Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Art Loss Register

The great stories from the nefarious underside of the art world have led to enhanced security measures in museums and private homes; however, these stories also spark speculation on what can be done post-theft when security measures fail. The art world does, in fact, have its own “Batman”.
blog_image-20131001The Art Loss Register is a London-based company with the world’s largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiquities, and collectibles. The Register offers a range of services including item registration and search and recovery services to collectors, the art trade, insurers, and worldwide law enforcement agencies.
Over the last two decades, the Register has developed into an increasingly essential part of art investigation worldwide. Like Batman, however, the Register has its supporters and its dissenters. As Kate Taylor and Lorne Manly recently reported in The New York Times, the Register is subject to much criticism. The title of their article aptly states how the Register has been “Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines”.
While billions of dollars’ worth of art is stolen every year law enforcement often has too few resources to prioritize its recovery; the Register acts to fill that void. The Register has used its private database to recover more than $250 million worth of art. The company has, however, drawn criticism for its “hardball” tactics, with some claiming that its methods push both ethical and legal boundaries. Of considerable concern is how the Register earns fees from insurers and victims of theft by acting as a “bounty hunter”. The Register approaches potential clients offering its services to track down their stolen work, in addition to collecting fees both from victims of theft who wish to list their stolen items and from dealers, collectors, and insurers who wish to search the database to check that a work is “clean”.
The Register essentially leverages its knowledge, disclosing the information stored within its private database in order to turn profits. Many would argue that this information should be given over to official authorities. People continue to use the Register for one very apparent reason—lack of alternatives. Lack of profitability and harsh criticism, however, leave the future of the Register uncertain.
There is a desperate need for a business like the Art Loss Register to police the Art Market—which is highly lucrative but often unregulated. There are the sole detectives in New York City and Los Angeles dedicated to art crime, the team of fourteen agents with specialized training with F.B.I., and the three officers of the Scotland Yard’s arts and antiquities unit. The lack of manpower as well as the databases managed by the Scotland Yard, Interpol and F.B.I. are not sufficient. What alternatives are there?

Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Nefarious Underside of the Art World (Part II)

Ducal Palace in Urbino: In 1975 two Piero della Francesco paintings and a Raphael were cut from their frames and stolen. The culprits were uncovered as local criminals planning to sell the paintings on the international market. The paintings were recovered in Switzerland a year later.blog_image-20130902
Marmottan Museum in Paris: The 1985 theft of nine paintings—including Renoir’s “Bathers” and Monet’s “Impression, Soleil Levant”—was orchestrated by the Japanese mob (the Yakuza). The artworks, however, were too “hot” to sell immediately. The paintings were recovered in Corsica in 1991.
Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology: On Christmas Eve, 1985, 140 precious objects were stolen. Whether it was lack of vigilance by the guards, or the broken alarm system, the thieves managed to enter the museum and remove the sheets of glass from seven showcases. The majority of the objects were recovered five years later.
Manhattan branch of London dealer Colnaghi: In 1988 a skylight maneuver and a rope led to the theft of 18 paintings and 10 drawings, a haul estimated at $6 to $10 million—making it New York’s largest art heist.
Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo, Holland: Three van Goghs were stolen in 1988. This theft highlighted the link between art theft and the art market: two weeks earlier, Sotheby’s and Christie’s had published a list of top prices paid for art; the list included five van Goghs among the top ten.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston: St. Patrick’s Day in 1990 saw one of the most intriguing “unsolved” spectacular art heists in history. On that fateful day, two men in police uniforms knocked on the side door of the Boston museum and made off with artworks valued at $300 million.
The Buehrle Collection in Zurich, Switzerland: On a Sunday afternoon in 2008, three men in ski masks held up museum employees with a pistol, snatched artwork off the walls, and made off in a getaway vehicle. Among the absconded works were pieces by van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, and Degas. Estimated value: more than $163 million.
These crimes do make for great stories; however, one cannot forget that they are, in fact, crimes. And while it seems we are moving away from the catsuits and getaway cars, illegal activities are still rampant in the art market. Would the press portray James Meyer’s story differently if he had pulled an Ocean’s Twelve and used contortionist moves to bypass museum sensors? Or if he had had a speedboat revved up, ready to disappear into the night? How does society’s romanticizing of these “Blockbuster Crimes” affect Art Crime?
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Nefarious Underside of the Art World (Part I)

After 27 years of working for “Pop Art master” Jasper Johns, his assistant James Meyer has been arrested for stealing at least twenty-two works from his employer and selling them through an anonymous New York art gallery. Patricia Cohen reported in The New York Times that Mr. Meyer has been charged with stealing $6.5 million worth of Jasper Johns artwork.
Mr. Meyer is an artist himself and has spoken about how lucky he felt to be mentored by an art icon of the 20th century. Prior to working for Jasper Johns, Mr. Meyer made a career of painting knockoffs of van Gogh and Matisse at $6 an hour. So how did Mr. Meyer come to pocket $3.4 million? Mr. Meyer pulled off his heist by falsely telling the dealer andblog_image-20130901buyers that Mr. Johns had given the works to him as presents. Purchasers were under an agreement to keep the art private for at least eight years—not to exhibit it or resell it.
The nefarious underside of the art world is of indescribable interest and intrigue; this current scandal is just one of countless “heists” that have occurred throughout history. Where does this specific case fall in the ranking? According to a 2008 article posted by Forbes, the following are considered (a selection of) “The World’s Greatest Art Heists”:
The Mona Lisa: In 1911, Eduardo de Valfierno paid three men to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris. The famous da Vinci painting was discovered in Italy, and returned to the Louvre.
“Portrait of the Duke of Wellington”: This Goya painting was heading stateside after its purchase by a rich American collector in 1961 when the government managed to raise the necessary funds to keep it in London. Less than three weeks after the painting was hung in the National Gallery, it was stolen and held for ransom (purported to go to charity). The painting was returned voluntarily four years later by the thief, Kempton Bunton.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Online Art Sales

As of last week one can officially “Shop Art” on Amazon Art (http://www.amazon.com/b/?node=6685269011), Amazon’s new cyber art market that includes all of its traditional search features; one can now use Amazon to browse artwork for sale by Featured Artist, Department, Subject, Style, Price, Frame Type, Size, Orientation, Color, and—of course—Amazon Prime eligibility.blog_image-20130801
Patricia Cohen of The New York Times reports on how customers can now use this online retailer to purchase original and limited-edition works of art from more than 150 dealers and 4,500 artists, with prices ranging from $10 to $4.85 million. As Cohen reports in her article “Amazon Re-Enters Online Art Market,” Peter Faricy—VP for the Amazon Marketplace—has stated that “Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers.” Could it be possible that online art sales will become the new norm?
While the ability to purchase a piece high-end artwork—say, a Warhol—from the comfort of one’s home does hold a certain appeal, there are many potential pitfalls. As archaeologist Charles Stannish (Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; Professor at UCLA) points out, “You take away that gatekeeping function of museums and auction houses, of course it opens it up to abuse”. A recent example is seen in last month’s eBay auction—by two sellers—of the “real” Schindler’s list. The opacity of online auctions always should trigger warning bells and flashing signs of “Buyer Beware.”
What implications does the growth of cyber art sales have for the perceived value of works of art, or for the networks of illicit trade? Beyond matters of legal title to artwork, issues of authenticity are sure to arise. Amazon, for instance, is not providing an “ironclad guarantee” of authenticity; as Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh has stated, the company is “working with prestigious galleries and dealers” to ensure quality, and will investigate any potential problems and “take appropriate action.” A skeptical eyebrow ought to be raised in response—what sorts of “potential problems” should we expect? And what sorts of repercussions? A broadened cyber art market may indeed bring more attention to artists and greater accessibility of art to millions, but it also provides a forum in which cases of fraud and illicit sales can grow exponentially.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jul. 07 - Jul. 13)

Nigeria promotes protection and learning of cultural heritage
In politics, in Nigeria, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments has increased community participation in museums across the country. Nigeria and China signed an Agreement for the Prevention of the Theft, Illicit Import and Export of Cultural Property.
In a crossover of politics and economics, a migration of weavers to Afghanistan and Lahore has significantly decreased exports from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Sri Lanka, reportedly, the LTTE created a “fictional archaeology”. In the Dominican Republic, the International Council of Museums launched a listing of the country’s cultural heritage.
In economics, in the Middle East, Christie’s plans an on-line only sale of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian, and Turkish art. In New Mexico, the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market launched including economic and social initiatives. In Iran, art sales in Tehran reflect disparity of wealth.
In a crossover of economics and security, Forbes reported that “High-end art is one of the most manipulated markets in the world”.
In security, in Egypt, national treasures remain at risk during the political unrest.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jun. 30 - Jul. 06)

Syrian cultural heritage still at risk while contemporary art market thrives
In politics, the basis for repatriation of cultural property from museums does not always depend on proof of provenance. NAGPRA supports return of Native American human remains to tribes. The Sultanate of Oman has been elected as a member of the Arabian group in the permanent committee of the 1970 Convention for Protection of Cultural Property. Cultural heritage conservation bridges the arts and the sciences.
-In a crossover of politics and security, Azerbaijan participated in a UNESCO discussion on issues of the illegal import and export of cultural property and prevention of the illegal transfer of copyright. In the United States, museums are accused of blocking and delaying restitution claims. Nigeria and China signed an agreement for the prevention of the theft, illicit import and export of cultural property.
In economics, in Czech Republic, the art market recorded a record turnover. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s report that the market for contemporary art is increasingly global. Amazon may re-enter the on-line art market.
In a crossover of economics and security, Nepal Police are coordinating with the Department of Archaeology (DoA) to collect evidence on antiques that are being sold a Christie’s in the United States and United Kingdom.
In security, in Syria, cultural heritage sites remain threatened by looters and shelling. In Italy, police tracked and arrested looters in Perugia.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Amazon’s Virtual Art Market

The Internet has become a marketplace for virtually everything a person might wish to purchase.  The online sale of expensive contemporary art, however, has yet to take off. This may change if Amazon opens its “doors” to a new online art market. The recent New York Times article by reporter Randy Kennedy, “Amazon is Poised to Re-Enter Web Art Market,” discusses this issue.
As the article describes, Sotheby’s and Artnet both have tried and failed at the online sale of artworks back in the late 1990s; at the time, it appeared that buyers were not yet ready to pay the five or six figure prices for works they had not viewed in person. Now, however, a new player has entered the field: Amazon.  According to The New York Times, Amazon has been in discussion with various galleries regarding the proposition of offering contemporary and other fine art in its virtual marketplace.
At this point in time it is unclear whether Amazon will go through with this art venture. The Art Newspaper reports that an Amazon spokesperson has stated that Amazon has “no comment” regarding this plan. A number of the galleries involved, however, have revealed that the sales might begin this month, and that Amazon will be charging the seller a commission of 5-20%. 
While it is yet to be determined what sorts of art—lower-end or higher- end sales—Amazon will focus on, surveys indicate that collectors are becoming increasingly willing to buy online. One survey, released in April by the international insurance company Hiscox, reveals that, of the upwards of 200 collectors questioned, approximately two-thirds had purchased art online and that a quarter had spent $75,000 or more on works from online sellers or for which they had only seen the JPEGS sent by galleries. Should Amazon go through with its art venture, it would be joining up with other established players in the online market, such as Artsy, Paddle8, Artnet, and Artspace.
The New York Times’ article describes how “The growth of online sales has been fueled primarily by three factors: a broadening base of art collectors around the world; a much greater willingness by those people, both veteran collectors and newcomers, to trust online transactions and buy works after seeing only pictures of them; and a huge amount of inventory in the storehouses of galleries, as a growing number of art fairs and other exhibitions leads to more artists making ever more work.” Does a wider web-based market further commodify artworks? If Amazon succeeds with its online sale of artworks, how could such an economic shift impact the art market? Trends in art sales? The Auction House? Could the virtual art marketplace change how collectors perceive, and why collectors collect, works of art?
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jun. 23 - Jun. 29)

Intertwining of politics and security of cultural property
In politics, in Korea, the case of the Buddha statue that was stolen from Japan and maybe retained reflects broader ambitions of repatriation of cultural property. In Afghanistan, the Minister for Information and Culture received an arms antiquity from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. An article reviewed the question of the Benin Bronzes still at large. In Iran, authorities welcomed easing of UN sanctions on trading in Iraqi cultural property.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Iraq, cultural heritage sites remain at risk despite severe laws that can carry the death penalty. Also, an article suggests that less overt trading of antiquities from Iraq may indicate that the market is moving underground. The World Heritage Committee voted to adopt a Jordanian resolution on the protection of Palestinian cultural heritage in Jerusalem. In Peru, Unasar ministers met to declare a commitment on countering trafficking in cultural property. In Egypt, intellectuals organized groups to visit archaeological sites, monuments, and museums to raise awareness for protection most recently in the Zamalek district of Cairo. In Peru, archaeologists kept the excavation of a Wari tomb a secret to lower the risk of looting.
In economics, in Hong Kong, foreign auction houses, such as Christie’s, and art fairs show increasing interest in establishing offices and events. Articles revisited the practicality or risk of art as an alternative investment.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Australia, reportedly the National Gallery sold a 1000-year-old bronze Shiva statue to help finance the $5-million larger Shiva from Subhash Kapoor. In Syria, looters continue to exploit instability to smuggle cultural objects.
In security, in Sri Lanka, organized gangs continue to loot archaeological sites. In Italy, police recovered a cache of Etruscan artifacts including funerary urns, bronze weapons, and other objects. In Egypt, authorities feared planned looting by organized thieves during protests at the end of the month. At the same time, police seized smuggled artifacts from Peru.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jun. 16 - Jun. 22)

Increasing influence of “cultural power”
In politics, in Australia, the National Gallery of Australia released a statement on due diligence practiced in the acquisition of objects now in question. In Egypt, the Supreme Council of Antiquities is making calls for European museums to return artifacts. In Cambodia, the Sultanate of Oman took part in the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. In Germany, news reports criticized Vladimir Putin’s resistance to discussing the return of World War II looted artworks with Angela Merkel.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front R) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (front L) visit the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, June 21, 2013. REUTERS-Anatoly Maltsev-PoolIn a crossover of politics and security, in Egypt, archaeologists speak out against looting by armed groups at cultural sites, while selling of looted objects occurs openly in cities. In Russia, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations collaborated with local law enforcement to recover cultural documents. In the United Kingdom, one opinion stresses the importance of cultural power as a long-term strategy in international relations as recognized by other nations. Belarus and Azerbaijan ratified agreements on combating theft of cultural property.
In economics, in Switzerland, souring prices at Art Basel demonstrate ultra-high net worth individuals competing for the same works, while increased interest at art auctions in general might indicate a pending economic slump. In the United Kingdom, a Sotheby’s auction pulled in $164 million including the sale of a painting by Monet for $30.5 million.
Roman ruins of Palmyra, 220 kms northeast of the Syrian capital DamascusIn a crossover of economics and security, in Germany, an art historian argues that market for forged paintings has increased with general interest in art, while in Wiesbaden, a forgery ring is under investigation.
In security, in Syria, UNESCO placed several sites of cultural significance on the list of endangered World Heritage sites. In Libya, several citizens were honored for disrupting smuggling and returning artifacts to Sabratha. In Egypt, stringent laws on the antiquities are in review. In the United States, Afghan students completed a Department of Homeland Security law enforcement course as part of training to become a member of Homeland Security Investigations.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jun. 09 - Jun. 15)

Egypt struggles to contain looting
In politics, in Tasmania, the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is banking on shock-art. In New York, the Met returned two 10th-century statues to Cambodia. In New York, Homeland Security Investigations tracked down the diaries of Alfred Rosenberg, who was a top aide to Adolf Hitler.
In a crossover of politics and security, Botswana has joined the fight against trafficking of cultural property. In Egypt, the Ministries of Antiquities and Interior cooperate to protect monuments. In Australia, the National Gallery of Australia is being pressed on acquisition policy. In Jordan, an unusual case of looters reporting on an archaeological find alerted the Department of Antiquities to a Byzantine Church.
In economics, in Turkey, the success of the Istanbul biennial indicates rising cultural power. In Switzerland, sales at Art Basel indicated that post-war and contemporary art is an increasing investment choice for billionaires. Two web art auction companies have substantial financial backing.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Paris, only antiquities with well vetted provenance receive bids at auction. In Egypt, looting continues by armed gangs.
In security, in Canada, for the first time, a conviction was made based on the National Parks Act. In Maryland, the Baltimore Museum of Art claimed legal ownership of a stolen Renoir painting that was subsequently found in a flea market. In New York, U.S. authorities issued an arrest warrant for Subhash Kapoor. Peru continues vigilance in disrupting trafficking in cultural property with searches at post offices.
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cultural Security News (Jun. 02 - Jun. 08)

Cultural property in Australia, indigenous and illicitly imported
In politics, in Germany, the return of human remains to nations of origin has the potential to increase calls for repatriation of art, antiquities, and other cultural property. In Egypt, the director-general of the Repatriation of Antiquities Department resigned over lack of cooperation by other departments.
The right place for Indigenous artIn a crossover of politics and economics, in Australia, an initiative seeks to gain the same level of distinction for indigenous art as for non-indigenous art in historical and contemporary exhibitions.
In a crossover of politics and security, in the Holy Land, cultural heritage sites that lie in regions of conflicting Israeli-Palestinian jurisdictions suffer from neglect. China seeks to preserve the language internationally by determining when and how translation might occur. In Turkey, police clashed with protesters over the planned demolition of the park in Taksim Square.
In economics, in India, the government turns to the option corporate donors for preservation of cultural heritage sites in exchange for promotional opportunities. In the UK, Christie’s announced the upcoming sale of the estate of T. S. Eliot. In Lebanon, the Beirut Art Fair for 2013 has the potential to further strengthen the contemporary art market in the Middle East.
quran manuscriptIn a crossover of economics and security, in France, Egypt requested that an auction house halt the sale of a Quran manuscript. In the West Bank, the family that holds the remaining fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls intends to sell the artifacts, while Israel claims rightful ownership.
In security, in Sri Lanka, the Antiquities Protection Division reported the attempted smuggling of rare artifacts. In Egypt, sales of looted antiquities, reportedly, goes undeterred in public spaces. In Australia, evidence has been retrieved on the purchase of $3.8 million in antiquities from the Indian smuggler, Subhash Kapoor. In Mali, UNESCO reports that damage to Timbuktu by insurgents is greater that first assessed.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cultural Security News (May 26 - Jun. 01)

In Egypt, Islamic antiquities and Roman artifacts at risk
In politics, in the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts emphasized the need for scholars in conservation and rehabilitation of cultural heritage. New Mexico recognized President Obama in designating new national monuments. Japan returned a Buddhist painting to South Korea after 420 years. Germany reexamines treatment and return of human remains from museums.
Ancient artefacts are seen on display in this photograph distributed by the police after the arrest of three people who had stolen them from a museum in Ancient Olympia (Reuters)In a crossover of politics and security, in the West Bank, reports emerged of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls going up for sale. In Egypt, bulldozing of an historic gate in Islamic old Cairo and Chinese graffiti on Pharaohnic temples illustrate the threat to cultural heritage in the nation. Germany repatriated a large cache of Nazi-acquired antiquities to Greece. In India, the culture minister plans to redraft the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972.
In economics, in New York, Christie’s anticipated increased interest in Latin America contemporary art. Hong Kong remains a primary source of wealth and infrastructure for the art market despite a correction in China’s market share.
In a crossover of economics and security, in China, reportedly designation of Uyghur shrines as cultural property is intended to reduce the religious significance as part of strategy to control the oil-rich region.
In security, in Egypt, Islamic antiquities suffer looting in Cairo, and a Roman temple in Qena has suffered looting and environmental damage. In Australia, the director of the National Gallery confirmed involvement with the international smuggler, Subhash Kapoor. In Ireland, a medieval stone window-frame was stolen from national monument on Lake Garadice.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cultural Heritage: Victimized

We have witnessed countless instances in which cultural property has been the victim of armed conflict: the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001, the sacking of the Iraqi museums in 2003, the destruction of the Sufi shrines in Mali in 2012, and of course the looting of artifacts to fund wartime endeavors, which is currently occurring in Syria. The cases in which cultural heritage has been specifically targeted or has been a casualty of conflict are innumerable.  The political clout and economic value of patrimony make it a bull's eye.
But we cannot overlook that cultural heritage also can be a victim during peaceful times, and can be a victim of the nation it represents. This month, a construction company demolished a Maya temple in Noh Mul, an ancient city complex in Belize. The temple was more than two thousand years old, and likely took a thousand years to build from hand-cut limestone; in two days, the temple was reduced to rubble by backhoes and bulldozers.  The temple was the “nearest and handiest source of aggregate” for roads in need of paving.
The owner of the construction company contracted for the road upgrades states that the local landowner gave permission to excavate; apparently material has been taken from the temple mound for over a decade.  He describes the loss of the temple as an “unfortunate incident.”
While Belize has legislation in place to prevent harming of ancient monuments, these statutes are outdated and lack any serious penalty for violators. The deputy prime minister of Gaspar Vaga, who represents the area, has stated that he is “outraged by the wanton destruction,” and wants a full investigation and prosecution of the contractor.
We tend to focus on the destruction of cultural heritage by enemy forces, and the lack of protection provided to such patrimony; we cannot, however, forget that patrimony often is destroyed by the very people it represents.  It does not always take conflict or times of upheaval to victimize patrimony.  Looting of one’s own cultural patrimony is an on-going issue, as citizens see the artifacts in their backyards as a means of income – survival comes first.  The problems in these instances run too deep to simply be fixed by stricter laws and regulations preventing illicit digging and the sale of artifacts.  And in such cases when one chooses to intentionally demolish one’s own heritage? What rules can be put in place—and enforced—to prevent such intentional destruction if the “owner” of the “property” chooses to destroy it?
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cultural Security News (May 19 - May 25)

Market competition and record returns
In politics, in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art elected to repatriate a pair of statues to Cambodia. In Israel, a delegation from UNESCO inspected the preservation work in the Old City of Occupied Jerusalem. In India, an article asserted that not all Indian artifacts in foreign collections were necessarily stolen and, correspondingly, advocated for revision of the Antiquities and Treasures Act of 1972. Museums of human remains worldwide are realizing the potential recall of items to nations origin.
In a crossover of politics and security, Cambodia stepped up calls for return of cultural property. In Africa, Professor Kwesi Kwaa Prah asserted the importance of preserving native languages. In Egypt, the former minister of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, is still fighting legal trouble, which includes alleged illicit shipments of antiquities. In the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection returned hundreds of ancient coins to the Bulgarian Ambassador.
In economics, in the art market, speculation on a bubble, investment potential, and mergers of on-line enterprises continued. Artprice indicated an exponential increase in the number of players in the worldwide art market. In Hong Kong, the first Basel art fair illustrated the increasing competition in the art market in China. In France, a former gallery owner remarked on the challenges of operating locally in an increasingly global market.
In a crossover of economics and security, in the United States, a raid on museums in 2008 for illicit holdings of cultural artifacts has incurred high costs relative to the number of convictions. In Europe, a multidisciplinary team will visit the 14 most endangered European Heritage Sites. An article in Rutgers Law Review advocated replacing restitution for fine art with prosecution as with antiquities.
In security, in Syria, the Manger of Museums reportedly asserted that smuggling of looted artifacts has turned into stealing from museums through collaboration with Turkish, Lebanese, and Iraqi nations. In Sri Lanka, reports of artifact thefts are on the rise. In Ireland, indicated that archaeological sites are not safe after the recovery of a hoard of hundreds of historical items. A former Scotland Yard detective, Richard Ellis, asserted the risk of stolen art serving as collateral in transactions for arms and drugs. In New York, a dealer was indicted for selling forgeries of artists such as de Kooning, Pollock, and Rothko to the Knoedler and other galleries.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cultural Security News (May 12 - May 18)

Czech forgeries, Greek reparations, Syrian smuggling
In politics, in India, the Charminar may not qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Illinois, Northwestern University prepares to return a letter of Napoleon Bonaparte’s family to France. In Arizona, Northern Arizona University encourages the education of Native Americans as archaeologists.
In a crossover of politics and security, Greece seeks reparations for World War II damage and return of looted antiquities. In Yemen, the Culture Minister sees cultural education as a countermeasure to extremist thought. Scrutiny of museum holding for illicitly acquired cultural artifacts intensifies. Cambodia continues the initiative to recall antiquities from foreign museums.
In economics, collectors from China seek bargains in the art market worldwide. In China, Shanghai angles for a greater share of the auction market by welcoming Christie’s to operate independently. Financial analysts continue warnings of a bubble in the art market and predictions of crash. In New York, Christie’s auction of contemporary art set a record at $495 million.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Czech Republic, forgeries have a significant presence in the art market. Art is revealed as an ideal means for laundering money. The head of the FBI Art Crime Team commented on the ease by which illicitly transferred fine art and antiquities pass into the legitimate market.
In security, Interpol has targeted the art collection of the Qaddafi family for potential seizure. In New York, the FBI raided an art gallery in relation to an investigation of money laundering. In Lebanon, police arrested Lebanese and Syrian nationals on smuggling of Syria antiquities.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Syria – “The Art of Civil War”

The impact of armed conflict on cultural heritage is once again highlighted by current events: the civil war in Syria. To add to the horror and destruction brought upon the Syrian population, the war is shattering Syria’s cultural heritage. A recent Foreign Policy article (“The Art of Civil War”) elaborates on how the conflict in Syria is affecting the country’s antiquities.
According to the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), the looting is more damaging than the fighting that is destroying mosques, old houses, and Crusader castles. As conflict has dragged on, looting of the country’s “archaeological treasure trove” (consisting of 35 museums and 10,000 archaeological sites) has become more commonplace. In the last decade alone prices for antiquities have increased tenfold, making the smuggling of antiquities to the prominent buyers (notably in Israel, Britain, and the United States) a lucrative venture.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), therefore, is using antiquities as currency – exchanging stolen Syrian patrimony for guns. Smuggler Abu Khader is noted as saying, “They give me antiquities, I give them guns.” Apparently, cuneiform tablets, Roman friezes and statues, and Byzantine coins are “particularly popular.”
Only 3% of Syria’s heritage sites remain outside the conflict zone, and all UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been affected by the war. Abdel-Karim, Director of the DGAM, states that Syria is endeavoring to minimize the damage to its heritage in an attempt to avoid repeating Iraq’s experience in 2003. One such effort is the closing of museums to the public and the movement of their collections to secure locations.
We are NOT doomed to repeat history.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cultural Security News (May 05 - May 11)

Kneeling Attendants return to Cambodia, a dinosaur returns to Mongolia.
In politics, in Latvia, the Mark Rothko Arts Centre opened in Daugavpils. In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to return statues to Cambodia. In Israel, excavations continue in Jerusalem to study the historical presence of Roman culture. In New York, Colgate University has agreed to return a collection of Aboriginal art to Australia.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Texas, the now famous case of a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton is coming to a conclusion as the fossil is being returned to Mongolia. Greece plans to bring a case against Germany for reparations for looting during World War II.
In economics, collectors from China are “scouring” the world for deals on art. In the United States, the spreading requirement of a master’s degree in fine art for a career as an artist has implications for student debt. In New York, art storage is turning into an industry.
In a crossover of economics and security, in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, collectors worldwide seek art insurance. In Syria, reports continue on the threat of trafficking in antiquities for weapons. Auctions for impressionist, modern, and contemporary art continue to thrive.
In security, in Libya, antiquities remain at risk of continued looting by international gangs. In Egypt, a court in Cairo extended the detention of Palestinians who had been arrested for smuggling of antiquities. In London, the case of looted Egyptian antiquities at Christie’s led to detaining a smuggling suspect.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cultural Security News (Apr. 28 - May 04)

Art as an investment? Repatriations gain momentum.
In politics, China persists in the repatriation of Chinese relics but acknowledges that long-terms efforts will be required. In the United Kingdom, academics convened to apply pressure on the government to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention. In Greece, a conference on repatriation of cultural property will take place at the Olympia Conference Center. Egypt challenged the sale of 200 objects at Bonham’s and succeeded in recovering some. Reportedly, the head of the United States National Archives has agreed to return the entire Jewish Archive to Iraq. In the United States, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will return a pair of statues to Cambodia.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Egypt, police claim to be put on trial for using lethal force in self-defense against criminal gangs who, in some cases, smuggle antiquities. Also, youths rallied against construction that threatens an ancient burial ground in Dahshour.
In economics, China not only has the second largest art market but also influences markets abroad such as in South Africa. In Sudan, the Ministry of Tourism advocates greater spending to develop the cultural-heritage assets of the nation. Reportedly, high net-worth individuals continue to seek out the art market as an alternative investment (Or do they?), but experts still point out the risks. On the other hand, an article speculated on the potential for the art market to serve as a model for other markets. In China, affordable art continues to expand.
AfghanistanIn a crossover of economics and security, in Afghanistan, controversy continued over development of the copper mine at Mes Aynak. The “cultural security” of China has prevailed in that filmmakers in Hollywood adapt productions for foreign release to show China in a favorable light and include scenes that feature actors from China.
In security, in the United States, a report indicates increasingly broader ramifications of criminal cases of art and cultural property. In Macedonia, police arrested seventeen suspected smugglers of antiquities. The Director-General of UNESCO once again warned of the damage of ongoing looting in Syria.
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Working on the definition for “Cultural Security”

At the end of March, the post “Working towards a definition for ‘Cultural Security’” offered groundwork on understanding the significance of the term in the 21st century. This week’s post takes another look at how to think about the relevance and significance of the role of culture in community, national, and international security. Comments on the post “What is Cultural Security?” on the Cultural Security blog from April provide insight.
The phrase “cultural power” seems to be gaining traction in the media. At the community level, a Native American Author, as a guest of “Moyers and Company,” discussed the lack of cultural power held by Indians in the United States. The interview happened to follow recent news on contested sales of Hopi masks in France.  At the intersection of the national and international levels, adaptation of Western film production indicates the cultural power of China. Recent news reported that Hollywood films cater to the audience in China by deliberately representing the nation in a favorable light and by adding scenes that feature actors in China. Apparently, China’s cultural security policy holds sway over Western marketing strategies.
Comments on the Cultural Security blog provided insight into power-sharing at the national level. As a specific example, Dr. Eugenie Samier discussed the challenge of preserving the representation of Arab culture in academic curricula in Dubai. Foreign branches of Western universities provide knowhow for economic development but lack integration of regional language and religious principles. The omission not only puts the national cultural at risk but also compromises the ultimate applicability of the academic training.
In summary, the concept of “cultural power” may help in understanding “cultural security.” Specifically, the relative influence, or political and economic power, of distinct cultures may shed light on the role of culture in security at the community, national and international level. In the past, cultural power seemed to derive from economic power, but in the present, as suggested by thoughts from Dubai, an established culture itself plays a fundamental role in the implementation of modern techniques for economic advancement.
Will culture become an independent, if not a primary, source of power in the 21st century?