Showing posts with label painting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label painting. Show all posts

August 26, 2017

Yes Virginia, there really are honest dealers in the world.


University of Arizona Museum of Art Curator Olivia Miller
authenticating Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,”
on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017.  The painting has been missing since 1985
Often times it seems that antique and antiquities dealers are seldom mentioned on this blog unless there is negative news to share.  Today though, ARCA would like to give a shout out to some really swell folks at Manzanita Ridge Furniture & Antiques of Silver City, New Mexico. 

On the day after Thanksgiving, November 29, 1985, an unremarkable couple:  a woman in her mid-50s with shoulder-length reddish-blond hair and a man in his mid-20s, with short, wavy dark hair and a large mustache entered the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson at the start of the day.  Distracting one of the guards in a conversation on the stairs, the man continued upwards to the second floor gallery and quickly sliced Willem de Kooning's painting "Woman-Ochre" by Willem de Kooning, 1954-1955, 30 in. x 40 in., oil on canvas from its frame.   Hiding the painting under his blue water-repellant coat, the thief and his accomplice made their way back downstairs and out the exit in less than 15 minutes.  

For more than thirty years the painting remained missing, until it was scooped up by David Van Auker, who owns Manzanita Ridge Furniture & Antiques when visiting the home of deceased H. Jerome "Jerry" and Rita Alter to assess its contents as part of an estate sale.  Along with his business partners Richard Dean Johnson and Buck Burns Auker purchased the house's contents, including the painting for $2000.

Back at the shop and with a little help from their customers, the trio soon began to realize that they might have a valuable painting on their hands.  Doing a quick internet search on de Kooning, they came across a 2015 article on azcentral.com of one of the artist's paintings, “Woman-Ochre,” that had been stolen in a daring heist from the University of Arizona Museum.  Matching the photograph pictured on the website with the painting in their shop, the guys decided to do the right thing and give the museum a call.

video

If you want a chuckle, take a look at their video above, taken from their Facebook page here.   It will make your day, because yes Virginia, there really are honest dealers in the world who do the right thing when they find looted art.

February 15, 2017

Boston University Students Foil Art Gallery Robbery

Galerie D’Orsay owner Susan Hirshberg (CAS’90) with the Questrom students
who stopped a robbery at her gallery after the Super Bowl: Chris Savino (Questrom’17),
Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom’17), Hirshberg, and Jesse Doe (Questrom’17).

Guest Writer: Rich Barlow barlowr@bu.edu
Originally published in: BU Today

Chris Savino’s hometown of Ridgefield, Conn., was found to be “the safest town in America” last year by an online database of neighborhoods. But college is supposed to expand your horizons, and Boston exposed Savino and two fellow Questrom School of Business seniors face-to-face with a crime in the making last week.

They were the crime-fighters, thwarting an art gallery heist.

Walking back to campus after midnight February 6 from the Boston Common, where thousands of New England Patriots fans had been celebrating the team’s Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons just hours before, Savino (Questrom’17), Jesse Doe (Questrom’17), and Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom’17) came upon a man emerging from the smashed glass door of Galerie d’Orsay on Newbury Street [in Boston, Massachusetts] with five artworks worth $45,000. They chased and held 29-year-old Jordan Russell Leishman until a passing policeman arrested him for breaking and entering.

Arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, Leishman is being held without bail for a previous assault case, according to the Boston Globe. He’s also wanted in New Hampshire on a charge of narcotics possession.

Galerie d’Orsay’s managing partner happens to be a Terrier too. Sallie Hirshberg (CAS’90) met the three students for the first time this past Saturday at the gallery, where she’d arranged an interview with BU Today. (She lives in Florida and was in Boston for business.)

“I’m Sallie—thank you so much!” Hirshberg greeted the three students as they entered, hugging Thompson, who at 6-foot-3 had to bend down for the embrace. His size was crucial in foiling the robbery. The trio had chosen to return to campus via Newbury Street instead of nearby, more boisterous Boylston Street. “We were pretty much the only people there, except for a couple walking down the street,” Thompson says.

And except for Leishman.

The gallery’s surveillance video shows he had smashed the glass in the door, which opens into a small vestibule with an inner door. (The police report about the incident says rocks were found in the vestibule, and that both of Leishman’s hands had cuts.) He broke the glass in that door, too, then waited a good 20 minutes, Hirshberg says (perhaps to see if he’d tripped an alarm, she speculates). Finally, he wandered into the gallery, removing from the walls etchings by Picasso and Rembrandt and lithographs by Joan Miró and Marc Chagall.

“He took from Chagall’s most important body of work,” a lithograph from the Russian-French master’s Daphnis and Chloé series, she says. That piece, worth $18,000, is the most expensive he tried to snatch.

“He had good taste…he pulled a Miró, a Rembrandt, and two Chagalls,” she notes, but he passed up far more expensive works, among them a $90,000 Picasso and a Rembrandt valued at the same amount.

Leishman’s break-in triggered a motion-sensitive alarm, Hirshberg says. He left the largest of the artworks at the front door and proceeded down the steps with the other four, just as the BU students, with Thompson and Doe in the lead, were walking toward the gallery.

“I thought to myself, oh, he might be an employee just working there,” Thompson says. “But once we got right in front of the store, we heard the alarm, we saw the smashed glass, and he comes out with the paintings.” In a matter-of-fact tone, Thompson describes what he said to Doe: “‘I think he just stole those. We should probably do something.’”

They sprinted after Leishman. “He tried to book it,” dropping the paintings, Thompson says. But he wasn’t fast enough for Thompson, who caught him at the corner of Newbury and Berkeley Streets and grabbed him from behind in a bear hug. Acting on adrenaline, none of the pursuers had thought about whether Leishman might be armed, but as Thompson held him, his quarry tried to reach in his pockets. “I thought he might have been reaching for a weapon or something, so I pushed him up against a US mailbox on the corner, trying to pin his arms.” (The police report doesn’t mention Leishman having a weapon.)

Thompson says Leishman protested: “Why are you holding me so tight? You can let me go, I’m not going to run away.” Meanwhile, Savino held the paintings aloft to flag down a passing police car. When the officer approached, Thompson says, Leishman “tried pinning it on us, saying we jumped him.” The officer, obviously, didn’t buy it.

The three students were home by about 1 a.m., although the officer later called Thompson for more information. The police returned the paintings to the gallery, Hirshberg says, and called its operations director, who happened to be returning to Boston on a wee-hours flight. She had the broken doors boarded up to secure the gallery.

According to Hirshberg, the artwork was undamaged save for the gold-leaf frames, which will cost about $5,000 to repair. This was the first attempted robbery in the gallery’s 16 years. It also may be a footnote in Boston history: the officer told Thompson that during all that night’s raucous Super Bowl celebrating, this was the only arrest made in the city.

“I texted my parents later that night,” Savino says. Not wanting to worry them in the safest town in America, he began his text, “Everything’s OK,” before describing the experience. “I got a call five seconds later from my mom—you know, ‘What happened? What happened?’”

While Questrom might seem a little gray-flannel for such heroics—Doe plans to work at an accounting firm after graduation—this was Thompson’s second brush with crime-fighting. As a freshman, he witnessed two guys slashing car tires and yanking hubcaps off an auto at a tire shop on Comm Ave; he called police and drove around in the cop car until they found the suspects and arrested them.

The coincidence of the heroes being from Hirshberg’s alma mater registered less, she says, than the fact that she “was just so grateful. For them to step up and see something that was happening that wasn’t right, and to make it right, was just unbelievable.” In an age not renowned for kindness, she says, the Terrier trio wowed her with “a nice act of humanity.”

To express her gratitude, she’s asked the three students to an upcoming invitation-only opening at the gallery, where she says they can each choose an artwork as a thank-you gift. She’s offered to help them choose, which, given their status as business rather than art appreciation students, was welcome. “I wouldn’t call myself an art aficionado,” Thompson confesses.

Nothing wrong with business students, says Hirshberg: “I probably wouldn’t have the gallery if I hadn’t married the guy in my finance class at BU.”

December 28, 2016

Recovered: 5 paintings stolen from the Levitan House Museum in Plyos, 3 arrests made.

© Russian Interior Ministry
Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Volk has issued a statement relaying that Russian authorities have arrested three individuals, ages 29, 33, and 37, for their suspected involvement in the August 5, 2014 3:00 am theft of five paintings by 19th century classical landscape painter Иса́ак Ильи́ч Левита́н (Isaak Levitan).  The artworks were originally stolen by two individuals from the Levitan House-Museum in Plyos, a small town located on the Volga river in the Ivanovo Region where the painter lived and worked for a period of time. 

With the arrest of these three suspects, authorities have recovered all five of the stolen paintings.  The artworks are:

"Ravine behind the fence"
"A Quiet Pool"
"A Quiet River"
"Railway Stop"
"Roses"

One of Russia's most significant and celebrated landscape artists, Levitan's naturalistic scenes, depicting and tranquil forests and countrysides, introduced a new genre of paintings which came to be known as the mood landscapes. The artist's body of work includes approximately 1,000 paintings, sketches and drawings with the bulk of his work being held in Russian museums. At the time of the artworks theft, the five stolen paintings were estimated to be worth 77 million rubles ($1.3 million). 

According to the Interior Ministry, the three criminals arrested in this case were said to have been involved in a series of other crimes including an armed highway robbery of cash-in-transit couriers this past November in the Nizhny Novgorod region and an earlier May 2016 bank robbery of the Nizhny Novgorod Bank where the crooks made off with more than 5 million rubles ($82,200). 

Officers working a joint investigation involving the Main Criminal Investigation Department of the Russian Interior Ministry, the Russian Federal Security Service, CID GU MVD of Russia in Nizhny Novgorod region, and the CID AMIA Russia's Ivanovo region executed a series of search warrants.   During one, of a house in the Moscow region, Russian Interior Ministry authorities seized more than one kilogram of cocaine and recovered one of the five stolen artworks there-by detaining two suspects.  Russian Interior Ministry in Nizhny Novgorod then recovered the other four stolen paintings during a secondary search warrant of another location.

In the course of an interview with Russian media, Alla Chayanov, director of the Levitan House-Museum in Plyos, reminded the public that the theft of well known, catalogued and inventoried artworks of whatever financial value, are largely unsaleable on the licit art market where famous stolen works of art are easily recognised.   In cases such as this artworks only have value on the black market, usually as an alternative currency within the criminal world. 

A video of the recovery of four of the artworks can be seen in the news report below. 


As formal possessions of the Russian Federation, the recovered artworks will now be evaluated for authenticity by the matching of their accession numbers.  They will then likely be sent for conservation evaluation prior to being returned to the public's viewing. 

November 21, 2016

Museum Theft: 170-year-old painting stolen from the Paterson Museum

Photo: Courtesy of the Paterson Museum
A 170-year-old painting of the Great Falls over the Passaic River has been reported stolen from inside the director's office Paterson Museum in Paterson, New Jersey. 

The paintings was set to be displayed in an upcoming exhibition honoring the 225th anniversary of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers, a group of industrialists led by Alexander Hamilton who helped give birth to America's first planned industrial city by harnessing the hydro power of the Great Falls for the city's manufacturing mills.

Outline of Theft

Theft Venue: The Paterson Museum
Location: Lower Market Street in the Great Falls historic district of Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey
Location in Venue: Stolen from a stack of paintings secured in the director's office for an upcoming exhibition
Victim (Owner): James Eifler, collector (Painting was on loan to the museum)

Time of Theft:  Actual date and time of theft unknown, but likely within the week leading up to its announced theft on November 14, 2016 and during the period where Election Day and Veterans Day made for a shortened work week. It has been speculated that the painting was possibly stolen during the day as the building's security alarm and motion detectors were not triggered.
Open/Closed: Unknown
Duration of Crime: Unknown
When Discovered: Not immediately, the museum director, Giacomo DeStefano, has stated that there were no signs of a break-in at the museum.  DeStefano gave statements saying that the artwork had been stored in his first-floor office inside the museum and he realized it was missing on Monday, November 14, 2016. 
Primary Object(s) Taken: Untitled, unsigned oil-on-wood painting depicting the Great Falls, appraised at approximately $9,000 prior to the theft.  Painting is believed to have been painted by an unknown artist sometime in the 1840s.  This date is given as there is a wooden bridge depicted in the landscape across the falls from that era.
Category of Art Object(s): oil on wood painting, approximately 60 cm x 60 cm
Ancillary Object(s) Touched: None, The unnamed Great Falls painting was one of two loaned to the museum for the upcoming exhibition by Eifler.  The second painting, by 19th-century landscape artist Julian Walbridge Rix, was more valuable than the unsigned work, yet it was left untouched in the same office. The museum's director has speculated that the thief may have chosen the unsigned painting as it was slightly smaller than the Rix work.
Ancillary Object(s) Taken: None
Clues Left at Crime Scene: None mentioned in museum's public statements
Suspected Related Crimes: None mentioned in police reports

Entry Method: Thief or thieves walked into the director's office and removed the painting.  The director has stated that his office door is kept locked, except during business hours.
Exit Method: Unknown, the museum is not equipped with CCTV. 
Operational Method: Unknown
Other Notes: The paintings owner, James Eifler has publically speculated that the thief was likely familiar with the museum’s gallery and office areas and was perhaps aware that there are no CCTV cameras in the museum.

According to court documents, in 2005, the paintings owner was charged with insurance fraud for submitting false claims to State Farm about his tools being stolen. Eifler was paid $3,800 for his claim, but the insurance company then contacted law enforcement authorities when he submitted additional claims totalling $12,000 in losses according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.  Eifler was later convicted of two counts of insurance fraud, fined $600 and sentenced to probation for one year.

Probable Motive: possibly financial
Follow-up after Post-theft: According to museum director DeStefano, the museum will undergo a review of its security process. Paterson police are checking video footage from other security cameras in Paterson in the area as part of their investigation.  Deputy Police Chief Heriberto Rodriguez is leading the investigation into the theft.

Revised Motive Theory: No details released publically

Identified People Involved in the Crime No details released publically
Handler(s): No details released publically
Accomplice(s): No details released publically
Organization(s) Involved: No details released publically
Ultimate Possessor: No details released publically
Arrests: None
Total Length of Investigation: Ongoing

Evidence Used In Prosecution: No details released publically
Criminal Sentencing: Not applicable at this time

Artwork Recovered: No

For information on this theft, please contact the Paterson Police Department's Major Crimes division.

Officer in Charge: Detective Captain Heriberto Rodriguez

Office: (973) 321-1120

Fax: (973) 321-1122

Email: hrodriguez@patersonpd.com

November 4, 2016

Anatomy of a Confession - How much are two stolen Van Gogh's worth to an alleged Naples drug kingpin?

In recent developments on the Van Gogh recovery in Italy case, the newspaper La Repubblica has announced that Italian prosecutors have been contacted by the office of Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding an exhibition in Naples of the two Vincent Van Gogh paintings recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in the Bay of Naples involving alleged-drug kingpin Raffaele Imperiale.  


At present, both paintings are being held under high security as evidence in the criminal case against 14 indicted defendants, 12 in custody and two with outstanding extradition warrants. How long the paintings will remain in Italy while the lengthy court case proceeds remains unclear. 


Since ARCA reported on the initial stages of the Van Gogh paintings recovery, witness testimony and written statements have now been made public which shed more light onto what law enforcement officers and prosecutors know about this cocaine syndicate's "acquisition" of the stolen Van Gogh artworks. 

One time partner and indicted associate Mario Cerrone informed Italian authorities that Raffaele Imperiale purchased the paintings with illicit proceeds from the Amato-Pagano clan's coffers. The Amato-Pagano clan, is a organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro clan. This organized crime group is known to have supplied the Bay of Naples area with a steady stream of cocaine distributed by dealers working with the Camorra crime syndicate.

In testimony given as state's evidence, Cerrone indicated that Imperiale purchased the two stolen Van Gogh paintings shortly after the time of their theft in the Netherlands, sometime between the Autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003. Considering the purchases as investment, Imperiale probably believed he could launder clan funds buying the paintings, then resell the Van Goghs for more than his initial purchase price once the case had grown cold.  Cerrone estimated that the Amato-Pagano clan accumulated USD $15 million annually in illegal crime proceeds meaning that the paintings were a significant investment. 

As most of ARCA's regular blog readers understand, selling stolen masterpieces on the licit art market is virtually impossible. From this we can hypothesize that Imperiale may have held onto the paintings following the arrest of the two thieves in the Netherlands, while planning how to use the artworks as a bargaining chip in replacement for illicit revenue.  

Given the artworks inestimable value, the paintings could have been used as collateral for the purchase of drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods or other clan-needed commodities, or for reducing the amount of liquid capital the clan would need to transfer during any given transaction making them a good substitute for reducing the clans exposure and risk.  As a final alternative, the paintings represented a bargaining tool with prosecutors for if and when members of the clan who knew about them, were arrested. 

Ironically, Raffaele Imperiale himself has now added more information to the puzzle by writing a six page written statement/confession/memoir which he sent from Dubai to the Naples prosecutors, Vincenza Marra, Stefania Castaldi and Maurizio De Marco, who along with the deputy prosecutor Filippo Beatrice and the prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone coordinated the investigations conducted by law enforcement.  In his statement, the unrepentant Imperiale informed prosecutors that he has selected two lawyers to represent him, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco. Both Genovese attorneys have relationships with the Amato-Pagano clan.

In addition to naming his lawyers, and perhaps in consideration of lighter sentencing if convicted, Imperiale's statement went on to outline various aspects of his organization's illicit operation.  A direct quote from the clan leader's autobiographical confession, in which he implicates himself in organized crime and drug trafficking, is translated here:







Left - Raffaele Amato 
Top Right- Paolo de Lauro 
Middle Right - Mario Cerrone 
Bottom Right - Cesare Pagano



Imperiale went on to say that he had decided to collaborate with justice by giving his seized "treasure" to the state.  Some of the seized property include thirteen terraced villas in Terracina as well as twelve villas in Giugliano, five of which are ironically, subleased out to NATO under a shell corporation.  In addition to the real estate Imperial also plans to leave the Italian state a fleet of expensive cars  "to be allocated to law enforcement agencies for the fight against organized crime."

When speaking in relation to the stolen Van Gogh paintings, Imperiale indicated that he had purchased (without explaining from whom) "some goods", not simply the two Van Gogh paintings, paying five installments of one million euros each for a total of €10 million for both paintings.   

Sketch of Raffaele Imperiale in Dubai
Imperiale is currently still a fugitive, believed to be living in an undisclosed location in Dubai.  To date, the United Arab has responded negatively to requests for extradition, citing repeated technicalities in paperwork emanating from the Italian court system.

By: Lynda Albertson