27 December 2004

  
The N.Y. Office of Homeland Security I.C.E. returned a stolen antiquity to Yemen this month. This object, called the "South Arabian Alabaster Stele", was handed over to the Yemeni ambassador. The stele, which is from the 4th century A.D., was stolen from the Aden Museum in Yemen in 1994.

   This antiquity was recovered in New York after special agents from I.C.E. seized it during a raid on Phoenix Ancient Art, which is located at 47 E. 66th st. During this raid in December of 2003, the federal agents arrested the owner, Hicham Aboutaam, for knowingly importing an Iranian rhyton into the U.S. with falsified commercial invoices. Aboutaam was released on $500,000 bail and plead guilty in July 2004. Agents from I.C.E. began their investigation of Phoenix Ancient Art because it came to their attention that the owners were trafficking illicit antiquities. Hicham's brother, Ali Aboutaam, who run's Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva, Switzerland, was convicted in absentia in Egypt to 15 years in prison for an unrelated crime. Ali is still in Switzerland.

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Tuesday, 30 Nov. 2004

B.O.L.O.

   A painting by the 19th century French artist Theodore Chasseriau was stolen from the Adam William's Fine Art Gallery on East 78th St. in Manhattan. Two men, no description given to public, entered the gallery on Tues., Nov. 30, 2004, at 11.15 hrs; while one of the suspects distracted the gallery manager in conversation, the other strolled around the premise. The manager discovered Chasseriau's painting missing after the two had departed. The value of the painting was not made public at this time.

   The painting is of a topless, well figured woman being dressed by two other women. Chasseriau was known for his nudes, as well as his North African scenes.

   Any info regarding this crime, or requests for intermediary intervention, made be submitted as confidential info to our e-mail address posted on the Call Box page. All identities will be protected and respected.

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Saturday, 20 Nov. 2004

   After being closed for a lengthy period of time for a $425 million expansion, the Modern Museum of Art on 11 West 53rd St., has reopened its doors today. The reopening commemorates the museum's 75th anniversary. The expansion was designed by the architect Yoshio Taniguchi. The new admission fee for adults is $20, however, admission today is free.

   During the museum's temporary stay at 45-20 3rd St., Long Island City, Queens, several newsworthy events occurred, including the exciting block-buster exhibit Matisse/Picasso which was held from Feb/2003 until May/2003; and the 61 count RICO indictment filed in the Southern District, in which 24 defendants made up of a Genovese Crime Family capo, a Genovese soldier, 15 Family associates, and several union officials, were charged with loan sharking, extortion, racketeering, to name a few. This indictment is the result of conversations that were taped by the Feds with the use of a listening device that was planted on the MoMa construction site back in 2002.

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Thursday, 28 Oct. 2004

     18.00-20.00 Hrs:

   The International Foundation of Arts Research (IFAR) hosted an IFAR Evening at the NYU Institute of Fine Art on East 78th Street. The main topic was Art Loss in Iraq-An Update. The speakers were Bonnie Burnham, President of the World's Monuments Fund and John Russell, former senior advisor to the Ministry of Culture, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq (Mr. Russell is currently Chair, Critical Studies Dept., Massachusetts College of Art). The introduction was made by the executive director of IFAR, Dr. Sharon Flescher.

   Bonnie Burnham pointed out that the massive looting of archaeological sites is still a major problem in the poor Shia areas of the south, which is the area of the major, historic Sumerian cities. Ms. Burnham also noted that looting was already occurring at these sites during Saddam's regimes.

   Mr. Russell covered three main areas of concerns: recoveries of stolen museum items; site looting; and problems of development. In regards to the first problem he stated: "We don't know how many items (numeric figure) were stolen from the Iraq Museum, but by the Nov after the war ended, over 1000 museum objects were recovered." Approx. 5200 cylinder seals were stolen from the museum and the majority are still at large.

   Mr. Russell praised the efforts of Paolo Bettino who lived and worked in Iraq for 25 years. Bettino facilitated the recovery of over 820 objects, largely due to the trust and respect that he established amongst the Iraqi people over the years.

   Mr. Russell also praised the Italian conservators who reported to the Iraqi Museum, as well as the Italian Carabinieri's efforts at site looting intervention. Russell said:" The Italian conservators went to Iraq, set up labs, and began training many Iraqis." "The Italian Carabinieri were the only coalition forces who truly attempted to fight site looting. They appeared to be the only people who cared. When they were car bombed in November, their efforts stopped for some time."

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Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004

     1800 hrs:

The International Foundation of the Arts held an IFAR Evening at the Dahesh Museum of Art on Madison Ave. Both Sharon Flescher and Kathleen Ferguson were the most gracious of hostesses of this interesting panel discussion, the main topic of which was Authenticity Issues in Photography. The speakers included:

  • Denise Bethel, senior VP & Director, Photographs Dept., Sothebys
  • Peter MacGill, Pres., Pace/MacGill Gallery
  • Steven Manford, Man Ray Research scholar
  • Richard L. Menschel, collector
  • Paul Messier, Conservator of Photographs
  • Pete Stern, Esq., of counsel, MacLaughlin & Stern, LLP
  • Kate Ware, curator of Photographs, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The topics included the changing marketplace, lawsuits involving Lewis Hine and ManRay photos, concepts of vintage and originality, and forensics (photograph papers, dating, etc.

Paul Messier gave a very interesting lecture in which he explained the difficulties in the authentication of photos. There are not any complete raisonné on any professional photographers which the experts can turn to. They must follow many leads and examine the works closely. Messier has begun a collection of hundreds of photograph papers and is confident that this will be a great asset in determining authenticity as well as age of photos.

One interesting moment was when the panel gave their various opinions on the definition of vintage. Kate Ware stated that many collectors hold the vintage photos of a photographer higher regard if they were printed at the same time as the shot was taken. Many photographer, on the other hand, emphasize that their abilities in printing get better with the years and sometimes prefer old photos that they print from negatives in their later years.

Another problem discussed was people who possess a photographer's negatives and continue to produce and sell the photos well after the artist's death.

The next IFAR Evening will be held on Thurday, Oct. 28, 2004 from 1800 - 2000 HRS. The topic that will be discussed will be "Art Loss in Iraq - An Update."

-cvs