24 Dec 2006


"La Patrona: Virgo Fidelis"; Oil on canvas, C.V. Sabba; 2006.

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22 Dec 2006 - 24 Hour Line

   Gallery Aferro has invited artist Ryan Brown to administer the creation of a “48 Hour Line” from 1/11/07 12:00pm to 1/13/07 12:00pm. For this entire period of 48 hours, Ryan, and colleagues from his artist collective ‘The 17th Street Tribe”, will be visible in the front window of the gallery. All are welcome to visit them, at any hour of day or night.


Ryan conducting his marathon non-stop lines

   “48 Hour Line” will involve continuously moving a pencil over the walls of the gallery’s front platform without stopping or lifting for forty-eight hours. The line will be made using large graphite sticks. In order to facilitate the transfer of the pencil between participants, it will be necessary for both people to handle the pencil simultaneously after which the passer will slowly remove his or her hand.


Ryan conducting his marathon non-stop lines

   Ryan has asked his colleagues in the 17th St Tribe Artist Coalition to assist him and share in the responsibility of keeping the project moving. Members of the community are also more than welcome to leave their mark. You may draw for one minute, or hours as you wish. During the entire performance, which will begin 1200pm Thursday Jan 11 and will conclude 12:00pm Saturday Jan 13, there will be an open call for volunteers who would like to contribute.


Ryan conducting his marathon non-stop lines

   This opportunity will serve as a means to establish a community of individuals who are intent on accomplishing a common goal.

   Due to the extended hours of the performance those who wish to sleep over must provide their own accommodations including sleeping mats, pillows, blankets, etc., as well as necessary food rations.


Ferry St: just walking distance from the Aferro gallery

   Gallery Aferro is located at 73 Market Street, Newark, New Jersey, just minutes from Manhattan by train. Newark is the new mecca of artists from New York, Jersey City and Hoboken and is a fast growing art scene. Newark is home to the Newark Artist’s Collective, several exhibition spaces, as well as WBGO, the only full time classic Jazz radio station in the New York area. One great plus of Gallery Aferro is close proximity (walking distance) from the Iberian culinary delights of the Portughese/Spanish neighborhood known as the IronBound.


Ironbound Iberian enclave: four blocks from Aferro Gallery

www.aferro.org  |  www.newarkarts.org  |  www.wbgo.org

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17 Dec 2006

   Gabriele “Il Vate” D’Annunzio stated “one must live their life as one creates a work of art.” Robert Volpe, who was an artist, an art lover, and a NYPD art theft investigator, lived his art and life in a seamless unity, never separating any aspect of his life or police job from his art. Indeed, if Il Vate’s life was a fine work of art, Robert’s life was a priceless masterpiece. He once stated that a cop’s beat was a stage and every shift was a spectacular event.  This can be seen in his many antics, such as the first time he met Salvador Dali’. Dali stared at Bobby and twirled the end of his handlebar moustache; “The Art Cop” in turn stared back, twirling his stylish moustache! Another example, recounted to me by Bobby, was when he was collecting junk on garbage nights to utilize in sculptures; Internal affairs followed him because they thought his “garbage picking” was unusual behavior; or when he was placed in a strategic surveillance position on the water front posing as an artist with an easel. The criminal targets moved and Bobby, hypnotized by the painting he was creating, missed the movement. Art was always his first priority.

read more in [english]  |  [italiano]
Full reprints of this text are available in our
Contemporary Art Section

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15 Dec 2006 - Congratulations Chopper! Christian "Chopper" Happel at his art exhibition on 21st St. Christian, who I refer to as "ChopShop", is a positive creative force in the world!


Chopper


"Chop Shop"

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15 Dec 2006 - 11 Spring St and Wooster Collective!

   Every now and then, the Met, the Guggenheim, and the MoMA hold blockbuster art exhibits that create an exciting buzz, beckoning art lovers from all over the New York tri-state area to spend time waiting in long lines to view breathtaking works of art. Today, at 11 Spring St., these museums have been outdone, in respect to the art exhibited, as well as the long lines. Curious art lovers waited patiently in long lines that stretched as far as two blocks at times and the experience was well worth the wait.


11 Spring Street

   The graffiti and street art inside and out of 11 Spring St was exciting, alive, and energetic. This historical gathering of street artists, from the pioneers like Blek Le Rat, to younger artists like Swoon, and French sculptor Prune, was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience their collective creative force, which possesses the same amount of energy as a small celestial star.  This show was made possible by the outstanding work and collaboration of Caroline Cummings and Bill Elias, of Elias Cummings Development Group, and Marc and Sara of Wooster Collective.

All of the art work has been thoroughly documented and can be seen at www.woostercollective.com.


Blek Le Rat adresses the crowd

We wish all the best to Blek Le Rat, the greatest artist in Paris! You may view his outstanding street art, created consistently over three decades in the City of Lights, at http://blekmyvibe.free.fr/ and http://bleklerat.free.fr .

The art work of Prune may be viewed at www.prune-art.com.

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13 Dec 2006 - Wooster on Spring Street

   There is an incredible once in a lifetime exhibition of street and graffiti art being held at 11 Spring St on Dec 15, 16, and 17. The exhibition is a three day celebration of ephemeral art.

   Some of the most famous street and graffiti artists in the world will be exhibiting their work and attending the shows: Blek LeRat, Swoon, Lady Pink, Shepard fairey, WK, Jace, David Ellis, FAILE, Cycle, London Police, Prune, JR, Speto, D*Face, JMR, John Fekner, Bo and Microbo, Above, BAST, Momo, Howard Goldkrand, Borf, Gaetane Michaux, Skewville, Michael DeFeo, Rene Gagnon, and many more.

The dates are Fri, Dec 15, Sat Dec 16, and Sun Dec 17, 11:00am to 5:00pm.

On Sunday, Dec 17 at 3:00pm, there will be a panel discussion with many of the artists attending.

Read more in depth news about this exhibition at: www.woostercollective.com.

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10 Dec 2006 - Italian American Police Condemn Michael Brand's Arrogance and the Getty's Actions

   We at the Italian American Police Society of New Jersey (IAPSNJ) condemn the Getty’s recent decision to break off negotiations with the Italian Ministry of Culture. The Getty possesses multiple treasures from antiquity that the Italian government insists were looted from Italy or transferred out of the country without the proper government documentation. The Italian government backs its claims with solid evidence that was gathered over ten years of investigations conducted by the Italian Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, a specialized art crimes investigative unit.

   The IAPSNJ has an excellent relationship and the up most respect for the Italian  police and Carabinieri. We are disheartened to learn that the Getty Museum is not being cooperative with the Carabinieri and Italian Ministry of Culture. We fully support the Italian Carabinieri and their efforts to fight cultural crimes that are being committed against their nation.

   It is no longer acceptable for U.S. institutions to possess cultural property that was looted and smuggled out of other nations. We as U.S. police officials abhor the violation of laws, regardless of what nation the crime is being committed in. Our educational and cultural institutions, which actually represent our nation’s image on an international scale, are ran by our wealthiest, most influential citizens who should adhere to exemplary codes of conduct in their business transactions and uphold images of integrity and honor.

   We at IAPSNJ respectfully request that the Getty Museum give the proper respect to Minister Rutelli, return to the negotiating table immediately,  and repatriate Italy’s art treasures to her shores.

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7 Dec 2006

   Betty Tompkins moved to SoHo, New York in 1969. Betty began a series of black and white air brush paintings called Joined Forms, which were cropped paintings of heterosexual intercourse. The artist states that in these paintings, created during this beginning era of feminism, she was deliberately appropriating the male gaze. She showed these works in various galleries in SoHo, including LoGuidice Gallery and Warren Benedek. In 1973, Betty was invited to exhibit in Guy Loudmer’s in Paris. This led to a ludicrous censorship by French Customs officials and a year of legal wrangling on the artist’s part to repatriate the art works.

   Today Betty can smile on the 1973 event because her work has at last received the respect it deserves. Betty is represented by the Mitchell Algus Gallery in New York (she describes the owner of this gallery as the nicest most supportive of human beings), and has exhibited her work at the Lyon Biennale, the Whitney Biennial, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Galerie Rodolphe Jansen in Brussels, Galerie Sho in Tokyo, and Galerie Caratsch in Zurich who represents her work there, to name a few.


Fuck Grid #20; Betty Tompkins

   In this friendly interview, Betty, one of my all time favorite New York artists, discusses with me some of the most important issues facing the art world today, such as museum ethics in antiquities, censorship, and freedom of expression in an ever increasing ultra-conservative atmosphere.....

[read more]
Full reprints of this text are available in our
Contemporary Art Section

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6 Dec 2006 - Auguri Ton Cremers and MSN List!

   This December marks the 10th year anniversary of the Museum Security Network Mailing List. This list, directed by museum security expert Ton Cremers, is an invaluable asset in the fight to defend the world's cultural property. We hold Ton and his work in the highest esteem!

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30 Nov 2006 - Robert Volpe: The esteemed veteran of art theft investigation.


Robert Volpe: Dedicated dad and husband; Legendary retired NYPD art squad detective

    The world has lost a true artist, a hero police officer, and one of the nicest gentlemen that New York City has ever produced. We are extremely saddened to announce that Robert Volpe, the NYPD’s art theft investigator from 1972 to 1983, died suddenly on Tuesday of a heart attack. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.

    Robert had an amazing career that ran from undercover operations to art theft investigation. Robert made numerous recoveries of precious art works, always placing more importance on the recovery then on an arrest. He was viewed by many artists and gallery owners in New York as a guardian angel. Tod Volpe in his book “Framed” referred to Bobby as the Archangel. He was America’s first, and greatest, full time art theft investigators.

    Bobby had many friends in the art world, including many famous artists. They knew he was a great detective, but it was more important to them that he was a true artist. Bobby was a sculptor and an incredible painter. His lovely wife, who he loved dearly, is an art teacher. Bobby had the honor of being elected as president of the Salmagundi Club at 47 5th Ave in New York and was loved and respected within its membership. Bobby was accepted by artists because he loved art and was one of them!


The Salmagundi Club at 47 5th Ave, New York

    Everyone who knew Bobby Volpe will attest to one fact: he was one of the nicest guys that New York ever produced. He found assisting others to be a great pleasure and would always offer a sincere, helping hand.

 
Robert Volpe inside Salmagundi Club; was president of club from 1991- 1994

    Note: We find the New York Post’s 30 Nov write up about Bobby Volpe to be in very bad taste. Under a beautiful photo of Bobby is the Caption: “Robert Volpe: Dad of Louima cop”. The first line of the paragraph reads “Legendary retired Art detective.” We feel this is all that should be stated and is the reason the caption under our photo of Bobby reads: “Dedicated dad and husband, legendary detective”.

    Bobby stayed by his son Justin’s side through all of his troubles. He talked about his son Justin every time we spoke and proved to be a loving, caring family man. While regretting Justin’s crime, he felt the sentence was too harsh for a first time offender and noted that murderers do less time. Bobby remained loyal and drove hundreds of miles a month to be at Justin’s side. Bobby told me: “I’m proud of my son, because he is strong and refuses to give up. We Volpe’s are strong.” He also told me he was proud of his son because after he entered the institution he was accepted by all, forging friendships with men of all races, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Bobby was a good loyal family man and he loved his son. No negative twists or digs should be attached to Bobby Volpe’s life story, only admiration.

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29 November 2006

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26 November 2006

Art Without Justice
The Statues of Discord

By: Chiara Zamin
New York

     In recent days the Getty Museum of Los Angeles has decided not to restitute the Aphrodite and the Victorious Youth, the two valuable statues placed on the list of the trafficked objects that ended up at Malibu.

    In a long letter written to the Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli, the director of the California museum Michael Brand confirms the decision to return to Italy only 26 pieces, that as of now have been verified as imprudent acquisitions, but will not cede on the Venus of Morgantina and the bronze athlete attributed to Lisippo, observing that, according to Brand, “they are works that have been found in international waters” and therefore not Italian.

    The letter from the Getty has inflamed the spirits of all at the Ministry, from archeologists, researchers, and investigators who are surfacing hidden truths........

[read more]
Full reprints of this text are available in our
Illicit Antiquities Trade Section

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20 November 2006

The Toledo Museum Goya
was recovered in New Jersey - no arrests have been made.
More info to follow.

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14 Nov 2006
- $50,000 reward offered for a Goya Painting that has been stolen en route from Toledo to New York


"Children With A Cart;Oil On Canvas; 5 ft x 3 ft; Francisco Goya; 1778.

   The New York art community was very excited about the art exhibition Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History that will open on 17 November, 2006 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. The exact quote I received in a letter from the museum’s director, Lisa Dennison, billed the exhibition as “…one of the most exciting shows to date…The most comprehensive presentation of Spanish art ever assembled in the U.S., this exhibition will include 135 paintings by Spain’s greatest masters, including El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro’, and Salvador Dali. With many rare works traveling from all over the globe…”. Unfortunately, when valuable art works are transported, they become vulnerable to art world villains.

   The theft was discovered one week ago while being transported from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio to the Guggenheim in Manhattan. The Toledo Museum said in a brief statement that the Spanish master’s work was stolen near Scranton, Pa. The painting was only insured for $1 million and will be very hard to sell on both the legitimate market as well as in the underworld. A general rule of thumb is that a stolen work will be sold for 10% of its real value, but well known art works by masters like Goya are virtually impossible to fence due to their notoriety and the amount of press coverage their theft receives internationally. The best option is definitely to deal with the insurance company, which will be happy to give a cash reward to ‘helpful’ parties to recover the work. The insurance company is more than happy to award a smaller sum than the work is covered for; the benefit for the ins co is obvious, but art lovers benefit as well- it would be a great tragedy if the painting is destined to end up like those stolen in the Gardner Museum heist in Boston, which may never be seen by the public again.


"Homage to Picasso's Pop"; Oil on canvas; Charles Sabba; 2006.

There is a reward of up to $50,000 being offered to anyone with information that leads to the recovery of this painting. If you have knowledge of this art works whereabouts and can be instrumental in its recovery it behooves you to contact us at confidentialinfo@yourbrushwiththelaw.com . Due to the insecure nature of the web, do not give any vital info in the e-mail, just use it for the initial contact. We are known in the underworld to be stand up guys who are fair, consistent, and operate in unconventional ways. Many operators in the art underworld do not trust the authorities and refuse to speak with uptight investigators who are stuffed in cheap k-mart suits and are only worried about making a collar. We at YourBrushWithTheLaw have slowly established our reputation as dedicated art lovers whose only concern is the recovery of the art works. Both your safety and confidentiality are guaranteed.  

NOTE: It is illegal for culpable persons or parties involved with art crimes to receive cash pay outs. If you contact YourBrushWithTheLaw you must not admit guilt or involvement in any crime. We are not interested in who committed this crime, only how the precious work may be recovered.

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10 November 2006 - Michel Van Rijn

This article has been re-printed with permission from: Rudy Pieters,
http://www.michelvanrijn.nl/artnews/morgenmvr.htm

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ART TRADER
MICHEL VAN RIJN, POACHER TURNED GAMEKEEPER

'The art world is as rotten
as the drugs world'

Just before we leave the pub his bodyguard checks the street. The coast is clear: Michel van Rijn can go home. According to Scotland Yard the flamboyant Dutchman was involved in almost all big art smuggling cases in the world. The poacher has become a gamekeeper and that does not go unpunished.


Composite sketch by C.V.Sabba

BY RUDY PIETERS

   Somewhere halfway through the interview his son rushes in. "Can I go to The Da Vinci Code, Dad?" "Again? You have been already, darling." "It is a fascinating film", answers his dear son. "All right then." Michel van Rijn (56) has not even read the book yet but does not really have to; what Dan Brown has made up on his PC the Dutch former art smuggler has experienced all in real life.
   For forty years now he has been shooting across the world like a ping pong ball searching for Rembrandts, Da Vincis and Michelangelos. And as for adventure - the BBC recently called him 'the Indiana Jones of Chelsea". Because of his eye for pearls, his nose for business and in particular his big mouth, in no time he ended up at the top of the international art trade. At Sotheby's he was one of the few who were allowed to go in without knocking.
   The Middle East was his playing field. And play he did. He very quickly discovered that you can deal with authenticity certificates and export licences in a very creative manner. According to Scotland Yard he was involved in 90 percent of all art smuggling cases in the world.
   But now the poacher has turned gamekeeper. Through undercover operations he exposes the scene behind the art world, a dark world where there is as much money going round as in arms and drugs trafficking. In 1993, long before the law caught up, he washed Sotheby's and Christie's dirty linen in public. Nowadays the police are only too happy to ask for his services. Only last month he helped detectives from London to trace a stolen Peruvian Mochica head ornament, an ancient piece of enormous cultural-historical value.
   The flamboyant Dutchman dumps all his blunt narratives of his adventures on his website (www.michelvanrijn.nl). He can also get it all off his chest in his crime novels - recently he published his second - where the leading character Axel de St. Cyr is a lot like the author, a hard boiled version of Oscar Wilde, who chooses the right wine everywhere and does not rest until he gets almost everyone's back up.
Michel van Rijn has houses in (amongst others) Buenos Aires, the Dominican Republic, Marbella, and Jaffa but mostly you will find him in Chelsea, the fashionable London district where he has Eric Clapton as his neighbour and where the British princes from round the corner sometimes come for a drink. He does not care less about the establishment. His bodyguard takes him round London in a Smart car. Daily shopping is simply done on a bicycle, in jeans and on sandals. In his very expensive townhouse there are kitsch gnomes everywhere.

There is no piece of antique or art to be found here. To be honest I am a little disappointed, mister Van Rijn. In the art smuggler's den I would have at least expected a Chagall on the wall.
   "I have a large collection, but that is mainly stored in a large warehouse at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Here I do not want to be distracted by art. I now have custody over my two sons, they are my greatest pieces of art, I do not need anything more really. I do not have to prove myself anymore. I used to chase glamour, adventure, excitement, Bohemian lifestyle. You enjoy turning up in a nice Bentley or Rolls and getting the ladies to notice you. But really these are not the things that matter. I only spend a lot of money on my freedom. If I want to go to Spain at five o'clock, I make a phone call and the aeroplane is ready at five."

You have an weird way of banking. A British journalist saw you open two safes at Schiphol, one with 1 million dollars and one with 1 million guilders.
   "We came out of a bar and barely had enough money for a burger. The banks were closed but I said: don't worry. I used to have safes everywhere in the world, with money to pay for flights or to buy things. Since 2001 that is not possible anymore, at a lot of airports those safes are no longer there."

How do you solve that then?
   "In a different way. But I love cash, cash is anonymous. A credit card leaves a trace. And I want to see and feel what I spend. A credit card is as if you do not play the match yourself, like doing it with a condom."

The Dutch salesman in you emerged early: when you were fifteen you opened your first shop in Amsterdam, even though you did not really need the money.
   "I come from a very wealthy family. In the sixties my father, a dentist, was one of the first great collectors in Europe of African and Precolumbian art. But I wanted to be self-supporting. So I took over a shop in the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, I called it Amgod, which is the opposite of 'dogma'. I had always been collecting things from my pocket money, and I also got some things from contacts of my father, sufficient to make a display. At school all I did was look out of the window. I found someone with a driving licence and we went to Istanbul. I bought my first load of sheep coats, but they were so badly tanned - I was of course conned by the first Turkish trader I met - that they started to stink, it was as if I had 65 corpses with me. So we filled a bath with patchouli and we hung them all in there and then hung them up to dry. They were selling like hot cakes."

That is how you earned your first money.
   "Yes, something like that. And then you go to Turkey again and then you think: goddamn, I am not going to fall flat on my face again, so you buy a better lot of those coats. But then I saw that a piece of art was smaller, and I had an art background, and that is how I became a smuggler."

' I always had a love of art.
Nowadays very few people still have that '

Two years later you were already in Beirut.
   "I lived there from when I was seventeen until 1975, when it all went wrong there. There I have seen everything, learnt everything, done everything. And then you meet an Armenian friend and he says, let's go to Azerbaijan or let's fly to Russia. Then you meet people who do not have two halfpennies to rub together. Russia was such a bloody mess, but they had the most beautiful art, every religious Russian had an icon collection. But they also know that if anything happens to them, the state will take possession of the art works. Then you tell them this is what I think it is worth - even though you know the real value on the international market."

There are a lot of sections in art crime. In which branch did you mainly make your fortune?
   "Well, I made a lot of money in Japan with paintings ranging from old masters to impressionists to Ecole de Paris. There is a very famous story about that drawing of Leonardo da Vinci, that I bought for 175,000 dollars, smuggled out of Italy and sold to the Japanese MOA Museum for 14.5 million dollars; after all the bribes my profit was about 2.5 million dollars.

You also forged things, which is a chapter in your biography that has always been left aside somewhat.
   "Look, let's say that I am modest as far as that is concerned, I did paint, but I have never signed anything with my name, but maybe I should have done that really, considering my surname (laughing)."

Is it correct that you sold one of your own works as one of Chagall's?
   "Chagall was a friend I met in the south of France, we lived in Hotel Eden Rock, my icon books were published then and Chagall was mad about icons."

That is not an answer to my question.
   "Okay, I will tell you one secret. I show something to Chagall and ask him: can you have a look, I have been offered something. And he sees it and he says: 'Non! But if at that moment you have your picture taken, then you are on that picture with Chagall and that painting. And you cannot see that 'non' on the picture."

I rephrase: you had made the 'Chagall' yourself, you show it to Chagall as if someone else offered it to you and Chagall says that it is not his.
   "Yes. Well, these are sins of one's youth. But they were indeed funny."

You did sell that painting as a real Chagall, I take it.
   "Yes, for a lot of money. To a Japanese collector."

In art crime you have met many people with 'an interesting story', as you call it yourself. To you they are 'scoundrels, not criminals'. What is the difference?
   "A scoundrel is someone you can forgive. A criminal you cannot forgive anything. And nowadays the art trade has become so tough that it is controlled by criminals."

And you were only ever a scoundrel?
   "Well, I hope so. There was always a love for art. Nowadays very few people still have that. 'So if I buy that certificate together with that work of art, then in three years' time I will earn back six times that amount.' Works of art have become commodities."

But that is how you too have gained your fortune: buy something and sell it the next day for six times the amount.
   "I am definitely not innocent. I am not stupid in that respect. In the first place I have always wanted to earn a living in the art world, but I have never wanted to sell my soul. There are people who buy an impressionist and put that away for ten years."

Did you come across criminals?
   "Yes, but you stand firm.

Felice Cultrera, for example, your good friend from your time in Marbella.
   "He is no criminal."

But he is mafia.
   "Great."

But?
   "A poet. Beautiful poems."

Can you be a member of the mafia without being a criminal?
   "(silence). You are taking this a bit far now. Felice built Marbella, financed Kashoggi - look, I feel Kashoggi is cheap, nothing more than gold and glitter, but a lot of money, but no class. Felice is very top class. I have seen him care for people, quite incredible. Then you think: he is a good guy. One of those Tyco bastards, or those of Enron, those are criminals that are not as good as their word. I have met a lot of people at the other side who keep their word without fail and certainly do not do anything that is worse than the white collar criminals."

The poacher has now become a gamekeeper. Were things getting too hot for you?
   "Richard Ellis, a Scotland Yard detective, was after me for years. And it was all getting a bit too tight for me, so many people were interested in me, and besides I was blamed for things I had not done. Then I took a gamble. I had heard a lot of good things about Dick Ellis. In 1989 I happened to be in the Dorchester in London and I phoned him on his direct number: "Dick?" He says: "Yeah." "This is Michel." So he says: "Oh, finally". I say: "I am in the Dorchester." "Oh, nice choice of hotel." He sounded good. And I say: "I know you like gin & tonic. Do you fancy a nice drink?" He says: "Well, I like the sound of that." I say: "It does not seem very practical having a drink with handcuffs on." He says: "I will see whether I will bring them or not." So he entered the bar. We are still good friends."

He could have had you picked up.
   "He could have had me picked up. But he saw the bigger picture. And I was more use to him as a source."

You mainly made your mark at the TEFAF in Maastricht in the Netherlands, the most important art fair in the world, where you have launched your attacks. For instance, you publicly exposed the Belgium top dealer Axel Vervoordt. He offered a painting that the Nazis had stolen from a Jewish family.
   "That kind of trade is the worst I have come across, it made me furious. Generations have been killed, millions of people. What was outrageous, was that the chairman of the TEFAF was Dave Aronson, a Jew, and he just gave these people the chance to get away with stolen Holocaust works."

Things have changed in the meantime. In 2001 the British dealer Adam Williams was convicted of this.
   "But he as back at the TEFAF again though."


' There is a link between art trade and terrorism.
Suppliers of one of the big fishes are ringleaders of Hezbollah.
But at the same time he is a big friend of Bush. '

It still continues, but less openly.
   "The art world is as rotten as the drugs world. If you can show them the money you are king".

You also get very wound up about the trade in Nigerian Nok. Beautiful statues, two thousand years old, they are on top of the list of endangered archaeological heritage, but they are still for sale everywhere. In 2000 you attacked the trader Emile Deletaille from Brussels very hard about that, also at the TEFAF.
    "Look, people say: those silly little Negroes are all corrupt and it does not mean anything to them, and if you give it back it soon appears again in the art trade. But there are still so many of those tribes who care so much about their ancestors that they have people watching over graveyards at night with little fires to make sure nothing gets not stolen. At those graveyards there are Nok statues, they are still used, these people still bury their dead in the same way with the same grave gifts. Once I travelled through Africa and stayed with them while they were watching over the graveyard. I found it very moving. And if you walk along the Zavel today and see all those statues in de shop windows then something is very wrong. And then there is Mister Chirac who opened the Musée Quai Branly, the largest stolen art museum, with Nok statues that originated from Belgium.

"We are no gangsters", says Deletaille shortly after your raid at the TEFAF to me. If there is an export licence, then there is nothing illegal going on, he stated.
    "Except if the international treaties say that the pieces cannot be exported. Then you know that the so-called legal export papers are no good. Look, if I show a piece of paper to a customs officer and put a little bit of money with it, then I have an export licence."

You are now regarded as a pentito by a section of the art trade.
   "But I only take on high profile cases. I am not interested in the man who digs a plate out of the ground in Peru, I am interested in the rat who gives it a false provenance (certificate of origin of an antique piece or a piece of art,RP) and tries to sell it for a fortune on Madison Avenue or here in Bond Street. I am chasing the Eskenazis, they are the biggest in Chinese art, who really have raked in hundreds of millions. And the Lebanese brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam, they have become the greatest art traders in the world with a posh gallery on Madison Avenue and one in Geneva."

Does the gamekeeper use the same tricks as the poacher used to do?
   "If he is a clever gamekeeper, he will."

How far do you go?
   "I am prepared to go as far as the other side does, and perhaps a little further."

Theft of documents, to name just one thing?
   "Yes, that is allowed. No boundaries there. Trick people. But the boundary of the FBI lies much further, they can trick a man like DeLorean with a few hundred kilos of cocaine. That is something I cannot do. I am only a little guy, with modest means. But I did cause a lot of trouble in the art world and stirred up a great deal."

Meanwhile you get to deal with increasingly heavy guys. In The Mecca Manuscript, your first crime novel, you portray Osama bin Laden as the biggest danger, also in the art trade. You published the book back in 1999: it seems you knew more than the CIA.
   "I am no prophet, but I did see that a group of people there were collecting money, through drug trafficking, terrorist camps, arms trade, something was happening there. Those countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc, that is my world. I would hear things from my people, people who carried out excavations, who had government contracts, brokers. I know they did business with the Taliban, with the Hezbollah."

Last year Der Spiegel revealed that the suicide pilot Mohammed Atta had been peddling Afghan art in the months prior to 9/11. Such a story will not surprise you then.
   "No, it doesn't surprise me at all. Look, 5 billion dollars in illegal art smuggling in the world, let's say sixty percent comes from these countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon. They don't build schools with that, they buy weapons. America has ignored this for a very long time. But now they finally have the right people so they can really make a stand."
   "Matthew Bogdanos, a good friend of mine, was the big man who protected the museum of Baghdad and he is now a prosecutor, assistant to Robert Morgenthau (public prosecutor in Manhattan, RP.) He is the first one who officially linked art trade and terrorism in America. And he is now chasing James E. Ferrell, owner of one of the biggest collections of archaeological objects in the world. Ferrell's main suppliers are the Yaghis in Lebanon, ringleaders of the Hezbollah, who also supply the Aboutaams. Ferrell is of course a very big fish, a big friend of Bush. He has tried to close down my site three hundred times."

You have also been threatened with death. Where does the biggest danger come from?
   "The Aboutaams. On my site I have put the tape of their lawyer who says: there is a contract out on your head, you have to stop. But it naturally becomes more difficult for them, because I did not only tackle them on my website, but also on the front page of the New York Times. Should something happen, then everyone knows where to look."

Is it all worth it for you?
   "Can I go back? No. I have started this, so then you have to tell yourself: it's all in the deal. Meanwhile I am in a position where no one walks all over me. And I have a bodyguard. But if they can shoot the American president, what chance does Michel van Rijn have?

You are trying to take it a little easier now and launch yourself as a crime novel writer. The sales are not bad but your income still comes from the art trade.
   "There is still enough art for sale to earn a good living and I still do that. Even my worst enemies admit that I have a very good eye for art. And then you will always find something. When we lived in Antwerp, on a Sunday morning I went with my son to the Zavel. There is an icon stand and I see a particular icon hanging between twenty or thirty others, a signed Greek icon, as rare as a unicorn. It cost 1500 guilders, that was exactly what I had in my pocket. I didn't barter, I bought the piece. But there I am with my son without a dime. I do not believe in old magic or anything, but on the way back to the train station I found a wallet with 200 guilders in it. So we had lunch at Au Vieux Martin. And we took the train back and the next day I phoned the person whose wallet it was and I gave him 500 guilders."

And the icon?
   "I sold the icon two days later for 150.000 dollars."


Michel Van Rijn

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9 November 2006 - Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night...rage against the dying of the light

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25 Oct 2006 - Hugh Eakin and Elisabetta Povoledo: Turning Up The Heat On The Illicit Antiquities Trade

    The heat is on and the gig is up. Major U.S. Museums such as the Met are returning priceless art pieces to countries like Italy where they were looted from. The Getty is claiming to have implemented a new acquisitions policy. U.S. Museums from Boston to Los Angeles are being burned as they creep in Justice’s shadows in search of shade to relieve them from the sweltering torridness. These museums are hoping to survive this heat wave without being fingered, as other nations such as Greece step up to the goal to take their penalty kicks.


TPC Lira

    Who brought this heat down on the U.S. Museums? The obvious contribution is the Italian Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and the Italian judicial officials. The honorable work that these men and women have done will be lauded in Italia for ages. Their results have been given just recognition to this point in the story.


The Met

   There is another source of heat that singed the unsavory museum curators and players in this drama- characters like Marion True and Robert Hecht. Journalists such as Hugh Eakins and Elisabetta Povoledo of the New York Times have relentlessly hammered the culpable, and often pompous, involved parties. By writing a succession of articles since the story first broke, they, and others of their colleagues in the press, have raised public awareness of the illicit antiquities scourge to the highest level ever. These stories of villains, greed, and scandal have been delivered daily to breakfast tables all over the world to be digested with the morning pastries and cappuccinos. These reporters’ efforts have been invaluable to the protection of the world’s patrimony. We at YourBrushWithTheLaw salute and sincerely thank you.


"Harpy"; C.V.Sabba; oil on canvas; 2005.
 

   The honored Poet Blaise Cendrars once stated “Poetry is my heroin. I am drugged on the writer’s ink.” I hope that the daily fix of heat in art crimes and illicit antiquities trade reportage continues to make the cold, art world’s mercury rise; maybe in this art world version of global warming, it will one day become a tropical paradise.


NY Artist Ryan Brown in front of the Eufronious Krater

Note: An incredible article on the Italian Carabinieri’s  elite Tutela Patrimonio Culturale,  which was written by Hugh Eakins, may be read in the November issue of Men’s Vogue.

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24 Oct 2006 - Switzerland and Italy Are On The Same Page In Fighting Illicit Trade In Antiquities

   Ah Switzerland! She is A beautiful nation with an amazing people. She has given the world shining lights of genius, such as Giacometti, Blaise Cendrars, and Paul Klee, to name a few. Unfortunately, on a negative note, many criminals and racketeers have considered Switzerland the ‘Bank of Underworld’; A place where money can be hidden without the scrutiny of governments or their tax agents. It has also been a well known fact that artifacts smuggled out of one country often pass through Switzerland, where dirty antiquarians and middle men weave intricate webs of deceit. The unscrupulous museum curators and dealers on the buying end, it is now understood, have represented major U.S. institutions such as the Getty, the Met and Boston Fine Arts. Some curators have knowingly orchestrated the purchase of antiquities with false provenances, at inflated prices, all with the purpose of a nice kick back being deposited into their own Swiss bank accounts.

   In the now infamous raid on offices owned by the dirty antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici in Geneva, thousands of looted artifacts, shards, photographs, documents, and other pieces of incriminating evidence were confiscated. This Empowered the elite Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale to convict Medici in a court of law to a ten year prison sentence and led to the indictments and spectacular trial of Marion True of the Getty and Robert Hecht. Hecht and  True are expected to take the stand on 10 Nov 2006. This incredible case and honorable work of the Italain Carbinieri’s TPC has been thoroughly detailed in Peter Watson’s book The Medici Conspiracy (refer to Roll Call 26 September 2006).


"Mos Maiorum VII"; C.V.Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.

   The Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli recently signed an accord with Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin that makes it much more difficult for traffickers of illicit art & antiquities to use Switzerland as an international den of thieves. The accord makes customs officials responsible for ensuring the art-works have a good provenance and were legally exported from their country of origin.

   Unfortunately, this accord only protects art that dates from before the 16th century and leaves everything dating from the Renaissance onward vulnerable. Why not give a blanket protection to all artworks one may ask? The art market in Switzerland is very important, wealthy, and politically powerful; it proves to be the strongest of political lobbies. The Swiss officials hearts may be in the right place, but they fear stepping on too many influential toes at one time.


"Mos Maiorum VIII"; C.V.Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.

   This most recent accord between Italia and Switzerland is one more step in a series that Switzerland has taken to clean up her act as well as her image. She has recently ratified the 1970 UNESCO treaty that protects antiquities from filthy underworld operators, looters and smugglers. Swiss authorities have been cooperative with Italian law enforcement in the pursuit of justice. The nation has also attempted to stiffen laws that govern the antiquities market.

              In the parlance of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
                        “There is no den in the world to hide a rogue.
                                    Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.”

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23 Oct 2006 - Art of the Heist- Now Airing.
               An Electric Sky production for Gallery HD one of the Voom/Rainbow Networks.


Rembrandt Self Portrait

   Investigating the most high profile art thefts of the 20th and 21st centuries,
‘Art of the Heist’ fits together the pieces of the crime jigsaw and studies the masterpieces coveted by the criminal world.

   The series uncovers trade secrets from the art theft trade and examines
the shadier histories of iconic works of art, whether paintings or sculptures,
providing a compelling introduction to great works,
as well as uncovering their criminal connections.

 

Episodes

The Big Sting
   In 2000 two Renoirs and a Rembrandt worth $80 million were stolen in an armed daylight raid on the National Museum in Stockholm. It was a well-planned heist with the thieves making their escape by boat through the labyrinth of canals in the Swedish capital. When the ringleaders were finally traced, police discovered that the plot to carry out the robbery had been hatched by two inmates in a prison many miles away.
   With the criminals behind the robbery now in custody the rest of the international gang set about trying to sell the paintings but one by one the authorities retrieved each one. The first, Renoir’s The Conversation, was retrieved in a police operation in a Stockholm café. The second, Renoir’s La Jeune Parisienne, turned up in Los Angeles during FBI surveillance of a drugs gang. The third and most valuable, the Rembrandt self portrait, was returned to the museum after a daring undercover operation by an FBI secret agent.
   Using police surveillance footage and phone taps this documentary tells the story of the armed robbery and details the extraordinary sting organised by the FBI to find the works of art.
 


Stolen Rembrandt Self Portrait; by Charles Sabba; Fingerprint Ink on Fingerprint Card, Done in Fingerprints; May 1994.


The World's Biggest Heist
    When the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum was robbed in
1990 it was the biggest art theft in history. Up to $500 million worth of art was ripped from the walls of the gallery in a single night, including rare masterpieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt.
   Sixteen years later no one has been charged for the robbery and the priceless paintings are still missing. The robbery went down in criminal folklore generating countless rumours and theories about who did it and where the paintings were. While some believe the paintings are still in America others are convinced that Boston gangster, James Whitey Bulger, was behind the robbery and had the paintings shipped to Ireland from where the recovery of the haul will involve an elaborate international deal involving Irish paramilitaries.
    The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is one of the most eccentric in America. It houses the fabulous collection of wealthy socialite Isabella Stewart. In her will she stipulated that the collection should remain exactly as she left it. For that reason none of the paintings was  insured and where the stolen paintings once hung there are now just empty frames. The FBI have got nowhere in  their search for the robbers or the paintings but a succession of former criminals and policemen, enticed by a $5 million reward, have been on the trail of the Gardner museum art.
   For years one of them, William Youngworth the Third, an art dealer and thief, has claimed that he could get the paintings back but no one knows whether he can or whether it’s a hoax. This documentary shows how the thieves pulled off the Boston heist and examines the
Irish connection that might one day lead to the recovery of the priceless works of art.
 


Mighty White of You; by C.V. Sabba; Pastel on Card Board; May 2005

The Forger and the Conman
   For more than a decade two Englishmen conned a gullible art market with fakes and forgeries. Art teacher John Myatt produced over two hundred fake paintings by leading 20th-century artists. He used household paint and petroleum jelly. He could hardly believe he was getting away with it. John Drewe forged the provenance of the paintings to make Myatt’s fakes seem genuine. To do that he altered and corrupted the archives of some of the most prestigious galleries and museums in London.
   Drewe literally changed art history.
   Myatt’s fakes sold across the world. Only 73 of them have ever been identified. The rest are still out there. The scam was eventually exposed by a disgruntled partner and an American art expert living in Paris. Drewe was sentenced to six years in prison for his part in the fraud that shook the art world. Myatt went to prison for a year but now has a lucrative and legitimate career as a painter of “genuine fakes”.
   This film traces the rise and fall of the forger and the conman and shows how, for years, they were able to fool some of the best art experts in the world.


"Gagged"; C.V.Sabba; Oil on FBI Wanted Poster; 2005.

The Search for the Scream
   Edvard Munch’s the Scream is one of the most famous paintings in twentieth century art. In 2004 two robbers burst into the museum dedicated to the great Norwegian artist and ripped The Scream and another Munch masterpiece, the Madonna, from the walls.
   For weeks the two paintings were stored in an unlocked abandoned bus on a remote farm. But why would thieves target such an iconic image? How could they ever hope to sell such an instantly recognisable work of art? It turns out that masterpieces are stolen for many reasons.


The Madonna


   This documentary unravels the extraordinary story behind the theft of The Scream and the Madonna. This was not a heist for art’s sake or even for the money. Police are convinced that the daylight raid to steal the Munch paintings was linked to a ruthless armed robbery in which machine gun-carrying thieves killed a Norwegian policeman. They believe leaders of that gang ordered the theft of the paintings to divert police resources away from their investigation into the bank raid. It did not work: the leader of the bank raid is now in custody and three men have been convicted for their role in theft of the paintings.
   But this was not the first time Munch’s Scream has been stolen. In 1994 another version of the same painting was stolen in Oslo in a night time break-in at the city’s National Museum. That painting was eventually retrieved and is back on the museum’s wall. However, The Scream and the Madonna from the 2004 heist are still missing.


"Untitled"; C.V.Sabba; Oil on Canvas; 2005.


Chasing Cezanne
   Nearly thirty years ago thieves walked into a remote Massachusetts home and stole seven paintings. Among them was a Cezanne, one of the most influential paintings in art history. They belonged to Michael Bakwin. His mother, heiress to a vast mid-West meat packing fortune, had created a fabulous collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings in the 1920s and 30s.
   The prime suspect for the robbery – a local man called David Colvin - was murdered shortly afterwards and for twenty one years the trail went cold.
   Meanwhile Bakwin employed a private detective and lodged the stolen paintings on the Art Loss Register, a database of stolen art run by an Englishman, Julian Radcliffe. In 1999 Lloyds underwriters in London were asked to insure a Cezanne for transport to England. They looked the painting up on the Art Loss Register, found it had been stolen from Bakwin and contacted Radcliffe.
   Complex negotiations followed involving Radcliffe and a mysterious Panamanian registered company called Eerie International which claimed to be holding the paintings.
   A deal was struck: the company handed over the Cezanne but was allowed to keep the other six lesser works.
   The company also had to put in a sealed envelope the name of individual behind Eerie International. The Cezanne was returned to Bakwin…….. and he sold it for $30 million.
   Another five years passed and Radcliffe received a call from the London auction house, Sotheby’s. Four of the remaining Bakwin paintings had been offered for sale.
   Radcliffe went to court claiming the first agreement had been under duress. He won. Better than that the judge ordered that the sealed envelope be opened to reveal the name of the man who had kept Bakwin’s paintings all these years. It was a Massachusetts lawyer, Robert Mardirossian – the lawyer for David Colvin the original
suspect. This film follows the twists and turns, the deals and double dealing that after 30 years led to the recovery of one of the most important paintings of the twentieth century.


Plundered Mosaics
   In 1974 in war torn northern Cyprus a priceless mosaic is chipped from the walls of a Greek orthodox church by Turkish looters. It is smuggled out of the country into the underworld of stolen antiquities and broken into pieces before being sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidder in this case is an Indianapolis art dealer, Peg Goldberg, who falls in love with the mosaics, pays $1 million for them and ships them back to the States.
   But then it all goes wrong. The Getty Museum is offered the mosaics for $20 million but the museum smells a rat  and reports the case to the Cypriot authorities. Goldberg is now lumbered with mosaics that are virtually unsellable. Worse than that, the Cypriot government threatened legal action against her to get them back.
   Had Goldberg been the victim of an elaborate scam? Had she been lured to Europe and seduced into buying the beautiful mosaics by a string of dubious characters desperate to off load the plundered antiquities? This film follows the complex trail of deception that leads
from the sparse hillsides of Cyprus to Munich, Geneva and Amsterdam and finally to a courtroom in America. Peg Goldberg lost her case and the mosaics she bought for a $1 million can now be seen in a museum in Nicosia.

An Electric Sky Production for Gallery HD
one of the Voom/Rainbow Networks

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17 Oct 2006 - Michel Van Rijn; A cross between Sam Spade and Oscar Wilde, says "good night sweet Machiavellian princes!"

   Today, the self-made artworld gumshoe Michel van Rijn sent this e-mail to the Museum Security Network Mailinglist and posted it on his notorious website as well:

What happened?
New homepage of Michel van Rijn's website:

........................

WWW.MICHELVANRIJN.NL
 Is that all there is, is that all there is?

Dahlink MvRists, 'Today is the Day', as my late friend, the legendary Mel
Fisher, used to say during his sixteen year hunt for the 'Atocha Mother
Load' while being declared insane by the rest of the world. Mel was proven
right, made history and a billion dollars or so, but paid the ultimate
price, having lost a son during his quest for treasure when one of the
vessels capsized.

Today is the Day; the Day that your inkslinger has decided enough is enough.
I'll keep it as brief as possible. For five years my website has been a
beacon in the endless sea of the illicit trade in the artworld. It didn't
bring me a billion dollars as in Mel's case, neither did it bring me
history, but neither, Baruch Hashem, did I pay the ultimate price.
Today is also the Day that I received photos of one of my children at my
doorstep.

That's all there is!
October 17, 2006

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14 Oct 2006 - 10th Annual D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival

Congratulations to our sister Naho Taruishi of the 17th Street Tribe for her participation in the 10th annual d.u.m.b.o. Art Festival. Naho is an emerging video/performance artist from Japan who is a great inspiration to her family members in the collective.

For more info on this incredible Brooklyn art scene: www.dumboartscenter.org/festival/

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13 Oct 2006 - Joel Perlman: A sculptor's Journey; by Philip F. Palmedo


©C.V.Sabba

   This book is the first monograph devoted to the work of Joel Perman (b.1943), an acclaimed sculptor in steel and bronze, whose works are represented in the permanent collections of America's top museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Art, and The Hirshorn Museum and Scultpure Garden.

   This book features 150 illustrations- 111 plates of Joel's works, as well as photos from Joel's life, such as Joel standing next to his Matchless 500cc Motorcycle in 1965 to various studio shots of the artist at work. It describes Joel's adventurous life and artistic growth, through his years spent living in the United Kingdom to his establishment in the vibrant New York SoHo art scene.

Joel Perlman: A Sculptor's Journey
by Philip F. Palmedo
Foreward by Andre' Emmerich, whose gallery represented Joel for twenty years
Published in 2006
Abberville Press
ISBN: 0-7 892- 0864-4

   Joel Perlman is an acclaimed sculptor in steel and bronze; he is one of the greatest artists in New York City and and all around great guy! This book is a necessary edition for any art world library.

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29 September 2006 - a Conversation with Michele Zalopany

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26 September 2006

               We Cordially Invite You to:


Mos Maiorum II; Oil on canvas; C.V.Sabba; 2006.
 

A celebration of three books which have cast a new light on the
international black market trade of antiquities:

"The Medici Conspiracy"
Peter Watson
Cecilia Todeschini
"Thieves of Baghdad"
Matthew Bogdanos
 
"Stealing History"
Roger Atwood
 

Plus.... a public lecture by Peter Watson

 


Nascita' dell'arpia; Oil on canvas; C.V.Sabba; 2005.

 

16 November 2006

The Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street, NYC

6 - 10 PM

[ click to view the entire invitation ]

 


Tombarolo; Oil on canvas; C.V. Sabba; 2005.

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17 September 2006 - The Medici Conspiracy

The Medici Conspiracy:
The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities - from Italy's tomb raiders to the world's greatest museums.


"Mos Maiorum IV"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.

On 17 November 2006, at 1800 hrs., Peter Watson will be giving his first U.S. lecture on "The Medici Conspiracy" at New York's Chelsea Art Museum, 556 W 22nd St. (at 11th Ave).

Read more about this event at: www.savingantiquities.org.


"Mos Maiorum"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.
"Mos Maiorum I"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.
"Mos Maiorum II"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.
"Mos Maiorum III"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.
"Mos Maiorum V"; C.V. Sabba; oil on canvas; 2006.

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16 August 2006

Interview of John Myatt ; Art Forger Turned Professional Artist
By Charles Vincent Sabba Jr.

   The artist, John Myatt, was involved in what Scotland Yard described as the biggest art fraud of the 20th century. John painted over 200 fakes of Giacometti, Klee, Chagall, and Van Gogh, to name a few. These paintings were then sold by a master con man that John was associated with.  John was arrested, and in 1999, served four months of a twelve month sentence. When he was released from prison he swore that he would never paint again. The Scotland Yard detective who had arrested john commissioned him to paint a family portrait. This detective, who is now retired and one of John’s close friends, helped convince him to return to his easel where he belongs. He is now fast becoming one of the United Kingdom’s most accomplished artists. Here John Myatt discusses his art and the art world.

CVS- You had a show in May 2006 at St. Paul’s Gallery in London. How did it go?

John Myatt- It was a great success! It was Lovely. The gallery wants to keep the unsold paintings on a semi permanent display. Eventually I will want to get them back though. I like to look at my old paintings with fresh eyes and possibly re-work them.

CVS- Tell me about your art studio.

JM- We have one room which is shaped like a dining room. I purposely put down an old carpet so I can get messy while I work. I go back and forth to the easels and paint gets splattered all over the floor and walls. I don’t use a palette but mix my paints directly onto a table. It is rather interesting how the studio is set up. The house was built in the 1700s. When you leave my messy, worked in modern studio, you enter a very clean, old home with neat and tidy bookshelves.

CVS- What does your studio sound like? What kind of music do you listen to when you work?

JM-  I listen to classical music; quite often Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, but usually Mozart.

CVS- Would you like to share any thoughts on the contemporary art scene?

JM- I’m not really part of that. I like to see all artists earn a living, but have no sympathy for the more challenging aspects of contemporary art. I view many of their operations more or less as stunts. Here in the U.K., the government sponsors the arts council. Public money is spent on the arts and they are afraid to look old fashioned, so they feel they must always promote art that is cutting edge. The government needs to leave contemporary artists alone to get on with it. Good art has always been commercial, even the old masters. Artists need to make a living, but when you have a Stalinist type approval in which the government approves the art to be chosen it distorts the process entirely. The government needs to get out of the art business.  The whole thing is corrupted by politicians and art experts. I’m not in the business of calling art work rubbish, though. I like to see artists earning a living on their art. If they are supporting themselves on their art they are heroes.

CVS- Have you ever visited the huge Chelsea gallery district in Manhattan?

JM- We have not been to the gallery district. When we did get to New York, we spent a few days in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My time at the Met was well spent. I spent a lot of time studying Monet’s Morning on the Seine because I had received several commissions to paint this picture. I noticed that hairs from Monet’s brushes had fallen off and stuck to the paint. This was also happening to me as I painted this scene and I had been painstakingly removing the brush hairs.  All in all, I like New York very much.

CVS- Many young artists in New York complain that Chelsea is a well greased money making machine and they believe that the conformist art world needs rebels. You certainly entered your art career on a devious path, that is to say, a less then normal road traveled. Do you consider yourself a rebel?

JM- In a way yes. What happened, the crime that was committed, did show that the whole system of experts and history of painting was silly and stupid. It made a lot of experts look silly. I quite like that. People are not ready to use their own eyes when looking at paintings.  You don’t need three years in a university before you can look at a painting and decide whether you like it or not. When you look at a fake, you feel all right saying you don’t like it. Knowing it is a fake gives you the power to say “I don’t like it” or “I like it”. When you look at an original painting you spend too much time reading the card on the sides, looking at the signature, listening to the audio. People think to themselves “Oh, I have to go and study this artist and this painting”. We have to give people the confidence to look at paintings and just enjoy them. The last thing people want is to feel stupid, so they wait for someone to tell them what art to like and dislike.

Also, once you learn to like an artist, you can’t afford to buy his paintings because the prices are too high. Money limits the choices; that is where I come in. I paint pictures that people can afford. When I paint an artists painting, it is quite hard to tell it from an original.

CVS- Do you get a lot of commissions from New York?

JM- I get some of my most astonishing commissions from N.Y. I think Americans are fantastic people and are a pleasure to work with. They have a nice sense of humor and I like that. What I do is funny and you have to laugh. A New Yorker recently commissioned me to paint a very large Picasso. If I painted it the size he wanted, I could never have carried it out of my studio. I told him that the painting could be no larger than 6 foot by 6 foot and he just laughed and stated “that’s ok John. You do it as large as I want it and then you’ll find a way”.

CVS- You have mentioned Monet several times. As far as art history goes, who is your favorite artist?

JM- I would have to say Picasso. He had so many different periods to look at and choose from. He changed his artistic style almost every seven years.

CVS- That is a very interesting point. It causes great pain to contemporary artists that dealers, critics and collectors reject any change in their style. When an artist is known for his or her work, they are expected by the market to stick to it and suffer consequences if they change.

JM- Yes, they get trapped. It is sort of like getting stuck in prison.

CVS- So you love Picasso. I am very enthused about the early Paris days of Montmartre and Montparnasse.

JM- I would have loved to have been around in Montmartre at the Bateau Lavoir. I would have loved to spend time with all those artists like Picasso, Modigliani, Braque, as well as Apollinaire and all those poets. I would have loved to be there.

CVS- You mentioned Apollinaire. Do you have any favorite poets?

JM- I have not read much of Apollinaire’s poetry.  I like older English poets the most, such as John Donne.

CVS- Do you have any future exhibitions in line?

JM- I have one scheduled for December of 2007 on Dover St. in London.

CVS- I know you have been talking to television companies. How is that playing out?

JM- I am a little frustrated by it all. I have a good working routine in my studio. What I do is paint. I don’t produce TV shows. I’ve been busy with the television producers and it is taking me away from my art work. When I’m not painting, I feel like I’m wasting my time. After the health and happiness of your family, the most important thing in an artist’s life is his work.

 

      In the introduction of Scenes de la Boheme, Henri Murger described true artists as “…a race of obstinate dreamers for whom art has remained a faith and not a profession; enthusiastic folk of strong convictions, whom the sight of a masterpiece is enough to throw into a fever…” This is a precise description of John Myatt, who is a great artist and a good man. He is indeed a true artist of strong convictions and has dedicated his life to art. John has a more honest philosophy of art then most big players in the art world today and is forging his own path without concern for the conventional thinking of the contemporary art market, or the limitations it imposes on artists.

John’s work may be viewed on his web site: www.johnmyatt.com.

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10 August 2006

   Buon Viaggio to two brothers from the 17th Street Tribe Artist Collective. Ryan Brown and Stuart Steltzer are on their way to Berlin, Germany for an artist residency. We wish all the best to two of our brothers who are fired by art, poetry and the thirst for life!!! Please don't get to distracted by the great beer or the bold, blonde, beautiful ladies (although they might prove to be quite an inspiration to your art work!).


Staurt Steltzer on the right

   We also wish a safe trip back from the Netherlands to
Vincent Boschma and Naho from Japan!
 

The Art World is a world without borders, governments, or political parties!
The Bohemian state is a state of mind!!!


Ryan Brown on the left

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30 July 2006 - Cracking a Smuggling Ring

Ferdinando Musella, the head of Italy’s art police and a seasoned Mafia investigator, is leading the search for looted antiquities in American museums- while still on the trail of an elusive Caravaggio.


"Watching Over the Hills". JLBuryk. 2006.

By Kelly Devine Thomas

   Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinando Musella, tall and tan with jet-black hair and dark eyes, strides into the ARTnews offices with a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses pushed back on top of his head. The operations chief of Italy’s art police, Musella speaks Italian and French but little English and is therefore accompanied by Angelo Ragusa, a warrant officer in his unit who acts as translator.

   The chief has an hour to spare before attending a press conference at which New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly will return to Italian representatives a marble head that thieves hacked off an ancient statue of Dionysus in 1983, which resurfaced recently at Christie’s.

   Musella, a central figure in Italy’s widening investigation into the trade in antiquities looted from Italian soil, is in the United States to further press his country’s claims against American museums. A tough negotiator with a steely gaze, Musella has been working with his unit for the past decade to crack a smuggling ring that allegedly sold objects to top collectors and museums around the world, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.

   In the wake of a precedent-setting accord reached earlier this year with the Met, which agreed to restitute six antiquities, including a 16-piece set of Hellenistic silver, to Italy in exchange for long-term loans of comparable artifacts, it appears that other American museums “are going to be more cooperative than in the past,” Musella says. Still, he warns, “if they are not going to be cooperative with us, we will still go forward with the investigation.” Asked which museums are involved in his inquiries, Musella responds, “It is easier to ask which museums are not involved.”

   The day before his visit to ARTnews,  Musella met with Jane A. Levine, assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, with whom Italy has worked closely for years. Initially Musella had thought his work in the United States could be wrapped up by October. But now, he says, “based on our successful meeting yesterday, we still need more time.” Asked if the investigation might lead to prosecutions in the United States, Musella nods affirmatively, “Yes.”  

   Investigations carried out under Musella’s watch so far have led to Italy’s prosecution of Italian dealer Giacomo Medici, American dealer Robert E. Hecht Jr., and Marion True, the former antiquities curator at the Getty Museum. Medici was convicted in Italy of Trafficking in looted artifacts after a 1995 raid on his Swiss warehouse turned up a vast archive of information on the antiquities trade; he is currently appealing a ten-year prison sentence. Hecht and True are standing trial in Italy on charges of receiving stolen antiquities and conspiring to traffic in illegally acquired artifacts (both deny any wrong doing). Musella says the 86-year-old Hecht, an alleged ringleader of the illicit antiquities trade, is “for us one of the ten most wanted.”

   Evidence seized during raids in 2002 and 2005 on Basel warehouses used by Sicilian dealer Gianfranco Becchina, meanwhile, is providing additional information about acquisitions of allegedly looted objects, Musella says (Becchina is currently under investigation for his part in the smuggling operation). Most of the material found in the warehouse raids has led Italian investigators to the United States. “Here we have found the majority of the objects stolen from Italy,” says Musella. “We will finish our investigations here and then start in Europe and in other countries.”

   The divorced father of one child, Musella was born in 1962 in Salerno in Southern Italy. When he was 16 he followed his father’s footsteps into the army, enrolling into a training school for the Carabinieri, a national military police network organized under the Italian armed forces. Beginning as a horse patrolman, Musella rose through the ranks to eventually work drug trafficking, terrorism, and Mafia-related cases, beginning in 1993. During this period he was instrumental in helping apprehend Raffaele Pernasetti, one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives and a member of Rome’s notorious Magliana crime syndicate. In 1996 Musella joined the art squad, known as the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimomio Culturale (Command for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage), and was promoted to operations chief within a year.

   In addition to its status as a division of the military, the Carabinieri art unit is a branch of Italy’s ministry of culture. Since its founding in 1969, the unit has recovered some 185,295 artworks and 455,771 archeological objects, and has brought criminal charges against more than 16,000 individuals.

   Musella and the 70 people under his command, 45 of whom are active investigators, scored a major coup when they were able to recover what the Italian government deemed the world’s rarest and most valuable looted antiquity: an ivory head of Apollo dating from the first century B.C., reportedly worth $50 million. Illegally excavated and smuggled out of Italy in 1995, the head was discovered in the possession of London dealer Robin Symes, an alleged coconspirator of Medici’s and Hecht’s who, according to Musella, had lined up an American collector willing to pay $10 million for it. The head was returned to Rome in 2003 and is now displayed in its own room in the National Museum of Rome. Musella speaks of writing a book- part romance, part thriller- about its recovery. Perhaps, he suggests, the book will be made into a movie.

   Among Musella’s priorities is recovering Caravggio’s Nativity With Saints Francis and Lawrence (1609), whose theft from a Sicilian church more than 35 years ago was detailed in Peter Watson’s 1984 book the Caravaggio Conspiracy. In terms of importance, Musella considers the painting to be the “numero uno” object stolen from Italy that is still at large. While it is believed to be in the possession of the Mafia, Musella says, “we don’t know where it is.” At one point, Gerlando “The Rug” Alberti, the chief of a famous Sicilian crime family in Palermo, buried the painting in a box along with drugs and millions in cash in case he “needed to leave the country or needed it for negotiations,” Musella says. A witness tipped off investigators to its location, but by the time police arrived, the box had been moved.

   As for his own collecting, the only objects Musella has acquired over the years are law enforcement pins from colleagues around the world. Regarding those collectors and institutions that prefer to collect antiquities removed illegally from Italian soil, Musella says their actions are not only harmful but unnecessary. “You can ask for a loan. We have enough cultural artifacts to loan the U.S.”

Kelly Devine Thomas is a senior writer for ARTnews.         

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20 July 2006


proudly presents



A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBIT

by

Stephen A. Mendonça

-----------------------------------------------------------
 

At:

The Broadway Grill

339 Springfield Ave
Summit, NJ

Gallery opening times:
Sunday, July 30th
7 - 9 pm

Donation of $10 is requested for:
The Susan G. Komen
Breast Cancer Foundation
North Jersey Affiliate

Inquiries please contact:
Tel: 908.347.9706

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6 June 2006

   Of course we all know that Italia is going to win the World Cup in Germany with ease, but we still like this one time Juventus team member from France. Football in art! Exciting combo. We thought we should share this with you all to join into the spirit of the games.
       FORZA ITALIA! FORZA ITALIA! FORZA ITALIA! FORZA ITALIA!
      FORZA ITALIA! FORZA ITALIA! FORZA ITALIA!

Subject: Zidane: A XXIst Century Portrait

Friedrich Petzel Gallery is pleased to announce
The Art | 37 | Basel premiere of


Zidane: A XXIst Century Portrait
A new film by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon

Please Join Us

Thursday, June 15. 10 PM
St. Jakob Football Stadium
designed by Herzog & de Meuron
Basel, Switzerland

With a live performance by Mogwai
and a broadcast message by Zinedine Zidane

Tickets will be available in our Booth S2/ Halle 2.1
For more information, please contact Leslie Fritz at Friedrich Petzel Gallery.
leslie@petzel.com

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5 May 2006

Best wishes and congratulations to John Myatt! You are an artist!
All artists are brothers and sisters!
-cvs

 

An exhibition of genuine fakes
Friday 12th - 27th May 2006

 

V.I.P. Invitation
The largest ever on sale exhibition of original works on
canvas and paper by John Myatt, the artist behind the:
'Greatest art fraud of the twentieth century'.

 

At:

St Paul’s Gallery

FINE ART PUBLISHERS AND DEALERS

94 – 106 Northwood St
off St Pauls Square
Birmingham
B3 1TH

Gallery opening times:
Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 6pm

Please contact the gallery for more information:
Tel: 0121 236 5800
email:info@stpaulsgallery.com
www.stpaulsgallery.com

 

‘Biggest Art Fraud of 20th Century’ to be Filmed

   Described by London’s Scotland Yard as “the biggest art fraud of the 20th century,” the story of British artist John Myatt will be brought to the screen by two American producers. For seven years, Myatt painted 200 fake masterpieces that an accomplice passed off as authentic and which were sold by major auction houses and to private collectors; only 80 of the paintings, supposedly by such artists as Giacometti, Klees, Van Gogh and Chagall, have been tracked down. In 1999, Myatt served four months of a twelve month sentence while his accomplice served six years. Los Angeles-based producers Jay Weston and Fred Levinson acquired the rights from Myatt, who now lives in the small Staffordshire village of Fairoak, England. Julie Daly-Wallman of London’s Greeneye Productions will co-produce. Visitors to Myatt’s recent London exhibition – 68 new works in the style of famous artists (Miro, Picasso, Giacometti) with the words “Genuine Fake” written in indelible ink on the back and which sold for $875 to more than $8,000. – included the foreman of the jury which convicted him, his defense lawyer, the Scotland Yard detective who arrested him and, upon his release from prison commissioned a portrait, as did the prosecutor in the case. Now 60, Myatt gives lectures on art forgery alongside officers from Scotland Yard.  Jay Weston has produced biographical films on Billie Holiday and W.C. Fields and is currently preparing Hemingway’s life story.

   Myatt was a composer (his song, “Silly Games,” was number one on the British charts) before teaching art in the mid-80’s. When his wife split and left him with two young children, in desperation he painted a fake Albert Gleizes which an associate, John Drewe, sold for 25,000 pounds at Christie’s. Other fakes followed, some selling for as much as $150,000. His ‘genuine fakes’ now sell for several thousand pounds apiece.  In fact, an unidentified forger in London has been selling fake Myatts.

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11 April 2006

BOLO for our future Munch theft update on our Crime Scenes and Capers page

Scream surrounded buy coppers; Bansky.
We would like to thank the renowned street artist Bansky for allowing us to use his image. We have respect for his work and creative endeavors, which include clandestinely hanging his own paintings in New York's MoMA, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Met!

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25 March 2006

Conviction and Disturbing the Peace
April 20th to June 3rd 2006

Opening Reception
Thursday April 27th 2006 6-8pm at Denise Bibro Fine Art
529 West 20th Street, 4th Floor, New York
Artists' Panel Discussion: Tuesday May 9th 5pm - 6.30pm

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11 March 2006 - Richard Hambleton strikes inside N.Y.U.'s Grey Gallery.


1980s: Do you remember this shadow that appeared on walls all over Manhattan

   One of the hottest shows at the moment is The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene 1974-1984 at the Grey Art Gallery of New York University. The show is an examination of many of the artists that were active in Lower Manhattan between 1974 and 1984, such as Lucio Pozzi, David Hammons, Mike Bidlo, Kiki Smith, Jenny Holzer, Martin Wong, Tehching Hsieh, to name a few. Also, graffiti artists such as Lee Quinones, Jean-Michel basquiat, and Keith Haring. One very accomplished street artist from the era, Richard Hambleton, was not represented in this show, until he decided to fix that
shortcoming of the show's director and staff. Shortly after the show opened, museum staff discovered a shadowy black figure on one of the walls of the gallery which they believe was painted by Richard Hambleton. The figure recalls the days when these spooky figures crept around on walls all over Manhattan. Did Hambleton paint this shadow, which appears to be giving the middle finger? Only the shadow knows! In any case, a member of museum staff has told me off the record that the shadow will remain on the wall for the remainder of the exhibition.

   Also exhibited are two photos done by Harvey Wang of Adam Purple's Garden. A year after Adam Purple moved to 184 Forsyth Street in 1972, the city raised two Eldridge Street tenaments. Purple constructed a magnificent "Garden of Eden" in the huge empty lot. New York City bulldozed this beautiful garden that would have made King Nebuchadnezzar II jealous in 1986 after a long court battle.


Inside the NYU Grey's Museum exhibition "Downtown Show

   Unfortunately, like the "Shadow", another accomplished Graffiti artist of the era, the "Purple Feeter", was not represented in this exhibition. This artist layed down purple foot prints that started at N.Y. City Hall and led to Adam Purple's Garden. In time, this artist layed down miles and miles of purple feet all over Manhattan. This was a protest against NYC's attack on Purple and his beautiful garden. So we are now hopeful that museum staff will soon discover another exciting "addition" to this show !!!

   The Downtown Show will close on April 1, 2006. It can be seen at the Andy Warhol Museum between May 20 and September 3, 2006 and at the Austin Museum of Art in Texas from November 18 until January 28, 2007.

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6 March 2006 - Sweet Sixteen


"Stolen: Chez Tortoni"; C. Sabba;
fingerprint ink on official police fingerprint card done in the artist's fingerprints.

 

   March 18th marks the 16th anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery. Not only is our sense of loss renewed as another anniversary elapses; it’s aggravated by a nagging sense of hopelessness. Not one of the 11 paintings taken in the pre-dawn raid has ever surfaced and no one has ever been indicted for the crime, begging the question: will we ever see any of these precious masterpieces again? Now, after 9 years of silence, one of the key figures in the investigation is making bold new claims.

   William (Billy) Youngworth III became renowned in the summer of 1997 when he declared he could broker the return of the stolen artworks. For a while, he had everybody’s attention. The FBI, officials at the Gardner, the US District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston PD, even certain senators on capital hill were convinced Billy was the real deal. Everything went dead silent, however, when he went to prison for receiving a stolen vehicle – a rap he contends was a coercion tactic.

   Billy was in prison when the Gardner heist occurred – in a federal penitentiary in Tennessee for parole violation. Although this may redeem him of any guilt in the actual perpetration of the crime, as far as the FBI was concerned in 1997, this didn’t negate his culpability.

   Billy has been indicted for larceny, forgery, passing bad checks, and a federal interstate commerce violation. His familial legacy is steeped in the Boston Irish mafia and one of his close friends is renowned Charleston mob boss, Joseph P. Murray. In his early teens and twenties, under the tutelage of Myles Connor, he participated in several grab & run art thefts.  He was somewhat of an unseemly suspect, however. In 1997, prior to being sent-away for receiving stolen property, he owned and operated an arts and antiques store in Randolph, Massachusetts with his late wife, Judy, while raising their son, Billy IV.

   According to Billy, the biggest art heist in history began quite accidentally. Right across the street from the ISG museum sits Simmons College – an all-women’s college started in 1899 by renowned tycoon John Simmons. With Palace Road cleaving them and The Fenway facing them, two streets very loosely patrolled by police back in 1982, it seemed like an easy target for the photographic and audio-visual equipment Billy needed.

   Billy was part of an ID forgery ring providing documents to Joe Murray, who was smuggling IRA illegals over and, in return, sending guns to Ireland. Their equipment was lost in a police bust several weeks prior and he needed desperately to replace it. A little after midnight on February 26th he and several cronies robbed Simmons of more than $35,000 in cameras and A.V. equipment.

   The nighttime security guard for Simmons was in on the burglary and, apparently, even helped load the truck. He also happened to be “covering” for the guard who worked at the Gardner next door.

   It was common practice between the night guard crews from both facilities to cover for one another when they needed to take a night off. There wasn’t any kind of security system at either place in those days, relying solely on guards.

   Needing to go do rounds at the Gardner, the Simmons guard took Billy and his crew over to have a look. They left their cargo van parked at the loading dock on the backside of Simmons, crossed Palace Road – a distance of a little more than 100 feet – and entered the ISG museum through its side door, the Office and Delivery entrance. Nothing was taken that night, but the idea was implanted.

   Over the next few years, Billy and his friends visited the ISG several times, casing the joint, taking inventory, acquainting themselves with the layout, scrutinizing the security. They even found a buyer.

   A high-level Japanese criminal with Yakuza ties whom Billy befriended while serving time in FCI Terre Haute.

   Before Billy could implement his plan to clean the Gardner out, he was arrested on a weapons violation, finding himself in federal custody facing a 9-year sentence for parole violation and a failure to appear in court charge. While Billy was imprisoned, his cohorts received a message from an accomplice working at the Gardner. Changes were being implemented; the security system was going to be revamped. If they were going to hit it, they were told, it was now or never.

   Consequently, they took action. But without Billy, who had been the only one to communicate with the buyer, they didn’t know exactly which pieces to steal. More than half of what they buyer had wanted hadn’t been taken. What was had been handled brutally. Some paintings had been cut out of their frames. Others had been smashed asunder to free them. And all of the canvases had been rolled up, destroying the integrity of the paint.

   Although, the initial buyer reneged, the thieves eventually pawned the paintings to Joe Murray. From whom, Billy claims, he inherited them in 1992 after Murray was killed by his distraught wife.

   The aftermath is well known. Five years later, the FBI, in conjunction with Massachusetts State Police and Randolph Police, raided Youngworth’s arts and antiques store. They had a search warrant for military combat-style weapons, but all they found was three inoperable antique firearms.

   In exchange for dismissal of all charges and his release, Billy offers up the 370-year old royal wax seal from the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter stolen in 1984. The ploy backfires. Rather than honoring their supposed agreement, the authorities lean on him harder, assuming he has knowledge of the Gardner heist. In retaliation, Billy launches a media-blitz, censuring the FBI and championing his claims that he can broker the return of the artworks.

   Special Agent Neil Cronin, who had been one of the operating FBI agents present at the raid on Billy’s antiques store, met with him soon after his arrest. Billy said he was more than willing to help the FBI but required a few stipulations in return: the $5 million reward and blanket amnesty.

   Cronin organized a meeting between Billy and Thomas Cassano, Supervisory Special Agent in charge of the Gardner case, and Assistant US Attorney Brien O’Connor. The meeting lasted all of fifteen minutes. O’Connor refused a blanket amnesty deal, demanded Billy reveal the names of the perpetrators, and requested physical proof he had control of the artworks as a show of good faith.

   Circumventing the FBI, Youngworth met with museum officials. This meeting lasted ninety minutes, but an agreement was still not reached. Physical proof was requested of Youngworth to substantiate he had control of the artworks. He refused to cooperate, believing such a demand was merely a ruse to ensnare him.

   In an attempt to give the authorities and the Gardner what they wanted and still protect himself, Youngworth allegedly arranged for Tom Mashberg, a Boston Herald reporter, to view Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” He also gave Mashberg paint chips and photographs.

   The FBI deemed that the photographs were pictures of pictures and that the paint chips, although proven to be consistent with 17th century paint from Holland, did not match the paint flakes from either of the Rembrandt’s found at the crime scene. Tom Cassano has also expressed skepticism about Tom Mashberg’s claims, warning that improper claims of viewing evidence are considered to be obstruction of justice.

   Before retiring, Cassano had also dealt with both Youngworth and his lawyers on several occasions and proclaimed that nothing helpful had ever come out of those meetings. Special Agent Kelly considers Youngworth to be nothing but a fraud vying for the $5 million reward. He will not comment on the leads he is pursuing; he will tell you he has pursued some very outlandish theories, but that it is necessary to run them all down, just to make sure. Reiterating what the FBI has touted from the get-go, Kelly assures the public that the return of the artworks is imperative, primary to the capture and prosecution of any suspects.

   But as one New York, private art sleuth, once challenged, “If the main priority really was the art and its retrieval, and they thought Billy was bluffing, why didn’t they call him? They should have offered him immunity and the reward in writing and asked ‘Where’s the art?’ But they didn’t. They tried to paint Billy as a conman because they didn’t want to see him sun bathing on the French Riviera.”

   It seems we are no closer to retrieving the artworks or apprehending a suspect than we were that heavyhearted morning 16 years ago. Leads have been followed and leads have been dismissed; some have dried-up and still others have been neglected. For those of us who would like to see the art repatriated, once again adorning the walls of the lavish Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, it is not a matter of politics, money or pride. Perhaps it is time to set aside old judgments and be willing to negotiate and compromise. Hopefully, it is not too late.

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12 Feb 2006- Matthew Bogdanos speaks at Cooper Union on Feb 28

Thieves of Baghdad: the investigation into the looting of the Iraq Museum.
   Designed to separate myth from reality, the presentation will explore the investigation into the theft and looting of the Iraq Museum in those fateful days in April of 2003. From the creation of the U.S. government's first multi-agency task force ever deployed to a war zone (in the frozen hills of Afghanistan) to that team's recovery more than one year later of over 5000 of history's most priceless antiquities in eight countries. Combining a lecture with more than a hundred photographs, it will also expose the flourishing black market in stolen antiquities (including the recently discovered evidence that the trade is funding the insurgency in Iraq), and address the future of international efforts to stop the smugglers.

   Matthew Bogdanos has been an assistant district attorney in Manhattan since 1988. A Colonel in the Marine Reserves, middleweight boxer, and native New Yorker, he was raised waiting tables in his family's Greek restaurant in lower Manhattan. He holds a degree in classics from Bucknell University, a law degree and a master's degree in Classical Studies from Columbia University, and a master's degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College. Rising to Senior Homicide Trial Counsel in 1996, he lists among his 200 felony trials the prosecution of 15-year-old "Baby-faced Butchers" Daphne Abdela and Christopher Vazquez for their 1997 grisly Central Park murder and rappers Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Jamal "Shyne" Barrows for their 1999 shootout. Recalled to active duty after losing his apartment near the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he joined a multi-agency task force in Afghanistan. He then served two tours in Iraq as the head of that task force and received a 2005 National Humanities Medal from President Bush for his work recovering Iraq's treasures. He has returned to the DA's Office where he continues the hunt for stolen antiquities. Royalties from the sale of his book, Thieves of Baghdad, are being donated to the Iraq Museum.

   The lecture and book signing will be held on Feb 28, 2006, at 6:30 pm, at the Wollman Auditorium, the Cooper Union, 51 Astor Place, 8th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, New York. Admission is free.

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5 Feb 2006

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26 Jan 2006 - The Steve Kurtz Case

   In May 2004, the Joint Terrorism Task Force detained the artist Steve Kurtz. Kurtz, who helped found Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), is also a University professor in Buffalo. The agents seized documents, computers, and equipment used in three of CAE's projects, including scientific equipment for monitoring genetically altered food. The seized materials were to have been part of an exhibition and performance at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). All the materials are legal and commonly used for scientific education and research activities in universities and high schools. The New York State Commissioner of Public Health determined that the materials seized by the FBI pose no public safety risk. Nevertheless, today Steve Kurtz faces a possible 20 years in prison.

Case Background
   On May 11, 2004, Steve Kurtz wife of 20 years, Hope, died of heart failure in their home in Buffalo. Kurtz called 911. Buffalo Police who responded along with emergency workers became alarmed by the presence of art materials in their home that had been displayed in museums and galleries throughout Europe and North America. The materials consisted of several petri dishes containing three benign forms of bacteria, and a mobile DNA-extraction laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified grains and organisms. Convinced that these materials were the work of a terrorist, the police called the FBI. The next day as Kurtz was on his way home from the funeral home he was stopped and detained for 22 hours by agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force, who informed him he was being investigated for "bioterrorism." Meanwhile, laboratory tests showed that they were not used for any illegal purpose, the U.S. District Attorney continues to waste vast sums of money prosecuting this case.

The artist and a scientist face possible 20 year sentences

   On June 29, 2004, a federal grand jury charged Kurtz, not with "bioterrorism," as listed on the Joint Terrorism Task Force's original search warrant and subpoenas, but with two counts each of federal criminal "mail fraud" and "wire fraud." These are serious charges which carry the same potential sentence as the original "bioterrorism" charge would have: up to 20 years. Also indicted was Robert Ferrell, former head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, and a collaborator on several of CAE's projects.

   The charges concern technicalities of how Ferrell allegedly helped obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of CAE's art projects. The laws under which the indictments were obtained (Title 18, United States Code, sections 1341 and 1343) are normally used against those defrauding others of money and property, as in telemarketing schemes.

   The judge who issued the search warrants for Kurtz's home and office was unaware of the artist's lengthy, credible and complete explanation of what the harmless bacterial substances were being used for; nor was he aware of the fact that Kurtz tasted the Serratia in one of the petri dishes in front of an officer to prove it was harmless; nor that Kurtz was a professor and artist who had exhibited the materials at museums and galleries internationally. The judge was told of a photograph with Arabic writing beside it, but not of the photograph's context: an invitation to an art exhibition at MASS MoCA! The photograph, by artists The Atlas Group, was one of several exhibited pieces pictured on the invitation.

A Warning to Artists
   This case is precedent-setting, and will determine whether artists can be criminalized- in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution- for their ideas.

What You Can Do to Help
   Kurtz is receiving international support from artists, scientists, and other citizens from 5 continents. two forms of support needed:

1) Publicizing this precedent-setting case and its implications for artists. Any journalist who is interested is encouraged to contact the Defense Fund at: media@caedefensefund.org .

2) Should a trial occur, we will need scientists in the fields of biology, microbiology, and molecular biology to be expert witnesses, particularly in the areas of laboratory procedures, laboratory behaviors, and microbiology safety issues. We will also need curators and contemporary art historians and theorists to offer expert testimony on the cultural legitimacy of CAE's activities. If you are able to offer such testimony, or know anyone who may be, please contact: media@caedefensefund.org.

For More Information on How to Help:
www.caedefensefund.org

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21 Jan 2006- Good Job Austria!!!!

   Benvenuto Cellini's Saliera was stolen in Vienna in 2003. This was a terrible loss for the entire art world. We are thrilled to announce that Saturday, Austrian investigators have recovered this 16th-century treasure that is worth over 50 million euros! Police recently released a photo of one of the suspects in this crime and citizens recognized him. He turned himself in to the police and then led them to the sculpture, which was buried in a box in a forest near the northern town of Zwettl.

   The dirt bag who stole this art treasure demanded a 10 million-euro ransom last October. He made contact with authorities through a newspaper ad. Police later found the sculpture's removable Neptune trident hidden in a park. Police pursued this thief following a November 7 phone call he made. The blackmailer scattered notes and text messages around the Austrian capital. Before the villain ended the chase, police managed to get a surveillance photo of him.

   Much respect from the art world for the Austrian police! Artists must give credit where credit is due. Investigators like these protect the art world through ability, cunning, and dedication.

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20 January 2006 - U.S. , Italia Extend Arts Pact


Bad Girl! What You Gonna Do When They Come for You?; Charles Sabba; oil on canvas; 2005.

   The Memorandum of Understanding, a U.S. ban on the import of Etruscan, Greek and Roman artifacts from Italy has been extended for another five years. The accord, which took effect in 2001, has been an effective tool against looting of archeological sites. Italian police reports indicate that looting of archeological sites in Italia is still a severe problem and the United States is the main destination of these illicit treasures. This extension comes at a time period of aggressive police work by the Italian Carabinieri's Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Their elite art theft squad). They are attempting to repatriate many looted archeological artifacts by American museums that have practiced unethical buying policies in the past. One example is the trial of ex-Getty curator Marion True and her codefendant, American antiquities dealer, Robert Hecht. This trial is being held in Rome and both face jail time. Hopefully they both do time and Hecht will soon be some big Italian thug's girlfriend and get to play housekeeper (actually- cell keeper) . "Hey Robert, your new lover Mario the knuckle dragger needs his clothes ironed and his bunk made! Hurry up and report for lock up!"  - It couldn't happen to a nicer guy!!!


Is This The Most Trusted Man in Fashion? Charles Sabba; Collage; 2005

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