December 28, 2014

Columnist David Gill writes in Context Matters on "Learning from the Herm: The Need for more Rigorous Due Diligence Searches" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, columnist David Gill writes in Context Matters on "Learning from the Herm: The Need for more Rigorous Due Diligence Searches":
The antiquities department of Bonhams planned to offer a Roman herm for auction on October 2, 2014 (lot 41). The herm was estimated to be sold for £10,000 to £15,000. It seems to be a Roman copy of the Hermes Propylaios set up next to the late 5th century BC monumental gateway, the Propylaia, at the entrance to the Athenian acropolis. The statue was observed there by the second century AD travel-writer Pausanias (I.22.8). The herm is known from a copy found at Pergamon in November 1903 (CS 1904) and now in Istanbul (Boardman 1985: 212, fi g. 189). The inscription on the stela reads in Greek: “You will recognise the fine state statue by Alkamenes, the Hermes before the Gates. Pergamios gave it. Know thyself” (trans. Boardman).
The display of such a statue in this royal city was unsurprising given the deliberate allusions to the city of Athens, and in particular to the Athenian acropolis, by the Attalids in the design. Andrew Stewart has suggested that a second type of herm is represented by an inscribed copy found in the Gymnasium of Vedius at Ephesus (Stewart 2003a; 003b). 
On 2 October 2014, the day of the Bonhams sale, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis was able to identify the Bonhams herm from the photographs and paperwork seized from the Italian dealer Gianfranco Becchina in Basle, Switzerland in May 2002 (Gill 2009, 78-79). The images were found in a fi le relating to Becchina’s associations with a Greek individual by the name of Zenebisis. The envelope containing the images were sent by Georgios Papadakis from Herakleion in Crete; the envelope is franked with the date 29 May 1987. The letter arrived in Basel (and was franked) on 1 June 1987. Someone has written on the envelope the name of Costas Gaitanis. Is Georgios Papadakis a genuine or a cover name? Why should Gaitanis be sending images to Becchina? Did Gaitanis have the herm in Greece? The evidence from the Becchina dossier suggests that the herm was being offered on the market in May 1987. 
Yet there is a problem. The herm offered at Bonhams was given a precise collecting history: “Nicolas Koutoulakis Collection, Geneva, acquired circa 1965, thence by descent”. This placed the herm in the period prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. But how could the herm apparently be on the Greek market in 1987, but at the same time have already been acquired by Koutoulakis in 1965 and then passed down as part of his collection by descent?
David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Head of the Division of Humanities at University Campus Suffolk. He was a Rome Scholar at the British School of rome and a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was subsequently part of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He has recently completed a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.


The complete column is published in the current issue of The Journal of Art Crime.  Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 27, 2014

Viktorija Zupancic and Bojan Dobovšek publish on "Criminality Related to Cultural Heritage - Analysis of Interviews" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art CrimeViktorija Zupancic and Bojan Dobovšek publish on "Criminality Related to Cultural Heritage - Analysis of Interviews".  Here's the abstract:
The purpose of this paper is to define the existence of crime against cultural heritage and determine whether this type of criminality is on the rise around the world. By carrying out guided interviews with experts in this field, the authors wished to define guidelines for the fight against this type of criminality. By studying the available literature, the authors found that crime against cultural heritage is on the rise. Economically and socially less-developed countries, from which most antiquities originate, are most susceptible to this type of criminality. Such countries of origin include particularly the countries of South America and the Middle East, while the Western part of the globe is mainly market-oriented and represents the final destination of smuggled antiquities. This paper also aims to determine the adequacy and appropriateness of legal acts governing the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against this type of criminality. Problems are mainly related to the implementation and enforcement of such legal provisions and related sanctions in practice.
Viktorija Zupančič is a student at the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security of University of Maribor, Slovenia. Bojan Dobovšek is Associate Professor and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 26, 2014

J. Mark Collins publishes "Adam Worth: A Critical Analysis of the Criminal Motivations Behind the Man Who Stole the Duchess of Devonshire" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, J. Mark Collins publishes "Adam Worth: A Critical Analysis of the Criminal Motivations Behind the Man Who Stole the Duchess of Devonshire". This is the abstract:
Adam Worth was a career criminal who lived over one hundred years ago, and is best known for his theft of Gainsborough’s portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire. The context in which Worth plied his trade—the era of technology and change—facilitated much of his success. A critical review of his extensive career, including a number of uniquely famous thefts, will be viewed through the lens of four criminological theories: Strain Theory, Differential Association Theory, Rational Choice Theory, and Routine Activity Theory, to not only explain his motivation and behaviour, but also to explore the causality of criminality in general. This critical analysis supports the contention that no one theory of criminology, no matter how broad, can adequately explain such a complicated individual whose criminal career spanned four decades. Rather, an integrated theory of criminology, one that is both flexible and fluid, is essential in order to explain the life of such a multifaceted and unique individual as Adam Worth.
J. Mark Collins is a Sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), currently assigned as a Senior Investigator with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. As a 22-year veteran of the force, Collins has investigated everything from traffic accidents to homicides. His interest in art theft
investigation (something his beautiful wife, Laura, and three wonderful girls, Brianna, Aliyah and Aislyn, would say borders on an obsession), has developed over many years. As a youth he was the caretaker of the expansive fine arts collection housed in his employer’s country estate, a collection
that now resides in the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum. Prior to joining the OPP, Collins worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario and kept a close eye on the pieces donated by his old boss. His goal is to start a proper art theft unit within the OPP, but until such time, he spends his spare time teaching Karate, writing, building furniture and trying to keep up with his girls.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 25, 2014

Paolo Giorgio Ferri publishes "Outline of the Benefits coming from a National Prosecution Service in Cultural Heritage Protection" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art CrimePaolo Giorgio Ferri publishes "Outline of the Benefits coming from a National Prosecution Service in Cultural Heritage Protection". Here's the abstract:
Investigations in the cultural sector are very peculiar and often connected to larger criminal issues. In fact, art crimes are specific in term of legislations, the expedient used to remove or obscure the illegal provenance of a cultural good, and because the persons involved are much the same. Trafficking in cultural goods is also a phenomenon which often involves transnational organized groups, and these sort of offences seems forcing—at least in the most complex cases—a quite new concept of co-management of investigation and prosecution: the so-called prolonged coordination of law enforcements, the only ones able to entirely dismantle a criminal organization.
Paolo Giorgio Ferri is a former Italian State Prosecutor and recipient of the ARCA Award for Art Policing and Recovery.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 24, 2014

David Gill publishes on "The Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
  ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, David Gill publishes "The Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask". Here's the abstract:
In 1998 the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) purchased an Egyptian 19 Dynasty mummy mask from Phoenix Ancient Art for USD$499,000. In December 2005 it was suggested on the internet that the mask had been removed from the archaeological store at Saqqara and this led to an extended legal tussle between the museum and the Egyptian authorities. The acquisition of the mask was explored by Laura E. Young in an unpublished study that includes some of the documentation key to this discussion (Young 2007). The case has also appeared in a wider discussion of archaeological ethics (Gill 2009b, 95). It is appropriate to review the case now as the two parallel legal cases relating to the mask were terminated in 2014.
David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Head of the Division of Humanities at University Campus Suffolk. He was a Rome Scholar at the British School of rome and a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was subsequently part of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He has recently completed a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 23, 2014

Neil Brodie 'considers the issue of the Sevso Treasure from a new angel' in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
  ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Neil Brodie publishes "Thinking Some More about the Sevso Treasure". Here's the abstract:
On 26 March 2014, Hungary announced its purchase of seven pieces of Late Roman silverware, part of the so-called Sevso Treasure (Hungary 2014). The Treasure had been the object of conflicting ownership claims since its existence was first made public in 1990, and until the Hungarian purchase had been considered unsalable because of the suspicious circumstances of its discovery and early trading history. In his 2012 paper entitled “Thinking about the Sevso Treasure”, John Merryman had used the example of the Sevso Treasure to explore some of the issues surrounding the museum acquisition of problematical antiquities, and in light of his discussion made a recommendation for its future disposition (Merryman 2012: 51-66). Although this recommendation has been partly overtaken by events, his discussion of the issues involved is still topical, made more so perhaps by the Hungarian purchase which has effectively sundered the Treasure into two parts, with its balance of seven pieces remaining in the private possession of the Marquess of Northampton – an outcome that Merryman was keen to avoid. This article considers the issue of the Sevso Treasure from a new angle, concluding that the parties really to blame for the unfortunate affair of the Sevso Treasure are the various dealers and their expert advisors who worked together intentionally and unintentionally to transform the archaeological assemblage into a valuable and marketable commodity, and, ironically, in so doing, rendered it unsalable.
Neil Brodie is Senior Research Fellow in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow. Neil is an archaeologist by training, and has held positions at the British School at Athens, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, where he was Research Director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, and Stanford University’s Archaeology Center. He was co-author (with Jennifer Doole and Peter Watson) of the report Stealing History, commissioned by the Museums Association and ICOM-UK to advise upon the illicit trade in cultural material. He also co-edited Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade (with Morag M. Kersel, Christina Luke and Kathryn Walker Tubb, 2006), Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology (with Kathryn Walker Tubb, 2002), and Trade in Illicit Antiquities: The Destruction of the World’s Archaeological Heritage (with Jennifer Doole and Colin Renfrew, 2001). He has worked on archaeological projects in the United Kingdom, Greece and Jordan, and continues to work in Greece.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 22, 2014

The Fall 2014 issue of the Journal of Art Crime is now available

The Fall 2014 edition of The Journal of Art Crime is now available. Editor-in-chief Noah Charney writes to readers:
Welcome to the new issue of The Journal of Art Crime, and thank you for subscribing. Your subscription supports ARCA in our research and educational endeavors, and we are grateful for it. Lauren Zanedis served as proof-reader in this issue, and I was ably assisted by my fellow editors, Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis, who are both far more organized than I. 
In this issue you’ll find academic papers on Adam Worth (the Napoleon of Crime), national prosecution of cultural heritage, art crime in Slovenia, the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask and the Sevso Treasure. We are also looking forward to ARCA’s next academic publication, an edited collection of essays, half of which were published in the Journal of Art Crime, half of which are new. This collection will be published in late 2015 by the fine academic press, Palgrave, and all profits from it will go directly to support ARCA. We are also planning the next ARCA symposium in London, following the great success of last year’s event at the Victoria & Albert Museum—it will be held next Fall at The Courtauld Institute. And the latest news for the Journal is that we have been invited to join the prestigious HeinOnline catalogue of academic journals, which means that the JAC will be available in thousands of research libraries around the world. Having been courted by several fine publishers, we are pleased to sign on with this one and look forward to the chance for a vastly expanded scholarly readership. 
We hope that you will enjoy these articles. Best wishes and thanks again for your support.
Noah Charney
Founder, ARCA
Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Art Crime

In this issue:

Academic articles: "Thinking Some More about the Sevso Treasure" by Neil Brodie; "The Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask" by David Gill; "Outline of the Benefits coming from a National Prosecution Service in Cultural Heritage Protection" by Paolo Giorgio Ferri; "Adam Worth: A Critical Analysis of the Criminal Motivations Behind the Man Who Stole the Duchess of Devonshire" by J. Mark Collins; "Criminality Related to Cultural Heritage - Analysis of Interviews" by Viktorija Zupancic and Bojan Dobovšek.

Regular Columns: "Learning from the Herm: The Need for more Rigorous Due Diligence Searches" by David Gill; Not in the Headlines "Emptying Spain: The W. R. Hearst Case" by Marc Balcells; and Lessons from the History of Art Crime "Art Crime in Pop Culture: a Year in Review" by Noah Charney.

Editorial Essays: "Why Hong Kong can save the Ozone Layer but not China's Cultural Heritage" by Toby Bull; "Attitude or Action: Closing the Gap Between Words and Deeds in the Restitution of Looted Cultural Property in the Second World War" by Christopher A. Marinello and Jerome Hasler; and "A Brief History of Art Theft in Conflict Zones" by Noah Charney.

Reviews: Marc Balcells on Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation and Prosecution of Art Crime: Australasian, European and North American Perspectives edited by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel; Kirsten Hower on The Art of the Steal (2013) and The Best Offer (2013); Catherine Schofield Sezgin on From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town by Ingrid D. Rowland; and Marc Balcells on Indiana Jones sin futuro: la lucha contra el expolio del patrimonio arqueológico by Ignacio Rodríguez Temiño.

Extras: Kirsten Hower's "Q&A with Ron Pollard"; JAC Essay Collection; ARCA 2014 Award Winners; Contributor Biographies; and Acknowledgements.

Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014 - ,, No comments

Noah Charney in Salon: '"Home Alone's" secret lesson: How to foil an art heist'

In a December 20th post on Salon, "Home Alone's" secret lesson: How to foil an art heist", ARCA founder Noah Charney writes on how a holiday movie has messages about museum security:
This Christmas, like every Christmas, millions of televisions will broadcast the exploits of young Kevin McCallister, whom his family forgot in their rush to the airport, to spend the holidays in Paris. “Home Alone” is a Yuletide staple, and I make a point of tuning in every year. But while most will watch “Home Alone” for its heartwarming moments, slapstick comedy and family-as-the-greatest-holiday-gift message, I see in it something else entirely—a master class in low-budget museum security.
I promise, this will all make sense in a moment.
The rest of the article can be found on Salon.com here.

December 19, 2014

$25,000 reward offered by FBI and LAPD for investigation into 2008 art burglary in Encino

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

The Los Angeles Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) held a press conference today and announced a $25,000 reward for help in the continuing investigation of a 2008 residential burglary:
The Los Angeles Police Department posted a $200,000 reward after the theft of the 12 paintings six years ago.

The FBI press release today concluded with:
"Also attached is a photo of the suspect, Raul Espinosa, 46, who was arrested in October and charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney with possession of the stolen paintings. Espinosa's alias is Jorge Alberto Lara. Espinosa, who had been residing in Los Angeles prior to his arrest, is a Mexican national. The joint investigation by the FBI and the LAPD is continuing."

Stolen Art Recovered: FBI and LAPD undercover operation recovers 3/4 of art stolen from Encino residence in 2008

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

Los Angeles, California -- Journalist Matt Hamilton reported December 17 in the Los Angeles Times ("Detectives crack huge L.A. heist; 9 paintings recovered") that two months ago an undercover operation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) recovered three-quarters of the paintings stolen six years ago from an Encino residence.

Hamilton's article included a copy of the search warrant Detective Don Hrycyk filed on Dec. 2 to continue the investigation. Hrycyk wrote of the original crime and the recovery:
On August 24, 2008, I received a crime report (DR #08-1025695) of a hot prowl residential burglary during which $10 million in fine art was stolen from the home of XXX and XXX (see Attachment B) who were both elderly invalids. The art was taken during the day while they were in their bedrooms during a brief window of opportunity lasting less than an hour during which no caregivers or employees were in the house. Twelve paintings were taken including works by artists such as Marc Chagall, Diego Rivera, Chaim Soutine and others. 
The art remained missing for six years. Then on 9/2/14, I became aware that a man named "Darko" in Europe was trying to find a buyer for the nine stolen paintings listed in the XXX crime alert (see Attachment C). He indicated that he was merely a middleman for an unknown person in possession of the art in California. 
I contacted Special Agent Elizabeth Rivas who works the FBI's Art Crime Team in Los Angeles. An undercover operation was an implemented to recover the stolen art. FBI undercover agents posing as potential buyers set up a meeting at a hotel in West Los Angeles for the purpose of buying the nine stolen paintings valued at over $10 million for $700,000 in cash. 
On 10/23/14, a man identified as Raul Espinoza (aka: Jorge Lara) tried to sell the paintings to the undercover agents and was subsequently arrested and the nine artworks recovered. He is being prosecuted under state charges of 496(a) PC (Receiving Stolen Property) with various special allegations. During the undercover operation, I heard Espinoza offering to sell three additional artworks. He described the paintings, one of which matches the description of an Endre Szasz painting owned by the victims that is still missing. 
Special Agent Rivas told me she interviewed Darko who told her he spoke to the person in possession of the stolen art at least fifty times by cellphone and received cellphone photos of the stolen art in the same manner. During the undercover buy with FBI agents, I viewed and heard the operation taking place through the use of hidden camera in the hotel room and observed Espinoza using his cellphone to call confederates to signal them during the operation. In addition, I believe the original burglary could not have been accomplished without the assistance of inside help from one of the employees who worked for the victims at the time of the crime and I believe this person is known to Espinoza. 
Espinoza's cellphone was seized and booked evidence at the time of his arrest. I request authorization to have his cellphone undergo forensic examination to determine if it contains phone numbers, contacts, photos, emails, text messages, and other information showing his involvement in the crime of receiving stolen property as well as his contacts with Darko and other accomplices in selling, transporting, or storing the art. I believed this information may result in the recovery of three additional paintings in the possession of Espinoza that were stolen from the victims during the burglary in 2008 and may reveal the identity of persons involved in the burglary in 2008 and may reveal the identity of persons involved in the original burglary in 2008.
Here's a link to an interview with Detective Hrycyk about the LAPD Art Theft Detail.

December 16, 2014

Essay: Bringing Art to the Masses, With Limited Success in Rome

Image Credit: Roma Capitale
By Lynda Albertson

It was an initiative to bring the museums to the streets and the streets to the museum.  The city of Rome, in cooperation with three city municipalities, three Rome museums and Italy’s Cultural Ministry, set about to beautify the periphery of Italy’s capital with interesting artworks.  Commuters on their way to work, would be given a unique opportunity to explore the potential of Rome’s artworks within the comfort of their daily routine and hopefully learn a little bit about artists that they might not otherwise have known while they were at it.

The pilot installation, designed to entice passers-by to visit the collections housed at the MACRO - Museo d'arte Contemporanea Roma, the GNAM - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, and Palazzo Braschi, a large Neoclassical palace in Rome near Campo de' Fiori, have been scheduled to run for six months. 

Image Credit: Roma Capitale
Fifteen masterpieces were photographed at high resolution on a 1:1 scale then printed on canvas and hung along common transit areas.  Like art exhibitions held in New York City’s "Subway Art"  and London Transit Authority’s extensive “Art on the Underground” Rome’s goal was to allow art lovers to appreciate the city's ever-growing collection of Contemporary and Modern art by making more accessible works of art by painters like Carla Accardi, Paolo Anesi, Giacomo Balla, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Pablo Echaurren, Filippo Gagliardi, Gavin Hamilton, and Titina.

They even sweetened the pot by publicizing to residents that if they took selfies in front of the artworks they would gain admission to the museum where the artwork was housed for free. 
Image Credit: Roma Capitale

In addition to the free ticket photo shoots, the city scheduled a series of cultural and educational events which include guided tours and workshops for school children designed to  incorporate the masterpieces and the artists that created them. For those too busy to attend, the exhibition also includes a QR code on the captions located beside each of the artworks.  Used in conjunction with a specially-developed smart phone app called "Musei in Strada”  (Museums in the street) rushing pedestrians could also get information on the art works and the museum’s that host the originals.

Giovanna Marinelli, councillor for culture, was quoted in Arte Magazine as saying "We want to reduce the distance that separates, physically and metaphorically, museums in the city center from the suburbs, with the objective being to discover or rediscover the artistic heritage of Rome’s cultural identity and to strengthen the bond of its citizens to the history of their city.”   
Image Credit: Twitter user @anderboz
Unfortunately for Rome’s art loving citizens, some folks got a little too physically close.  In the past week someone has defaced one reproduction with graffiti and destroyed another, setting fire to the reproduction of Benedetta Cappa Marinetti’s "Velocità di motoscafo" on Sunday, December 14th. 

It makes one glad that these were simply reproductions, and not original works of art. 

Not to be discouraged, the city has vowed to replace the damaged artworks and to carefully review CTV footage to identify the art-hating culprit. 

December 13, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014 - , No comments

Swingler: Who is he and what does he have to do with looted antiquities?

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

Yesterday I saw a phrase I hadn't registered before, the Swingler archive (which caught my attention on Professor Gill's blog Looting Matters), so I asked about Swingler to Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis -- who found the information with a simple search on the Internet -- and this was his answer via email:
'When U.S. Customs agents caught up with David Holland Swingler in the early 1990s, they found that he had 230 Apulian and Etruscan vases stashed in his home in Laguna Hills, Calif. The cache was worth about $300,000. Bondioli-Osio said the vases were illegally shipped to Swingler by his Italian partner and fellow food importer, Licio DiLuzio. 
"Parts of this case are rather comical," said Bondioli-Osio. "It seems that DiLuzio's wife, Sandra Scarabelli, had a [falling-out] with her husband. She told police, '[My] husband kicked me out, but he has a load of antiquities in his cellar.' Swingler was actually advertising the sale of these pieces by slipping brochures on car windshields in his neighborhood." DiLuzio was arrested for violating Italy's 1939 law that forbids the digging up and trafficking of antiquities. His case is still in court. Swingler was not charged by U.S. authorities. In 1996, Italian courts sentenced him in absentia to four years in prison and $6,000 in fines. U.S. customs began returning the artifacts to Italy on June 30 this year.' 



December 11, 2014

Researcher Christos Tsirogiannis succeeds in getting suspected looted objects withdrawn from Christie's sale

Attic red-figured krater / Swingler
Source: Tsirogiannis (See Looting Matters)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

As noted first on Paul Barford's blog, Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, the three items at Christie's identified last week by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis as suspected looted objects have been withdrawn from this month's sale in New York City.

"Paul Barford notified me," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote in an email to the ARCA blog, "I then verified it from Christie's website."

Dr. Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist, identified images in the Christie's sales catalogue that matched images from the Symes-Michaelides and the Swingler archive (Professor David Gill provides more specific information here on his blog Looting Matters).

I asked Dr. Tsiogiannis who contacts the art market when researchers identify objects suspected to have been stolen? This is his response:
The auction houses, and the members of the international antiquities market in general, always have the opportunity to contact the Italian and Greek authorities directly, before the auctions. These authorities will check, for free, every single object for them. Instead, the members of the market not only are not contacting the authorities, but also complain publicly that they have no access to the archives. As long as the market does not cooperate with the relevant state authorities, those authorities will continue to intervene ex officio.

December 10, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - , No comments

Deadline for the Letter of Intent for the 2015 LegacyQuest International Children's Film and Video Festival is this Friday, December 12


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

Here's a letter from Shirley K. Gazsi, President, of AntiquityNow, which I received via Linkedin:
I thought I would pass the following information about LegacyQuest along to you as one of my linkedin contacts. This contest is for young teens ages 12–15. I would appreciate it if you could share with any educators and parents who may be interested. 
The deadline for the Letter of Intent for the 2015 LegacyQuest International Children’s Film and Video Festival is Friday, December 12. For those needing an extension, please contact us at info@antiquitynow.org
Co-sponsored by AntiquityNOW and Archaeological Legacy Institute, the film festival is for tweens to explore how ancient history is far from ancient. In fact, there are thousands of ways that the ingenuity of previous generations continues to influence our lives today. We want to encourage children to discover these connections, and in the process, develop a reverence for our global cultural heritage and the importance of its preservation. 
We have another purpose in sponsoring LegacyQuest. Today, wherever we look, we see conflict, whether geographical, political, philosophical, religious or even personal. We seek to instill in children a sense that the world’s people have deep connections, and that understanding and tolerating different ways of thinking enhances our lives and strengthens our global co-existence. 
Please feel free to share the festival information (http://antiquitynow.org/antiquitynow-month/legacy-quest-festival/) with teachers, parents and others who may be interested in submitting a LegacyQuest entry. 
Thank you for your help. 
Very truly yours, 

Shirley K. Gazsi 
President 

December 8, 2014

Thief Returns Medardo Rosso's Bambino Malato (Sick Child) (1893-95) Stolen From the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna

by Lynda Albertson

This weekend ARCA reported that Medardo Rosso's Bambino Malato (Sick Child) (1893-95) had been stolen from the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna on December 5, 2014. 

In an unusually brazen theft, the thief entered the museum during opening hours on Friday and walked off with the small bronze bust of a child, leaving the premises without drawing the attention of any of the staff or security personnel on duty. 

Whether out of fear of being recognized on surveillance camera footage or a rare attack of guilty conscience, the thief or an accomplice returned to the museum and at some point after the first security sweeps, placed the bronze artwork in a storage locker used by visitors near the entrance of the museum.  Hopefully this too has been caught on tape, regardless of the thief's change of heart.

Whether allegorical or coincidence, the fact that the thief was able to enter the museum, not once, but twice, carrying an object without being stopped, is not without some significance.
  
One week ago many of Rome's unemployed archaeologists, librarians, archivists, art historians and conservators symbolically occupied the Pantheon in protest of the lack of paid work or long term contracts for graduates in cultural heritage professions.  Of key concern to the protestors is what they consider to be the exploitation of volunteers, working within the heritage sector with little or no compensation.  These unpaid volunteers are also presently being considered as long term free substitutes for positions once reserved for paid skilled professional, perhaps in answer to the country's never-ending economic recession.  

The protesters were also unhappy about a bilateral agreement between the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, and ENEL S.p.A. who has agreed to sponsor at least one €100,000 project allowing university students in the United States to examine and catalog hundreds of archaeological objects from excavations conducted in Rome during the 1930's.  The first 249 objects have already been shipped to the University of Missouri, the first beneficiary of the “Hidden Treasure of Rome” project.  Other American institutions, including the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; New York University; Yale and Harvard have also expressed interest in participating in this energy company sponsored project and this is not sitting well with heritage professionals or university students in Rome.

December 6, 2014

Theft at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte (GNAM) in Rome

By Lynda Albertson

Photo Credit - La Repubblica
Italian newspaper La Repubblica has broke a story that a thief, or thieves, have entered the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte (GNAM) yesterday and made off with a bronze sculpture bust titled "Bambino Malato", in English "Sick Child" created by Medardo Rosso.  According to the article's journalist, whose name is not listed, the museum's authorities estimate the value of the stolen artwork at €500,000.

Medardo Rosso was a Post-impressionist Italian sculptor from Turin who trained at Milan's Brera Academy. Many of his artworks center around depictions of everyday life and imagery.   His break with traditional 19th-century sculptural attitudes earned him the reputation of being one of the country's first truly modern sculptors. To learn more about Rosso, there is an interesting academic article by Sharon Hecker that can be downloaded here on the history and ultimate identification of a wax cast of Rosso’s "Enfant malade" and which further describes the artist's mannerisms and artistic considerations as well as the public's awareness of this particular work.
Photo Credit - Il Gironale
Authorities indicate that the theft at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte occurred around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, while the museum was open to the public.  The bust was positioned on a pedestal near the doorway of Room 48, an area of the museum that is used as a exhibition space located within the right wing of the museum. According to Italy's Il Giornale, the room presently holds artworks that form part of a retrospective exhibition which began in November dedicated to the "Secession and Avant-Garde" which covers artworks by artists immediately preceding the First World War. 

Italy's Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo (MiBACT) has indicated that all of GNAM's cameras and alarm systems were fully-functional at the time of the theft and that  Italy's military police for the protection of cultural heritage (TPC), have assumed command of the investigation.  As the investigation continues TPC officers are interviewing museum staff and reviewing CTV camera footage to reconstruct the details surrounding the theft.

The Galleria holds the largest collection of works by nineteenth and twentieth century Italian artists including Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Alberto Burri, Antonio Canova, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Giovanni Farttori, Giacomo Manzu, Amedeo Modigliani and Giorgio Morandi. There are also important works by artists outside of Italy including Calder, Cézanne, Duchamp, Giacometti, Braque, Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, Mondrian, Monet, Jackson Pollock, and Rodin.

For further reading on GNAM's exhibition "Secession and Avant-Garde" please see Italy's MiBACT article translated in English here.

December 5, 2014

Opinion: More Questions Than Solutions from the Auction Houses

By Lynda Albertson

Following the successful identification and the subsequent withdrawal of the Sardinian idol, Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist and Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project has forwarded ARCA four additional images of antiquities that match photos from the Symes-Michaelides archive.  

Tsirogiannis and Italian heritage professionals have been working diligently for years to make sense of a lengthy catalog photo and forensic documentation, that paint a vivid picture of the complexity of the network of dealers, middlemen, and tombaroli involved in the looting and smuggling of antiquities.

These four identified objects match auction items that are to be included in two December sales events; one held by Christie's New York scheduled for December 11, 2014 and another with Sotheby's New York to be held the following day.

Christies LOT 51: AN EGYPTIAN ALABASTER FIGURAL JUG, estimated at $150,000 -$250,000


 




The object appears in the same condition in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.









Christies LOT 95: AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED COLUMN KRATER, estimated at $60,000 -$90,000





The object is depicted in the same condition in the images that have been confiscated by the American authorities from the antiquities dealer David Swingler, among hundreds of antiquities which were repatriated to Italy after it was found that they were smuggled. Swingler's name is not included in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.


The object appears in the auction catalog with its surface cleaned, unlike its appearance in the Symes-Michaelides archive. The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by auction house.






Sotheby's: LOT 6: An Egyptian Diorite Figure of a Priest of the Temple of Mut, late 25th/early 26th Dynasty, circa 670-610 B.C., estimated at $400,000 - 600,000






The object appears in the same condition in the Symes-Michaelides archive.  The dealers are not mentioned in the collecting history supplied by the auction house.








Note: These suspect objects have been brought to the attention of authorities in the United States, Italy and Egypt.

More than  four decades have passed since the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Despite greater public awareness of the problems posed by looting, suspect antiquities are still finding their way into auction houses through methods embedded within the licit antiquities trade.  By whitening a tainted object's illicit background through legitimate or contrived collection histories, laundered objects, be they from Italy, Egypt, Iraq or Syria, will continue to find their way into the glassy catalogs of licit objects being sold on the art market.

Unless tighter sanctions are imposed by governments or unless the art market itself voluntarily polices itself better, at the behest of culturally aware collectors or the general public, the problem will continue.  Predatory and subsistence looters will continue to supply the demand for materials needed and by proxy encourage the parasitical relationship between them, the middlemen suppliers and the auction houses.

Conference Diary: COMCOL's "Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change" Conference in Celje, Slovenia

By Virginia M. Curry

The Third Annual UNESCO ICOM Conference on Collecting (COMCOL) opened December 4 in the jewel-like Slovenian town of Celje.
 
This is the third conference on collecting held by UNESCO ICOM; the first was held in Capetown, and the second in Rio de Janiero. The theme of this year’s conference is “Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change”.

I am surprised to be the sole American participant in the program since it is UNESCO ICOM’s sole annual conference related to museums and their collections.  However, my fellow presenters from as far away as South Korea share a communal joy of museums and the exhibition of both “Tangible” and “Intangible” collections.  As you might have guessed, the “intangible” collections are those of music, such as the literal dumpster recovery of folk and classical recordings from the collection of Swiss broadcaster, Fritz Dur for the Swiss International Radio and an examination of the socio-political metamorphosis of the City of Birmingham in England in response to a changed demographic.

The organizers of this conference accepted my paper, “Re-Inventing the Museum in the Twenty-First Century” which focused on some of the major challenges to curators and some success stories, including but not limited to war loot; theft by organized criminal gangs who steal art from museums and private collections; internal thefts; and vandalism.

The conference meets again tomorrow to discuss: “Reflecting and Using Collections to Memorialize War”. There will also be sessions which focus on  confronting collections in the change of paradigm  from socialism and later in the afternoon a visit to the Museum of Recent History of Celje.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

December 4, 2014

Review: Ai Weiwei “Zodiac” sculptures on tour to promote awareness of contested cultural heritage

By Hal Johnson, 2014 ARCA student and DNA Consultant

Few contemporary artists are more socially and politically conscious than Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. His world views are often expressed in his work, which has become his most powerful means of communication now that the Chinese government has curtailed his attempts at free speech. He was once a celebrated artist and architect in his country and arguably still is. However, he ran afoul of authorities after criticizing the government’s handling of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the massive earthquakes in Sichuan Province that same year. He was an outspoken blogger – the forum where he expressed many of his frank political opinions – until it was shut down by the state. In 2011 he was detained for 81 days; upon his release his passport was revoked and he was slapped with charges of tax evasion. Undeterred, Mr. Ai continues to speak out whenever possible and has an active role in the exhibition of his work abroad. His sculpture group “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” is on tour to raise awareness of contested cultural heritage.

The twelve animal heads are inspired by similar bronze sculptures that originally adorned a fountain at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. In 1860, the fountain heads were looted during the Second Opium War when the palace was sacked by British and French troops. Over the years the heads ended up in several private collections. The two most famous pieces were the Rat and the Rabbit, which were owned by Yves Saint Laurent. After the fashion icon’s death in 2008, they went up for sale at Christie’s along with the rest of his art collection. Their status as war loot was common knowledge and the auction proceeded despite protests from China. Chinese bidder Cai Mingchao staged his own protest by winning the heads (with a bid of $19 million each) and then refusing to pay. They were later repatriated to China in 2013 by billionaire François Pinault. Several more heads from the old fountain remain in private hands outside of China.

Ai Weiwei is well aware of the history of the zodiac heads and that they have become a figurehead for contested cultural property. But true to form, his tour is also meant to highlight the inconsistency, even hypocrisy, of China’s efforts to reacquire its heritage: “They never really care about culture. This is the nature of a communist, to destroy the old world, to rebuild the new one. We’re not clear about what is most important in those so-called traditional classics. The Zodiac is a perfect example to show their ignorance on this matter.” Indeed, countless Chinese cultural property was wantonly destroyed by the Chinese themselves during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960’s. How much more has been sacrificed by China in its transformation into an economic superpower?

Mr. Ai’s “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” is actually several sculpture groups on separate tours – the 3-meter tall freestanding Bronze Series and the much smaller Gold Series. One of the Bronze Series is currently on display in Chicago. I visited them earlier this fall (see photos). They are aptly placed facing the Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s scenic lakefront, where they will remain on display until April 2015. A Gold Series is currently part of a large Ai Weiwei retrospective exhibit at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, UK. For more information on the “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” tour and the artist himself, please visit the following link: http://www.zodiacheads.com/index.html.

December 3, 2014

Judge Arthur Tompkins to present historical survey section of his "Art in War" course at Victoria University in Spring 2015 in Wellington

Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA trustee and faculty member, is presenting the historical survey section of his "Art in War" course as a Continuing Education Short Course at Victoria University in April/May 2015, in Wellington, New Zealand.  Taught over 5 two-hour evening sessions, on five sequential Wednesdays - April 8th, 15th, 22, and 29 April, and 6th May, 2015 - the course will examine the history of art crime during armed conflict, ranging from Classical Antiquity, through the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic era, the first and second World Wars, and finally Iraq and Afghansitan.


A link to the course details, including a more detailed course outline, is http://cce.victoria.ac.nz/courses/302-art-in-war

November 27, 2014

Christie's Auction House Withdraws Sardinian Marble Female Idol from Upcoming New York City Sale

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor and Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Last week Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis pointed to a Sardinian marble female idol that Christie's planned to sell in New York City on December 11, 2014 -- an image of the idol had been identified previously in the Medici archive (see ARCA post here).  Further information on the background of this object's less than optimal collection history was later posted on Professor David Gill's blog Looting Matters and on Nord Wennerstrom's website Nord on Art

In protest of this sale Italian Camera Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili from the Regione of Sardinia wrote to Italy's ministro dei Beni culturali Dario Franceschini, Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Esteri Gentiloni and to the US Ambassador of the United States to Italy, John Phillips demanding that immediate action be taken to stop the sale and to return the stolen goods to Sardinia.

Shortly thereafter, archaeologists in and around Italy formed a virtual protest group via social media provider Facebook also demanding the objects return.  This and other local interest action groups attracted more than 1000 followers. 

A few short minutes ago Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili released the following message. 
Poco fa la casa d'aste Christie's ha bloccato la vendita della Dea Madre ritirando dall'asta dell'11 dicembre prossimo il pezzo pregiatissimo della civiltà nuragica della Sardegna. Si tratta di un risultato importantissimo che segna un punto decisivo nella lotta ai furti d'opere archeologiche della Sardegna. Ora occorre andare sino in fondo per far restituire il maltolto alla Sardegna. Questo dimostra che la mobilitazione dell'opinione pubblica, dei media, e delle azioni parlamentari è utile ad accendere i riflettori su queste vergogne e bloccare queste vere proprie rapine al patrimonio della civiltà dei sardi.
The message indicates that Christie's has blocked the sale of the Mother Goddess, withdrawing it from its December 11th auction.  Deputy Pili further added that the blocking of this sale is a major achievement that marks a decisive point in the fight against theft of archaeological works of Sardinia.

A check of the Christie's New York auction side indicates the object has been removed from the online catalog for the upcoming sale proving that pressure at the state and local level can and does apply sufficient pressure to auction houses to lead them to do the right thing.  


November 26, 2014

Ar-Raqqah Museum in Syria continues to Suffer

Yesterday a report came in from the Syrian Arabic Republic - Ministry of Culture's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) that a bomb dropped in Raqqa (ar-Raqqa, ar-Raqqah, Raqqa, Rakka), Syria near Arafat Square has done structural damage to the main facades of the Ar-Raqqah Museum as well as damage to the doors, shutters and windows.  To outline the damages we have included photos of the museum prior to and after this bomb strike.

This only adds insult to the already identified injury.  Previously DGAM reported that in Spring 2012 an armed group called Ahar al Sham had moved 527 artefacts under the pretext of protecting them. 

Then in June 2013 robbers seized an additional six containers that had been previously stored in the Raqqa Museum’s warehouse.  Through cooperation and negotiations with members of the local community three of these boxes were later identified in Tabaqa under the control of a group called “Cham free people”.  While the found boxes contained 104 artifacts ARCA hasn't been able to ascertain which pieces from the inventory were recovered.

A report of the archaeological heritage in Syria during the crisis from 2011 through early 2013 written by Professor Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of Syria's Ministry of Culture can be read here. The 2013 report is available here.

The Museum of Raqqa was founded in 1981 and has been primarily dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage gathered from excavation research from the Ar-Raqqah province.  Its collection includes objects from Tell Bi’a, Tell Munbaqa, Tell Sabi Abyad, and Tell Chuera, and includes artefacts that date from Roman and Byzantine eras as well as objects from the Islamic period (the epoch of Haroun al-Rachid) and from the period of more recent Bedouin domination.

Situated in north-central Syria near to where the Balikh River joins the Euphrates the city of Raqqa once dominated the northwest corner of the heartland of the Islamic Empire precisely because it was a major stopover point for those traveling through the Syrian desert to other important cities in the region making it integral for commerce.  Because of this strategic location Raqqa has always been hotly contested throughout its lifespan, perhaps now more than ever.   L. Albertson, ARCA CEO
 

November 24, 2014

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

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

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

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

Gurlitt Art Collection and the Kunstmuseum Bern: Acceptance of Bequest comes with agreement to conduct provenance research

The press conference in Berlin today generated a great deal of media interest as to if and how the Kunstmuseum in Bern would accept the bequest of Cornelius Gurlitt -- a long-hidden collection of artwork mired in accusations of Nazi-looting.  The collection consists of around 1,300 works of art on canvas and paper including paintings and sketches by Chagall, Picasso, and Claude Monet.  The bulk of the cache was discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment following a routine tax investigation.

Image credit: Hannibal Hanschke
Christoph Schäublin, the director and president of the Kunstmuseum Bern's board of trustees, said that after extensive deliberation Germany, Bavaria and the Kunstmuseum Bern had reached a formal written agreement viewable in German here to formally accept the Gurlitt collection.  Schäublin emphasized that artworks directly looted from Jewish owners during the Nazi era would not enter into the collection of the Kunstmuseum Bern and would be returned to their rightful heirs.  Works suspected of having been stolen, with no claimants currently identified would remain in Germany for the immediate future to allow for further investigation by the special task already established, with an emphasis on determining the provenance of each of the pieces.  An update on the status of the task force's research is expected sometime in 2015.

Melissa Eddy reporting from Berlin for The New York Times writes in "Kunstmuseum Bern Obtains Trove from Gurlitt Collection" that Schäublin described that a 'privately funded team of experts [would] comb the history of each piece before it came into the museum's possession' .... and that a public list would be made available soon.

German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters stated that she believed that the signing of the accord by all parties represented "a milestone in coming to terms with our history" referring to Germany’s responsibilities for losses under the Nazi regime.

Cornelius Gurlitt's 86-year-old cousin Uta Werner, applied Friday to the Munich Probate Court for a certificate of inheritance in connection with her deceased cousin's estate. Speaking tothe press on Friday through legal counsel she indicated they would be contesting Gurlitt’s fitness of mind at the time he wrote the will naming the Bern museum as his sole heir meaning any resolution in this restitution case could prove lengthy. 

Gurlitt Art Collection: Kunstmuseum Bern accepts bequest from Cornelius Gurlitt

The Kunstmuseum Bern announced today in Berlin that it will accept the art collection from Cornelius Gurlitt. Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO, live tweeted (Ergo Sum @sauterne) during the conference: 
The Kunstmuseum Bern accepts the Gurlitt collection. This was decided by the Board of Trustees of the Art Museum.... Regarding the Gurlitt collection Schäublin says their own research centre at the Kunstmuseum Bern must be considered....  Schäublin on Gurlitt Collection: "On the threshold of the art museum is not stolen art".... Kunstmuseum pledges to fully investigate artwork restitution claims fully.... Central point of the agreement to accept Gurlitt's art collection.... Works of art looted or suspicious do not tread Swiss soil.... Berlin, Munich and Kunstmuseum Bern have signed an agreement on the management of Gurlitt's estate.... Schäublin agreement in accepting Gurlitt collection: Objects with suspicion of being Nazi-looted art will initially remain in Germany....  Bavarian Minister of Justice on the joint Gurlitt accord: "The agreement with the Kunstmuseum Bern is an important step in German history."...  Gurlitt case: The German Minister of Justice says Switzerland is the "right place" for the disputed collection....  Gurlitt press release concludes. Many questions being raised by attendees on state of task force investigation and limbo nazi loot objects.
Here are also two Swiss news outlets that covered the conference (held in German):

http://www.srf.ch/news/panorama/live-aus-berlin-kunstmuseum-bern-nimmt-gurlitt-erbe-an

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/bern-museum-accepts-controversial-art-hoard/41129776

The artworks will remain in Germany while provenance experts study the collecting history of the paintings suspected to have been looted during the Nazi-era.

Here's the latest news from BBC on the Gurlitt art collection and the conference.

Here's a chronology from the German-English news source DW.

Here's a link to the Kunstmuseum's media release (in German).