September 30, 2014

International Committee on Museum Security, Copenhagen, Denmark: Conference celebrates the ruby anniversary in a royal city

SMK (national gallery of Denmark)
by Penelope Abram, alumna of ARCA 2013

The Danish capitol of Copenhagen welcomed a lively crowd for the 40th Annual International Committee on Museum Security. Greeted with smiling faces and sunny weather, was the landmark National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst). Security professionals from many countries and established institutions were represented as presenters and participants. The theme for this milestone year was “Implementing and maintaining security and safety at cultural institutions with fewer or limited financial resources today and in the future”. My ARCA thesis, written for the 2013 year, fit right into the theme of making security cost effective and highly capable. I presented on my thesis of museum security, which was a theoretical plan for the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. I designed an organizational method for security while combining inventory and time management based on my previous retail experience and on the Everson’s methods currently in place.

The first speaker enlightened us with a “Year in Review”. He remarked on just a glimpse of the thefts, damages, and general misfortunes that struck cultural institutions in the past year. He commented and observed some trends and using graphs and statistics, he revealed how these change drastically, or minimally, within a year’s time. This led to a great conversation on how something as seemingly banal as flood damage could pose a tremendous risk to cultural heritage.

A Business Director of a Museum in the Netherlands gave a presentation that was as suspenseful as an action movie. In early 2014, a large bushfire was ablaze in the countryside, which threatened the museum if it continued to spread. While rapidly approaching, the plan of action was to protect everything in the museum, which led to a system that was currently in place to secure as many art pieces as possible in the vault before the fire reaches their doorstep. Not to keep anyone in suspense, everything was kept perfectly safe and the fire never burned through the museum’s immediate campus.

View from the lawn of the Louisiana museum
During the course of the conference, a panel discussed some of the ingenious ways to save an institution’s security team time, money and personnel. LJ Hartman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City discussed the implications of being open one more day and how to calculate security personnel in a much more organized and balanced way. Vernon Rapley of the Victoria and Albert Museum discussed how his Museum uses gallery staff on a temporary or on-call basis. Although this is considered controversial in the UK, his use of “zero hour workers” to enhance the security team for certain events, exhibits and occasions, seems to be an inventive way to keep up with the ebb and flow of visitors.

A large part of the conference was exploring the security dilemmas of local Copenhagen museums. I was assigned the National Museum of Denmark and as a student of ARCA I was reminded instantly of our security audit we conducted. Although in Italy, we were students with basic knowledge, in Denmark, I was surrounded by professionals from all different fields examining and asking relevant questions, all using their well-honed skills and points-of-view. The expertise of our host Security Director, Rune Hernoe was impressive and admirable, and the group collaboration taught me further the hands-on world of museum security.

New security methods were on demonstration a couple times that week and to see ways to prevent thefts, damage and catastrophes, was sometimes a stimulating display. Watching a flame go from ablaze to absent with just a unique combination of gases was quite spectacular, while seeing technologically advanced cameras was informative.

A highlight of the conference was to get an insider’s tour of some of the best art museums and castles Denmark has to offer. Seeing the crown jewels in the Rosenborg Castle, touring a genuinely unmodified Victorian apartment owned by the National Museum, walking through the modern and contemporary art exhibits of the SMK and ARKEN, and taking in the view of the ocean while on the lawn of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art were my personal favorites.

From the first day to the last, the willingness to share ideas and strengths was motivating as a young professional like myself to witness. Just listening to some of the conversations over coffee breaks it is apparent that these security professionals value working together. Hearing how investigating problems and solving solutions while trading stories over dinner reminds me how much museum security is a team effort rather than a solo trial. Last summer, while in Dick Drent’s Museum Security course during the ARCA program, I changed my perception of the museum world, and attending this conference only added and enhanced that outlook. Having him there to watch me present, the thesis that he inspired, was another bonus of this event.

September 25, 2014

Newsworks reports on exhibition in Delaware featuring stolen art recovered by Italy's Guardia di Finanza

Here's a link to the article and a 5-minute video on the website "Newsworks" which describes the show of 120 Greco-Roman-Etruscan antiquities recovered by Italy's Guardia di Finanza; the exhibit will run October 3 to December 21 at the Grand Opera House and in Newark at the University of Delaware's Old College Gallery. This is a link to the exhibit's website:

September 22, 2014

Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield Meeting at the Hirshhorn Museum: the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention Celebrated with a Meeting of Great Minds and Efforts

Harry Ettlinger speaking at the Hirschhorn
by Kirsten Hower, Social Networking Correspondent and List-Serve Manager

Keynote speaker Harry Ettlinger, World War II veteran and former Monuments Men, opened Friday's SI/USCBS meeting with an inspiring keynote speech: “For the first time in the history of human civilization, instead of taking art that did not belong to us, we gave it back to its rightful owners.”

The annual meeting of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, held at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C, recognized the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The timing was equally appropriate as the day before marked the fifth anniversary of the United States' ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention. 

Ettlinger, who made the audience both laugh and cry as he recounted stories of his life and time as a Monuments Man, was joined by many other great men and women who reported on the current state of efforts being made to protect and preserve the world's cultural heritage.

After a much earned standing ovation, Ettlinger yielded the podium to Major Thomas (Tommy) Livoti who spoke on behalf of Brigadier General Hugh Van Roosen about the beginnings of the formation of the 21st century "Monuments Men." Though only in it's infancy, this program will seek to recruit cultural heritage professionals "under the guise of a military initiative" to protect the world's heritage that is threatened by armed conflict.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding
by Dr. Nancy Wilkie and Dr. Richard Kurin
The first half of the meeting was rounded off by quick speeches by Dr. Patty Gerstenblith and Dr. Laurie Rush, both board members of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield. Gerstenblith, of DePaul University, spoke about what has happened in the 60 years since the 1954 Hague Convention, both the successes and the challenges still to be faced. Rush, who works as an Army civilian for Cultural Resources at Fort Drum, NY, spoke briefly about the annual meeting of the Combatant Command Heritage Action Group who had met the day before. Their report, which Rush quickly summarized, will soon be available at

The second half of the meeting was started by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, who gave a stirring speech about the horrors of cultural destruction that we are witnessing in the world and the efforts being made to bring them to a halt: “We are trying, ladies and gentlemen, to give a concrete reaction to extremist actions…[that the destruction of people and cultural heritage] are crimes against humanity.... Attacks against culture are attacks against people, their identity, their history, and their future.” Bokova ended on a serious but somewhat optimistic note that while the art market is in dire need of more education on the challenges facing cultural heritage during this time, a new consciousness is emerging that could help in the efforts to stem this wanton destruction.

Following Bokova’s speech was a panel of sobering reports from Dr. Brian Daniels, Dr. Salam Al Kuntar, Dr. Susan Wolfinbarger, Dr. Katharyn Hanson, Corine Wegener, Dr. Sarah Parcak, and Dr. Amr Al Azm. Each presenter spoke about the multiple projects that they are part of that are attempting to document and prevent destruction of cultural heritage.

Wolfinbarger (AAAS) and Hanson (U. Penn Cultural Heritage Center) spoke about the ongoing turmoil in places such as Syria, Iraq, and the Thai/Cambodian border, as well as the documented satellite imagery that follows the turmoil.

Parcak (University of Alabama) spoke about “Protecting the Past from Space,” how cultural heritage experts can better track the motions of looting of archaeological sites using satellite imagery and technology.

Kuntar (U. Penn) and Wegener (Smithsonian) spoke about the amazing efforts of locals in conflict areas that are doing everything in their power to preserve cultural heritage sites and objects. Both Kuntar and Wegener have been involved in efforts to educate and supply locals with the best means to continue their preservation efforts.

Amr Al Azm (Shawnee State University) spoke about the cultural heritage of Syria (a main focus for much of the panel) and how it must be preserved to act as a common ground for the Syrians once the conflict is resolved. He closed his speech with a poignant statement that while he and his colleagues are often called “modern day Monuments Men,” that he does not want to be referred to as such; the real “Monuments Men” are the the locals, the ones putting their lives on the line to protect their heritage.

Daniels (U.Penn Cultural Heritage Center) rounded off the panel discussing his work in educating locals in conflict areas about emergency preservation methods and his studies of heritage in conflict situations, which will be launching it’s new website in October ( 

The meeting ended with two joyous events; the first being the awarding of the USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property to Brigadier General Erik C. Peterson, Commanding General, US Army Special Operations Aviation Command. His work at Fort Drum alongside Dr. Laurie Rush have been an example of the actions that can be taken to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage.

The final event of the evening was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by Dr. Richard Kurin (Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution) and Dr. Nancy Wilkie (President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield). This memorandum creates a bond between the Smithsonian and the USCBS; that they will endeavor to support each other in the education of cultural heritage professionals as well as locals in conflict areas, and to provide the means with which to do this.

The meeting served as a reminder of the tragedies befalling cultural heritage sites and objects in areas of armed conflict, but also of the hope and initiative that so many are taking to protect these sites and these objects.

September 18, 2014

Halyna Senyk, Executive Director of the European Shoah Legacy Institute, Speaks on the Importance of Archives in Provenance Research

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

International human rights lawyer Halyna Senyk has joined the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI), an organization based in Prague, which is aiming to make provenance research mandatory in the art market, especially in areas where looting of art was combined with genocidal acts. We spoke briefly last week via Skype about the mission of ESLI.

“Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration “opened the door” for provenance research to become the main catalyst  in restoring justice of the Nazi looting of culture objects," Ms. Senyk explained. "The majority of the European legal systems recognize the bona fide acquirer as a rightful owner, even if s/he bought a stolen art object, besides many countries in Europe has statutory limitations which prevent to claim the property, which was stolen more than 70 years ago.  Only provenance research can challenge the title of a bona fide acquirer and can re-open cases, which have been closed due to the statutory limitation.  When we talk about provenance at large, we’re not just talking about Nazi crimes.

I’ve worked in human rights all my life and I believe in justice – what is important is that people who went through the Holocaust that they see justice – whether it involves issues of stolen property or art and that these items are returned. It doesn’t always mean that items are taken from museums but that title is corrected. This is what we are aiming at. The legislation doesn’t always reflect the historical reality. Who was the bona fide buyer? As we study art history, we should also study the provenance of the cultural object. It’s important to know the history of the object and who was the owner and taken into consideration that only a small percentage of what was looted has been returned. We have only four countries that have made major progress towards implementing the Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration. Part of our main mission is to monitor adherence to the Terezin Declaration, conceptualize the best practices and to assist governments in developing their national policies to bring them in compliance with their obligations. Austria, for instance, is the only country that has mandatory provenance for all state museums."

What are the country models of funding provenance research at an effective level?

Ms. Senyk: “The states have funded provenance research in Germany, and Austria. The Netherlands and Czech Republic have mitigating bodies to resolve disputes over art property injustices inflicted on Holocaust victim and they have been using provenance research as an important tool in resolving them. Some private museums, like the Jewish Museum in Prague, initiated the provenance research of its collection on its own expense.”

How can you develop standards and work with others in the field?

Ms. Senyk: “Provenance research is dictated by restitution disputes either by a museum or a family. What is important for us is that provenance research is independent and impartial and not influenced by one party or the other – when is it done, we’re looking for a report based upon as much information as is fiscally responsible. Sometimes we don’t have access to archives. Researchers try to do everything possible to show that they have done their due diligence. Until now the standards of provenance research reports haven’t been discussed.

“We also discovered that discussing accessibility of archives, how getting information is extremely difficult. Talking about provenance without talking about archives doesn’t make sense because researchers have to be able to look at information in all available sources. We talk a lot about national archives and how to use their archives, how to submit requests and get the information. In these workshops, we list the archives and share the practical experience of the researchers. We believe that sources of information is very important. It is also helpful to have researchers who understand the history and the movement of the cultural property at the time it was stolen.”

ARCA's Lauren Cattey Monroe ('09) Hiring Facilities Assistant at Burke Museum in Seattle

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

ARCA graduate Lauren Cattey Monroe has a job opening at the Burke Museum in Seattle. In 2009, Ms. Monroe completed ARCA's certificate program on the study of art crime and cultural property protection in Amelia, Umbria. She published "Revolutionizing Security in the Art World One Photograph at a Time: Photomacrography and its Application to Protecting Cultural Property" in The Journal of Art Crime in the Fall 2010 issue.

What is your current position and your responsibilities? What do you hope to accomplish?

Ms. Monroe: My current title is the Security and Facilities Manager at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, WA. I oversee the security and facility operations of the Burke Museum. I am responsible for opening/closing the museum, coordinating building maintenance while ensuring the safety and protection of staff, patrons and the museum's collection. I supervise the Facilities Assistant and Operations Assistant. I am first responder to off hour alarms and emergencies. I organize and control access to the building by maintaining current, organized inventories of badges, keys and off hours access cards.

I hope to accomplish well-established programs, such as security, access, disaster preparedness, safety and facility operations so that they will translate seamlessly into the new building that we are in the very early stages of planning.

How did you get this job? What did you do in the field while you were waiting for an opportunity?

Ms. Monroe: I was originally hired at the Burke Museum as the Operations Assistant. Shortly after arriving, the previous Facilities Manager vacated the position, and I was asked to fill in as the Interim Facilities Manager while also applying for the permanent position. I saw my opportunity as Interim Facilities Manager as my chance to prove that I would succeed in this role.

Before working for the Burke Museum, in my free time, I worked as a gallery monitor at the Seattle Art Museum in order to not lose focus on my career goals.

What is the position you're now hiring for?

Ms. Monroe: I am looking to hire a new Facilities Assistant. This position is my evening closer as well as my backup. We're looking for a person who will interlace the Facilities department with the Visitor Services and Facility Rentals departments by wearing many hats and acting as onsite manager in the evenings and on the weekends. A Jack or Jill of all trades who can do some physical labor (tool work, climb ladders, water plants), has excellent customer service (interacting with visitors and event rentals) and is computer savvy (data entry and creating manuals). Someone who has a can-do attitude, will anticipate the needs of others while fostering relationships with co-workers and contractors, and will be committed to the Burke and the direction we are heading. For more information or if interested in applying, you can find the job description and apply through the UW Jobs website by Friday, September 19th.

If you have any questions, please contact me at

September 15, 2014

The European Shoah Legacy Institute and its Mission to Recover Looted Art

By Halyna Senyk, Executive Director

The Holocaust-Era Assets Conference of June 2009 in Prague and the resulting Terezin Declaration endorsed by forty-seven countries reaffirmed the crying need for addressing issues surround the restitution and compensation of looted art. Beginning in the 1930’s, the Nazi regime was responsible for the confiscation, theft, and sale of hundreds of thousands – and potentially millions - of objects of art and other items of cultural property from public and private collections throughout the occupied territories of Europe. The scale and scope of such systematic looting was unprecedented in history. Many of these items were either stolen or otherwise obtained through duress from the private collections of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. A significant number of important objects were also looted from public and private museum collections.

Some of the stolen works eventually entered the personal collections of high-ranking Nazi officials; many others were destined for Hitler’s unrealised Führermuseum complex in Linz; countless more were simply sold for hard currency to be used to support the Nazi war effort. Although Allied policy after the war called for the return of these stolen artworks, an untold number were not returned and instead remained in governments collections. Many were resold or otherwise dispersed; others still have never been found.

Legal claims by the heirs and descendants of Holocaust victims whose art and other cultural objects were looted by the Nazis, along with analogous claims by foreign ‘source’ countries for objects similarly misappropriated, have significantly contributed to the importance of provenance research as it relates to the due diligence and legality involved in acquiring artworks that are known or suspected of having originated out of Nazi Germany or occupied Europe. 

Provenance research has long been a pivotal facet of the private art market with auction houses, major galleries, and private collectors all recognising the need for accurate and reliable provenance on artworks and other cultural objects offered for sale. This is almost exclusively due to the fact that complete and precise provenance is necessary for establishing the authenticity of a piece available for sale, which in turn influences valuation for both vending and insurance purposes. Little regard or interest is paid to the question of whether the current possessor of a piece has the right to pass title in said piece to a third party purchaser. This small but potentially damaging oversight – given the international nature of the private art market – can result in significant financial, legal, and reputational damage to both the inculpable seller and the good faith purchaser. As a multi-billion dollar industry, the art market can no longer afford to neglect its onerous duty to be ethical, accountable, and transparent when it comes to analysing the full and complete provenance of individual objects offered for private sale.

The European Shoah LegacyInstitute (ESLI) strives to actualise the objectives of the Terezin Declaration through a variety of activities (including training workshops, international conferences, and research) relating to looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property illegally misappropriated during the Second World War. To ensure that appropriate international regard is paid to the importance of the ongoing development of provenance, ESLI has been engaged in the following activities:
·      Organizing training programs in Europe and the Americas that develop and refine critical research and analytical skills in the emerging discipline of provenance research (the documentation of the ownership history of an art object from creation to the present day);
·    Organizing national conferences in cooperation with relevant Ministries of Culture on restitution of cultural property and provenance research at the national level;
·    Facilitating the creation of an independent, international association of provenance researchers and allied professionals; and
·      Promoting provenance research as a mandatory component of collection management practices across all forty-seven Terezin Declaration countries.
The Provenance Research TrainingProgram (PRTP) – created by ESLI in 2011 with the support of the Jewish Claims Conference – aims to empower professionals working within provenance research and its related fields to connect and cooperate in the proliferation of relevant skills and knowledge; the development of professional standards and an industry code of conduct; and the furtherance of provenance as an independent, respected, and self-regulating professional industry. Each year the program offers several week-long workshops taught by internationally renowned specialists with expertise in provenance research and related fields, structured around the complementary themes of research, history, and ethics. In addition to facilitating research and providing access to a vast array of information, the program will promote the establishment of international networks of provenance researchers that will bring together experts in all relevant fields and countries.

Through post-workshop analysis and reviews, ESLI discovered that a regrettable lack of appropriate funding for provenance research across state museums, private galleries, and other institutions has resulted in significant difficulties for PRTP alumni in adequately applying their new skills productively and effectively.  For this reason, ESLI intends to address the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education – along with relevant federal Ministries of Culture – to advocate for the increased availability of funding and the establishment of provenance research as a mandatory aspect of collection management practices at the national level. Furthermore, ESLI is planning to work with legislators to raise awareness about the importance of provenance and the necessity of supporting provenance research across both existing and potential future collections.

Through the PRTP, ESLI is hoping to address the concern that provenance research, as an emerging industry, is a highly unregulated and improvised field with minimal regulatory oversight and no established code of conduct or professional standards. Institutions working within this field operate independently and without inter-organisational coordination resulting in a significant duplication of work, whilst the lack of structured and established professional standards frequently results in the production of work to inconsistent levels of quality and detail. Such extensive incongruence amongst so many professionals within a single field severely hampers any real advancement towards the development of a unified community of experts and the establishment of a recognised and respected professional industry.

These projects are vital to facilitating the continued advancement of full and complete provenance research as an obligatory benchmark of professional progress for museums, auction houses, and private galleries. ESLI is an important facilitator of the establishment of an international, independent professional association capable of creating a framework for self-regulation that will enhance development in this field. As inaccurate provenance may potentially result in a transmutation of title, impartiality and independence are absolutely vital in securing confidence and respectability.

ESLI believes this will be achieved by providing professional staff from these institutions - through the Provenance Research Training Program - with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the importance and techniques of provenance research, whilst simultaneously encouraging the development of a professional body of provenance researchers by facilitating dialogue and networking amongst professionals working in this field.

Last but not least, ESLI has been monitoring adherence to the principles espoused in the Terezin Declaration by creating a database on relevant legislation and its implementation across all five fields covered by the Declaration in the forty-seven member countries. It is our intention to cooperate with analogous organizations similarly engaged in the collection and collation of pertinent data to ensure a constant stream of up-to-date information.

The European Shoah Legacy Institute believes in synergy, cooperation, mutual understanding, and consensus. Our organization was founded on the consensus of forty-seven governments and will continue cooperating with governments, as well as national and intergovernmental organizations on promoting provenance.

September 9, 2014

Next Provenance Research Training Program workshop to be held December 8-12, 2014 in Rome

[Updated September 22]. The next Provenance Research Training Program workshop will be in Rome from December 8-12, 2014. From the PRTP's website:
The Provenance Research Training Program (PRTP) is a project of the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) created by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in furtherance of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference held in Prague in 2009 and the resulting Terezin Declaration endorsed by 47 countries. The program focuses on provenance research and related issues concerning Nazi-looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property. It provides advanced training to serve the international community of current and future experts engaged in dealing with issues concerning cultural plunder during the Third Reich, the Holocaust and World War II. Each year the program offers week-long workshops that provide an intensive historical overview of cultural plunder—its evolution and implementation; methodological training, including specialized research in public and private archives; a presentation and discussion of legal concepts and instrumentalities at national and international levels, including political, moral and ethical issues and restitution policies and principles. In addition to facilitating research and providing access to a vast array of information, the program will promote the establishment of international networks of provenance researchers that will bring together experts in all relevant fields and countries.
The next workshop of the Provenance Research Training Program will take place in Rome, Italy, in December 8-12, 2014, in conjunction with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Provenance Research Training Program provides advanced training in provenance research and related issues concerning Nazi-looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property. Intensive workshops repeated several times a year in different locations across Europe and the Americas provide advanced training for the international community of current and future experts engaged in dealing with issues concerning cultural plunder during the Third Reich, the Holocaust and World War II. Taught by internationally known specialists who have developed their expertise in provenance research and restitution matters since the late 1980’s, each workshop is articulated around research, history, and ethics. The workshop will focus on: Analytical and methodological tools that can serve to apprehend the complexity of the topics under study, to visualize patterns, and to compare these processes and their international impact; The impact of cultural plunder on collection management practices in museums and other cultural institutions; A core understanding of displacements of cultural objects in pre-war Europe, wartime plunder and its impact on collecting practices and the international art market, and postwar efforts to recover looted cultural assets; The ethical implications of cultural plunder during the Nazi era, current international policies, and art trade practices. To apply please go to the online application. The application deadline has been extended to October 1, 2014.

September 4, 2014

Canada's Largest Art Theft: The 42nd anniversary of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Gustave Courbet, French, 1819-77
Landscape with rocks and stream, 1873
Oil on canvas, 28 7/8 x 36 1/8 inches
Lady Allan Bequest, 1958
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Canada's largest art theft, the unsolved 1972 burglary of the prestigious Montreal Museum of Fine Art. 

Readers may find an overview of the theft in last year's post on the ARCA blog. If you would like additional information, here's a blog dedicated to the art crime, including a list of the stolen paintings by Jan Breughel the Elder, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix, Narcisse-Virgile de la Peña, Thomas Gainsborough, Jan Davidsz de Heem, Jean-François Millet, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, and François-André Vincent. The thieves had selected twice as many more paintings -- what one witness guessed was an intention to clean out the collection -- but had dropped many when spooked into running away by a secondary alarm.

This theft, first brought to my attention in Ulrich Boser's book "The Gardner Theft" -- about the infamous unsolved 1990 Boston case -- had been widely publicized hours after the theft by Bill Bantey, an experienced journalist who was then serving as the museum's director of public relations. In 2009, when I wrote about the Montreal theft for a paper for ARCA (under the supervision of Anthony Amore), Boser directed me to the retired Bantey who was endlessly patient with my questions, my theories, and my attempts to understand the relevance of the theft. Bill Bantey read my 20,000 word report, leaving his comments in the margins -- either his opinions or corrections on grammar -- and when I was in Montreal cooked a five-course meal for his wife and I. Both Bill and his wife Judy have since passed away so it is on this anniversary that I mourn the death of a generous and fascinating couple as I hope that the paintings will someday become available again to the public -- from wherever they have been hidden -- whether in a nearby Montreal neighborhood or a Central American country.

Retired Montreal police officer Alain Lacoursière investigated the case decades after the theft. Three years ago Lacoursière received a video from his prime suspect, the one depicted in the book (biography) and film, L'Colombe de l'art. Otherwise, no other information has been made public.

September 2, 2014

Miami New Times' Michael E. Miller reports FBI delayed return of Stolen Matisse to Venezuela over 'hole in its history'

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

According to the FBI, the Henri Matisse painting “Odalisque in Red Pants" stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas (MACCSI)) in Venezuela in December 2002 was recovered in an undercover operation in Miami on July 16, 2012. Two men were arrested and later convicted (see USDOJ here and the ARCA post here). Four days ago, Michael E. Miller reported (Aug. 28) in The Miami New Times that the "FBI Delayed Returning Stolen Matisse Painting to Venezuela Over Concerns It Was Looted by Nazis":
"There was a concern that it may have been subject to Nazi looting," says Special Agent Robert Giczy, a member of the FBI's art crime unit and one of the agents involved in the odalisque investigation. "There was a hole in its history from 1931 to 1959," he said. "The Third Reich was 1933 to 1945. So we had a responsibility to ensure the status of the painting was [kosher]." "It was like trying to find the hole in a donut: something that just wasn't there," Giczy said. With assistance from the Getty Research Institute in California, the Art Loss Register in London, and the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) in New York, the FBI determined in April of 2014 that the painting had not been stolen by Nazis but had been privately owned in London and America during that period. "That freed the painting so that it was available for repatriation," Giczy said.
Miller wrote a longer article on the theft in "Chavez, Matisse, and the Heist that Shook the Americas" (August 27, 2014).