Showing posts with label giacomo medici. Show all posts
Showing posts with label giacomo medici. Show all posts

March 9, 2017

Exhibition: When a school transforms itself into a museum: Preserving Italian heritage: recovered artefacts on display from 9 March to 30 April 2017 at the Rome International School



Following the success of the “Pop Icons” exhibition, the Rome International School in collaboration with MiBACT and the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale will host a new cultural event in Rome, Italy highlighting the work of the Italian art crime military squad.

Starting today, and running through April 30th, the Rome International School will host 75 archaeological items, recovered from illegal excavations and thefts 
recovered by this special branch of the Carabinieri.

On hand for today's press conference was Commander of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, General Fabrizio Parrulli, the Director General of LUISS Guido Carli University (the parent school to the RIS), and Giovanni Lo Storto, Director General, MiBACT.

If you ever wanted irrefutable proof that a large, well trained police force can have an impact on art crimes, this exhibition, both visually and emotionally, hands you unrefutable evidence on a plate. 

Want to whet your appetite to what you will see on display?  

Here are a few of the artworks which stand out:

An attic red-figure pelike depicting Hercules in the garden of the Hesperides, and on the reverse side, a scene from the Iliupersis, also known as the sacking of Troy. This IV century BCE ceramic storage jar, similar to an amphora, was illegally excavated from somewhere in Puglia/Sicilia/Sardegna/Calabria.  It was recovered during "Operation Teseo" a multinational police operation which recovered 5,361 antiquities confiscated in Basel, Switzerland.

A 340-320 BCE crater with a representation of Helios on his sun chariot pulled by horses.  This vase was seized during a raid against an antiquities dealer in 2009. 

An illegally excavated III-I century BCE sarcophagus with a full-length portrait of a man reclining on a kline from clandestine excavation conducted in Southern Etruria dear Tuscania.  One of the largest objects in this exhibition, the sarcophagus was recovered from an art storage warehouse in Switzerland in 2016 as part of Operation Antiche Dimore, a law enforcement seizure of 45 shipping crates belonging to Robin Symes which contained ancient works of art worth an estimated € 9 million that the disgraced dealer intended for the English market, Japanese and American antiquities markets.  

A fresco slab looted from a tomb in historic Casertano depicting an armed warrior on horseback along with two heavily armed hoplite (foot-soldiers). The work was recovered from the storage area of an antiquities dealer in Como, Italy in May 2015. 


A specific installation dedicated to ancient armour, which includes ancient suits of armour and weapons that originate from different parts of Italy, between the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. 

The exhibition builds a bridge between the culture of the past, the culture of the future and the culture of legality.  The last ultimately protects the rights of all of us to enjoy the knowledge and beauty that we have inherited from centuries long past. 

The art crime exhibition will be open to the public for free Monday to Friday, between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm and during the weekends from 10:00 am until 8:00pm

For more information about the event please visit the RIS website. 

February 21, 2017

Auction Alert: Timeline Auctions. February 21, 2017, London, UK

On February 20, 2017 ARCA contacted Christos Tsirogiannis about a possible ancient object of concern in an upcoming Timeline auction scheduled to start the following day in London, UK at 10:00am GMT.

TimeLine Auctions holds regular auction sales of antiquities from around the world.  Bidding can be done in person, or electronically through their own or associated websites. The firm is a prominent middle-range British dealer in portable antiquities.

Since 2007 Tsirogiannis, a Cambridge-based Greek forensic archaeologist and summer lecturer with ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, has collaborated with ARCA to draw attention to and identify antiquities of potentially illicit origin in museums, collections, galleries auction houses, and private collections that can be traced to the confiscated Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides and Gianfranco Becchina archives.

Dr. Tsirogiannis in turn consulted TimeLine Auction's current online sale catalog and reviewed the objects for possible matches.  Contacting us shortly thereafter, he informed us that he had matched not one, but three antiquities traceable to known traffickers of illicit antiquities.

Each of the three ancient objects match conclusively with photos that are found in the confiscated Robin Symes archive (lot 49 and lot 79) and the confiscated Giacomo Medici archive (lot 183).

The items Dr. Tsirogiannis identified as being of possible concern are: 

A Scythian Rhyton with Animal Head: Lot 0049

Left: Screen Capture of Timeline Auction Photo 02/21/17
Right: Photo from Robin Symes Archive
NB This photo has been reversed horizontally for matching purposes. 

The provenance listed by the auction house for this object is as follows: 
"Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000."

This antiquity has unfortunately been sold for £3,100 including buyer's premium. 

Scythian Moose Inset with Cabochons: Lot 0079


Left: Screen Capture of Timeline Auction Photo 02/21/17
Right: Photo from Robin Symes Archive 

Top: Screen Capture
TimelineAuction 02/21/17
Middle and Bottom:
Photos from
Giacomo Medici Archive
The provenance listed by the auction house for this object is as follows: 
"Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000."

This antiquity has also unfortunately been sold for £2,790 including buyer's premium.

Roman Head of a Youth: Lot 0183

The provenance listed by the auction house for this object is as follows: 

"Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000."

ARCA hopes that by continuing to publicize the frequency with which potentially illicit antiquities penetrate the legitimate art market, with provenance irregularities such as those seen in these identifications, collectors will be encouraged to do their own due diligence, before acquiring objects for their collections.  In this way new buyers will not be duped into the laundering of objects in support the illicit antiquities trade.

While it is likely too late to save the new owners of Lot 0049 and Lot 0079 the headache of having just purchased potentially laundered illicit antiquities, ARCA hopes that Timeline will willingly withdraw the third object, to allow more time for due diligence, now that these identifications have been made.  In this way, the auction firm can avoid passing along another tainted antiquity to an unsuspecting collector.

It also would be nice, if in turn, Timeline shared the consignor/s contact information with the authorities, or encouraged the current owner to contact the authorities so that they could determine if any other suspicious items had been purchased in the past, which may have passed through Symes and Medici's hands.

As always, Tsirogiannis has sent the documentation of his informed suspicions on to law enforcement authorities at INTERPOL.

By Lynda Albertson

August 3, 2016

Recap of the 2016 Amelia Conference

By Catherine Waldram, Guest Blogger


As ARCA's blog readership generally knows the Association for Research into Crimes against Art is a research and outreach organisation working to promote the study and research of art crime and cultural heritage protection.  One of the ways we do this is by identifying emerging and under-examined trends related to various types of art crime and in doing so work to highlight developing strategies that advocate for the responsible stewardship of our collective artistic and archaeological heritage.  In furtherance of that, each year ARCA hosts a weekend summer art crime conference in Italy, where allied professionals, academic scholars, and students across interdisciplinary fields convene within the old walls of the quiet Umbrian town of Amelia, for what has come to be known as the Amelia Conference. 

This year's event was held June 24-26, 2016. 

As with previous years, the objective of the conference was to share perspectives and approaches working to abate art crime and illicit cultural property trafficking internationally, while facilitating an atmosphere of communication and collaboration between professionals working in the sector in order to share new and emerging approaches. The conference takes place mid-way through ARCA’s ten-course Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection which in turn gives the Association's postgraduate students the opportunity to meet and speak with experts from all over the world while exchanging news, ideas and experiences.

The following report will provide a brief summary of the speakers’ messages in brief.

Photo Credit: Billie Fee
Alesia Koush, an art historian with Heritage Community Life Beyond Tourism® created by the Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation®, which has been operating for over twenty years for intercultural dialogue and peaceful coexistence in the world, gave the opening address.

Koush's research focuses on the protection of cultural heritage and she serves on the foundation’s international board of experts. In the framework of these activities, she conceived and coordinated two editions of the international workshop “Value Education for Culture, Peace and Human Development” – a theme representing the result of her multi-annual research, which she continues to develop participating at international conferences and publishing articles.

In Kouch's presentation “Without culture, there is no peace” she stressed that more recognition and legal protections for our shared, inalienable human right to culture are necessary. She reminded the audience of the teachings of Russian artist, Professor Nicholas Roerich and philosopher Swami Vivekananda who both stressed the need for protection of cultural values, stressing cultural education as a a critical component of teaching society of the necessity of preserving universal human values.

After the opening address, Saturday's first panel elaborated on the current climate of civil, national, and international law as it relates to cultural heritage protection.

Dr. Saskia Hufnagel, co-director of the Criminal Justice Centre at Queen Mary University of London, discussed the restitution of cultural heritage objects within the German context, pointing out that criminal prosecution can often be faster than civil restitution.

Ivett Paulovics and Pierfrancesco C. Fasano, Milan-based Attorneys-at-Law from FASANO Avvocati, noted the initial shortcomings and subsequent changes in the EU legal framework for unlawfully removed cultural objects and the important changes brought about by EU Directive 2014/60, involving a shift in the burden of proof onto the possessor of the object.

Lastly, Silvia Beltrametti of the University of Chicago Law School presented her study on the impact of court convictions of antiquities dealers on pricing and provenance of ancient artifacts at auction. Her analyses concluded that international treaties and legal threats correlate to a greater market demand for items with clearer and demonstrable provenance. The relationship was clearly exemplified by spikes in the price of classical and Egyptian objects accompanied by better documentation of the collecting history corresponding with the timing of high-profile prosecutions, like that of Fredrick Schultz and Giacomo Medici.

The second morning panel consisted of European and Antipodean perspectives on art and heritage crime and the trafficking of culture within the former Yugoslavia, the Balkans, and Australia.

Helen Walasek, author of Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage, formerly worked with the Bosnian Institute in London and Bosnia-Herzegovina Heritage Rescue (BHHR). Walasek brought insight into the destruction and damage of cultural buildings of significance in the region and the functioning duties of the  International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The judgments represented a growth in humanitarian pressure and response to inflict penalties on perpetrators of cultural heritage destruction that willfully inflicted harm on the morale and history with no military necessity. Walasek underlined the importance of recognizing that damages to culturally significant property reach not only those near affected areas, but also the entirety of mankind.

Elena Sciandra, a Ph.D. student in International Studies at the University of Trento School of International Studies with a M.Sc. in Criminal Justice Policy, shared her findings on illicit antiquities trafficking occurring in the Balkan region. Sciandra called for greater research dedicated to transit countries involved in trafficking activities.

Professors Kenneth Polk and Duncan Chappell examined and presented contemporary developments in the Antipodean art world. Dr. Polk is a retired Professor of Criminology at the University of Melbourne and continues to serve as a researcher on such topics as art theft, art fraud, and the illicit traffic in antiquities.  He also has been recently appointed by the Australian Government to the National Cultural Heritage Committee. Dr. Chappell is a lawyer and criminologist, currently teaching as a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and as a Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of NSW. He is also the Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence in Policing and Security and ARCA's Art and Cultural Heritage Law professor for the Postgraduate Certificate Program. Together Polk and Chappell noted that typical trafficking portals in their region include Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore and both cited multiple cases and legal instruments, including the “Head of Man” sold by Subhash Kapoor and the Australian 1986 Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act’s Section 14 on Unlawful Imports.

Saturday's first afternoon panel highlighted the current state of endangered antiquities from Mesopotamia to South Arabia via the Levant. Chaired by ARCA 2015 Alumni, Samer ABDEL GHAFOUR, the founder of the ArchaeologyIN – Archaeology Information Network, the panel focused on best practices and the positive impact of community-focused development projects in the protection of cultural heritage in politically strained regions.   Mr. Abdel Ghafour also introduced ARCA's three 2016 Minerva Scholarship students for this year's postgraduate program:  Zuhoor Khalid Ali Al-Ansi, from Yemen, Ahmed Fatima Kzzo, from Syria and Ameer Doshee Jasim from Iraq. All three students have been sponsored by individuals and organisations who want to promote the study of art crime among the professional community actively working within conflict zones. The Minerva scholarship is set aside to equip scholars with the knowledge and tools needed to build the capacity to address heritage crimes successfully when they return to their home institutions and to advance this training within their respective regions. 

Conference Icebreaker with ARCA Minerva Scholars
Ahmed Kzzo, Zuhoor Khalid Ali Al-Ansi,
Ameer Doshee Jasim and Dr. Giorgio Buccellati and 
Dr. Marilyn Kelly Buccellati
Carla Benelli, a 2015 ARCA alumna and Osama Hamdan described the politicized use of archaeology for territorial control in occupied Palestinian territories as well as the current state of poor management and neglect of archaeological sites in that region. Carla Benelli, is the Cultural Heritage Project Manager at the Associazione pro Terra Sancta (Custody of the Holy Land) at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Osama Hamdan is the Director of the Palestinian NGO Mosaic Centre and a Lecturer at the Higher Institute of Islamic Archaeology at Al-Quds University in Palestine. Both speakers encouraged greater investment in people within the region, facilitated by an improved education system and government strategy. 

As a Research Fellow at the University of Pisa, Costanza Odierna shed light on the widespread destruction of archaeological heritage at risk in Yemen and the University of Pisa’s related projects in support of Yemeni museums, including the Damār Museum and Zngibar Museum. Odierna introduced the digital archive her team has created, known as the Digital Archive for the Study of pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions (DASI), to act as a resource for study and preservation. 

Next, Professors Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati spoke of their experiences at Tell Mozan (Arabic: تل موزان‎‎, ancient Urkesh; Hasakah Governorate, Syria), in modern-day Northern Syria.  Nearly 20 years ago, the pair and their team identified the fourth millennium BCE tell located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate and have been working on the site through 17 seasons of excavations. 

Dr. Giorgio Buccellati is the Founding Director of the International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies - IIMAS and a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati serves as the Director of Excavations at the ancient city of Urkesh and is a faculty member at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Together, the Buccellati's offered practical and cost-effective solutions which they have used to harness vital community-based social-cultural infrastructures as a means of preventing site damage and the looting of their archaeological site. Their long-term project in Syria, located just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from ISIS-controlled territory, has been successfully maintained and protected despite its at-risk proximity to conflict zones in a large part because local staff are instilled with an intense loyalty to the heritage of the region and to the scientists and scientific work being conducted at Tell Mozan over the last decades.

The Buccellati's efforts to harness the cooperation of local people, who now serve as guardians of the Tell Mozan site, are documented in a report titled "In the Eye of the Storm," This report details how a plan to protect Urkesh from crumbling has inadvertantly served as a model for protecting the heritage site during and in spite of Syria's long-standing armed conflict.  

The Buccellati's challenged the audience, asking: “How can we expect stakeholders to protect the sites if we do not?”

The afternoon’s second panel discussion focused on characterizing and anticipating the trafficking of culture in and from zones of conflict.

Dr. Samuel Andrew Hardy, a specialist researching the illicit antiquities trade and the destruction of community and cultural property for various organizations including UNESCO is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Program in Sustainable Cultural Heritage at the American University of Rome.  Hardy spoke on his work “The Importance of Being Diligent” and existing trends in present-day conflict antiquities looting.

Andrew Scott DeJesse, Lieutenant Colonel and Cultural Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army, provided an overview of his work on the Collective Heritage Lab. The innovative social laboratory is being developed to track the antiquities trade and disrupt the connections between the demands of the legal antiquities market, the grey market, and the illicit trafficking of stolen artifacts.

Britta M. Redwood, J.D. candidate at Yale University, discussed museum and collector liability under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. Redwood shared perspectives on several recent cases, including Linde et al. v. Arab Bank in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The second day of the conference began with a morning panel focused on cases of art crime occurring in Italy, offering insight into the challenges of repatriation as well as how successful joint mediation efforts can be useful in developing collaborative relationships which facilitate repatriation. 

Serena Raffiotta, Archaeologist, shared the story of a blue curl that her team discovered in Morgantina, Sicily. Through her relationship with the J. Paul Getty Museum, she found that this small piece was, in fact, a perfect puzzle fit to the iconic terracotta head of Hades within the institution’s collection at the time. The Hades sculpture has since been returned to Morgantina. Stefano Alessandrini, Archaeologist and Consultant for L’Avvocatura dello Stato, Italia, brought his perspective from his efforts to repatriate illicitly trafficked works of art home to Italy.

Virginia Curry, retired FBI Special Agent and Doctoral Candidate at the University of Texas at Dallas, shed light on the long-standing history of unethical collecting methods among some collectors of ancient art. Curry told the story of Piermatteo d’Amelia’s “Annunciation”, originally from the altar of a Franciscan church located just outside the city of Amelia, not far from the Boccarini cloister where the conference was held. By examining letters between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Bernard Berenson which highlight a long succession of business transactions between Berenson and Gardner in the purchasing of art works Ms. Curry highlighted that the Boston-based collector had more than passing knowledge in the illicit nature of the stolen “Annunciation” which ultimately ended up in her private collection. 

Sunday's second group of morning panelists spoke about fakes, forgeries, and the illicit trafficking of rhino horns infiltrating the market.

James Ratcliffe, General Counsel and Director of Recoveries at The Art Loss Register, spoke about fakes and forgeries circulating in the market, as witnessed by his firm. The Art Loss Register is one of  largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques, and collectables. Their services include item registration, search and recovery services to collectors, the art trade, insurers, and worldwide law enforcement agencies. Some of the items Ratcliff covered were the corruption and manufacturing of false provenance, the use of provenance to legitimise forgeries and the difficulties that arise from the fact that so few people have any interest in revealing forgeries which results in the recycling of fakes and forgeries in the market.

Dr. Annette Hübschle-Finch, Senior Research Advisor at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, shared her studies on the market and the grey zone of regulation for rhino horns. Hübschle-Finch underscored that South Africa continues to allow recreational hunting of rhino horns for hunters with permits, resulting in abuse as well as regulatory challenges. The last speaker was Allen Olson-Urtecho, an art adjuster, investigator, and principal at Fine Arts Adjusters LLC as well as a Ph.D. student at IDSVA.  Olson-Urtecho  introduced his team’s Fine Art Forensics Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and stressed the importance of disseminating knowledge to wider audiences to curb the proliferation of fakes and forgeries within the marketplace.

In the afternoon, perspectives of art crime were shared by public sector law enforcement officers as well as private investigators.

Jordan Arnold, Senior Managing Director at K2 Intelligence, shared insight into the Panama Papers that were leaked from the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca and its impact on future regulation targeting the art market. Arnold spoke about the regulatory functions of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the responsibility of banks and financial institutions to monitor accounts for suspicious activity under the U.S. Patriot Act. 

Fons van Gessel, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Security and Justice in the Netherlands, and Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antiquities Crime Unit in the National Criminal Intelligence Division of the National Police of the Netherlands, shared findings from the 3rd meeting of the EU CULTNET held in the Hague on 25 May 2016. The EU CULTNET is the informal network of law enforcement authorities and experts in the field of cultural goods. van Gessel and Finkelnberg stressed the need for cooperation and the exchange of information and best practices.

Michael Will, Manager of the Organized Crime Networks Group and Focal Point Furtum at EUROPOL, provided an overview of EUROPOL's and Europe's involvement in the fight against cultural goods trafficking. Gonzalo Giordano, General Secretariat and Sub-Directorate of the Drugs and Organized Crime in Works of Art unit at INTERPOL, discussed initiatives and methods at INTERPOL’s Works of Art unit utilised in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

The final conference panel dealt with cultural heritage risk management approaches to effectively balance the accessibility with the protection of collections.

Judit Kata Virág, Registrar at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, called for greater stewardship and cooperation between museum professionals and law enforcement agencies in the fight against art trafficking. Dick Drent, Associate Director of SoSecure, Toby Bull, Founder of TrackArt, and Ibrahim Bulut, Business Development Manager at Meyvaert Glass Engineering, reminded the audience that in the security profession there are two basic approaches used to deal with security vulnerabilities: reactive and proactive.  Reactive approaches are those procedures that museums use once they discover that their facility has been compromised by an intruder or attack. Proactive approaches include all measures that are taken with the goal of preventing risks before they occur compromising security.   Speaking candidly with the attendees the panalists underscored that security doesn’t begin with the detection of a compromised situation resulting in a theft or damage to an art work, but with an advanced plan to minimize risk that includes many factors customized to the needs of each individual facility. The speakers on the panel pushed for change from reactive measures and fostering mew approaches which take into consideration proactive measures within the security sector, facilitated by security intelligence coupled with smarter techniques and more security focused construction.


March 23, 2016

Do You Know Where Your Art Has Been? When the Licit Antiquities Trade Masks an Illicit Criminal Enterprise

Robin Symes, was once one of London's best-known and most successful dealers in antiquities. For 30 years, he and his partner Christo Michailidis were inseparable as two of the movers and shakers in the global antiques trade.  Collecting property in London, New York and Athens, and fancy cars as well as antiquities, the two procured ancient artefacts for, and wined and dined with, the rich and famous, including well-known antiquities collectors Leon Levy and his wife Shelby White.

Building one of the world's largest ancient art businesses, Symes and Michailidis pieces also became part of museum collections around the globe, including the J Paul Getty Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Metropolitan Museum.   At the height of their enterprise Italian authorities estimated that the pair's jointly-run ancient art business earned them an estimated 170 million euro but a series of missteps proved the dealers' undoing, literally and figuratively and in 2005 Symes served a very brief jail sentence for disregarding court orders over the sale of a £3m Egyptian statue.

Art Dealer Robin Symes
In 2006 Symes was further implicated as being part of one of the most sophisticated illicit antiquities networks in the world in a bookThe Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums” by Peter Watson and Cecelia Todeschini.  The Medici Conspiracy outlined Symes' assets which included thirty-three known warehouses encompassing some 17,000 objects worth an estimated £125 million ($210 million) as well as his ties to traffickers in Europe's illicit antiquities trade. Each of the museums mentioned above were subsequently forced to relinquish looted objects that had been laundered illegally and which at one time had passed through networks connected with  Symes.

In addition to requests for museum repatriations, the Italian government has also gone after collectors who have purchased Symes-tainted art for their individual private collections.  In November 2006 they asked Syme's client and friend New York collector Shelby White to return more than 20 objects from the Levy-White collection looted from southern Italy. An avid collector and philanthropist, White had donated $20 million to financing for the Metropolitan's expanded wing of Greek and Roman art.   That same year she made a $200 million gift of cash and real estate to New York University via the Leon Levy Foundation to finance the University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW).

After 18 months of intense negotiations, White ceded ten classical antiquities to the Italian government from the Shelby White and Leon Levy private collection.  One of the ten objects was an attic red-figured calyx-krater depicting Herakles slaying Kyknos, signed by the celebrated fifth-century B.C. painter Euphronios.  This object had once been on extended loan to the Metropolitan Museum.  Discussed in Watson and Todeschini's book, (pages 128-32) and illustrated in J. Boardman's “The History of Greek Vases, (fig. 120), the calyx-krater vessel had been laundered through the hands of tainted antiquities dealers Giacomo Medici, Bob Hecht and Robin Symes before finally coming to rest within the White/Levy collection.  Polaroids held by the Italian government used in the investigation clearly show the object broken into pieces with dirt still clinging to the vase fragments.

Another returned Shelby White and Leon Levy object was a small bronze statue purchased through Symes for 1.2 million dollars in 1990.   The bronze had been displayed during the exhibition “Glories of the Past: Ancient Art From the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection”, a presentation of over 200 objects from the couple's ancient art collection on view at the Metropolitan Museum.  Italian authorities traced this bronze to Symes via thirteen photographs seized through convicted antiquities trafficker Giacomo Medici.  The photos showed the statue also covered with dirt during the early stages of its trafficking from tombarolo to the collections of the wealthy.

But despite academic pressure regarding the many tainted pieces in their collection, Ms. White has steadfastly maintained that she and her husband, who died in 2003, purchased their artifacts in good faith and had no knowledge that objects within their collection included those which were clandestinely excavated and trafficked out of source countries.   

Given White's roll in the formation of ISAW, which on its website states is "a center for advanced scholarly research and graduate education, which aims to encourage particularly the study of the economic, religious, political and cultural connections between ancient civilizations" it seems unusual that a seasoned collector of White's caliber would not have understood the implications of an object's collection history prior to purchasing high-end antiquities, especially given the hefty price tags that accompanied many of the family's ancient art acquisitions.

But back to the dealer Symes himself. 

When prosecuted for some of his offences, Symes lied to the court and claimed that he had stored his antiquities in five warehouses.  It later transpired that he had secretly stashed items in more than 30 warehouses, peppered between London, New York and Switzerland, some of which the authorities are continuing to search for. One of these storage facilities was the subject of a closed door press conference in Rome on March 22, 2016.

When seasoned officers from Italy's Art Policing division, the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale pried open forty-five large wooden shipping crates at a Port Franc freeport warehouse storage facility in Geneva in January 2016 they were shocked by the contents they found. Carefully inventoried, complete with dated newspaper wrappings, was enough ancient art to fill a museum: 5,300 objects spanning 1500 years of Italian archeology. 

In one singular warehouse, stashed away for 15 years, the British art dealer had squirrelled away an Ali Baba's cave-worthy hoard of Roman and Etruscan treasures.  Among the objects were two exceptional sixth century BCE Etruscan sarcophagi looted from Tuscania; one of a reclining young woman with pink painted eyes and another of an elderly man. The crates were also filled with bas-reliefs and a cache of fresco fragments, some of which are believed to have come from a painted from a temple of Cerveteri, perhaps from the Vigna Marini Vitalini.  Whoever packed the crates methodically catalogued each of the box's contents, pasting a photocopy of the images of the contents to the exterior of each shipping container. Many of the art shipping containers contained an impressive quantity of attic pottery, painted plates, marble busts and bronzes.


During the press conference at the Carabinieri TPC barracks in Trastevere Italy's Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini, Italian deputy prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo, superintendent for Southern Etruria Alfonsina Russo and the head of the Carabinieri TPC Division, praised the coordinated efforts of the Swiss and Italian investigators. General Commander of the Carabinieri TPC, Mariano Mossa estimated the value of the objects discovered in the warehouse to be worth nine million euros.  

Culture Minister Franceschini called the warehouse raid "one of the most important finds of recent decades".   Prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo stated that the objects were stolen in the seventies, in clandestine excavations in Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia as well as looted in Etruria. At some point in the looting campaign, the antiquities were smuggled into the Geneva freeport facility where they remained untouched and unopened.  Capaldo stated that they believe that the statues, tiles and sarcophagi were to be illegally exported and sold under false papers to collectors in Germany, Japan and other various collector countries.

Stefano Alessandrini, a consultant to Italy's State Prosecutor and Cultural Ministry and a lecturer during ARCA's postgraduate program who lectures for ARCA's Art Law and Illicit Trafficking course says that it is impossible to give a precise financial figure on the value of material stolen from Italy over the last half a century, ie. from the beginning of the 1970s.   Italian authorities believe that millions of objects have been illegally excavated and trafficked and some estimate the value of lost heritage due to antiquities looting to be as high as several billion euros.

Alessandrini emphasized that when reporters ask for financial figures to indicate art's value they do not take into consideration the “priceless” aspect of an object:  the loss of its historic information about the western world and the context in which the objects were found or how the tangible remains of antiquity gives us insightful information about ancient culture and civilisations. Alessandrini stated that only a small portion of the Italy’s looted art is ever located, and when it is, it is often only repatriated to Italy following lengthy litigation or extracted negotiations between the purchasers and the authorities in source countries.

Alessandrini stated "When looted works of ancient art end up in foreign museums or are sold by auction houses and antique dealers we have a good chance to identify and recover them because we have photographs.  But many of the antiquities are still hidden in caches of traffickers like this one or in the collections of unscrupulous collectors that haven't been displayed publicly."

It is believed that the return of the this cache of looted heritage will increase pressure on Great Britain to hand over another 700 disputed artefacts linked to the same collector that are currently being held by the liquidator for Mr Symes estate following his declared bankruptcy.  The UK cache of objects includes sculptures, jewellery and vases, most of which are believed by antiquities trafficking researchers to be Etruscan in origin and to have come predominantly from the Lazio and Tuscany regions of Italy.

In selecting antiquities, individual collectors and museums have choices. They can choose to focus exclusively on the historic, aesthetic and economic benefits of their acquisitions in formulating their collections or they can add ethical and moral criteria to their purchase considerations.  It's time for private collectors to conscientiously ask themselves

Who am I buying from?

Why does a dealer or group of dealers appear to have an unending supply of archaeological material?

and

Should I spend large sums of money purchasing objects that destroy, scatter or obliterate it as a source of historical information giving us insight into the past?

and

Will my purchase further more looting, theft, smuggling, or fraud?
and 

Could the proceeds of my purchase be used for nefarious purposes such as financing terrorism, militant activity or organised crime?

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

A partial sampling of images of some of the objects from the January 2016 Symes Geneva freeport seizure are included below.  ARCA has maintained a complete photo inventory of all objects seized for research purposes.

Copyright ARCA

Note the Newspaper date and packing materials of US Origin - Copyright ARCA

Roman Sarcophagus with added Christian elements - Copyright ARCA

Closeup of Antique Trade Gazette dating to August 1990, gives clue to date when crates were packed - Copyright ARCA

Vase and matching polaroid - Copyright ARCA

Shipping crates used by Symes as they appeared when opened by the Carabinieri TPV - Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Vase fragments with matching trafficker polaroid - Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Copyright ARCA

Syme's external inventory pasted to the outside of each crate -  Copyright ARCA









April 11, 2015

Sir, how much is that (2nd Century B.C.E.) Vase in the Window? Part III

Antiquities trafficking continues to make headlines in multiple countries in 2015.  In this last of a three part series, ARCA explores one final art trafficking network that underscores that the ownership and commodification of the past continues long after the traffickers have been identified.

August 31, 1995
Europa Paestan red-figure Asteas signed calyx-krater
In a fluke summer accident, Pasquale Camera, a former captain of the Guardia di Finanza turned middle-man art dealer, lost control of his car on Italy’s Autostrada del Sole, Italy's north-south motorway, as he approached the exit for Cassino, a small town an hour and a half south of Rome.  Smashing into a guardrail and flipping his Renault on its roof, Camera’s automobile accident not only ended his life but set into motion a chain reaction that resulted in a major law enforcement breakthrough that disrupted one of Italy’s largest antiquities trafficking networks.

While the fatal traffic accident fell under the jurisdiction of Italy’s Polizia Stradale, the Commander of the Carabinieri in Cassino was also called to the scene.  The investigating officers had found numerous photographs in Camera's vehicle which substantiated what investigators had already suspected, that the objects depicted in the photos had been illegally-excavated and that Camera had been actively dealing in looted antiquities.
Tombarolo holding Asteas signed calyx-krater

The images in the car were of a hodgepodge of ancient art.  Two that stood out in particular were of a statue in the image of Artemis against the backdrop of home furnishings and a Paestan red-figure calyx-krater, signed by Asteas in what looked to be someone's garage.  

Having been previously assigned to the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, the  Commander from Cassino called the TPC’s Division General, Roberto Conforti, who requested a warrant be issued to search the premises of Camera’s apartment in Rome, near Piazza Bologna.

Investigators who carried out the search of Pasquale Camera's personal possessions discovered hundreds of photographs, fake and genuine antiquities,  reams of documentation and the now famous Medici organagram.  This org chart revealed Giacomo Medici’s central position in the organization of the antiquities trade out of Italy.  Interestingly, the wallpaper in Cameria's apartment also matched the background of the photo of the Artemide Marciante found in Camera's vehicle. 

Subsistance Looter to Middle Man

Another photo, of Antimo Cacciapuoti, showed the tombarolo holding the freshly-looted Asteas-signed Europa krater.  A copy of this photo was provided by journalist Fabio Isman for the purpose of this article.  Isman confirmed that this image was one of the Polaroids found in Camera's Renault and went on to add that during later negotiations Cacciapuoti would confess to having been paid 1 million lire plus "a suckling pig" for his work in supplying the krater.

One of the links in Italy's largest known trafficking chain had begun to crack.

Medici Organagram
As the investigation progressed authorities went on to raid Giacomo Medici’s warehouse at the Geneva Freeport in September 1995 and recovered 3,800 objects and another 4,000 photographs of ancient art that had, at one time or another, passed through Medici’s network.

1998  Identifications

Matching seized photos to looted works of art is a laborious process.  Three years after the start of the investigation Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini from the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria meridionale at the Villa Giulia, working with the Procura della Repubblica (the state prosecutor's office) and the Court of Rome on this case, identified the Artemide Marciante from the photo found at the scene of Camera's fatal auto accident.  The photo of the statue matched another found in a June 1998 issue of House and Garden Magazine and another photo seized from Giacomo Medici which showed the object unrestored and with dirt still on it.  This statue was ultimately recovered from Frieda Tchacos.

Rizzo and Pellegrini also identified the location of the Paestan red-figure calyx krater, painted and signed by Asteas.  It had been sold by the dealer Gianfranco Becchina to the John Paul Getty Museum in 1981.
2001-2005 More Seizures

In the early years of the new century law enforcement authorities investigating this trafficking cell widened their attention on Gianfranco Becchina, whose name was listed on  the organagram, placing him as head of a cordata and as a primary supplier to Robert Hecht.  This important lead convinced investigators to explore Becchina's suspected involvement in this trafficking cell. 

As the investigation continued authorities seized 140 binders containing 13,000 more documents, 8,000 additional photographs of suspect objects and 6,315 artworks from Becchina's storage facilities and gallery.

But the purpose of this article is not to rehash a 19-year old story already detailed in “The Medici Conspiracy” by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini.    It is now fairly common knowledge that an estimated 1.5 million items have been looted from Italy's myriad archaeological sites during the past four decades and a surprising number of these illicit objects have ended up in some of the world's most prestigious museums via ancient art dealers passing through the hands of Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, Robert Emanuel Hecht Jr., and Robin Symes.

Instead, this article focuses on what is happening in the present and serves to demonstrate that despite the nearly two decades that have past since Pasquale Camera's car veered off Italy's A-1 autostrada, suspect illicit antiquities, traceable to this network, continue to be sold, often openly, on the lucrative licit art market.

To underscore the conundrum of looted to legitimate Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis a Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project, housed in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow has highlighted four objects for sale at Christie’s upcoming antiquities auction in London, on Wednesday, 15 April 2015.  For the last eight years (2007-present), Tsirogiannis has been identifying looted and ‘toxic’ antiquities as they come up for sale from photographic evidence he was given by authorities from the three primary dossiers of photographs derived from the property seizures in these cases.

Each of these four objects listed below have been identified by Tsirogiannis as having corresponding photos in these archives, something potential purchasers may want to consider when bidding on antiquities that, at face value, are reported to have legitimate collection histories.

SALE 10372 Lot 83 Property of a Gentlemen
Provenance: Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1980s.
Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 12 December 2002, lot 16.
Private collection, New York, acquired at the above sale with Charles Ede Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2006.
Beazley archive no. 26090. 

SALE 10372 Lot 102 Property from a London Collection
Provenance:   Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 273, when acquired by the present owner.  

SALE 10372 Lot 108 Property from a London Collection
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 1986, lot 183, when acquired by the present owner.

SALE 10372 Lot 113: Property from a Private Collection, Canada
Provenance with Petit Musée, Montreal, from whom acquired by the present owner in 1998.

At first blush, review of Christie's sales notes on these objects seems to demonstrate a modicum of collecting history pedigree which normally would serve to comfort potential buyers.  None of the auction lot however go on to reveal where these objects were found, or whether their excavation and exportation from their country of origin were legal.  

This should be the first alarm bell to any informed collector considering a purchase on the licit antiquities market.  ARCA reminds its readers and buyers of art works that lack of this information in an object's collection history should be a strong signal that the object may be suspect and that it is better to walk away from a beautiful antiquity than purchase an object that quite possibly may have been looted or illegally exported.

Extracts from Notes by Dr. Tsirogiannis on the Christie's Auction Lots

Regarding Lot 83
Christie's catalogue does not include any collecting history of this Greek amphora before its appearance in Japan in the 1980's. Documentation in the Becchina archive links Becchina to three German professors regarding the examination of the amphora in the 1970's.

Regarding Lot 102 
From Watson's and Todeschini's book, we know that in the 1980's Medici used to consign antiquities to Sotheby's in London, through various companies and individuals.  Why does the Christies auction not include any collecting history before the 1985 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 108

Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue does not include any collecting history of this antiquity before the 1986 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 113
Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue is not precise about the collecting history of this antiquity prior to 1998.

Are these Notifications Helpful?

In the past, when Dr. Tsirogiannis or Dr. David Gill have pointed out objects with tainted collection histories, dealer association members and private collectors have countered by screaming foul. They have asked,
Others have criticized this practice saying that by outing sellers and auction houses on their tainted inventory, the objects simply get pulled from auction and proceed underground.  Detractors believe that this leaves dealers to trade illicit objects in more discreet circles, where screenshots and image capture are less accessible to investigators and researchers and where the change of hands from one collector to another adds a future layer of authenticity, especially where private collections in remote location buyers are less likely to be questioned.

I would counter these concerns by saying that researchers working on this case diligently work to not impede ongoing investigations by the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and Italy's Procura della Repubblica and to notify the appropriate legal authorities in the countries where these auctions take place.   In the case of these four antiquities INTERPOL, the Metropolitan Police and the Italian Carabinieri have been notified.

But police officers and dedicated researchers only have so many sets of eyes and the prosecution of art crime requires dedicated investigators and court hours not often available to the degree to which this complex problem warrants.   To mitigate that, it is time that we dedicate more time educating the opposite end of the looting food chain; the buyer.

The academic community needs to learn to apply persuasive, not adversarial, pressure on the end customer; the buyers and custodians of objects from our collective past.  By helping buyers become better-informed and conscientious collectors we can encourage them to demand that the pieces they collect have thorough collection histories or will not be purchased.  As discerning buyers become more selective, dealers will need to change their intentionally blind-eye practice of passing off suspect antiquities with one or two lines of legitimate buyers attached to them.  

Buyers would also be wise to apply the same pressure to auction houses that they apply to dealers, persuading them to adopt more stringent policies on accepting consignments.  Auction houses in turn should inform consignors that before accepting items for consignment that have limited collection histories they will be voluntarily checking with authorities to see if these objects appear in these suspect photo dossiers.  In this way the legitimate art market would avoid the circular drama of having their auctions blemished with reports of trafficked items going up for sale to unsuspecting buyers or to having gaps in their auction schedule when auction houses are forced to withdraw items on the eve of an upcoming sale.

In April 2014 James Ede, owner of a leading London-based gallery in the field of Ancient Art and board member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art wrote an article in defense of the antiquities trade in Apollo Magazine where he stated:

The IADAA's Code of Ethics states: "The members of IADAA undertake not to purchase or sell objects until they have established to the best of their ability that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property."

In the past Mr. Ede has stated that small dealers couldn't afford to use private stolen art databases such as those at the Art Loss Register.  I would ask Mr. Ede in the alternative how many London dealers registered with the IADAA have ever picked up the phone and asked Scotland Yard's art squad to check with INTERPOL or their Italian law enforcement colleagues when accepting a consignment where the collecting histories of an object deserved a little more scrutiny? 

Or better still, should the more than 14,000 photos of objects from these dossiers ever be released, to private stolen art databases or to a wider public audience, how would the IADAA ensure that its membership actually cross-examine the entire archival record before signing off that the object is not tainted? Mr. Ede has also indicated previously that the IADAA only requires its members to do checks on objects worth more than £2000.  Items of lessor value would take too much time or prove too costly to the dealers.

In 2015 is it correct for dealers to remain this passive and wait for law enforcement to tell them something is afoot?  Would the general public accept such an attitude from used car sellers regarding stolen cars?

Given that Mr. Ede is the former chairman and board member since the founding of the IADAA, an adviser of the British Government, a valuer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and a member of the council of the British Art Market Federation his thoughts on this matter carry considerable weight in the UK.  As such he is scheduled to speak on April 14, 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum on "The Plunder: Getting a global audience involved in the story of stolen antiquities from Iraq and Syria."

I am curious how Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director General Art and Museums, Syria  who is also speaking at this event would feel about low valued items being excluded from the IADAA's "clean or tainted" cross checks or if Mr. Ede has any workable suggestions that would actually begin to address this problem in an active, rather than passive way among the art dealing community.  

Will blood antiquities be held to a higher standard of evaluation given the public's interest while it remains business as usual for objects looted from source countries not involved in civil war or conflict?

By Lynda Albertson


References Used in This Article

Antoniutti, A., and C. Spada. "Fabio Isman, I predatori dell'arte perduta. Il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia." Economia della Cultura 19.2 (2009): 301-301.
Gill, David,   "Almagià: "It’s ridiculous Princeton didn’t do anything to fight that" Looting Matters (August 2010)

Felch, Jason, and Ralph Frammolino. "Chasing Aphrodite. The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum." (2001).

Isman, Fabio "Un milione di oggetti clandestini" Il Giornale di Arte, (May 2011)

Marconi, Clemente, ed. Greek Vases: Images, Contexts and Controversies; Proceedings of the Conference Sponsored by The Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, 23-24 March 2002. Vol. 25. Brill, 2004.
Watson, Peter, and Cecilia Todeschini. "The Medici Conspiracy: Organized Crime, Looted Antiquities, Rogue Museums." (2006).