The Connoisseur Art Thief
On 18 March 1990, at 01.24 hrs., two thieves dressed as Boston Police officers banged on the side door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They told the two young security guards that they were investigating a caller complaint of a disturbance and were permitted to enter. The guards were bound and gagged and the thieves stole $500 million worth of art, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. Fifteen years later this case is still unsolved and the paintings are still at large. The FBI has worked very hard over the years following numerous leads and questioning multiple suspects. Among this long list of suspects, two notorious New England art thieves stood out, Myles Connor and William P. Youngworth III. Their names were synonymous with art theft in New England and investigators didn't waste any time contacting them.
The two boldly stated that they could orchestrate the return of the art, but they demanded a promise of immunity as well as the $5 million reward that was being offered for the works return. The authorities refused to make deals due to several problems they faced- for one thing, there was a suspected Irish Republican Army link and US law enforcement is forbidden to deal with terrorists. Sequin problem, it was feared that if the thieves who stole the paintings received a large monetary reward, valuable paintings would get stolen in museums all across America. An impasse that has remained to this day. William Youngworth, who still claims he can assist in the art works return, is telling his story in a soon to be released book written by the author Eric Welle.
"The first time I met Billy, he was talking with a neighbor about the little league game he and his son had just come from," Eric Welle told me. "He helps coach the team and was still wearing the uniform. Not quite the man I envisioned when I sojourned out to Massachusetts to interview him. Despite the unseemly first impression, he has never ceased to suprise me since. One minute, he'll be talking about refurbishing an antique oak desk and the next, a job he and some friends pulled long ago. Billy's generous, thoughtful and humorous- always teasing and playing jokes. He's extremely clever and a veritable fountain of facts and minutiae regarding antiques and oriental rugs, as well as fine art. But it's his loyalty and code of honor that struck me most during my visits with him."
Welle continued: "The book I am writing is called Dirty Pictures for two reasons. One: the paintings taken from the Gardner museum were, at one time, hailed as the "dirtiest ever seen" by a renowned curator; two: the paintings spoiled and ruined a lot of lives- the majority of the people involved with the crime are dead or in jail. The book will be as much about Billy as it will be the crime and the paintings. Its something 99% of us can't even fathom, much less imagine."
When discussing the Gardner heist, everyone
talks about the value of the art, the reward, the details of the crime, the
politics, and the museum administration's failures, to name a few. No one
talks about the most important element in the story- the art! Many art
thieves study art more than the detectives who get assigned to investigate
their crimes. Many investigators admit that they never were knowledgeable
about art prior to receiving their stolen art assignments. In contrast, a
guy like Myles Connor is a voracious reader of art journals, books and
magazines. Time magazine once wrote that they believed he could run
While William states that the masterminds of the heist had talent, the crew who actually committed the Gardner heist were philistines, passing up more valuable works such as Titian's Rape of Europa for lesser works like drawings by Degas, and hacking two Rembrandts from their frames, one of which he claims is probably damaged beyond repair. When paintings are cut from their frames and have to be repaired, it poses a huge problem for the villains. A restorer has to be brought in on the job to reframe the paintings and repair any damage that occurred; this is a dangerous restoration job, because the criminals might just decide to silence him after his work is complete.
I have known William for some time now. In one of our first conversations I was confronted with his humorous nature that Welle described, when he stated : "I have no beef because a dudes a cop. Hey, cops and robbers. Same union just different locals."
CVS: Do you agree with me that art thieves are
better educated in art history then law enforcement?
CVS: Does that include the Gardner?
CVS: So what kind of art do you like? There is an
artist from Paris named Sophie Calle (one of my personal favorites) who did
a piece in 1991 called Last Scene. She photographed the empty frames in the
Gardner and framed the photos. Then she interviewed museum staff and
recorded their memories of the stolen works. These memories are written on
the text panels that are the same dimensions as the missing objects.
CVS: What about Italy?
CVS: And Rembrandt?
CVS: There is an article in the July 2005 issue of
the Smithsonian. Lets talk about it. In the article, the Director of the
Gardner Museum, Anne Hawley, stated that the people with info on the art
heist can bypass the Feds and go directly to her. Hawley promises she will
keep names anonymous. Do you think she can be trusted?
CVS: In the article, the respected British art
sleuth, Charles Hill, claims all roads lead to Eire. Hill believes the
people holding the artworks are real tough guys in the west of Ireland and
they don't know what to do with them. He claims James "Whitey" Bulger
transported the paintings to Ireland after he fled the U.S. In your opinion,
is there any truth to the 'wild Irish art-loving colonial boy' theory?
CVS: Charles Hill also claims the theft of the
Napoleonic flag staff eagle was a tribute of sorts to the French general who
tried to link up with Irish rebels against Britain. What about that eagle
getting lifted? Is it a big stretch that Napolean received a little street
respect in Boston?
CVS: What about the Bulger connection? Everyone is
focused on Whitey Bulger as if he was the only Irish underworld boss in
Massachusetts. Why isn't Joe Murray's connection to all this discussed more?
He allegedly told an FBI agent that he could get his hands on some stolen
CVS: Now for the $500 million dollar question: If
a cop like me wanted to recover the Gardner loot, what does he have to do?
17 Dec 2005 -
International terrorism and the trafficking of counterfeit garments,
The media coverage of the Marion True trial for dealing in illicit Italian antiquities has been great for raising public awareness amongst the American people of the huge trade in illicit antiquities. It has also raised the question: does the clandestine trade in illicit antiquities fund international terrorism?
cvs- Are international terrorist organizations such as AlQaeda involved in the illicit antiquities trade?
MvR- Unfortunately yes. It was already common knowledge for a long time amongst unscrupulous insiders in the artworld that part of the funding for these fanatical murderers came from illicit art dealings.
To read the entire article please visit out Illicit Antiquities [here]
7 Dec 2005- Twenty
thousand police officers attended the funeral of
Our prayers go out to the family of this New York City hero. He stopped a speeding driver on the street, was shot through the heart and chased the killer on foot despite his mortal wound. Stewart has been posthumously promoted to the rank of detective first-grade.
26 November 2005
- FBI Stings: Recovering Stolen History will be broadcast on the
Trafficking in stolen historic and cultural objects has become big business worldwide. More than $5 billion worth are stolen each year, with only about five per cent ever recovered. One agent in the FBI is in the forefront of efforts to recover these important legacies that bring our past to life.
Risking his life in an array of successful undercover operations, FBI Special Agent Bob Wittman has recovered over $150 million of art and artiifacts in a career spanning 18 years. Save Our History: FBI Stings dramatically brings to life a series of three of Wittman's sting operations that successfully recovered.
Wittman, in silhouette, recounts the fascinating details of each case, which we bring to life with reenactments, interviews and archival materials.
17 November 2005 - Art of the Scam
e.mail submitted by:
Art of the Scam
The Isabella Stewart
Gardner Museum was robbed of $500 million in precious art
more than 15 years ago. The theft remains unsolved and although, numerous
suspects have been
Billy was publicly connected to the theft in the summer of 1997, after a FBI informant finger-pointed him as the guy holding the loot. But this wasn’t the first time that they’d considered him a suspect. Three days after the theft, in March of 1990, two FBI agents visited him in the Federal Correctional Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was finishing a 3-year sentence. They started asking him questions about the heist, telling him there weren’t too many people who pulled this sort of job and that he and Myles Connor were at the top of their list.
Myles had received a similar visit. The FBI visited him just two days following the theft in a federal prison in Chicago, where he was awaiting trial for transporting stolen paintings (these were not the paintings taken from the ISG). Apparently, the bureau had a deep suspicion that one of, or both of the men, despite the fact that they were behind bars, had something to do with the biggest art heist in history.
By age 16, under the guiding wing of Myles Connor, Billy had already stolen several major paintings. In 1975, they hit the Mead Museum at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, swiping several paintings – The Interior of the New Church, by H.C. Van Vliet and St. John the Baptist, by Peter Lastman. Later that same year, Billy snatched a Rembrandt from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to win his protégé’s release from prison.
In the New England region, Myles Connor is tantamount to art theft. His first conviction was in 1966 for robbing the Forbes Museum in Milton, Massachusetts. In 1974, he was accused by authorities and pled guilty to stealing dozens of paintings from the Woolworth estate in Monmouth, Maine., but avoided a prison sentence because he “arranged” for the return of the Portrait of a Girl, Wearing A Gold Trimmed Cloak. Since then, every time a piece of art goes missing, Connor’s name is brought up.
Billy had already been identified by the FBI
informant and was in the beginning stages of negotiating a deal for the
paintings’ return, when he was set-up, as he claims, by a traitorous
At one point during the summer and autumn of that year, most everyone had taken a ride on the Youngworth bandwagon. The FBI, along with the US Attorney’s Office, held numerous meetings with him, but despite all their assurances, a blanket amnesty deal was never legitimately offered. The ISG museum sent several administrators to conduct a clandestine interview with Billy and retrieve the museum’s paintings through a back door deal. When it came time to ante up, however, and put the reward money in an escrow account, they too jumped off the bandwagon, deriding him publicly as a hoaxer who was after nothing but the reward.
Throughout all of it there seemed to be only one person who was a stalwart believer in Billy – believed so much, in fact, that he was willing to risk his own reputation. At least that’s what Tom Mashberg’s intentions appeared to be initially.
Mashberg wrote several articles about Billy to “smoke Billy out,” as he later put it. The articles were neither benign nor malicious. Mashberg made harmless claims, such as Billy was the caretaker of Connor’s property, which was where, it was rumored, the ISG’s paintings were hidden, and he wrote about the police raid on The Barn and the charges against Billy in an incriminating tone. Nothing but annoying half-truths and irksome misrepresentations, but the plan worked. It only took five articles and Billy was on the phone trying to straighten the facts out.
On August 10, six days following Mashberg’s first article, he wrote one that was very supportive of Billy’s plight. It was almost too fawning, however, flirting with partiality and bias. Whereas initially he scripted half-truths to force Billy into cooperating with the paper, he now slanted his articles to portray Billy as the victim of police harassment – an everyman’s man who’d done some stupid things that had gotten him in trouble when he was younger, and hence had straightened his life out.
Soon after, the Herald became Billy’s pulpit. Maintaining he could broker the return of the ISG art, Billy declared his demands: drop all of the charges pending against him, amnesty relating to all crimes involved in the ISG heist and the stolen artworks, and the $5 million reward. But via Mashberg’s articles, Billy’s platform seemed to evolve into flaunting. Mashberg spent more time recording Billy’s invective tantrums against the FBI and US Attorney’s Office, as well as the ISG museum, than he did reporting on any factual elements of the story. It was tabloid writing at its finest.
Both the ISG officials and the authorities shrank away from the public forum, trying to keep negotiations behind closed doors. Billy’s new public stance only served to increase their lambasting of him. They proclaimed there still wasn’t any proof he could do what he said he could. In Billy’s defense, however, how could he deliver proof without amnesty? As soon as he demonstrated any kind of control over the paintings whatsoever, he would be tossed into a federal penitentiary.
Then the infamous article “We’ve Seen It” was printed in which Mashberg claims he was driven to a remote warehouse in the late hours of the night by a confidential source and shown Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee. If they wanted proof, here it was.
“We’ve Seen It” was also a turning point in Tom Mashberg’s career and, in some ways, the attempted redemption of it. This was serious investigative journalism and in the process of imbedding himself into the story, he went from being a spectator on the sidelines to a player on the field.
The FBI publicly ridiculed it an elaborate hoax. Museum officials, on the other hand, were alarmingly intrigued. They invited Tom Mashberg into a closed door meeting in which he convinced them that what he had seen was the real thing, feeding them specific details, like the location of the signature and the repair job on the canvas. The ISG’s public stance changed dramatically and they demonstrated a sincere interest in moving forward with a deal with Billy. Then suddenly they retreated, demanding still more proof.
To push things along, Billy gives 25 photos of the paintings, along with a small bag of paint chips to Mashberg as verification he has control of the paintings. But both the FBI and the ISG deny the authenticity of the chips, as well as the photographs. Even if they would have believed, it was too late – Billy was already in prison behind the possession of a stolen vehicle conviction.
Mashberg, now that Billy was behind bars refusing to talk to anyone, became the liaison. He also kept things alive in his articles by contending the authenticity of the paint chips and challenging the FBI as to why they were so quick to dismiss them and refused to retest them.
But in March of 1998, seven months after he started reporting on Billy and aligning himself on Billy’s side, Mashberg began writing articles with a very different tone. Billy was now a career criminal and a con man, no longer a down-on-his-luck antiques dealer. Mashberg derided Billy’s credibility and accused him of doing nothing but making unconvincing excuses for not “moving forward” (with the negotiations for the return of the ISG art). Instead, Mashberg allies himself with Myles Connor, pushing Billy completely out of the picture.
Interestingly enough, that same month Mashberg had a feature article published in Vanity Fair in which he portrayed himself as a crucial element of the investigation due to his warehouse adventure. He admits that he and his editors had numerous conversations about the conflicts of interest in being both an unbiased reporter and a participant in the case. He even self-ingratiatingly dubs himself “a player.” But too many of the details and characters were new in this Vanity Fair article, previously unreported in all of his other articles, including “We’ve Seen It.” Was it just a little creative license, or did he withhold information and conceal the truth in the Herald articles?
Billy was not portrayed in the best light in the Vanity Fair article either. Mashberg called him a petty criminal and a drug user. Billy’s business went from a thriving antique store to a shabby antiques depot on the verge of bankruptcy. Mashberg went on to state that Billy was nothing but a secondary figure who inserted himself into criminal exploits, but feathered Connor’s hat, calling him a Robin Hood, depicting him a dignified, unlucky criminal – even though, it was Connor who had been prosecuted for killing two teenage girls, not Billy.
Now too, Tom Mashberg was doing some scheming and scamming. Apparently, his Herald articles were meant to dupe the pair into trusting him, into making them believe he knew they were holding the ISG stash. So Mashberg is confessing that he deceived, not only Billy and Myles, but also all of the Boston Herald’s readers.
In March of 2000, on the 10th anniversary of the ISG heist, Mashberg wrote an article in which he again defamed Billy, calling him a car thief, shady antiques dealer, and petty con artist. However, when August rolled around, as did Billy’s court-ordered early release, Mashberg began playing nice – there was no name-calling or harsh allegations.
But in 2004, after the 14th anniversary, Mashberg was back to portraying Billy as a notorious petty scam artist or low-rent scam artist, petty-grifter, small-time scammer, and even goes so far as to label him an informant without any supporting information. Mashberg derides Billy as a liar and a hoaxer, alleging he eked out a living claiming to have knowledge about the ISG heist. (Guess having your business ruined, going to prison, your wife dying and son being sent to foster care while your in prison is, in Tom’s eyes, a decent living.)
However, if looked at from another angle, Mashberg’s bias and vainglory can be seen more as a malady rather than mere exploitative, injurious behavior. It must be a disorder that plagues many journalists – sick and tired of being a rubbernecker who chronicles events, Mashberg wanted to become someone with import, someone with a legacy, someone people would want to remember. And ultimately, isn’t that what we all want?
After Billy got out of prison in 2000, he decided to get out and away from it all. He now lives the quiet life in a small, western Massachusetts town and considers himself to be extremely fortunate, compared to most of the guys who he knew and worked with in his heyday. These days, Billy keeps his mouth shut about the ISG loot, but if asked, says “I still know how to get my hands on it. If I need to.”
12 Nov 2005 -
The Italian Carabinieri's Tutela Patrimonio Culturale Storms the Beach in
Three archeological treasures were restituted to Italy by the Getty Museum: a Greek Krater painted by Asteas, a 6th century bc funeral stele, and a bronze Etruscan candelabrum were handed over to a delegation of the Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) and flown to Italy. The three items are of great historic, artistic, and scientific interest; the Getty Museum, fully aware of their illicit provenance, has decided to restitute them spontaneously to Italy.
We commend the Carabinieri's TPC for the unwavering stance they have taken in protecting Italy's cultural heritage and declare our profoundest respect for their hard work and superior investigative skills. They are undoubtedly the most elite international art theft investigators on the planet.
11 Nov 2005- Justice is Blind (and Deaf and Dumb)
Notorious art thief, Myles Connor, has been acquitted in a Natick jewelry store heist. Connor, 62 years of age, allegedly acted as a wheel man as his girlfriend's brother entered the jewelry store and stole $900 worth of watches.
Connor claims he didn't know the robbery had been committed and his girl's brother corroborated his story.
Connor claims he just gave her brother a ride to buy a gift. The jewelry store was 100 miles from his home.
18 October 2005 - For Given
The Rider project is: art in a moving truck. It is an opportunity for artists to gain professional visibility, maintain creative control, to exhibit in diverse locations, and explore art's link to positive social change.
The portable exhibit will be in Chelsea, NYC from Oct 18 - 22. The exhibit includes the participation of 14 artists, including the Dutch artist Vincent Boschma. The three artists of chance are Doron Hanoch, Jason Elsner, and Ryan Brown. Keep your eye on both Vincent Boschma and Ryan Brown! They are two of Manhattan's hot new emerging artists; you'll be hearing a lot about these guys.
For more info on the Rider project view: www.art-anon.org
23 Sept 2005- William P.Youngworth III
"...Eric (Eric Welle-author of Dirty Pictures; the book on Gardner Heist now in the works) told me that he came across some interesting research in this Matthew Hart's "The Irish Game". Apparently he interviews Myles (Connor) who tells him in this interview that it was he running out the door of the Boston MFA when the old retired Boston cop, then a security guard, grabbed him around the ankles and how one of the gang put a gun to the old guy's head, pulled the trigger and it misfired. Most of that story is very accurate. Except one small problem. That would be that Myles was in a prison cell when we stole the painting to get him out. It was 20 years later that I found out that he pocketed 30 grand from the insurance company behind my back. He is so full of shit! The guy who pulled the trigger of the misfiring gun was Dickie Corrigan. Mr. Corrigan mysteriously vanished one evening while last seen at a South Boston bar. The gun was a .22 revolver and I can see it like it was yesterday."
"Mr. Hart could have at least checked the fact of if Connor was even about his liberty when this happened. Then Hart said Martin Cahill robbed the Russborough House twice and it was the publicity from the Vermeer theft in Boston that fueled him to market the one stolen in the Russborough robbery. My information was that there was only one robbery. He first sold a Goya (I think) to some UVF guys who got popped with it in a sting then the remainder of the entire stash was recovered in some garage where they stored various swag. All this occurred prior to the Gardner robbery. I guess fact checking is not important anymore. The Vermeer in that theft was not found at some later point in a sting when he tried to sell it."
- WPYoungworth III
17 Sept 2005 - NY Artists Infiltrate Windy City's 15th Precinct
A new large scale work by Kristin Jones & Andrew Ginzel, Panopia, opened today at the new 15th District Police Station at 5701 West Madison Street, Chicago, Illinois. This amazing artwork was commissioned through the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program. The art work conveys a sense of observation, as well as communication between police and their colleagues and the police and the community that they valiantly serve and protect. The new precinct replaces the old precinct which was built in 1913.
The Jones & Ginzel web site is located on our links page. Also, refer to the Andrew Ginzel section of our NY Art Scene page for more info.
28 August 2005
- William P. Youngworth III and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
William P. Youngworth has given us a great
deal of insight, from his perspective, into the art heist at Boston's
Gardner Museum. William has shown us a lot of respect and we want to return
that respect by allowing him to voice his opinion on this site, so be on the
look out for future Gardner updates on YourBrushWithTheLaw.com.
Article by Leah Mullen
In September, the U.S. State Department will hold a public hearing to decide whether to renew a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that protects Italy's cultural heritage from destruction. The bilateral agreement, which went into effect in January 2001, expires early next year.
To support the continuation of the agreement, the organization SAFE (Saving
Antiquities for Everyone) has created an online letter writing campaign. "We
appeal to everyone, particularly Italian Americans, to
support Italy by sending a letter using the contact information provided on
the SAFE website. We intend to testify in Washington DC and show that
Americans DO care about preserving global heritage with
The looting of archaeological sites around the world has grown dramatically in the last several decades. Artifacts dug up from the ground are disappearing into the multi-million dollar black market antiquities trade at an alarming rate. "Ancient artifacts are the building blocks of human history. But the information they contain about how our ancestors lived can only be obtained through systematic archaeological study. When an object is looted, all of this information is lost. Looting and the illicit antiquities trade have put the world's shared cultural heritage in serious danger," Ho continued.
SAFE is dedicated to ending the destruction of our shared cultural heritage and undiscovered past by raising public awareness about global trade in illicit antiquities. A non-profit organization, SAFE creates educational programs and media campaigns to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage worldwide.
Italy's rich past and artistic traditions, stretching back thousands of years, have made it particularly vulnerable to looting. Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Byzantine artifacts have been admired and widely sought after by collectors around the world for many years. To satisfy this ever increasing demand, tens of thousands of tombs and sites have been plundered throughout the country, especially in southern Italy. According to Boston University archaeologist Ricardo J. Elia, "94.5 per cent of all Apulian vases have been unearthed without the benefit of systematic archaeological investigation." Elia concluded that 60% of all known Apulian vases are no longer in Italy. Along with Japan and Great Britain, The U.S. is the largest consumer of illegally obtained artifacts. The fact that it is against Italian law to export antiquities has made little difference.
To combat the situation, the US government has taken an important step. In
January 2001 Italy and the US entered into a reciprocal agreement whereby
the US agreed to restrict certain categories of Italian
archaeological material- dating from the 9th century BC to the 4th century
AD- from being imported without proper documentation. In turn, the Italian
government promised to increase collaboration with the US
by making loan-term loans of artifacts to American museums and universities
so that the public can learn more about Italy's heritage. Also as part of
the MOU, Italy arranged to allocate more resources for
"Italy's rich archaeological heritage was a central influence in the development of Western art and culture from the Renaissance to modern day," said Dr. Helena K. Finn, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Dr. Finn signed the MOU for the US. "The bilateral accord represents one way of expressing our respect for the gravity of the problem of archaeological looting, which despite Italy's role as a modern nation state, continues to cause destruction and loss at many national monuments."
Although the MOU has proven to be an effective deterrent over the last five years, looting in Italy continues to this day. The April 2003 issue of Dante News, a publication of the Dante Allighieri Society, featured an article "The Ransack of Italy's History." The author, Rory Carroll, interviewed a retired tombarolo (tomb raider) who described in detail the process whereby looters obtain and sell stolen antiquities.
Looting in Italy is not limited to professional tombaroli. According to Charles Vincent Sabba Jr, a police artist and professional artist in Manhattan, builders, farmers and fishermen also find artifacts on their land or at sea. "In many parts of the country, all you have to do is scratch the dirt and you can find precious items," said Sabba who is in full support of the MOU. "Unfortunately, some people are not keen on alerting these archaeological finds to the government; others purposely hunt the treasures to supplement their incomes."
SAFE organizers support the renewal of the bilateral agreement because they believe one of the keys to halting the widespread problem of looting in Italy is to disrupt the demad-supply chain. "The illicit trade in stolen antiquities is allowed to flourish," Caroll noted, "because dealers, collectors and museum curators have persuaded governments around the world to turn a blind eye." By signing the MOU and enforcing the bi-lateral treaty with Italy, says SAFE's Cindy Ho, "the US goverment has made an effort not to turn a blind eye to cultural destruction. It is essential that the agreement be renewed. Allowing the lapse will not only erase the progress achieved during the last five years, it will give an encouraging message to looters not only in Italy, but other parts of the world."
Please visit the SAFE website, located on our links page, and sign the online petition in support of the Memorandum.
Leah Mullen is a free-lance writer living in Bedford-Stuyvesant section of
di Leah Mullen
A settembre il Dipartimento di Stato degli Stati Uniti terra' un audizione pubblica per decidere se rinnovare il documento Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) che protegge il patrimonio culturale dell"Italia dalla distruzione. Questo accordo bilaterale effettivo dal Gennaio del 2001 scadra' all'inizio del prossimo anno.
Per sostenere la continuazione dell'accordo l'organizzazione SAFE -Saving Antiquities for Everyone (Salvare Antichita' per Tutti; sito web Url: www.savingantiquities.org ) ha creato una campagna di raccolta di petizioni scritte online. "Ci appelliamo a tutti, particolarmente gli italo-americani, di sostenere l'Italia inviando una lettera firmata seguendo l'istruzione fornita sul sito web. Intendiamo testimoniare in Washington DC per dimostrare che gli Americani ci tengono alla preservazione dell'eredita' mondiale con migliaia di lettere " ha detto il presidente del SAFE Cindy Ho. "E convincere il Dipartimento di Stato che il MOU deve essere rinnovato."
Il saccheggio di siti archeologici intorno al mondo e' cresciuto drammaticamente negli ultimi decenni. Gli oggetti scavati da sottoterra scompaiono nel multimiliardario commercio di antichita' al mercato nero ad un ritmo allarmante. "Gli oggetti antichi sono i mattoni della storia dell'umanita'. L'informazione che contengono riguardo a come i nostri antenati hanno vissuto puo' solo essere ottenuta attraverso sistematici studi archeologici. Quando un oggetto e' saccheggiato tutta l'informazione e' persa. Il saccheggio e il commercio di antichita' illecite hanno messo in serio pericolo il nostro patrimonio culturale mondiale," continua Ho.
SAFE e' dedicata a mettere fine alla distruzione della nostra condivisibile eredita culturale e l'inesplorato passato, cercando di aumentare la consapevolezza pubblica sul commercio globale di antichita illecite. SAFE, un'organizzazione senza scopo di lucro, crea programmi educativi e campagne attraverso i media per alzare la coscienza pubblica sull'importanza di preservare il patrimonio culturale del mondo.
Il ricco passato storico dell'Italia e le tradizioni artistiche di migliaia di anni l'hanno resa particolarmente vulnerabile al saccheggio. Antichi artifatti Etruschi, Greci, Romani, e Bizantini sono stati ammirati e largamente cercati da collezionisti di tutto il mondo per molti anni. Per soddisfare questa domanda sempre crescente, migliaia di tombe e siti sono stati trafugati in tutta la nazione specialmente nel Sud Italia. Secondo l'archeologo Ricardo J. Elia dell'Universita' di Boston il "94.5 % di tutti i vasi Pugliesi sono stati saccheggiati senza una sistematica investigazione archeologica," Elia ha concluso che il 60% dei vasi Pugliesi non sono piu' in Italia. Con il Giappone e la Gran Bretagna, gli Stati Uniti e' la nazione di consumatori piu' grande di oggetti ottenuti illegalmente. Il fatto che c'e' una legge italiana contro l'esportartazione di antichita ha fatto un po di differenza.
Per combattere la situazione, il governo americano ha preso un importante misura . Nel gennaio 2001 L'Italia e gli Stati Uniti hanno stipulato un accordo in cui gli USA hanno imposto delle restrizioni su alcune categorie di materiale archeologico dall'Italia, datato dal nono secolo A.C. al quarto secolo D.C. dall' essere importati senza l'appropriata documentazione. In ritorno il governo italiano ha promesso di aumentare la collaborazione con gli Stati Uniti facendo prestiti a lungo termine di oggetti ai musei ed alle universita' americane in modo che il pubblico puo' imparare di piu' sulla cultura storica dell'Italia. Anche come parte del MOU l'Italia ha stabilito di stanziare piu' risorse per la ricerca archeologica.
"Il ricco patrimonio archeologico dell'Italia e' stato di centrale influenza nello sviluppo dell'arte occidentale e della cultura dal Rinascimento ai nostri giorni," ha detto Dott. Helena K. Finn, l'attuale assistente della Segretaria di Stato per l'educazione e gli affari culturali. Dr. Finn ha firmato il MOU per gli Stati Uniti. "L'accordo bilaterale rappresenta un modo per esprimere il nostro rispetto alla gravita' del problema del saccheggio archeologico, che nonostante il ruolo dell'Italia di nazione moderna cio' continua a causare distruzione e perdita a molti monumenti nazionali."
Sebbene il MOU ha dimostrato di essere un deterrente effettivo negli ultimi cinque anni, il saccheggio in Italia continua a tutt'oggi. Nell'edizione dell Aprile 2003 di Dante News, una pubblicazione della societa' Dante Alighieri, c'era un articolo Il Saccheggio della Storia d'Italia . L'autore, Rory Carroll, ha intervistato un tombarolo in pensione , che ha descritto nel dettaglio i procedimenti con cui i saccheggiatori prendono e vendono antichite' rubate. "Il saccheggio in Italia non e' limitato solo ai tombaroli professionali," ha detto Charles Vincent Sabba, un poliziotto di arte forensica e artista professionale in Manhattan. "Anche costruttori, contadini, e pescatori trovano a volte oggetti sulla loro terra o in mare, e sfortunatamente alcune persone non allertano il governo di questi ritrovamenti ed altre invece cacciano di proposito questi tesori per aumentare le loro entrate. In molte parti d'Italia cio' che devi fare e' scavare un po' la terra e puoi trovare preziosi pezzi," ha dichiarato Sabba che appoggia completamente il MOU.
Gli organizzatori di SAFE sostengonoa pieno il rinnovo del contratto bilaterale perche' credono che una delle chiavi per fermare il problema largamente diffuso del saccheggio in Italia e' quello di interrompere la catena di domande e offerte. "Al commercio illecito di antichita' rubate e' permesso di prosperare," ha osservato Carroll, " perche' antiquari, collezionisti, e curatori di musei hanno persuaso governi intorno al mondo di chiudere un occhio." Firmando il MOU e rinforzando il trattato bilaterale con l'Italia, dice la responsabile SAFE Cindy Ho, "Il governo degli Stati Uniti ha fatto uno sforzo di non chiudere un occhio alla distruzione culturale. E' essenziale che l'accordo venga rinnovato. Permettere il suo collasso non solo cancellera' il progresso raggiunto in questi ultimi cinque anni ma inviera' un messaggio sbagliato incoraggiando i saccheggiatori non solo in Italia ma in altre parti del mondo."
Per sostenere lo sforzo dell'Italia di proteggere il suo patrimonio visita il sito web: savingantiquities.org e partecipa alla campagna di raccolta di lettere firmate.
Leah Mullen e' una giornalista indipendente che vive in Bedford-Styvesant sezione di Brooklyn. Visita il sito web di Leah: www.leahmullen.com.
Please view are update on the Isabella Stewart Gardner
7 July 2005 - Cowardly Terrorist Bombings in London
We would like to express our warmest condolences to the victim's of today's terrorist attacks, their families, as well as our support for the police and people of London. The citizens of London are a brave, resilient people who have a proud history of defiance in the face of evil aggression. Their swift response to the attacks, and their profound courage, is an inspiration to all peoples in this dangerous era.
In the wake of these cowardly attacks, we would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our Arab-American (and Islamic) citizens who are playing vital roles in defending the U.S.A. Many honorable citizens of Arab descent have taken positions within our armed forces, emergency services, and intelligence agencies. They are assisting in a wide variety of invaluable ways, from undercover operations, to concerned citizens passing information on the streets. Without them we could never win the war on terror. Instead of distrust and racial bias, our kind, generous Arab-American brothers and sisters deserve our respect and loyalty.
25 June 2005- Hot Off The Press
"The Rescue Artist- A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece" by Edward Dolnick, HarperCollins Publishers, NY; 2005. This is the incredible story of the theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's Scream, which was stolen in 1994.
Here at Your Brush With The Law, we hold the opinion that in the multi-billion dollar art world, the artist is the real hero. The artist is the foot soldier. The artist is also on the bottom of the food chain and gets eaten daily by the dirty operators and thieves who make the real money. Visual artists, who don't usually hold law enforcement personnel in the highest regard, should read this book; they will surely come to the conclusion that investigators like the highly respected Charley Hill, Dick Ellis, and Jim Hill, all formerly of the New Scotland Yard, are very much the art world's protectors and guardians.
24 June 2005- The Four C's of Crime- Cops,
Criminals, Cons, and Clowns
"Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief" by Bill Mason, Villard; 2005; ISBN: 1588361950, is one of the greatest books ever written by a true professional burglar. Mason, a true professional who pulled off his jobs without weapons or violence, shares with us many details about his high profile heists, which include celebrities homes such as Armand Hammer, Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Johnny Weismuler, to name just a few. It has often been stated that to be a good investigator, one has to think like a criminal. Mason's book provides us with insight into the inner workings of the mind of a master jewel thief.
Justinah Mcfadden's "Tainted Thought's On a Purple River" is a must read. The author is a poet and a proud member of the NYPD. It can be bought on Barnes and Noble.com...
18 June 2005- B.O.L.O. - Art Theft in Scottsdale, Arizona
Not only is Scottsdale, Arizona, the stomping ground of professional visual artists, wealthy collectors, art dealers, and forensic art specialists, such as the beautiful and charming crime-fighting team, Karen T. Taylor and Betty Pat Gatliff (who both teach at the Scottsdale Artists' School), it is frequented by low life art thieves as well.
More than $25,000 in bronze sculptures have been stolen from five different galleries on Main St in downtown Scottsdale by unidentified criminals over the past four months. The latest art theft was on May 31st, when a burglar stole a 2 ft tall bronze nude from the Gallery Elite. The sculpture "Elite" is worth $5000.
This crime spree started back on Feb 13th at Willow Gallery on Main St. The thieves broke in and attempted to steal a 6-ft-tall statue of a paperboy. It was moved 15 ft from its stand, before the culprits abandoned the job. This sculpture is worth $17,000.
Scottsdale's finest have stepped up the downtown details and are confident that the responsible parties will soon enjoy the accommodations of their Scottsdale, PD, holding tank. Happy hunting guys!
3 June 2005- Dali' in the City of Brotherly Love
The Dali' exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art closed on May 30th. This show coincided with the 2004 centenary celebration of the master painter's birth. Over 200 works were shown, some for the very first time in the United States of America.
2 June 2005- $$ Big Money Belt: Manet, Rembrandt, Degas $$
There is a $5 million dollar reward for info leading to the recovery of the artworks stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. There is also a $1 million dollar reward for info leading to the apprehension of the suspected possessor of these works, James "Whitey" Bulger, ex-Boston Irish Mob boss (one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives; has been in the wind since a "bad money" FBI agent tipped him off about a federal RICO charge he was going to be collared on).
This job, pulled off in 1990, has created numerous suspects, thousands of investigative leads, and many conspiracy stories, such as the "Harvard Conspiracy" ( Isabella Stewart Gardner specified in her will that if a portion of her collection is not on view at any time, the remainder of the works must be auctioned off in Paris and the proceeds given to Harvard U. A person of interest to investigators in the early months of the investigation was Rollin "Bump" Hadley, a disgruntled former director of the museum, who was forced to resign a little less than two years prior to the heist. Hadley was a Harvard grad).
Please keep an eye on our Gardner Heist link, located on our Crime Scenes and Capers page, for the update on this crime (will be posted sometime in June).
1 June 2005- $$$ Reward Offered For Stolen Munch Masterpieces $$$
The Oslo police have released a press release alerting the public that a NOK 2 million reward ($310,000 USD) has been offered by the City of Oslo for information leading to the recovery of the stolen Munch masterpieces "Madonna" and "The Scream".
The paintings were stolen by masked gunmen during a daylight raid on August 22, 2004 (refer to the "Scream" on our Crime Scenes and Capers page for further info on this case).
1 June 2005
We would like to recommend a great show to our web site visitors in Japan. Sex...in Art , from June 3 - June 30, at Galerie SH, B1F Sansho Bld., 3-2-9 Nihonbashi Chuo-ku Tokyo Japan. Featured artists: Betty Tompkins, Andy warhol, Thomas Ruff, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, and Vito Acconci.
Please keep an eye on our NY Art Scene page for the Betty Tompkins link that will be submitted this month.
27 May 2005 - Uei
Gio! In Bocca al Lupo!!!
This web site is dedicated to the visual arts, but I believe that culinary masters are artists, as well as musicians, dancers, poets, well, you get the point. Every thing that falls into the "Gioa di Vivere" philosophy. Eating good Northern Italian Cuisine accompanied by great wine definitely brings joy to life! I am proud to announce that New York City's greatest Italian chef, Giovanni "Gio" Pinato, has recently taken over the executive chef position at Remi, which is located at 145 west 53rd street (between 6th & 7th).
Giovanni "Gio" Pinato was born in Padova, Italy, and worked at Taverna del Colleoni in Bergamo and Excelsior Hotel in Venice. He came to N.Y. in 1985 and was head chef at Alo Alo and worked at Castellanos.
During this time he received alot of media attention including an appearance on Good Morning America. In 1990, he moved to Beverly Hills and worked at Bice Restaurant. When he returned to the Big Apple, he took over the kitchen at the exquisite Giovanni Ristorante, located at 47 West 55th st.
At Remi, Gio prepares classically graceful dishes that are extremely addictive! He is one of Manhattan's greatest assets.
26 May 2005- Detective Robert Volpe - From Brooklyn to Budapest
The esteemed veteran of art theft investigation in the U.S., retired NYPD detective, Robert Volpe, gave a lecture at the Salmagundi Club this evening (refer to the Robert Volpe link on our "Heat" page for further info on his valiant service to the Big Apple). Volpe discussed some of the adventures and life experiences he had as both an art theft investigator and an artist. He also showed slides of his incredible artwork.
The cultural property protection community can learn a lot from this man, but his most valuable lessons he shared were: " The true works of art are the people involved in your life. Making friends is the true art of living."
Please view our update on the Forensic Art page: Artwork of Sgt. Paul Moody of the Illinois State Police and Detective Chris Lawrence of Eire PD.
18 May 2005- The New F.B.I. Art Crime Team
The International Foundation of Art Research will be hosting an IFAR Evening on Wednesday, June 8, 2005, at the National Academy, 1083 Fifth Ave., New York. The honored guest speakers will be Senior Special Agent Robert K. Wittman and Special Agent Johanna M. Loonie, both are members of the F.B.I. Art Crime Team. Also speaking will be Jane A. Levine, Ass't U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, and Special Trial Counsel, FBI Art Crime Team.
Inquiries can be made directly to IFAR; the IFAR web site can be visited via our links page.
Elizabeth, N.J. is a tough, little, working class city that sits across from the N.Y.C. borough of Staten Island. Both the E.P.D., and the blue-collar populace they serve and protect, are experienced in dealing with a variety of underworld operators. The proud, hard-working Italians, of the Italian neighborhood known as "The Burg", have had to live side by side with traditional organized crime in the form of the DeCavalcante Crime Family, which was headed by its boss, John Riggi, now incarcerated in Marion, Il. The hispanic community has had to deal with both Peruvian and colombian drug cartels, who move large amounts of cocaine and heroin, and launder huge sums of dirty cash. In the public housing projects, the residents have had to survive amongst numerous street gangs, such as the Latin Kings, MS13, Bloods and Crips ( In past gang warfare at the housing projects known as the Pioneer homes, a police informant was decapitated). Although criminal minded people are abundant in this city, an art thief would have been impossible to locate amongst the mug shots of Elizabeth's criminals, and art thefts are never mentioned in the police blotters. However, there is always a first time for everything.
A 35 year old truck driver named Anthony Porcelli was charged with stealing an untitled acrylic-and-oil painting of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which was stolen from a warehouse at J.F.K. International Airport on May 4, 2005. porcelli was charged with first degree grand larceny and possession of stolen property and faces up to 25 years if convicted.
The painting was sold at Christies auction house in Manhattan in November for $1.5 million and was at the airport waiting to be shipped to its buyer in Rome.
Porcelli was making a delivery at the warehouse, where he had to show his driver's license to enter. The painting was in a 6ft by 7ft wooden crate and was labeled "painting". Porcelli's actions were caught on video surveillance tapes, which police tagged as evidence. Porcelli claims that he stole the painting out of spite, after he became angry at dock workers who made him wait to long. The painting was discovered by authorities hidden in the back of Cace Trucking's Elizabeth warehouse, which was the thief's place of employment. Bail was set at $30,000.
Joel Perlman's Tornado III, 1997; bronze, 14x14x14 inches
Machine Age at Kouros Gallery- May 12 - June 17;
8 Apr 2005 -
Stolen Georgia O'Keefe Painting is Still in the Wind
Santa Fe is a major center of contemporary art. This city, which Georgia O'Keefe made her home in the late 1940s, is home to museums, galleries, and alternative spaces. Santa Fe has a vibrant art market. Art thefts often accompany success in the art markets. Besides the "Special No. 21" job in Dec/2003, another Georgia O'Keefe painting was stolen in 2004 from the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. This painting was recovered and a museum security guard was arrested for the crime. Also in 2004, a painting by Joseph Henry Sharp "Jerry With Apache Bow", was stolen from Fenn Galleries. Keep an eye on our Crime Scenes and Capers page for future log entries on art crimes committed in Santa Fe.
Several other extremely healthy art markets exist in various parts of the United States and Canada. including Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Az., Toronto, Chicago, and Houston, to name a few. Art crime news from these cities will also be posted on Roll Call, Crime Scenes, and the Illicit Antiquities pages in the near future. Also: look for future coverage on the art scenes in these cultural centers.
1 Apr 2005 - Greater New York 2005
P.S.1, of Long Island City, NY, working jointly with the MoMA, is showcasing more than 160 artists from the NY area who have emerged since the year 2000. The exhibition started on Mar 13 and will run through Sept 26, 2005. The artists included in this show come from all five New York boroughs and north New Jersey.
Logical Conclusions at Pace Wildenstein
The show Logical Conclusions: 40 Years of Rule Based Art, at Pace Wildenstein gallery, 534 West 25th Street, will close on March 26th. This must see "historical" show is made up of 50 art works of many influential artists of the 20th century, including Josef Albers, Carl Andre, Chuck Close, Tara Donovan, Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Piero Manzoni, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol.
In 1921, Russian artists, such as Alexander Rodchenko, began experimenting with a new theory in art called constructivism. Instead of the centuries old practice of creating inspired illusions through academically accepted mediums, they created art works constructed with real objects, stressing a systematic design.
In the early 1950's, many artists were inspired by the foundations laid down by the Russians. Josef Albers, and many of his contemporaries, began creating art work based on structure and rules. Their innovations and experiments led to artists of the 1960s, such as Donald Judd, to develop many different logic-based systems to create their art objects.
This show is a historical investigation into artwork that held an important place in the evolution of contemporary art.
14 March 2005- Hey guys, happy hunting!
Eight agents have been assigned to the F.B.I's new specialized unit ACT (the National Art Crime Team). This first national art theft unit will join the ranks of other established, and well respected, elite art theft investigative units, such as the Italian Carabinieri's Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, and New Scotland Yard's Art & Antique Crime Intelligence Desk. This unit's senior investigator, special agent Robert Wittman, is based in Philadelphia; two agents have been assigned to America's cultural capital, New York City, and the others to various other areas in the mid west and west coast.
This team has already made important recoveries and has made the Gardner Heist its top priority case.
As Americans we are proud to have the F.B.I. taking the art crimes epidemic serious enough to utilize the necessary manpower and funds, and wish this team the best of luck. Happy Hunting!
THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Four junior officers of the highly respected Royal Canadian Mounted Police were gunned down during a raid on a marijuana grow house in rural Alberta. We would like to express our warmest condolences to our brothers and sisters north of our border.
A Chicago colleague of YourBrushWithTheLaw, Detective Luis Santoyo, has completed two composite drawings of the suspects in the murder of a federal judge's husband and mother in their North Side Chicago residence.
The Honorable Lefkow's loved ones were gunned down by a .22 cal. Chicago Police suspect the murder was related to Judge Lefkow's job.
Detective Luis Santoyo is a ten year veteran of the Cook's County Sheriff's Dept. and is their sole forensic artist. At the time of the homicides, Santoyo was attending an intensive forensic training course with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's elite graphic's unit at the F.B.I. Academy in Quantico, Va. The Detective was flown to Chicago that day and conducted his interviews with the witnesses the next morning. Refer to the Luis Santoyo link on our Forensic Art page for further info on this great asset to the Windy City.
Three adult males were arrested for vandalizing Christo's Gates today.
The 'Bozo the Clown Award' is given to three New Jersey men who were arrested for vandalizing The Gates in Central Park. The three were issued summons by the police at 01.30 am for being inside the park after closing. This occurred near East 62nd Street. After the men departed, police observed that they had signed their full names on one of the saffron-coloured gates. These three "rocket scientists" (that's cop jargon for idiots) were identified as Gregory Giarnitta, 18, of Parsippany, N.J., David Jones, 19, of Mine Hill, N.J., and John Leonard, 20, of Hackettstown, N.J. They were summoned to the 22nd precinct in Manhattan and arrested for criminal mischief.
This is the first arrest for vandalism since The Gates were unveiled. With the exception of the now famous "Art?" that was scrawled on one of the orange posts, vandalism to the Gates has been minimal; this is attributed to the NYPD's vigilance. The huge crowds of spectators, New Yorkers as well as tourists from all over the world, that have flocked to Central Park to view the Gates, have been respectful and enthusiastic about the art installation.
"The Gates" of Christo and Jean-Claude were unveiled in Central Park today.
Thousands of New Yorkers looked on as Mayor Bloomberg unfurled the first orange nylon curtain of Christo's and Jean-Claude's "The Gates". 7,532 gates stretch for 23 miles through Central Park and will remain for 14 days.
The Gates were conceived 26 years ago, but met with fierce resistance from the city government. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a friend of the arts in New York City and a personal friend of Christos, gave the duo his support in making their plans into reality.
The Gates will remain until Feb 27, 2005.
A Manhattan art dealer named Ely Sakhai, who owned a gallery in lower Manhattan, plead guilty in December of 2004 in Federal District Court in Manhattan to fraud charges. Sakhai's office manager, Houshi Sandjaby also plead guilty to involvement in this lucrative forgery scam.
For over a fifteen year time period, Sakhai bought several masterpieces painted by Monet, Chagall, and Gauguin, to name a few. Sakhai hired forgers to copy the masterpieces and then he sold both the originals and the fakes on different sides of the globe. Some originals were copied numerous times.
This audacious racket came to the authorities attention after both Sotheby's and Christie's offered the same painting, Gauguin's Vase de Fleurs, for auction at the same time in May 2000. Christie's admitted to having the fake and canceled the sale. Sotheby's possessed the original and sold it at auction, making $310,000 for Sakhai.
Sakhai was arrested by the Feds and charged with eight counts of fraud.
Sakhai will be sentenced on July 5, 2005 and faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine on one count of conspiracy; he faces a max of twenty years no parole in federal prison and a $2 million fine for one count of wire fraud.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!
are in order for Mr. Michael Chertoff, an Elizabeth, New Jersey native, who
was recently appointed to Direct the Dept. of Homeland Security. Mr.
Chertoff earned a reputation as a "Mob-buster" while serving as assistant
U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Manhattan and U.S. attorney in New
Jersey; He later served as a federal judge in Philadelphia. It is our hope
that this Harvard grad has enough class and culture to direct the proper
attention to the United State's huge illicit art and antiquities market.