Victories for Italian art fraud squad

Art galleries, auction houses, academic institutions and collectors must be vigilant about recognizing and identifying signs of theft and trafficking”, New York lawyer, Cyrus R. Vance, said following the repatriation of several stolen artefacts from the United States to Italy last Thursday (25 May).

Looted from archaeological sites in Italy in the 1990s, the objects were smuggled overseas to the US. Six of the seven items were seized from a Manhattan gallery in April this year while the seventh object was located in another gallery in Midtown Manhattan. They include a Greek bronze from the 3rd or 4th century BC, an oil flask from 340 BC and a wine jug from 650 BC. Continue reading

Study to lift veil on art theft in post-war Germany

Researchers expect a host of new restitution claims will arise out of an investigation into the expropriation of art in post-war East Germany.

The German Lost Art Foundation, the organisation established by the German government in 2015 to fund research into art theft perpetrated by the Nazis, is to receive public funding to investigate the looting of cultural property during the  Soviet Occupation and the Cold War. Continue reading

Historic art recovery law gets day in court

A new US art restitution law is being put to the test by the heirs of a Holocaust victim to recover two watercolours by Egon Schiele.

‘Woman in a Black Pinafore’ (1911) and ‘Woman Hiding Her Face’ (1912), which have a combined estimated value of US$5 million (£4.04 million) are said to have been among 449 artworks confiscated by the Nazis from the collection of Fritz Grünbaum during World War II. An Austrian Jewish entertainer, Grünbaum was murdered at Dachau concentration camp in 1941.    Continue reading

Auction workers jailed in Paris following series of thefts

A group of porters working for France’s most prestigious auction house were sentenced to prison for a string of art thefts on Tuesday (6 September).

In May 2009, a judicial inquiry was launched into the crime ring operated by members of the l’Union des commissionnaires de l’Hôtel des Ventes (UCHV), the former art handlers’ union of the Hôtel Drouot in Paris. This followed an anonymous tip-off that a member of the union was in possession of a missing oil painting by 19th century French artist Gustave Courbet called ‘Seascape with Orange Sky’. In the subsequent police search operation, thousands of valuable artworks and artefacts were uncovered including Ming dynasty Chinese ceramics, paintings by Chagall and Matisse, sculptures and even rare costumes belonging to French mime artist Marcel Marceau. Continue reading