I have resigned from ARCA

downloadI have had five wonderful years serving ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art), but in any professional endeavor, there comes a time to leave. For me that time is now. I have made the decision to resign due to differences regarding the management of the organization. Though I respect much of the work ARCA has done; share its passion for exposing heritage crime; and understand the struggles of small non-profits; as an advocate who urges transparency on the part of museums and auction houses, I must part ways when my concerns have not been addressed.

Applications Still Open for ARCA’s Postgraduate program

Amelia, Italy, home to ARCA’s summer program

If you are interested in learning why art theft happens (as occurred earlier this week in Athens) or understanding why antiquities are looted, or a host of other related questions, please consider ARCA’s program.

We have a terrific group of folks already signed on for 2012. Each year our group of applicants gets stronger and more varied. But there is still room for a few more if you are thinking of applying. The program is an investment in time and money, but we’ve done our very best to keep our tuition low, and our past students say their time in Amelia helps usher them into a new career path, establishes strong friendships, and is a terrific way to spend a summer.

The interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for a whole host of related fields from art police and security professionals, to lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade.

In its fourth year, this program provides students with in-depth, master’s level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical courses examining art and heritage crime: its history, its nature, its impact, and what is currently being done to mitigate it. Students completing the program earn a professional certificate under the guidance of scholars and professionals.

Here is our tentative schedule:

Courses 1&2 – June 04 -16
Noah Charney, Founding Director of ARCA, Adjunct Professor of Art History, American University of Rome – Art Crime and Its History

Dr. Derek Fincham, Academic Director of ARCA, Assistant Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law – Art and Cultural Heritage Law

Course 3 – June 18 – 22
Dorit Straus, Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Company – Investigation, Insurance and the Art Trade

Course 4 – June 25- 29
Dr. Edgar Tijhuis, lawyer and assistant-professor of Criminology at the VU University in Amsterdam – Criminology, Art, and Transnational Organized Crime

Courses 5&6 – July 2-14
Richard Ellis, former Detective Sergeant Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad, Art Management Group Director, – Art Policing and InvestigationJudge Arthur Tompkins, District Court Judge in New Zealand – Art in War

Courses 7&8 – July 16-27
Dr. Tom Flynn, London-based writer and art historian –  Art History and the Art World

Dick Drent, Director of Security, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – Museums, Security, and Art Protection

Courses 9&10 – July 30 – Aug. 10
Dr. Valerie Higgins, Associate Professor and Chair of Archaeology and Classics at The American University of Rome – Archaeology and Antiquities 

Dr. Erik Nemeth, Adjunct Staff at RAND Corporation, Founder and Researcher at Cultural Security – “Cultural Security: Interrelations of art crime, foreign policy, and perceptions of security”

It is a special program, and a really exciting opportunity for folks interested in preventing art and heritage crime. A prospectus and application may be obtained by writing to Admissions at education@artcrimeresearch.org. If you have any questions at all please contact me at derek.fincham “at” gmail.com.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Applications Wanted for the 2011 ARCA MA Program

ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes against Art) is now accepting applications to its third Masters program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Both the application and prospectus are available here:


Applications are due in early January, and we try to keep enrollment to a small number, probably under 25.  This really is a special program, and a terrific opportunity for a wide variety of folks interested in careers which touch art and heritage crime.  We try to balance practical courses in security measures with theoretical grounding in law, policy, art history and criminology.

I am excited to have the opportunity to spend most of the summer in Amelia volunteering as the Academic Director. Frankly, I feel a bit guilty calling this a ‘volunteer’ position. I Teach writing to law students here at South Texas the rest of the year, but I really look forward to the opportunity the ARCA program provides each summer to teach and discuss my first love—art and heritage.  My wife Joni will be on site as well as the managing director of ARCA, and our President and Founder Noah Charney will be a regular presence.  The faculty are a terrific bunch from all over the world who bring a great deal of practical experience to the courses. 
A house in Amelia

As the prospectus aptly puts it, this program provides in-depth, Masters level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements of art and heritage crime:  its history, its nature, its impact, and what can be done to curb it.  Courses are taught by international experts, in the beautiful setting of Umbria, Italy.  Topics include the history of art crime, art and antiquities law and policy, criminology, the laws of armed conflict, the art trade, art insurance, art security and policing, risk management, criminal investigation, law and policy, vandalism and iconoclasm, and cultural heritage protection throughout history and around the world.  This interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade, and post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history.

I am more than happy to answer any questions (fincham “at” artcrime.info) about the program, as is ARCA’s Business and Admissions Director Mark Durney (ma “at” artcrime.info).

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

"The Bulldog" Makes a Case for the Return of the "Getty Bronze"

The “Getty Bronze”

Last weekend at the 2010 ARCA conference, Italian state attorney Maurizio Fiorilli offered his thoughts on the ongoing dispute between Italy and the Getty over the disposition of this  ancient Greek bronze, often called the “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth”.  Fiorilli has been nicknamed “Il Bulldog” by the Italian press for his quiet persistence in securing the return of illegally exported and illegally excavated cultural objects from a number of American museums, including a number of objects acquired in recent decades from the Getty. 

One object which the Italians did not secure was this bronze, which is the subject of a seizure proceeding in Italy.  I’ve posted below four videos which find Fiorilli making a reasoned legal case for the return of the bronze.  An Italian court in February ordered the return of this object, however difficulty will arise when Italy attempts to convince a U.S. court to enforce the order.  The Getty has appealed the Italian decision, but the legal proceedings are important not only for the direct result, but for the shift in public perception which the Getty will have to navigate.  Surely the Getty does not relish the idea of a long protracted public debate over the disposition of this bronze.  The story of this bronze presents an interesting case.  Though it was certainly illegally exported from Italy, it cannot be considered a “looted” object in my view. 

The bronze was found by Italian fishermen somewhere in the Adriatic in the 1960’s.  I wrote a long summary of the story of the bronze back in 2007.  To summarize, the statue was found by fisherman in the Adriatic in 1964, smuggled out of Italy, and eventually purchased by the Getty in 1977.  The bronze was discussed a great deal in the very public battle between Italy and the Getty over other looted objects in recent years.  Yet there was a lack of direct evidence linking the Getty to any wrongdoing in the acquisition.  Criminal proceedings were brought against some of the fishermen and handlers of the statue in Italy in 1968.  Left with little concrete evidence to secure a conviction, the fishermen were acquitted.  Yet as Fiorilli argued, these proceedings were made difficult because the actual statue had been smuggled abroad, and Italian prosecutors were unable to meet their burden. 

I’ll let Fiorilli make his case in the videos below, and apologies for the low sound levels.  Fiorilli spoke beautiful English, but chose to make his case in Italian, with the help of a translator. 

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Estimating Art Crime (UPDATE)

In her piece on the ARCA MA program for the New York Times, Elisabetta Povoledo may have done a number of cultural heritage scholars a disservice — myself included — when she criticized Noah Charney’s estimation that art crime is the third largest. The piece states:

“Citing Interpol, Mr. Charney said art crime was the third-highest-grossing illegal worldwide business, after drugs and weapons. Interpol itself says on its Web site (interpol.int) that it knows of no figures to make such a claim.”

However merely checking with Interpol did not give a full and accurate picture of the size of art crime, though Interpol is often used as the source. On the Interpol website, it states: “We do not possess any figures which would enable us to claim that trafficking in cultural property is the third or fourth most common form of trafficking, although this is frequently mentioned at international conferences and in the media.”

It is certainly true that Interpol no longer can estimate with any confidence even if it once did, that art crime is the third largest criminal enterprise. However the estimation has appeared in a number of sources, including this 2005 USA Today piece. It has been ranked as the 3rd largest, the fourth largest, and estimated between a few hundred million pounds up to billions of dollars annually by experts before the House of Commons Illicit Trade Advisory Panel.

I attempted to clear up some of this confusion with an Op-ed piece, though I was informed the paper does not publish Op-ed pieces which respond to pieces from the paper. I also submitted a letter to the editor, but received no response. I have decided instead to publish my response here. As I argued in the letter below and the longer op-ed, art crime is difficult to estimate but there is broad agreement that Charney and others are correct, that art crime is the third largest illegal trade. But we need more concrete statistics and education to highlight the problem. Povoledo’s comment about Interpol raises this issue, and I think we need better statistics and we won’t get them without increased awareness.

Here is the Letter to the Editor:

RE “A Master’s in Art Crime (No Cloak and Dagger)” July 21, 2009:

Gauging the loss we all suffer when antiquities are looted or art is stolen will always be difficult. In her piece on the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Elisabetta Povoledo challenged the assertion made by Noah Charney that art crime is the third largest illegal trade after drugs and weapons. In doing so she highlighted one of the biggest obstacles law enforcement officers and researchers must navigate when they look at art crime. Though Interpol certainly has made no claim to that figure, the estimate has appeared in countless media outlets and works of scholarly research.
Newcomers to the art trade are often surprised to discover that basic information such as who buys art, how much they pay for it, and who has owned an object in the past is intentionally obscured from view by the market. Also, valuation of art itself is difficult. If we reflect on the generation that has been unable to see Vermeer’s The Concert, which was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, how large is that loss? If we were to collect all of the stolen works of art into one museum, that museum of art theft would easily eclipse the Met or the Louvre or any of the World’s great museums. 
If we value our collective cultural heritage, art crime is certainly at least the third-largest illegal trade; and we need solid empirical data to lend support to the anecdotal evidence. One of the difficulties is law enforcement agencies all over the world do not consistently track art crime. Italy reports the most art crimes because their Carabinieri pays careful attention. As a result of this problematic and sporadic reporting and filing, we don’t have good statistics, and need to rely on the experiential and anecdotal information of people in the field, like police, and the partial statistics available through institutions like Interpol. Though it is difficult to place a firm estimate, the broader public who enjoys and supports the arts should press for more education and awareness of the devastating consequences art crimes inflict upon our collective cultural heritage.

Derek Fincham, New Orleans Louisiana, July 24, 2009
Fellow at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, illicit-cultural-property.blogspot.com


Mark Durney at Art Theft Central responds to this post by noting:

Another obstacle facing those who study art crime is the public’s fascination for the myth of the Dr. No, or the Thomas Crown, scenario. Certainly, clearing this hurdle also requires educating the public. In my experiences as a gallery officer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I have heard from countless museum patrons who are convinced the Dutch Room’s missing paintings are “hanging on some millionaire’s wall.” Accordingly, raising awareness regarding how the illicit art trade operates is equally as important.

That is a great point I think; initially those kinds of stories help attract attention.  However they aren’t at all an accurate picture of art thieves and in the long run may help to explain why the penalties for art crime (broadly defined) are so meager, and why continued efforts, advocacy and education are so badly needed. 

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

More on the ARCA Masters

Elisabetta Povoledo this morning has a piece in the New York Times on the ARCA Masters program. There is an interview with a couple of the students, and as I pointed out earlier today, this program is the first of its kind; and in a way it is surprising it took this long to create.  I imagine a number of other organizations may have had similar kinds of ideas but never really got around to creating the program or getting it off the ground.  Of course there are a number of other workships and education initiatives, but those can be scattered and frustrating to keep up with.  As I told the students, I’m jealous of the opportunity they have to listen to the speakers and instructors they have lined up this summer. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Universities around the world offer individual classes on art crime and related subjects: fakes and forgeries; intellectual- and cultural-property protection; looting. But Mr. Charney maintains that his program is the first to provide an interdisciplinary approach, and several scholars of art crime concurred, including Ngarino Ellis at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who said the group “could make some important contributions to the awareness of art crime internationally.” The degree is not formally recognized by an accredited university, though Mr. Charney said he was in discussion with various institutions. (Tuition alone costs about $7,000.)

The first class of students includes art historians, lawyers, museum professionals, art conservators, a private investigator, even a retired United States Secret Service agent, an array that suggests that the subject has broad appeal.

“I was always interested in art, and now I can incorporate that interest in my business,” said John Vezeris of Annapolis, Md., who retired from the Secret Service and opened a strategic security and risk management firm.

For his thesis he wants to apply an analytical approach to structures at risk, like churches, and find the best — and cheapest — way to keep them secure. It was, he said, an area with a lot of potential for business.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Thoughts on Teaching Antiquities Law in Italy

We have just returned home to New Orleans after a terrific couple of weeks in Amelia Italy where I was teaching a module on antiquities law for the first ARCA MA program this summer, and presenting at the ARCA Conference.  I’ll have more to say on the conference and Francesco Rutelli’s comments tomorrow.  Today I want to highlight the MA program itself, and what a treat it was to teach antiquities law in Italy. 

It was a terrific experience teaching in that setting, where heritage is often just outside your door.  We had a lot of fun, but I also came away impressed with the ARCA program and what the Director, Noah Charney and all of the students are trying to create.  The students were a great bunch, and will no doubt go on to do some exciting things in the heritage field.  We are at a point now where these laws and policies are increasingly complex and are playing more prominent roles in all fields from collections management, curatorship, archaeology, art history, conservation, and of course purchasing and selling of antiquities.  Consequently, I think it will be increasingly important for all of these field to incorporate some component of heritage education and crime prevention into their body of professional knowledge. 

Heritage issues and art crime are both under-examined I think; and the opportunities to study or even teach these important ideas are sadly far too rare.  That is changing I think, and one of the real treats I had in Italy were some of the exciting ideas and discussions which the ARCA MA students were able to generate.  One of the frustrating things about antiquities policy in particular is it often devolves into a set of entrenched arguments, and partisans on both sides often have difficulty acknowledging the gaps and flaws in their own reasoning.  Teaching a course was terrific for me because it exposed some of my own gaps, but also reaffirmed some things, and helped to crystallize my thinking. 

I think perhaps the best example of that may be this statute of Germanicus, located in Amelia’s Archaeological museum, and located right next door to the public library where we had classes.  This statue was found just outside the city walls in 1963, in pieces, where the Roman campus would have been.

One of the questions which we all write and think about when we discuss art and heritage is where do these objects belong, and this beautiful bronze was a great catalyst for that kind of discussion.  Amelia is not a particularly big town with a population of perhaps 15,000, and it doesn’t receive all that many tourists, because it doesn’t have a railway station and there are other sights to see in Umbria.  As a result, there may be some room to question whether Germanicus belongs in Amelia, as opposed to Peruggia, Rome, or even Paris or London or Malibu.  After all, not as many people can view the statue in Amelia; and the conservation techniques may not be as sophisticated as at the World’s leading arts institutions (apparently the conservators may have been a little too liberal with the green paint when they touched up the statue).

However all the ARCA students seemed to agree that there is no better place than Amelia for this Bronze.  And they weren’t a bunch of radical archaeologists, their backgrounds were pretty diverse.  The reason they agreed I think is that they had become connected to the daily rhythym of the city, they knew the butcher, the guys who run the wine bar, the bar where the locals hang out on Sundays, the restaurant owners, and they can see I think how important heritage and culture is to this city; and as a result, when we discussed the bronze, we asked a number of questions that I’m not sure you would have asked if you saw this bronze in Rome, or Paris, or London, or even Malibu. 

Germanicus was removed from this living and vibrant culture which clearly respects and values its traditions and heritage.  Where was the statue located?  Why was it located just outside this gate, the Porta Romana?  Why was it cut up and buried?  Why was Germanicus such a beloved figure?  As we learned from the staff at the Archaeological Museum, this Bronze was apparently cut up and buried later when Christianity gained influence in the Roman Empire and these bronzes and statues were being cut up or destroyed to make way for other images.  So you can see this remarkable bronze, just a few steps away from where it would have been on display hundreds of years ago. 

These are a very different set of questions than would have been asked if this statue was on display somewhere else, and I had a very different visceral reaction on seeing Germanicus then when I saw the “Bronze Statue of A Victorious Youth” at the Getty Villa for example.  So antiquities law and policy, which starts with the quesiton of where theese objects belong, and how they should be excavated; probably could not have been taught in a much better setting in my view.  Context was all around us, and it was a terrific open-air classroom. 

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com