artworks stolen is that by Edvard Munch; the other painting, The Caledonian Boar Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens, was allegedly lost during the Nazi occupation of Ruben's hometown of Antwerp.  A painting similar to the image used in the film and by the same title was discovered in Greece last September.  Greece police recovered the 17th century oil sketch ten years after it had been stolen from the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent in Belgium.