Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Caravaggio Recovery, Special Forces Kept Art Hostage Silent, Well Almost !!!

Special forces recover stolen Caravaggio painting in Berlin,,5742638,00.html

A stolen Caravaggio painting has been recovered in Berlin by German and Ukrainian special forces. Police stepped in just as the work was about to be sold, arresting members of the art trafficking ring as well.A valuable painting by Italian early Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was seized Friday in Berlin during a police raid, Germany's federal criminal police, the BKA, said Monday.

Members of the BKA as well as Germany's elite special operations police unit, GSG9, were involved in the raid, which interrupted a planned illegal sale of the work. The GSG9 is typically reserved for counter-terrorism or hostage situations.

One Russian and three Ukranian suspects from an international organized crime ring were also arrested. In Ukraine, where the painting was stolen in July 2008, 20 more alleged members of the art trafficking ring were reportedly taken into custody.

The rescued work - "Taking of Christ," also known as "Kiss of Judas" - was painted in 1602 and is estimated to be worth an eight-figure sum.

The theft from the Museum for Western European and Oriental Art in Odessa sent shock waves across the art world. The whereabouts of the painting, cut from its frame and removed from the museum by unidentified thieves in 2008, were unknown until police determined that the work was meant to change hands in Berlin last Friday.

Caravaggio is known in particular for his chiaroscuro technique, contrasting dark and light in his works. He died young, at just 38, but enjoyed considerable success during his lifetime and is said to have had a major influence on great artists who came after him, including Rembrandt and Rubens.

Art Hostage Comments:

As soon as "Special Forces" were mentioned, BKA , GSG9 Germany, Art Hostage thought, fuck, better keep quiet.

Mind you, the BKA and GSG9 bosses did freak out a little when they saw this Art Hostage post last Wednesday, below, two days before the Caravaggio recovery.

See link:

Art Hostage had indicated Tuesday 22nd June something was brewing with this quote:

Something breathtaking is cooking in the Stolen art arena, will leave all open-mouthed, quote is "Brace yourself"
(Tuesday June 22nd 2010, 10.00am GMT)

See quote at bottom of post:

Like the Paris raid, when an Undercover BRB was made in the South Suburbs, Art Hostage had to let it be known, otherwise there could have been a killing of an Undercover BRB and that would not be conducive to say the least, upset the balance of the Stolen Art Underworld.


Whilst Art Hostage does have a habit of pissing off some within Senior Law Enforcement, Art Hostage is not reckless with front line Soldiers, who are just doing their job.


It is the "Stuffed Shirts" behind the scenes of Law Enforcement Art Hostage has problems with, in the same manner as Bob Wittman did with Warren T Bamford, stuffed shirt in chief, now forcibly retired.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Suffers From Da Vinci Madonna Hangover !!!

Foxes Guarding the Hen-House !!!

There are many who regard the decision to prosecute in the Da Vinci case extraordinary and the operational tactics of SOCA unacceptable. A successful prosecution would be financially beneficial to the Duke personally and his insurers because of their involvement in the entrapment process.

The failure of the prosecution has left them embarrassed and exposed clinging onto the bastard verdict as if that leaves a lingering doubt that could conceivably justify their actions. The civil judicial process has the capacity to critically review the law enforcement conduct and the discovery process will be profoundly embarrassing.

The Da Vinci case was a landmark legal decision but is has also been a watershed that has paralysed future art recovery particularly the Gardner Art efforts.

Times have changed and we now live in world where transparency is the order of the day. The days of burying evidence and procuring false convictions are receding. The current complaints made both north and south of the border will shine light onto the seedier side of police involvement into the Da Vinci case and the motivations of many including the Duke will be scrutinised.

Whilst the Duke may feel smug as he looks at his painting, the Art world may regard him as a pariah. We are all in this together, unless you are the Duke of Buccleuch, that is.

There has to be lessons learned from the Da Vinci debacle.

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Mark Dalrymple can run, but he cannot hide, lost in France, Paris anyone !!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Forget the Rhetoric, How Do We Recover the Art ???

Art Hostage wants to explore the reasons why the Gardner art has not been recovered and look at the obstacles preventing its safe recovery.

First of all the blame should be equally shared amongst the Underworld and Law Enforcement.

The Gardner Museum is caught between a rock and a hard place.

If the Gardner Museum was to go off and offer the reward, no conditions, not work with the FBI or Law Enforcement then yes I am sure Anthony Amore could indeed recover some of the Gardner art.

However, where would that leave the Museum and Anthony Amore in particular ???

From the start the Gardner Heist has provoked all kinds of issues not least that Law Enforcement cannot be seen to allow a private recovery of the Gardner art that did not come with arrests and indictments/prosecutions of anyone associated to the theft or subsequent handling of the Gardner Art.

I think we can all agree that the Gardner art, if recovered will not be recovered as a package and there would need to be several recoveries before the whole haul is safely home.

Working on that principal means any recovery that entailed arrests and indictments would drive the rest of the stolen Gardner deeper and further from view.

Art Hostage will add to this post as we go and firm up any opinions.

The current state of play is one of a Mexican stand-off whereby those who could give the vital information of the whereabouts of the Gardner art are reluctant to do so for fear of losing their right to do so in a manner which allows them to refuse to give any details of how they were able to facilitate the return of the Gardner art.

The tepid offer of immunity by Brian Kelly Ass U.S. Attorney of Mass has a vital hook included which means no-one in their right mind would come forward because of the requirement to reveal all and even testify against those who may be holding the Gardner art.

As regards the reward offer, of which Art Hostage has said publicly he wants not a dime of, then that is a small issue that can taken care of by way of the money placed into an Escrow account to show good faith by the Gardner Museum. Then if the immunity agreement was an open one, with no strings attached, then I am sure someone would step forward.
However, to achieve this the FBI and Prosecutors would have to publicly declare the immunity agreement with no conditions and the Museum would have to publicly declare the reward money is in an Escrow account and also declare the tariff for the payment dependant on which stolen Gardner artworks are recovered.

Of course Law Enforcement balk at this prospect and of course all the so-called goody two shoes of the art world will play along with the wishes of Law Enforcement.

The real change is the power of the web and Art Hostage in particular.
Never before has Law Enforcement found itself in the position whereby the sting operations are openly discussed and revealed for what they are.

Why even Bob Wittman has written his best seller which, upon reading gives clues as to the sole intention of Law Enforcement and means anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of the stolen Gardner art, as well as any stolen art, will not fall for the same old tricks used in the past.

Of course there will be art thieves and handlers who do fall for the old tricks of Law Enforcement but the majority will now not even bother too try and hand back any stolen art, including the Gardner art and the Cezanne and Degas from Switzerland to mention but a few.

From now on the clever part of the stolen art underworld will do their research and discover they have not a chance in hell in handing back stolen art, therefore the stolen art will just remain within the Underworld and those associated to that world.

Furthermore,the stolen art underworld will definitely make sure when they sell stolen art they are dealing with someone known to them and not the Undercover Police Officers used to such effect before the web, Art Hostage and Tell-All books such as the Bob Wittman blockbuster.

The unlawful way the Da Vinci Madonna was recovered has sent a clear message worldwide thanks to Art Hostage and that message will get clearer as the official complaints into the unlawful actions in the recovery of the Da Vinci Madonna are investigated.

You see Officials, Politicians and the like have two clear choices in the Da Vinci Madonna case, first, they can ignore the complaints and join the conspiracy, or second, they can investigate and distance themselves from corrupt, crooked, and unlawful practices used to recover the Da Vinci Madonna.

This case has a direct bearing on the Gardner case and all other stolen art cases because certain people are watching to see the outcome.
More to follow............

Comment 1

At last a piece of intelligent analysis of the problem.
The interests of owners and law enforcement are diametrically opposed.
The insurance industry has an agenda, which would shock owners.
Art recovery should be undertaken with integrity and transparency if law enforcement prevents art being recovered then whom are they serving.
Pose this question.
A policeman cannot recover the Gardener Art because the holder fears apprehension.
A member of the public who is willing to go the trouble of recovering the art cannot recover it because he fears apprehension.
If you have choice to make do you want the art back or people arrested?
Maybe the web can be forum for a solution to be found
We live in hope

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Bob Wittman Hot Art Pioneer !!

Old Habits Die Hard !!!!

There might be a few agents of the FBI who could sit down at a piano and run through a Chopin “Fantasie” to calm their nerves, as Robert K. Wittman used to do. But there probably aren't many who could also chat knowledgeably about Cezanne's influence on Soutine. Or who have studied formalism at the Barnes Foundation art museum outside of Philadelphia. Or who have found themselves in Hollywood, Fla., eating lunch with — and probably being targeted by — two large French assassins nicknamed Vanilla and Chocolate, while tantalizingly close to recovering paintings from the biggest art heist in American history, the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

For 15 years, until his retirement in 2008, Wittman — the author of a rollicking memoir, “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures,” released last week by Crown Publishers — was the driving force behind the FBI's efforts to pursue art thieves, a fledgling program that grew into a formal Art Crime Team under his leadership, though the team is still tiny compared with its counterparts in Europe.

To this day Wittman, now a private security consultant, has a hard time visiting the places he loves the most — art museums — without starting to case them the minute he walks in. During an interview last week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he declared it one of the few museums where he can relax, because he has known the Met's security chief for years. “It's one of the safe ones,” he said. But standing before Duccio's tiny “Madonna and Child” — a work the museum is believed to have paid more than $45 million for in 2004 — he spent less time admiring the painting than studying its transparent case to see how it was secured. “It's a habit,” he said.

Wittman's book, written with John Shiffman, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, comes at a lively time in the world of art pilfering — a thief made away just last month with a Picasso and four other paintings from a Paris museum — and imparts helpful advice to would-be thieves, chiefly that famous paintings are exceedingly dumb things to steal because they are nearly impossible to sell. The memoir made waves while still in galleys with its claims that the FBI botched the job of recovering the Gardner paintings — a Vermeer, a Rembrandt seascape and possibly others — through bureaucratic infighting that caused the investigation to unravel.

Wittman, who was based in Philadelphia, worked undercover on the case for almost two years, posing as a shady art collector to try to buy the paintings from two Frenchmen with connections to the Corsican mob, which the FBI and other international law-enforcement agencies suspected of holding the works.

“We were two weeks away from having the Vermeer and the Rembrandt,” Wittman said at the Met, watching early morning museumgoers filter through the Baroque galleries. “That's only my opinion, of course, based on what I knew. But I sincerely believe that we were that close.”
Ken Hoffman, an FBI spokesman, said the agency did not plan to comment on the book. “It is what it is,” he said. “We don't really have anything to add.” The bureau reviewed the book before its publication, Wittman said, and after negotiations between lawyers for the FBI and the publisher, some facts about investigations were omitted.

While he is generally admiring of the agency where he worked for 20 years, the refrain throughout his book is that the FBI cares little about recovering stolen artwork, a job it is often better equipped to perform than local law-enforcement agencies.

“Most art crime investigations are run by the same local FBI unit that handles routine property theft,” he writes. “Art and antiquity crime is tolerated, in part, because it is considered a victimless crime.” But in an ode to human creativity that sounds a little odd coming from a federal agent, he adds that his view was always different: “Art thieves steal more than beautiful objects; they steal memories and identity. They steal history.”

Of course pursuing art thieves also had its perks at a place where a big cocaine bust could start to feel like just another big cocaine bust. Wittman's investigations — which he says resulted in the recovery of more than $225 million in art and antiquities, including works by Goya, Rodin and Rembrandt, along with Geronimo's eagle-feather war bonnet and the original manuscript of Pearl S. Buck's “Good Earth” — took him around the world, to Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Madrid, Copenhagen. In 2003 he accompanied one of the 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights on the FBI director's jet to return it to its home in Raleigh, N.C., after it was seized in an undercover sting.

Even the local cases could be thrilling. He and his mentor, an agent in the Philadelphia office of the FBI, Bob Bazin, once tracked down a 50-pound crystal ball from the Forbidden City in Beijing, which they found sitting in a housekeeper's bedroom in Trenton, beneath a baseball cap. (It had been stolen from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and later given to the housekeeper as a birthday present; she thought it was worthless.)

“When you track down something like that, you have this feeling of euphoria that I can only compare to how I felt when my kids were born,” said Wittman, a burly, soft-spoken man who carries himself with the authority of a cop, but who was able, for long stretches, to convince criminals he was one of them.

“Priceless” can read at times, not unpleasantly, as if an art history textbook got mixed up at the printer with a screenplay for “The Wire.”

Readers learn, for example, the difference between “the bump” (in which an undercover agent makes contact with a suspect by way of a seemingly accidental meeting) and “the vouch” (in which someone leads the suspect to believe the undercover agent is who he says he is). Other investigative details dazzle: a Miami yacht at the ready to entertain a group of thugs; a gym bag filled with 500,000 euros in cash to “buy” a Breughel in Spain; an unnamed Hollywood starlet who helps the bureau by pretending to “know” an undercover agent in his alter ego, cementing his reputation as a player.

Wittman, 54, was not someone who seemed destined for a cloak-and-dagger life. He grew up in a middle-class family in Baltimore. His father was an Air Force sergeant who met and married his mother in Tokyo during the Korean War. In high school he was a piano prodigy but realized he wasn't quite good enough to make a career of it. He helped his father publish a small agricultural newspaper for several years before his wife, Donna, urged him to apply to the FBI, where a neighbor whom he had idolized as a child had worked.

But he will probably never be able to go back to being just a regular art lover. On a recent security consulting trip to Romania he visited a small museum in Constanta and found himself worrying about the paintings too much to enjoy them: no locks to fasten them to the walls, hanging wires too thin, security-camera sightlines blocked, one docent to watch three floors.

“Oh my God,” he said. “The place is a crime waiting to happen.”