Art Crime Education

Hopefully you read my last post about art and cultural property crime, discussing what law enforcement agencies around the world are doing to combat this problem.  In case you missed it, you can read the full post at “Art and Crime”. 

This is a growing area of specialty study and relates to a variety of fields including appraisal, investigation,  insurance, art law, security, museums and conservation.

As a person who continually looks for educational opportunities, I’d like to share some of the upcoming events I’ve found relating to art crime:

Art Crime Investigation Seminar

Philadelphia, PA, June 10-15, 2012

Symposium on Criminality in the Art  and Cultural Property World

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 15-16, 2012

The World of Art and the Fine Art of Crime Symposium

North Easton, MA, July 30 – August 3, 2012

 

 

 

 

ART and CRIME

 When it comes to art and cultural property crime, we’re used to hearing about high profile thefts at museums.  According to the Art Loss Register, over 50% of thefts occur from private collections.  There are hundreds of thousands of reported art crimes each year, not to mention those unreported.  This includes theft, fraud and looting as well as trafficking across state lines and international borders.  The category of art crime is rather broad and can include fine art, antiquities, collectibles, musical instruments, antiques, pottery, glass, silver, books, documents, textiles and much more.

In the March issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, there is an excellent article discussing many of the issues relating to worldwide art crime:  Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft by Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kleberg.  It discusses how art crime on local and international levels potentially funds organized crime and terrorist activities.   It also discusses what law enforcement agencies around the world are doing to combat this problem.

The FBI has an Art Crime Team with 14 special agents.  They conduct investigations and manage the National Stolen Art File, a search-able database of stolen art and cultural property objects.  An FBI Agent spoke to an appraisers meeting I attended a few years ago, and stated that 80% of the signatures on celebrity and sports memorabilia were fake.  Buyer beware!

In Southern California where I live, the Los Angeles Police Department Art Theft Detail is charged with investigating thefts, fakes, frauds and forgeries.  They also publish a list of alerts and latest stolen art.

Personal property appraisers need to be aware of these issues, and exercise due diligence on appraisal assignments.  Owners may be unaware they have been given or purchased a suspicious object with an unclear title.   Items with questionable provenance or title may have a lower value, and ownership rights are subject to challenges and claims. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Art Loss Register http://www.artloss.com/en

Association for Research into Crimes against Art  http://artcrime.info/

Fine Art Registry http://www.fineartregistry.com/

International Foundation For Art Research http://www.ifar.org/

 

 

 

AVOIDING ART FORGERIES

Magnifying glass image
Appraiser’s Magnifying Glass

Artfixdaily published an article this week titled “Feds Investigate Possible Forgeries of Modern Art“.  It describes how modernist paintings from a supposed anonymous private collection were sold to prominent New York galleries, and are now being investigated by the FBI as possible forgeries.  Some of the works being questioned include paintings by Pollack, Rothko, Motherwell and Diebenkorn.  A more extensive article on the subject was in the New York Times titled “Possible Forging of Modern Art is Investigated”.

Fakes and forgeries have been fooling people for centuries.  Here are some things to do prior to buying an expensive work of art.  Many of these points can be applied to antiques, collectibles and other high-end purchases.

1) Consider contacting an art consultant or appraiser to evaluate the piece.
2) Check the provenance.  Pieces with no history of ownership or from anonymous collections should raise a red flag.
3) Check the catalog raisonne’ to see if the piece is listed.
4) Contact a known expert on the artist or an authentication board.
5) Check art loss registers for clear title.
6) Have scientific testing done if necessary.
7) Buy from respected dealers who provide complete documentation and a money back guarantee.

Don’t forget, if it seems too good to be true…… it probably is.