Monday 23 September 2013

Art Loss Register Controversy

The Art Loss Register is pretty useless for tracking looted objects which "surface" (from "underground") on the antiquities market with no known origins alongside a mass of others kept deliberately anonymous by an industry which prizes secrecy and lack of transparency. For paintings and other items stolen from collections however at first sight it looks like a good idea. There has been however an interesting newspaper article on the topic (Kate Taylor and Lorne Manley, 'Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines', New York Times September 20, 2013). Dorothy King has commented on the article ( Problems at The Art Loss Register Saturday, September 21, 2013) and recounts some of her experiences. Larry Rothfield also joins in (A quick thought on responses to the Art Loss Register article Saturday, September 21, 2013). Then there's a strongly-worded comment from Tom Flynn: '"Lying", "bounty-hunting", "profiting" from stolen art: the true face of the Art Loss Register', Sunday, September 22, 2013). From the NYT article it seems worthwhile to note that:
A few countries, like Italy, place a high priority on art theft, but they are the exception. New York City and Los Angeles, hubs of the art trade, each have one detective dedicated to art crime. The F.B.I. has assigned 14 agents with special training to investigate art crimes, though most have other duties as well. Scotland Yard’s arts and antiques unit has three officers. “It’s not violent crime,” said Saskia Hufnagel, a research fellow at the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence in Policing and Security. “There are no victims, at least ones the public would consider victims. A lot of the loss is covered by insurance.”
Again, a point that does not cover looted dugup antiquities.

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